- The Christmas Trilogy
2: Aster Blooms
3: coming soon
Table of Contents
2: Aster Blooms
3: coming soon
Artist: Stanley Morrison
Skip the early bird special and head out during happy hour and request the Jungle Bird cocktail.
I'm going to let you in on a secret so saucy you will pledge your loyalty to me for the rest of your life. Yes, it's that juicy. This isn't a local secret, it's world wide.
Listen, it will be especially potent for people who experienced the 70's. Our generation can not be beat for hedonism.
Without further ado......
In 1972 the Hilton Kuala Lumpur opened in Malaysia. The Aviary Bar was a showcase for the hotel. It was the creme de' la creme. The focal point, if you will. It was a fantastical spectacle.
There were over fifty jungle birds in a netted setting visible through the glass along the wall of the lounge. It was tropical, sensual and indulgent.
Photo by Enrique Grisales from Pexels
This bar was created to make you feel desire and desired. Visitors come from thousands of miles to liberate them from their day-to-day life and chores, allowing them to indulge in their secret desires.
This wasn't the original plan for the hotel, but they went with it. Reinhard Steffen was the food and beverage manager of the hotel. He met with Jeffrey Ong, the head bartender to come up with a signature cocktail that would indulge the fantasies and add to the already sensual atmosphere.
Well, Jeffrey Ong was up for the challenge.
He created the Jungle Bird.
Photo by Martijn Hendrikx on Unsplash
Now that we have the technical part of the drink out of the way, let's get to the heart of the story. Shall we?
Jeffrey's drink was tasty, but Reinhard wanted to jazz it up bit. He found a local artist who made special clay glassware in the shape of birds. There were no two alike.
Firash Mollycoddle was the artist. Firash in Malaysian means perceptiveness and ingenuity. He was the third part of this lascivious trio. Unbeknownst to them they would unlock a potion which allows certain people to experience there most secret desire. The trio were now interlocked.
Photo by melissa mjoen on Unsplash
Firash, being perceptive, knew they were looking for something cabalistic to offer the patrons. Even though they didn't know that's what they wanted, it was exactly what they needed.
He charmed the glassware without their knowledge. However, he did hint to Jeffrey and Reinhard something special would happen in the right circmustance.
He told them to pay attention to the customers, listen to them as if your life depended on it. This is also the origin of where bartenders became unofficial counselors. The really good ones paid attention not only like their lives depended on it, but their tips as well. Most bartenders did well, but only a select few graduated to mastery
The Aviary Bar became infamous. People traveled from all over the world to go there. News of wishes granted and lives changed for both good and bad, travelled fast and the rich and famous could afford to see what the buzz was all about.
Photo by William Bayreuther on Unsplash
The mystical event began a few weeks after grand opening. It was an early Tuesday evening and the crowd was light. The three inventors sat at the bar talking about current events when a wealthy gentleman walked up to the bar. He looked forlorn.
Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash
oCal lifted the glass and took a sip. The trio leaned in. As he drank they felt a slight breeze from the wings flapping. How could that be? It was a glass made of clay. Abruptly Mr. Cojones sat up. His eyes rolled back into his head. He was in some sort of trance.
In his dream state he stood at the edge of the water in a coastal bay. The very large pink Spoonbill eyed him up and down. You see, in some cultures bird spirit animals assist in gaining higher knowledge. The spoonbill is known for sweeping obstacles out of ones way. Shyness, wariness, silence and grit are a few of its attributes. They are a symbol of strength.
Spoonie spoke to Cal. He told him he needed to quit hanging out and working with shallow people. It's lazy. It's o.k. If I do it, I'm eating them. You are not. Go deeper. Do not be shy and question their motives. He explained how to go about it with tact and grace. You will "know" if the answers are true or not. Cal wanted to know how this all worked. Spoonie pecked him hard in the head causing Cal to jump back and yell, "What was that for?"
Spoonie lost his patience. "Look your name is Cojones. Grow a pair. That love peck on the head I just gave you imparted wisdom and hopefully a little bit of chutzpah to carry on. This was your secret desire, no?
Cal hugged Spoonie, which the bird did not like at all. He went to peck him again, but Cal weaved and bobbed and thanked him. He was euphoric.
Meanwhile back at the Aviary bar the trio were freaking out. Cal was slumped on the bar. Then out of now where a bleeding wound appeared on his head. They knew the Jungle Bird drink was special. They didn't realize it was dangerous.
After what seemed like hours, but really was only minutes, Cal sat up. Something was different. He emanated confidence until he felt the lump on his head. He looked around and grabbed a linen cloth folded in the shape of a swan from a nearby table and wiped his head. He downed the rest of the cocktail, got up and left a generous tip.
The trio were stunned, What happened? If they didn't see it for themselves they would've never believed the transformation. Or what just transpired.
Reinhard told Jeffrey, " Make another drink." He did and they all tasted it. Nothing happened. No fog. No trance. NO magic. They were disappointed, but a tad bit relieved.
It was a few weeks before another incident occurred. This time the lady vacationing confided in the bartender. She was emboldened by the fact that she was thousands of miles from home and anyone who knew her. She was tipsy on gin and tonic.
Firash entered the bar an was drawn to the lady. She had mile high blonde hair and legs for days. He looked at Jeffrey. The bartender winked. Then nodded to Reinhard who was in the dining room checking on guests. He slowly made his was to the bar.
