Spirit of Christmas winner, age 13-19
Once in a lonely house on Windabarg street near the edge of town there lived an old man named Leo. Leo sat in his favourite chair staring out the window watching flakes dance through the sky only land on the ground, and eventually melt.
Leo did not believe in happiness. Happiness only brought pain and suffering. His wife had died three years ago, and ever since then Leo had smiled, maybe, twice. His wife’s death drained all the happiness into grief. Christmas was his wife’s favourite holiday, so he always celebrated it in memory of her in the same way.
Each Christmas he would bake cookies and cook a feast to last him through the week. But one thing he did the same every night since she died, after eating a good dinner, was to make a fire and sit in his wife’s favourite rocking chair and get lost in his grief as he watched the flame run around the fireplace laughing.
He had no living children. He had one girl, but she had died at childbirth.
Some children were playing in the snow across the street and Leo grunted in disapproval. They were throwing snowballs and laughing. He knew how that would end. Someone would get hit and cry and then the day would be miserable. He stood up and walked into his kitchen.
It was about five o’clock in the evening, and he was ready to go for a walk. He put on his heavy grey jacket and his big black boots and stepped into the white world. The cold rushed against his face forcing a smile to spread across his face. He loved the cold, and this was the coldest winter the small town of Swelaverg had had in a long, long time.
He shuffled through the snow heading for the forest on the outskirts of town. When he reached the forest, he turned down a familiar path heading into the heart of the woods. He used to walk this path with his wife every day. She died, and he still walked there. A bird flew in front of Leo, whistling a jolly tune and he watched it fly into a tree and rest upon a branch.
As he was watching the bird, he had not noticed a patch of ice. His feet slid out from under him, and he landed on his back, his head hitting the ice. Pain flashed through his head; blackness swarmed his eyes until it finally pulled him into its depths.
He was woken by something stabbing his cheek, gentle yet urgent. He opened his eyes to see a being with brown curly hair and green eyes, about 30 cm tall. Leo sat up and the thing stepped away from him. Pain sliced through his head, but he managed to stay sitting up. He stared at the being realizing it was an elf. No, it was not an elf, elves were not real. Leo rubbed his eyes. The elf stared at him with his wide green eyes, his curly hair bouncing in the breeze. It had to be an elf. “Hello” the elf said, his voice was high and joyful, happy. Leo just stared at him. “My name is Calen” the elf said. “I saw you lying on the ground, so I came over and poked at your cheek. Then you woke up!”
Calen seemed proud of himself.
“What are you?” Leo managed to ask.
“I’m an elf of course!” Calen huffed suddenly angry. “Haven’t you ever seen one before?”
Leo shook his head. Calen stared at him, a mixture of pity and surprise.
“Anyway, you’re probably cold, let’s go home.”
Leo was cold but he did not want the elf to come.
“Home?” he asked. “My home?”
“Yes, your home where else?,” Calen said. “Come on now stand up, let us go.”
It was dark, and the sun was gone yet flakes were still falling, very slowly. Leo stood up, (not knowing what else to do) and almost fell over but managed to stay up. The elf ran over to Leo and climbed up his leg, ran up his back and sat on his shoulders.
Calen was exceptionally light, even for his size. Slowly Leo stumbled home, step after step. Eventually, he got to his house. As soon as he opened the door Calen leaped off his shoulder and ran to the kitchen. Leo, whose head was throbbing violently, did not object, and sunk into his chair in front of the window and fell asleep. Leo opened his eyes to see crisp morning light stream from a clear blue sky. The scent of fresh cookies hit his nose.
“Good morning!” Calen’s voice surprised him, and he jumped.
Calen was standing with a large mug full of coffee. A being that big should not even be able to carry half of that. Calen put the coffee down on the side table and darted into the kitchen. He came back within 10 seconds carrying a plate with pancakes, syrup and three cookies.
“I made your breakfast,” he announced.
Leo took the plate from him and examined it.
“Where did the cookies come from?” he asked.
“I made them as soon as you fell asleep,” Calen answered.
Leo raised his eyebrows.
“I didn’t give you permission to cook things in my kitchen,” he said a little harsher than he had intended.
“Well, I did. I also saved you. So, you’re welcome!” Calen exclaimed.
Then he dashed off back into the kitchen.
