Jingles stopped in front of the Box 'n' Ale, and Jimbo jumped out of the cart. "See ya aat the party." He watched as Jingles pulled North Pole Phil down Second Street.

           Long ago, Jimbo's shop was one of the busiest shops in North Pole Proper, but no one smoked anymore.  That’s because when Santa learned about the dangers of smoking, he asked the helpers to quit. “I plan to stop, myself,” he had told them, and he handed his pipe to Mrs. Claus. He didn’t realize how tough it was going to be. 

            Actually, the helpers didn’t find it difficult at all.  Smoking wasn’t good for them, and so they quit.

            Santa had a rough time, though.  In fact, he ‘quit’ every day for a whole year! When he finally did put down his pipe for good, Jimbo thought his shop would be closed.  However, Santa decided that the helpers needed something else to enjoy, and so the Tinderbox was renamed the Ginger Ale, and Jimbo, who was gifted in making fine blends, kept his shop.

            Switching from tobacco to ale production was slow, but easy for Jimbo, because he loved soda. His talent for blending added spunk and variety to the beverages and his use of fruits and spices added kick and flavor. The soft drinks were popular because of the special additions like fribble powder and flizzen juice. Some even included a hint of wuffle dust. Everyone enjoyed the sodas and Jimbo’s shop flourished once again.

            It was Mrs. Claus who complained that her home just didn’t smell the same, so Santa asked Jimbo to make a potpourri that resembled the scent of his special blend, pumpkin and cinnamon. 

            So Jimbo made pumpkin and cinnamon potpourri. While he was at it, Jimbo created other wonderful mixtures. The helpers loved the flizzen blend, which maJimbode them smile and laugh so hard their faces and sides hurt. Drachenfudder was another favorite.  If things weren't just right between friends, they could sniff drachenfudder and all would be forgotten.

            All of the helpers had favorite potpourris, and enjoyed the fruity and spicy soft ales. That's why the shop was renamed the Tinderbox and Ginger Ale, or, Box 'n Ale, for short.

***

            Jimbo opened his front door and was greeted by the aroma of finely blended potpouries and quality sodas. He inhaled deeply, glad to be home at last.  He took the broom from the corner and swept the floor; then he washed the windows.  Finally, he shoveled the snow from his entrance. He was just finishing up when Pole Kat showed up.

            "It's about time," Kat said

            "Hey Kat. What are you doing way out here?"

            "Waitin' for you, dude."  Pole Kat, who used his hind legs for walking, licked his front paws then removed his dark sunglasses.  "What do ya got?"

            "Shop’s not open," Jimbo said.

            “Ya got any flizzen juice? Ted wants some.”

            “Ted will have to wait ‘cause I’m not open!

            "Not even if I make the dumb purrrrry sound?"

            "Not even. My ales are bitter and my porpourris are stale.  I’ll make some flizzen juice tonight, so come back tomorrow. I’ll get a few things ready and be open for business then.”

            “Pffffft!” Kat licked his purple fur. “We want some o' dat wacky takcy,. ed said I should bring it today.”

            "Tomorrow, Kat."

            "Pfffffffffftt pffffftt."  Pole Kat combed through his peppermint-striped mohawk with his front claws. Then, turned and sauntered away, on his back feet, his long tail gliding from side to side.

            "Oh hiss, yourself," Jimbo said, under his breath.

***

            The following morning, the weather guessers were at the Box 'n' Ale bright and early. “Can I get some Winter Solstice and a Frazleberry ale?” Orin grinned.  “I’m sure glad you’re back.”

            “I’m not back, really" Jimbo said. “No potpourris or frazleberry yet, but I can get ya some flizzen juice." Jimbo placed the mug on the counter. " What’s the weather look like for tomorrow?”

            “Blizzard conditions, for sure,” Yort replied.  “Can I have some flizzen juice, too? I wanna smile ‘til my face cracks.”

            “How long will the storm last?” Jimbo asked, handing Yort his beverage.

            "What storm?" Pole Kat let the door slam.

            “Should be clear again by the 5th,” Yort and Orin chorused . “Blizzard! Yort said, turning to Kat.           

            "Hey, dat’s not funny.” Pole Kat scowled.

            “Sorry, pal. Flizzen juice.” Yort and Orin raised their mugs.

            Kat nodded. “Yep. Ted says it’s time to start smilin’ again. Pffffffffft, Anyways, I’m here for a couple of bottles of flizzen juice, myself.”

            “Okay, buddies. We’re leaving.” Yort said.

            Orin nodded. “Gotta get back to the station.”                       

            “See ya,” Jimbo hollered after them. “Okay Kat. Two bottles of juice coming right up. How about some Elfin Magic to go with it?”

            "What do I want dat for?”

            “It’ll make you smart, like the elves. It has a hint of wuffle dust.”

            “Ha! Better save dat for de gnarly elves! Kat took his flizzen juice and sauntered out of the Box ‘n’ Ale.

            Jimbo retreated to his back room to create some different blends of ale.  “A measure of winter snowberries, and a pinch of freckle pie spice, some yeast, and now a pinch of ginger.  This is going to be a good one,” he said, sniffing the air.  He reached for the long-handled ladle, more than half his height, and dipped it into the mixture.  He sipped it.  “Ahhh, that’s yummy.” 

            He was immersed in his work when suddenly he heard the familiar whistle.  Jimbo dropped the ladle and hurried outside to stop Jackson, who was making his daily delivery of pastries from Tubbs’ Sugar Shack.

            “When did you get back?” Jackson said.

            “Yesterday.  Got raspberry wrinkle?”

            Jackson nodded, handing the treat to Jimbo.  Raspberry wrinkle was one of the new sugar-free pastries, and Jimbo was trying to watch his waistline.

            “How's Tubbs?” Jimbo took a bite of his snack. 

            “Not quite as fussy, now that Christmas has passed.  The oven is messing up, though, and that makes him grumpy.”

            “Why doesn’t he just dust it, or ask Santa for another?”

            “Who knows? I think he just likes being a grouch.  See ya tomorrow,” Jackson said, and he whistled and started to push his pastry cart down Second Street.

            "Yeeeeooow! Wait!" Pole Kat ran right into Jimbo.

            “Yippers, Kat! I thought you were gone.”

            “I was but den I heerd Jackson.” Kat rubbed his tummy.

            "Hey, Kat," Jackson parked his cart once again.  "What 'cha need?"

            "One o' dem dere licky-sticky buns."

            "Comin' up," Jackson said.

            "I love deez tings.  Dey get stuck in my fur and I kin lick em all day." Then Pole Kat turned toward Jimbo. "Ya still here?”

            “Actually, I was here first, and now I’m going back to work. Hey guys, pass the word. I’ll have a full stock by Begin Again.”

***

            And so, the Week of Adjustment was underway.  The helpers were returning to their regular duties following the necessary reassignments for the busy Yuletide season. It was a slack week.  Other than the Claus’ Christmas party, the helpers spent the time cleaning and restocking and organizing for January 8th, when normal production resumed.

 

 

 

 

 


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