A Star, A Star Dancing In The Night

            "Hey, everyone." Phred banged through the door of the Forest Cabin.  It felt good to be back, if only for a little while.

            But Farley and Clancy weren't there.  The breakfast dishes were stacked neatly in the sink, and the air still smelled of flapjacks and elderberry syrup. 

            Phred went out into the yard and circled the Cabin.  Behind the building, he found Clancy and Farley emptying paint barrels.  The colors swirled together, forming paisley patterns in the snow.

             "What are you guys up to?" Phred asked.

            Clancy jumped. "Oh, you startled me."

             "Aren't you expecting me?"

            "Yes, but Santa didn't say when." Clancy scrubbed one of the barrels with a brush.  "Grab the mop, and give us a hand; and don't step in the paint.  I don't want a repeat of that one year."

            "Yeah, yeah," Phred said. "Hey Farley, how's it goin'?"

            Farley looked at Phred and nodded, then returned to his struggle with the glue barrels.

            "Mind that you don't track through the glue," Clancy said.

            Phred rolled his eyes.  "Yeah, buddy, I hear you. It's good to be back."

            "Get the mop and swab that deck," Clancy demanded.

            Just like old times.  "Getting ready for the Christmas tree season, I see."

            "Yup, you'll be in the outer most region, and Farley, here, will tend to the yard." Clancy threw his scrub brush in the bucket and rolled the barrel toward the porch.

            Phred followed Clancy with another barrel. "Where are you gonna be?"

            "Northern Neck, like always.  Now, help Farley finish up here, and I'll get the carts -- and don't track through--"

            "I know !" Phred exhaled heavily.  Then he turned to Farley.  "Not much has changed, huh Far."

            Farley grunted, and began to whistle.

            "Just like the old days," Phred said, and he whistled along with Farley.


            Clancy  dragged  two carts out of the tired barn, and hitched a deer to each one.  "Hey Phred, the cart's ready.  You can take Noel."

            Noel was a smart little reindeer, and pulled her cart right up to Phred.

            "Don't stay too long," Clancy ordered.  "We're having an early mid meal, because I'm headed to the Proper afterwards."

            "Right. " Phred hopped into the cart.  "Hey, can you stop by Coy's and bring me some popcorn?"  He had a special love for freshly popped popcorn, and nowhere on Earth was it fresher than the North Pole.

            "Popcorn's for stringin'," Clancy muttered.  "Farley's making juniper berry soup."   

            Phred nodded, and snapped the reins.  Noel sped off toward the outer most region.


            Farley loved being assigned to the yard.  It meant, of course, that he had to prepare the meals for the day, but he also had the cabin and the huge yard bonfire for warmth.  He busied himself cleaning the remaining paint barrels.  Then, he went inside and scrubbed the juniper berries.  He seasoned the broth with sage and ginger and placed it on the wood stove. Reaching way into the back of the cupboard, he found the flizzen juice.Folks need to smile every now and then.  He opened the bottle, and inhaled.  Smiling broadly, he added just a smidgeon to his soup.  Then he threw in the berries.  Whistling, he lighted the fire and closed the oven door.  He stirred the soup, which was best if it simmered slowly for several hours. Once it was cooking just right, Farley returned to the yard and stoked the bonfire.  All too familiar with the bitter cold of the Christmas Tree Forest, he thought of his two less fortunate elfin friends, both in different areas, probably trying to keep warm by working as quickly as possible.  He stood by the fire briefly, then returned to the task at hand.  He drove the motorized sled around back, and loaded the wooden toys that Clancy would deliver to North Pole Proper after mid meal.


            Meanwhile, Phred encouraged Noel to run even faster.  She was almost flying, as it was, and she wasn't even dusted.  It was very dark in this part of the forest, but both Noel and Phred could see as if it were daylight. Good eyesight was an advantage of living and working in the dark Christmas Tree Forest.

             "Whoa," Phred ordered, tugging on the reins.  Noel slowed to a trot and gradually stopped.  Phred hopped out of the cart and, working quickly, sprinkled the trees with wuffle dust, so that flaws would be revealed.  He loosened Noel's harness, so she could move around to keep warm.  Then he began the real work.  "Another perfect tree," he said, as he busied himself gathering the trees that would be shipped to Christmas tree lots everywhere.

            Phred had labored for over two hours when he was startled by a shimmering brightness several measures away. It was so brilliant that he couldn't look at it.

            Noel had also noticed the light.  Her vision was significantly more impressive than even that of the forest elves.  She gazed at the light.

            Phred pleaded, "Noel, come!"

            Mesmerized by the brilliance, she ignored Phred, and approached the light.

            Fearing blindness, Phred climbed back into the cart and waited for Noel to return.  He was awed by the thing he had witnessed -- stunned and confused. What on Earth can it be?

            After a bit, Phred heard Noel's hooves padding the snow.  She was making unusual noises.  He closed his eyes and turned in the direction of the sounds. Parting his eyes ever so slightly, he saw that Noel was nudging a now not-so-brilliant light toward the sleigh.  Phred swung his legs over the side and lowered himself into the snow.  As Noel drew closer, the light continued to dim.

            Now Phred was able to look directly at the light.  He bent over to examine it more closely, and was surprised to see that it was a star.  Timidly, he brushed it with his fingertips and the star dimmed at his touch.  Much to his surprise, it was very cool. Noel pawed at the snow around the star, as Phred mustered the courage to pick it up.


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