In the careful what you wish for department, Scottie gets a lesson in keeping a weekly blog. As you may remember, back on the other side of the Christmas Holiday, I promised a sugar cookie of post, to give myself time to recharge my creative batteries and come out blazing in 2017. And so I posted tow installments of a story I wrote to brighten my sister KJ oh-so-many years ago... But as luck, scotch tape and gingerbread would have it (not to mention Cedar Planked salmon, Italian Brined Turkey, chestnut ildroast with tomato raisens, pinenut toffee, and every appa-teaser you can name - those of you who have read my book know, this is my time and me and my kitchen create a hurricane of food for those I love) where was I? Oh you I was making an excuse for not posting the rest of Rdy's adventures...
I'm sorry. Here it is. Merry Christmas -
It's going to be a big year for all of us - and for those, who once again, find ourselves getting further from the America that is promised by our hopes and dreams and Constitution, this is our time to answer the call. I will be there. With You. So, until then... a little more light for your holiday:
“Her Highness, the Empress of Grace...”
And so they did.
They crossed the ocean of dreams but were horrified to discover that the belief of all things magical was suffering a world wide epidemic. Fading refugees from all over the Kingdom of the Imagination clogged the golden streets, ghostly forms, indeed, wraiths of their former selves, clamored for an audience with the Empress. The Hallmark Posse' stared wide-eyed at each other, realizing that something was truly amiss. The normally bright sunny skies were clouded by gray fog and a stench had cloaked, okay, that's putting it nicely, when choked-out is probably more accurate, the fragrance from the sunshine tree blossoms that the Kingdom was famous for.
At once a winged horseman swooped down from the castle battlements and cornered the posse.
"Toothfairy, Cottontail and you darn leprechauns, zounds is that you?” For who could blame the horseman, their gangsta bling (they were taking this posse' thingy, like, literally) was blinding in the fog and gloom. “If you please, curtsied the Toothfairy, “We’ve come to kick-it with the Top Girl.” "Yeah, She needs to end the tentz brothers and pronto!" The Horseman scratched his plumed mane. “I, um... well I have no idea what language you’re speaking, but the the Empress has been expecting you, and summons you to her throne at once!"
The gates were opened and the guards dressed for battle stepped aside. The posse was escorted to her Majesty herself.
"No, it is not news what happening! But what is puzzling is how did you make back across the ocean? My entire Armada is stuck in port, nothing in or out." The Empress cried as she put on some cheap sunglasses, “Much better, “ she stared down at the posse from her throne.
"Oh, Girl you don’t know the half, Toothie here is so faint, she can't lift a quarter, let alone a baby tooth. And I couldn't heft a basket full of Easter joy for all the crunk in the world.”
"Yes, but none of that explains how you got past my outter walls"
"Well," said the leprechauns, "we had n reason to believe it was not possible."
" said the Toothfairy, "we had to get to you by the third act. Duh."
"Well, Santa might be able to help from his side of the pond. Go! The lot of you, before it's too late, if nothing else, he's got to be warned. If he fails at Christmas, all belief could be wiped out overnight and then think of the pickle we'd be in!" Oh... and take off that ridiculous costume jewelry, you look like the Home Shopping Network!”
And so they did.
“A Ray of Light?”
And as Bah Humbug continued to test his bars by throwing the day’s unlucky hobgoblin into the light, he noted that the power of his prison was dropping at a significant rate -- it was only a matter of time before even he could squeeze between the bars without touching and thus go free. Then, he would orchestrate the greatest assault on the Hearts of men ever staged by an evil genius. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, Ol Bah'sie became a master tap dancer as well -- smoothly side stepping Baba Raga's amorous advances...
And languishing away in Frostelli's grimy canvas-covered world, and despite the love of Hannah, Rudolph, our hero was really a mess. A lugging, slogging slug, who could drain the light from a noon-day sun with his, um, most folks call it, demeanor. Hannah would try to lift his spirits with reassurances of his greatness and chin scratches (which, he had to admit were very good) Eecko, however, finally found an un-challenging ear for all of his half-baked conspiracy theories. As long as he brought a nightly supply of half-eaten store-bought sugar cookies (you know the kind they sell in gas-station convenience stores, made in a country you can't pronounce and by a company you never heard of) and stale carnival popcorn, Rudolph could endure the barrage of Eecko's cock-a-maybe excuses for failure.
