Gunda’s Favorite Thanksgiving

Berthina led Gunda and Astrid to the round hole that led to the attic. She and Gunda stopped and turned to see that Astrid did not follow but stopped with her back to them. Astrid stared into the living room and dining room , her expression sad. “What’s the matter?” Berthina asked.

“Do you realize this is the first Thanksgiving in this house without people?”

“Hmm,” Gunda said, “First Thanksgiving without all that racket, you mean?”

Berthina laughed and bumped Gunda. “I was kidding just to lighten the mood.”

Astrid sighed, turned around and led the two back into the hole. Though the entrance was round the passageway became rectangular and small so only one villager could pass at a time. Berthina followed Astrid and Gunda brought up the rear.

“I remember the last time we had a big Thanksgiving, the year before the accident,” Astrid said. “And I remember the holidays afterward. Nothing was the same. They were either quiet or in hot turmoil because of the loss.”

“I remember the last few years,” Berthina said as they came to a spiral staircase and began to climb, while the other two groaned. “Seeing Christina all alone sitting at that big table, it took all of us to bring her spirits up. She kept saying ‘it’s all right’, and then went to her room to work.”

“You two are such sourpusses,” Gunda said, “Instead think about what’s happening now.”

Astrid stopped and looked at Gunda from the top of the spiral staircase.

Berthina almost ran into Astrid.

“Christina is dating Ian. She is going to a Thanksgiving celebration with his family. We should be happy for her. And let’s not forget about Holly.”

“But what if Christina doesn’t get along with his family?” Berthina said.

“She will,” Gunda said. “I have faith. Next year she will invite his family and we will celebrate together. That reminds me of one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories – remember the Thanksgiving of 1912?”

Astrid smiled.

Berthina groaned.

Gunda continued. “Henrick Gundmunnson married Anna Knutson and his brother Eric married her sister Sarah the year before.”

“Why would you remember that Thanksgiving as one of the best?” Berthina asked in dismay.

“Because, Knude and Marit invited the Knutson family over for Thanksgiving.”

“But it was a big and loud,” Berthina said.

“Yes,” Gunda interrupted. “Families unite and they get bigger and – yes – louder. And what a contrast that was to the Thanksgivings of the past few years here?”

Berthina couldn’t answer.

Gunda looked back at the silent dining room and thought back to that wonderful Thanksgiving. The sounds of the family filled the house.  Laughter and greetings found their way up to the attic.

 

“Gunda!” Nils said, “We need these train cars painted. I hoped they would be done before the end of the night.”

Gunda snapped out of her trance when she heard eight-year-old Cora greet the in-laws, the Knutson’s to their festive home.

“I was just getting into the Thanksgiving spirit,” Gunda said.

“You know we always save the quieter tasks for when the in-laws visit so they won’t hear the tapping and pounding noises,” Nils said, “so let’s get going.”

“Oh Nils,” Gunda said in a huff, “you always kill the spirit – just like the sinking of the Titanic.” Gunda stopped abruptly and saw Nicholas and Astrid turn sharply to look at her after the unfeeling remark about the recent disaster. “I’m sorry, those poor dears.” Gunda said with her hands to her mouth. She turned back to Nils and put her hands on her hips “But you do, Nils, sometimes you do kill a joyous holiday like this.”

“Look, we are wasting time.”

“We could sometimes stop to enjoy moments like these.” Nicholas said to Nils. “It is the reason why we do what we do, to make people happy, to enjoy these happy moments.”

“I know,” Nils said, “but we also need these train cars painted to keep on schedule.”

“Oh, you and your schedule. You’re so…, Oh, I’m going for a walk,” Gunda said in exasperation.

“But these…”

“When I get back.”

“Need company?” Astrid asked.

“No,” Gunda said sharply and left the attic.  Gunda soon found her way to the top of a tall bookcase in the girl’s room. She leaned over the edge to get a better glimpse of the crowd around the house. She was startled when one of the Knutson boys ran into the room.

“Where are you,” Cora’s voice called from the hallway. When she got no answer she ran off down the hall. The boy giggled. Gunda slipped to hide behind some books but one of them  fell over with a loud snap.

“What was that?” The boy said. “It’s a mouse that came out of that hole up there.”

Gunda felt the book shelf shake and the boy grunted. When the boy started to climb up on the shelves, Gunda looked at the hole planning to make her dash to safety. When his hand grasped the top and his brown hair rose up, Gunda froze. Before his eyes reached the top of the bookcase, a stern voice came from the doorway.

“You’re not supposed to be in here, this is the girl’s room. And what are you doing on top of my bookshelf? You’re knocking over my National Geographics collection.

“Oh Cranky Cora, you’re such a busybody,” the boy said and climbed down.

“Out,” Cora said and pointed toward the door.

“What if I don’t want to?”

“I’ll tell your mother.”

When Gunda heard the boy leave she gave a loud sigh of relief. To her shock a hand rose over the bookshelf and grabbed her.

“Gunda, what are you doing out here,” Cora said and looked around.

“Oh my,” Gunda said, “you’ve given me such a fright.” She placed her hand on her heart. “I needed to take a walk from… Well, I…

“Yes.”

“I never had the opportunity to be this close during the Thanksgiving celebration before, and I…”, Gunda said to change the subject.

“You wish to join us for supper?”

