The Last Christmas Part X: Flight School

“We’re gonna what?” Chrissy said, as they admired the finished sleigh.

“Take it for a ride.” Joe slapped her on the back, then walked to the front of the sled. The elves were lining up the reindeer, hoisting the harnesses on their backs, and connecting them together.

“Maybe, you’re taking it for a ride, but not this girl. This girl wants to survive until Christmas not be remembered.”

“C’mon, Chrissy. You’re the one who read the instructions.”

The final step before beginning the loading process is a test flight.  All operations of the sleigh are controlled by the onboard navigation system. The front seats must be occupied by a minimum of two volunteers and the rear seat left open until certain conditions are achieved.

“Doesn’t get any simpler than that. Remember what you said about not being afraid or having doubt?”

Several elves came over and handed them fur lined parkas, hats, and gloves. Joe put his on and climbed aboard, aided by the elves. Chrissy was slower to follow.

“I’m not sure about this. What if we did something wrong?”

“We didn’t. Now c’mon we’ve got a test flight around the town to complete.”

Chrissy shook head, took a deep breath, and climbed aboard. Joe handed her the book open to the section on the test flight.

“You read the checklist; I’ll go through the system check. Okay?”

Chrissy shrugged. “Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It means I am either gonna die or create one incredible memory. Ready?”

“Ready.”

Chrissy ran through the checklist, Joe flipped the switches, tugged the reins, and programmed in the codes to the navigation system.

“Everything seems ready to go. Checklist complete.” Joe handed Chrissy the reins. Her eyes got three times bigger than normal. 

“You steer her out of the barn, I couldn’t have done this without you.”

Giving the reins a gentle flip of the wrist, the reindeer pulled the sleigh out into the cold. Joe flipped the last of the switches on the checklist and the heated seats warmed.

“Nice touch, eh? My Grandpa told me how to add it in. Said it would warm his bones although I’m not sure how he’d ever sit here. Okay, anyway, we are ready for takeoff.” Joe took the reins back, hit the button to start the navigation system, then looked at Chrissy.

“Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.” She gripped the edge of the seat as tight as she could.

“Five, four, three—.”

“What are you doing?” Chrissy asked. “There’s nothing about a countdown.”

“I know,” Joe chuckled. “But I always dreamed of being an astronaut. Two, One, blastoff.” Joe shook the reins, hit the engine start control button, and nothing happened.

“Did you follow the instructions?”

“Yup, everything looks good,” Joe said, scanning the dash. “All systems are good.”

Chrissy noticed it first. The reindeer were all looking at them, staring.

“Joe, look at the reindeer. They’re staring at us.”

And then he understood. The story his grandfather told him every Christmas Eve for as long as he remembered was preparing him for this moment.

“Hang on, Chrissy, There’s one more step.”

Chrissy grabbed her seat and leaned back.

“Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid!
On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!”

As the words came out, the reindeer as one leaped into the air, the engine came to life, and they were flying.

Climbing up out of the trees, the sleigh settled into a smooth flight path. Chrissy relaxed and looked over the edge, Cumberland High School was right below them. Joe tugged on the reins and the reindeer climbed higher.

Turning from Mendon Rd. they crossed over Nate Whipple Highway, over the small Cumberland Reservoir, heading toward the big Pawtucket Reservoir. As they reached Reservoir Road, Joe took out his list.

“Okay, we have to try a couple of things.” He looked at the note, then handed it to Chrissy. “Here, we go.”

Tugging back on both reins, the reindeer slowed and descended. Leveling out just above the water. Gently releasing his tension on the reins, the reindeer responded and brought the skids of the sleigh lower, skimming the edge of the water and sending up a spray.

Joe pulled back again and the sleigh leaped back into the sky. Climbing higher and higher, they circled Diamond Hill twice, then headed home.

“Chrissy, at the bottom of that list are some numbers, enter them into the navigation system for me.”

“What are they?”

Joe shrugged. “Don’t know. My grandfather said to put them in when we finished the tests and were on the way back.”

Chrissy entered the numbers and they both felt the sleigh make slight course corrections. Close to the barn, they both prepared to land. But at the last moment, the sleigh turned slightly away, descended to tree top level, and slowed near Joe’s house.

