The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles and Leslie Geatches
For the Sentinel 

A Warm and Fuzzy Christmas


A Warm and Fuzzy Christmas Part 1 “Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays…” wafted through the speakers of the SUV. It was late. Wilson Barnes glanced over at Jennifer, his wife, who was doing her best to stay awake and keep him company on this cold winter’s night drive, but she appeared to be losing the battle as her head nodded yet again. In the rearview mirror his 14-year old daughter, Samantha, was thumbing a text to one of her many friends. At the other end of the backseat, for the umpteenth time, 9-year old Joshua shook the snow globe he insisted on bringing on this trip. Banjo, their Golden Retriever, was asleep between them. They were driving on a deserted state road through a pine forest in central Washington State toward a lodge in northern Idaho. As a couple of flakes began to fall, Wilson again questioned his wisdom in pulling off the interstate an hour earlier to take this more “scenic” route, especially since it was now so dark he couldn’t see beyond the headlights. And not a single other car had passed in either direction. But the tank was full, and the kids, amazingly enough, seemed content. Wilson was pulled into the hypnotic lull of the highway, along with, unfortunately, his own thoughtsthe very ones he had hoped this vacation would bring relief from. “Barnes,” his publisher had admonished three days earlier, a whiny insistence punctuating every other word. “You’re getting further and further behind schedule with that story. If you don’t get it here in a week, it won’t make the next issue, and we’ll be in a world of hurt, a world of hurt here!” “I know Monty.” Wilson’s sigh couldn’t come close to expressing the resignation he had been feeling over this latest project. “But nothing is coming! You asked for ‘warm and fuzzy,’ but I don’t do warm and fuzzy. I don’t even know where to start.” “Oh, c’mon, Barnes! Everybody knows warm and fuzzy. Think back to when you were a kid at Christmastime, for God’s sake. Write about how warm and fuzzy that felt. Just get it here in a week – that’s seven days, Barnes! Not a minute longer!” The phone clicked off in Monty’s typically perfunctory style before Wilson could object, leaving him in an energy of fuming frustration. Even Jen’s understanding of the situation did little to alleviate his distress. “You’ve had writer’s block before,” she reminded him. “It never lasts very long. You just need to get your mind off the story for a couple of days. A little recreational distraction should do the trick.” “Really? And just where are we going to find a little ‘recreational distraction’ this close to Christmas?” he demanded sarcastically with a pout. Jen smiled conspiratorially. “Funny you should ask…” Wilson inwardly groaned, in no mood for solutions. He just wanted to sulk. “Pam called this very morning and asked if we could take their timeshare at a very popular lodge in Idaho she and Bruce reserved almost a year ago. His aunt took a turn for the worst yesterday, poor dear, so they feel they need to be with her instead. Pam told

me we were their first choice to go in their place – besides, everyone else’s plans have already been made.” Jen watched Wilson’s sullen face expectantly. When he said nothing, she went on gently. “Hon, this is the perfect solution, don’t you see? We haven’t had a family vacation in… well, forever. It’s a lovely drive to a beautiful place – I already looked it up on the Internet. And it will be just the break you need to clear your mind.” Wilson, still resisting without knowing why, tried, “I don’t want their charity.” “Who said anything about charity? The price is quite reasonable, and Pam said they’re happy for us to pay them back after your next story is published.” “You mean ‘if’ it’s ever published,” he grumbled. “Oh, Wil, you’re being overly dramatic.” She smiled and kissed him, an effect that usually softened any dour mood. “This will work. I just know it will.” “Seven more days ’til Christmas, and we’ve still got sales galore at Tot’s Toy Town. But don’t wait! Deals like this won’t last!” The radio blared through the speakers, jarring Wil out of his trance. He reached over to turn it off. To his surprise everyone else was now asleep. Even more surprising, the earlier flurries had escalated to a full-scale blizzard. He puzzled over this, recalling that the forecasts had been for clear weather. As visibility decreased, he slowed the vehicle to a crawl. The windshield wipers thumped away