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Right. So few years ago I took part in the “Countdown to 2015” Challenge on Absolute Write. For every day of December we were given a prompt and the challenge was to write a piece of flash fiction every day. Some of those prompts turned into a series about the (mis)adventures of Nick & Ginny (aka Mr & Mrs Claus) around the Christmas season.
Shenanigans, sarcasm, and silliness ensue. Enjoy 🙂
Being the Adventures of Nick & Ginny (aka, Mr & Mrs Claus)
(Shenanigans, sarcasm, and silliness ensue)
Anna F. Humphrey
1-The elves are building…
“What,” Nick growled, “is that infernal racket? Can’t a man have a little peace and quiet around here?”
“It’s the elves, dear,” Ginny answered, pouring the tea. “They’ve got it into their heads that they need to keep themselves in practice or they’ll fall behind on orders when Christmas gets here.”
Nick rubbed his forehead. “Why did I choose elves?”
“It was the ‘Help an Elf’ program, dear. You were saying you wanted to give back to the community.”
“How’s about I give them back to the community.”
“Oh, be nice. They’re building you a swimming pool.”
He lowered his glasses. “They do realize this is the Arctic, don’t they?”
Ginny shrugged. “I never said they were terribly bright.”
2-Not the usual office party
“Who,” Nick growled, “invited the bloody dragon? And don’t tell me it was the elves.”
Ginny looked at him over the rim of her punch. “For someone who gives gifts to children, you are a remarkably grumpy old man.”
“Did you see the naughty list this year?”
“Yes, well, it’s over now dear. Smile and enjoy the party.”
“There’s still a dragon. And someone brought gremlins. I can feel them waiting to make off with my best mittens.”
Ginny smiled and handed him the punch. “Here. Have some of this.”
He scowled. “Is it spiked?”
Throwing back his head, he drained it.
“Has the dragon started to look cute?”
He held out the glass. “That’ll take at least two more, love.”
3-Something On the Roof
What the hell?
Nick forced his eyes open, now convinced that the incessant drumming was not just the after-effects of too much punch. How much had he drunk? Not enough for the bloody dragon to look cute, especially after it had torched the hall.
Dragging himself out of bed and over to the window, he threw up the sash and stuck his head out.
“Rudolph, I really don’t think this is a good idea right now…”
Nick groaned and retreated back to bed.
“Nick, dear, what’s going on?”
He pulled the covers over his head. “Rudolph had too much eggnog, that’s what.”
“Oh.” Ginny rubbed her eyes. “Well. At least he knows how to fly.”
Nick snorted. “Tell him that.”
The elves were hard at work making toys. The painters were painting, the craftsmen were crafting, the sculptors were sculpting…all in all, Nick was forced to admit that when they had a focus, elves were good workers.
Not that he would ever say that.
He strode through the workshop, practicing his ho-ho-ing (couldn’t disappoint the kiddies, no matter how ridiculous he felt), until he came to the Wrapping Room.
“Ginny, what are you doing here?”
She rocked her chair, which was right in front of the door. “Knitting.”
“I can see that. Why?”
“Because you can’t go in just yet.”
His stomach plummeted. “Why not?”
With a sigh, she set down her knitting and looked at him over the rim of her glasses. “Because one of them decided it was a good idea to wrap the boxes before they were filled. To save time afterwards.”
He stared at her. Then he let loose a long string of words that were very unsaintly.
“Next year I’m hiring dwarves.”
Nick cracked his eye open and stared at the date on the clock: December 21, the winter solstice.
With a groan he hid his head under the pillow. Maybe it would go away if he wished hard enough. Hell, wasn’t it time some fat man in a red suit brought him a present?
“Time to get up, dear,” Ginny said, gleefully pulling the blanket away. “The reindeer games won’t wait.”
He tugged on the blanket. “That’s what I’m counting on.”
Ginny gave a violent yank and the blanket fled from his grasp. “If you don’t referee then Rudolph won’t play, and then he’ll sulk, and don’t you remember the last time that happened?”
“Rudolph is a diva.”
“But he’s a diva with clout, dear.”
There are many ancient rites surrounding Christmas and the winter solstice, many of which were so old no one could remember why they started or how.
This was one Nick bloody well wished they’d bloody well do away with. There were only so many cookies he could eat in one night without making himself sick. And giving them to the reindeer was out of the question, since sugar rendered them high and useless.
Just once, he wished someone would leave him a nice bottle of whisky – maybe a Scapa 16 – or a really old French red.
With a sigh, he stared down at the plate of chocolate chip cookies and glass of milk.
“Bottoms up, Nick.”
