The North Pole’s snow
The dense and grey smoke marked once more the beginning of Christmas. Squeaky machines and the sweat in the small elves’ foreheads wove an ambience of effort and preoccupation to have all the presents on time. At this point, it had been almost a decade since the Great Factory of the North Pole had functioned properly. The elves that enjoyed the cold the most spent day and night collecting snow with their shovels and filling the engine of the factory so that it would keep going on. In what once was a blanket of thick and shiny snow, it only remained watery mud and grey-stained ice. Their days were longer each time, traveling enormous distances in the search for a little shiny snow for the engine.
‘Friends, friends! There is nothing else we can do as for today…’ announced Ralphie, the Snowy Squad’s chief. ‘Gather your shovels and go back home’.
‘What about the machines?’ asked the small Elfy, putting the shovel on his shoulder and loosening his scarf.
‘Great Nicholas commands us to abandon our positions for the day. If this winter they leave us without snow, we will have to leave them without presents’ sighed Ralphie.
Every year was the same. The elves would finish their shifts exhausted, scratching every possible surface, begging for a little snow. They would go back home with a gloomy air, some would even let out a few tears. Was it fair that those whom they worked for were the ones to make their jobs even more difficult? Every elf was born with one dream: to see the excitement in the eyes of humans when they opened their presents. The indifference with which they answered was disheartening.
Walking down the path that led to the forest, Elfy hit with the tip of his foot the pebbles that crossed his path. Days like this were the most painful. In a burst, he threw his beanie to the ground.
‘I don’t even know why I bother to bundle up anymore!’ he screamed, glaring at the sky.
The green wool began to get stained by the floor. He remembered instantaneously that not everything was bad: his grandmother was waiting for him at home, probably knitting another beanie like the one he had just thrown to the ground. With such intense shifts looking for snow, he had barely had the opportunity to spend time with her. He picked his beanie up and followed the way home. Just as he expected, Granny Holly was sprawled in her green chair next to the chimney, with her knitting needles between her arms. The smell of caramel cookies and burning wood filled the little cabin.
‘Cheer up, son! What has gotten into you?’
‘Why can’t they see they hurt us?’ asked Elfy while putting his scarf on the coat rack.
‘That is what frustrated me the most when I was your age, wearing myself out painting flowers on the tableware just for them to hug their parents… I did not spend all year working so they would take advantage of my merits!’ Granny Holly was outraged. ‘Shoot! I got the wrong stitch! These humans drive me out of my mind…’
‘And I joined the squad because I enjoy the cold, not for it to be minus twenty degrees…’
‘It is impossible to work in this heat!’
Elfy took a cookie to his mouth. No one made them like Granny Holly. In the time she corrected her work, they chatted about the plans for that night. With the factory on pause he could stay at home for the night. The old elf was not in great condition: she lost strength by the day. Age did not pass in vain for elves, and with such high temperatures it was harder for them to do any activity. That night was especially difficult for Holly: she knew that soon she would not be there to help her little Elfy and cheer him up while his dream was drifting further away. Together they read stories written by humans about them. They loved to laugh about how different they truly were.
‘It has been weeks since I last saw the snow’ said Granny Holly after several minutes in silence. ‘It is always so beautiful, but it barely happens anymore. I would love to see it one last time…’
‘Don’t say that, granny! There is lots of snow still in your way’ corrected Elfy frowning. He did not like it when his grandmother lost hope so quickly. It was too hard thinking of a world without her.
Night gave way to day and they would take turns. The Sun and the Moon danced in the sky, but the snow still did not come. The factory’s smoke was getting darker and darker. The vast majority of sock and dog costume units had closed. Gift options were more and more limited and humans became more impatient by the day. In customer service they could not handle it anymore, the ringing of the telephones was deafening. Great Nicholas’ office door opened. He advanced with his big belly and long white beard up to the balcony and toned with a deep voice:
‘Dear elves, do not work anymore! It is useless until the next snowstorm. When the first snowflake comes, hurry up and come back… We are in a situation of festive emergency’.
Whispers broke out through the hall. They had been working at their limit for years, but they always resolved it at the end. They had been sent home before their shift ended several times, but they had never had direct orders to stop working completely until further notice.
Back in the wooden cabin, Elfy sat down on the bed, next to his grandma. That morning she was incapable of getting out of bed. Her face was struck with astonishment when he told her the events of the dar. She had never heard of the Great Fatory of the North Pole closing indefinitely. That was by far the saddest Christmas she had experienced.