But now, even Frostelli’s freakshow was suffering from the gloom. The foggy storm had cut into everyone's business, and though, as we’ve said before -- when the going gets tough, the weak laugh at other's misfortunes -- nothing was able to flourish under the belching fog of the Mountain trolls. Finally, everyone kept indoors and to themselves.
At last, the posse' found their way to the heavy oaken door of Santa's North pole workshop. As they swung the knocker that banged against his door, they beat their arms against the cold. "I never got this whole north pole thingy,” shivered Peter Cottontail, “I mean his sleigh doesn't need this stuff when he goes to Hawaii."
"Who is it?!" Thundered the famous baritone from behind the door.
"Santa, it's Toothy, Peter and your friends, those darn Leprechauns -- we bring a message from her Highness, the Empress herself."
"I'm days before my big night and I can't afford to hand out with a buncha choke-artists, like you guys!"
"Us guys? Now that's a bit harsh, don't ya think?"
"Listen you overblown Coka Ad! Nobody talks to us like that!"
The Leprechauns weren't about to travel all that way to be denied. So up and into his chimney they flew and stumbled out onto his hearth. What they saw horrified even them. There, peeking out the keyhole and barring his own front door was Santa -- or, at least it used to be Santa, even he had become a fading memory of the beloved icon of belief and imagination.
"Why, you fading old fraud!" "Blimey, he's as bad as us!"
Santa whirled about and stared at the intruders. But instead of getting mad, his shoulders slumped. "Oh, what's the use," he unlocked the door with resignation and The Tooth fairy and Peter Cottontail ran immediately for the fireplace, standing with their bums to the flames hopping about to get warm.
"So, now you know," he said. "It started yesterday, right after breakfast. And anyway, what would it matter – that fog is so thick I wouldn’t send a dog out on a night like this.
“Ouch!” said Peter, his famous cotton tail singed by the flames, “What about Rudolph?”
“He ran away – Vixen and the boys said he left mumbling something about blowing this penny-ante gig. I never would’ve believed it of him... he was such a nice kid. – the bottom line? I'm... that is, we're doomed."
Peter, still nursing burnt bum hairs sputtered, "Santa, you can't cash in now. The entire kingdom is riding on your shoulders. If you fail to make your deliveries on Christmas Eve, then the Empress is certain that the belief of childhood will be snuffed out and we'll lose our real estate in the hearts of man for - ever. Forever, as in never, ya know the cosmic goose egg, the.. the..
“Petey?” softly nudged the Toothfairy...
“The big Zilch...” rambled the Easter bunny...
“The nebulous nada...”
“PETERRRRRRRRRRR!” shrieked the Toothfairy – windows cracking and glasses shattering, “sweetie... Santa-dear gets the pointie.”
“Yes, well... as you can well imagine, we've only got a tenuous hold on this so-called reality, as it is."
Santa paced back and forth in front of his fire, the flames showing through his vaporous form. "Confound our rotten luck."
“Ain’t it always the way?”
As with all fairy stories the Good guys forgot one simple truth. The bad guys always foil their own plans through greed and lack of trust.
For starters, Baba Raga was growing bored. Her work had lost it luster, and she realized she had become nothing more than a chambermaid to the mountain trolls, a waitress that served-up their daily meals of little white lies and subtle paranoias. Besides, she was tired of cooking the facts for two slobs that behaved like spoiled children, or worse, fraternity boys who took great delight in lighting each other's farts and watching the flames blast about, then roaring with glee if one caught his pants on fire, before realizing that as a two headed beast, they shared the same pants.
And, so it was that even Humbug's reassurances that they would marry, no longer kept Baba Raga at bay. The company of the other witches didn't help at all. They were all spoiling for some action and nothing pleases a gaggle of girls more than the planning of a wedding. They began to fill Baba Raga's head with all sorts of romantic notions of how her dress could look and what color napkins the cake should be served on and all matters of great import. When the girls laughed her out of the tea cozy, when Baba Raga didn't even have an engagement ring yet, she marched to prison to settle it once and for all.
There as she crept up the corridor of doom, she overheard her beloved Humbug snickering with his lawyer, the river troll, F. Flea Bailout, "Hah, it's all about to come to a head, the perfect plan. All that’s left is getting rid of the old hag Baba Raga and I can rule the world alone."
"Did you hear that?" Asked Humbug. The River troll wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes. "Hear what?"