Hovering just outside the room over the garage, the reindeer brought the sleigh even with the window and held it there.

“What are they doing?” Chrissy said. “Someone’s gonna see us.”

“And that someone would be me.” Joe’s grandfather stuck his head out the window. “I see you can both follow simple instructions. That’s good.” He made a whistling sound and somehow the reindeer brought the sleigh right to the edge of the window.

Joe’s grandfather climbed into the back seat.

“What are you doing, Grandpa? Mom will kill us both if she sees this.”

“No worries, Joe. In my case it doesn’t much matter and in yours, no one would blame you for taking a tired old pilot on one last flight. Now head for that star and take me once around the world.”

“The world?” Chrissy said.

The old man smiled. “Okay, how about once around the town?”

Joe tugged on the reins and they were off.

“You’re a natural at this, Joe. You’ll do just fine.”

“Fine at what, Grandpa?”

“All in good time, my boy, all in good time.” He leaned back, looking out at the stars and the world, a smile spread wide across his face.

Part XI Hold Fast to Your Memories

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2018/12/14/the-christmas-dragon-the-complete-untold-unchanged-and-absolutely-true-story-from-beginning-to-end/

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The Last Christmas Part IX: Facing Doubt

“Grandpa!” Joe yelled as he saw the old man sitting on the couch. “You’re home!” He ran to him, wrapping him in a hug.

“You have a talent for stating the obvious, Joe.” The old man smiled.

“Huh?”

“Never mind. I am here. Tell me about this problem your mother said you wanted to talk to me about.”

Joe explained the battle with the trees, and his trick with the glow stick. He told him about the progress they made with building the sleigh. Then he told him about the book’s disappearance.

“It’s my fault. Chrissy told me not to take it home, but I didn’t listen to her.”

“I see. Well, Joe, just a little advice. Unrelated to our immediate problem, but a little secret to remember as you grow up. When someone who cares for you, especially a nice little girl like Chrissy, gives you advice it would make your life much happier if you listened. But you’ll figure that out later.

“Now, we have to get the book back. I know where it is, and who has it, but getting it from them will not be easy.”

“I don’t care what it takes, I lost it and I will get it back.” Joe stood in front of his grandfather waiting to hear what he had to do.

*****

“Are you sure your grandfather knows what he’s talking about?” Chrissy asked.

“He said we had to walk to the north side of field. One we got there we’d know what to do.”

“But how, Joe, how?”

“I don’t know yet, but he told me to pay attention to the things you say and listen more to your advice.”

“Well, it would seem your grandfather is a smart man. Let’s do this.” Chrissy moved past Joe, striding through the snow to the edge of the woods.

A light, dim but visible, flickered from within the woods. Shadows moved between the trees. Then the voice of the specter called out to them. Raspy and cold, the chilling words carried on the wind.

“Soooo, yoooou’ve coooome foooor thaaaa booook haaaave yooou? IIIII doooon’t thiiink yooou haaaave thaaa couuuurage tooooo taaaaaake iiiiiiit.”

“Chrissy, you stay here. I’ll go get it.” Joe started into the woods, but Chrissy grabbed his arm.

“And what did your grandfather say about listening? We will both go. I know the power behind this thing is fear. If we are not afraid, it will be afraid of us.”

She took his hand and the two slipped behind the trees and walked toward the light.

The flickering shadow of the specter fluttered back and forth. The book lay on a fallen tree stump. It was the magic within the book lighting the woods.  As the specter passed by, the book would fade then reappear, a little dimmer each time. Chrissy understood what was happening. The specter was drawing away the magic.

“Joe, you go one way, I’ll go the other. We have to act fast before all the magic is gone.”

“I don’t know about this, Chrissy. That thing looks strong.”

Chrissy pulled him closer. “Remember what your grandfather told you, listen to me and don’t let doubt control us. I’m telling you what we should do and that’s doubt right there in front of us. We can do this, Joe.”

The light dimmed once again.  

“Now, Joe, now.”

Chrissy dashed to one side, Joe to the other. The specter, surprised by the sudden movement, pulled back.  Joe grabbed for the book, but the specter recovered and blocked his way. It enveloped the boy in the swirling darkness.

Chrissy saw her chance. Grabbing the book, she ran toward the field, then stopped. Looking back at Joe she knew she couldn’t leave him.