Firash sat down next to the lady and introduced himself. She held our her hand. "My name is Annette Felicitous. I'm vacationing from Tulsa, Oklahoma."
"Well, Annette from Tulsa, Oklahoma, I think you should try the the hotel's signature drink, the Jungle Bird." There was applause in the dining room after he said Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was kind of weird, but helped.
"Well, alright then barkeep, I'll take one please." The fog circled the glassware once again. It landed on the toucan. Jeffrey accommodated the mist and prepared the drink. He waited a second then asked Annette if she would share with the other two what she just told him.
She was taken aback but felt like she was among friends, and hell, she was never going to see them again. Why not?
"Gentlemen, it's been my dream, my fantasy, my most secret desire since I was a little girl to be a singer."
The Toucan wiggled in Jeffrey's hand. He turned around grabbed the birdcage and presented her with the cocktail. When she lifted the cage a glow surrounded her. I mean she was a beautiful lady, but now she dazzled. They could not take their eyes off of her,
She took a sip and closed her eyes in appreciation. Then she found herself sitting on a limb in a canopy of trees in the jungle dangling her feet. There wasn't a lick of fear in her. The view was amazing, then a loud caw took her out of her silence. Sitting right next to here was a Toucan.
Photo by Pranesh Ravi on Unsplash
After a few minutes of a staring contest he began to speak. This didn't shock her, in fact she was expecting it. This colorful, hypnotizing matriarch told Annette, "It is time for you to be bold. Be colorful. Razzle-Dazzle my darling. I"ve followed you all of your life and you CAN sing. You have the power to move people, to inspire, to make magic. Share your gift with someone other than the shampoo and conditioner. It's time for you to be vocal."
Annette felt a ripple flow through her. She was speechless, but only momentarily. Then she sang. And sang. And sang. The jungle went quiet. The next thing she knew she was standing on stage at the Aviary Bar singing with the house band.
When she stopped there was silence, just like in the jungle. Then an enormous sound erupted from the crowd. There were whistles, hand clapping hootin' and hollerin'. She stood there in all her glory soaking in the accolades.
She thanked the audience and the Toucan.
The trickster trio figured out what the classified phrase was to wake the Jungle Bird. It was secret desire. The recipient had to willingly reveal their deepest yearnings. Then the Jungle Bird accommodated.
This went on and on. Most times it was a beautiful experience to witness, but there were a few sinuous cases. The three swore never to speak of those.
The trio were hooked on the feeling of watching peoples lives change. They felt like a powerful diety. They wanted more of this power. As promised they never spoke of the rare depraved incidents. They were unanimous in thinking the good outweighed the bad. Their collective secret desire was to live forever and provide these encounters with the individuals who were ready.
That evening after last call they sat at the end of the bar. Reinhard suggested they hold hands but the other two smacked him upside the head. They compromised and put their hands on the bar facing upward. They looked to the birds that were on display and simultaneously declared the secret desires.
Well, hells bells, those birds went bat shit crazy. The most fog they ever saw morphed into a mushroom cloud. The cawing, the wing flapping breeze, and the clouds. The clouds just kept rolling in until they disappeared.
Sitting on the bar was a Jungle bird drink served in The-Bird-of-Paradise glass. It sat inside a golden bird cage. The trio opened their eyes and gasped. Firash didn't make this particular urn, and nobody knew where the golden bird cage came from.
Reinhard lifted the cage and slid the potion towards them. He took a sip, then passed it to Jeffrey who passed it to Firash. They watched each other closely but nothing seemed to happen. Each man took stock of his body, then gave a once over to the others. Nothing appeared different.
Except, there was a faint hum coming from each of the participants. Each one had an electric pulse flowing through them, yet nothing was happening.
Photo by Mariya Georgieva on Unsplash
The next day all three were called into the general managers office of the hotel. Which was kind of strange because Firash didn't work for the hotel. The manager was confused because he was a local artist who made bird glassware for the Aviary Lounge. Magical feathered MoFo's that is. So, yeah, he belonged in this meeting.
The manager sat behind his desk wiping sweat from his brow. He motioned for them to take a seat. Apparently the owner of Hilton Hotels, Conrad Hilton wanted to have a face time call with the three amigos.
The hotel tycoon popped up on a screen looking larger than all the men in the room. He got straight to the point. Great things were being said about the Aviary Lounge and it all stemmed from these three men. The buzz from this tiny bar in Malaysia was putting his flagship hotels to shame. London, The Waldorf Astoria, Switzerland and Paris, they were in the shadow of Malaysia.
Rumors floated about. Fantastical rumors, that wishes were granted, wild life changing experiences were happening and it all came back to these three men. You can't buy that type of advertising. The Aviary Bar went viral.
The gentlemen looked at each other and shrugged. Reinhard joined in saying he was aware of the rumors but didn't know where they originated. The other two added that well, why not play along?
"Good show!" Conrad Hilton bellowed. As a thank you I"m going to relocate each of you to a different Hilton around the world. You will be in charge of the signature bars and bring your mojo with you. Then you will move on to the next hotel."
"I will move you around according to results. You will of course have a huge pay raise and many perks to go along with your new position. And yes, I'm aware the artist doesn't work for me, but he does now. Is that a problem Firash?" He inquired.