“I would love to, but…”

“You can be in my dress pocket here.” Cora put Gunda in her left side pocket. Gunda stood up to peek out of Cora’s pocket.

“This will do nicely, that is if you your mother doesn’t mind.”

“She may or may not mind, but then, what is life without a little adventure.”

“We must keep…” Gunda stopped herself when she heard Cora’s mother, Marit and her son Eric, walk into the hallway next to the door. Cora backed into the room, but could still hear their conversation.

“Is there anything we could do for her to cheer her up, Eric?”

“I’m not sure. I thought Sarah would be happy the baby will arrive soon. She was so happy when we learned we were expecting, she literally glowed. She was so excited preparing for the nursery, the arrival. But now I don’t know why she is so sad.”

Gunda smiled. She understood why his wife would be so gloomy. To say that Sarah was “great with child” would be a gross understatement. And as Eric pointed out recently that, “Sarah is so big it’s a surprise she can walk without falling forward” – and in front of Sarah.

“You need to remind her that, despite her, shall we say temporarily large frame, that she is a beautiful woman,” Marit said.

“Well, she knows that. I’ve told her that since I first met her.”

“Have you told her recently?”

“I didn’t think I needed to.” The long pause gave Gunda the image of one of his mother’s stern looks at her inept son.

“Well, I guess I better.”

“Oh, there you are my boy,” a firm jolly voice spoke from the hallway.

“Oh, Mr. Knutson.”

“When are you going to drop this Mr. Knutson business and call me dad?”

“Oh sorry, I’m…”

“So tell me about this automobile I heard you have recently acquired.”

“Well, I’m not too sure I’m interested in keeping it…”

Eric’s voice drifted into the living room. Gunda looked over the pocket. Marit, Erik and Charles Knutson drifted over to Henrick and Anna, the newlyweds. Anna’s face beamed from the attention.  Sarah sat by herself, slumped back as her belly stuck up larger than her humongous father’s belly. Sarah’s face showed no delight towards the festivities around her.

“Cora, look over there,” Gunda said. “Let’s try to cheer Sarah up, shall we Cora?”

“She looks like she doesn’t want to be cheered up.”

“You know you always have the ability to cheer anyone up – let’s go.”

Cora smiled and walked towards Sarah. Gunda slip down and enjoyed the ride and sniffed the Thanksgiving turkey air. The living room Victrola played a scratchy version of “We Gather Together.” The Victrola horn could not keep up with the sounds of spirited conversations and younger children having trouble keeping themselves from shouting and being disciplined by older members of their families.

“Hello Sarah, I’m glad you are with us on this Thanksgiving Day.”

“Oh, hello, thank you.”

“You have much to be thankful for today.”

“Oh, like what?”

“Well, you’re very beautiful.”

Sarah gave a sarcastic chuckle and readjusted herself while giving a few grunts and groans.

“I know you worry people think you’re fat, but you’re not. It’s good that you will have a baby soon and that’s something to be thankful for.”

Sarah sighed. “Thanks kid, I know you’re trying to be helpful but…”

“You are always beautiful. You looked extra beautiful in your wedding dress last year, but the beauty you have will never go away, even if you’re – well – large right now. I know I’m not supposed to talk about women who are,” Cora lowered her voice, “expecting.” Cora regained her normal voice level. “Sarah, you are beautiful, you really are.”

“Thank you,” Sarah said, but her voice reflected no sincerity. “So, how’s your National Geographic, collection coming long?” Sarah said obviously trying to change the subject.

“Oh”, Cora said in delight, “this month’s issue is about a very interesting place…” Gunda interrupted Cora with a tug on her dress. “I mean, I have an issue about the wonders of Paris. One day I’m going there and you can come too. Paris is full of beautiful women and you would fit right in.”

“Oh, Cora, thank you. You’re very kind.” Cora moved closer to reach up and put her hands on Sarah’s face. “You really are very beautiful. You are as beautiful as my Great, Great, Grandmother, whose name was also Sarah. I guess all Sarahs are beautiful.” When Cora lowered her hands, Sarah reached and pulled Cora in a firm hug so that Gunda was pressed hard against the baby bump.

“Oh, Cora, you are so sweet. You are something. And I’m very thankful for you and…” The baby kicked back at Gunda. “Whoops.” Sarah pushed Cora away and rubbed the huge belly. “Something in your pocket is – oh.”

Gunda stood up and her eyes met Sarah’s.

“Hello – I’m not sure which one you are.” Sarah said with a confused expression.

“This is Gunda.”

“Oh – hello Gunda.”

“You remember, Nil’s wife,” Cora said to help Sarah remember.

“You mean crabby Nils,” Sarah said, then trailed off as she saw the expression on Gunda’s face glaring at Cora.

“Which I am sure is greatly exaggerated,” Sarah said in a quick attempt to correct herself

“Well, not today,” Gunda said. Sarah looked around to see that no one from her family observed their conversation.

“Gunda’s going to join us for Thanksgiving.”

“How? If my family finds out they’ll…

“Oh, I remember what happened to you when you first saw Nicholas and you…” Again Cora’s was interrupted with a sharp poke from Gunda.

Sarah laughed. “It was unfortunate that no one had  one of those new fangled Kodak cameras. I would have liked to have seen the spectacle from another angle and…”

“Cora,” Eric said as he approached, “you’re not getting Sarah overly exhausted are you? She needs her…”

“If you are here to say how beautiful Sarah is, it’s too late, we have already discussed the matter, a matter that you should have discussed earlier.”