7-101 Easy Tricks You Can Teach Your Druid
“What,” said Nick, speaking very slowly so that the elf would understand him, “is this?” He held up the book.
“Oh,” said the elf, so brightly it hurt. “You weren’t supposed to see that.”
Nick smiled. It was the type of smile that would have sent a polar bear running, but the elf seemed not to have received the memo. “Why not?”
“Because I haven’t finished it yet. I’m in training to be your own personal druid!”
“And what makes you think I need a druid?”
“Sir, you fly a sleigh in the middle of winter. As your personal druid, I can control the weather to give you optimum flying conditions.”
Nick flipped to the table of contents. “They don’t list controlling the weather in here.”
“That’s because it’s in the second volume. Right here, sir: 101 MORE Easy Tricks You Can—”
“I don’t need a druid.”
“No. And if you even think about messing with the weather, I will replace you with a dwarf. Am I clear?”
“Yes sir.” The elf rose and leaned forward, lowering his voice confidentially. “Actually, sir, I’m glad you said that. It’s a lot of work.”
Nick pinched the bridge of his nose. “Dismissed. Go take a holiday.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you sir!”
And then the elf bounded out the door.
Nick picked up the phone. “Ginny, please tell me the bags are packed.”
“Ready and waiting,” she said, cheerfully. “Let me guess, you just had your yearly “I want to be a druid”?”
“Yes. Please tell me we’re going somewhere very far away.”
Ginny sniffed. “Of course, dear. I can’t wait to see you in your swimming trunks.”
Nick smiled. “Why Mrs. Claus, whatever are you planning?”
“Why don’t you come home and I’ll show you?”
Nick laughed. “On my way, love.”
And with that, he hung up. He reached for his coat, grabbed the druid books – leaving them in the open with a hundred silly elves running around the place was a bad idea. How did the damn thing keep turning up, anyway? – and headed for the door.
It was time for a holiday. Just him, Ginny, and a beach.
He couldn’t wait.
8-At the Bottom of the Stocking
The plane landed and Nick stared out the window, grinning at the heat waves that shimmered on the tarmac. Four weeks of sun, sand, and Ginny and no bloody elves or extended family knocking on the door.
The hotel was perfect – they’d stayed there last year – and they paused only long enough the dump off their bags before they wandered down to the beach, hand in hand.
“Why,” Ginny asked, “for the love of frost, are you wearing stockings? We’re on the beach, dear.”
His grin grew wider (he hadn’t stopped grinning since they’d landed and he was worried he might have pulled something). “Because, Ginny love, I love the feel of sand at the bottom of my stockings. It’s bloody irritating, but it reminds me we’re not at home.”
Ginny laughed. “You strange old man.”
“You married me.”
“Well, it was either you or the Easter Bunny.”
And with a roar that put his ho-hos to shame, he chased her down the beach.
Time slipped by rather too quickly and it was nearing the end of the third week when Nick began to worry.
“Let me get this straight,” Ginny said, sipping her martini. “Everything is going so well you’re sure the other shoe is about to drop.”
Nick glared into his scotch (a lovely Scapa 16. Damn but the Scots made a fine whisky). “Doesn’t it always?”
“Usually because you expect it,” Ginny answered, dryly.
“Damn!” Ginny set down her glass. “Nick. Out. Now.”
“What—oh.” He downed his scotch (no sense letting it go to waste) and ushered Ginny out the side door.
His cousin, Father Frost, had just entered the restaurant, complete with bodyguards.
A life in organized crime tended to require that of a person.
“Kolya! Cousin! What are you doing here?”
Nick groaned and Ginny made a face. “Better face the music, dear,” she muttered.
He snorted, watching as Father Frost – Boris – drew near. “The last time we met I almost did, or don’t you remember?”
“Of course I remember; you looked good in orange. But you’re not exactly low-profile. You can’t hide from him.”
“Wanna bet? Borya!” he cried, and plastered a huge grin on his face. Yep, he had definitely pulled something there. “What a surprise.”
“Konechno!” Boris gripped his hand in a bone-crushing handshake, then enveloped him in an equally bone-crushing hug. Ginny, he noted sourly, seemed to be having trouble not laughing.
“So what brings you and your…friends to this island?” Nick asked.
Boris looked up from kissing Ginny’s hand. “I heard you were in the neighbourhood.”
Well, damn. “What do you want, Borya?”
Boris nodded his head over at one of his bodyguards. One was tall and broad, his scalp plastered with Russian prison tattoos, and the other was smaller than Nick, muscular, and clearly grumpy behind his beard. “I need you take Igor with you to the North Pole.” He motioned at the shorter one.
Nick felt his heart sink. “Why?”