"No sir." The artist was now in the hospitality industry.
Conrad finished up with assignments for each of the men. The screen went blank. The manager was flabbergasted. The trio were ecstatic. Their wishes were granted only they were going solo now.
Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash
For years the three men travelled the world building up an infamous reputation. Groupies followed them all over the globe. Most never saw the magic, but there was always the hope of witnessing the gossip from the grapevine.
Every now and agin they would meet up at one of the hotels to triple the goodness of transformations. The reunions we're always fun and eventful. Three immortal bachelors playing Genie in the most luxurious playgrounds on the planet. Life was indeed great.
As always, good things must come to an end. The problem arose when even though they didn't age, the customers did. The trend for tropical drinks, was not in fashion anymore. Nobody ordered the Jungle Bird. Every one wanted to do shots. All kinds of shots, fancy, classic and even off the body, It was crazy. They were going out of style, yet stayed the same age. They didn't know how to bring back the tiki era of cocktails.
Until......they met up in Hollywood, California. It was a spot they never visited. After years of success with the Hilton chain they were granted full privileges at any Hilton in the world.
They were sitting in the director's lounge when a geeky film maker walked in and bellied up to the bar. Their collective electric pulse began to hum.
He wore a floral shirt, straw hat, fancy watch and flip flops. It appeared he was a working beach bum. Jeffrey walked over while Firash and Reinhard slid a little closer to hear the conversation
The Beachbum ordered a Mai Tai, the quintessential tiki drink. The trio was hopeful this was the Earth helper to revive the cause.
Jeffrey told him this drink was on the house because he also loved the tiki era and didn't get a chance to make these drinks often. The Beachbum perked right up. He held out his hand and introduced himself.
"My name is Jeff Berry. It's a pleasure to meet you."
He sipped the drink, closed his eyes to savor the flavor. It was quite possibly the best drink he'd ever had.
"What a coincidence, my name is Jeffrey. I suppose we are birds of a feather."
Well, that opened up the conversation. Nobody much listened to Jeff in this town, but the bartender did. He told them he was a screen writer and journalist. There were only a few successful films under his belt but he didn't love the industry. He loved everything tiki.
He loved the food, the drinks, the clothes, the lifestyle, the freedom to be who you are. His dream was to open a restaurant all tiki, all the time. But he also wanted to write books about the drinks, and travel around showcasing the places that made them. Perhaps make a documentary.
By this time he was flanked by Firash and Reinhard. They were listening with zeal and the Beachbum soaked it in.
One thing the trio knew for sure during their many years is everything old becomes new again. Jeff "the Beachbum" Berry was their man. They also witnessed many hidden dreams revealed. They were solid in the process.
They went about persuading this savior of wishes to divulge his dream out loud by using the phrase secret desire.
After an hour you would of thought the four men knew each other since grade school and this was a reunion. They spoke of their lives to him too. Firash leaned into the Beachbum and told him his "Keinginan Rahsia". The Beachbum, looked at him bewildered. Firash explained that was how you say secret desire in Malaysian. That's where he was from. He told him his Keinginan Rahsia was for the tiki era to come back as well. It reminded him of home.
Well, that touched the Beachbum's heart. He hugged him. That was Jeffrey's cue to introduce him to the Jungle Bird.
"My friend, I would like you to try a special drink from the Avairy Lounge. It was my first job as bartender and it was my first invention of a signature drink. An aficionado like yourself will appreciate this drink. Especially after you told us about your dreams."
The Beachbum perked up." I'd love to try it. Your language is beautiful. My deepest Keinginan Rahisa is to try this drink and bring back the glorious era of tiki, the tropics, the beautiful way of life. I want everyone to know about this. " He declared.
Before you knew it the mist circled under the bar where the glassware was. Then the magic revealed the Bird of paradise glass. The trio was shocked because this is the one that revealed itself to them back in Malaysia. They also left that particular glass at the Aviary Lounge. It was also sitting in the same golden birdcage with the drink already mixed. Where did everything come from?
Photo by Jessica Cortez from Pexels
Jeff, the Beachbum Berry's eyes grew wide and a similar hum came from him. He sipped the drink and pleasure ripped though him. He finished the drink in silence then got up and left the bar with no goodbye, even though the trio became the quad squad.
The trio were confounded. Something transpired, but nobody knew what. They finished their weekend and went back to their respective hotels.
Meanwhile in Hollywood, The Beachbum quit his job, and started traveling the globe in search of the best tiki drinks, locations, and lifestyles. He wrote a few books on the cocktails of his dreams, and he featured the Jungle Bird. His following grew and grew. He became a celebrity in the foodie world.
His restaurant, Keinginan Rahsia opened a year later.
He found the trio and invited them to the grand opening They knew what he was up to because his evangelizing of the tropical way led to the return of the tiki. They were back in the genie business. Of course they knew his restaurant would be a success, but they were genuinely surprised at the name. Secret desire in Malaysian was the cherry on top.
So, my friends, the trio is still around. I'm not quite sure about the Beachbum, but if you're looking to have your secret desire fulfilled you must find a lounge. The mystical bartenders are a little more incognito these days. Find a lounge that is classic. It must be dark, kind of like a gentlemen's club, an old steak house, something formal where the patrons look like they are constipated. You may have better luck there. The darker, the better.
