Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dolce's Story Chair - Jingles and the Furry Helpers (pt 3)

Dad: Dolce!
Dolce: Yes Dad?
Dad: Are you ready for your friends?
Dolce: Yes. I got the milk, the cookies, and some greens already to go.
Baci: I broughts the fev-ver toys!!
Dolce: Baci, This is a story chair not a play chair!
Baci: No fev-vers?
Dad: Baci, you can bring your fev-vers but you have to wait until after the story to play with them. Okay?
Baci: OKAY!!!!
Dad: Dolce, you can let your friends know that I am ready to start the next part of the story.
Dad: Dolce, Dolce, Dolce.
Dolce: Dad, Dad, Dad.

Jingles and the Furry Helpers
Part 3: A Christmas Cat’s Work is Never Done

Jingles sat on top of Santa’s desk and stared intently at the tiny gold scroll. Jingles had asked Santa to take out for him as the final deadline for this year’s Christmas production run was quickly approaching. All year, Santa had been gently reminding Jingles that sooner or later he would have to look at the names on the scroll. Jingles had hesitantly agreed but had found one reason after another to avoid actually having to touch the scroll.
Jingles had been using the design and development of the Feathered Ball toy to postpone the reading of the scroll. Santa had accepted that for the months of January, February and March, but in April, Santa had begun pressuring Jingles to update his Lists. Jingles then used the Spring Training of the reindeer as another excuse not to read the scroll and then it was the Summer Machine Maintenance. Now with only a week before Christmas and toy production reaching its final run, Santa had picked Jingles up from the house he shared with Taylor Tailorson and had placed Jingles on his desk with the firm command that he was not to leave the office until he had read the scroll.
Jingles swallowed hard and tenativley reached his paw towards the scroll. He had almost touched it when he quickly pulled his paw back. Jingles sat for a short while and then once again reached out towards the scroll. His paw hovered a hair’s breath over the scroll. As much as Jingles knew he needed to do this, he was afraid of what might happen.
A large bang in the room next to Santa’s office startled Jingles and he accidently placed his paw on the scroll.
The scroll suddenly unraveled and the names of hundred of cats and kittens appeared in gold script on the parchment. Jingles saw each cat and kitten appear in his memories and for each one, he felt the hollowness that the loss of a dear friend brings.
“Bonnie Underfoot, Kelly, Tiki…” Jingles mouthed the names as they flowed across the parchment, “Cloud Chaser, Pixie, Captain Nels LaPurr, Mu Shue Pooh King, Texas, Jerry Lee, Skeeter, Dandelion, Pepper, Pandora…”
The names flowed and flowed over the parchment.
Jingles was so entangled in the river of departed cats and kittens that he did not see Santa standing in the doorway holding a large thickly bound book. The scroll finally finished unraveling. Jingles sat and stared at the scroll. He lovingly placed his paw on the parchment. Santa crossed the room and gave Jingles a reassuring scratch behind his left ear. He was still holding the large book under his left arm.
“I hope I didn’t startle you too bad, Jingles.” Santa apologized. “This book was a little higher than I thought.”
“Thank you, Santa.” Jingles said softly. “I don’t think I could have found the strength to do that on my own.”
“Jingles.” Santa set the book down on the desk and collapsed into his chair. “I had the same problem my first year as Santa. I left my scroll on the desk untouched right up to the last minute. Mrs. Claus actually had to hide it in my boot in order to trick me into touching it. Sammy and the other Elfs in the Loading Dock were very unhappy that they had to unload a lot of presents. See that one there.”
Santa pointed to a small wrapped box on the top shelf of a bookcase. The paper had faded and the bow was no longer full and large.
“That is the first gift they unloaded from the sleigh that Christmas Eve.” Santa said, “It was for a little girl. I almost delivered it, because I was as scared as you were. I keep it to remind me of what I have been chosen to do and that I must bear all of the responsibilities of that chosen task.”
“I think I understand.” Jingles said as he hopped off the desk onto Santa’s lap. “Does it ever get easier?”
“No it doesn’t.” Santa replied as he stroked Jingles’ fur. “But you know what. I think having someone here who understands what the scrolls mean just might make it easier to bear.”
Jingles purred in agreement. Now that he had dealt with the issue of the scroll, Jingles tried to focus on the task at hand, for in one week he would be riding with Santa on his sleigh and delivering toys to all the cats and kittens.

