-   WORDS  

The Uncanny Christmas Dinner

Just when you couldn't wait to eat...

"Hello, dear friends. Welcome to my holiday party." The hostess said, ushering the family of four into her home. The mother took off for the kitchen, the father to the big screen TV, and the children joined their peers.

Twinkling lights hung from the walls, the fireplace burning brightly, the smell of pine and sweets in the air, and the sound of laughter, football, and carols everywhere. But outside, a cold winter breeze hushed the mysteries in the yard.

Hours later the sun set, the stars unseen through the snowy mist. The house was warm and filled with love, everyone anticipating the exquisite dinner. The women fussed over the finishing touches, the men were betting on which team would win, yet the children were no where to be found. Bored with old toys and out of patience, the hungry little ones banned together to find some tasty snacks.

To the kitchen they traveled, many of times, but each journey they came back with nothing more than a chip dipped in salsa.

"There has to be another way." An ambitious girl said.

"Yes, we have to find something more filling, I can't wait any longer!" Her hungry brother added.

So the two searched the house high and low for every kid around. By the end of the search they gathered six, including one pitiful puppy that wore the adorable fake antlers on his head. Forming a circle near the back door, they thought of a scheme to get their Christmas dream.

"Maybe we can put a mouse in there and scare all the ladies out!" One little boy suggested, pulling out his furry friend out of a pocket. The others made sounds of agreement, when an older child came to the group.

"That would never work. It'd be too suspicious if a rat suddenly chased all the adults out and all of you crawled in." She said.

"Mallory! Keep your voice down! And what are you doing here anyway?" Her younger brother asked.

"Like I said, your little powwow was creeping Mom out. She sent me over to make sure you babies didn't get outside. Like I have nothing better to do." The thirteen-year-old said distastefully.

"Hey! We're not babies! For your 4-1-1, sister, next year we'll be entering the fourth grade!" Larissa retorted with attitude.

Mallory rolled her eyes and sighed, leaning against the wall.

"Me thinks I'd be better off if you all did go outside." She muttered.

The others looked at her sadly when all of a sudden Todd stood up. Balling his hand into a fist, he slammed it against his open palm and grinned.

"I got it! Mallory, you're a genius!" He cried, jumping into her arms and hugging her.

"What did I say?" Mallory choked as she tore her little brother off.

Todd hugged her once more and faced the young crowd, his face beaming.

"I have the perfect plan."

~*End Part One*~

"Mom! Mom, they're gone!" Mallory shouted, running into the kitchen.

Mrs. Woodsbro along with the other moms in the room turned around.

"Who's gone?" She asked confused.

"Todd and the other kids."

Gathering the attention of everyone in the kitchen, they all followed Mallory to the den, where the backdoor was located. Small snowflakes floated into the room via open door, while footprints were seen leading into the yard. Mrs. Woodsbro looked into the snow flurry outside a moment longer, her eyes brimming with tears. She turned around and faced Mallory and said in a stern voice,

"What happened?"

"...Oh Mom..." She sighed, looking at the door dramatically. "I went to check on them, just as you asked, and they were playing with a baby mouse. I told them that it should be with its family, and then got up to get a drink. I thought I felt a draft, so I went back to check on them, and they were gone! I didn't know they'd go outside, I just... I just... I just didn't know!" Mallory covered face and began sobbing.

"Oh sweetie, it's not your fault." Mrs. Woodsbro said, embracing her in a hug.

Mallory nodded and wiped a few tears out from under her lashes. The other women left this 'touching moment' to inform their guys that the kids were missing. Soon all the adults were crowded into den, exiting through the door to find the children and reassuring Mallory that everything would be okay. Mallory stood off to the side and continued nodding at their kindness while wiping away the falling tears.

When the throng thinned, she slipped into the shadows and walked to the kitchen. Unlocking the side door, she looked at herself in the mirror.

"...And the Emmy for being most dramatic in a holiday crisis goes to... Ms. Mallory Woodsbro!" She smiled, making a pose.

She began thanking her imaginary fans while spooning some cranberry and whipped cream Jell-O for herself. After a few minutes of undisturbed eating, she began to worry about the other participants in Todd's plan. Washing her plate and smoothing over the empty spaces in the pan, she went out the side door to find her little bro.

~*End Part Two*~

Snowflakes fell slowly from Heaven, each one landing gently on the eyelashes of a child. Underneath a thick Douglas Fern next door did the eight children hide, each wrapped up in a warm blanket just their size. Low branches and falling snow helped camouflage the kids from worried parents and friends. To the empty kitchen was their goal, but every time the coast seemed clear, another adult just happened to walk by.

The hungry children made the most of their time by playing games like silent rock, paper, scissors and miniature snowman contests. Todd and Larissa were right in the middle of a game when suddenly a glowing white orb appeared at the base of the tree. As if beckoning them to come closer, all the children stopped what they were doing and formed a circle around the transparent object.

When given full attention, the orb grew bigger until it was in the shape of a fox and became solid. It was white as snow with black-tipped ears and tail, while having the most beautiful violet eyes and a collar made of holly.

Carefully studying each child there, the small fox seemed somewhat sad. Stepping back until all the children were in perspective, the odd fox began to sing to them, its eyes glimmering.

"What's it doing?" One child asked.

"I dunno, but it's going to give our hideout away." Another replied.