If possible look for the bartender wearing a monocle. That's their new fashion accessory. Belly up to the bar and say the phrase, Keinginan Rahsia, followed by your order of a Jungle Bird.
Aster Blooms: The Chariot Pt. 2
By Lynn Bywaters
If you love this card go to
Go here if you didn't read part one. The Chariot Pt. 1
Twas the week before Christmas....
I celebrate every December 19th as if it were my birthday. Well, in a sense it is my second one, when life began again.
This is me sixty four years later at the ripe age of eighty two. I'm not as pretty as I was as a young girl riding my beloved Ed, but I've led a full and happy life, and still have a lot more to live.
I'm celebrating my second birth today. It started on a fateful night long ago when my sister Poppy met Nick and we were all whisked away to the North Pole. Ho! I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. If I told you they had a whirlwind romance that would be a lie. It was a, hmmm, I don't know what's faster than a whirlwind? I know, it was faster and more powerful than a f-5 tornado.
Let me catch you up. My sisters, Poppy, Violet and I, arrived here on December 19th. Nick Jr. and Poppy married on New Years Eve. They went back to south Florida where it all began for their honeymoon and were home in time for Valentines day.
Halloween turned out to be a twofer holiday because it was the day Poppy gave birth to twins. A boy and a girl named George and Georgie. You see on their honeymoon in Boynton Beach, Florida, Nick went drift sea fishing and caught a 250 lb. Sail fish. A whopper and a day to remember, second to his wedding day. In honor of his one and only fishing trip Poppy agreed the babies could be named after the boat, The Two Georges. The only caveat was they could return to her hometown every year after New Years for a week.
It was effortless for Poppy to settle into this new festive life. Even with all the hardships we've faced as a family, she was always buoyant. I suppose it was because of her music. She played many instruments and it was her escape. Heck, she landed Nick by playing her squeeze box. If she held any residue of our past life we never heard about it. But, we didn't hear about it while it was happening either. This fast-paced life suited her.
Photo by Valeria Boltneva from Pexels
Violet and I were caught up in all the festivities as well, but when New Years came along and all the chaos slowed down we were left to figure out where we fit in our new life in the North Pole. This was our home too now.
Why did we stay you ask? Well, our parents died five years ago and Violet being the oldest took the reins, at least the best she could. We've always been close but when we were orphaned we were raising each other. Three wild girls who really needed our parents spun out of control.
The few years before the move I was a party girl. Sitting still was out of the question. I always had to be doing something because sitting still forced me to think about how life really was.
I made many mistakes, but boy did I love to have fun. I do have a few regrets, but since I can't change them, que sera sera.
The men. I really did love the men. It started innocent enough. I wanted warmth and tenderness, acceptance and caring like everyone else. The ones I picked did not.
The first time I was with a man I fell hard and fast. Looking back, it wasn't really with him, but the sense of perhaps safety? A protector. Three days later he was done with me.
I did this a couple more times, and realized I'm not the girlfriend type. When in reality I confused sex with love. I didn't know any better.
Please don't judge me too hard. I promise you I do it enough for the both of us. I mean I don't want to sound flippant but for the first month at the Pole I flinched every time Papa Noel busted out with "Ho, ho, Ho!" Yes, I've heard that name a million times. People can be cruel.
But I've moved on. The men, they were all very special at the moment. I suppose I was looking for love, but only found emptiness, and in turn I craved it more. It was a vicious cycle.
In this moment I was forced to slow down and perhaps grieve. The only problem, I didn't know how. It was painful. Mama C and Papa Noel were very kind. I didn't call them mom and dad out of respect for my own parents, but they were filling the spot.
I was itching to wander, or was it to run away, I"m not sure but I needed to not be in the village. I needed to be alone with my thoughts and figure out who I was. I've never been alone before, not really anyway. There was no way of telling how I would react to all these feelings, so I wanted, no I was desperate to take off. I explained this to the folks.
The next day Papa Noel took me to the barn and presented me with a breathtaking red stallion. He was sixteen hands and he was all mine. This was the first time in my life I fell in love.
"Ho, ho, ho...of course he is Aster. He's going to be your guardian while you wander."
I hugged the horse's neck and rubbed him while walking all around him to inspect him. He was magnificent.
"What's his name?
"Let me formerly introduce you. Aster, this is Ed. Ed, this is Aster."
I looked at the big guy in disbelief.
"Are you kidding me? This horse is called Ed? His name isn't Fireball? Rocket? Wildfire? Or even Bolt, it's Ed?" I looked at him with one raised eyebrow.
"Don't let the name fool you. Ed is exactly what you need. He knows the outside realm better than any other horse or person for that matter." He gave Ed a carrot while petting his neck.
"You mean it's o.k. for me to wander off and explore the valleys and mountains outside the village?" I could not believe this. I needed to hear it again. I was floored, nobody ever truly listened to my needs in the last few years.
"Yes, Aster. This is your time but you need to check in with us from time to time to let us know you are alive. We've set up a cottage on the outskirts of the village."
Tears rolled down my cheek. This was a gift of a lifetime. I ran and hugged Santa.
"Aster, we love you. Let's go see Mama C and tell her your goodbyes." The we headed back to the village.