“Now see here.” Eric said, “I’ve always known that Sarah is… What’s this?” Eric interrupted himself when his eyes met Gunda’s. “Does mother know that…”

“Oh Eric,” Sarah said and softly touched the back of Eric’s hand, “Gunda will be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner. I hope you not going to make a spectacle of yourself, and certainly not at Cora’s expense.”

“I, well, keep her hidden so…”

“Please, save your breath Eric, I’m not that stupid,” Cora said.

“Cora,” her mother called with her head out from the kitchen door.

“What?” Cora said with a jump.

“Help me bring some of these dishes out to the table.”

“Yes mother.” Cora rose from her chair.

“Maybe you could let Gunda help you with the dishes.” Eric said sarcastically.

“She certainly can do a better job of that then you can, dear brother.” Cora walked away. Gunda heard Sarah say, “She has become quite a young lady.”

“Yeah,” Eric said, “she seems to be getting too big for her britches.”

Before Gunda moved completely out of earshot, she heard a smacking sound and Eric said, “Ouch.”

The table was set. The family and guests did not wait for a second invitation as they all gathered around the table and sat down. Cora found herself at a smaller table filled with younger Knutson children.

“Before I say a prayer,” Knude said who stood up at the end of the table, “I would like to share my thoughts about family as we gather together on this joyous Thanksgiving Day. As children we all remember that special feeling of togetherness around the table and share with each other what we have to be thankful for.  I’m so glad that the Knutson family decided to accept our invitation and join us here today.” The Gudmundson family applauded. “And as our names show that we have the same forefathers who no doubt believed in the love and togetherness that binds our families together.”

“I firmly believe, as my dear friend Charles here,” Knude said and gestured towards Sarah’s father, “that family is important. Families bind us together and keep us happy and healthy. And even though last year we welcomed new people into our family, and give many thanks for this, I also want to give thanks for new members who will join us next year,” Knude gestured towards Sarah. Everyone turned to look at Sarah and she smiled back as Eric reached to put his arm around her shoulder.

“So as we all gather here, I hope that we can enjoy this day in hopes it will bring out the best in us, despite the intense hunger we are now facing. Let us pray.”

Gunda looked over Cora’s pocket to see the large gathering in the dining room. They all closed their eyes and lowered their heads when Knude gave the Thanksgiving Day prayer. Gunda knew she had plenty to be thankful for – to be a part of the humans Thanksgiving Day gathering. Though Nils and possibly others in the attic would not thoroughly appreciate the scene Gunda gazed upon. She smiled, knowing there would be many more Thanksgiving gatherings in this house.

The prayer ended, the guests talked, and passed the many dishes to each other. Gunda scooted down to make sure she would not be seen, the sounds of family was enough for her.

“But having so many people, it was big and loud,” Berthina said, bringing Gunda out of her reminiscence.

“Yes,” Gunda sputtered. “Families unite and they get bigger and – yes – louder. And what a contrast that was to the Thanksgivings of the past few years here with Christian alone – her mother and father gone, her only brother far way. Which Thanksgiving Day would you prefer?”

Berthina couldn’t answer.

“Hmm,” Astrid said, “We will invite the Thoen family next year. Good idea, Gunda.”  They continued up to the attic.

Gunda no longer felt depressed from the quiet darkened dining room. If the Thoen family was like Holly and Jake, Christina would have a happy Thanksgiving Day. And as Astrid said that will have to do for now.

“Astrid!” The villagers called as she came into view.

Astrid turned and looked down at Gunda. “Happy Thanksgiving.

“Happy Thanksgiving to you too Astrid, and to you, Berthina.”

Gunda smiled as Astrid walked into the attic and was surrounded by her family and friends. It truly was a happy Thanksgiving Day after all.

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Happy Post Halloween

Smiley Pumpkin Carving by ScottCarvings.com

Hope everyone had a scary Halloween. Kel and Uda came back from Holly’s Trick or Treat outing without a mishap. I wonder if this is the first.

Here are the two pumpkins I had Halloween night. The large pumpkin was carved by Russell Scott from Scottcarvings.com. Also, checkout his Pinterest site at: pinterest.com/rscott56.

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The Night of the Living Band Saw

Ten-year-old Kel saw Gunne and Hildi sitting on the small window sill watching the leafless branches outside sway in the cold October wind while the light of the full moon beamed in before the storm hit.

“Spooky out there, isn’t it?” Kel said to the two twelve-year-olds.

“Scram squirt,” Gunne said with a note of annoyance. “Or we’ll throw you out this window.”

“As if that’s going to scare us,” Kel said. “Besides, it’s not what’s outside that’s deadly it’s what’s inside that will hurt you.”

“What do you know about anything?” Hildi said and tossed her hair back in a gesture of dismissal.

“What’s so scary about this night?” Gunne said glancing at Kel.

“Well,” Kel said and climbed up on the windowsill to sit next to Gunne. Kel’s twin sister, Uda, followed and sat on Kel’s other side.

“It’s this very night that reminds me of a story, a true story of terror, horror and little girls screaming,” Kel replied. “Uda, I don’t think you should hear this.” He gave his sister a look of caution.

