Merry Christmas and Happy Reading
Here's one of those writer's exercises which are welcomed when you've been plotting much longer tales. I've always loved the short story format and enjoyed writing fan-fiction of that type for many years---lots of "Thunderbirds," "Jonny Quest," "Gambit" and "Aqualad" tales. This one was a one-off Chirstmas tale from a few years ago featuring The Bugaloos, a treasured memory from my 'Wonder Years.' Enjoy---and Merry Christmas, you lot!
"The Bugaloos At Yuletide: 'To My Diary – With Joy'"
[I do not own these characters; all original rights reserved. Please do not reprint this tale without my permission]
"God gave us memory that we might have roses in December." – J.M. Barrie
"Remember, remember, The Fifth Of November!"
The lovely late Autumn days leading up to Christmas Eve certainly agree with the 'First Family Of Tranquility Forest,' I must say! My male band-mates—sweet and charming Harmony, shy and studious I.Q and impetuous and strong Courage—have been buzzing around madly for days, collecting seasonal items with which to decorate our lovely woodland home. As the holidays approach and colder weather creeps slowly upon us, The Bugaloos take pleasure in putting our musical instruments briefly aside to enjoy the many festivities of this special time of year.
"Gettin' on with the hale an' hearty, me darlin'!" as Harmony says when hungering for a party.
As with every day, life in Tranquility Forest begins with I.Q. raising the Royal Union Flag high above our dwellings, stopping as always to salute the colours before gracefully fluttering his wings to descend. Loyal subjects of Her Majesty The Queen and citizens of the last British colony in the New World, we, all of us, endeavour to maintain the sort of spit-spot, ship-shape spirit that made our nation great…despite the frequent annoyances coming from nearby Rock City, ten miles across the border, and its most devilish inhabitant, one Miss Benita Bizarre. Offended that the boys refused her demands to act as her back-up group, Ms. Bizarre has been a thorn in our collective side ever since. Personally, I believe her to be a lonely soul, trapped in a fortress of her own making. However, the boys offer less kindly assessments of her:
"She's as daft as a draught ale!" Harmony say, "As barmy as an 'all's-well' alarm!"
"Silly ol' cow ought not be let out without a minder!" is how Courage views her.
As for I.Q., he merely shakes his Dutch Boy blonde mane and winces at the very thought of Benita. Given the horror she and her flunkies planned to inflict upon his person by attempting to surgically transplant his wings onto her, she is very lucky that's ALL he'll say of her!
Annually, our Tranquility Forest Yuletide festivities commence on November 1st with Calan Gaeaf, the ancient Welsh celebration marking the first day of Winter. Courage's family of ladybirds brought this tradition with them from their home-fields many generations back, so the rest of us gladly join in the events hosted in the nearby village where we grew up. This year, his mum treated us to scrumptious Butter Welsh and warm Welsh Cakes full of delicious currants. Courage took the lead and directed us in stringing together the fallen leaves of oak and maple trees. We then placed them in arched patterns along the village lanes where, I am sure, the trees approved of their vibrant red, brown and orange voices again providing decoration for all to see and enjoy.
As the nights have grown longer and the days become more abbreviated, the boys and I returned to our home village for a short stay. We were called upon to aid Harmony's family with their many varied Autumnal tasks. Being a family of Cockney bees originally from London's East End, they are always frightfully busy at something, it seems, and always grateful for our help. I assisted his youngest sister, Debbie—her name is Hebrew for 'Little Bee'—in capping cells of golden lavender honey with drops of beeswax to store away for the long winter months ahead. Considering that we constantly caught Harmony and Courage 'inspecting' the honey for flavour, it was hard to believe that we had enough left to put away! As a reward for our hard work, Harmony's mum permitted I.Q. to syphon off some beeswax and honey that he will cook down to make the purest of soaps. We Bugaloos never use products that would hurt the environment and I.Q. takes the lead in ensuring that our pledge to leave behind the most minimal 'carbon footprint' is forever honoured.
"If it's not good for Tranquility Forest," I.Q. states, "it's not good for us." And so say all of us!
Thoughtful as ever, the boys made beautiful use of the beeswax candles that Harmony's family made when Hanukkah began eight days ago. One day whilst sky surfing above the beach access road, the boys found the severed stumps of small trees discarded along the highway. Raised with the greatest admiration for trees and long taught the value of not leaving things to waste, Harmony, Courage and I.Q. heaved those logs and brought them home. To my surprise, they arranged the stumps to resemble...a menorah!
As each day of Hanukkah passed, my 'band of brothers'—for they truly care for me as they would a cherished little sister—placed a large candle on one of the eight stumps in the proper order. This is done to commemorate the miracle in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem long ago, when the heroic Maccabees found that oil remained ignited for eight nights when only sufficient for one.
