Posted by Ann Siracusa
It’s that time of year again. Fun, parties, shopping, gifts, holiday decorating.
Have you ever noticed that no matter how carefully you plan the holiday season, things never go quite the way they should? Sometimes it’s a disaster, and we can either make a big deal out of it (weep, swear, threaten…whatever) or go with the flow and try to find the humor in it.
The following is an excerpt from a free short story about the first Christmas the hero, Will Talbot, and heroine, Harriet Ruby, of the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series spend together. Things didn’t turn out the way they planned, either. Free Download Link - Breathless Press
CHRISTMAS PLAN GONE AWRY
My Christmas vacation plans to spend a full, uninterrupted week with my favorite spy, Will Talbot, are stalled when my boss assigns me oversee a tour with a bunch of kids. Will takes the change of plans with good humor and offers to help with the children. Imagine our surprise when the so called children are not kids but elves.
At eight o’clock on the twenty-third, I entered the Hotel Foletto, a small establishment on an obscure side street of Rome near the Vatican. When I’d asked my boss about it, he informed me he’d never heard of the place.
“The man making the arrangements insisted on it because they welcome little people,” he’d told me, handing over the paperwork. “If it’s any good, maybe we can use the place for families with kids.”
The hotel, located in a six-story yellow-gold palazzo at least five hundred years old, appeared to be a small family-run pensione festooned with cheerful holiday decorations.
The cheerful red-cheeked desk clerk pointed me toward a semi-private lounge area where I found comfortable couches and chairs, some clearly designed for little people, arranged around low tables set with large plates of Christmas cookies.
One boy stood with his back to me while he helped himself to the goodies, stuffing them into the pockets of his forest green pants. Dark curls brushed the collar of his crisp white shirt.
“Hello.” I spoke softly, hoping not to startle him. “Are you by yourself?”
He swung around, planted his fists on his hips, and looked up at me with a defiant scowl.
Startled, I gawked at his face. It looked like weathered leather with a five o’clock shadow. Little lines radiated out from the corners of his eyes and a cigar hung from full lips. Brilliant green eyes stared out from below thick wavy brows.
Still gaping, I drew in a deep breath. “Ohmigod. You…you’re a…midget!”
“Oh, I can tell already this week is going to be a real joyride.” He sucked in his gut and bellowed in a deep gravelly voice, “I’m not a midget!”
“I said that out loud, didn’t I?”
The boy…man―he had to be close to fifty―gritted his teeth. “Excuse me for being surly, but yes, you did. And I am not a”
“Yes, yes. I’m sorry.” Sputtering like an idiot, I started brushing him off as if I’d dumped a filled vacuum cleaner bag over his head. “I understand completely. You are not a midget.”
Well, actually, I could relate. I’m short, and I would certainly resent anyone calling me a midget. How rude. What was I thinking?
“Sorry, I meant to say that you’re…” In my befuddled state, the word dwarf popped into my mind. Not politically correct, either. A little person? A gnome? A miniature? “You’re…ah…vertically challenged.”
He pushed my hands off him. “Enough with the brushing, for crying out loud. What’s the matter with you? And I’m not vertically challenged, either.”
I hopped back and pressed my arms to my sides, afraid I would do something else weird. “You’re not? Then―”
He sidled up to me, his face―actually, his lighted cigar―almost poking into my navel, and looked up my torso to my face. “What is it with you, lady? Don’t you recognize an elf when you see one?”
Puzzled, I shook my head to clear the cobwebs. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Elf. I…umm…I’m glad to meet you. What’s your first name?”
“My name’s not Elf, it’s Elwood. Woodie for short.”
Little black dots danced in front of my eyes. Everything I looked at had fuzzy edges, including Mr. Elf…Elwood…Woodie. I pasted on a dazed smile and extended my hand.
“I’m Harriet Ruby, your tour director for the week. It’s so nice to meet you, Mr. Elf. Elwood Elf. Well, that name certainly has a ring to it.”
He groaned and shook his shaggy head in disgust. “I knew this trip would turn out to be a big mistake. I tried to tell the big fella, but no-oo, he wouldn’t listen. ‘Ho, ho, ho…a vacation in sunny Rome is just the ticket’,” he mimicked in a ridiculous voice. “Mer-rry Christmas.”
“And a Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Elf.”
The glare he shot me would peel a potato at fifty feet. “Dammit, lady―”
He rolled his eyes. “Dammit, Harriet Lady, my name is not Elf. I am an elf. You got the idea yet?”
“Oh, yes, I understand.” Could I lie, or what? I was floating in the lala land of confusion, trying to come to grips with this turn of events. “So, your nickname is Woodie. Short for Elwood?”
“Nah. It’s because I’m the master wood carver.”
“Hey, Woodie, my man.” Another small person with a round cheerful face, ruddy cheeks and a pointy nose approached from behind and slapped Woodie on the back. Younger, but not a child. “How’s it going?”
“Not good.” Woodie replied. “We got a problem―and she’s it.”
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND MAY ALL YOUR PLANS HAVE A SATISFYING ENDING.