Ted passed the night staring out the window as the frozen scenery whizzed by.  He had attempted to read one of the books, but his mixed emotions distracted him.  On the one hand, the anticipation of seeing grass and ocean was thrilling; but then, he had never been away from the North Pole, and he was somewhat apprehensive about the immediate future.

            Lost in his thoughts, Ted didn’t notice Phred return to his original size.  “Whoa,” Phred said, as he began slipping onto the floor.

            Ted spun around and caught Phred just as Farley reappeared.  Farley’s eyes were wide with surprise.

            Ted grabbed Farley before he slid. “You two look awful!”

            “Where are we?” Phred asked weakly.

            “On the train -- still in the Arctic Circle.  North Pole, Alaska is still a little ways,” Ted said.

            “When will we get to Miami?” Phred wanted to know.

            “I don’t know exactly,” Ted replied. “I think the plane will be pretty fast, though.”

            Phred fell back in his seat. “I think I’ll rest a bit.  Where’s Elmer?”

            “He’s still small, on that seat over there.  You see him?” Ted asked.

            Phred nodded his head, “Hey Elmer.”

            “I guess it’s just a matter of time before I get big again, too,” Elmer said in his tiny voice.

            Farley moaned and Ted looked at him with concern. “Do you want anything Farley?”

            Farley just shook his head and rolled over. Ted covered him with a blanket. He fluffed a pillow, and gently put it under Farley’s head. Farley pulled the blanket around himself and drifted into sleep.

            They rode in silence.  Ted stared out the window, while Farley and Phred slept.  Finally there came a POOF! And Elmer returned to his original size.

            “Whew, what a ride,” Elmer managed a smile. “I sure am glad to be back. I was beginning to think I was going to stay small forever.”

            “I’m glad you’re back, too. In fact, I’m glad everyone is back.  Sick company is better than no company. How are you guys doing?”

            “Not very well,” Phred grunted.  “I’m looking forward to getting off this train,” he added weakly.

            “How long are we gonna be sick, Ted?” Elmer asked.

            “I don’t know.  Doc couldn’t say exactly. We can’t return to the North Pole until your splotches are completely gone, though,” Ted said.

            Elmer nodded his head sadly.  Although he was centuries old, the North Pole was the only world he knew. He just didn’t have any enthusiasm about their adventure.

            “Cheer up a little,” Ted said, consoling his friend. “We’ll see the ocean.”

            “Ocean, smocean,” Phred sneezed. 

            “We will be okay,” Ted said, smiling. “We really will be.”

            At last the train began to slow down.  As it screeched to a halt, Farley moaned and pulled himself up in his seat. Willie hopped off the train and yelled, “North Pole, Alaska!”

            Sticking his head out the window, Ted roared, “Give us just a minute.”

            Willie nodded and gave Ted a ‘thumbs up.’

            “You sit right here while I see about the plane,” Ted ordered. He grabbed the three suitcases and left his charges resting on the train.

            A special non-stop flight from North Pole, Alaska to Miami had already been arranged.  Willie and Ted were greeted by an airport official, who was thrilled to see an elf!

            “You and the others can wait right over here,” he gestured to Ted. “Are you a real elf?” he asked Willie enthusiastically.

            Willie was somewhat puzzled. “I’m an elf. All of us are real,” he added. “And just what are you?”

            “Human, homosapien, man, boy, male, guy,” the official rattled off anything that came to his mind.

            Willie, who was a little overwhelmed by his reply, decided not to ask any more questions.

            “I have three more elves, all sick.” Ted was growing impatient with all the chatter. “I want them to wait on the train until it’s time for them to go. It’s too difficult for them to move around, and Willie, here, can’t help. He hasn’t been exposed.”

            “I understand, sir.” The official also found the talking bear intriguing but refrained from commenting.

            Feeling a little uncomfortable, Willie left Ted and the airport official to hash out the details.  He walked back to the train and yelled in to the others, letting them know they would be leaving soon.

            Finally, Ted returned to the train. “Let’s go,” he said, and he helped the three elves to their feet.  Farley seemed the weakest, so Ted lifted him to his shoulders.  Taking the others’ hands, he slowly led them to the waiting plane.

            The flight from North Pole, Alaska to Miami was uneventful, except that Ted was thrilled to be in the air. “I wonder if this is what it’s like for Santa?” The three elves were too sick to care.

            After a long time, a voice filled the plane. “Welcome to Miami, Florida.  The temperature is 92 degrees.  Please fasten your seatbelts.  We will be landing in approximately five minutes.”

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