“Run, Chrissy, run. I can take care of myself.”

But she was already on her way back. Running straight at the specter, holding the book out in front of her, she screamed, “Let my friend go. You can’t stop us.”

The light from the book grew ten times brighter. The specter fled from the light back into the shadows. Joe collapsed to the ground. Chrissy ran to him.

“You okay?”

“I am now, thanks.”

“C’mon, Joe. We need to get the book back where it will be safe. I’m glad we’re done with that specter. ” She helped Joe to his feet, and the two headed out of the woods.

“Not that we’re keeping score. But that it the second time I’ve saved you. See, your grandfather is right. Listen to me and we’ll be fine.”

As the two made their way back to the barn, the specter trailed behind them, hiding in the shadows. Thiiiiiisss isssss faaaaar froooom ovvverrr, we’eeerrr juussst geettttttting staaarrrted.

Part X Flight School

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2018/12/14/the-christmas-dragon-the-complete-untold-unchanged-and-absolutely-true-story-from-beginning-to-end/

The Last Christmas Part III (Some Assembly Required)

Joe ran in the house, dropped his backpack on the floor, and dashed up the stairs. As he jiggled the mouse to wake the computer, he paused. Running back down the stairs, he went into the living room where his mother was working at her desk.

“Hi, Mom.”

“That’s better,” she smiled, “I thought you’d forgotten about me.”

“Nope, never. Can I use the computer for a bit?  I have to do some research.”

“What about your homework?”

“I did it on the bus.  Just math, a piece of cake.”

His mother put out her hand. Joe ran to his backpack, grabbed his homework, and ran back, handing her the paper.

She ran down the list, checking his work. “Hmm, not bad. You have the mind of a mathematician like your grandfather. Maybe you will grow up and be a pilot like him.”

“I might. I haven’t figured it out yet. I’ll let you know.”

She handed back the paper. “Not to worry, lots of time before you have to pick a career.”

“So, I am good?”

“You are.  What’s this research, anyway? Is it a school project?”

“Nope,” Joe yelled over his shoulder as he ran to the stairs. “Just something Grandpa and I are working on.”

Ten minutes later, armed with the information he needed, he dressed in warm clothes and headed back downstairs. The package he got from Kringle’s safe in his pocket.

“Where are you off to?”

“I’m, ah, going to meet Chrissy. Just hang out for a while before supper. You know.”

His mother smiled. “I do Joe, I do. Okay, be home before your father gets here.”

Joe turned to leave.

“And Joe…”

“Yeah, Ma?”

“If this little meeting involves something your grandfather put you up to, please be careful. Your grandfather is a wonderful man, but a little, ah, a little—”

“Crazy, insane, off-his-rocker, whack-a-ding-hoy?” Joe interrupted.

Laughing, his mother nodded. “I see he’s been filling in your vocabulary. But, yes, he can be unusual. Just be careful.”

Joe ran outside and down the street. Chrissy Snow waited in front of the bike path entrance.

“So, what is this big mystery?” she said.

“I’m not sure, but my grandfather said I needed to get you to help me.”

Chrissy’s eyes narrowed. “This isn’t one of your practical jokes, is it? Because if it is, I will pound you into the ground.” She made a fist and shook it in his face.

“C’mon, Chrissy. You have to admit that the fake snake was funny. I didn’t think your mother could climb a tree that quickly.”

Chrissy chuckled. “Yeah, that part was funny. Still, this better not be one.”

“Oh, it’s not.” Joe led the way down the bike path, then veered off onto the old trail leading to the abandoned barn.

“What are we doing here?” Chrissy said.

“Not sure yet.” Joe took out his mother’s cellphone, pushing a few buttons.

“Does your mother know you took that?”

“Not exactly, but she is always losing it. She won’t notice—.” He held up his hand for her to be quiet. “Yes, could you connect me to room 1225, please? Thanks.”  He tilted the phone away. “I have to talk to my grandfather. He said to call when we got here.” Turning his attention back to the phone as a voice came on the line.

“Hi, Grandpa. Yup, we’re here. Me and Chrissy. Un-huh, un-huh, okay got it.  See ya.” He ended the call and put the phone away.

Joe reached into his pocket and pulled out the small box.

“What’s that?” Chrissy asked.

