Dasher worked hard all through the day and night crossing over eight European countries. The air was bitterly cold. The Seven Sisters were used to it of course, but the other three needed the massive, furry blanket that lay on the sleigh. They pulled it over them and slept most of the night.
The sleigh touched down in Germany as the sun was rising.
“I understand you have some work to do here today,” Dasher said to Joey.
“I guess so,” said Joey.
“Hop to it boy,” said Dasher. “I’ve got to drop these two off in Denmark, then head up to the North Pole to load the big sleigh. We’ll be back here with the full sleigh, the full team, and Santa Claus to pick you up. Be ready to go.”
Joey looked at Princess Honning, then at Agent BAK, then back at Princess Honning.
“I’ll miss you,” he said staring into her crystal blue eyes.
“I’ll miss you too,” she said.
“I’ll come visit you once we get things straightened out around here,” said Joey.
“I’d like that very much,” she said.
“Alright, alright. Enough of the mushy stuff. This is a big day, and we’ve got a schedule to keep.” Dasher’s hooves pawed the snow restlessly.
“Where are we to go?” said the Seven Sisters.
“I was told you were to go with him,” said Dasher. He nodded at Joey. The sisters slowly glided off the sleigh. They were completely exhausted from the energy they had expended destroying the ice.
“Me?” said Joey.
“Yes you, kid,” said Dasher. “Santa said you’d figure out. Something about it being a sticky problem that would swirl around in your head.”
With that, Dasher leapt into the air and was gone in a flash.
“Do you know what Santa meant?” asked Maia.
“No idea,” said Joey.
They trudged over the hill and looked into the valley below. Joey’s idyllic Gingerbread Village was in shambles. Roofs were torn off, colorful bits of gingerbread houses floated in the chocolate river, and whole gingerbread houses were lying on their sides. He broke into a run and didn’t stop until he reached Gingerbread Manor.
Part of the beautiful manor had burned down. He didn’t have to open the door because it was not longer there. He stepped carefully inside. The Seven Sisters caught up and followed him in.
“Mom? Dad? Jillian?” he called.
“Who’s that? I’ll be right there, I’m just drying off my hands,” it was his mother’s voice. The sound of it made his eye well up.
“May I help you?” his mother looked at him then gasped. “Oh Joey, is it really you?” She squeezed him so tightly he thought he was going to ooze molasses. “J.J., Jillian, it’s Joey! He’s home!”
Joey’s dad and sister rounded the corner and they all fell into a tearful embrace.
His mother kept saying, “We thought we’d lost you,” and then, “Just look at this mess.” And she would laugh through her tears and point at all the molasses teardrops covering the floor.
Joey introduced the Seven Sisters to the family. They exchanged the tales of the past couple of weeks since the storm had hit.
“Joey, you know you’ll have to ride with Santa tonight,” said his father.
“I know Dad. Augie told me. I can do it,” he said.
“That’s my boy. I knew you could,” said his father. “Now, we need to figure out how to get the ovens started so that we can get the gingerbread cookies ready in time for Santa. There’s no electricity, and nobody’s been able to start a fire. All the matches were soaked during the storm, and we’ve no flint.”
“Let’s head down to the factory Dad,” said Joey. “I think I have an idea.”
They picked their way through the piled up gumdrops and slippery cobblesprees in the streets. Part of the factory had burned down in the fire, but there were still enough ovens left to get the job done.
The Seven Sisters began to spin, and as they did so, sparks flew into the kindling that Joey had piled into the ovens.
The lovely Christmas aroma of baking gingerbread brought all of the townspeople out. Their dour faces transformed into sunny smiles as they realized that life would indeed begin anew. With everyone helping, they amassed thousands and thousands of gingerbread cookies for Santa to deliver that night.
A tiny gingerbread girl tugged at Joey’s arm. “Please Joey, did you get the cotton candy machine to work? That’s my favorite.” He looked at the disheveled girl. The storm had clearly been hard on her.
“Let’s give it a try,” said Joey. He scooped her up and walked over to the machine. With no electricity, it wouldn’t start. Joey rigged it up to an old stationary bike. He began peddling very hard. The machine started to spin and Joey’s sister Jillian gathered up the fluffy confection on a cone, and handed it to the little girl.
“Thanks!” she beamed.
Amidst all the work, Joey had nearly forgotten about getting the Seven Sisters home. Then it hit him. If he could get the cotton candy machine to spin fast enough, perhaps he could launch the sisters back into space! A sticky problem that would swirl around in your head…
He and Jillian dragged the machine and stationary bike outside. He helped position the sisters inside.
“But it’s so sticky,” said one.
“I hope this works,” said another.
“I think the gingerbread boy is cute,” said another.
“Be quiet Electra,” said yet another.
“Ladies, please! Position yourselves and prepare for one last burst of energy. This must work or our flame shall go out on this planet,” said Maia. “Joey, thank you and good luck.”
Joey pumped harder than he had ever pumped in his life. The gingerbread frame creaked and the taffy handlebars started to bend as the wheels spun faster and faster. The cotton candy drum was spinning so fast that the sisters looked like a continuous streak of ice blue light.
Electricity crackled in the air. Joey’s crust prickled.
“Bam!” A thunderous bolt of lightning shot through the air.
The Seven Sisters launched from the machine and blazed into the sky.
“Mmmm, my favorite Christmas smell. Are you ready for a big night my boy?” said Santa.
“Yes sir,” said Joey.
“You’re a good boy Joey. And soon you’ll be a good man. You’ve learned one of life’s most important lessons during this awful storm. It is what’s inside you that counts. It makes no difference how you look on the outside. Greatness is about the decisions you make and what is in your heart.”
“Merry Christmas to all!” he shouted to the Gingerbreadians. “Away!” he shouted to the reindeer.
As they rose in the sky, the Pleiades star cluster was particularly sparkly. Joey nestled close to Santa and thought he must be the happiest gingerbread boy in the world.
Merry Christmas from The Solvang Bakery!
- Reindeer are members of the deer family and most live way up north in the Subarctic and Arctic regions, including the region called Lapland. The reindeer that are not busy pulling Santa’s sleigh, are sometimes used to pull ‘pulks’, which are sleighs or toboggans, used either for sport or to transport goods.
by J.P. Farrell