frenetically, barely keeping up with the accumulation. His anxiety heightened when he found himself in a total white-out, no longer able to see even the road in front of him. He continued inching the vehicle forward until the trees crowded in on him. There seemed to be nowhere to go. Fortunately, the tank was full, so he left it running to stay warm as he considered their options. This freak tempest had to let up soon. He wondered uneasily, not for the first time, if they were lost. He pulled out his smart phone to check their location. No signal. Josh, who Wil had been certain was asleep, startled him upon blurting out, “Hey! Look at that light up there.” He was peering out the right rear window. This roused Samantha, who asked with a yawn, “Hey, Dad, why are we stopped?” Josh remained more interested on the object of his focus and persisted, “Wow, it’s really bright!” This got Sam’s attention, and she leaned down to peer up toward the light. “That is bright!” she agreed. “Dad, do you think it could be a fire?” Wil, who had been distracted by their predicament, finally glanced in the direction the kids were pointing. A chill crept up his spine as he looked into the eerie luminescence. “No…” he said cautiously, “I’m pretty sure that’s not a fire. Fires flicker. This looks like a steady glow.” At this point Jennifer awoke. “Where are we?” She looked around in bewilderment. “Wil, why aren’t we moving anymore?” “This storm…” Wil gestured. “I can’t see a darn thing except…” He pointed to the light. Jen’s eyes followed the projection of his finger.

Her mouth dropped open. “How can we see such a light but can barely see two feet in front of us through all this snow?” “Dad, roll the window down a crack,” Josh ordered. “I think I hear something.” Wil pushed the window button to lower it an inch. Sam scooted over next to her brother, and leaned forward to press her ear against the gap. “He’s right, Dad! It’s music!” “Someone must live up there!” Josh suggested eagerly. Wil frowned. “I can’t imagine anyone playing music outside or having their windows open in a storm like this.” “Is there a town around here?” Jen asked. “I’m not sure where ‘around here’ is,” Wil muttered. “Are we lost?” Jen could not keep the undercurrent of fear out of her voice. Wil didn’t answer, feeling responsible for their quandary. “Dad, let’s go see what that music is!” Josh persisted. Wil shook his head. “I think we need to stay put until this storm passes.” “Can you at least pull off the road, so no one hits us from behind?” Jen demanded. “I don’t think we’re even on the road anymore.” Wil looked down sheepishly. “How is that possible?” Jen exclaimed accusingly. “Well, then turn on the map light, so I can check the GPS on my cell.” “Don’t bother,” Wil responded dejectedly. “We’re in a dead zone.” “No, we’re not,” Sam corrected from the back seat. “My phone says we’re in Wassailville.” “That’s a weird name,” Josh commented. “Oh, come on, Sam!” Wil managed a chuckle, very familiar with his fourteen-year-old daughter’s proclivity toward pranks. “Don’t believe me, then!” She retorted. “But it sounds like a cool place.” “OK, let me see what you got.” Wil reached over the seat, and Sam handed the cell to him with a shrug. “Just as I thought,” Wil said, staring at the screen and tilting the phone back and forth. “There’s nothing here. Not a single bar.” “Now you’re fibbin’!” Sam snapped. “I know what I saw!” She leaned forward and snatched the phone back from Wil, pressing the screen. “See!” She turned the illuminated screen toward him, a look of defiance on her face. “I can’t see behind me, Sam. Let’s have it again.” She handed it to him, but as soon as his eyes focused, once more there was no signal. “Very funny, Sam.” “I’m not joking!” Sam’s voice rose in indignation until Wil held the phone up for her to see. “That can’t be?!” Now she was confused, taking the phone back from Wil. She pressed the screen multiple times. “This stupid thing!” She flicked the display with her fingernail in irritation. “Careful with that. Those things aren’t cheap,” Wil warned. Then to assure her, “We’ll get our signals back soon enough. Remember, nothing is ever—” “—as bad as it seems,” Sam