Boris coughed delicately. “Don’t ask questions, Kolya. You should know that. Besides, I think you’ll like him.”
Nick glared at him. “What makes you say that?”
Boris smiled. “He’s a dwarf.”
Ginny burst out laughing.
Ah, yes. The North Pole. After a month’s vacation, Nick was almost ready to see the place again. “Well, Igor, what do you think?”
Igor sniffed and stepped outside the terminal. “Xolodno. Cold. Good. Very good.” He stomped on the ground with his boot. “There is good rock here. I can build. Very good.”
Ginny nudged Nick in the ribs, her mouth forming the word “elves”. Nick winced.
“So, Igor…did Kolya tell you I work with elves?”
Igor froze. “Elves? Why you work with elves? Elves silly. Elves—” He stopped, staring at the waiting sleigh.
Nick frowned and looked over. Rudolph was leading the team, and waiting outside were the less ridiculous members of his enterprise: Green, Everest, and…oh damn.
The pretty little elf with the red hair and rosy cheeks and a surprisingly sarcastic sense of humour.
“Elves pretty,” Igor murmured. Then he stepped forward, swept off his hood, and bowed low over Ginger’s hand. “Krasotka!*”
Nick groaned. Damn. And damn again.
Ginny took his arm, shaking with laughter. “Welcome home, love.”
*babe, lovely, cracker, bombshell, cutie, beautiful
Bonus-About those gremlins…
The Chief Gremlin set his Santa hat at a jaunty angle (‘twas the season, after all) and strode into the room.
“Task force!” he barked.
As one, the assembled gremlins jumped into formation and saluted. “Sir!”
He whipped his pointer stick against the map on the wall. “Tonight, we tackle the Upper West Side of the city. Shaggy’s Task Force has the Lower West.” He narrowed his eyes. “We are 2-0 and we’re keeping that lead.”
One gremlin raised his hand.
“Sir, some of the humans have been investing in idiot-mittens.”
“What is this, training school? Snip them. Any other stupid questions? No? Good. I want a pile of mittens on my desk in the morning. Dismissed.”
Righty then. I was tagged by S. Hunter Nisbet to do the Sunshine Thingy. Also known as answering silly questions and providing some of my own. It’s a blog meme. So I’ll be tagging some
suckers lucky lovelies to carry on the meme lest we all lose our way in the mists of the interwebs and what-else-have-you.
Let the games begin!
- Dost thou speaketh any other languages? If so, what is thine go-to phrase when people say “Ooh, say something in that language!”
I speaketh 3.5. Or, 2 + .5 +.5. Ish. I’m bilingual in English & French, speak a very rusty Spanish (I can get by) and a teensy bit of Russian. I know the Russian is still there, but it’s veeeeeeeeeeeeery rusty. Favourite phrase with which to impress people in Russian? “я немного говорю по русски” “Ya nyemnoga govoryou po-russki” “I don’t speak much Russian”. This is usually followed by “Вы говорите по-английски?” “Vi govoritye po-angliskii?” “Do you speak English?” 😀
Useful. Dat’s me. 😉
- Hast thine car ever run out of gas? What did you do?
Nyet. I ride a magic carpet. What do you take me for? Next!
- Didst thou go to university, and what was thy major or focus?
Went to uni. Did a BA in English Lit with a minor in Russian (aha! you say), then did a Masters of Library and Information Studies. I was going to be a librarian. It didn’t work out. Now I’m back in school doing an MLit because I want to teach English Lit. And I focus on the medieval stuff, though I am forced out of sheer necessity (i.e. I need the credits) to take a summer course about a bloody pretentious git of a modern playwright. After this course is over, he and I are never, ever, EVER getting back together.
- What is thine starter Pokemon?
I don’t speak Pokemon. I speak Myst and Carmen Sandiego. Still putting the “miss” in “misdemeanor” as I go. 😉
- Black thumb, or digit of greenest emerald?
Black. Only give me your plants if you want to murder them. >:)
- In a world where thy eyebrows were, in fact, long enough to reach the brim of thine hat, dost thou trim them or let them be ala Gandalf?
Hmmmm….trim them. They’d just get in my tea.
- What was the first chapter book thou ever read, and why?
What. You want to think that far back? I has no clue. None. So to weasel my way around, the first chapter book I remember reading is The Secret of the Old Clock. NANCY DREW FTW.
- How many poems can thou recite at will?
1.5. By which I mean, I can recite parts of a poem. Macavity the Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot (screw The Wasteland, and yes I just said that and no, I don’t regret it) is sheer joy. As the threatening rhyme in the opening chapters of The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. That one must be recited with a thick Scottish accent. I do my best. *cough*
- If I say we must do something for the good of the many, not the few, thy answer will be:
- What is knee high by the fourth of July?
