Category Archives: 12 Days of Christmas STORIES

Day Five: 12 Days of Christmas Pets

Scanned DocumentMy cousin Shannon Baker commissioned artist Sam Peterson to paint this picture of her dogs Pete and Josie for Christmas a few years ago.

Shannon;s pups

Sam Peterson is a visual artist who explores his relationship with other species using many different mediums. He works on commission, using either photos he takes of the subject, or photos chosen with the client. The works are small, intimate, lively, and thoughtful. His most recent commission was for the recently deceased beagle mix Tangerine, whom he drew in a field of bluebonnets (she’s Texan) that turned into butterflies arching into the sky, representing her now-free spirit.

Learn more about Sam and his art at .


Day Four: 12 Days of Christmas Pets

Scanned DocumentHello kitty… Melo Herpel


Today’s special furry friend is Melo of Accident, Maryland. Melo lives with Grace Herpel. Grace’s aunt Marianna snapped this adorable feline fa la la la la.

Day Three: 12 Days of Christmas Pets

Scanned Document

Today’s Christmas Pet is a “2 fer” and it comes to us via my friend Debby Deweese. Debby and her daughter, Hillary, are the human companions for Shelby and Champion.

Shelby and Champion

Shelby and Champion

Shelby the 10 year old poodle and Champion the 1 year old, three legged chihuahua are new friends for the holidays. Champion can be found on Instagram at champion_the_tiny_dog

Day Two: 12 Days of Christmas PETS

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The second offering in our “12 Days of Christmas Pets” comes from artist Jedediah Kahl.




Puppies First Christmas. Copyright Kahl 2014.

Puppies First Christmas.
Copyright Kahl 2014.

Jedediah Kahl is a young illustrator. He earned his AFA degree in Fine Art at the Community College of Baltimore County in 2008 and then transferred to the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design where he earned is BFA is Illustration in May of 2013. Since graduating he has been creating illustrations for several different organizations and companies and operates his own company, Jedediah Kahl Illustration. Some of those organizations and companies include: Cliffs of the Nuese State Park in NC, Saint Joan of Arc Catholic School in Aberdeen, the Maryland Ranger School, Cedar Fort Publishing and Media in Utah and many more.

Jedediah traditionally works by hand with the inclusion of some digital media. Recently his work has incorporated hand drawn black and white ink work with either watercolor or digital color.

Within his company he has published two different books. The first, “You Don’t Understand” is a children’s book meant to teach about sharing and the second, “Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Mind” is an illustrated collection of ten different Edgar Allan Poe stories that explore the workings of peoples minds. He also has a collection of greeting cards and a series of Christmas ornaments.

You can visit his website at:
To contact him you can either submit a submission on his contact page on the website,
e-mail him at or call him at (443) 847-3227.

Day One: 12 Days of Christmas Pets

Updated this post with the 12 Days of Christmas Pets logo (thanks Hannah) and another Photoshopped pic of Honey. Hope you like it.Scanned Document

Merry Christmas every one! This year’s Holiday feature is “12 Days of Christmas Pets” and we’ll be featuring a different animal from now until 12th night (Or  until I run out of adorable images.) Last year’s “12 Days of Christmas Stories” was a big success, and I’m hoping this with help spread some Holiday cheer as well.

I  think I’ll start off this year’s fun with a dog who is near and dear to my heart — indeed she is at my feet as I write this. I bring you my  sweet, spirited, cockapoo, Honey.


RITA Honey's Christmas 3

Honey likes to take walks, bark at inanimate objects and sleep. She is blond with very curly hair. And she is an excellent guard cockapoo (just ask the mailman.)

honey 4 painterly

12 Days of Christmas STORIES, “Taco” (conclusion)

This is it… the last day of the 12 Days of Christmas STORIES project. I hope you’ve enjoyed the fiction we’ve come up with the last few weeks. Happy 12th Night / Epiphany. — cheers, Rita


(Part Two)
by Rita
Flake 13

Quinn Turner was finished his picture of a Christmas tree. He showed it to her proudly. “I got to help decorate it this year.” He said eagerly. Mrs. Collingsbee smiled “Very nice Quinn.” Quinn was a nice boy, a little clumsy and never in the top academically, but worth his weight in gold. She tried not to have favorites, but Maribelle Collingsbee would take one Quinn Turner over a dozen Petie Nileys any day.