“I’m okay,” Uda said and shrugged. She bent her knees and wrapped her arms around them as if settling in.

“Okay, if you insist.” Kel gave a big sigh.

“Right,” Gunne said, “I’m going to regret listening to this.”

“You will be scared,” Kel said.

“No, I’ll be bored,” Gunne said. “Let’s get this over with so you two can run along and do whatever you do best – cause trouble.”

Kel frowned but continued. “Have you ever heard the true story of “The Night of the Living Band Saw?”

“What’s a band saw?” Hildi asked.

Kel opened his mouth to reply, but Gunne answered. “It’s a long strip of metal with sharp teeth on one side attached to a loop, the band, on two round discs and a motor that makes the band saw go around. I heard that Christina threatened to put you two on the band saw after one of your crazy adventures. ”

“Did not,” Uda said, rocking back and forth moving closer to Kel, her eyebrows disappeared into her hairline.

“Yeah, but did you ever see one?” Kel said tilting his upper body back and folding his arm to demonstrate superiority. “Did you ever see what it does to – wood?” Kel dropped his head on his last word and looked out of the upper part of his eyes as if speaking sinisterly.

“I don’t think I want to hear this,” Uda said, her voice uncharacteristically high and trembling.

Kel ignored Uda and went on. “It was a Saturday when Uda and I spent the night with Holly.” Kel stopped, turned to Uda and said, “you remember, the time I ran off and…”

“Okay, okay you ran off,” Hildi said, “that’s what you to do best. That doesn’t mean you saw the…”

“Yes I did, in Ian’s shop. He has one.”

“So what. A woodcarver needs tools to make carvings, big deal.” Gunne said.

“Yes but, you weren’t there. I heard the wood screech.”

“No, Kel,” Uda said and put her hands to her ears.

“The sawdust flew everywhere, sprayed everywhere. Ian had to wear an air mask so he won’t breathe in the innards of the wood. And he wore earplugs so he didn’t have to hear the wood screaming.”

“No,” Uda said, “stop!”

Kel turned to Uda and spoke in a spooky voice, “sawdust everywhere!”

“No,” Uda said sharply and ran off. Kel gave a low chuckle.

“What are you laughing at?” Gunne said to Hildi. “This means one pipsqueak gone and one more to go.”

Uda ran behind a wall, then doubled back. She peered around the corner to listen.

“As I said, it was the night much like this.” Kel said, gesturing at the dark trees blowing in the cold windy night. “This is the kind of night when the walking band saw comes to life.”

“How would a band saw…?” Gunne started but Hildi interrupted.

“Shhh,”she turned back to Kel.

“You really want to know how I know it’s true?” Kel said.

“That’s why I asked you little macaroni square,” Gunne said.

“Shhh,” Hildi said again.

“That day when I saw Ian murder innocent blocks of wood, and as I said, with sawdust all around, he collected the dead mangled pieces and placed them on a big pile of other dead mangled wooden corpses. But then, he carried a large bundle away while he let the saw continue its murderous hungry rotation. Ian accidentally got his foot caught on its long black evil tail and pulled the tip of the tail from the wall. The monstrous band saw stopped, as if Ian killed it. But without knowing what other dangers that murderer could get into, Ian put the tip of the monster’s tail back into the wall. That’s how Ian can control the beast, by pulling the tail out of the wall and letting the monstrous beast stay frozen in that same spot.”

“Okay, okay, tail on the floor, beast is dead…” Gunne started

“Not dead, just sleeping,” Kel interrupted. “And I know you’re going to ask how the creature can come back to life even if its tail is not connected to the wall. I will tell you. Did you ever consider how other animals in the house live?

“Other what? There are no animals in this house,” Gunne said.

“What about the ones with long black tales that are connected to the walls – those animals that are in the kitchen. Like the one with fire inside every time Christina puts in a fresh piece of bread it and it comes out burnt.”

“That’s because the house has…”

“Life’s energy,” Kel interrupted. “So if the tail is not touching the wall gets his power from someplace else.”

“What?” Hildi asked nervously.

Kel lifted his hand slowly and pointed out the window to the full moon. “As I said, it is a night much like this, when the full moon slips behind the clouds and lightning flashes across the sky and rain falls — buckets and buckets of rain. The man on the television said to pull all animals tails from the walls or monsters will come to life – by themselves.”

“No they don’t,” Gunne said, “that’s a weatherman telling everyone to pull plugs out from the wall so that if lightning strikes it will damage the appliance.”

“Then the lights go out,” Kel continued as if there were no interruptions. “And there are two children who did not listen to their parents and decided to explore by themselves into the night. And their names were Gunne and Hildi.

“No it was more like Kel and Uda,” Gunne said, “are you going to tell the story or not?”

“Oh, is not just a story, its fact. Now, where does the lightning come from you ask? You see the trees branches wave back and forth in the summer because the wind pushes the leaves, but when the leaves are gone how do the branches move when there are no leaves for the wind to push? Look,” Kel pointed out the window as lightning flashed across the sky, “The trees wave their branches on their own to summon the lightning.”

Thunder reached the house, “no, no,” Uda said, her hands to her ears. The three turned and looked at the wall where Uda stood. “It’s the living, walking band saw. It’s coming. It’s going to get me.”

“Shut up Uda,” Gunne said then turned back to Kel, “there’s no such thing as…”

“Oh, isn’t there,” Kel interrupted. His eyes widened. He leaned forward for emphasis.