finished in a mocking tone. Can’t blame her for the sarcasm, Wil thought, especially when things are usually worse. “Dad, please let’s go see what that music is!” Josh persevered, oblivious to the cell phone grievances. “It sounds like Christmas carols.” “Well.” Wil looked toward the luminescence. “Maybe I should go…” “No!” Jen looked petrified. “Not in this storm! You might freeze to death! Besides, you don’t know what’s out there!” “I hardly think anything sinister is going to come from the source of Christmas music.” Wil smiled and reached for his hat and gloves. “You’ve not watched horror movies, have you, Wil?” Jen asked. “There’s a bunch of films about families getting stuck at Christmas time and –” “You’re not helping,” Wil interrupted. “I’m sure this is perfectly safe. And I know how to stay warm. I was a boy scout, remember?” “I’m coming too!” Josh yelled. “Me too!” added Sam, dropping the useless phone into her back pack. “Absolutely not!” Jen objected frantically. “We can all stay right here ’til morning.” “The gas may not last that long, Jen.” Wil reasoned. “And I’ll just bet there’s shelter, warmth, and food there. Besides, we’ll have Banjo with us.” Jen acquiesced, with nature’s many bodily calls, especially hunger, taking precedence. In a matter of minutes the entire Barnes clan, bundled up in boots, coats, hats, gloves, and scarves, Banjo at the helm, were trudging through heavy snow toward the light and music.P Part 2: Banjo pranced happily ahead, leading the family through foot deep snow toward the radiance that lit their way, his tail conveying sheer jubilation. The kids rushed ahead to join the Golden Retriever while the parents trudged behind. Jen, who chilled easily, wrapped the thick wool scarf snugly around her neck and head until only her nose and eyes could be seen through the dense precipitation. She took Wil’s arm and pulled him close for added warmth. “What is that light?” she asked, a note of awe in her voice. “It looks like a beacon of some kind.” “Don’t know, but it feels OK, whatever it is,” Wil replied, his breath coming out in white puffs. “Kids, stay close!” Jen called, as they got further away. But the heavy snowfall muffled her voice, and they were quickly out of sight around a bend. The parents’ momentary panic gave way to relief when they heard Banjo barking and the kids’ laughter. They caught up to them in a clearing. “I told you to stay close!” Jen scolded. But the kids were grinning joyously. “What is it?” Wil asked. “Look!” Josh pointed upward to where the light had been. There was now a single, radiant star beaming down on a softly glowing village. They stood gazing at what could have been a Thomas Kinkade masterpiece. “Oh! How beautiful!” Jen

exclaimed. “And, look, it’s stopped snowing!” Sam announced matter-of-factly. Jen snapped out of her state of awe and looked around. “That kind of storm doesn’t just stop that quickly!” But there was no longer a single snowflake in the air, and above them, as a backdrop to the luminous star, an inky blue, crystalline sky was strewn with thousands upon thousands of twinkling lights. She looked at Wil who shrugged, equally bemused. Yet, like the kids, neither felt the slightest trepidation any longer. The family proceeded on, climbing toward the numinous hamlet, a sense of comfort and wellbeing increasing as they drew closer. The last hundred feet or so was steep, and they were quite winded when they finally reached the cobble-stoned entrance to the enchanting village. On the right side of the entrance, “Welcome to Wassailville” had been intricately carved in large, flourishing letters into an ancient, five-foot thick log, nestled on its side for what could have been centuries. “Told ya!” Sam exclaimed, pointing triumphantly to the sign. On the left was an ornate, iron pole, from which hung a horizontal figure-eight symbol. “Infinity!” Josh pointed this time. “Infinity?” Wil repeated. “Did you learn that in Math, Bud?” “No!” Josh laughed as though his dad were clueless. “Philosophy!” Wil stared at Jen. “Since when are 10-year-olds taking Philosophy?” “It’s a progressive school, remember? That’s what you wanted for him, Hon.” Shaking his head, Wil followed Jen and the kids into a winter wonderland of weathered stone buildings and quaint dwellings with thatched roofs. Icicles hung from all the eaves and glistened as though lit from within. The whole village glimmered. A thick blanket of pristine snow covered everything like a luxurious coat of ivory fleece. The streets were empty with not a snowy footprint to be seen, but they felt aliveness humming all around them. “This looks like my snow globe come to life!” Josh exclaimed. “Yes,” Jen agreed in astonishment, “it does.” “And where’s that music coming from?” Sam wondered. She slowly pirouetted, her face turned upward. The rest of the family looked around for the source of the melody as well, upon realizing it had never stopped. But it wasn’t originating