Frannie Juarez was working frantically to finish her picture as Mrs. Collingsbee approached. Frannie was a quiet girl with long black brown hair. She was Mrs. Collingsbee’s only ESL student this year. Her parents had moved from Chili last year. She wasn’t the only hispanic child in the class, and she wasn’t the only one who struggled with language (frankly Maribelle had some native English speakers who had more trouble stringing two complete sentences together than this little girl) but she was shy and often overlooked.

That’s why she was over here with Quinn and Maddie Brownling — the girl in front of her —  this was kind of the misfit corner of Room 2-E. They were all good kids, but a bit awkward. By grouping them together Maribelle hoped they would bound and form their own friendship group.

Frannie finished her illustration and carefully put her crayons back in their 8 crayon pack. “What did you do Frannie?” Mrs. Collingsbee asked clearly but quietly to the little girl.

Frannie passed her the illustration with a huge smile. “Taco.” She whispered back to the teacher.

The drawling was a mess of colors. A roundish brown object was down at the bottom. Streaks of yellow, purple, orange and red criss-crossed the center in a frenetic whirl. A black triangle and two black dots were sort of at the top. — was that a face?  She’d carefully written TACO at the bottom, next to the round thing. And she’d decorated the border of the paper with stars and hearts of every color of her limited color palate  Maribelle didn’t know what it was supposed to be but it certainly didn’t look like a taco.

Mrs. Collingsbee handed her back the paper. “Very nice Frannie.”

She moved up the row — Maddie had gotten a pair of in-line skates, Annie Helms  a set of legos (yeah! gender neutral and educational! 10 points to the Mr. and Mrs. Helms’), Jake Brown got a boxed set of  “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Yes, actual paper books! Thanks you Lemony Snickett! and thank you Ms. Brown — because Jake, while a good reader, was not quite at the Snickett reading level yet. So Di Brown — one of the classes three single parents — would be in for some serious mother/son reading with Jake in the next few weeks.) Last but not least Edward King enjoyed making and eating Christmas cookies with his parents.

By the time she reached the front of the class room every one had finished. “Very nice Children.” Mrs. Collingsbee glanced at the big round clock on the back wall. The second part of her lesson plan was for the class to come up to the chalk board and talk about their illustration. Some kids would have no trouble chattering away, others would squeak out a few words and slink back to their seats. She had to set parameters.

She pulled out her Magic Ugly Hat — a decrepit thrift store old lady’s hat she found a few years back.– The hat contained 36 soda caps, each one had a student’s name written inside it. This was her way of randomly choosing a child for a task.

She reached in and stirred the soda caps.

The children tensed. What was their crazy teacher up to?

“Now you are going to share your ‘gifts’ with the class. You will come up to my desk and speak about your ‘favorite thing about Christmas break’. We’ll use the ugly hat to decide the order. I’ll pick the first person who will hand me their drawing. I will hold it up for all to see then we will pin it to the bulletin board. Then they will pick out the bottle cap of the next speaker and will hold his or her illustration as they speak and help them post it. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Mrs. Collingsbee.”

She gave the soda caps a few more stirs, deliberately building the tension in the room. “Please remember not to pepper your speech with ‘um’s and ‘you know’s and ‘er’s. We are all very interested in what you have to say and you’ll only have between 1 and 2 minutes to say it so don’t waste time on uncommunicative words.”

Lucy McCall’s hand shot up.

“Yes Lucy, did you to volunteer to go first.”

“What? No — I mean — I don’t care — I mean… Who’s going to be time keeper?”

“You may be time keeper, if you like. Then when it is your turn you can choose some one to take over for you.”

Lucy lit up. This was heaven for a little attention seeker.

“Will you come up here so you can see the clock, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Ahhh, thought Maribelle, the good manners of a small child getting her way.

She gave the bottle caps in the hat one more swish and pulled out the first name.

Between the extemporaneous speeches, the careful — SUPERVISED — stapling of the illustrations to the bulletin board and the time it took for the children to shuffle to and from their seats Maribelle Collingsbee’s morning was progressing nicely towards lunch.

