Thursday, July 07, 2005

Unexpected fireworks (part 2)

(Here’s the rest of the story about how the fireworks factory was destroyed.)

We went back to the top of the hill. The snow was swirling, making it hard to see below.

We started down the slope.

Elves were calling out all around me for the elves who’d been on the fire sleighs.

We came across one sleigh. It had been flipped over. I saw none of the elves who’d been on it.

“Hello,” I called out.

A mound of snow moved. An elf popped up his head.

“I think we’re too late,” he said.

I laughed as I helped him out. We found several other elves scattered about. They had been thrown by the blast. But except for a few scratches, and headaches, they were fine.

We continued to where the factory had stood. Here was a hole in the ice. It went down at least 30 feet.

“Will the ice break?” An elf asked.

“No,” I said. “It’s very thick here. Maybe at the bottom of the hole, but not up here.”

Elves were scurrying all around the rim of the hole, searching for signs of any elves who were hurt. Finally, Lefrast, the elf supervisor, came over to me.

“We were lucky,” he said. ”A few elves on the fire sleighs suffered some minor injuries, but no elf was seriously hurt. All the elves got out of the factory before it blew up. All elves have been accounted for.”

“But,” Nobli stammered, “has anyone seen the bear?”

The bear. Nobli had mentioned him when he burst into my office.

The bear. No other name was needed. We all referred to the North Polar Bear as “the bear.”

Now some of you may remember the North Polar Bear from the letters I wrote to the children of my dear friend J. R. R. Tolkien. That bear was the great-grandfather of our current North Polar Bear. But like his ancestor, our North Polar Bear is constantly getting into trouble.

“What happened?” I asked. “Where was he?”

“The bear came in to help,” Nobli said. “You know how much he likes sparklers.”

“About mid morning he went in to the dining hall for break. He had some marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. He wanted to make s’mores. I told him that he would have to settle for just the ingredients because we allow no heat or cooking in the factory. The fireworks, you know.”
“Of course,” I said.

“Well, when break was over, we all went back to work. But then the fire alarm went off. I checked the panel and it said the fire was in the dining hall.

“I ordered everyone to get out of the building and to close the fire doors. Then I went to the cafeteria.

That bear had started a fire to make his s’mores. Right on a table! He had turned off the sprinklers so that his fire wouldn’t get put out. The flames had risen up and caught the ceiling on fire. I told him to get out, and looked around for a fire extinguisher. But then I saw that the flames were spreading too quickly, so I..”

He stopped.

I waited, then gently told him, “Go on.”

He wrapped his arms around me (as far as they would reach, anyway!) and sobbed.

“Oh, Santa. I ran. I didn’t save him. I’m a coward.”

“Nonsense. You got everyone out of the building. You warned the bear. There was nothing more you could do. I think you behaved very bravely.”

I gave him my handkerchief and he loudly blew his nose. He gradually stopped crying. Then he asked, “But what about the bear?”

Yes. The bear.

Search teams continued working until it got too dark – considering how short the days are in November that was not long. The snow continued to pour down. Ten inches since morning, and more on the way.

“All right,” I said. “That’s all we can do in this weather and in the dark. We’ll look again in the morning.”

We all trudged back to the village by lantern light. No one said anything. We were all thinking about the Polar Bear. Even if he did cause the problem, no one
wanted anything to happen to him.

All work had ended because of the explosion, so I went home. Mrs. Claus and I had a quiet dinner. We read for a while, then we went to bed.

I had a hard time getting to sleep. I kept thinking of the bear.

That’s when I smelled something.

Something smoky.

Now I knew I had put all my dirty clothes in the laundry room when I got home, so that wasn’t it. And I had taken a shower, so the smell wasn’t coming from me.

I sniffed.

“What is it?” Mrs. Claus asked.

“I smell smoke.”

“Oh, no,” she said. “Not another fire.”

“No, I don’t think so,”

I got out of bed and sniffed around the room. The smell got stronger as I neared the closet.

I suddenly remembered back to when he was a cub. Whenever the North Polar Bear got scared – or did something wrong – he would hide in the back of our big walk-in closet.

I opened the door and said softly, but firmly,” Come out.”

Some of my spare red suits and some of Mrs.’ Claus’ dresses shook.

“Don’t keep me waiting,” I said.

The bear peeked out from between the clothes. Then he slowly came out, his head hung low.

He was in pitiful shape. Most of his white hair had been singed off, so he was a mix of black from smoke and soot, and pink from skin showing through bald spots.

“I don’t know how you got out, but you are one lucky bear,” I said.

Tears rolled down his sooty cheeks, leaving streaks.

“But I’m glad to see you,” I added, gently patting his head.
He looked at me with a mixture of relief and guilt.

“Come on,” I said. “Let’s go see the vet.”

He was fine in a couple of days, though quite bald over much of his body. He had to wear a coat to go outside most of that winter. The hair didn’t grow back until almost spring.

And that’s how the fireworks factory blew up, and why we are building a new one.

I’ve already left one special instruction for the new factory. On the front door there will be a sign saying: NO BEARS ALLOWED.

2 Comments:

At 6:32 PM, Blogger Amon said...

Well done on a nice blog Lee Strong. I was searching for information on Christmas party Ideas and came across your post Unexpected fireworks (part 2) - not quite what I was looking for related to Christmas party Ideas but very nice all the same!

We're all getting ready for Christmas and I've just put the finishing touches to my new site specially for kids, or rather their parents and relatives. You can go there and get Santa to send a really nice personalized letter to a youngster. It's great fun! If you have a moment, perhaps you'd enjoy taking a look: Letter from Santa .

Well, a merry Christmas to you and yours!

 
At 12:46 PM, Blogger Amon said...

Well done on a nice blog Lee Strong. I was searching for information on Christmas gift ideas and came across your post Unexpected fireworks (part 2) - not quite what I was looking for related to Christmas gift ideas but very nice all the same!

We're all getting ready for Christmas and I've just put the finishing touches to my new site specially for kids, or rather their parents and relatives. You can go there and get Santa to send a really nice personalized letter to a youngster. It's great fun! If you have a moment, perhaps you'd enjoy taking a look: Letter from Santa .

Well, a merry Christmas to you and yours!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home