When the fox ended its song, all the children began to glow. Lifted a few inches into the air, the eight tried to scream, but no sound came out. Scared, they watched the mystical fox as their world around them disappeared.

As if on an empty canvas, the children were free to roam, yet they still had that glowing aura. Suddenly the fox appeared, ten times the size it was last time they saw it. Like a magnetic force, the children were pulled into a circle around the big fox.

"What are you?" Asked Todd, surprised that his voice was back.

The fox glanced at all the children, its sad eyes sparkling again.

"I am the spirit of Holiday Dinners. You may call me Grace." She said peacefully.

"You can talk??" The children said in shock.

Grace nodded and began her speech.

"I'm sure you all are wondering why I have brought you here."

"Where exactly is 'here'?" Larissa asked.

"We are in the Realm of Lessons. You children have been very selfish. The greed in your hearts were so strong, that you were willing to take dinner just for yourselves while your parents worried their hearts out in the snow for your safety. That is not what Christmas Dinner is all about. Therefore, to learn your lesson you all must be punished."

"Are you going to turn us into ghosts so that we can see how our family lived without us, and make us feel all guilty?" Asked Chuckie.

"Wha? Err... no, that has nothing to do with dinner. I have a punishment that fits the crime more perfectly." Grace said smiling.

~*End Part Three*~

The house was warm and filled with love, everyone anticipating the exquisite dinner. The women fussed over the finishing touches, the men were betting on which team would win, yet the children were no where to be found. Bored with old toys and out of patience, the hungry little ones banned together to find some tasty snacks.

"Hey... we're back in the house!" Larissa exclaimed.

"You're right. Mmm, dinner smells delicious!" Todd replied.

Slowly the other children opened their eyes and found themselves in the kitchen, but strangely, everything in the kitchen was huge! So huge, that those eight children were all sitting on the counter with plenty of room!

"Wait... something isn't right. Why is everything so BIG?" Chuckie asked.

The others looked around when suddenly they noticed an important factor. They were the ones who changed size. Molly swept her hand through her hair and squealed.

"Eww! There's gravy in my hair!"

"Uh Molly, that, uh, isn't your hair." Lilly said trying not to laugh.

Molly ran over to the metallic napkin holder and screamed at her appearance.

"I'm...I'm...I'm a vegetable!"

"Broccoli to be exact." Said Mark.

The other children freaked at their own food transformations, especially Larissa, who was the main turkey.

A few minutes later, the children realized that this was Grace's doing. Deciding that there was a lesson to be learned, they screamed every sappy thing that they could think of that would get them off the hook. Obviously, it didn't work. Plans arose to get out of the room, but with Turkey Larissa's size and weight, it would be much harder than they anticipated.

Soon the women came in and began preparing the food. The children feared for their lives, but out of the corner of his eye, Todd saw Grace singing. Suddenly the time seemed to fast forward, the colors of the room bleeding into one another. When everything slowed down, the food children were nicely cooked yet were in no pain.

A strange sight to see, the human children walked into the kitchen begging for something to eat. It was at that moment that the food kids realized that they would be eaten if they didn't learn what the lesson was in time.

"Is it just me or does time seem to be repeating itself?" Todd asked from the cranberry Jell-O mold.

The others agreed as their human selves came to the kitchen again. Chuckie got an idea on how to escape, but with the adults running around everywhere, it wouldn't work. So they waited until Mallory came in to tell the women that the kids were missing. A little later Mallory came back, talking to the air. The food children began screaming at her, trying to get her attention. She was about to spoon out Jell-O Todd to eat, when she got the creepy feeling that she wasn't alone in the kitchen. Listening carefully, she saw the Jell-O in her spoon moving and talking.

"Mallory! Mallory please don't eat me! It's Todd, your brother! We've been turned into food by Grace, the spirit of Holiday Dinners! You've got to help us!"

Mallory stared at her spoon, her face trembling. Screaming at the top of her lungs, she dropped the spoon and ran out of the room.

"Good going, Todd. Now we'll be eaten for sure." Larissa growled.

All the food children began yelling at each other while in the shadows Grace shook her head. After their throats went dry and were tired of yelling, they began to eat the food around them.

"Heh, well it figures. The only time we get eat dinner is when we're part of it." Chuckie giggled.

One by one the others began to giggle too, until all of them were laughing so hard that tears were falling out of their eyes. When they stopped laughing, they looked at each other apologetically.

"Everybuddy, I'm sorry. I should have never listened to Mallory." Todd said.

"It's not just your fault; it's all of ours. Maybe if we were more patient, non of this would have happened." Larissa said.

The others agreed when suddenly they began to glow. Grace appeared before them, smiling. Again, the world around them disappeared and they entered the Realm of Lessons.

"I see you have learned your lesson." Grace said pleased.

"Huh? What did we say?" Todd said confused.

"Was it about that being patient thing?" Larissa asked.

"Mm-hmm. Christmas Dinner is not just about eating; it's about sharing the holidays with loved ones. Because of your lack of patience, you ruined the dinner for everyone. But I think you learned your lesson." Grace said smiling.

In the Realm of Lessons, the children faded into nothing. The holiday fox again returned to her glowing orb and floated away with the snow.

~*End Part Four*~

In a circle did the eight children sit, to think of scheme to get their Christmas dream.

"On second thought, how 'bout we just wait for our moms to bring it out?"

~ Merry Christmas ~

The End

Jade Smith ~ Dec. 21, 2000