There were only a handful of bottle caps left in the hat when she pulled out Lucy’s name. The girl graciously gave up her post as time keeper to her friend Kiely Romsley after only a minute’s consideration.

After Lucy’s short funny account of the big dinner her family enjoyed on Christmas day she pinned her illustration on the board and pulled out the next bottle cap.

“Frannie Jawaraz” She said struggling with the last name.

Mrs. Collingsbee didn’t know if it was part of Lucy’s penchant for showing off or if she really did have trouble with the Spanish name, but Frannie didn’t notice or she didn’t care.  She grabbed her illustration and ran up to the front of the class.

After surrendering the paper to Lucy, Frannie smoothed down her long black braids and folded her hands in front of her like she was member of the Von Trapp Family about to burst into a chorus of So Long Farewell.

“Good Morning Mrs. Collingsbee and fellow students.” She said is clear, strong, very enthusiastic voice, “and Happy New Year to  you all.” She smiled broadly doing a perfect imitation of a politician. “I had a difficult time with the assignment this morning — not because I didn’t understand it, but because my Christmas break was filled with so many wonderful things it was difficult to choose just one. My Nana came to visit and it was so good to see her! We had such a good time! And my mama made much wonderful food for all of us and we played music and games. It was a very, very pleasant way to enjoy a Christmas.”

A bubble of excitement brimmed up inside her and she looked adoringly at her illustration. “But the very best thing that happened over Christmas break was when I got my beautiful Taco on Christmas morning!”

Silence hung in the classroom and several seconds went by while Frannie Juarez waited for them to join in on her enthusiasm. “You got a taco for Christmas?” Petie Niley asked with derision. Mrs. Collingsbee gave him a warning look — which he dodged.

“Not A taco.” Frannie explained. “Taco is her name. She is a chicken.”

“Doesn’t look like a chicken to me.” He intoned.

“Pardon me, Petie, but Frannie has the floor.”  Grady O’Day told him firmly.

Frannie was unfazed. “I know she doesn’t look like a chicken?” Frannie let out a little enthusiastic giggle. “That’s because she’s a crazy chicken and she runs all around! And when my papa plays the piano she jumps around and dances every where!”  Her joy over her new pet was infectious. “Taco has beautiful yellow and red and orange feathers and she is super soft. And when I come into her yard she runs over to me and lets me pick her up and stroke her.”

The little girl was talking quickly to fit in everything before her allotted time expired. “She gives me an egg every morning. I know that’s what chickens do, but Taco never gets angry when I come to get the egg, she just moves over and lets me take it. Isn’t that nice of her.” Frannie pointed to the brown circle at the bottom of the picture. “So It is like I get a present every day.”

She thought for a second, “I feed her ‘Chicken Chow’ and sometimes my little brother feeds her bugs.”

She smiled over to Mrs. Collingsbee “That’s the end of my speech about Taco.”

“Thank you Frannie.” Before the girls could move to the bulletin board several hands shot up.  “Oh it seems the class has a few questions.” No one else had gotten questions, but no one else got a chicken for Christmas.

Frannie turned back to the 35 boys and girls who had never really noticed her before. She surprised them even more when she called each person by name to answer their question.

“Joey, your question, please?” He wanted to know if she had asked Santa for a chicken.

Maribelle took a breath, the children were on that bubble  in regards to their faith in Santa.

“No,” she giggled, “No, Taco was a real big surprise. But she is a good one, yes?”

Annie Helms asked if she was allowed in Frannie’s room.

The little girl ducked her head a little “No, but some times she comes in, so don’t tell my mama, OK?”

Petie said “I thought chickens were white?

David Callendar rolled his eyes “Not all of them. It depends what kind they are and where they come from.”

Frannie, who knew that Petie and David were often at odds, defused the argument by saying “I don’t really know where Taco came from, except that she came from an EGG.”

Odena Washington asked where Taco slept.

“She has a pen in our back yard and my papa made her a little hen-house out of my old doll house. So some times I’ll come looking for her and she’ll be sitting in that doll house like she’s playing dolls. Its sooo cute.” All the girls gave a little coo of agreement that a chicken playing dolls was very cute indeed.

“One more question, I think.” Mrs. Collingsbee told the class, “Quinn?”

