I enjoyed the writing prompt last month so much, I’ve decided to challenge myself to do one every month next year. But, being the ambitious person I am, I’m starting this month.
I seem to be collecting art and images on my harddrive. This one of the old-fashioned car with the giant pickle ornament on top was included in one of the collections I downloaded. When I saw it, I thought to myself, “What the heck is that? What do pickles have to do with Christmas?”
And then I did some research. And low and behold, there is an American tradition in some places of the country, where a pickle ornament is hidden in the Christmas tree. The first child to find it on Christmas morning gets a special present.
Of course, that got me thinking about the whole “cats are afraid of cucumbers” thing. There are tons of hilarious videos on YouTube of cats leaping into the air with fright when confronted with a cucumber. I tried it with my cat … he just looked at it, sniffed it, and then ignored it.
And then I wondered, are there any other oddities about pickles? I found a lot of strange and interesting facts, but no odd beliefs or mysteries like the Christmas pickle ornament. So I made one up.
The Day the Pickle Came Home
Petula looked out the window and sighed. It had been lightly snowing all day and everything had a stark layer of white upon it. The garden. The trees. The street. And the driveway, where Jonas’s old jalopy was supposed to be.
He’d left that morning, promising to be home by supper with the annual Christmas tree.
He was late.
Petula sighed again and shuffled into the kitchen. Dinner was ready, but no one but herself was there to eat it.
The cat sauntered in and sat down. He stared at Petula through slitted eyes. He had just awoken from a nap.
“What?” Petula snapped.
The cat slowly blinked.
“Oh!” Petula could feel her bad mood melting. “I love you, too. Would you like some dinner?”
The cat got up and sauntered to his food dish. The dish was white with Christmas holly and the name “Buttons” on it. Petula went all out for Christmas — even the cat got a festive food dish.
After feeding the cat, Petula went to the oven and checked on the various dishes she had prepared for supper. There were Cornish game hens slowly drying out in the oven. The mashed potatoes were doing the same in their pot. She could add some milk and butter to remedy that later. The vegetable medley she made now consisted of shriveled carrots, over-done green beans, and mushy onions. No way to salvage that.
Where was Jonas? What was taking him so long? That was not like him.
Every year, like clockwork, he’d go out Christmas Eve morning to a Christmas tree farm just a half-hour away. He’d take one of those sticks with the saw on one end and search for the perfect tree. It had to be so high, and that wide, and with just the right amount of space between the branches.
That’s why it tended to take him all day.
But he was always home by supper, usually with a complaint that he had to take what he found because he wanted to be home on time.
But today was different.
Not only was he late, but it had never snowed all day on Christmas Eve before. Petula got a horrible thought. She ran to the living room. A space by the television had been cleared for the tree. She turned on the TV and searched for the local news. But when she found it, they were doing nothing but fluffy, holiday cheer stories.
There was nothing about the fiery death of a man driving an old jalopy.
Petula sat down on the couch, and just as her bum hit the cushions, she heard the distinctive sound of Jonas’s old jalopy driving up.
She sighed with relief and ran to the window. She parted the curtains and, yep, there was Jonas backing up into the driveway.
And there was a giant pickle on top of the car where the Christmas Tree was supposed to be.
Jonas got out of the car … and then so did a strange man with his coat collar up, his fedora pulled down, and dark shades on.
Who could that be?
It didn’t take the two men long to get the giant pickle off the car and haul it to the front door. Petula just stood at the window and stared.
Who was that strange man Jonas brought home? Was she expected to feed him?
The door opened and the giant pickle was thrust into the living room by the two men.
“Merry Christmas, my love!” Jonas said. “Meet my new friend Mr. Wog. He’s from Mars! Isn’t that just wild?”
Petula looked at Jonas with disbelief. Had Jonas gone plumb crazy?
But then the man took off his hat. He took off his coat. And he took off his shades.
Sure enough, there stood a Martian. He had greenish-brown skin that reminded her of a toad. His eyes were big and golden, and every once in a while a nictitating membrane would blink … sideways. It was unnerving.
“Merry Christmas,” it said with that strange, raspy, gargle that all Martians had.
Jonas had finished hanging his outerwear on the hooks by the door. “I was real lucky to bump into Mr. Wog here,” he said. “I had gotten lost in the Christmas tree farm and had no tree to show for it, neither. Then Mr. Wog here found me and took me to his shuttlecraft. Would you believe that he and his missus were celebrating Christmas, too? And they had an extra Christmas pickle! So we put it on the old jalopy and brought it home!”
Jonas’s enthusiasm was contagious. It wasn’t long before the strange Christmas pickle was propped in the corner by the television set.
Petula had never heard of a Christmas pickle before. But Jonas seemed to think it was normal, so she played along.
“Would you like to stay for supper, Mr. Wog,” Petula asked, politely.
“No, thank you, ma’am. I’m expected back home.” He said his goodbyes to Jonas and Petula and then pushed a button on his wrist and disappeared.
Jonas didn’t complain at all during supper. Petula was quiet. They ate, cleaned up, and went to bed without a further word spoken.
The pickle in the living room slowly vibrated and changed color while they slept.
When they got up in the morning, the Christmas pickle was gone. Jonas didn’t comment. Neither did Petula.
They sat down for Christmas breakfast. Petula served some cereal in two bowls and poured some milk on them. She set one before Jonas, and another on table in front of her seat. She sat down.
They looked at each other and smiled. A nictitating membrane blinked — sideways — across Jonas’s eyes. “Merry Christmas, my love!” he said.
“Merry Christmas, Jonas.” She was happy. Her tongue shot out of her mouth, grabbed some shredded wheat, and returned to where it belonged.