Friday, December 11, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday: The Missing Snow

First, yes, I noticed I missed my Wednesday post. It happens. Moving right along...

I turned this week to an internet random title generator, and when I saw this one, I knew I had to write it, with one eye on the Paris talks. My first shot was looking far too grim, when I thought of the person who might most be in trouble if the snow all goes away. In 995 words, with tongue firmly in cheek, I present:

The Missing Snow

The workshop seethed with controlled chaos as the deadline loomed. No one had so much as stuck a nose out the door for days, with elves running in every direction at once. (Some elves possessed this ability to a greater extent than others. Hark could run in four directions at once, and rumor had it that the Big Boss could manage hundreds.) Elfira wasn’t very good at multi-dimensional haste, but she was very good at bows. She had been tying 2.7 bows per minute for the last five days, each one as perfect as the one before.

“Blast!” A cramp in her hand had caused her 19,441st bow to droop to the left.

“Take a break,” Jingle advised.

“I’ve only been working five days,” Elfira demurred. “Look at Hark. He’s still going strong, and he’s been working in four places at once for a week.”

“If he tried to tie a bow, it would be a square knot,” Jingle said. “Bows are tiring. Go outside and throw a snowball at Rudolf.”

“Jingle! That would be so wicked!” Elfira was horrified, but Jingle laughed.

“So throw a snowball at a snowbank. Snowballs are good for bow-tying cramps.” Jingle shook his bells at her and laughed some more.

Maybe a quick romp in the snow would be good for her, Elfira thought. She put down her bow-tying materials and stood up. “I’ll be back in 13.5 bows.”

It wasn’t easy to get to the door. With so many elves, many of them in several places at once, it took a lot of dodging and diving and then some hunting about to find the door behind a ten-foot-tall pile of packages. When she finally got there, Elfira heaved a sigh of relief, flung open the portal—and halted, appalled.

“The snow! The snow is gone!”

“Impossible,” said the Big Boss, striding across the room. “There is always snow at the North Pole. Especially at my North Pole,” he added in a voice only Elfira heard, as the well-padded belly and white beard came to an abrupt halt next to her, looking out at bare rock and mud.* “Well I’ll be a reindeer’s hind end,” Nick muttered. “The snow’s gone missing.”

“That’s what I said,” Elfira told him, then clapped her hand over her mouth. She oughtn’t talk like that to the Big Boss! Nick didn’t seem to care, or maybe to notice.

“This is serious, very serious.” He tugged at his waist-length white beard. “No snow, no sleigh.”

“But your sleigh flies, doesn’t it, Boss?”

Nick looked at her as though seeing the elf for the first time. “Yes, it does. But the reindeer can’t get airborne without a good run-up to launching. That’s why we always stop on the rooftops.”

“Oh, dear.” Elfira didn’t think that was a very helpful response, but she couldn’t find a better.

“Deer, reindeer. It’s all the same, missy. That sleigh isn’t the most aerodynamic thing on earth, you know.” By now half the elves were crowded around, craning their necks to get a look at the muddy dooryard.

Jingle pushed his way through to stand next to Elfira. “Who could have taken the snow, Boss? Who would want to keep you from flying?”

Nick’s laugh lacked any merry ring. “No one stole the snow, Jingle.”

“Then where’d it go?”

“It melted.” A gasp propagated through the crowd.

“But what will we do, Boss?” Hark called from four sides. “Can you make the snow come back?”

“No one can do that.”

“Then,” Elfira said, “we have to find a way to get the sleigh in the air without snow.”

“And when we do we’ll need all those presents ready to go,” Nick boomed. “Don’t any of you worry!”

Reluctantly, the elves went back to their gift making, gift wrapping, sorting, stacking, and piling. Nick touched Elfira’s shoulder as she went to resume her place at the bow-tying station. “Think hard, missy. Think hard.”

Elfira thought hard. She thought while she formed big loops on the left. She thought while she wrapped the ribbon around itself. She thought while she pushed it through and made a big loop on the right.

And after another 38.9 bows, she finally thought of the answer. “Oh!” She said aloud, but not very loud.

“Oh, what?” Jingle asked.

“I know how to get the sleigh in the air.” She finished the bow, put down her materials once again, and went to find Nick.
It was nearly midnight on the 24th, and Elfira watched as the last packages where loaded into the sleigh. The reindeer were comfortable now that they wore their familiar harness, but they hadn’t liked getting there at all. Elfira and Jingle had needed to offer Rudolf some serious bribes before he led the way from the stables to where the elves had parked the sleigh. Now Nick climbed the ladder, picked his way across to the sleigh, and sat down with a sigh of relief.

“I knew I should have put a chimney on this place,” he said. When the elves looked confused, he laughed. “That’s how I get in and out of houses, you know. Up and down chimneys. Easy as pie, and no falling off ladders into the mud.” He brushed at a smear on his lovely white fur trim.  “Good enough.”

Nick took up the reins and called out a perfunctory “On Dasher, on Dancer, and all the rest of you hoofers!” The reindeer began to run, and the sleigh to slide down the roof. Just as it tipped off the edge, the reindeer caught the wind properly, and they were off, soaring into the night sky.


*Fortunately for the entire operation, the Big Boss long ago set up his own version of the North Pole, which, unlike the actual Terran North Pole, is not floating on sea ice. Had he not done so, the entire holiday enterprise would have been at the bottom of the Arctic Sea.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015


  1. Lovely! I can see the years of telling stories to five year-olds in that. The elves are wonderful.

    1. Tee hee. I liked the idea of at least some elves being able to run in every direction at once...just came to me when I wrote that line and looked at what it actually said.

      Sort of a nod to the Xmas stories we used to read every year that came out of Saturday Evening Post and such.

  2. There were exactly two years with five-year olds in the Douglass-Dempsey household. (And if memory serves, I think that Dempsey did much of the reading and most of the ad hoc story inventing--notably the series about Brian (Brontosaurus) and Rex (T-Rex), the young dinosaurs growing up in suburbia, usually told in tents on camping trips.) I think this sly, knowing, and well crafted "Missing Snow" story reflects years and years of reading stories written for kids and young adults, years of practice honing her craft, and having a husband who teaches a class on climate change. :-)

    The ability of elves (and Santa) to travel in all directions at once explains part of the logistical mystery surrounding how Santa's operation could prepare so many gifts and reach so many people in so little time. It's cleverly consistent with the fact that from the North Pole, there are an infinite number of directions in which one could choose to travel--all of them south. Other mysteries remain, though. Guess I'll have to wait until next year to hear another one exposed!


We want to hear from you! Tell us your reactions, or whatever's on your mind.