“Can you bring Taco in for show and tell?”

Frannie looked hopefully toward her teacher.

“Does she have a crate?”

The little girl looked down at her shoes, crestfallen, and shook her head.

“My puppy has a traveling crate,” said Tommy Underhill. “Taco can borrow that.”

Mrs. Collingsbee upgraded her assessment of Tommy Underhill a few notches. “If your parents give you permission, and when the weather turns a bit nicer I think Taco will make a excellent guest for show and tell.”

“Thank you Mrs. Collingsbee.” Frannie said with joy.

“Well girls where shall we put this expressionistic picture of Taco?”

The bulletin board was almost full.

“At the top!” Insisted Lucy. She quickly dragged a desk chair over to the board and climbed onto it.

“Be careful, Lucy.” The teacher warned more against horseplay than against any real danger as she got up to make sure the girls were O.K..

Lucy was being careful, but some how, after she’d gotten the top staple into the picture, she slipped. She caught herself before she fell, but she tore the illustration.

The class gave an audible gasp.

Lucy looked down at the torn piece of paper in her hand and burst out in tears. “I didn’t mean it.” She still standing on the chair she turned to the chalk board and cried. She was sure that every one would think she had done it just to get attention.

Before Mrs. Collingsbee could reach them, Frannie climbed up on the chair behind Lucy. She stroked the little girl’s back. “It’s O.K. Lucy.” she said gently. “Its only a drawling. I can make another. Si?”

“But …its your picture of Taco.” Lucy wailed.

“Si, si, but Taco is both a Christmas chicken AND and New Years chicken. And what happens on New Years?”

Lucy sniffed, “We watch the ball drop and make resolutions.”

Frannie nodded. “Yes, and we get a chance to start things fresh.” She took the stapler from Lucy “Taco starts each day with a new egg, yes?” Frannie aligned the two pieces and stapled the top of the other side. “So why don’t we just start fresh and forget this little mistake happened. OK?”

Mrs. Collingsbee handed the Frannie a piece of scotch tape and the little girl reached up and repaired the rip. “Good as new, yes?”

Lucy looked at her, grateful for being so easily forgiven, “Si.”

Maribelle Collingsbee helped the two girls to get down from the chair. She gave Lucy’s shoulder a little squeeze before she went down the aisle to her seat. “You were an excellent time-keeper for this exercise. Thank you for your precision.”

As Frannie Juarez reached her hand into the Ugly Hat to pull one of the few remaining bottle caps Mrs. Collingsbee relaxed into her wooden swivel chair, content that this mornings lesson was instructive after all… even for her.

12 Days of Christmas STORIES, “Taco”

We are at the penultimate entry for 12 Days of Christmas STORIES, and today I give you the first part of my New Years story..


by Rita
Flake 6

Maribelle Collingsbee had been teaching third grade at Our Lady of the Snows for 31 years.

She knew that the first day back after Christmas vacation would be a swash if she didn’t let the children get out some of their excitement.

She looked down her at her three dozen pupils through her half-moon glasses and called the class to attention.

The children in six rows of six desk in even lines  and rows straightened in their seats. “Well boys and girls, welcome to 2009!”

“Happy New Year!” Said Lucy McCall in a silly voice that was supposed to make her sound like she was drunk.

“And Happy New Year to you Lucy.” Said Mrs. Collingsbee with out skipping a beat.
“Now, children please raise your hand if you practiced your math over break.”

The 36 kids in front of her snuck looks at one another. No one had thought about SCHOOL since they’d fled from OLSS’s historic stain glass front doors into the light snow on December 23rd.

“I see.” She said in mock displeasure. “And who has worked on their grammar?”

No response.

“Spelling?” No one. “My, my.” She said with a tiny hint of a smile. “What on Earth have you been doing with all your time?”

Mrs. Collingsbee turned to the chalkboard (they still had chalkboards in room 2-E at Our Lady of the Snows) and wrote “My favorite thing about Christmas break…” in her exquisitely flowing cursive penmanship.

“Please take out a clean sheet of paper…” she underlined the sentence on the board… “and label it thus.”

The children obeyed. Some of her students used a chunky, rudimentary cursive, but the majority of the class had yet to master those slippery curlicues. They opted for the blocky print style of handwriting.

