(In last week’s installment, the isolated gathering of hermits have just read the will of Ugly Joe, requiring them to throw a Christmas party for his frozen corpse. Just then, a wild little boy appears — a resident of the town of Frozen Corners, which is abandoned every winter during the worst of the weather — and immediately demands to see Santa Claus.)
The noisy intruder of a boy — who was named Henry Hay but was commonly known as “Lucky” — was, the hermits soon learned, not lucky enough to have avoided pulling the short straw back in November, just before the annual evacuation, when the children of Frozen Corners held a secret meeting to decide which one of them would stay behind.
It was part of a plan the young ones had been hatching for months.
To discover once and for all what went on in their town when all the people were gone, the children drew straws, and Lucky was duly elected to do the job. The boy had no parents, having lost them to a mudslide when he was four, and he’d been raised up, more or less, by a long and weary succession of Frozen Corner residents. Though a hard enough worker, and reasonably quick at learning, Lucky was a handful, bossy as an English Lord, and not one to ever shut up. From sun-up to lights out, Lucky talked, and talked, and talked, quieting down only while chewing his food or sleeping, and then only occasionally.
Then there was that voice.
It was a voice like metal being shredded into ribbons, a voice that was part scream and part avalanche. No one could stand to be around it for longer than a little while; therefore, ever since the wooshing away of his parents, Lucky had been shuffled from house to house on a nightly basis. Because he never slept in the same home twice in a row, it was highly possible that down in Butcher’s Foot, only the children were aware that Lucky was no longer among them. After pulling the straw, the boy hid himself in the hotel’s pot pantry, until the townsfolk were all gone. He had been camping there out in Frozen Corners, alone, bundled up in the hotel kitchen, for over 40 days, waiting for Christmas and the answer to the mystery.
It took Lucky two minutes to explain all this and it was the longest two-minutes in any of the hermits’ long and arduous lives.
None of them doubted for a minute that the boy’s short straw had been rigged.
“Ever’body says Santy Claus comes to Frozen Corners while ever’body is down in Butcher’s Foot, ’cause I guess Santy ain’t smart enough to figger we’re down the river a ways, or maybe Santy just don’t like Butcher’s Foot enough to go there, or maybe he’s just a’ crazy a little,” Lucky rattled off, loudly. “So I want to know, then — which one of you fellers is Santy Claus?”
Perhaps if they hadn’t been so entirely mired in that discomfiting fog of sentiment, the hermits might have said something harsh and according to custom. Perhaps they might have suggested that the boy go look for Santy Claus out in the wood shed. Instead, after a long moment of stunned silence — or rather, a long moment in which the baffled hermits could think of nothing to say as Lucky went on accosting and bossing them with his terrible voice and disrespectful manners — Spitless Jeff improvised, standing up to croak, as civilly as possible, “Uh, Santy ain’t showed up yet. Whyn’t you run along now?”
A Holiday ‘tall tale’ in five parts
In the tradition of such beloved writers of serialized fiction as Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harriet Beecher Stowe, we now bring our readers a five-part Christmas “tall tale” by Community Editor David Templeton. The story began last week, and will run through Dec. 20, with a new part appearing each week. Each installment will be posted online at Petaluma360.com.