The black wolf lay dead. Its fangs and tongue hung from its frightening mouth.
Queen Moswen began speaking to Joey.
“She says that with the alpha male destroyed, you’ll have time to rebuild your city. It will take a while for the pack to fight it out and decide who will be their new leader,” said Joey to the trio.
The disks rolled gleefully back and forth in the snow. Johannes did a face plant and was awkwardly helped to his feet by his brothers. Everyone chuckled. Snow stuck to his raspberry jam. He looked like a miniature Santa Claus.
“We must return to the ship before they miss us,” said Princess Honning.
“And before the night watchman starts his rounds,” said Agent BAK. “But before we go, where did that arrow come from? I never saw a hunter. I never saw anybody for that matter.”
“It was I.” The voice belonged to the youngest star, Merope. “My sisters may tease me about my love for Orion, the great hunter in the sky, but when I need him, he is there for me.”
The sisters buzzed and spoke over each other.
“Merope is correct,” said Maia. “Orion’s heavenly arrows aim true. We owe our lives to him…and to our youngest sister.”
They all thanked Merope and then climbed back into the lifeboat. As before, the going was arduous. As the largest of the crew, Joey and Princess Honning handled the heavy oars made for humans. Agent BAK perched at the bow. He unraveled himself so he could point the direction to aim the boat. When they needed to slow due to ice blocks, he contorted into the shape of a cautionary triangle.
“What’s that on the ice?” said Queen Moswen.
“Where?” said the princess.
“There,” said the queen, nodding to the left.
A pink colored object lay on a snow covered ice block as it bobbed in the water. They veered left and headed toward it.
“What are you doing?” asked Agent BAK. “We have no time for detours. The night watchman will rise in less than an hour.”
“We just want to make sure it’s not alive,” said Princess Honning.
“It looks like a candy cane,” said Joey.
“Not a candy cane that I’ve ever seen,” huffed Queen Moswen.
“Well I don’t exactly look like a Gingerbreadian any more either,” said Princess Honning, “but that doesn’t mean I’m not one.”
Queen Moswen ignored her. As they drew up next to the mini iceberg, it was still difficult to determine what the object was. Joey nudged it gently with his oar. It sounded like glass as Joey tapped it.
“It’s just some trash that washed up on the ice after the storm,” said Agent BAK. “Come on, let’s get going.”
“Oooohh,” the thing groaned.
Joey crawled out of the boat onto the iceberg. “Hello there,” said Joey bending low. “Are you alright?”
“Do I look alright?” said the thing. Its gruff voice was in sharp contrast to its pastel pink color. “Tap me with that thing again and you’ll wonder what hit you.” The thing writhed on the iced. “Although right now I’m wondering what hit me.”
“August?” said Joey. “Augie is that you?”
“How do you know my name?” the thing said.
“How do I know your name?” said Joey. “You’ve been our door-cane since before I was born!”
“Joseph? Is that you Joseph?” The thing shook its head. “It can’t be…what happened Joseph…your eye…your head.”
Joey bent his head low. A dark molasses tear dropped onto the white snow.
“I guess we’ve both seen better days, huh pal?” said August.
“Yes,” said Joey quietly. “Your, your color Augie. What happened to you?”
“There was a pretty big fire in Gingerbread Village Joey. It started just after you disappeared. I pulled your sister from the house. The heat from the fire melted me down…all my crisp red stripes bled into my white…I’m just pink now. Who ever heard of a pink candy cane Joey?”
“Who ever heard of a one-eyed J.J. Gingerbread? We’ll be okay Augie. I’m sure you’re as brittle and minty as you ever were,” said Joey.
“Ahem,” said Agent BAK. “Pardon me gentlemen. I hate to interrupt the family reunion, but we must return to the ship at once.” Though the day had been cold and cloudy, a low winter sun was visible on the horizon. The day was nearly done.
- Orion is a constellation. He is known as the hunter in the sky. His bow is aimed at the bull, Taurus.
- Candy canes were originally all white, with no stripes at all. The hard candies were bent to allow them to be hung on Christmas trees as ornaments. An Ohio man named August Imgard is recorded as having decorated his Christmas tree with candy canes in 1847. No one is quite sure how or when they first earned their stripes, but striped candy canes appeared in Christmas cards in the early 20th century.
by J.P. Farrell