Jingles woke to find his Christmas gear all nicely pressed and laid out in the stool inside his room. It was Christmas Eve and Jingles could sense the excitement that permeated every nook and cranny of the North Pole. Jingles quickly got dressed into his Red Velvet Vest and his White furr trimmed Hat. He went into the kitchen to greet Taylor, but the elf was already gone to work. Jingle saw a note pinned to the tablecloth next to a large steaming bowl of cream and a large plate of catnip cookies.
“Eat Up, Jingles.” Taylor had written. “You will need your strength. We can’t have a repeat of last year. “
Jingles remembered how he had almost failed to deliver the toys. He read the rest of Taylor’s note.”
“P.S. I have put a bag of Catnip Energy cookies in your left pocket. In case you get hungry. If I don’t see you at the Ceremony, have a good trip.”
Jingles patted his left pocket and felt the bag of cookies Taylor had prepared for him.
“Thanks, Taylor.” Jingles said to his friend who had already gone off to work.

Jingles gave his cap a bit of an adjustment and then he started off for the Main Square where Santa’s sleigh stood loaded and ready for its yearly trip around the world. Jingles was happy that this year he would be able to ride up front with Santa instead of having to sneak into the makeshift cubbyhole Sammy Sleighmaster had made for him. Not this year. This year Jingles would climb into the sleigh with Santa and get to watch all the Elf bands and listen to the Elf choirs as the entire population of the North Pole gave Santa his big send off.
As he walked towards the Main Square, Jingles was greeted with a “Merry Christmas” from every Elf he met. Jingles heart swelled with each and every greeting. The hollowness from last week was finally starting to subside.

Soon Jingles was entering into the Main Square of the North Pole. He could see, in the centre of the Square, Santa’s fully loaded sleigh. The eight reindeer were nervously pawing at the cobblestones as they were being hitched into their harnesses Jingles saw Santa talking with Sammy Sleighmaster. Sammy was taking Santa through his Pre-flight checklist.

“Hello, Sammy” Jingles said happily as he hopped up onto the seat of the Sleigh. “Are you ready Santa?”
“Merry Christmas, Jingles” Sammy replied, and then he added with a wink, “I think you will like the view a lot better up there.”
“Hello, Jingles.” Santa smiled, “Yes I am already to go.”
“Now Santa. “Sammy warned, “I want you to keep a close eye on those new Gum Drop Diodes. They were giving us a little bit of grief when they warmed up. I don’t think you should have any problems, but watch them closely once you finish dealing with the houses in the Southern Hemisphere.”
“Will do, Sammy.” Santa replied. “And Sammy…”
“Yes, Santa?” Sammy said.
“Merry Christmas.” Santa smiled and gave out a jolly laugh.
Sammy smilled and laughed right back.
“And a very Merry Christmas to you, Santa.” Sammy nodded to Jingles who eagerly paced on the front seat of the sleigh.

Sammy stepped back from the edge of the sleigh. He waved his hand to an elf nearby who struck a large silver bell. A quiet hush fell over the square. The only sound to be heard was the snuffling and excited breathing of the reindeer. Jingles could feel his heart pound in his chest. As he heard Santa call out to his reindeer, Jingles found himself mouthing their names along with him.

“On Dasher, On Dancer, On Prancer and Vixen!” Santa called out to his magical reindeer. “On Comet, On Cupid, On Donner and Blitzen!”

With the name of his last reindeer echoing across the quiet Main Square, the reindeer began their pull against their harness and slowly the sleigh moved forward. Faster and Faster the sleigh began to move and then suddenly it lifted from the cobblestone pavement and Santa’s sleigh began its rapid rise into the clear crisp Christmas Eve sky. A thunderous cheer erupted from all the elfs as caps and toques were tossed joyously into the air.

To be continued...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dolce's Story Chair - Jingles and the Furry Helpers (pt 2)

Dolce: Dad, what is happening with the Christmas Story?
Dad: Dolce, you know how busy everyone in the house is. Mom and Grandma and I are trying to get Smudge and Chloe settled in. Not to mention trying to earn green papers so that you and your brofurs and sisfurs have a warm home and food to eat.
Dolce: But I promised my furriends a new story, and you haven't being helping me.
Dad: I'm sorry Dolce. I did get some more written and the rest will follow shortly. We are probably going have to speed it up so that it will be done in time for Christmas.
Dolce: You better finish it or I will do what Max says and poop on your pillow.
Dad: Sounds like someone is bucking to be on the Naughty List.
Dolce: Dad...
Dad: Yes, Dolce?
Dolce: I'm sorry. Please tell me the story.
Dad: You get your story chair already to go and I will start the next part of the story...
Dolce: Thanks, Dad.

