Though I must confess that I really thought about just skipping today and posting tomorrow instead. I got called in to work my seasonal retail job this morning, as I was walking out the door to get my kids to school. So I had to quickly change into work clothes, drop them off, and book it to the store. On the way, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.
Five hours of stocking shelves and a PTO meeting later, as well as a slew of strange emails I now have to deal with and a company telling me (a month after they charged me to ship samples) that they will not send me a sample to show quality and color until I order 500 units of their product (uhm, no), I no longer have any clue what I was going to write about. So I decided to give you a free sample of my latest novelette instead. Enjoy, and if you want to read more, you can get the rest at: http://www.amazon.com/Gandersnitch-Goblin-ALMOST-Saved-Christmas-ebook/dp/B018KYAOZI
How Gandersnitch the Goblin ALMOST Saved Christmas
“How come I never got any Christmas presents?”
This particular question caught me quite by surprise. I had been expecting something more along the lines of “Where have you been all my life?” or “How come you never even bothered to call?” or “You think you can just show up here, now, at the end of all of it and have me committed? You’re not even my real dad!”
Of course, whether either of us cared to admit it, I was. And thus it fell to me to deal with the mess she had created before a less parental sort needed to become involved. Not that I have ever been accused of being a parental sort to begin with, but at least I had a vague idea of how it had all happened, and it was partially my fault.
The girl had simply been born unlucky. Half hob, half dryad, half star, half tree, half fire, half insanity… And that is way too many halves to shove into a single person, especially with neither parent really in the picture. It was no wonder her mind had cracked wide open and all sorts of horrible things had spilled out.
We were riding in the back of a horse drawn carriage, one of those open romantic sorts you often find fleecing optimistic young couples in Central Park. This was not a romantic getaway, however. We were on our way to… Well, it is best I not name names. It is for your own protection, you see. It is not a place you’ll ever want to visit. It is a place where they put crazy people.
Our driver sat up front on his perch, bundled in a long black wool coat with a smart looking top hat on his head. As far as I knew, he wasn’t armed. The two coal black horses under his command were harnessed with touches of gold and the black satin carriage was pinstriped to match. The snow had just starting to fall, dusting the backs of the horses and the tops of our heads with the true spirit of the season: cold, fluffy, misery. The picture we presented would have made an excellent holiday postcard though, if it were not for me and the girl mucking the whole thing up.
For starters, I was not dressed in all black like the horses, carriage, and our driver. I was dressed, as always, in my serviceable browns. It wasn’t just my clothes that stood out as different though; it was my skin color, which is copper, and my impressively long ears and nose. I am, you see, no matter how much I mingle amongst the humans these days, still quite visibly a hobgoblin.
The girl that sat beside me had a shock of wild red hair that seemed to crackle and glow like the embers of a dying fire. She got that particular feature from her mother. She also got her mother’s slender form, sleek pointed ears, small pixie knot of a nose, and bright green eyes. From me she got her stinging wit, a penchant for trouble, her copper colored skin—though hers was rather verdigris from her grandfather’s heritage—and her tail.
That was all she had ever gotten from me, though. As she had rightly said, not even a single Christmas present in all these many years.
“Well…” I started uncertainly, “in my defense, I wasn’t even convinced you really existed.”
Perhaps this was not the most fatherly thing to say, but I had not had very much practice in saying fatherly things. I had heard rumours of course, many years after the fact. But there are lots of rumours about stuff like this amongst our kind. Sure, it can happen, especially when you are as famous as I am. I mean, clearly in this case it DID happen. But I can’t go around acknowledging every bastard offspring that some trollop, tart, or harpy claims is mine. I would be flat broke! Besides, until this point, all the other alarms had been false.
My daughter rolled her eyes and scowled at me. “Not a present from you,” she said. “I didn’t expect anything from you. But maybe, just once, from Santa Claus, you know? It would have been nice for someone to acknowledge my existence.”
I had heard about this Santa fellow as well, though we had never met. He wasn’t exactly a concern of mine, but for her sake I could at least indulge these fancies for the ride.