"Nothing," said Humbug. "Must be the wind."
Baba Raga snuck away into the night, her mind already in overdrive," The treacherous double-dealing backstabber. I'll show him."
Tensions were high in the freakshow and Frostelli's daughter couldn't resist the temptation to do something stupid. She let some older kids (that she was trying to impress) into the show for free. When they were discovered, the daughter -- of course -- blamed Hannah and the wrath of Frostelli boiled over.He went looking for the orphan.
Into the tent where the animals were kept, stormed the very rotund Frostelli, SMACK! Without warning, his backhand lashed her cheek.
Enraged! Rudolph rose from his stupor, kicked the cage doors off the hinges and with a shout, flew across the tent at Frostelli, (who never believed the myth about flying reindeer and thus, never saw it coming.) A pair of cage-sharpened antlers lifted the obese and cruel Frostelli and flicked him through the walls of the tent like yesterday's garbage. Rudolph scooped-up the young orphan girl onto his back and off they flew to freedom.
But where? Yes, where, you ask? Me too, as I’m hearing this for the very just like you. (Hey, we're going off script, here... anyone? Anyone?) Okay, I guess it's just us, so... where woul they go?
Back home to the village that doesn't love him anymore?
Across to Hawaii, where native girls rubbed Coppertone on his antlers?
Hollywood, to kiss and tell all and get his own T.V. talkshow on the E! Channel?
No... What do you think... (remember this is a Christmas story...”)
Rudolph and Hannah flew up, up, and away thru the fart smelling gloom, “I need a breath of air, don’t you?” said the magicked reindeer.
Higher and higher, and higher to escape the choking fog and see the plight of the world. Hannah, who's heart is immune to the chill of despair, sees that the source of the darkness, “Rudy... it’s coming from the edge of the world.”
Rudolph saw that indeed the young orphan was right, and flew for a closer look. The stench was incredible this close to the source – have you ever smelled cooked facts before? Yeesh -- and then they saw it -- the great belching fire of the mountain trolls.
Hannah was distraught, ”Rudy, you have to save the world, you just have to...” but his time in captivity has taken it’s toll and Rudolph had grown callous and cold, "Why should I?, Eecko was right, Santa, the reindeers, nobody cared one whit about saving me, they probably didn't even know I was gone, or worse, were jealous and have been quite happy to let me rot in some rusty cage."
But Hannah stared at her furry friend with great compassion, "Even if that's true, what would make you happier? Helping people because you know it’s the right thing to do, or turning your back just to make your point?"
She had him there. Rudolph took a breath (easier now that they soared above the stench filled clouds) and remembered the feeling he had right before Santa unhooked his bridle after the Christmas of '62. Warm, sweet satisfaction of a job well done by all. Hannah saw the gleam in Rudy's eyes, "See, you do remember what I'm talking about, Eecko can't talk about it because all he's ever known is fear, but we know what it's like to feel free and it's our job to tell and show the world, even if it takes a thousand lifetimes."
With a snort and blast from his famous nose, the fire returns to Rudolph's’ heart and... nose! A blazing beacon of hope, illuminating the entire sky like a red comet (no, not that Comet – remember? He’s on the naughty list right now, and as soon as Santa finds out, oh boy, will there be “H”-“E”- double-toothpicks to pay...) No, a real blazing celestial body streaking across the Christmas sky!
And with that Rudolph plunges into the darkening fog...
“Twas’ the Night before...”
Christmas eve and Santa is fit to be tied. His elves, faded as they are, sweat like stuffed pig dolls trying to load the sleigh, but they too are weakened by the flagging belief of the world's children. “Confound it, lads! At this rate, we’ll be packed by Groundhog day!”
“Yeah, well why don’t you pack it yourself then, you... you...”
The room froze as Santa, still strong enough to wield his pen and list, licked the end of the quill and turned to the naughty section... “Okay, okay, step away from the pen, Old man... we’re all a little tense here, don’t go doing anything I might regret later.” His point made, Santa put away his list and turns to his army of toy makers and packers. “An extra ration of egg nog for all then back to work – the world of the imagination is depending on us – and I’ll not have the record book show that we lost this crucial battle for the hearts of children without a fight!”
HURRAH! Shouted the elves and redoubled their efforts!
And speaking of battle...
Sound and fury signifying everything! Rudolph and the mountain troll are locked in the epic struggle of all time!