Jingles and the Furry Helpers
Part 2: Its Always Preparation

Taylor Tailorson looked down at his pocketwatch. It was already fifteen clockmarks past Last Breakfast Call. He had decided to give Jingles a bit more time to sleep but the young cat was starting to take advantage of the privilege of being the only cat to ride with Santa. To a North Pole Elf, sleeping in and a lazing about was unconscionable and insufferably rude.

Taylor went to the room where Jingles’ wicker bed had been moved from Santa’s office. He took in a deep breath and let it out in a very loud harrumph as he steeped into Jingles’ room. He had expected to see Jingles’ all curled up and sleeping. Instead, the bed was empty. Taylor walked over to the bed and placed his hand on the plush red pillow. It was cool to the touch. Whenever Jingles was, he was not in his bed and he had not been there for several hours. Taylor realized that he had not checked on Jingles when he woke up this morning.

The bells on the front door suddenly rang out.
“Taylor.” Jingles called out. “Are you home?”

Taylor quickly stepped out of Jingles room before he answered.

“I am just down the hall.” Taylor answered.

“Ah.” Jingles smiled as he took his new scarf, a gift from Taylor, and draped it over one of the two small chairs.
“Checking to see if I was up yet?” Jingles chided his friend.
“As a matter fact.” Taylor attempted to fake some indignation, but could not as it went against his Elfin nature. “I was. You have been pretty sleepy and lazy since your big trip with Santa.”
“And you thought I was still sound asleep.” Jingles stated. “Well I wasn’t. Santa said he wanted to meet with me to discuss something very important. So I got up real early and went down to the Toy Production Office to get all of my cat toy plans ready to show him.”
“Up early?” Taylor said somewhat dumfounded. “Preplanning your production orders? Are you sure that there isn’t a little elf blood in you somewhere, Jingles”
“Nope all cat.” Jingles jumped up onto the little wooden stool next to Taylor’s eating table. “By the way, is there any cream left?”
Taylor smiled at how fast Jingles thoughts returned to his stomach.

Jingles left the house after consuming two whole bowls of cream. He was in extremely high spirits. Santa’s request to meet with him made Jingles feel like a real part of the team at the North Pole. As Jingles walked down the candy lane lanterned street, he noticed the different groups of elfs and of the other creatures. There were the Reindeer hanging out at RedNosedBucks. There were the various Elfs going about their daily tasks, the Toymakers were drawing sketches of their newest ideas in the snow, the Lightkeepers were checking every Christmas light on every post and window frame, the Craftsmen were all carrying bundles and satchels of various tools and materials, and Tailors and Seamstresses were hauling bolts of brightly hued fabric to and fro. Jingles took a second glance around the street and then it dawned on him. He was the only cat at the North Pole. There was no one else for him to debate the proper stalking technique for a ball of Indigo No.2 Dyed Yak Yarn or whether the Catnip was better this week or last. Jingles was very happy at the North Pole, but suddenly for the very first time, he suddenly felt lonely.

