Deep within the Christmas Tree Forest is a rugged looking structure known as the Forest Cabin.  Barrels of glue, paint, and nails line the exterior. Several saw horses and workbenches are located in the cleared area around the building. It is one of the most remote regions at the North Pole, and few have reason to visit there.  If a stray helper does happen along, the elves will nod and offer an invitation to warm up by the bonfire that blazes in the yard.

            Cabin elves don't talk much.  They believe that talking is a waste of time and good air flow. They're a burley bunch, weathered in appearance, because most of their jobs are done outside, in the elements.  They are very strong, and have amazing vision, because they worked with little or no light.  This is important for their line of work, as darkness prevails during the winter. The Cabin elves work very hard, producing all of the wooden toys from the North Pole region.

***

            “How long will Elmer be here?” Phred asked.  He was somewhat vocal, for a Cabin elf.

            Clancy grunted.  “As long as it takes. I hope he can help us motorize that sled.”

            They didn’t often get company out at the Cabin, so the forest elves were pretty excited about Elmer’s visit.  Of course, it was business, but Phred knew they would have a good time, just the same.  He cleaned the living area, while Farley tended the lentil and barley stew; it had to cook for quite some time, and had to be watched carefully.  Clancy prepared the sleeping area for their guest. They continued to work in silence as they got ready for Elmer’s visit.

            Finally came the knock on the door that everyone had been waiting for.  “It’s Elmer,” Phred called, throwing open the door.

            “Hello.”  Clancy’s buck teeth clicked as he shook Elmer’s hand.  “Welcome to the Forest Cabin.”

            “What’s up?” Elmer asked.

            “I need some help with the sled.”

            “Well, let’s have a look at it,” Elmer said.

            “We have to eat first,” Clancy said.  “Farley’s been cooking all day -- barley and lentil stew.”

            “Well, I’m as hungry as a polar bear,” Elmer said, removing his mittens and hanging his skates on a hook.  He sat on the bench and helped himself to a huge bowl of stew.

            The others sat down and served themselves, as well.  They ate in silence. Finally, Elmer spoke.  “This is great stew.” 

            Phred grinned.  “Yep, Farley makes a yummy soup.” The only other sound was the elves slurping from their spoons.

            Elmer couldn’t stand it any longer.  “That was fine, Farley.”  He took the empty bowls to the sink. “Thank you.  Now, let’s have a look at that sled, Clancy,” he said, grabbing his coat.

            "Drink your juniper berry tea." Clancy poured the liquid into the elves' mugs.

            Elmer politely sipped his tea. He placed his mug in the sink and grabbed his overcoat again. "Where's the sled?"       

            “Tomorrow.  It’s time to sleep now,” Clancy stated.

            Elmer started to protest, but thought better of it.  He hung his coat back on the peg.   “Where do I bunk?” he asked politely.

            “I’ll show you,” Phred offered. He led Elmer up the rugged steps to the sleeping quarters. “You’ll be sleeping there, next to Farley.” Phred crossed the room to his own bunk, and grabbed his nightshirt and cap from under his pillow.

            “I wasn’t planning to stay,” Elmer said.

            “That’s okay. We have plenty of room,” Phred said. He changed his clothing and climbed into bed.  He pulled his cover over his head and was soon snoring.

            Elmer was feeling a little uncomfortable.  He didn’t have his sleepers and he really didn’t want to stay at the Cabin, but he was a good sport, so he surrendered to his fate and sat on the bunk.  He removed his shoes, and wiggled his toes.  Then he lay back and tried to rest.

            Before long Farley came upstairs.  He flipped off the Christmas lights and climbed over Elmer. 

            “Where’s Clancy?” Elmer asked.

            Farley just pointed to the stairs, then rolled over. Within minutes, he was snoring, too.

            Elmer didn’t rest very well. He tossed and turned all night long. It was very early when he got up. He descended the steps and found Clancy sitting at the table. “Good morning.” Elmer attempted to be cheerful.

            “Uh,” grunted Clancy.

            “Let’s have a look at that sled,” Elmer said hopefully.

            “After breakfast.”

            Elmer sighed heavily. He helped himself to a bowl of hot cereal and consumed it slowly, eyeing Clancy as he ate.  Finally he pushed the empty bowl away and said, “Let’s have a look at that sled.”

            “Drink your cocoa,” Clancy said, putting a mug in front of Elmer. “It’s cold out there.”

            Elmer just shook his head and drank his cocoa. Draining his mug, he stood and said, “I’m going to look at the sled now.  Where is it?”

            “Such impatience!  Can you at least wait until I put on my woollies?” Clancy asked. Slowly, he pulled his coat and mittens on.  At last, he led the way out into the yard and showed Elmer the sled.

            “Can we put a motor on it?” Clancy wanted to know.

            Elmer thought for a bit. “What about dusting it?”

            Clancy nodded his head. “Certainly an option, but the Wuffle Dust Well is about as far away as you can get, and still be at the North Pole. ‘Course, we keep some on hand, but – Nope, a motor would be more desirable. It would help us get to the Well.”

          Elmer walked around the sled, examining it closely.  “I’m sure we can do it, but we really need Smitty.”

         “I’ll send Phred to fetch him. Looks like snow,” Clancy commented, looking toward the sky.

          Elmer agreed. “I’d better get back.”

         “You’re going to wait for Smitty, aren’t you?” Clancy asked.

         Elmer hesitated. “Well, I dunno.  I mean, I need to get back soon.”

         "We need this sled motorized as soon as possible,” Clancy stated.

         “Can Phred go right now?” Elmer asked, exasperated.

         “I’ll get him,” Clancy was already walking toward the Cabin.

         Elmer followed Clancy into the building. He nodded to Phred, who was at the table, eating his cereal. 

         “Phred, you need to go and get Smitty,” Clancy said.

         "It’s gonna snow something fierce,” Phred protested.

         “We can’t fix the sled without him,” Clancy muttered.

         “I’m on my way,” Phred sighed, pushing his bowl away.  He cleared the table and then dressed for bad weather. “I’ll be back soon,” he said, closing the door after him.

         Elmer was sorry to see Phred leave. Clancy didn’t talk much, except about business, and Farley didn’t seem to talk at all.  He sat on the bench and waited . . . and waited . . .  and waited.

         Finally, Clancy asked, “I wonder why Farley hasn’t come down?”

         “I’ll check on him,” Elmer said, glad to have something to do.  He climbed the steps and found that Farley was still in bed.  “Farley,” Elmer whispered.

         Farley opened his eyes and gazed at Elmer.  He didn’t look well, so Elmer went back downstairs and reported to Clancy.  “I think Farley’s sick.”

         “Well, then, I will let him rest,” Clancy said.

         Elmer sat back down on the bench and resumed waiting.


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