“Something we have to build?”

“Build? That small? And it takes two of us?”

Joe shrugged and led the way into the old barn.

“You sure this is safe?”

“Grandpa said we needed to open this inside here, so I think it is.”

“You think so?”

Joe smiled. “Here we go.” He placed the package on the ground and stepped back, pulling Chrissy with him.

“What are you doing?”

“Following instructions. Now please be quiet for a minute, I need to focus.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the crumpled note.

“What once was hidden, let it now be shown, and share the magic we have known.”

Nothing happened.

“Is this some kind of joke, Joe, cuz I will not be happy if it—.”

The blinding light and sound knocked them back. Smoke filled the room, then swirled out the roof.

Joe stood, staring at the scene. Chrissy held his hand. “Wha, wha, what is that?”

Piled before them were parts of a colossal machine. Red velvet covered some pieces; others were shiny metal. Gold tinsel peeked from its wrapping, and leather straps with bells hung from the rafters.

A book, thick with pages, floated to the ground in front of them. Joe bent down to pick it up.

“What’s that?” Chrissy said, leaning over his shoulder.

Joe held the book up for her to read the cover.

“Operating Santa’s Sleigh: Some Assembly Required.”

“You’re gonna build this thing?” Chrissy asked.

“Nope,” Joe shook his head. “We are both gonna build this.”

(Part IV: Gathering the Herd)

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past, here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2018/12/14/the-christmas-dragon-the-complete-untold-unchanged-and-absolutely-true-story-from-beginning-to-end/

The Last Christmas

In keeping with an old tradition, I bring you Part 1 of the serialized story of The Last Christmas.

Millions of years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the Pawtucket Times would publish a story over the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

I, along with many others, anxiously awaited the arrival of each new chapter culminating in the ending on Christmas Eve. So, over the past few years, I have started my own version beginning with today’s opening segment. We will read this story together as I have no idea where it will go or how it will end. My only advantage is I will read it as it is born, while you my dear friends will see it just moments after its arrival.

I will just tell the story, like Charlie Brown and Linus, of something worth holding onto. Let it take us where it will…Merry Christmas!

The Last Christmas (Part 1)

Joe followed his mother down the hallway, lagging, slowing his steps as he tried to avoid reaching the room.

The incessant beeping of the machines, the determined movements of the doctors and nurses, the sounds of laughter, and crying, all crowded his mind.

He hated this place.

“C’mon, Joe.” His mother, waiting for him, motioned with her hands. “We have to get in to see grandpa before visiting hours are over.”

Joe sped up a bit as his mother continued down the hall, then slowed once again. The dread of seeing his grandpa in the hospital bed frightened him.

“Joe!” his mother called, standing at the doorway to the room, “let’s go, c’mon.”

Joe stopped at the door and peered inside. Sitting up in his bed, wearing a Santa hat with flashing lights and jingling bells, his grandfather smiled at him. “Get in here, Joe. The batteries in this thing might die before I do.” He let out a laugh.

“Dad! Please…”

“What? They are old batteries. I’ve had this thing since before you were born. Got it for that first Christmas, just before you interrupted our Christmas Eve dinner by being born.”

Joe’s mom shook her head and plopped down on the edge of the bed. “So, how are you feeling?”

“Dying, I’m dying. But other than that, just fine.” He let out a laugh. “The poison they call food here doesn’t help.” He turned to Joe. “Did you bring it?”

Joe glanced at his mother, then reached into his pocket.

“Bring what?”

“Never you mind, Peggy. This is between Joe and me.  Why don’t you go see if the nurses have an updated betting pool on when I will check out? I’ve got ten bucks on Saturday.”

Joe’s mom rolled her eyes and watched the two of them. Joe turned his back to his mom, then handed the candy bar to his grandfather.

“Yes! That’s my boy. Nothing like a Mounds bar or an Almond Joy.” With a twinkle in his eye, Joe’s Grandfather ripped off the wrapping and admired the two chocolate bars.

“Dad, you know you’re not supposed to eat junk. Give me that.” Joe’s mom tried to grab the candy.

“I,ffdo’t fink so,” the old man said, shoving a piece in his mouth, handing the other to Joe.

“He doesn’t need it either. He’s got a dentist appointment tomorrow.”