Jingles marched into Santa’s office and gingerly hopped up on the surface of the desk. He pushed his nose under Santa’s arm and rubbed his cheek against Santa’s hand.
“Well hello, Jingles.” Santa smiled. ”Good to see you here on time.”
“It’s not everyday that you get to have a meeting with Santa.” Jingles purred proudly.
“Jingles.” Santa replied with a slightly raised eyebrow. “You sleep over there next to the iron stove everyday.”
“That’s different.” Jingles politely corrected Santa. “Sleeping is sleeping and meetings are meetings.”
“I think I understand.” Santa said.
“So I am here for our meeting.” Jingles stated. “Not that I won’t be sticking around for a nap, but first the meeting.”
“Ahh. Yes” Santa replied softly as he fingered a tiny gold scroll in his hands.
“If it is about the plans for next year.” Jingles started talking excitedly, “I have a great idea for a toy this year. A feathered ball that flies like a little bird when you throw it. It is filled with catnip of course. Here are the plans and the estimated production runs necessary.”
“This is very good, Jingles.” Santa said approvingly as he looked over Jingles’ plan. “It is very good. But this is not why I asked for this meeting.”
“Okay.” Jingles sat back on his haunches and looked at Santa puzzledly. “What is the meeting for then?”
Santa placed the tiny scroll on the desk and pushed it towards Jingles.
“A very old friend brought this for you.” Santa said. “But before you take it, I want you to understand something.”
“What is it, Santa?” Jingles looked at Santa, then at the scroll and then back to Santa.
“Now that you are my helper, you need to understand where the Lists come from.” Santa explained. “How people and creatures are added to the list, how they move from the Nice List to the Naughty List and back again, and How they are removed from the list.”
“I don’t think I like that last part, Santa.” Jingles replied sensing the sadness in Santa’s voice.
“As each person professes a belief in Christmas and in me, their name is added to the List automatically.” Santa explained. “Creatures by nature are added the moment they take a breath for the first time. From that moment on, whether it be a person or creature, their own actions determine which List their name will be found on.”
“Except for cats.” Jingles interrupted. “I still think there is something wrong with the criteria on the Naughty List.”
Santa chuckled slightly and then continued. “Once on the List, their names are never removed, even if they stop believing in me or in Christmas. This due to the hope of all hopes that they might once again find their belief. But a name can be removed from the Lists if one thing and only one thing happens.”
“What thing is that?” Jingles shuddered. “It sounds terrible.”
“It is not terrible, Jingles.” Santa explained further, “People and creatures not blessed as you and I and all of the elfs and creatures of the North Pole have only a certain amount of time on the Earth. It is part of their nature. They are born. They grow up. They learn. They laugh. They love. And when it is time, they die.”
Jingles sat and thought about what Santa said.
“Will I die?” Jingles asked Santa.
“You and I have been given a gift.” Santa said. “We are allowed live well past the normal lifespan of our kind but it has a price. We will spend that entire life doing things for other people and creatures.”
“So I will live as long as I make toys for all the cats and kittens.” Jingles said somewhat relieved.
“Yes.” Santa smiled. “But we will see other people and creatures that we have loved and who loved us pass away. This scroll is for you. It will update your List and remove all those cats and kittens who have gone to the Rainbow Bridge.”
Jingles reached out his paw to touch the scroll. He was stopped by Santa suddenly placing his hand over top the scroll.
“Jingles.” Santa explained as weariness crept into his voice. “Part of the magic is that it will happen as soon as you touch the scroll. Also you will remember each and every one of the creatures on it. You must be prepared.”
Jingles swallowed hard. Santa removed his hand from the scroll. Jingles looked at the scroll and was somewhat loathe to touch it.
“You do not have to take it now, Jingles” Santa said. “I can hold onto it for a while until you feel you are ready. But you must take it before you finalize your production for next year. For as much pain as it causes us, the pain of a gift arriving unwanted and unbidden for a lost love one is far worse.”
“I understand Santa.” Jingles nodded. “I think I will wait a little while before I take it. If that is okay?”
“That is fine.” Santa smiled at his feline helper. “It will be here on my desk. You can come and take it whenever you are ready. Now let’s take another look at that Feathered Ball of yours. Have you run it past Safety and Play Hazard?”
“Not yet Santa.” Jingles stated. “I wanted to run it past you first. Then I will have the Toy Modellers build a mock up for some…uhh…quality tests.”
“Quality Tests?” Santa asked with a raised eyebrow.
“To make sure it has the right amount of playability.” Jingles said sheepishly. “You know quality.”
Santa nodded back knowingly.

Jingles spent four more hours working with Santa. It was more like fifteen minutes of work and then Jingles retired to a large red high backed chair for a three hour and forty-five minute nap. As he slept, a feeling of loneliness hung over Jingles and a twinge of worry. Jingles wondered whose names were on the scroll and who would not need a Christmas gift this year.

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dolce's Story Chair - Jingles and the Furry Helpers (pt 1)

Dad: Well it is already December. There is a fine dusting of snow here in the Great White North. That means it is time for...
Dolce: Dad! Dad! Dad!
Dad: Yes, Dolce?
Dolce: Are you going to tell my furriends that you are getting ready to start this year's Christmas Story?
Dad: I was just about to...
Baci: Dad! Dad! Dad! Oh. Crappity Crap Crap! Dolce is already here. I supposed she asked about the story already.
Dad: As I was just about to to tell her and all of her friends, I am getting ready to start this year's Christmas story. I decided to start it a little earlier and to spread it out a little longer so that I have some time to polish the story as I go along.
Dolce: Hooray! Another story!
Dad: But you two have to be nice. I want you both to make sure you make room for Smudge and Chloe at the chair. This means no being a jerk to Chloe, Baci.
Baci (sheepishly looks at floor): Okay.
Dad: Let's get the pillows all fluffed and the Catnip Cookies set out and the Hot Catmilk warmed. Baci, you need to make sure there are treats for all your furriends.
Baci: Got it.
Dad: Everyone looks ready. So here is the the first part of the story, Jingles and the Furry Helpers. It begins a week after Jingles' last ride with Santa...