Hannah, Rudolph’s cheerleader rubs it in every time the reindeer scores a blow. “Rah, Rah, Ree kick him in the knee... Rah, Rah Rass, kick his ever lovin’...”
But oh, no! Rudolph is out of breath – the stench of the troll has crowded out every last molecule of oxygen... “Hey, Malco!” “Yeah, Disco?” “Is it my imagination, or does ol’ Rudy’s red nose clash with his green skin?” “Yeah, this guy needs to have his colors done.”
It was true. But as his face became a blue that would go together better with his famous red nose, his strength gave out... and Rudolph collapsed at the feet of the troll. Hope was lost right there and then...
Hannah’s sobs caught in her throat as she watched the hideous two-headed mountain menace look down in victory.
Baba Raga, who should be happy, instead is furious, for during the battle the clumsy troll stumbled onto her cooking fire, smoldering embers and red-hot coals trampled under foot. “You moron!” Look at what you’ve done!”
It was true. Hannah saw the coals and embers ankle deep. “Doesn’t that hurt?” and then she remembered, that mountain trolls have skin so thick that fire doesn’t burn them... there’s only one place that’s too tender and we don’t want to go there...
Gloom and doom. Hope crushed. The mountain troll reaches reach down his giant finger to check on his prey.
But Rudy opens his eye a slit and winks to Hannah. He grabs the Mountain Troll’s index finger and with his last dying strength, pulls with all his might!
The Mountain Troll farts... a hurricane of stink and gas right into the ember’s of the witches cooking fire and...
VVVVVOOOOOOMMMMM! A column of fire roars right back up at the Troll – a direct hit to where the sun don’t shine...
Screamed both heads of the tentz brothers as they disappeared in a gigantic ball of fire! The Cooked facts, the White lies and Paranoia fueling the biggest bang this side of the cosmos.
Rudolph, Hannah and the witch Baba Raga, are nearly sucked into the black hole torn by the rending of the fabric of time and space... but they were spit back to the ground near the gigantic crater that used to be the witch’s lair.
“Impressive. The old, hey-kid-pull-my-finger trick. Unlike the readers, I didn’t see that one comin'.”
Baba Raga looks around at the wreckage of her life. “ but your efforts were in vein, the fog still covers the world and Christmas is just hours away. Tough tabernacles, eh?”
But Hannah is happy, and hugs her savior, saying "I always knew you could do it!"
“That you did, admitted Rudolph, “my powers never faltered, even though belief in myself may have wavered.”
Baba Raga wrinkled her nose, “Enough of this mutual admiration society! To tell the truth, I’m unsure whether to kiss you for having relieved me of cooking for that slob or kill you, since, you know, you’re one of the good guys and that’s what we do right?”
Baba Raga sat and stewed on her predicament, "Well, you won the battle, but lost the war, for while you were frittering away the last precious minutes with some two-bit menace with bad table manners, the real deal is going down... Bah Humbug's evil plan to destroy Christmas will eradicate the belief in all thing's good. It’s going to work and you won't be able to do a thing about it."
"How's that?" asked Rudy feeling pretty cocky having just dispatched the bully with his favorite girl looking on.
"When Santa is unable to deliver his goods, the last shred of hope in the world will be snuffed out like my cooking fire and Bah Humbug will be free again to poison the hearts of men with nervously imagined and whispered fears."
"Come on Hannah, I've done it once, I can do it again!" And off they flew to Santa's rescue yet again.
“Play it again Rudy...”
And so they did.
Santa has to all but drag his elite team out of the barn against their protests. "What's the use in even trying, we'll never make it time."
But a blazing beacon cuts thru the fog blanketed sky.
“Hey Comet, is that a comet?” No, Santa hasn't caught on to his treachery, yet silly... Comet doesn't even look up, "Funny, that's only the thousandth time I've heard that)
But Vixen is undeterred, so used to Comet's B-S. and recognizes the truth first... “It’s... it’s... the kid...”
Their hearts are lifted as Santa calls out, "On Dasher, On, Dancer, On Prancer, on what's-his-name, On Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen and Rudolph -- Dash away Dash away Dash away, ALL!"
And so they did.
And Christmas was saved.
And Bah Humbug was foiled.
And Baba Raga became the queen of the coven.
And Hannah had a new home (as manager of the North Pole stable.)
And Rudolph took his vacation at the North Pole this time...
And so... they had a Merry Christmas.