Have You Got A Few Minutes? Good! Then Let Me Tell You A Little Tale Of Christmas, Please
by John M. Joyce (Dec. 2008)
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
Well, that wasn’t really true for there was a little mouse down in the pantry who was wide-awake. In fact, boys and girls, he was trying very, very hard to get the lid of the great big tin which had the Christmas Cake in it (you remember the tin, don’t you: it’s the one that only gets used at Christmas and has pictures of Santa Claus on it and lots of pictures of reindeer and squiggly bits of holly and ivy and Christmas trees all decorated in bright coloured things and candles on it as well – it’s a beautiful big tin and a special tin just for Christmas).
The little mouse was trying oh so very hard to get the lid off that special, big tin because he was an impatient little mouse who just couldn’t wait until Cake Day (little mice don’t really know about Christmas, you see) to have a taste of that lovely rich fruit cake and its snowy white icing. He huffed and he puffed, he pushed and he pulled, he slid and he scrabbled but it was no good, for his paws were too small and the Special Christmas Cake Tin was very big and very heavy – much too big and heavy for a little mouse to get into all by himself – so he was going to have to wait for his cake. He didn’t really mind because he knew that little Johnnie, fast asleep in his railway engine shaped bed upstairs, would leave him lots of cake crumbs all over the house, tomorrow. The little mouse was very fond of little Johnnie for Johnnie always left him lots of tasty crumbs all over the place.
But little mouse had a supper of freshly baked white bread and some very nice cheese instead. Then he went back to his lovely warm hole behind the kitchen range and settled down on his big comfortable bed of lint and tiny pieces of torn up newspaper and sewing scraps which he’d gathered from underneath Mummy’s sewing box and closed his eyes to sleep. When he was almost, but not quite, asleep he heard a sound just as if a pair of silver scissors with ruby handles had gently cut ... nothing at all.
‘Just the Cake Day Dragon,’ he thought, ‘Nothing to worry about.’ And then he fell fast asleep and dreamed of chasing lovely cakes and catching them and eating them for this is Christmas-tide and all dreams are good dreams at Christmas.
There was another animal awake in the house as well as little mouse, boys and girls. Big Black Cat was awake and lying on the hearthrug in front of the banked-up fire in the parlour. She was just thinking cat thoughts about cat things and being glad that she had decided to stay inside on this cold and snowy evening. She had gone out earlier just to check that no one had stolen her garden or used her favourite scratching tree without her say-so. But she was very glad that she had come back in early because cook had given her a special dinner of turkey and goose innards and had even put some rich gravy on her dinner. She could hardly move because her tummy was so full and she was very happy just to lie in front of the fire tonight. Those pesky mice and rats outside would just have to be caught on some other night.
‘Of course,’ she thought to herself with some cat surprise, ‘I got turkey and goose innards for dinner tonight. That means that tomorrow must be Turkey and Goose Day (cats don’t really know about Christmas, you see). Oh, what a silly cat I am not to remember that. I will sit by little Johnnie’s chair tomorrow for he always gives me lots of nice things from his plate for he’s a nice little boy.’
And then Big Black Cat remembered, with a grin on her face, the long hot days of summer when little Johnnie and she had sat by the fishpond at the bottom of the garden and teased the fish. She liked little Johnnie for he liked the same things that she did – teasing the fish in Daddy’s pond, playing with dead rats, climbing trees for fun and getting stuck and running around and jumping into things just for the fun of it.
She was very happy and her tummy was full of good food and her eyes closed as she went to sleep in front of the fire. When she was almost, but not quite, asleep she heard a sound just as if a pair of silver scissors with ruby handles had gently cut ... nothing at all.
‘Just the Turkey and Goose Day Dragon,’ she thought, ‘Nothing to worry about.’ And then she fell fast asleep and dreamed of chasing a roast goose and catching it and eating it for this is Christmas-tide and all dreams are good dreams at Christmas.
Boys and girls, all of you, old and young, do you remember that Daddy has his own special room where you mustn’t disturb him, ever, if the door is firmly closed? It’s got his big table in it and lots of books and Dog-Dog’s sleeping basket in the warm spot by the chimneybreast and it smells of see gars and Grandfather’s pipe smoke and the chairs are smooth and smell of horrid polish which maid is always complaining about. Well, in there Dog-Dog is awake as well.
Dog-Dog has a full tummy just like Big Black Cat. He got turkey and goose innards and rich gravy for dinner just as Cat did and he enjoyed his big helping just as Cat did. Dog-Dog was older and wiser than Big Black Cat and little Johnnie so he knew what all this was about. He knew why there was a big fir tree in the Hall all covered in sparkly things though he didn’t know why all the bits of things which he wanted to eat were always hung on the tree just out of his reach. That, he thought, was just a little bit unfair of Daddy and Mummy. But he could wait because he always got some in the end for little Johnnie made sure that he did.
Dog-Dog stood up and turned round and round in his basket just to make sure that he really was going to go to sleep in the best spot that ever a dog of his huge smartness and cleverness could find. When he settled himself at last, totally sure that he had found just the softest spot in the world for he really was clever, he thought about Big Black Cat and little Johnnie and Daddy and Mummy and all the fun which they always had together and he was very happy that tomorrow was Chocolate and Eating Day (for even smart and clever dogs like Dog-Dog don’t really know about Christmas, you see) and his eyes closed slowly as began to go to sleep. When Dog-Dog was almost, but not quite, asleep he heard a sound just as if a pair of silver scissors with ruby handles had gently cut ... nothing at all.