Maribelle waited until the last pencil had been returned to its indentation on the desk.

There was that moment of tension in the class room when the students didn’t know if their old teacher was going to make them write and ESSAY about their two plus weeks of freedom.

“Now please get out your crayons — “ an audible sigh came from the class “ and draw a picture of your favorite thing about Christmas vacation.”

As she expected her class set into work quickly and quietly. She gave them a leisurely 20 minutes drawling time before making her rounds of the room to check on progress.

The usual suspects were represented. A new dress here, an expensive gaming system there.

Brandon Everly  used almost every crayon in his box of 120 colors to illustrate the picture showing he got a big set of Hot Wheels under his tree. He was intently drawing an orange track around the border of the paper as Mrs. Collingsbee paused over his shoulder. “Vroom” she whispered in appreciation of the sketch. “Vroom, vroom.” The little boy whispered back. He’d surrendered the two cars he brought with him to school before class began. He wanted to play with them at recess, but he knew they’d be too much of a distraction if he’d kept them in his things. He and Mrs. Collingsbee had an understanding. He could trust her to keep his treasure safe.

Shelly Ballentine got a new American Girl Doll. She would have liked to have brought her doll to school too, no doubt, but at the $110 price tag it would be kept very safely at home.

Maribelle Collingsbee was very impressed with Joey Dashnell’s beautifully detailed bike drawling. She wondered at the gift, Joey was much more of an artist than an athlete. Although she was sure the boy appreciated the expensive gift (what child wouldn’t want a bike for Christmas?) she suspected that Joey enjoyed drawing it more than he would riding it.

Kiely Romsley, who had two older sisters, drew a self-portrait as well, she was wearing a beautiful red dress, heals that were too old for her, and bright red lipstick. Clearly Kiely’s penchant for “dressing sophisticated” was indulged on the special day. Mrs. Collingsbee said a quick silent prayer of thanks for the school’s policy on make-up and the plain blue pinafore uniforms the girls wore.

David  Calendar scored  a fine-looking pair of cowboy boots. He did a self-portrait too from the forced perspective of the tip of the boots toes looking up.

Viv-Anne Pendergast — who’s parents, Maribelle was sure, bought out Dixon’s Department Store — chose to picture a single item, a pair of sparkly red shoes.

Romano Valinsuala got an iPod Nano and showed himself, earplugs in place, dancing to his new tunes.

Odeana Washington got a digital camera that she drew along with some of the pictures she took.

Isaac Gannet got a hamster named “Fred.” Mrs. Collingsbee knew Fred was named “Fred” because Isaac drew a sign that said “Fred Lives Here” over rodent’s cage.

Tommy Underhill must have been a very good boy, indeed (at least he must have been better at home than he was in class). Santa brought him a puppy. (No name given).

Not every one drew things.

Charlotte Finney drew an old lady with heavy crayon wrinkles across  her brow and a helmet of iron-gray hair holding a little girl’s hand. The little girl had bright orange braids like Charlotte. The little girl snuck a look up to Mrs. Collingsbee and was rewarded with a quick smile.

Grady O’Day, one of the nicest boys in her class, had been rewarded for his kindness by being given the prize role of the Angel in the church’s Christmas pageant. Maribelle wasn’t surprised to see that he chose that as his favorite thing about Christmas.

Mickey Laughton and her family took a trip to New York City. The little girl drew a rudimentary Statue of Liberty, some sky scrapers and the Broadway billboard for The Lion King!!!!

Petie Niley, who no one every mistook for angelic, drew himself kneeling in front of the life-sized manger. His hands were folded in prayer, his head bowed — the perfect little boy.  Mrs. Collingsbee was tempted to borrow his crayon and write “A Christmas Miracle” under the obvious sarcastic drawing. She was sure he’d had a bountiful Christmas morning. The Nileys were the richest family in town.

Lucy McCall showed a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings on her paper. A huge turkey sat at the upper center of the page. A cartoon Lucy peeked over the bird — knife and fork in hand — a silly, mischievous look on her face.

