If I haven’t said it thirty thousand times already in this space, let me say it now: I hate the cold. (I also hate the heat. I’m an equal-opportunity hater of extreme weather.) However, for some inexplicable reason, this season, as chilly as it’s been in northern California (and it has been chilly!), I’ve been happily productive on my languishing WIP. It’s like the cold cleared out my brain or reset my creative thermostat, or something. I sit down every day and do something good on that manuscript. It really is a holiday miracle.
Consequently, I used today’s solid productivity gains as a warm-up for tomorrow’s Writing Sprint challenge that Elizabeth always posts on Fridays. She gave the Ladies the words in advance this year in case we wanted to get a head start on our holiday entries, and—although I’m jumping the gun by a day—if I don’t post this story today, I won’t be able to post it for another two weeks, by which time we’ll be into the new year and it will be too late.
That just seems wrong. So here’s my holiday story. Think of it as a sneak peak, and see if you can guess which words Elizabeth will post tomorrow for her writing sprint.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived in a cabin deep in the forest a beautiful young woman named Blossom with her elderly father, the woodsman. In the winter the cabin was all but buried in snow, with icicles as long as your arm dripping from the eaves. In the spring, though, the icicles collapsed under the warmth of the sun and Blossom could walk through the trees on a carpet of flowers as bright as her name.
Blossom was happy there, living with her father, but the woodsman had one regret: his life and work in the forest kept them so far from town that his daughter’s intelligence and beauty went unknown to the world. After he was gone, to whom could she turn?
One cold evening just before Christmas, when she snuggled against him before the fire, he resolved to change her destiny.
“I stand before you with unmasked face,” he whispered. Of course, he wasn’t standing, he was sitting before the fire, the sleeping Blossom heavy on his arm. But no doubt the spirits would hear the words as a metaphor. Standing, sitting, what’s the dif, right? Might as well just go on, hope for the best.
“With humble heart my soul efface,
“And mortal wants this day displace.
“Oh, hear me, gods, and grant my case.”
No sooner were the words out of his mouth, than a spark popped out of the fireplace and landed on the heavy rag rug. As it landed, the fiery spark turned into a short, ugly, naked troll with a long beard and bushy eyebrows. It sneezed.
“Crap,” said the troll, wiping his nose on his beard. “Again.”
“Ah, hello,” said the woodsman. “I was expecting—”
“Someone taller,” the troll suggested, scratching himself. “With wings. And a harp. And a glow. Like that.”
“Well, yes,” said the woodsman.
The troll rolled his eyes and helped himself to an apple from the table.
“That’s who they send when they’re trying to impress you enough to sign on the dotted line,” he said, taking a huge bite of the apple. “I’m who you get when you don’t stand up to ask for the wish. So. Whatcha want? I don’t got all day.”
“Well,” said the woodsman. Could this troll really grant his wish? What if his beautiful daughter turned into a troll? He’d never forgive himself.
“Something with the kid, right?” said the troll. “It’s always about the kids. Kids or money.”
“Yes,” the woodsman said. “My time upon this earth is short, and my daughter will be alone in the world. I want her to be secure, to be happy. I want to know that she’ll be safe.”
“Okay,” the troll said. “I’ll marry her.”
“That isn’t what I had in mind!” the woodsman said, alarmed. Not the troll! Anyone but the troll!
“That’s what you asked for,” the troll said. “Take it or leave it.”
The woodsman wanted to wish the troll to perdition, but he had contracted for only one wish, and what choice did he have? He could not bear the thought of abandoning his daughter, leaving her alone in the world, after he was gone.
“Very well,” he said. The troll nodded and grabbed a second apple.
“Be seein’ ya,” he said. And as quickly as he’d arrived, he was gone.
In a short time, the woodsman chopped his last tree, and his daughter mourned his passing. One day as she sat by the stream weeping, a beautiful young man on a glorious black steed rode through the wood. Or perhaps it was a glorious young man on a beautiful black steed. Either way, the manly vision seemed almost like a fantasy to Blossom.
“Hello!” she said on impulse. “Are you someone famous?”
The beautiful young man dismounted.
“Not yet,” he said. “I’m here to marry you, Blossom.”
No proposal had ever seemed more scandalous, and Blossom had had her share of scandalous proposals.
“Well, all right then,” she said.
And they lived happily ever after.