Apparently the answer is corn. And yes, I googled that. No, I have no shame.
…and how would you answer? Comment if you feel so inclined!
I salute you all and ply you with cookies and tea. Your questions are below. You know the rest.
- You are stranded on a desert island. You are allowed one book, one CD, and one movie. What do you take?
- Favourite season? Why?
- Coffee fanatic or tea fiend? With milk/cream and sugar or without?
- What one place would you visit with that magical plane ticket? Why?
- Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or Harry Potter? ::evil laugh::
- Black Widow or Catwoman? Explain.
- Milk chocolate or sinfully dark?
- Smaug: justified in defending his hoard against thieving dwarves or homicidal maniac?
- Dragons or krakens?
- You find a gold ring buried in your backyard. What do you do?
So while IN SECRET KEPT is simmering in the lockbox and guarded by dwarves and dragons, I’ve been attempting to wrench my mind onto the next project. The effort has been Herculean because my fingers are itching to get back to SECRET and start working on the three pages of notes I have for revision.
BUT I MUST CULTIVATE PATIENCE.
So I’ve been working on the new novel, of the steampunk variety. Originally it was set in the same world as SECRET, just at a later point in history. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t. There were things I wanted to do with the story that I couldn’t do if it was set in that world. So I pulled it out.
And that’s when everything EXPLODED.
With this newfound freedom (if you will), the project definitely became a novel (huzzah! I was never happy with it just as a short) and I started seeing new characters and relationships and possibilities, oh my!
It’s also terrifying because it’s a whole new world (sing with me! You know you want to!). This is not something I’ve been living with for years, this is something brand-spanking new.
So once more into breach and boldly going where I’ve not gone before, and all that jazz.
See you on the other side.
Well. On the list of things I’m supposed to be doing, blogging isn’t one of them.
It’s the end-ish of August so academia is moving rather more slowly at the moment because my brain is tired and just wants to be creative. So to that end: a blog post which is a love letter to stories that have blown my mind.
There are two books that spring to mind, both of which are recent discoveries (I’ll save my Tolkien love letter for another day, heh): Deathless by Catherynne Valente and Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge.
Deathless had me the moment I realized it was about Koschei the Deathless*. It’s twisted and dark and blood-streaked – and utterly ALIVE. And the prose is stunning and perfectly captures the Russian voice. Cruel Beauty drew me initially because of the cover** and the more I stared at it, the more I perused it, the more I was drawn into it. Anything that has echoes of Greek mythology, Beauty and the Beast (and a host of other fairy tales) and even Til We Have Faces*** by C.S. Lewis is my cup of tea. So I bought it and devoured it in a day. It’s dark and utterly exquisite. I’m rereading it now and as enamoured as ever. Again, beautiful prose.
So what’s my point? My point is that a) both these books blew my fracking mind and you need to read them now, and b) I hit the end of both and thought I want to tell stories like that.
The stories that sweep you up and take you places and leave you emotionally compromised even as you’re reaching for page 1 all over again. The stories that linger. The stories of love that are complicated yet never in doubt. These are the stories I want to tell.
So when I’m tired and blech and it feels too much like work, I remember my dream. I remember why I’m doing this.
And then everything makes sense all over again.
*and if you don’t know who that is, hie thee to Wikipedia and educate thyself in the beauties of Russian folklore.
**because let’s face it, it’s the cover that launched a thousand ships. Seriously. SERIOUSLY.
***And if you haven’t read Til We Have Faces you need to rethink your life.
*puts on the kettle and arranges the tea things*
*sets out the welcome mat*
Hi. And welcome to my space. It’s blizzarding outside (the true north, strong and free, baby) and I am safely inside nursing a cuppa and wondering why Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain thought settling here was a good idea. My mother’s prosaic solution is that they just couldn’t go any further. And until I come up with a suitably exciting theory, I think that’s what I’ll have to live with.
And yet the snow and the cold and lands of ice and snow still fascinate me. While the current writing project does not involve a land of eternal winter, it’s a plot bunny I’ve filed away for future use (by which I mean: I’ve stuck it in a box and sealed it with duct tape and shoved said box in a closet with the others) so that I can concentrate on the novel at hand dammit. Which has just hit the 40k mark.
AND I’M SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED.
I’ve been living with this story for a long time. It’s a rewrite of something I wrote years ago and have now come back to. Watching the world and characters expand and grow into what they were meant to be is…thrilling. And lemme say, the writing really helps me get through the cold, long winter days.
Stay warm out there.