Joe’s grandfather winked. “No worries, we’ll wash it down with the hot chocolate you’re going to get us, and it will remove the evidence. Hot chocolate is magic.”

“Fine, I’ll go get the hot chocolate.” She stood up from the bed. “Please do nothing crazy while I’m gone.”

“Have I ever?”

“A better question is when have you ever been normal?”

Joe’s Grandfather stuck his tongue out at his mother. She rolled her eyes once more and headed out. As she got to the door, the old man stuck his tongue out and waggled his hands, thumbs in his ears.

“I saw that,” Joe’s mom said, without turning around.

“Oops.”

Joe laughed. “She couldn’t see, Grandpa, she wasn’t looking.”

“Oh, she could see, Joe, she could see. There’s more to seeing than just looking. Sometimes you just have to believe.”

“Believe in what, Grandpa? Seeing is not believing it’s, well, it’s seeing.”

“Come here, Joe. I want to tell you a story for my last Christmas.”

Joe felt the tears in his eyes. He stood still, unable to move.

“Joe, there is nothing to be sad about. The last Christmas is just as important as the first Christmas. More so in fact. Come here, now, no tears. They ruin the taste of the candy.”

“But I don’t want this to be your last Christmas, Grandpa. I want to have a hundred more with you.” He hugged the old man, resting his head on his chest.

Joe’s Grandfather laughed, the lighted hat jingling on his head. “And so you will, Joe, so you will. All you have to do is believe…”

Part II A Christmas Secret

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2018/12/14/the-christmas-dragon-the-complete-untold-unchanged-and-absolutely-true-story-from-beginning-to-end/


The Christmas Dragon: Part 8

Iris the Ice Queen

The darkness of the cave swallowed us. The light from outside faded. After a few minutes, I was tossed to the ground. An eerie pale glow surrounded me.  I looked for Max, but he wasn’t with me.

“So,” a cold voice hissed like air escaping a balloon, “this is who they choose to protect their precious Christmas? A mere boy?”

I spun around trying to find where it came from,  but could see nothing. Swirling wisps of snow rose from the ground, twisted like a tornado, then took shape before me.

I backed away, pressing against the chilled rocky wall of the cave. Gliding along the ground, the creature came closer, until it was right before me.

Ice queenI faced an angry looking, ice-covered, woman. She stroked the head of a wolf standing by her side, once Frank the fake Elf. He curled his lips at me, baring his teeth.

“Who…who…are you?” I said, my voice quivering. I fought against my fear.

“I am Iris, the Ice Queen.”

Her words came on gusts of frigid air, stinging my ears. “What do you want with me? Where’s Max?”

“You, my dear boy, and your sad little dragon are my guests. You’ll stay until the world knows Christmas is no more.”

“I want to see Max,” I took a step towards her. I could tell she didn’t expect this.

“Very well,” she began to fade, “but it will do you no good.” In a flash, she was gone. The wolf gave me one more flash of his teeth then ran off. Something odd about this. Why would she do what I asked?

After a few moments, the wall behind me gave way, light filtered through. I took a step closer, trying to see in. Another step. Then another. I squeezed through the narrow opening and stuck my head out. Max licked my face. He covered me with Dragon slime, but I didn’t care.

Max was okay. That was good. As to me, I wasn’t so sure.

I squeezed through and stopped dead in my tracks. dragon-dancing-animationMax danced in the middle of the giant cave, leaning over to lick my face when he got close, then bounced some more. All around him, looking pale and tired, were Santa’s reindeer team and the missing Elves.

While I tried to take this all in, the wall behind me slammed shut. We were sealed in a cave, no way out, deep in a mountain, guarded by a powerful magician, a snarling shape-shifting wolf, and surrounded by an army of dead trees.

I was alone and not sure what to do.

Then, Max slid his head between my legs and lifted me onto his back. He moved to the center of the room. The Elves and reindeer all gathered around us, looking at me.

“Tell’em what you’re gonna do, Joe,” Max said, smiling and bouncing on his feet. “Tell’em how we’re gonna save Christmas.”

I looked around at all the faces staring at me, a mixture of hope and fear shown in their eyes.

“I will,” I said, trying to sound confident, then whispered, “as soon as I think of it.”

TO BE CONTINUED