from any single place. There were no speakers and no open windows. The tune seemed to emanate from the structures around them, rise from the ground beneath them, fall from the sky above. “It sounds familiar,” Will commented. “Yeah, I think I’ve heard it before too,” Jen acknowledged. “But I don’t know…” “What’s Banjo doing?” Josh pointed to the dog who was sitting in front of one of the houses across the street, looking up at the front door, tail wagging, as though he knew this house and was extending his canine salutation. They watched in wonder as the door opened a crack, and a hand reached out to offer him something. Banjo happily accepted it and ran over to join the rest of family. “What is that?” Sam asked as Banjo dropped the treat before them for their approval before gobbling it up. “Bacon?” Wil speculated. “That was… very kind… ,” Jen commented, her eyes trailing back to the house. “Who lives in this town?” Sam queried to no one in particular. “Well, whoever they are, they seem to like dogs,” Will responded. They were startled to suddenly hear footsteps crunching the snow behind them and spun around to see a young couple approaching, arm-in-arm, beaming smiles of welcome. They were dressed all in white: long winter coats, woolen hats, and mittens. Even their boots matched the ensemble. “Where’ve you been?” The man asked. “We’ve been waiting for hours,” the woman added. Parents and kids looked at each other and then behind them to see who the couple could possibly be talking to. “You are the Barneses, right?” The woman inquired with a knowing grin. Four jaws dropped simultaneously. After a moment’s silence, Wil ventured, “H-how do you know who we are?” “Oh, we’ve been expecting you for a long time,” the man replied. “You are a little late, though.” Mother, father, and children were speechless. Only Banjo seemed delighted to see the couple. “I’m Ben,” the man offered, stepping forward to present a mittened hand to Wil. “Nice to meet you, Ben…” Wil shook it. The grip was firm. Then, almost as an afterthought, “and I’m—” “Wilson, of course,” Ben finished for him. He turned to the rest of the family “And you must be Jennifer, Samantha, and Joshua.” He shook each of their hands in turn. “And last but not least, Banjo.” The dog offered his paw amicably. “And I’m Belle,” the young woman announced with a slight curtsy. “That’s spelled with an ‘E’ on the end.” “We’re confused,” Jen said slowly after a pause. “We’ve never been here before. And, I’m sorry, but I don’t remember ever meeting you.” “Really?” Ben laughed. “You don’t know your own family?” Wil, as though suddenly snapping awake from a dream, said, “Wait, wait, wait! It’s time for a reality check.” “Oh, you don’t want to do one of those.” Belle smiled with a toss of her head. “Why not?” “Around here reality checks always bounce.” The couple laughed. The Barneses were more bewildered. Ben looked at Wil and asked, “How is it we know your names?” “I can’t explain it,” Wil shook his head. Then added a bit forcefully, “But I expect you to.” “Details, details. You don’t want to think too much about it.” Ben gently slapped Wil’s back in a jovial manner. “In the meantime, how about some wassail?” “I heard of that in a Christmas carol!” Josh said excitedly. “It’s like hot cider, right?” “Indeed it is!” Belle put her arm around his shoulder, leaned down, and whispered, “Only much better! In fact it’s so good, our town is named after it.” No one had any objections to the image of such culinary delectability. “This way,” Ben motioned. He took Belle’s hand, and they started toward the village center. Josh and Banjo ran up to join them. Wil and Jen exchanged a glance; their brief sense of feeling like they were losing control was instantly replaced with an attitude of ‘Why not?’ Sam trailed behind. As they proceeded further into town, shutters began opening on either side of the street and heads popped out, some from the second stories, others at street level, and all of them were hailed by name. “Hi, Ben and Belle! Glad you finally found them!” “Josh, you sure are looking grown up!” “Jen, you’re gonna love the wassail! Just like your grandmother used to make.” “They made a huge fire just for you, Wil.” “Don’t let Banjo eat all the bacon!” Laughter followed. “Welcome, Sam. We sure have missed you!” Upon hearing this, Sam, with eyes like saucers, mumbled, “Where are we?” Belle, up ahead, laughed and called back over her shoulder, “Why, Sam! You’re home, of course.” Sam rushed forward and pulled on her mother’s sleeve. “How could she have heard that?” She whispered. “Who?” Jen