Giftmas 2021

(aka “Frozen Came the Stranger”)

The incomparable Rhonda Parrish hosts an annual fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. There’s all sorts of reasons why but lemme’ break it down for you: no one should go hungry, especially not in Winter, and really especially not during the Holidays.

Canada Helps hosts the fundraising page and every single dime goes to the food bank.

Every year some of us chip in with a story, or personal anecdote, or other creative piece. This year, Rhonda came up with a great idea: one single story – written across several days – by several seriously talented writers (then she invited me…)

Rhonda kicks it off and brings it home, and in between the rest of us carry the tale along 500-600 words at a time. My section falls near the end, so if you have not yet found the head of this snake, please visit the following blogs first:

December 7th — Rhonda Parrish

December 8th — Jennifer Lee Rossman

December 9th — Iseult Murphy

December 10th — Beth Cato

December 11th — Jemima Pett

December 12th — Stephanie A. Cain

December 13th — Pete Aldin

December 14th — E.C. Bell

And then check back here. I have already passed my section along to Laura VAB to work from (pretty sure I heard muttered swear words coming from way down Indiana-way after I finished). At the end of this trail, we will have told you a complete story and, hopefully raised some money to help support the food bank. It’s Holiday magic! Even more magical? Every dollar raised will result in three meals for hungry people. That means, quite literally, that every dollar counts.

Our goal this year is $1,200 (Canadian) and if we meet it that will be 3,600 meals for people who could really use them. Once again, here’s the link:

I would appreciate it if you enjoy my section, drop some coins their way. If you didn’t enjoy my section? That’s okay by me – you can add a dedication that says “JB sucks but I’m still donating” if you’d like.

If you can’t donate please consider supporting via signal boost. Tell a friend? Share it on social media? As with the monetary donations every little bit helps and we really appreciate it.

So here we go –

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

There was a sudden *pop* as she pushed the door open, and loud noise poured out toward her in a wave of sound. Cherie shielded her eyes against bright light then froze: the tower was hollow and she was standing at the top of a huge assembly of conveyers and scaffolds, throughout which worked small clean-shaven people dressed in pink and blue and smaller, hairier people dressed in kelly green.

‘Looks like I found the elves and leprechauns,’ she thought, slightly dazed.

“Close the door!” a deep voice boomed. She obeyed, then looked around. A large man stood partway around the catwalk that ringed the top of the structure. He was wearing a white hardhat that matched his long beard and was staring at her, clipboard in one hand with the other hooked into his red suspenders.

“Sir Eldrick?” she managed, pitching her voice to carry over the din.

“If you’re looking for my brother you’ve come to the wrong place,” the man replied. “And if you don’t mind, we’re on a rather tight schedule here. State your business and then leave, if you please.” He strode along the catwalk toward her, moving like a dancer despite his more-than-ample waistline.

“My-“ Cherie squeaked, then cleared her throat and tried again. “My business is you are polluting the water and it’s killed all the dryads and-“

He paled. “What? Wait here.” He dropped the clipboard, put a finger alongside his nose, and vaulted over the rail of the catwalk.

Cherie screamed – she couldn’t help it – and rushed to the rail. She looked down to see the top of the man’s hardhat three levels below as he floated gently down, grabbed onto a rail, hopped over it, and started yelling for Maintenance.

Agnes and Clover both jumped when the tower door slammed. Cherie came out of the tower and walked toward them, wearing a bulky backpack and carrying a large duffle.

They looked at her anxiously. “Well?” Clover finally asked.

“Nine years.”

“Pardon?” Great-aunt Agnes asked.

“Nine years of Christmas presents. Nine years of goodies from the Easter Bunny. The Tooth Fairy. The Great Pumpkin. Nine years when I was at the orphanage before you took me in. Nine years when I didn’t get one single gift.”

Cherie smiled grimly. “Nine years of presents – plus interest, penalties and amortization – is a lot and Claus Co. is on a time crunch, so I swapped for three wishes. To ensure a way home,” she pulled an ornate brass doorknob out of her pocket.

“To restore the watershed and the dryads.” They all looked toward the water – which was already running cleaner – then along the banks where a haze of light green buds covered previously dead tree branches. Cherie smiled.

“Great-aunt Agnes, you and Septimus are going to have to find Sir Eldrick by yourselves, I’m afraid. Clover, you’re with me.”

“But – what about your third wish?” Clover asked as Cherie knelt and opened the duffle.

“My third wish? Oh, that was easy.” Cherie pulled a long metal nozzle out of the duffle and attached it to the metal-braided hose she uncoiled from the backpack. She climbed onto Clover’s back. “I wanted to be helpful and also have a little bit of fun.”

She hefted the flamethrower, smile turning into a toothy grin “Now. Let’s go melt some snowmen. Then we can talk about that cheese some more.”

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Can’t wait to see what happens next? Please click the link to Laura’s section, tomorrow, then be sure to tune in at Rhonda’s on 12/17 for the wrap up.

December 16th — Laura VanArendonk Baugh

December 17th — Rhonda Parrish

One thought on “Giftmas 2021

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