Zann closed the door of the ‘Herald’ and glanced at her watch.  She could still drop by the Dispensary before going home.  While she spent most of her time editing the paper, she also served as the North Pole Nurturer.  This work was usually confined to Community Gathering Days, but ever since elfalantitis struck the North Pole, she had been spending a lot of time with the sick.  She stepped cautiously down the sidewalk, and circled Glacier Lake to Doc’s Dispensary.  She rapped lightly on the door.

         “Zann,” Doc greeted her.  “It's a pleasure to see you this evening.”

         “I’m glad I can be here,” Zann said.  She stepped into the hallway.  “Where do I begin this evening?”

         “I think you better start with Clancy.  Santa was here today and gave him a little bad news – and a little tidbit for the ‘Herald,’ I’ll wager,” Doc winked.

        Zann raised her eyebrow with interest.  “Take me to him.”

        Doc nodded and led the way to the dayroom, where Clancy was lost in thought.  He stared out the window at the lightly falling snow.

Tapping him on the shoulder, Doc whispered, “Zann’s here.”

         Clancy turned around and attempted a smile.  “Hiya, Zann.  I’m glad to see you.  I can use some company.”

         Doc nodded his appreciation at Zann, and backed out of the room.

         Zann placed her bag on a chair, and sat down next to Clancy.  “Doc tells me you’ve had bad news.”

         “Well, sort of.  I mean, it’s not that bad.  It’s just that, with everything else, I just feel sort of down,” he sighed.

         “You’re feeling sad,” Zann said.

         “Yes, I am.”

         Zann nodded.  Her nurturing was of a spiritual type.  “I can see you are.”

         “Sometimes bad news is good news, though.” Clancy managed a little smile.

         “How so?” Zann asked, smiling back.

         “Santa was here.  He’s going to move one of the helpers from the Forest Cabin.  He needs to downsize.  There’s so little demand for the wooden toys these days,” Clancy shook his head.

         Zann nodded.  “How is that good news?”

         “Well, Phred will be working with you, at the ‘Herald.’”

         “What?” Zann said, pulling a pen and pad out of her bag.  She went from nurturer to editor in two seconds flat!

         “Yep,” Clancy said sadly.  “When they get back, Santa wants a story about the visit to Miami.  And, then Santa wants Phred to stay on as a roving reporter.  Farley just wouldn’t be comfortable doing that type of thing, and Phred is different.  He talks more than me, and I talk more than Farley.   Phred will come back to the Forest, during the Yuletide, just to help out.”

         “This is great news!” Zann jumped to her feet.

         “Like I said . . .” Clancy smiled dryly.

         “Oh, Clancy, I’m so sorry.” Zann sat back down.  “I guess I forgot myself for a moment.  It’s hard to leave my reporter hat at home.”

         “Oh that’s okay.  This is news, after all; and it’s certainly no secret,” Clancy said.  “It will be fine, I think.  Farley and I will miss Phred, but he’ll make a great reporter.”

         “Well, the ‘Herald’ can sure use one,” Zann said.  “You know, Clancy, I thought I was going to help you tonight, but you actually helped me.”

         Clancy grinned.  “I think we helped each other.”

         With Clancy’s spirits greatly improved, Zann found Boog, Smitty, and Jimbo.  “How are you guys tonight?”

         “Doing much better,” Boog smiled.  “Doc says we can go home tomorrow, and, Santa was here today.  He said I’m getting some help at the Fix It Shop.”

         “That’s wonderful news,” Zann said.  “Mind if I print it?”

         “It’s okay with me if the entire North Pole knows,” Boog said.

         “Do you need anything?” Zann asked Jimbo.

         “Just a ride home,” he grunted.

          Zann smiled at him.  “Well, when the time comes, I’m sure one will be arranged.  How about you, Smitty?”

         “Lookin’ forward to going home ma’am ma’am.”

         “I’ll bet you are.  I heard you’re going home tomorrow,” Zann said.

         “Yep, yep.  That’s what I heard too, too,” Smitty said.

         “Well, if you guys don’t need anything, I’ll be off,” Zann said.

         “We’re doing okay,” they chorused.

         Zann took her bag and waved goodbye. 

         Doc met Zann at the door.  “Leaving so soon?”

         “Yes, the others made it back, and I need to get the story.”

         “How are they?”

         "I don’t know yet.  I haven’t heard.”


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