responded. “Heard what?” Stupefied, Sam dropped back again, wondering how she was ever going to explain this confusing conundrum to her friends. Part 3: Dazzled and mystified, the Barneses followed Belle and Ben through the front door of one of the homes facing the town square. They were instantly embraced by the enticing aroma of apples, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and other strange but tantalizing fragrances. Their stomachs rumbled in anticipation as they gazed about appreciatively. The house was warmer and more inviting than anything they could have expected… and yet so familiar! After outer garments and boots were removed and left to dry in the foyer, Jen and the kids wandered about in amazement. A variety of lamps of gleaming brass and buffed oak of different shapes and sizes, sporting shades in hues of amber, cast soft lighting about the large, comfortable room. Several overstuffed love seats and arm chairs were tastefully placed throughout, each covered in colorful, hand-knit afghan throws. In a rocking chair in the corner sat a large, toddler-sized, brown teddy bear, clad in a bright red bow-tie, red mittens, and a Santa hat. White woolen rugs, six inches thick, covered much of the wood floor of wide planks polished to a lustrous mahogany. A Christmas tree stood majestically in a far corner alit with dozens of candles and brightly colored, shiny baubles, the bright star on its tip barely grazing the ceiling. A fire crackled and blazed in the enormous ceiling-to-floor gray stone fireplace at the end of the room. Jen looked twice at what appeared to be a large cast iron pot, hanging above the flames. A witches’ cauldron? She wondered apprehensively. “That’s the wassail,” Belle said at her side, watching her with amusement. “It’s not only safe, but nutritious and delicious as well.” Jen flushed, ashamed that Belle may have actually read her thoughts. “Mom, this is better ’n hot chocolate!” Josh, who had obviously already indulged, thrust a mug towards Jen who immediately realized how silly it was of her to be suspicious. She brought the mug of steaming sweetness to her lips. The succulent brew begged to be sipped. She did so. Heavenly… she sighed with delight as the intoxicating beverage slid sensuously down her throat. She allowed Belle to lead her to an armchair. Jen sank into it, closing her eyes and relishing the liquid ambrosia as it thawed her limbs and charmed her senses. Just like Gran’s, she recalled as she felt herself enveloped in a luscious warmth. When she looked up after a few minutes, she saw

Sam stretched out on the love seat across from her, enjoying her own beverage. Banjo was sound asleep on the rug in front of the fire. Josh, who has gotten another mug, was sitting beside him gulping away, one hand on the dog’s head. “Let me show you something,” Ben said to Wil who had remained in the foyer in a state of befuddlement. He followed Ben warily toward the Christmas tree. “See this?” Ben pointed, and Wil’s uncertainty was immediately supplanted by pleasure when he saw small train tracks on the floor trailing behind the tree. “A model train!” Wil uttered in childlike wonder. “Not just any model train.” Ben nodded and gestured invitingly to a switch on the wall. When Wil flipped it on, elaborate miniature tracks, train, and city lit up. Wil was stunned into silence. This he knew. He knew because he built it when he was a child, younger than Josh was now… only. Something was different about it. Wil looked at Ben in amazement. “It’s bigger than I remember.” “That’s ’cause you were never able to complete it,” Ben said gently. Instantly Wil remembered that he and his dad had started the project together. But his dad got sick and died before they could finish. Then his mom sold it because they needed the money, and they moved away… Before Wil could get pulled further into the melancholy of those memories, Ben laughed. “It’s finished now, though,” he added. “And you know how to start it up.” Wil did, and in an instant the little train was rumbling down the track, whistling away. “Wow!” Josh shouted. He was at his father’s side in a heartbeat. “Is this like the model train you built when you were little?” “Yep, it sure is.” Wil’s voice was thick as he pulled his son to his side, overwhelmed with nostalgia. Jen, Sam, and Banjo joined them. “The music is still playing in here!” Sam commented. The entrancing tune they first heard from the car had never stopped, not even within these walls! They looked around once more for some hint of its electronic source, but nothing