“Santa Claus, you say? That’s the fat guy in the red suit, right? Likes the cold? Has something to do with children and an alcoholic red-nosed moose?”
She stared at me like I was an idiot. “He brings all the children of the world a present on Christmas Eve,” she said slowly, making sure I caught each word. “Unless they’re Jewish, I think, and then they don’t believe in him.”
“That is Jesus,” I corrected. “The Jewish ones don’t believe in Jesus.”
“Santa Claus too,” she insisted.
“Well. Maybe they don’t believe in anybody… I don’t know! Anyways, how is this one guy supposed to deliver presents to every kid all over the world in just one night. Either it’s a lie, or he’s got some really powerful magic.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Not every kid though. Not me.”
She shrugged and fell silent again, turning her head away from me to watch the snowy forest scene as we rolled on by. We were not going terribly fast, but there was no chance of her escaping. At least not in one piece. Her wrists and ankles were chained securely to the floor.
Unfortunately her question, and now her sullen silence on the matter, gave me far too much time to think. Who was this Santa Claus character anyways? Where did he come from? What was his angle?
I knew that Claus was an old Greek name meaning the people’s victory. Santa was the name of one of Columbus’s ships and the Spanish word for a female saint. So linguistically, this fellow was most likely a cross-dressing rebel sailor. But where did the presents for kids come in? Something wasn’t adding up.
I checked to make sure the shackles on the girl were secure and then climbed up next to the driver. He was human. One of the many in the employ of my own captor, Titania, who could prove quite useful on occasions like this.
“Everything all right, sir?” he asked, with a dry disinterest into my affairs.
“What do you know about Santa Claus, Bernard? He’s some sort of pirate, I think.” I glanced behind me to make sure the girl in question wasn’t trying anything fishy. “She was asking about him. It may be an undiscovered rebel plot.”
I must note that it was only by chance that I had even caught her in the first place. There had been some sort of a falling out amongst her rabble rousing compatriots, and she had stupidly stormed off alone. In her distress, I had slipped past her defenses and disarmed her. It had helped that she was quite intoxicated and passed out cold on the counter of a bar when I did so. An actual fight between the two of us would go ill indeed, at least for the spectators. She had no reservations when it came to collateral damage. I fully expected some sort of treachery before we reached our journey’s end.
“Not a pirate, sir,” Bernard replied with a snort of disdain. “An elf, as I understand it. A jolly old elf, or so they say. Lives at the north pole and makes toys for all the children who believe in him.”
The snow continued to fall, growing thicker by the minute. In the distance, we could hear the faint howling of wolves. This was an old forest though and such sounds were commonplace. They would not bother the likes of us, and a little snow wasn’t going to bother the horses.
“That’s a lot of toys…” I mused aloud. attempting to do the numbers in my head and giving up once I passed fourteen thousand.
“Well, he has a lot of helpers. A whole army of elves, so they say.” Bernard kept his hands on the reins and his eyes on the road. He didn’t seem terribly interested in the conversation, but he was indulging me at least.
“An army? Of elves… That’s interesting,” I said.
“And flying reindeer, sir. That’s how he gets around on Christmas Eve. Wouldn’t mind a set of those,” Bernard chuckled. “Flying would a nice change on a night like this.”
The howling sounds grew closer and the wind continued to blow. My nose was completely frostbitten and I was developing a bit of a sniffle. I hated the cold.
“An elf lord… with an army… and flying reindeer,” I muttered as I pondered over the facts. “What does Titania think of this?”
“Can’t speak for her, sir. But she’s never seemed terribly bothered by it all. He isn’t stealing children after all, just bringing them gifts.”
“That is how it always starts, Bernard,” I said with a sigh. “Presents, treats, and candy in the van. Then there’s an Amber Alert on the nine o’clock news.”
The facts were quite troubling, though the pieces did not all add up. Why had the girl been asking about this cross-dressing elf lord? Where did he get his army, if he wasn’t kidnapping babes? Was this the larger plot I had always suspected her of falling into? Was this her way of offering up information in exchange for her freedom?
