As church bells chime in the gentle breeze and playful children squeal in their games, I let my eyes wander far beyond the snow-covered hills and friendly skies. The cool air smells fresh. Chokingly cold, but fresh. As I make my way down the steep, winding path, I soon lose sight of what expansive nature there was and come upon a mysterious little wooden gate, buried deep in a cluster of overgrown blue princess holly. Funny, I’ve never seen it around before. A slight push and the door creaks open. Several more steps forward, and I come across a modest cottage. Inside, it is almost bare, save for a tiny log table upon which it seems that someone’s in the midst of setting up a celebration or party of some sort.
Candles emanating heart warming scents. Plenty of fruits to go all around. Tins and tins of biscuits, cartons and cartons of tea bags. Fascinating tubes of ointments that promise youthful skin.
Out of nowhere, there comes a polite cough and I turn around to see a guinea pig about the size of a five-year-old boy gazing ever so endearingly at me. “I- I- Why this is awkward,” it said. “We’ve never had anyone in here before! Would you like to pick your presents up yourself?”
A. Talking. Guinea. Pig.
God knows how long it has been observing me before making its presence known. “Um…” was all I could mutter, after staring in disbelief at the naked absurdity unfolding before me. You know how words fail you when you suddenly encounter a situation so ridiculously unbelievable, that you end up spending the next few days of your life pondering on the mere conceivability of it? If it isn’t for Mr. Guinea Pig’s doe eyes, I may just snap out of it right away.
“Would you like to pick up your gifts?” he repeats. “Um, no…,” I reply, quite unsure of how I should respond. Do I even greet this furry thing? And, what gifts is he talking about? I try my luck. “What gifts do you have?”
“Oh my! You poor confused cow. Here, let me take you around and show you what we’re packing. It’s the holiday season, you know that. So – chuckles – I apologise in advance if any of that may seem too untidy for you,” says Mr. Guinea Pig. He pushes open the door to the kitchen and no. It is NOT a kitchen. A huge warehouse of merry making is what it is. Rows and rows of work tables occupied by fairies humming melodious tunes as they busied themselves with beautifully decorated wrappers and gifts (to be wrapped, of course).
“Don’t! These can’t be touched before they are sent out!” Mr Guinea Pig almost shouts in alarm, as I reach my hand out towards a floral themed barrel tin. “Why not?” I ask. “They’ll lose their magic,” he says matter-of-factly, as if finding my ignorance incredible. “Sorry,” I say and decide to keep my hands to myself from now.
“All right,” says Mr. Guinea Pig. “We’ll take a quick look at the yummy munchies. Everything you see here is freshly baked in our oven below and then sent up here to be placed into the tins that you see. Remember – no touching!”
I wander around and try to take in as much as my eyes possibly can. Here are some of the things I see:
The next room we enter looks just as huge as the first one. It resembles a princess’ dressing room, with several large wall-flanked dressing tables and again, endless rows of work tables. What I manage to catch a glimpse of:
I take my time strolling through the busy aisles, while everywhere around me bustles with activity. Mr. Guinea Pig waits for me at the end of the room, looking expectantly at me. For a minute I feel a bit sorry for making him wait, but what is one to do when you chance upon some enchanted abode, which could very well disappear the very moment you leave it?
The last room we enter seems quieter and much more peaceful. There is just one large log table from an old oak tree and a handful of older fairies having a good time around it. Candlelight fills up the room with a cosy atmosphere. I spy one or two taking a sip of hot cocoa – “rejected batches,” they say, “but just as good.” On one end sits a stonecutter perfectly focused on his chestnut leaf bauble and pays me no heed.
Mr. Guinea Pig leads me back to the first room in which we had met. “So?” he asks excitedly, “Are you here to pick up your own gifts or would you like us to deliver them for you?”
“They are all very lovely, Mr. Guinea Pig,” I begin.
“Call me Walter.”
“Walter. Well, I haven’t exactly reserved any gifts to be sent out. In fact, I don’t think I even know you at all.”
“Of course. You may not have realised it, my dear little cow, but we’ve been taking notes ever since you stepped into our workshop! Every little thought that you had, every tingle in your spine, every butterfly in your stomach! We know what you like and what you don’t, and we also know who you wish you can gift something to. Just say the word, and your wish will be our command,” he smiles knowingly.
“Well in that case, I’d like to thank you very much!”
“All right then. Consider it done. Take this with you. It’s a little something from all of us. We sincerely hope you enjoyed your visit!”
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