‘Just the Chocolate and Eating Day Dragon,’ he thought, ‘Nothing to worry about.’ And then he fell fast asleep and dreamed of chasing lovely candy canes and chocolate bars and catching them and eating them for this is Christmas-tide and all dreams are good dreams at Christmas.
But three floors up in that great house the sound of a pair of ruby handled silver scissors gently cutting ... nothing at all ... had woken little Johnnie from his sleep in his railway engine shaped bed. It was, as you’ve probably guessed by now, my lovely boys and girls, a sound which only children, animals, and grown-ups who still believe in Christmas can hear. Do you, my glorious little, and big, young, and old, boys, and girls, still believe in Christmas? You do! Gosh, I’m so happy, for I do too. Shall I tell you the rest of tale? Shall I tell you what happened to little Johnnie after he woke up on that snowy, cold Night Before Christmas? Do you want me to? You do! Promise me that you still believe in Christmas and then I’ll finish my tale. Oh, thank-you all, thank-you! Thank-you for innocent Christmas! Well, here’s what happened next.
Little Johnnie sat up in his railway engine shaped bed and wondered about the sound which he was sure that he had just heard even though he had been asleep.
‘It’s outside,’ he thought. So he cast aside his bedclothes and put his bunny-rabbit slippers on his tiny feet and his fluffy baa-lamb dressing gown round his little shoulders and went bravely to the window of his bedroom. For all that little Johnnie was only four years, two months and seventeen days old he was a brave young man and he drew the curtains back and looked out over his garden, the garden where he played with Big Black Cat and Dog-Dog and, had he but known it, the little mouse from the pantry as well, and looked for the thing which had made the noise.
He saw it! It was a huge creature with enormous wings standing in the middle of the snow-covered lawn and panting and steaming like a Sodor train from one of the lovely books which his grandfather had given him for his birthday. It sparkled all over as if it was covered in fairy lights and its huge tail glinted against the snow with many colours making it look like the tail was made of woven sparkly Christmas strands of tinsel.
Johnnie opened the window and leant out to get a better look at such a fabulous creature just as the animal raised its head and stood straight up and looked little Johnnie straight in the eye – told you it was big, didn’t I.
“Who are you?” the creature asked.
“I’m Jonny and you’re messing up my lawn,” our little man answered with no fear, “Who are you?”
“I’m the Christmas Dragon,” the creature replied, “And you should be asleep and I should be giving you your good Christmas dreams. Why are you awake?”
“’Cos you woke me up.”
“I never did!”
“Did too, I heard you.”
“Daddy and Mummy’ll be cross with you, you know ‘cos I’ve got to get proper sleep or else I’m fracjus!” Johnnie said, sticking his hands into his dressing gown pockets in a bossy way, “You shouldn’t be here, you know.”
In his right-hand pocket Johnnie’s hand encountered a ball of fluff-covered marzipan that cook had given him just before he went up to bed.
“Want some marspan?” Johnnie asked the Christmas Dragon as he withdrew the disreputable lump from his pocket.
“What’s marspan?” the dragon asked.
“This! Try some! It’s good,” Johnnie answered, holding out a piece in his hand.
The Christmas Dragon gently licked the marzipan out of Johnnie’s palm.
“Ooh, that’s good. Most people just leave a bit of coal out for me so that I can light their Yule log but I think that marspan is much nicer.”
“Tis too, isn’t it?”
“’Tis too,” agreed the Christmas Dragon.
“Look,” the dragon said, “I’ve got to deliver many more dreams tonight. Why don’t you go back to bed so I can give you your good Christmas dream and then I’ll come back and see you later on when I’m finished?”
“How will you find me again?” Johnnie asked.
The Christmas Dragon thought about that for a moment or two,
“Tell you what, Jonny, just leave some marspan on the windowsill and then I’ll sniff my way back to you.”
“OK. Have another bit before you go,” Johnnie said holding out his hand with another generous lump in it. Dragon and boy chewed and sucked and drooled gratefully on cook’s gift for a minute or two.
“Got to go,” the dragon said, backstroking his wings in a flurry of snow, “Leave some marspan out and I’ll see you later.”
Johnnie put some marzipan on the outside windowsill and slowly closed the window whilst watching the sparkling shape of the Christmas Dragon fly across the sky with his precious cargo of dreams.
Johnnie went back to bed. When he was almost, but not quite, asleep he heard a sound just as if a pair of silver scissors with ruby handles had gently cut ... nothing at all.
‘Just the Christmas Dragon,’ he thought, ‘Nothing to worry about.’ And then he fell fast asleep and dreamed of talking dragons on his favourite lawn and marzipan and Dog-Dog and candy canes and Big Black Cat and roast goose and diving into bushes and little mouse and cake and the Dream-giving Christmas Dragon, and, of course, presents from Santa Claus, for he was only four years two months and seventeen days old and little children don’t really know about Christmas, you see, and this is Christmas-tide and all dreams are good dreams at Christmas – especially if one still is, can be, a much loved little child.
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