gave it away. No iPod, no tablet, no smart phone, no speakers, no boom box, no CD player, not even an old-fashioned turntable. “It’s the sound of our air,” Belle offered behind them. They turned to her in unison. “The air! Of course!” Jen exclaimed as though it were all starting to make perfect sense. Laughter from her and the children accompanied the melody, in perfect harmony. Wil, in instant disharmony felt uncertainty creep back in. Could it be that Jen and the kids had become bewitched? Heck, they almost got him with that train trick. “Air can’t make music,” he stated firmly. Ben smiled. “The air doesn’t make the music, Wil. It’s simply expressing what’s already there.” “What?!” Wil, now convinced that everyone here was delusional - except himself, of course - knew he had to keep his wits about him for the sake of his family. This whole thing was just way too preposterous. Ben, however, was not only unfazed, but, to Wil’s annoyance, seemed amused by his misgivings. “That’s it! It’s time we head back to the car,” Wil stated emphatically, no longer wanting any part of this fantastical fairy tale. “Head back?” Jen looked at him as though he were the one losing his sanity. “Dad, we just got here!” Sam protested. “Yeah, Dad, the train hasn’t even been all the way around!” Josh was incredulous that Wil could suggest leaving such a

magical place. Ben placed his hand sympathetically on Wil’s shoulder. “Looks like you’re outvoted, Dad.” Wil frowned at this expression of over-familiarity and stepped out of Ben’s reach. Ben lowered his arm, but his smile remained warm. “I think there’s someone who can help you understand all this, Wil.” “Barnes!” barked a surly voice from outside, right on cue. The door flew open, and in stomped the strangest-looking being Wil had ever laid eyes on. He was short, stout, and bald, though heavily bewhiskered. Just above his eyes he wore a visor with a pair of reading glasses perched on top. In one hand was a wad of paper; in the other was a thick lead pencil. He wore suspenders over a white shirt that was smudged with an ink stain here, a gray dust spot there. His frumpy trousers descended into a pair of ancient boots. No overcoat for this anomaly. He strode purposefully right up to Wil. Wil gawked awkwardly at this spectacle, noticing the man’s expression belied the earlier bellow outside the door; his eyes twinkled mischievously, and the corners of his mouth curved upward. “And you are…?” Wil demanded. “Wil,” Ben stepped in, “meet Nick Grant. He’s the editor of our local paper, The Wonderful Wassailville Weekly.” “I’m also your editor,” Grant added gruffly, eyes continuing to twinkle. “You’re as nuts as them,” countered Wil, gesturing toward Belle and Ben. “I’ve never laid eyes on you before. My editor is Clara back at Terwilliger Publishing.” “Doofus,” Grant grunted with obvious amusement. “I’m here to edit your life.” “Dad,” Josh interjected softly, tugging Wil’s sleeve. “He looks like Santa Claus without the costume.” Wil glanced at his son then back at Nick. He shook his head as though to bring some clarity to his sense of quickly dissipating sanity. “My life?” He finally repeated, feigning a conviction he did not feel. “Even if it were possible to edit a life, mine certainly does not need editing.” “Oh, don’t get your britches in an uproar. We’re not talking about a major rewrite,” Nick clarified. “Just a little tweak here and there of that old attitude. Have you try on a rosier shade of glasses.” “What?” Wil strained to comprehend. “Why?” “Well, aren’t you having some trouble with ‘warm and fuzzy?’” “Warm and—” Wil cringed at the reminder. “What’s that got to do with my life?” “It’s a good life, Wil. You’re a good person and a good writer. This isn’t therapy.” Nick’s smile widened. “On the other hand, you’ve been instructed to write a warm and fuzzy story. How hard can that be?” “Did Monty put you up to this?” Wil realized the idiocy of the question as soon as it left his lips. “And look at your last three books.” “What about them? They were all best sellers!” “Among fans of doom and gloom, sure. What were the titles again? Death of Joy? Harbinger of Death? Death Lends a Hand?” Wil’s brow furrowed. “That was my ‘Death’ trilogy!” he barked. Suddenly professorial, he added, “You see, Death is a character, you know, like in ‘Death Takes a Holiday.’ But in my series, he’s a private eye working for God—” “Made a lot of money, too, didn’t they?” Nick interjected. “That’s right. My publisher and my fans don’t take issue with my work.” “Then why did Monty ask you to do warm and fuzzy?”