“No!” Hildi said, “You’re scaring me.”

“No Hildi, we’re safe in here,” Gunne said.

“Don’t believe that Hildi, how else did the living band saw get into Ian’s house?”

All three turned to Uda when she gave out a loud gasp.

“But as for the trees,” Kel continued, “they know the walking band saw can get out. That’s why the trees wave their branches in fear. Just like tonight, the first full moon in October the trees dance. But they don’t know they are responsible for the lightning in the sky, the very life energy that brings monsters to life.”

“No, no Kel,” Uda said as she ran out next to Kel on the windowsill. “Stop or I’m telling mommy on you.”

“You’re scaring your sister,” Gunne said.

“I’m scared too,” Hildi said.

“Look Hildi, Gunne said, “We’ll go home to hide and the monster won’t find this.”

“Won’t find you? We saw a band saw in Ian’s house. The trees know that the monster can get out. In, then out, to feed on the leafless trees then back into feed on…” Kel pause to stare at them. Fortunately his last word became simultaneously truncated by a lightning flash as Kel lurched forward with his hands shaped as clause spitting out the word, “YOU!”

Uda and Hildi screamed. Gunne grabbed Hildi’s hand and they ran off. The thunder caught up with the lightning and Hildi screamed as they ran. Uda screamed along with Hildi, then turned to Kel and said. “So, how did I do?” She giggled.

“Great, next time add a little more on the whining, but for now you were great.” He laughed.

“Well, I suppose we should go home and get it over with,” Uda said.

“Yeah, even though it’s not our fault, as usual,” Kel said, “I mean, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“Yeah,” Uda said as they turned and walked, “except for the real living walking band saw.”

“Oh, of course,” Kel said, nodding his head.

 

 

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Kel and Uda’s First Halloween Out