Since fires are never allowed in Tranquility Forest, the boys arranged flowers selected for their flame-like appearance—such as daffodils and day lilies—so that they resembled flickering candlelight. Tonight, the eighth night, there was a touch of sadness shared between the four of us as this newest of Bugaloos' traditions drew to a close. As the final bouquet was set into place, hundreds of tiny lightning bugs took their places amongst the flowers, granting us a very special 'light show!' It was truly magical and a delightful surprise that I will never forget. It certainly is good to have true friends.
On this, the culmination of the Longest Night and the Shortest Day, we have been spoiled with special treats for the Winter Solstice. No one enjoys baking more than I.Q., our native son of Scotland, and he loves recreating treats from his childhood for us to sample. He is especially fond of the cakes baked for the Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of the final day of the year. It is at this time of year that I am reminded of just how solitary he must sometimes feel being the lone Scot plunked down amongst the 'Sassenachs.'
"Yer ne'er alone wi' friends," our I.Q. has assured me in his reserved way, comically shaking his finger like an old man and pouring on the 'burr' he has intentionally muted since our days at school. This was a habit he learned early on, lest he suffer teasing from the other kids. Harmony, Courage and I encouraged him to speak as he normally would, thereby regaining his confidence. He soon found that he needn't have worried at all, since most of the other children thought of him as a likeable novelty in a sea of sameness. Sometimes, it's a welcome to be in the company of one who does not mind being the 'Tall Poppy.'
The fir trees that circle our clearing likely know what is in store for them this day, and if not, Courage is soon to alert them in boisterous fashion! At the center of our commons area, atop our dining table, he has piled paper boxes loaded with Christmas ornaments, bunting and candy cane streamers.
"Remember what happened to those streamers LAST year, mate?" our Harmony asks him with his habitual sunny laugh. "The squirrels liked those candy canes so much that there weren't many left by Christmas Day!"
Indeed that was true, but Courage merely shrugs. "When we are confronted by a diabetic squirrel on a sugar high, we'll nab the varmint and make him fess up!"
"He can 'fess' up, darlin'," Harmony chuckles with an eye roll, "as long as he don't THROW up!"
I begin to organize our decorating tasks with our young charge, Sparky the firefly, to assist me. Knowing Sparky's trouble with extreme clumsiness and his habit of breaking our crockery—which Harmony refers to as Sparky being "allergic to glass"—the boys nervously rush over and move our treasured fragile ornaments from his reach. With sighs of relief all around, the boys spread their wings, each plucking up long strings of candy canes, lollypops and gumdrops and begin lacing them between the boughs high above. Sparky frantically flits around them, begging to be of help. All the while, he tries to forget his acute fear of flying. As expected, he is all-too-soon entwined within the decorations. It will be half past tea time before the boys get him free!
In spite of Sparky's feeble attempts at being of help, we Bugaloos are able to complete our decorating before sunset. I move to the back of the clearing to take it all in: A pleasing glade decorated with images of toy constables and Yeoman Warders, teddy bears, alphabet blocks, pretty paper dolls, unicorns and trains adorning each branch, giving our clearing a comfortable, festive feel. The only thing missing is snow, but snow is merely a fanciful dream in Tranquility Forest.
Tired but now sated after our tea, it's lovely to be able to spend our evening sipping hot cocoa and munching on I.Q.'s tasty shortbread. The day after next will be Christmas, when we will exchange gifts with each other. Everyone knows what each other wants: Harmony loves games, joke books and puzzles. Courage enjoys adding pieces to his drum kit, but sweets are truly his favorite gift. Our I.Q. can use extra guitar strings, to be practical, but he is always appreciative of a new book. As for me, a new floral variety to plant in our garden is my favorite gift of all. It's that easy because the years have made it so. We've been quite lucky, we four: We have never fought, never been envious or angry with one another, and we know each other like the back of our hands. A quartet of the deepest commeraderie, we have had each other to laugh long and loud with or to dry a tear with for nearly all of our lives. I cannot imagine a day without the smiles of my boys to cheer me and I hope to never have to do so.
As with every year, after opening our Christmas gifts we will dine on dried fruits and roasted chestnuts, later enjoying mince pies while listening to Her Majesty's Christmas Speech on the wireless. We made sure to ask Disc Jockey Peter Platter at radio station KOOK to tune in the address for us; he has been a good friend to the Bugaloos and we know that we can trust him.
The one person we cannot trust is Benita Bizarre, and it wouldn't be a surprise if she stooped to annoying us even on Christmas Day. Truth to tell, even if she did, so content are we that should she rear her ug…err…her less-than-cover-girl head at us again, we'd likely just offer her some tea and treacle tarts—that is if she doesn't ZAP us first! Sometimes, a simple act of kindness is all it takes to turn someone with a sour disposition into a friend, and, true to our word as Bugaloos, we would do anything for a friend. Then again…given how covetous Benita is, she might be better off as an enemy held at arms' length!