Monday, July 11, 2005

Ginger cookies!

Today I kept my promise to Cupid.

He has gotten over his sore tooth, and I needed to run an errand in Moosonee, Canada, so I hitched him and the team.

He was so excited. He kept pawing the snow and snorting as we put on the traces.

But even more excited was Shulun, our dog.

Shulun loves to ride in the sleigh. When he realized that he was going to ride, he ran back and forth, yapping happily.

Mathom, our cat, was not as happy. She hid under the bed. It took three elves and Mrs. Claus to get her out and into the carrier. The elves had to visit the infirmary afterwards!

Mathom does not like to fly, because it almost always means a visit to the vet.

That was precisely my errand for that day. Both animals needed their annual physicals and Shulun needed his rabies shot.

When the team was ready, I opened the door. Shulun ran out and jumped up to the seat next to mine. His tail wagged furiously.

“Ho, ho,” I said. “It’s a ride you want, eh?”

He wagged so hard his body shook

I carried out Mathom in the carrier, and put her on the back seat, surrounding her with blankets to help keep the wind off her.

I didn’t worry about her getting cold. Part of the magic of the sleigh is that anyone or anything in it stays relatively warm.

But despite my obvious care for her and my soothing words, she just glared at me.

I climbed aboard, picked up the reigns, and called out, “Dash away all!”

We rose up, up, up, until we were above the clouds. I always try to fly high to avoid being seen. We go so fast that people can’t see us clearly, but we often get mistaken for UFOs! And there have been a few times I’ve had to outrun American and Russian jets after I got caught on radar! (The elves have developed a new stealth technology, so that hasn’t happened in a few years. But I don’t want to take a chance.)

Shulun sat on the edge of the seat, sticking his head out into the wind. He laughed in the way only dogs can – even as icicles formed under his chin.

In the blink of an eye we were in Moosonee. I landed in a sheltered field behind the homestead of Zbigniew Ting. He’s one of the bush pilots who flies mail and supplies to the North Pole.

Years ago, Zbigniew arranged for the town veterinarian in Moosonee to see our pets. The vets at the North Pole are experts when it comes to flying reindeer, the North Polar Bear, and other enchanted animals, but not common dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skunks and aardvarks.

I put the reindeer in the shed Zbigniew had built on the field for them. As always, grain and hay were waiting.

I then walked to the house with the cat carrier. Shulun ran around us in circles. I knocked on the door.

Zbigniew’s wife, Annie, opened door and burst out laughing.

“Mr. Claus,” she said, “I am thinking you have come my husband not knowing.”

It took me a moment to figure out what she meant. Then I asked, “He’s not here today?”

“Flying fisherman he is. Now, coming in you are?”

“No, not now,” I said. “I have appointments for Mathom and Shulun.”

She reached in her apron pocket and bought out some keys. She gave them to me.

A few minutes later we were bumping along the uneven roads leading into town in their four-wheel drive truck. An hour later we were bouncing back along the roads.

We reached the Ting homestead. I parked the truck, and approached the house to return the keys. The smell of something delicious surrounded the house.

Before I could knock, Annie opened the door.

“Excuses now none,” she said. Before I could say “My wife is waiting,” I was seated at a table, a steaming cup of tea in front of me, and a plate of still warm ginger cookies next to it.

Mathom, meanwhile, was out of the cage and next to the fireplace lapping milk.

And Shulun was noisily chewing a bone.

Now Mrs. Claus is a fine baker. I love her cookies more than almost anyone else’s. But even she had to admit that Mrs. Ting’s ginger cookies can’t be surpassed.

I had to “suffer” my way through a second cup and more cookies.

Finally, I pushed away from the table.

“Annie Ting,” I said, “I don’t know whether you or your husband is my best friend, but right now, my stomach votes for you.”

She laughed, then handed me a bag full of cookies.

“Counted them, I did,” she said. “No nibble until you share these with Mrs.”

I promised.

Mathom did not fight when I put her back into the carrier. Maybe the elves just go about it wrong. Or maybe it was that warm milk. I swear she even purred.

Shulun was out the door and gone in a flash to the sleigh. He was sitting in the front seat, tail wagging as he waited.

We took off and circled the house. I waved to Mrs. Ting, who waved back. Shulun barked.

Then it was back home.

When I entered our house, I didn’t have to say a word. Mrs. Claus sniffed and said excitedly, “Ting ginger cookies!”

She just had to have a few right then.

I had a few, too.

So she didn’t have to eat alone, of course.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


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