I was going through my papers today (as men of distinction are wont to do) and discovered a holiday tale I wrote for an assignment in high school. A lot of my writing of yore makes me cringe, but this one makes me laugh and I think it holds up pretty well (my fondness for ellipses and some clunky phrasing aside). Silly stories like this used to come to me easily, but my studies in college and my early 20′s let that part of me atrophy as I spent my time writing and thinking about economics. Now that I’m pivoting back towards my creative side, it’s nice to have reminders like this.
Frank the Christmas Flea
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Max. Max had never liked Christmas, and as he became older he grew to hate it more and more. One December day, however, Max’s attitude about Christmas changed forever…
“I hate Christmas,” sighed Max as he looked out the frost-covered window onto his backyard.
“How can you say that?”
Max turned around quickly upon hearing the unfamiliar voice. He saw nothing but an empty room.
“Who said that?” Max asked
“I did,” the voice replied.
Max focused his attention on the area from which the voice had come, yet saw nothing.
“I’m getting a bit nervous,” said Max.
“There’s no need to be,” the voice replied.
“Well, I am talking to a empty comer of my bedroom, so I’d say there’s plenty of reason to be a nervous,” Max said.
“Well … perhaps. I suppose I will show myself to ease your nerves.”
Max stood expectantly, wondering what strange creature would manifest itself before his eyes, but again saw nothing. He began to wonder if the voice had been a figment of his imagination, when suddenly he felt a tickle on his hand. He hardly glanced down as he began to scratch it when he heard a voice—not unlike the one he had conversed with before—scream.
Max froze, his hand inches away from where he had felt the tickle on his skin. He looked down, unbelieving. There on his hand was a black insect of some kind. He looked closer. It was…a flea!
“You’re kidding me.” Max stared blankly at this strange visitor.
“Do not be frightened,” said Frank. “I was sent here to help you find your Christmas Spirit. You’ve lost it, and I am here to be your guide.”
“Sort of like that cricket guy from Pinocchio?” Max asked.
‘”Yes, but from now on, would you be so good as to not mention any names. Copyright issues; you understand,” said Frank.
“Oh, sure thing,” Max said. “I really don’t understand what significance a flea has to Christmas, though.”
“Oh, goodness me!” said the flea “While we are not the most lovable insects on the planet, we have a lot to do with Christmas. For instance, did you know that it was, in fact, a flea that started the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time?”
“No, I didn’t,” replied Max.
“Oh, yes. Francisco was the name, and in the winter of 1347 he gave the Bubonic plague to a young Italian fellow. It was all the rage in the 1300′s. Seems everyone in Europe had it.”
“Wow, that is…fascinating.” Max said.
“Isn’t it? But I digress; what I am here for is to help you find your Christmas Spirit. So, uh, where was the last place you had it? I find that a helpful tactic to use when I have lost something.”
“That’s your advice?” said Max, who was beginning to grow a little annoyed with the flea on his hand. “First of all, I don’t even want to find my Christmas Spirit. Second, if I wanted to find it I would use a better way than that to find it.”
“I know, and I am sorry. It’s just that I’ve never done this before so I really don’t know what to do,” Frank said. “You see, the truth is, I was sent here by Santa Claus himself to help you find your Spirit.”
“Santa Claus! Why would Santa Claus send a flea to help me find my Christmas Spirit?” Max asked.
”Santa just hates it when someone loses his Christmas Spirit, and due to all the reindeer up there, we fleas are his most abundant resource, so he sends us,” Frank answered.
“Why would you go?” asked Mike.
“We have to,” answered the flea. “‘It’s sort of a requirement for us. Due to some genetic anomaly, fleas born at the North Pole do not have biting mouthparts that are essential for survival. As babies, we are given one feeding which can sustain us for about a year, if during that time we have not helped someone find his Spirit, we starve to death and die.”
“Sounds kind of harsh.” Max said.
“It just shows you how serious this is to Santa,” Frank said. “After we help someone, we ring the Spirit Bell, and … ”
”The Spirit Bell?” Max interrupted.
“Yes, the Spirit Bell. As babies we all learn this little saying: ‘Every time the Spirit Bell rings, a flea gets its biting things.’ Pretty basic, really,” Frank said. “Anyway, after we ring the Bell, we get our mouthparts.”
“How do you get your mouthparts?” Max asked.
“Santa makes them for us.”
“Yes,” Frank replied. “He makes toys for millions of kids, so why can’t he make mouthparts for fleas? They aren’t the best things in the world, but we survive, and that’s the most important thing.”
“I guess that’s true,” Max said. He paused for a moment. “Wow, my life doesn’t seem so bad now. My family loves me, I have a warm and cozy house with plenty to eat, and there are plenty of presents under the tree. I have no reason to hate Christmas; in fact, I love Christmas! Thank you, Frank! My Spirit is back!
“Oh, great!” said Frank.” I can eat again!”
Frank did eat again. After helping Max find his Spirit, he rang the Spirit Bell, and sure enough, Santa gave him his mouthparts. While feasting, he met another flea named Francine, and they married and set up a home on Blitzen. Frank and Francine are currently blessed with two million children, with half a million more on the way. As for Max, he never forgot what Frank taught him, and was filled with Christmas Spirit for the rest of his life.