Kel and Uda’s first Halloween out

     Ian made final touch-ups on the birdcage for the two young wood spirits dressed in canary suits who stood inside.
     “Really, Uncle Ian, you don’t have to put us in this cage,” Kel said imploringly.
     “Yeah,” Uda said, “nobody will want to steal us.”
     “You know darn well this cage is not to prevent you two from being kidnapped. Both of you know why you’re in here. It’s the only way Christina will let you go with Holly for ‘Trick-or-Treats’ tonight.”
     “We promise we’ll be good,” Uda said, peeking through her canary suit trying to put on the charms. “We could be in Holly’s bag and count the candy as it comes in.”
     “Absolutely not. I don’t want to get in trouble with Christina, like the last few times.”
     While twisting the strong wire to keep the door closed from the possibility of their escape, Ian remembered the discussions and preparations for this night. He was surprised that Christina would let these two go out on Halloween. It was Holly who mentioned at the dinner table a week ago that she wanted to take Kel and Uda out on Halloween. Christina choked on a swallow milk and Ian got up to pat her on the back to stop her from gagging.
     “Kel and Uda said they never got to go out for ‘Trick-or-Treats’ before,” Holly said.
     “There’s a good reason for that,” Christina said, wiping her mouth and catching her breath. “I’m surprised you’re not aware of that.”
     “But what if they promise,” Holly said woefully.
     Ian thought Christina’s negative glare at Holly would settle the matter, but it was Holly’s idea to come up with an elaborate plan to create a protective cage on a walking stick and dress Kel and Uda in canary costumes.
     “Leave me out of this,” Ian said, “I don’t want to get into trouble with Christina. She has a great deal of responsibility taking care of the villagers and I don’t want to interfere with that.”
     But Ian was impressed by Holly’s ingenuity and finally agreed to help her. While Holly sewed the canary suits by hand, Christina helped Holly sew up her witch’s outfit.  Ian created the cage by using clothes hangers and asked his brother, Jake, to have one of his welding friends shore up all the cross-links.
     “What’s wrong with the way the cage is now? Why weld the links together? Holly isn’t using real canaries, is she?  Or is she going to have a wild animal in there?” Jake asked as he laughed at all the precautions Ian was taking for a Halloween costume.
     “I don’t know,” Ian said absentmindedly rubbing his hand on his chin, “they do have the ability to…” Ian stopped when he looked into Jake’s surprised face. Jake was not aware of the living wood spirits that lived in Christina’s attic and roamed throughout the house. “It’s – just – that – Holly – Holly yes Holly wanted this cage welded. I asked her why but she wouldn’t tell me,” Ian lied. He thought Jake would not buy his lame answer, but Jake did as Ian asked.
     Two days before Halloween Holly ran upstairs to put on her completed witch outfit to show Christina.
     “What is she up to?” Christina asked Ian while she wrapped her arms around him. “You know you can’t keep secrets from me.”
     “Well, in this case, I don’t think you have a chance.”
     “We’ll see about that.” Christina kissed Ian long and hard. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her long and hard back hoping to distract her from asking any more questions.
     Holly’s steps and the thump of a stick coming down the stairs caused Christina to break away.          Ian grabbed Christina back to pull her in for a passionate kiss. But it was Holly’s voice that broke them apart.
     “Here I am,” Holly said holding the cage stick up on one hand and an open plastic pumpkin with the handle in the other.
     “Oh my, you look wonderful with that stick with the cage. And what is this?” Christina’s voice sounded puzzled. “How did she get those canaries to look so real?
     “It’s, well, like animatronics,” Holly said.
     “Yeah, we’re animal-tronics,” Kel said.
     “Kel and Uda?” Christina said her voice and facial expressions changed rapidly. Her eyebrows rose. “How? I thought that…” Christina said her voice grew cold.
     “I think I hear something in the kitchen.” Ian turned.
     “Wait right there,” Christina said and grabbed Ian’s hand to pull him along toward Holly. They looked into the cage. “This looks like your handiwork, Ian.”
     “But Christina,” Holly said.
     “But Christina,” Kel and Uda said in their sweetest voices slightly muffled by their costumes.
     “But Christina,” Ian said mimicking the three. Christina turned her head slowly, almost eerily to look at Ian as he began to stutter. “I, well, I thought, I meant just this once…” Ian looked at Holly, “I knew this would get me into trouble.”
     “Don’t blame her.” Christina said.
     The argument brought Nicholas and Astrid down to see what the commotion was about. After a few moments listening, Nicholas interrupted. “What’s going on?”
     “You stay out of this,” Christina said.
     “Christina!” Astrid barked.
     Christina took a deep breath and apologized.
     “If I may be allowed to put in my two cents worth,” Astrid said to Ian, “tell me about your plan and the construction of this cage.” After Ian finished explaining everything, he realized the fault in the plan. “Wait a minute, if they move around and people see them, will this provoke the magic on them.”
     “If Kel and Uda stay in their costumes, nobody will see them,” Holly said, bringing the cage up for Nicholas’ inspection.
     “I believe they are well hidden and we won’t have to worry about the magic,” Nicholas said looking into the cage with deep thought.
     “If they stay hidden?” Christina said and looked sharply at the two song birds suspiciously.
     “I have them sewn up tight, well, right now their costumes are held up by safety pins. I will sew their costumes up on Halloween night. And their arms are in padded wings. Show them that you can be convincing canaries,” Holly said and turned to Kel and Uda. The two flapped their wings and jumped up and down as they tweeted.
     Astrid put her hand up to her lips and chuckled, “Aren’t they adorable?” It took all of Ian’s strength not to laugh at the comical sight. His desire to laugh disappeared when he looked at Christina’s face.
     “I don’t want to be a canary,” Kel said, “I wanted to be a hawk.”
     “Yeah, I wanted to be an own,” Uda said.
     “But you’re too small to be a hawk or owl,” Holly said.
     The two argued with Holly about their choice of costume until Christina interrupted and turned towards Nicholas “What do Baldur and Berthina think about this?”
     “I’m sure mother and father won’t mind,” Kel said.
     “Oh, I’ll bet,” Christina sneered.
     “And daddy will walk with us to make sure nothing happens,” Holly said.
     “I thought you said you were old enough to go out on your own and did not want me to follow you around like a little baby,” Ian said.
     “Well, I changed my mind.”
     “And I’ll be on standby just in case anything goes wrong,” Nicholas said.
     Ian remembered that Nicholas was the only villager able to transport anywhere. Since Kel and Uda did not have that power, Ian thought that they wouldn’t be able to get out of the canary cage. He stepped toward the cage, “you hear that, if you do to get me in trouble you have to deal with me.”
     “Oh, and what would you do?” Christina asked sarcastically.
     Ian thought, crossed one arm and put the other finger up to his lips and said, “I’m not totally sure, but I believe it has something to do with “The Night of the Living Band Saw.” I may not know exactly where he hides during the day, but I think I would be able to call him out since it is Halloween night.” Ian pressed his hands hard on his lips to prevent himself from laughing when he saw the two sets of bulging eyes protrude from the canary suits.
     It was Halloween afternoon when Baldur and Vidor inspected the inside of the cage and declared that the links were welded strong enough that the two could not break out that Christina gave the ‘okay’. Berthina watched the two inspect the cage and said thoughtfully to herself, “putting Kel and Uda in this strong cage and sewing up their arms in padding. Now why didn’t I think of that?” Berthina turned towards Holly and asked, “Do you have plans for the cage and canary suits after Halloween?”
     “Let’s have a look at you now.” Ian said to Holly as he brought his new digital camera up to take her picture. “You two turn around and don’t look at the camera. Jake wants a picture.” After Ian took the picture, he inspected his camera thoroughly to make sure that the magic would not damage the camera – or proverbially “break the lens.”
     Ian put on his phony plastic vampire teeth and, waved his black cap around and said in his most awful impression of Bela Lugosi, “I vant to dlink your blud.”
     Christina took a picture of Dracula Ian, and Holly and her canaries all together. When Christina put the camera down, Ian approached and wrapped his cloak around her so their heads could not be seen.
     “Eeww, I know what you two are doing in there,” Holly said.
     Ian removed the cape and immediately put the phony teeth back in and said, “Vat, I vas dlinking her blud.”
     “Trick-or-Treat,” Young voices said beyond the front door. Christina dropped small size candy bars in their bags. “Thank you,” and they ran off.
     “Seriously, I would have been fine handing out gum,” Christina said looking down at the big bowl of candy.
     “Come on,” Ian said, “didn’t you prefer candy bars over stinking gum when you were a kid?”
     “Everybody’s out now,” Kel said, before Ian had a chance to receive another Halloween kiss from Christina.
     “Can we go now?” Uda said, jumping up and down.
     Christina opened the door and dropped candy in sacks held by Frankenstein’s creature, a princess and a football player.
     After they received the treats, the children ran off. Ian led Holly, Kel and Uda out into the night. Ian was glad that Christina gave Kel and Uda permission to experience their first Halloween night out into the streets. This made Holly very happy and also, perhaps, the last chance he would share Halloween ‘Trick-or-Treat’ with Holly.
     The two lunged to the right as a group of four children ran by them up to the door. Kel and Uda looked down at the little cowboy, another Dracula, a fairy and a boy dressed in a dog outfit. It was the first time they were able to chirp at the other ‘Trick-or-Treaters.
     Ian smiled, pretended to hiss at the children’s parents, then turned left and began their ‘Trick-or-Treating’ night. Ian believed that nothing could go wrong. Nothing until he heard the two canaries conspire.
     “I think I’m going to get tired of chirping and waving my arms up and down all night,” Kel said.
     “Why,” Uda asked, “what do you have in mind?”
     Ian sighed.