Well, the next morning I said my goodbyes to everyone. Violet was stunned, but understood. She was going through her own grief process and trying to figure out the process for her too.
Looking back at this old photograph Mama C took I realize how inexperienced I truly was. I mean look at what I'm wearing. A gorgeous dress with inappropriate riding shoes, long sleeved emerald gloves, but I matched Ed's divine tack. We looked good.
Right before this shot I blew everyone a kiss and off we went.
I found my cottage, changed my clothes then headed to to the forest. There's something you should know about this part of the Pole. It's enchanted. There's mountains, lakes, valleys, forests, rivers and waterfalls. The seasons change here unlike the snowy village at the Pole.
We galloped towards the lake and stopped. This is where I met my soon to be life long best friend Moira. She was an Irish fairy and was very experienced in all things wilderness. We hit it off right away.
Papa Noel was right, Ed was a true, solid mount. He didn't flinch at wildlife, was steady over mountains, went through water and really he would do anything I asked him to do.
He gave me confidence and I in turn showed him I could be a leader. I learned how to fish, hunt and find which plants were edible and which ones weren't. We road for hours at a time. When we weren't riding we were swimming, or napping, or doing anything we wanted to. I've never experience so much freedom in my life. I thrived in this atmosphere.
Photo by Mike Andrei from Pexels
I came to the village once a month as promised to see the family. I caught up with Violet, Poppy, Nick and the twins. Mama C would take me aside and we would have long talks about everything and nothing.
Papa Noel took me to the barn and introduced me to the new horses. I would ride as many as I could. My horsemanship skills flourished. This was my joy, my passion. I was really good at it and I felt whole, worthy.
The love I received from these animals was unconditional. They taught me to be present in every moment. If you didn't pay attention, they would do something to get it back. And usually it's something you don't want.
Moira and I explored every inch of the valleys together. As time went by it was harder and harder to go to the village to see everyone. I was escaping into bliss.
But, I knew if I didn't go back, they would come for me and make me come home, forever possibly. This was something I could not risk. I was the happiest and fullest I've ever been.
A couple years into this life was a turning point. I went for the monthly visit but this time Papa Noel and Mama C took me aside. They told me it was time I re-entered life. This was not what I expected, nor what I wanted.
I became anxious and began to weep. Mama C took me into her arms and cradled me. She just rocked me until I stopped crying. They told me I wasn't just hiding, I was hiding out. They tried to explain the difference but I didn't understand.
They had a plan. They were sending me off for a year abroad to apprentice with different trainers and breeders of the world's best horses. I was headed to Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, England then to the states and head west.
I would be exposed to multiple riding disciplines, breeds and a whole new lifestyle, not to mention the new types of people I would encounter. If I didn't like it I could come back in a year and resume my old/new life.
It tempted me. But, I was frightened. I finally found myself. I was confident. I felt loved and cared for. Perhaps they knew it was time. The two years I spent in the woods would be my training for integrating back into civilization. I still didn't want to go, but I trusted them. So, I agreed.
Photo by Laila Klinsmann from Pexels
The next week I was off. Another round of tearful goodbyes was too much to bear. However, I survived. First stop...Belgiam. This country was my immersion into the world of championship horses. The trainer and his staff were kind to me, but tough. The head trainer and owner of the barn was Yves Van Damme. He and his family took me into their home while I worked there. It was a difficult job but I loved every minute of it.
His son, Claude, was there to help too. I'm just going to get right to it. We fell in love. Only this time I did it in the right order. We were intimate in every way except physically. When it was time for me to leave we knew everything about each other. The good bye was hard, but I knew we would stay connected forever.
Then it was off to tour all of Europe and learn dressage, jumping and cross country. This was not only hard because of the language barrier, but the class of the people barrier. Also, there was so much information for me to absorb in a short period of time. It was stressful, but I remembered we all had the love of horses in common.
I didn't go out on the town during the sparse time off, but I would spend it writing Claude or talking with him on the phone. My love for him was growing deeper and deeper, yet the love for myself really blossomed. I was blooming. Hohohohoho...I am named after a flower after all.
When my stint in Europe was done it was off to the states. My itinerary was Texas, Colorado, Montana, California then finishing off in Washington state. This was the western part of my horse education. It consists of working ranches, all things rodeo, and riding the trails. The latter I was already good at. By the end of my time there I was leading thrill seekers on pack trips.
As you can tell I made it way past the promised year. I kept in touch with everyone at The Pole and as always my love for Claude.
Ten years flew by like it were ten seconds. I absorbed everything equestrian. I visited Claude in Belgium when I had the chance and he did the same. It was a perfect arrangement.
Photo by Jose Aragones from Pexels
When Christmas came around I finally made it back home. It was a lovely celebration. The twins were Tweens. Poppy and Nick were starting the transition to let Papa Noel and Mama C retire. It was bizarre. My sister was going to inherit the title Mrs. Clause. I did not ever see that coming.
Violet was visiting. She moved to Yamhill County, Washington five or six years ago. The small town suited her. She was settled and referred to it as home.
I never thought I would be involved in a close knit family after the trauma my sisters and I went through. Yet, here we are. The only problem now was who and where do I pick to stay on with in the horse world. I was confused.
After the holidays I went to find Moira. We took a week together in the woods like the good ol' days. It's peaceful and serene. You can think clearly there. I wanted to stay, but why? Did I want to take a deep breath and rest? Did I want to hide out again?