Petie and Lucy were her class clowns. But while Lucy took the opportunity to be silly and make a bit of fun of herself Petie used the assignment to act up in a sneaky way. It wasn’t like Mrs. Collingsbee could give him detention for drawing a picture of himself praying — even IF they both knew it was a lie. He was throwing the assignment back in her face, and making fun of the children who were taking it seriously. What was worse, he’d draw other kids to his side in the mean spiritedness. What had been a natural magnetism last year had turned into a cult following lately. She did not like the direction Petie Niley was going. Not at all.

More dolls — Barbies, Bratz — UGH! would toy manufacturers ever tire of force feeding her little charges distorted images of what it was life to be a woman? — More hyper macho toys for the boys.

Very few gender neutral, educational toys made it to the “best of” list in her class room.

Mrs. Collingsbee turned the corner to walk up the last row “A few more minutes boys and girls, lets finish up.” …

12 Days of Christmas STORIES, Kringlelander (Conclusion)

12th Night is almost here and our celebration of words and stories is almost at an end.

Here’s the conclusion of Kringlelander.  Click HERE for part one.


(Part 2)
by Rita

Flake 3

“Three centuries ago…” Elrond started to tell another of his long stories as the globe of snow settled to a new scene — a small, peaceful, snow-cover village appeared. “13 elves set out from Rivendell to learn the ways of the great craftsmen of Olurgius.”

Evidently the journey was long (though perhaps not as long as it took Elrond to tell me about it) and dangerous. “Only the bravest and strongest of elves could hope to make it there and back again…

“Thirteen left that day, all experts in their field. There was Maylifor, son of Mandiglor, master of silver and gold, maker of Solobigolh…” He  began to list each elf’s special skills and the weapons he made, and the warrior elves who used the weapons, and the battles in which those elves saw action …

After “Hardobim, son of Helomagrim…”  (the fifth elf in the series) I put up my hand “13 elves went on a journey to learn new skills, I got it.”

Elrond did that thing where he both raised his eyebrow and squinted at the same time then continued. “But low, the 13 did not make it to Olurgius for the winter was long and difficult  and many hardships befell the weary travelers. Lost was the band and desperate in their plight when a glimmer of hope from an expected place shone upon them.

“A roaming band of Dwarves came upon this noble crew and added them in their time of weakness. They brought 13 to their diminutive lair. No miners they, these dwarves were craftsmen. And so the elves found kindred spirits in their rescuers.

“Winter thawed to spring, and spring bloomed to summer. The grateful elves taught the dwarves all the knew, and the bearded ones taught the 13 many tricks and skills they had learned under the mountains. As fall fell into winter the travelers decided to stay one more season in the village before finishing their journey to Olurgius.

“When they returned to Rivendell they became the greatest masters of sword and shield. Their fine blades sang through the air in the Battle of Billingorarth…” the elf elaborated for several more minutes, whipping himself into a froth of excitement before I held up my hand again.

“So I’m to have some fine bit of elvish armor up at my cold castle, then?’

Annoyed, Elrond gave me THAT look — you know the one — and cut to the chase. “Alas, Santaron, no. Your love of the pipe and pint have made you oblivious to the most obvious once again.”

Hmmm, he had me there.

“Long winter nights make for the strangest of bed fellows.” Elrond spelled out for me — the sneer on his lips was even tighter than usual. “Living among the baser creature of Middle Earth for more than a year the 13 had come to appreciate a, shall we say, certain dwarfish style.” He cleared his throat, hardly able to mouth what came next out loud. “At some point during that long winter the 13 mingled with female dwarves.” He shuttered.

“Years later a delegation of the creatures made their way to this hallowed city. Among them were 26 oddlings. Twinned pairs of young creatures, one boy, one girl, hybrid dwarf and elf from each of the 13. Too tall and refined to be dwarves, too hairy and squat to be elves.”

The vein in Elrond’s temple throbbed. “We tried to educate the half childs, but the dwarf in  them was too strong, and they were stubborn. They didn’t want to learn our refined ways. Eventually, for their own happiness we found a colony for them in the Westerland. There they have lived amongst themselves multiplying once a generation and living long, peaceful, unexceptional lives. They never managed to produce much more than a butter knife between them, but they are content — indeed happy — to make toys instead of weapons. They celebrate silly joys of childhood.”