And what did Titania really know about all this? Of course, she was far more concerned with lovers and liaisons, than she was with a squadron of flying reindeer. This situation probably wouldn’t even register on her radar. Though maybe this would be the break I needed to finally win my freedom.
If I had been paying attention to our more immediate situation, instead of ruminating about the future implications of grandeur, I probably would have noticed that the howls of the wolves had been growing ever louder. As it was, I didn’t actually notice anything amiss until Bernard suddenly jerked hard on the reins and the carriage slid to a stop, almost toppling over on the icy road. The horses reared up in a panic as three slavering, vicious wolves snapped right at their feet. Three more snarled at the back of the carriage. We were surrounded!
Leaping to my feet and drawing my wand, I whirled around and aimed it at the girl. The girl who was now grinning smugly in the back. “Call them off!” I demanded. “Call them off right now!”
“You won’t shoot me!” she yelled back in defiance. “I’m your daughter!”
My wand was pointed right at her throat. My fingers twitched. Neither of us blinked.
“I know who you are, you redheaded trollop! But I don’t know you. I haven’t called you, or sent you presents, or bothered to care that you even existed. As far as I was concerned, you didn’t! Not until you made a mess of everything and now I have to clean it all up.”
Those were some pretty cruel words to say, I admit that completely. But I have never claimed to be a nice man; quite the contrary, and there was no time to be coddling and understanding. Not with wolves about to dine on our cold and bitter flesh. This was the time for standing strong. The time for unwavering discipline. The time to finally man up and be a parent.
I would be lying if I said that the tears that formed in her eyes did not have any effect on me. But despite the sting of the horrible things I had said, she was just as stubborn as the rest of her family. She leaned forward against her chains, hatred smoldering in her bright green eyes, and bared her teeth at me.
“I don’t want to shoot you!” I yelled back at her. “But it will actually mean less paperwork if I do. I might be eaten by wolves tonight, but your bones will rot here too. Call. Them. Off.”
I could see the wheels quickly turning in her brain. Her hair flared up, snuffing out the snow that fell all around her. Finally she came to a decision, narrowed her eyes, flicked me off, and slumped back against the seat of the carriage. Seizing the opportunity, I swung around and blasted a spark of lightning from my wand. It landed right between the eyes of the wolf nearest to the horses.
It wasn’t enough to do any real damage; it was only useful for jump starting cars or shorting out computers. But it did startle the beast and sent him darting backwards with a yelp of surprise and pain. This was more of a fight than they had bargained for, and the girl’s compulsion was no longer keeping them here, so without hesitation he turned and set off whining into the woods with his tail between his legs. The rest of his pack followed swiftly after. Our horses were spooked and foaming at the mouth in fright, but they were unharmed. Bernard hopped down from the carriage and attempted to calm them.
“Now we both know where the other stands,” I said as I sat down beside her. “No more tricks. No more traps. You are going, and that is the end of it. My only other option is to turn you over to Titania, and that is not going to happen.”
She didn’t say anything in reply. She just sat there with a scowl on her face, pouting and fuming. This is why I try to avoid teenagers. I can never friggin’ understand them! Their brains just don’t seem to work right.
“You have to give me time to unravel what you did,” I continued, this time a bit more gently. “Give me the time and I’ll clear your name if I am able. I just can’t do it if you are still out there, out of control, making a gigantic mess even bigger.”
There’s a surprise for you: a moment of actual honesty and concern from me. How bizarre! Well, it wasn’t like I was going to let my own child fester in a creepy prison for all eternity. I might be a goblin, but I’m not heartless, after all.
She quirked a brow and turned to face me, still sulking as she studied my eyes for any sign of deception. Bernard climbed back up into the carriage and cleared his throat. We were ready to roll again, on my command.
“Change of plans,” I said to the driver. “We have to make a short stop first.”
I winked at my daughter and cracked a wicked smile at her sudden confusion. “Take us to the North Pole, Bernard.”
“The North Pole, sir?”
“Yes, indeed. It seems I need to have a chat with this Santa Claus fellow.”
Copyright 2015 by Robert A. Turk
All Rights Reserved
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