Chuck has decided to do a 200 word story that you work in a serial form with others for the next five weeks.  I want to do Christmas or at least seasonal themed stories on my blog at this time, so I’ll pick up some of the ideas I parked earlier and visit some favourite characters too. They’ll be around 1000 words as normal.

This is one of those first lines that I liked last week.  It’s a good date for it!

The Scottish Connection

“Shetland ponies,” he grumbled, shaking his head. “Why do they always turn into Shetland ponies?”

“You must be doing something wrong.”

“Well, that’s a great insight!  I think I might have worked that out on my own, given time and a drop of malt.”

Nicholas sighed.  Andrew was getting very tetchy.  At this time of year the pressure was on, and Andrew’s festival came first.

“That Aurora woman, it’s all her fault.  Pumpkins into carriages, rats into white horses, mice into footmen – blooming show-off if you ask me.”

“Yes, yes,” Nicholas soothed, “but they don’t last long.  Can’t sustain them past midnight, from what I’ve heard.”

“How long do you use your reindeer for?”

“Well, I’ll start next week, and be finished by dawn on the 25th, but we make sure nothing is seen till midnight on the 24th.”

“Is that using the advance scheduler?”

“Yes, that’s right.  Put everything down the relevant chimneys, or flue pipes or even up drains in some places, it’s the only way in.  Then come midnight on the 24th – poof, they all turn up in the stockings or under the tree or whatever custom the family uses.”

Andrew sucked on the wart on his thumb. “I’m just trying to get round my followers, a special heart-warming message, whether they’re still in the auld country or not.”

“A worldwide trek, then.”

“Yes, New Zealand first of course, although since the ‘quake ruined Christchurch it’s been pretty tough there.  I think they’d rather have their homes and families back than a drop of traditional cheer from me.”

Nicholas sighed.  It didn’t matter how hard the Saints & Sinners worked, they couldn’t make up for the things the planet did to itself.  Or the things the people did to themselves, but they weren’t so fussed about that. Self-determination, Plato called it.

“It’s going to be tough doing the Philippines this year.  Do you have many stops there?”  Nicholas asked.

“Philippines, no, I don’t think so.  A few in Singapore, some in India, some workers on some Pacific gas platforms.  Fair number of ports around the African coast, then hightail it up to the British Isles, find all the expats in London and Norfolk, then up to the Borders and away we go!”  Andrew grinned as he thought of the welcome he’d receive once he finally made it into Scotland.

“How do you do Canada?”

“Well, I was hoping this lot would have learned how to do it on their own by then,” Andrew gazed at the ponies again.

“Do the Scots really take a lot of notice these days, though?”

“Oh, more than you think.  Since they’ve been promised this referendum thingee, there’s been a huge rise in interest in history and tradition.  A patron saint is fashionable again.  It’s not just the flag – most of them even know my name!”

Nicholas sighed.  Having your name known would be nice.  The Swedes and the Germans kept his name going, paid proper respect, but the rest… well, some just called him Santa, some forgot he had a name at all.  “Father Christmas” was all they knew of him. Or, even worse, “Kriss Kringle”.  Still, they knew of him, he supposed.  He suspected Andrew over-estimated his following.  Being kind-natured, he said nothing, but returned to the problem of his transformation of six white mice, since the ponies had resumed their normal form.

“What’s wrong with Shetland ponies, anyway?  Won’t they do?”

“Och, they’re good chaps, right enough, but they’ve only got little legs and they’ve got a deal of work to do in a short time.  I think Highlands would be better, if it has to be horses, but I think you’ve got the right idea with reindeer.  That’s what I was trying for.  Elk, if not.”

“Hmm,” said Nicholas.  “Let me try.”

He stepped forward, sprinkled some dust out of his pocket down the line of mice, shut his eyes and concentrated.  Four seconds later, he opened them and observed six graceful reindeer standing there, watching him with beady eyes.

“How did you do that?” complained Andrew.

“Just practice, I suppose.  Centuries of practice.”

“I’ve been doing it longer than you!”

“Well, yes and no.  You’ve been patron longer, that’s for sure, but this visiting and presents lark hasn’t been going on that long.  I think I started that fashion.”

Andrew glared at him.  Nicholas was right.  Andrew had only started his grand tour fifteen years ago, once there was a glimmer of hope that Scotland might need him again.  He thought it wise to make his presence felt.  Raise his profile, so to speak.  It had worked – his flag had increased in prominence and more families had a little celebration on November 30th than ever before.  He couldn’t let them down.  Not now, with the big vote scheduled for next September.

Nicholas blinked a couple of times, and six white mice spat out the moss they’d been nibbling.

“Try again,” he said.

“Maybe I’ll give them a break,” said Andrew, handing out some small pieces of cheese, which were gratefully accepted by the mice.  “Want some?” he added, offering some crumbs to Nicholas.

“Only if you’ve got a nice Merlot to go with it,” he said.

Andrew sighed.  “I’ve given up wine, other than an occasional wee dram.  I’m trying to set an example,” he added.  “I’ve a nice elderflower cordial, not too sweet, if you’d like to try it?”

“No, thanks. Well, I think I’ll leave you to it.  They obviously will change; it’s not their inability.  Maybe they’ll realise when you next try, now they’ve done it for me.”

“Aye, maybe.” Andrew was far from convinced.  He helped Nicholas into his red coat and waved him goodbye.  The sleigh rose into the air, drawn by eight reindeer.  Andrew turned back to his mice.

“You see?  That’s all you have to do.  It’ll be fun, trust me.  And much easier if you’re reindeer than Shetland ponies.”

Twelve pink eyes looked back at him, noses crinkling as they finished their cheese.  Andrew sighed, took up his stance, closed his eyes and concentrated very hard on reindeer.

“Shetland ponies,” he cried, shaking his head. “Why do you always turn into Shetland ponies?”

They’d just have to do.  It was time to leave.  At least they could fly, he thought, as they leapt into the air, and turned east, picking up the Great Circle route down to New Zealand.  They’d be there just in time.

(c) J M Pett 2013

Happy St. Andrew’s Day!

Friday Flash Fiction: The Scottish Connection
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