“Some nonsense about stretching my boundaries, broadening my audience. I was dumb enough to agree to it and even sign a contract. As I recall, it was at a karaoke bar after my second set. I’d just finished ‘You Light Up My Life’ and a beer. I don’t normally drink. Wow!” Wil smacked his head. “And now the deadline is right on top of me.” “If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times,” Nick commiserated: “Never mix karaoke and business. Did you do the Debbie Boone version of it?” “Of course.” “Ah! See, that’s what I’m talking about. In your true heart, you sing ‘You Light Up My Life.’ But when you park soberly at a computer, you do dark stuff. It has a metaphysical twist, and that’s creative, but it doesn’t really invite the whole family to read together, does it?” “No,” Wil reluctantly acknowledged. “But neither does the news! I’m just reflecting the reality beyond.” “And I’m just asking you to reflect the reality within,” Nick countered. “That’s what ‘warm and fuzzy’ does. It resets our baseline, puts us back in touch with the things of peace and beauty and joy and wonder. Unlike the emotions in the reality ‘beyond’ that you speak of, the sentiments of ‘warm and fuzzy’ are age-blind. They resonate with all hearts of all ages. There’s a reason it’s referred to as warm— it stokes the fires of the heart— and fuzzy—it comforts like a flannel blanket on a cold night.” Wil reflected on this. He had to admit Nick had a point. “Maybe you should do the warm and fuzzy,” he said. Nick smiled. “I do. Everybody in Wassailville does. We have a very strong penchant for warm and fuzzy.” Wil suddenly got it and surveyed the room. Josh, on his knees watching the circling train, was now thoroughly enraptured by the miniature scene before him. Jen, nestled on a love seat across the room, had her arm around Sam whose head rested on Jen’s shoulder, both gazing into the flickering flames. Ben in a distant arm chair was reading, a fragrantly smoking pipe in hand. Belle was just approaching them, offering a steaming cup, a smile radiating her face. No doubt about it, this was downtown Warm and Fuzzy. Monty finished reading the words above and smiled, especially as he went on to read these very words as well and seeing himself named as reading them. “This is good, Wil,” he said, enjoying hearing himself say the words written right here on this very page as spoken by him. “You took your whole struggle with warm and fuzzy and made it into something truly warm and fuzzy.” “Thanks, Monty,” Wil said. “Glad you like it. I finished it in Wassailville last night and drove back to give it to you in time for the deadline.” “That’s a good one, Wil. Talking about the experience as if it were real. You should include that in the story.” “I did – you’re reading it,” Wil replied. “And now I’ve got to get back to Wassailville. Jen and the kids and all the Wassailvillites are waiting. Hey, if you’re ever in the neighborhood, you should drop in.” “That’s a good one, too,” Monty slapped his knee. “I’ll play along. So how would I know if I was in the neighborhood?” “Well,” Wil mused. “You’ll get this really strong feeling deep inside. You’ll want to sing ‘You Light up My Life’ like a Christmas carol. You’ll remember every Christmas that made you glad and alive. You’ll feel… oh, what’s that expression...?” ~ The End ~ By Lou Marzeles and Leslie Geatches. © 2015 Artnova Social Purpose Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without the express written consent of Artnova SPC and The Goldendale Sentinel.


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