One night while he was writing in his diary, Elfy heard the softest sound against his window. He lifted his sight, thinking it had been a dove’s feather, but to his surprise, he found a minuscule snowflake against the glass. He got right up to his feet, letting the small notebook and pencil fall to the carpet. He entered his grandmother’s bedroom.
‘Granny, granny! It’s snowing, let’s go watch it!’ he whispered excitedly, shaking his grandmother slightly.
‘Oh, son! I have not got the strength to get out of bed, but I am so glad to hear that!’ Holly yawned while rubbing her eyes.
‘You need to see it, granny!’
Very carefully, he took her into his arms, just as she did when he was a baby, and took her to the living room's window. Her eyes lit up at the sight of the snow falling form the sky. Elfy remembered Great Nicholas’ orders: When the first snowflake comes, hurry up and come back… But when he saw the happiness in Holly’s face, he said to himself that surely that could wait a few minutes longer. The coat of snow was very thing and it barely covered the forest’s leaves, but the moonlight made them shine like a midday sea.
‘It seems as if the stars had come down and laid on the trees’ admired Holly, with the reflection of each flake on her pupils. ‘I have seen bigger snowstorms, but nothing like this one’.
Granny Holly made it to bed on her own. Right after she got into bed, Elfy put on his boots, gathered his shovel and headed to the Great Factory of the North Pole. Reunited in a circle at the gate, the expectation was palpable among all the elves that could not wait to get back to work after two long weeks of resting. The ringing of the bells swerved the attention of all up to the sky: above their heads Great Nicholas was arriving, flying through the skies on his sleigh.
‘Good night, dear elves! Let us get back to work! Declared triumphantly the big bearded man.
The Snowy Squad drew out their shovels and began collecting all the snow they could find. Nerves started building up when it stopped snowing and the dew had not been enough to relaunch the engine. After weeks at pause, the engine needed much more snow to start. The elves’ joy was suddenly gone, replaced by disappointment and grimaces. Saddened, they had to go back home with the Sun setting on the horizon.
The chimney was put out and there were no cookies left on top of the kitchen counter. In their place, there was a small package with the name “Elfy” written on it in big and golden letters. He took out the note and read:
This morning I went out to see the snow again and to buy more caramel for your favourite cookies. I was on my way to the market when, just before the entrance, I saw the stand of a human. Naturally, I was scared, as I had never seen a human up close. He was selling some very pretty and shiny little stones and sands. He said they were called “diamonds” and that he made them himself.
I want you to put them on our shelves at home. When I am gone, I want you to remember me and our last snowstorm together. Aren’t they just like snowflakes?
I have come back to leave them at home, but I am going back out to look for your caramel.
He left the diamonds on the table. He started placing them one by one next to the Christmas tales written by humans. Leaving the last one next to a small book that talked about a certain “Grinch”, he observed it carefully, mesmerized by all the faces that shedded light. Elfy thought about his grandmother’s words: Aren’t they just like snowflakes? Startled, he gathered them all and put them back on the little bag. He ran out of the house, making his way to the factory. Would something so similar to snow be able to trick the engine?
‘Great Nicholas, I’ve got an idea!’ he shouted, wishing that the chief would be in the factory. He peeked his head out of his office’s door.
‘What are you doing here, Elfy? Go back home, there is nothing we can do’ replied Nicholas exasperated.
‘I’ve got an idea! My granny was at the market when a human sold her this shiny dust. They reminded me so much of the snow’s shine, that maybe we could use it for the engine…’ he took out a handful of diamond dust and showed it to him.
Nicholas brought his eyes to the elf’s small hand.
‘It is true that it looks just the same’ he said finally, arching his eyebrows. ‘Let us try, it is our last chance’.
They went to the reactor and Elfy introduced the diamonds in the tube. A screech, two, three and a tremor: it had worked!
‘Excellent! Go upstairs and ring the bells, let all your peers know they must come back to work! I am leaving as soon as possible for the market, I need to talk to this vendor so he can give me more of those “diagonds”. Thank your grandmother!’ he jumped on his sleigh and herd his reindeers. He started flying and disappeared among the clouds.
In the span of one our, all the elves had gotten back to the factory. The production was working on clockwork. The Great Nicholas was supervising the boardgames section with a smile on his face. He went out humming a Christmas carol, looking for the Squad.
‘You are there, Elfy! I would love to talk to your grandmother, she has saved Christmas.’
Elfy smiled and put on his earmuffs. The cold started to come and a good spirit filled the atmosphere. He took once more the way home, wondering if his grandma would have come home. He had to thank her for making his dreams come true once more.