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Now on B & N and Kobo

Now you can enjoy my new ebook ‘Christina’s Secret Family’ through Barnes and Nobles and Kobo

Christina’s Secret Family Nook – http://tinyurl.com/l6zz5b9

Christina’s Secret Family Kobo – http://tinyurl.com/n8anj9s

Also please visit my Facebook site at: https://www.facebook.com/lynne.russell.7967 and my Pinterest site at: http://www.pinterest.com/EllenMRussell56/boards/ at your earliest convenience.

Thank you

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Christina’s Secret Family e-book has been launched!

I am proud to announce my book “Christina’s Secret Family (A Santa Keeper Mystery)” is now in e-book form on Amazon and ready to be downloaded at: http://tinyurl.com/mmqxp2n. It is a magical realism story that takes place in Duluth, Minnesota where Christina lives. This is no ordinary house. This is the house that holds the secret to the Santa legend.

A new humorous romantic mystery series! Christina Halvorson reluctantly inherited the 600-year-old family role of Keeper to a village of magical woodcarvings that hold the true secret of Santa. As Keeper she faces challenges when Santa is mysteriously destroyed. On top of that her boss assigns an impossible project, her jealous brother threatens her, and she needs to find a woodcarver to replace the old Santa in time for Christmas, all while warding off an old family nemesis. Widowed woodcarver Ian Thoen turns Christina’s life upside down especially when a village of busy body woodcarvings and his little daughter, Holly, try to encourage romance. With help from Ian, Holly and the villagers can Christina solve the riddle of the broken Santa, restore the magic and discover the true secret of family?

This is the first book of the Santa keeper mystery series. The next book is scheduled to be out around November and the third by January 2014. Though some of these stories take place around Christmas time their lives are recorded not only through the entire year, but also throughout the generations.

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The Beginning part 1 – Agar and Nicholas

In early 1349, Agar, the shaman of Nordland in northern Scandinavia, foresaw the coming of the Black Death (plague) that would kill a majority of the population.  He was filled with grief. As shaman he was deeply connected to the natural and spiritual worlds, however, he could not stop the coming disease.  The normally happy and robust Agar became gaunt and sad.  He would not tell the villagers the reason and they were concerned.

The villagers were skilled woodcarvers and craftsman and Agar was one of the best.   But he had stopped carving and spent his days fasting, chanting and drumming.  After a couple of months, Nicholas, Agar’s best friend and the village leader, demanded an explanation.  They were all worried.  Agar realized he could not keep the future from his friends and told Nicholas what he had foreseen.

Nicholas was shocked, yet believed in Agar’s prediction. Being a practical man he told Agar that they needed to find a solution and stop wasting time with worry.  The two of them sat down to think.  Nicholas suggested that Agar could place a magical spell to protect them like a shield.  But Agar knew his powers were not strong enough to save all of them.  He didn’t want to decide which ones to leave behind.

Nicholas next suggested that Agar could put them all into a deep sleep until the danger passed.  Agar explained that since the plague was carried by fleas from person to person a deep sleep would not protect them.  They would still be infected.  In his vision the Black Death would sweep across the land causing death to all in its path and only the trees and plants would survive.

Nicholas knew the future was bleak but he was a smart man and spent many days thinking about the problem. He went into the forest where he could be alone wandering amongst the trees. Whenever he had a problem to solve he sought solace among the trees, often sensing their spirit surrounding him.  To Nicholas, the solution became obvious and he hurried back to tell Agar his idea.

Since the Black Death would not kill the trees he suggested that Agar could transfer the spirits of the people into the trees until the danger had passed. Agar explained that once the spirits were transferred from their human forms they could not be transferred back.  However, Nicholas had given Agar an idea.  Since they were excellent woodcarvers they could carve replicas of all of the villagers and Agar could transfer their spirits into the woodcarvings.  After the plague had passed the woodcarvings would exist as living people in the smaller form of the woodcarvings.

Nicholas thought about Agar’s plan and the problems it could bring but finally agreed this was the best solution.  He and Agar discussed the situation with the rest of the people.  The villagers were terrified and sad about the fate ahead.  They thought about what their lives would be like as miniature people.  How would they function in the world with normal-sized people?  Agar promised that he and his descendants would take care of them through his powers.  They would become the keepers of the villagers to preserve their safety.