Jingles and the Furry Helpers
Part 1: A New Year Dawns

Next to a wrought-iron stove with a gently crackling fire burning within stood a wicker cat bed with a thick plush red pillow. On top of the plush red pillow in the wicker cat bed, there was a fluffy young cat, with brown fur and dark chocolate points and pure white paws, sound asleep.

The cat was sleeping off the exhaustion that followed his whirlwind trip around the world. He had barely stirred for over a week, only waking to eat, drink and to answer nature’s call. Across the room, at an ancient oak desk, a grey bearded man was also slumped over in sleep. It was a draw as to which creature, man or cat, who was snoring louder than the other.

The room suddenly grew brighter and brighter. The grey bearded man at the desk stirred and slowly rubbed the sleep and weariness from his eyes. He straightened himself in his chair and conscientiously smoothed some of the wrinkled from his red velvet suit. The grey bearded man looked up and regarded the two white winged creatures that now stood before him.

“Hello.” Santa said slowly as he stretched and yawned.
“We are sorry to interrupt your rest, Trusted One.” One of the Angels stated softly.
“That’s okay.” Santa stretched some more. ”It’s about time for me to get up and moving again. Can’t sleep here all day. Too much to do.”
“We bring you tidings, Trusted One.” The Angel replied.
“I have told you to call me Santa.” Santa smiled. “After all these centuries, you can use my chosen name.”
“Trusted One, I mean Santa.” The Angel returned Santa’s smile. “I bring you the scroll of those who have Returned.”
Santa’s smile disappeared and a slight frown creased his normally jovial face. He held out his hand and he took the tightly wrapped scroll. He flinched as the scroll touched his hand. He did not need to read it for he knew each and everyone of the humans listed upon its parchment surface.
“Thank You, I will update the Lists.” Santa said sadly as he placed the scroll on his oak desk.
The Angel slowly and reverently nodded its head.
“My sister, Elbereth, has another list for you.” The Angel motioned for his fellow Angel to move forward.
“Hello, Trusted One. Santa.” Elbereth bowed her angelic head in deference to the position the grey haired gentleman held amongst the Angelic Host. “Given your new helper, I also have a scroll for you. More accurately for him.”
Santa looked over at the cat currently sleeping on its back with all four paws up in the air as it enjoyed the warmth from the stove.
“I should have expected this.” Santa said. “I will give it to him when he wakes.”
Elbereth sensed the sorrow that started to creep over Santa, She took his head gently in her hands.
“Trusted One. Let not your heart be sad; for all upon this list were Beloved. They now rest and play in a great Meadow and wait for those who loved them.” She placed a kiss on his forehead. A bluish spark traced from her lips to his head. ”Feel the gift that the humans have given to these creatures. Feel the love and the hope that can never pass from the Earth.”
Santa smiled as he suddenly felt the warm rush of the bond that Elbereth carried and nurtured between humans and their furriends.
“Thank you for this gift, Elbereth.” Santa smiled as he wiped a tear from his cheek.
“You will carry this gift until it is time to pass it to your helper.” Elbereth crossed the room and placed her hand on the sleeping cat and she smiled. “I will not come for him until you say it is time. He is now both a Beloved and a Trusted One. I also give to you as a Trusted One the ability grant this gift to any Beloved One as you see fit. Once this Gift is given, they shall be tied to you for as long as you live.”
“I am humbled, Elbereth.” Santa said solemnly.
“No, dear Santa.” Elbereth bowed her head towards the ancient human in the red velvet suit. “It is I who is humbled to be in the presence of such a powerful and noble True Purpose.”

The room became as bright as a midsummer day and then the two angels were gone. Santa sat quietly and solemnly in his chair. He looked at the scroll that laid on his desk and the tinier one that laid in the palm of his hand. He looked over at the wrought-iron stove with a gently crackling fire burning within where a wicker cat bed with a thick plush red pillow stood. On top of the plush red pillow in the wicker cat bed, there was a fluffy young cat, with brown fur with dark chocolate points and pure white paws, sound asleep.

To be continued...