Moira helped me figure out what I needed was to venture out on my own. It's time to blaze my own trail. I knew enough to do it. I just needed to figure out the monumental details.
When I returned to the village once again Papa Noel and Mama C took me into the study for another one of their famous get to the meat of the issue talks. How would they react to my idea?
Well, great. It turns out they were on the same page as me. I've been on the good list in valedictorian status for sometime now. My gift for such an accomplishment a ranch in Wellington, Florida. I was going home-home. Only to a different part of home.
The people I would end up working with, the clients, the barn crew, the brokers, the riders, the whole competition arena of folks, well, let's just say I probably waited on them at a local Italian restaurant.
This is the test. It's time to embrace the confidence I've been building. I knew what I was doing, I just had to believe in myself.
Photo by TheOther Kev from Pexels
I earned a reputation for breeding some of the best horses in the world, but my biggest gift was matching horses with riders. It blew may mind how I just knew who was meant for who. It was so innate that I finally realized it was a secret gift from Papa Noel. There were times wen people thought I was crazy for selling a particular mount to a person. There were also times when folks would get down right irate and threaten my business, my livelihood if I didn't sell them a particular horse. However, by this time my back bone was unbreakable.
Ed retired but he did pass along his fabulous blood line in a magnificent filly named Echo. She is in foal and I expect her to deliver anytime. It looks as if she could have a Christmas baby.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Christmas Eve arrived. I stayed up listening to Christmas carols and listening for the sleigh. Lo and behold I heard hoof beats on the roof. They landed. Santa slid down my chimney. Oh yes, I had a real chimney in Florida. It was a must have. Although, I've never had a fire in it.
Down through the chimney came middle aged Nick Jr.! It was his first run since Papa Noel retired, ironically a few blocks from me. Papa Noel really loved the early bird dinners, Mama C, not so much. She thought the other patrons with their gold lame bibs were a bit much. She took up golf.
I hugged my brother-in-law and we had a moment to catch up. I didn't have a plate of cookies but I did have a nice cold bottle of Budweiser, the local Santa, for him to drink. It's ok he's not really driving, the reindeer are. His first night on the job was a success.
When he left I headed to the barn to check on Echo. She just gave birth to a filly. I was bummed because I missed it but elated that mother and daughter were just fine. Echo was an amazing mother.
Her new filly was completely black and had the most tranquil disposition. She radiated calmness and serenity. Yet she was curious and built very nice, for a wobbly newborn that is.
Photo by Jan Laugesen from Pexels
I'm not sure why, but I had a twinkling feeling. Thank you Santa for that. I just knew this horse was going to be steady, smart, athletic, calm and perhaps the best horse of my time. Not just my horses, but all the horses. She was a born teacher.
I meditated on her name. It came to me, literally....Her name is Om.
The horse grew up and just as I suspected she was magnificent in every way. Clients from all over the world were clamoring for the right to bid on her. They would be waiting forever. A Sheik offered one million dollars for her. I politely declined. I knew exactly who this horse was for.
Well, fast forward to where I am now. I've led a full and happy life. Claude and I stayed together, but never in the same house or country. We both had our horses to tend to, but we saw each other twice a year for a week and whenever we were in the competition circuit we got together. It worked for us. It was the unconditional love I craved all my life. Well, at least from a human.
The story you are about to read is not the opinion of the creator of the card. The Chariot of Santa
Click on the title to take you to the card.
Twas the week before Christmas.....
Up in the North Pole young Nick, jolly ol' Saint Nicholas's son to be exact, was restless. At 21 years old he has never left the winter wonderland. Ever. Not even with his dad on Christmas.
Although, he loves his home, the elves, the reindeer, and the never-ending-supply of hot cocoa, he doesn't drink it like he used to. He's trying to keep in shape because, dang, have you seen his dad? This strapping young fellow is not quite ready for that lifestyle. There's a big world out there with many things to see. And people too.
His parents are starting to prep him for the family business and with that comes a wife. The nominees, at least from his dad are Petra, Brigitte or Gisella. They are stunning and sexy. He's known them for years, but the thing is they are kind of boring. Plus, Gisella is into Petra. Petra is a snob and Brigitte never smiles, ever. How can that even be possible in the North Pole?
The elves are off limits as are the fairies and gnomes. If he is forced to settle down with one of these candidates he was going to need to sow his wild reindeer oats first.
He stormed in his father's office powered by testosterone and peppermint. To say he was busy is an under statement of blizzard proportions. His dad sat on enormous red velvet throne at a mahogany desk. There was a long list in front of him and he was bent over it. It looks like he was on the second go round of checking it.
He cleared his throat and his dad turned to face him.
"Dad, we need to talk."
"Son, I'm buried in work. What is it?"
"I gotta get out of here and fast. I'm about to explode." He stood straighter to prove he was serious.
Santa looked at him with a twinkle in his eye. He looked back at the list and circled the name Poppy so he would know where he left off. This particular girl was baffling him. He wasn't sure if she was naughty or nice. He put the quill down and turned to face his son.
"Son, I knew this time would come just as it did for me and my father. It's a rite of passage, yet it's one you have to ask for." he stood up and grabbed his sons shoulders. " I wasn't sure you were going to ask, but I"m glad you did. It's time you see the world."