Galadrial’s ball now showed a gathering of mid-sized creatures in bright colored clothing frolicking around a decorated evergreen tree. “They… are… the… DWELVES” She said in her spooky, superior voice. “Dwarves… with… elf… like… visages.”

Magical creatures, at least half magic, they too would need to be relocated.

She handed me the globe of snow. “Are…   you … ready… Kringlelander?” I looked in the globe and saw that a little man with a long white beard and with fur trimmed red robes stood in the door of one of the buildings.

Elrond and Galadriel did a kind of fist bump and their elfin rings clicked together.

My guest room at Rivendell disappeared and suddenly I was at the Pole.

A little deer with a red nose landed next to me. He nuzzled his snout into my pocket looking for a deer treat,  and I knew I was home.


12 Days of Christmas STORIES; Kringlelander (part 1)

My husband, Bill, gets credit for the concept of this story. We hatched out the bare bones on a family trip (which you’ll read about in a few days).


by Rita
Flake 10

Top five questions I get asked on a regular basis…
5. What’s it like to live in the North Pole? == COLD, and a little lonely. But nice.
4. Is your beard real? == YES. Please do not pull it to see if I’m lying. I’m not, and pulling on it is both rude of you and painful for me.
3. Can reindeer really fly? == Only the reindeer who live with me can fly.
2. Do you and the Elves really make all the presents? == YEP. It takes us all year. But we work very hard and try to give something to every good girl and boy.
1. Have you always been Santa Claus? == Hmmm. Now that’s an interesting question.

I used to answer that with a jolly “Ho, ho, ho… what do you think?” But that is no answer at all. The fact is, I have been Santa Claus as long as there has been a Santa Claus… but there hasn’t always been a Santa Claus…  so, no, I haven’t always been he.

Its a somewhat confusing concept for toddlers, and they are usually satisfied with wink, but for hundreds of years, I admit, I’ve been dodging the question.

It isn’t that I was sworn to secrecy exactly, but there WAS an assumption that one was not to tell of these things. …A sort of “what happens in Middle Earth STAYS in Middle Earth” kind of thing. But then SOME ONE must have spilled the beans to that Tolkien fellow and, although MY story didn’t get printed I feel like I’m at liberty to tell it now.

Hmmm… where to begin, where to begin? Have you read your Tolkien? Do you know about your Hobbitses and Orcs and Elves and Dwarves? You have? Good. Then you know about the War of the Ring and the Ring Bearer and the Fellowship? — Yeah, I wasn’t a part of all that. I was in the Nesterland of the North.

WAIT! Don’t go pulling out your Tolkien map to try and find Nesterland. Tolkien didn’t include that neck of the woods.  It wasn’t germane to his story. Alas, neither was I. Which is why you’ve probably never heard of Kringlelander the Red, or Nickdalf, or Santaron, or any of the other half-dozen names I went by back then.

So while Gandalf and Frodo and the rest were saving Middle Earth I was obliviously exploring the northern most boundaries and building friendships with the wild and wonderful folk that live up that way.

By the time I heard about the trouble in the south it was all over.

I made my way south as quickly as I could, but I was traveling by foot (some of us didn’t  have access to flying eagles) and it took me several years before I made it to Rivendell.

Before I hit the first waterfall an emissary from Elrond bid me to attend a meeting with the Lord of the City and the Lady Galadriel the next morning in the high council chambers.

Now I’m not much for mixing it up with the high and mighty mucky-mucks. — I’m more of sneak in, grab a plate of lembas bread cookies, get the lay of the land, sneak out, kind of guy. — So the thought of a royal audience made me more than a little nervous.

Word to the wise: if you ever find yourself in a strange elven city with a very important meeting the next day… do NOT drink a goblet of unfamiliar local brew, no matter how much the person pouring it for you insist it will help you calm down.

The next morn when the appointed time arrived I was still snoring deeply into my silky elvish sheets. But, I suppose, Elrond and Galadriel were on a schedule of some sort because I was awaken by a mighty knock (could have been on the door, could have been directly to my skull — I was too groggy and hung over to tell) and suddenly the two stately elves were in my room staring down at me.

“Kringlelander the Red” boomed Elrond, “6th Wizard of Valor, Santaron, Wanderer of Nesterland, Defender of the Meek and Powerless, Nickdalf, Dancer of the Winter Night, Harbinger of Deep Snow…” he shifted his stance, the better to look down at me in my cot, “welcome to Rivendell.”