Leo looked down at his plate feeling quite guilty. He took a bite of the pancakes and was surprised as the pancakes had such a very pleasant flavor, one that Leo could not put his finger on. He finished eating rapidly and went into the kitchen. Calen was stirring a large bowl with a wooden spoon muttering to himself. Leo cleared his throat.
“Breakfast was delicious,” he said.
The elf looked at him, a pleased expression spread across his face.
“I’m glad you think so, I’m making a cake and more cookies for the party tonight.”
“What party?” Leo asked, finding himself a bit afraid.
“All my elf brothers are coming here to meet you,” Calen said.
“There are more of you?” Leo asked.
“Of course. There are thousands. We live in the north pole. Only my four brothers are coming though,” Calen said and stopped stirring. “We don’t help Santa. The red and green elves do. I’m wearing blue.”
He motioned to his blue jacket and puffy blue pants. His jacket had white fluffy cuffs, and a fluffy white collar. He had gold buttons going down the front and dark blue and white patterns on his pants.
“I’m sent to different counties to help people. You were one of the people who were on the list. It said ‘struggling with happiness’.”
Calen continued stirring.
Leo thought about struggling with happiness. ‘All happiness brought was pain and suffering. Nothing else,’ he thought. He was about to say that, but Calen spoke first.
“I invited my brothers. They are fun and have many talents. I thought you would enjoy it.”
Calen looked slightly embarrassed. Leo took a deep breath. All this was crazy and should not be real. Yet again an elf was sitting in front of him baking a cake.
“It’s alright,” Leo forced out. “I probably need something like that.”
“Do you need some help?” asked Leo.
“Sure, if you want to help. We need to mix up some eggs, milk and cream” Calen said.
Leo looked about the kitchen. There was no cookbook anywhere.
“It’s all up here” Calen said tapping his temple. “I specialize in cooking.”
Leo spent the rest of the afternoon baking and cooking with Calen, talking easily to the little elf, finding conversation everywhere. Calen was a very talkative elf and asked a lot of questions, telling him a lot about his personal life. He even told Leo how his mother died. A tragic story really, his mother was stepped on by a reindeer.
Later that evening Leo was sitting listing to one of Calen’s stories when four elves alike came tumbling down the chimney. The elves came out of the fireplace and stood in a line.
“Hello, I’m Dasher,” said the tallest elf. “This is Claus, Preston, and Noel.”
He motioned to each elf in turn. They all looked remarkably similar with slight differences.
Calen nodded at them.
“We must regroup in the kitchen,” he told Leo.
Then they all rolled away to the kitchen and shut the door. When the door opened again Dasher came out, no elf followed but the door shut behind him.
“My talent is carving,” he said as he took a wood block and a knife out of his pocket. “What would delight you?”
Leo stared at him. Make him something? He remembered something his wife told him. She had said to grab something from somewhere if you wanted to remember something special. And so, Leo said “an elf. So, I will always remember this visit.”
Dasher nodded at him looking pleased.
“I will be back,” Dasher said and ran back into the kitchen to be replaced by Noel and Preston.
“My talent is singing,” Noel said. “Preston’s is violin, since he is speechless, he will be playing with my voice. What song pleases you?”
Leo did not need to think long. His wife’s favourite Christmas song was Carol of the bells.
The elf started singing and Leo sat there without moving, feeling that if he did, he would wake from a dream. The voice was so clear and like nothing Leo could describe and the violin matching it perfectly. When Noel and Preston finished Leo stood and applauded. Noel bowed, Preston blushed, and they bounced off into the kitchen. Claus was standing there before Leo could sit down. He was holding a book.
“My talent is writing. I wrote you a book a while ago. It’s about the five elves that visited a lonely man on Windabarg street,” said Claus who carried the book and climbed up the chair putting the book in his lap.
“Thank you,” Leo said picking up the book.
Then Dasher entered the room with a carving of an elf. It was incredibly detailed and looked exactly like Calen.
Dasher displayed it on top of a coffee table in front of the couch Leo was occupying. Then all the elves gathered in front of Leo and sang. Leo found himself singing along with them. He found happiness in his heart. Joy. As the night faded the singing went on. Leo drifted to sleep and woke, finding the elves gone. He got up and wandered around his house, feeling disappointed that they were gone.
It had been a dream?
But when he got back to the living room there was the book and carving. Leo did not feel pain or suffering for the little beings he had thought of as friends in the few hours he had known them. Just happiness that he had met them and hoped they would return next Christmas.
And they did, every year until Leo said goodbye to this Earth and moved on with his beloved wife.