Nick beamed. "Dad, I knew you'd understand. When can I go?"
He took off his glasses and put his hands on his hip and let out a belly laugh. "Ho Ho Ho...Son, come with me."
Both men strutted towards the barn. Inside was filled with reindeer, a present loading station and THE Sleigh. Along the corridor they stopped to feed the baby reindeer carrots. They continued down the hallway which was lit with twinkle lights and headed towards the back of the barn. His dad touched the side of his nose and a hidden door opened.
Nick never saw this part of the barn before. It was just as big as the main barn, perhaps even bigger. Inside was a different animal smell. The stalls were filled with horses, glorious steeds of all colors and breeds. And a different energy.
The reindeer area possessed a magical mood, this area held an enchanting power. The horses were mighty and masculine, just the disposition he was looking for. He was bursting with machismo, virility and egg nog. It was a bona fide Christmas miracle.
Photo by Doruk Yemenici on Unsplash
His dad told him to pick three horses. Well, Nick knew just the ones he wanted. He pointed them out. Santa rocked on his heels and stroked his beard in approval.
"You have great taste son. This is Blaze, Steel and Kane. My fastest steeds." He turned to his son, "Are you sure Nick?"
"Dad if I don't get off the North Pole I will explode." The horses snorted in agreement.
"Well alright. Your chariot awaits." He waved his hands and a magnificent chariot appeared. It was red as a Poinsettia and lined in gold.
They hitched up the horses while the big guy explained a few things. "You have 24 hours to see the world. These stallions will help you get where ever you'd like. Son, what is it you are looking for?"
Nick looks down at his feet then mumbled. "Girls"
"Ho Ho Ho....of course. Well, I will suggest a few places like my ol' man did. The Netherlands has beautiful women and they are used to the cold climate. Greenland is very nice and Earthy, also a cold climate. Look pretty much any European country will have what I think you are looking for." he said with a grin while stroking his chin.
"Are they fun Papa? He asked. " I mean beautiful is great, but all the women here are beautiful. It's just, well, they are dull and lifeless. How is that? I mean this is the most magical place on Earth?"
His dad thought about it for a minute. Of course his son is right. Mrs. Claus wasn't from the North Pole. She was born and raised in south Florida. Every thing about her and her land was the polar opposite of how she lived now. He told his son the story of how he met his wife as they finished hitching the horses.
He handed his son some money and sent him on his way. "Remember son, you only have 24 hours. The horses will come back then, but in the meantime, the world is your oyster."
"Nick thanked his dad and snapped the whip in the air. "On Blaze..On Steel...On Kane....Dash away, dash away, dash away all." He bellowed.
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash
They flew through the constellations. He headed towards Europe to see what is was like. The horses were swift and agile. He steered close to the ground just out of eyesight of the people, but close enough to get a good enough look to see if he wanted to land.
Europe had an elegant glow about it. It was glamorous and appealing, yet it lacked a certain "je ne sais quoi".
"Up, up and away boys." He snapped the whip once again and off they went. "Let's check out Greenland fellas." The horses obeyed and they raced through the sky once again. When they got close he noticed how dark it was. The whole place was shut down and it was only seven in the evening. This would not do.
They were in a holding pattern while he figured out what to do next. He didn't want to waste his time going from place to place. It came to him, why mess with success. "We're headed for south Florida guys." The horses liked his choice because they reared up and headed there at the speed of light.
They were nearing a town called Boynton Beach when he noticed a nativity scene in front of an old strip bar called Moreys. This place was always the first to decorate for the holidays. It both annoyed and thrilled the locals. They ignored the establishment the rest of the year, but in December, well, tis the season.
He could feel the magic here. This was the vicinity of the origin story of his new life. They flew a bit more south and saw a building where he could feel the music vibrations coming out of it. The building had a nice flat roof too. This is it. He knew it. Steel, Blaze and Kane land with precision and he hopped out and stretched.
He unbuttoned his red coat and tied his black boots. This place was hotter than Hades. Steamy too. There's nothing to do about that now. He smelled his armpits, and breathed into his hands to check his breath. The horses rolled their eyes.
He peered over the roof and saw a sign. It read Just One. Hmmm, this should be fun. The trip was long but fast and he worked up a thirst. He slid down the column and landed in front of a man sitting on a stool in front of the door.
They eyed each other. Both sported impressive beards, only his was white and the Floridian's was dark brown. This guard? Nutcracker? He wore a black leather jacket and black boots too. It's like they were yin yang twins.
The bouncer stared at him for what seemed an eternity before he started laughing and slapped him on the back and told him to go inside. No charge. Nick tried to impersonate his dad's laugh but it didn't sound close. The sentry laughed even harder.
"First drink's on me Santa." He walked him to the bar.
Nick was feeling full of himself. This man actually thought he was Santa. They bellied up to the bar. The barmaid sashayed over. She had a thing for the bouncer. Nick swallowed hard when she walked over. She winked. His new friend told the bar wench to take good care of this guy. He patted him on the back and said, "Merry Christmas."
The maiden leaned close to him revealing an ample bosom and asked, "What's your pleasure?" Nick's eyes grew three sizes just like the Grinch's heart when he found the meaning of Christmas. He was scared. "Something cold please. You choose." He finally answered.