I wiped at my sleepy, blurry eyes and sat up. “Aye. Er, Um, Thank you for the kind greeting.” I tried to remember the requisite protocol. I probably should have bowed, but with the hangover banging around in my noggin I though that unwise.

“You… are… late.” Galadriel told me in an annoyingly mystical voice.

Yeah, even with all the lovely diffused, misty sun in Rivendell I could tell that I was late for our little tête-à-tête. “Um yeah, I’m sorry I missed our meeting.”

“That… is… not… what… I… meant.”

“The hour is late Nickdalf,” Elrond continued her thread. “There is not much time left for magic in the realm. You come upon us at the parting hour.” Never one to utter a simple sentence, the Elf Lord then gave a long and flowery description about how the Elves were preparing to make their way to the Gray Havens and from there to Undying Lands.

As I picked the thread of reality from Elrond’s web of elegant, if gummy, prose I realized that I was late indeed. According to him there was but one ship left and that the Elves in the city were the rear guard, the last to go into the sunset.

“Good thing I got here when I did, I suppose.” I said with relief.

A look passed between the stately Elves. They explained in long, patient detail how some halflings would be traveling with them as reward for their service in destroying the Ring of Power. “The… halfling… has… more… than… earned… his… passage…” intoned Galadriel.

She smiled her glassy smile at me and my stomach pitched.

I understood that this Frodo Baggins had done Middle Earth a great boon. I understood  too about the ship and its limited number of sleeping births. What I couldn’t quite wrap my head around was why MY passage had become HIS passage. Or why if they were such little folk we couldn’t squeeze them in somewhere with out knocking me off the passenger manifest.

Elrond looked like he’d just swallowed a bowl of sour Dragon Egg drop soup and shook his head. “We can  not ask the Ring Bearer to share a bunk.”

Galadriel looked equally unamused at my suggestion.

Those two!  They always got their way in the end. I straightened in my bunk and flicked off a piece of detritus from the white fur that lined my right cuff. “Of course we can’t.”

The elves nodded to one another with superiority. They had accomplished their objective. I’d hoped that would be the end of our interview, but they had other items on their wish list.

“The time of man has come.” Elrond said — I feared another long-winded sermon. “The time of magic draws to a close.”

I sighed. I thought we just went over that. But then it dawned on me. I wasn’t going on the nice pretty boat, but I couldn’t stay here either.

Galadriel did one of her dime store magic tricks. She pulled a simple glass globe from her robe and held it in her left hand. She passed her right hand over it and the globe was suddenly filled with whirling snow. As the snow storm subdued a lovely low castle appeared in the center. Despite myself I felt a pull to the ball, and to the place captured inside it.

“Where is this place?”

“Far… to… the… North.” She said eerily.

“Beyond the Misty Vale, far, far, past the Winter’s snow…” After five minutes of hyperbole Elrond finally took a breath.

“North.” I said, too fascinated by the scene in the globe to be properly annoyed, “got it.”
I watched as a small flock of deer came out the gate and galloped around the compound. “Err… What’s that?”

“Those… are… the… Paracaributias.” The she elf said with her know-it-all smirk.

Elrond explained that before Sauron created the horrible and horrifying winged Nazgul he made these creatures. They were Nazgul beta as it were.

The tiny deer in the globe bounded off the snowy surface and began a slow arch over the compound. “As you can see, the Paracaributias can fly but they have the sinister appearance and violent temperament Sauron  valued, so he developed a second uglier, nastier, deadlier version to do his bidding.” As he spoke a ninth member of the Paracaributias pack came out the gate and joined his mates in flight. He looked like the others, except that his nose seemed to glow bright red. Nine Paracaributii, nine Nazgul. “Fortunately we were able to rescue these creatures before Sauron could destroy them.”

As enchanting as the flying deer were I pulled my gaze from the ball. “So I’m to spend the rest of eternity alone cleaning up flying deer poo at some froze waste land, is that it?” I asked.

The elves raised their collective eyebrows at my impertinence. Clearly that was not “it”. Galadriel gave a shake of her elegant hand and the ball filled with snow again….

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