After long discussions most of the villagers agreed. They trusted Nicholas and Agar as great leaders who had led them through many difficult times including the great famine 30 years earlier. He had led them in domesticating reindeer.  Reindeer were now widely used throughout the village for transportation, furs and food. Nicholas was a saint in their eyes.

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The Beginning part 2 – The Olufs

Only one family, the Olufs, who lived on the edge of the village and held themselves apart, disagreed.  They did not believe the shaman’s prediction.  They were fisherman who had traveled across the seas and known many cultures.  For them the old beliefs were coming to an end and the shaman’s ways were outdated.  They did not believe the Black Death would come.  In all their travels that had not seen the signs of the upcoming death. Nicholas and Agar tried to reason with them but were not successful.

The rest of the villagers went ahead with their plans to carve their likenesses in wood.  Foresters went into the woods and selected the finest logs and prepared them for carving.  The carvers sharpened their tools and set about the project.  They knew they had to hurry since the shaman saw the Black Death coming in the fall.  Some of the women of the village were also excellent carvers and joined the men in the carving while other women worked on weaving and sewing clothing for their smaller likenesses.  Other villagers wove miniature baskets, built small furniture, crafted tools and cooking utensils and even silver clasps and buckles.  Even the children participated in the preparations by creating small versions of games and toys for their new life ahead.

The villagers worried about where they would live since their homes would no longer be usable in their smaller size.  Agar’s wife, Sigrid, who also loved her people, came up with a solution.  Since she and Agar had a larger home than most of the others but had no children to share it, they would convert the largest room of their house into the new village.  Sigrid organized the woodworkers into building a smaller version of the village complete with houses, furniture, and even wagons, and sleds.  They would have everything they would need to live as smaller people.

As fall approached everyone hurried to finish.  Agar again tried to convince the Olufs to join them. However they refused and made fun of him for all of the unnecessary preparations.  They tried to convince the rest of the villagers that Agar was not in his right mind.  The villagers did not waiver in their belief in Agar’s powers and continued on.

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The Beginning part 3 – The Santa Keepers

As the time drew near for Agar to transfer their spirits they looked around at the wonderful carved images only to realize in horror that they had not carved Agar or Sigrid.  Agar explained that he and Sigrid would not join them as miniatures.  He would need to use all of his magical powers to transfer their spirits to the woodcarvings and to Sigrid.  He planned to give Sigrid the magical powers she would need to keep them all safe and take care of them.  She would bring them back to life after the danger of the Black Death had passed.

Nicholas had realized early on what his friend planned.  He told them rather than being sad they should be grateful and thank Agar for his sacrifice. They were sad to lose their friend and spiritual guide.  They agreed to honor Agar by doing good deeds for others in any way they could in the future.

Sigrid was sad at the decision her husband had made but her love for him gave her the strength she needed.  She did not want to bother Agar with her recent discovery of her pregnancy. But Agar knew her secret and was ecstatic.  He would not only transfer his magic to Sigrid but also to his child and all of their descendants to continue to keep the villagers safe.  They would be known as the Keepers.

News that the Black Death was sweeping across the land from the sea coast inland reached the village and they knew the time was at hand.  People were dying quickly; within three or four days of becoming infected.  They made their farewells to Agar and he went into a trance and transferred their spirits as planned.  Next he said goodbye to Sigrid, told her he knew about their child and was filled with joy.  He told her he foresaw a long and happy life for her.  Then he transferred his powers to her and quickly vanished. It all happened so fast that Sigrid couldn’t even describe it later when Nicholas asked about it.

Sigrid went into the room that contained the woodcarvings and the small village and saw that they were all there frozen in their wooden forms.  When the time was right she knew she now had the power to bring them back to an animated state.  Agar had also given her and their child protection from the disease. They would be safe.

As the Black Death spread across the land the Olufs came to Sigrid’s door to beg Agar to help them.  Sigrid told them that he was gone and that there was nothing she could do.  She did not have the same powers that Agar had possessed.  They became angry even though Agar had given them several opportunities to save themselves.  As members of their family died they blamed Agar and Nicholas for not forcing them to participate in the spirit transfer.  Most of their family perished.  Those who remained vowed to get revenge.  Sigrid feared for the future of the villagers. If the Olufs shared the secret of the tiny village with others it could cause many problems. She used some of her new powers to cast a spell on them preventing them from telling others. The Olufs became even more enraged but were not able to break Sigrid’s spell.

Once the danger of the Black Death had passed Sigrid brought the villagers back to life.  They had many adjustments to make but with help from Sigrid and her daughter, Ragna, they soon established a new life in the miniature village.

Nicholas remembered their promise to Agar and he and the rest of the villagers made it their mission to help others.  At first they did this through small acts for the survivors of the plague in the surrounding villages such as leaving food at the door for people in need, completing unfinished projects for people who struggled, or making small trinkets for children who had nothing.  The recipients of these gifts never knew where the gifts came from but thought it was an answer to a prayer.  The legacy of gift giving that started in Agar’s memory continues. The gift giving became so important to Nicholas they decided to do it on a grander scale and give to all at Christmas time.

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We’re Just Getting Started

We are just getting started on a new blog filled with stories where the real world is visited by a magical world. These stories have a Scandinavian flavor with the focus on the Christmas holiday season. However, most stories come from the past and most focus on days the year round.

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