This part of the bar was was very dark save for a few lights coming from behind the bar, the pinball machine and the huge jukebox in the corner.
She drew a cold draft and slid it his way. He took a big swig. It was bitter at first but had a great warmth for being a cold drink. He guzzled it and asked for another. She winked again poured another one.
He headed to the other room where it was a bit lighter and louder. There were tables everywhere the color of evergreens and above them hung red and white lights with the name Budweiser on them. It was the color scheme for the holiday. Budweiser must be the local Santa. This reinforced the notion he was in the right place.
Each table was filled with people and they were hitting what looked like ornaments with sticks into holes along the side of the table. The people were merry and bright. They clapped, yelled, and danced and he was sure he heard some words that came off the naughty list.
When suddenly he heard a glorious sound coming from the back corner of the room. It was jovial and he felt as if he were at a festival. Is that an accordion?
The melodious tune hypnotized him or was it the red head playing the instrument. She was flanked by two other women. A blonde and a brunette. They were singing, laughing and dancing. It was a mirthful group.
Photo by Gabriel Silvério on Unsplash
The cold beer made him feel brave so he headed over to the harem to introduce himself. Time is of the essence. As he got closer the music got louder, and in a split second the brunette grabbed his hand and started to dance with him. This surprised him and he liked it. He only wished it were with the red head instead. But he smiled and started to dance anyway. There wasn't much room in between tables, but it worked anyway. When the song was over she kissed him on the cheek and walked off towards the fellow two tables down.
The ginger playing the music looked at him and laughed. "Well, I'll be. If it aint Santa himself alive and well in Boynton Beach, Florida."
The liquid courage coursed through his veins so he took her hand and looked her in the eye. "I'm afraid I'm not Santa. That's my father. I'm Nick." He then kissed her hand.
She kept holding his hand while laughter erupted from her. "You don't say?" She put down the accordion then yelled to get the waitress's attention. When she looked her way she held up two fingers. A few minutes later two more beers appeared just like magic.
She finally introduced herself. "I'm Poppy, then she pointed to the brunette, "That's Violet" Then she thrust her chin in the direction of the blonde. "And that's Aster. They're my sisters. My mom really liked flowers."
For hours they shot pool. They sang and danced. They talked and laughed. This was the happiest he'd ever been in his life. He also knew it was getting late and thought this is his chance.
"Poppy, I'd love for you to come with me tonight meet my folks. Would you like to do that?" He asked.
She was shocked. No man ever asked her that, anywhere, anytime, and especially not at Just One. "What?" She knew she was buzzed and wanted to make sure she heard him right.
He saw her confusion. "I only have a couple more hours before I have to leave. Forever. You are as jolly as they come, and pretty too. You are that special feeling. That enchanting moment of Christmas morning. What I'm saying is I'd like for you to come meet my folks and consider being my wife." He then slammed down a frosted mug of beer named after the local Santa.
Poppy never felt this way before. I mean she's been on a few benders in her life, but this was different. Why not, she thought. "Where do they live?" She asked.
"The North Pole." He answered.
"Nick you are hilarious. Look if I agree, my sisters have to come too. It's only fair, it can be three against one." She put her hands on her hips and tipped her chin up at him.
"Hmmmm, well, I suppose it would be alright." He said then picked her up and kissed her long and hard. Poppy melted into the kiss and thanked her lucky stars she came out tonight. Her mom didn't want her going out all the time, she was a wild one. But especially during the holidays with all the weirdos and all.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
They enjoyed the rest of the night until the bouncer yelled last call. They downed one last beer and headed out. Her sisters were chattering away like chirping birds. They were singing songs and dancing out the door.
Once outside Poppy asked where his car was. He pointed up. How was he going to get these girls up to the chariot? Then he remembered what his dad did when n he needed to go up the chimney.
He told all the girls to hold hands then he took Poppy's and touched his nose. They floated up to the roof. It worked. He did it! This is amazing. This most definitely is the best night of his life.
The sisters stood on the roof with their jaws hanging open. They stared at the horses. They were quiet and in disbelief. Did this clown slip some kind of drug into their drinks? Then the horses looked at them and they were goners.
They ran over to them and petted their necks and squealed over how enchanting they were.
Nick felt good. He told the girls to close their eyes for one more surprise. They complied because, why not? He waved his hands and they were dressed in the finest, most colorful coats, hats and scarves.
Immediately they felt the warmth from their outfits. It wasn't quite the kind of thing you wear in muggy south Florida. But when they opened their eyes they were flabbergasted at the outfits. Never in their life have they ever worn anything like this.
Poppy grabbed her accordion and jumped in the chariot. The sisters shrugged and followed suit. It was in that moment they knew they were really going to the North Pole.
Nick hopped in the driver's seat and cracked the whip. "On Blaze...On Steel, On Kane....off, off and away."
The horses charged off the roof and the girls shrieked in delight. Poppy started playing the accordion.
Santa and Mrs. Claus could hear the music floating down. Mrs. Santa started singing one of the classic Christmas songs. "Do you hear what I hear?"
Jolly Ol' Saint Nick said, "Yes," Then he started to sing.
"Mama's got a squeezebox, Daddy never sleeps at night."
Nick put his arm around Poppy and bellowed" Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
I"m so grateful to artists who share their work via cards. They invoke the most wondrous stories.
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