Christmas in Oleput: Chapter 1: Strange happenings at Founders' Pond


By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

- Editor’s note: In keeping with Daily Journal holiday tradition, the newspaper’s writers have prepared a Christmas story for your reading pleasure. This is the first of a 10-part series that will end Christmas Eve.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

Whenever the world turned too crazy for Christopher Angelo Nicolai Crow, he took flight and ascended as high as the updrafts would allow.

At such great heights, the petty squabbles receded, while the town of Oleput got smaller and smaller.

"The sun rises and sets," he whispered against the rush of wind. "Even if clouds fill the skies, the sun rises and sets."

Lately, he'd taken too many of these nocturnal flights, trying to soar above the rancor that made a mockery of Eel County's Christmas celebrations.

Mayor Peacock actually submitted a resolution to the Oleput City Council that would've banned tanning beds. She was responding to the second-degree burns that a pair of curious Fox cubs got after they slipped away from their mother.

A horrible story, no doubt.

But no tanning beds?

That would condemn half of the town's population to hibernation. How could any reptile survive such an economic hit?

"Idiot!" Christopher bellowed into the wind.

Mayor Peacock, who took her husband's last name, wasn't the only one letting politics get in the way of common sense.

For days after the mayor admitted her mistake in the Daily Mammal, Dr. Alligator, city council president, sent a series of nasty letters to the Reptilian Advocate, which published every angry word.

"Animals don't need more reasons to mistrust each other," Christopher said, then shook his head. "The sun rises and sets. Clouds are temporary."

He shifted his tired wings and began a slow descent. For a time, his mind wandered with the wind, then he noticed something strange at Founders' Pond.

Another 100 feet closer, and Christopher laughed like he hadn't laughed in weeks. It felt like a fresh bite of summer corn in the middle of winter.

"Lord, help him, but Gilligan Armadillo is good for my soul," he said.

Gilligan was on his back, kicking his legs and getting turned in muddy circles by water flooding out of the pond. There shouldn't have been any water flowing. The armadillo must've been digging where he shouldn't have been digging.

"Help! Help!" Gilligan said.

"Of course, my friend."

Christopher took hold of Gilligan's tail and pulled him out of the water, and the armadillo righted himself.

"No-no-nobody has to kn-kn-know about this, d-d-do they?" Gilligan said.

"Know about what?"

"This, all this w-w-ater," Gilligan said, waving his arms. "It's a terrible, terrible mess. You can't tell anybody I d-d-did it. Pl-pl-please."

"Tell them about what?" Christopher said.

"Aiiiiggghhh! I'm b-b-begging here. Think of my family, Mr. Crow, m-m-my little ones."

Christopher didn't exactly enjoy Gilligan's suffering, but spurts of laughter bubbled up and escaped through his clamped beak.

"I do apologize," Christopher said, getting control of himself. "You're just what I needed tonight. Your secret is safe with me."

Gilligan grabbed Christopher's wing and shook until black feathers flew loose.

"Oh, no. I didn't m-m-mean to ..."

"They're only feathers. I have more," Christopher said, "but it's best for you to get moving, my friend. Remember: Nothing happened here."

"But the pond ... Oh, I see. I see. Yes, quite right. Goodnight, Mr. Crow."

"Goodnight, Gilligan."

Christopher watched him shuffle into the night. The armadillo wasn't heading home, though anywhere but here was fine.

When he turned to take in the damage, it was worse than he'd thought. The water undercut the foundation of the pedestal that held the Wishbone.

According to legend, the town was formed because of that petrified bit of bone. Oleput's founders, Oleg Wolf and Purity Crocodile, accidentally discovered Founders' Pond when they pulled the Wishbone out of the ground. Animals flocked to the water, and the town was born.

"Warm-blooded and cold-blooded working together," Crow said, "but that was such a long time ago."

He flew to the top of the pedestal to inspect the bolts that held the Wishbone in place. As he suspected, the bolts were more rust than metal.

"Crow?" Christopher said to himself. "What are you thinking?"

"I'd rather not say," he answered himself, and pecked at a bolt until it crumbled.

"This is trouble," he said.

"Maybe," he said, then knocked the other two bolts loose and freed the bone.

"You shouldn't do this," he said.

"What I shouldn't do is talk to myself," he said. "The others will start thinking I'm crazy."

"Start?" he said with another laugh.

Christopher picked up the Wishbone with his claws, and took off into the night.

The petrified bone weighed heavily on his wings, as he flapped hard for altitude. He was about to turn toward his nest, when something glittered in Founders' Pond.

"Gilligan's going to get himself into more trouble," he said.

The light from the pond got brighter until Christopher was forced to cover his eyes with a wing, causing him to tumble toward the ground. He let go of the Wishbone and righted himself. For the longest time, all he could see were multi-colored spots caused by the flash of light.

After his eyes cleared, he knew there was no hope of finding where the Wishbone fell. Christopher Angelo Nicolai Crow continued toward home, wondering what was going to happen the next time the sun rose on the town of Oleput.

‰ Thursday, Chapter 2: Now that Oleput has lost its Wishbone, what will happen to the town's residents?

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