Friday, November 20, 2015

Advent Calendar - The Christmas Cookie-Eating Shadow

It's that time again--time for another advent calendar in story form! 

Starting on Dec 1, feel free to read a chunk each day to your kids, pets, spouse or just enjoy it yourself. Distract yourself, and it will be Christmas in no time.
image by Catherine via Flickr

Don't know what an advent calendar is? Click here.
If you'd like to see what our calendar looks like (hint: there's a story and...socks), look here.
And if this crazy story doesn't tickle your fancy, you could select one from a previous year—they're all listed here.

And now for The Christmas Cookie-Eating Shadow

The thing about your shadow is that it should be the same general shape as you. That's what Oliver always thought anyway. A round head, two arms and two legs. But Oliver's shadow wasn't like that at all.

When he stood in the sun's rays, a tall, dark shape stretched across the snow behind him. One with NO legs and a wide, glowing mouth. And triangular ears that pointed straight up. Or were they horns? Either way, it was not normal. And it was pretty scary.

Oliver tried to show his parents his weird shadow, but with winter days growing dark so soon, it seemed the sun was always down when they had time to look. Or sometimes, it was too cloudy. Oliver's friends never managed a peek at it either. And even Oliver usually only saw it as he crunched over the fresh snow on his way home from the bus stop.

One day after school, Oliver caught a glimpse of his creepy shadow. As he walked, he was extra careful not to turn around since he didn't want to see it slinking along behind him again.

With a shout of "Boo," the shortest girl in Oliver's class, Bettina, jumped out at him from behind a fence.

Oliver's heart leaped into his throat. He just barely held back an embarrassing scream.

But...he heard a shriek nonetheless.

"What was that?" Bettina asked as she scooted around the fence. Then she stood completely still, her mouth hanging open.

Oliver knew it right away. Bettina saw his strange shadow.

"I saw your mouth," she said to Oliver. "It didn't open. Your shadow made that sound!"

She heard it too?

Bettina raised her arm and pointed behind him. "Why does it look like that?"

Oliver shrugged.

"How come the mouth is so big? How long as your shadow been that way?"

She sure asked a lot of questions. "I don't know. A month?" Oliver said. "Since it started snowing, I think."

Bettina squinted as she stared at the shadow. Then she inched closer, tiptoeing around Oliver. With a loud "Ha!" she leaped right into the middle of the shadow.

"Watch it!" yelped the dark shape.

Oliver whirled around. Bettina's feet were planted right in the middle of the shadow's belly.

"Who are you?" Oliver demanded.

A sound like the clearing of a throat came. "Um...I'm the Secret Christmas Cookie Eater."

"The what?" Bettina and Oliver asked in unison.

"You can just call me 'Cook.'"

"Nope. Back up, Cook." Bettina crossed her arms and glared at the shadow. "What are you?"

The shadow swayed back and forth. "You know...the one who eats the cookies? When your mom says 'who ate all the cookies' and everyone says 'not me.' Well, I'm the one who actually does eat the cookies."

Oliver scratched his head. Something didn't seem right. "How do you eat the cookies if you're just a shadow?"

Despite the sun staying put, the shadow slid all the way around Oliver like the hand of a clock. "Well, that's the problem. I can't anymore. It works like this. I travel by attaching myself to people as their shadow. Then I unhook myself and hide behind a lamp or a couch. When no one's looking, I turn solid and snatch a few cookies."

"But I can't turn solid, and I can't snatch cookies anymore. Without me"—Cook's sigh was long and drawn out—"there are too many cookies in the world."

Oliver couldn't imagine there could ever be too many cookies, but Cook moaned like a sad little puppy.

Bettina climbed onto the fence and scraped some snow into a snowball. She threw it at Cook's head. He jerked and giggled. Oliver rolled his eyes.

"Too many cookies in the whole world?" Bettina asked.

"Yep." Cook said, and his wide mouth stretched in a glowing grin. "I go on airplanes all the time. Germany has some great Christmas cookies too. Oh, have you ever had chrusciki in Poland? And don't get me started on all the kinds of gingerbread in Europe. Yum!"

Oliver frowned. "What kind of cookies there are is not the point! Why are you stuck on me?"

"Hmm..." sighed the shadow. "I think it happened when your mom made those amazing chocolate brownie cookies—with the cream cheese centers. Do you remember that evening?"

Oliver nodded.

"Well, I was originally latched onto your mom. Then I hid behind your couch. When she left the room and turned off the light, I leaped out to grab those cookies—"

Oliver was beginning to understand. "And I jumped up from under the table and took one also."

"Right," said Cook. "Except it was dark and we grabbed the same cookie. When you took a bite, so did I. Since then, I've been stuck."

Bettina was still standing on Cook's belly. "All right, Oliver, I'm holding him down. You run off that way." She pointed up the street.

Oliver didn't have to be told twice. In a flash, he was halfway down the sidewalk. He whirled around. Bettina hadn't moved a bit, but Cook was still right next to him.

"Got any other ideas?" Oliver yelled to Bettina, who skipped down the sidewalk to him.

She shook her head.

"Cook?" Oliver asked.

"No," the shadow said, his wide mouth turned down in a frown.

"I'm getting cold," Bettina said. "Let's go to my house and figure it out."

They all agreed and walked past Oliver's house. Bettina called to her father who was doing laundry in the basement: "Hi, Dad. I brought a friend!"

Her dad's deep voice sounded from downstairs: "I made some cookies this morning. Go ahead and take some."

Bettina motioned Oliver into the kitchen, but with only one foot in the room, he stopped short.

"Whoa," said Cook.

Made some cookies? Oliver thought. There were about a thousand cookies in the kitchen. In tins, on plates and cooling racks. There were even two full baking sheets. All different kinds—with nuts and without...chocolate and with with jam...covered in yellow glaze...vanilla frosted and sprinkled in colored sugar.

"Your dad made all this?"

Bettina selected a tree-shaped cookie and held out a plate to Oliver. "He's kind of crazy about Christmas baking. Kind of...over-the top."

Cook made a deep moaning sound.

"I guess," Oliver said.

But the longing in Cook's voice gave Oliver an idea.

"Cook," Oliver said. "Don't those cookies look amazing?"

The shadow made a gulping sound. "They sure do."

Oliver sniffed loudly. "They smell so good. I bet you'd love to eat some, wouldn't you?"

"I sure would," said Cook, his tone almost desperate.

Bettina must have caught on, because she said, "We have so many cookies. They'll surely all go to waste. No one can ever eat this many."

"No one?" Cook asked.

Oliver motioned Bettina to follow him out of the kitchen. In the hall, she pointed up the stairs to her room, but she said extra clearly, "It'll be such a shame if we have to throw them away."

Oliver nodded. "Such a waste."

They tiptoed up the stairs and sat on the carpet in Bettina's room. Bettina picked up a red ball and tossed it to Oliver. He tossed it back.

"I don't see any shadow," Bettina whispered.

Oliver wiped his brow. "Whew! Good. I better stay up here for a little while though, don't you think?"

Bettina was just about to nod when her dad's voice floated up the stairs: "Who ate all the cookies?"

Oliver and Bettina looked at each other and smiled. Together, they called, "Not me!"

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