~*~*~ Advent Calendar ~*~*~
* Day 22 *
Summary: Adam wishes to share a Christmas memory with Hoss, a memory begun by Inger.
Rating: K+ 1175 words
Note: This story was written for the Bonanza Brand 2020 Advent Calendar, originated in the Forums.
The Paper Toy-Theater
Ben continued to add up the meagre profit he had made in his second year living in the wilderness. Hoss was already sleeping in the bed the boys shared in the far end of the one room cabin.
“Pa, do you remember the paper toy-theatre Mama gave me?”
Ten-year-old Adam glanced at him and then stared at the floor, a blush coloring his cheeks.
“Sure, I do, Adam. And yes also…..” Ben had to harrumph.
The memory ambushed him: A crying boy and Inger, who had insisted Ben stop the wagon train. She had picked up the remains of a small box made from plywood and cardboard, and a small piece of red velvety fabric, all of which lay on the path, smashed from the back wheels of their heavy wagon. When the train had started again, she sat with Adam next to him on the driver’s seat and told the boy, “We will repair it, Adam. Look, the prince and the wizard are all right, and the best part also, the velvet. We only need a box like for shoes, and then we can build it again. Don’t worry!” Adam still seemed uncertain but Inger smiled all his doubts away with her confidence and optimism. She cuddled him, and a few minutes later they sang together and the world was beautiful again.
But three days later the world perished—Armageddon. Ash Hollow. And nobody had talked again about a lost toy. Until today.
“I thought maybe…Look, Hoss is now only a little younger than I was when Mama gave it to me.” Adam’s voice was a whisper.
“Not really—he’s much younger.” The lump in his throat made his voice harsher than he had intended.
“I thought I could play for him in the first time…like Mama did for me.”
Ben didn’t dare to speak, so he ruffled the boy`s hair and then mumbled, “Maybe we can build something next year, Adam.”
Adam only nodded, then crawled wordlessly over Hoss into his space of the bed.
Ben had not intended to disappoint him, but he couldn’t think about the smashed theatre without…He shook his head. But he couldn’t chase away the memory, the image he feared: Inger lying on the floor with an arrow in her breast.
“Oh, Inger,” he sighed, and the numbers before his eyes blurred. Like the view in a kaleidoscope, the images and voices swirled together and muddled: Inger on the street: “Ask me, Ben, ask me!” Inger in her shop offering medicine for Adam; Inger sitting at the lake, telling from her childhood. “You have a head full of happy memories, haven’t you?” “Oh yes, and you?” Inger in the boardinghouse room, “What becomes of Adam?” Adam sitting on the floor with baby Hoss on his lap, wrapped in a wool blanket. The voice in his head grew louder, angry, “What becomes of Hoss? What becomes of our children, Ben Cartwright? How much longer can you go on running away from your memories?” Ben’s ears began to heat, as if someone had boxed them.
He sat still in surprise for a moment but then rose determined, his eyes now clear. He went to a trunk in the corner. Opened the lid…rummaged. Eventually he found the faded bag nearly at the bottom. He emptied it out on the table: a few broken sticks, the prince, the wizard, a damaged dragon all wrapped in a piece of red velvet.
A new memory flashed through his mind: Inger carrying a bowl with cookies; Ben and Adam trying to pronounce their name: “Lussekatter.” It was Christmas Eve and they had eaten together as a family—Inger, Ben, Adam, and Gunnar.
There was the toy theater. Inger had insisted on giving it to Adam on Christmas Eve because the children in Sweden were given their presents then. Adam craned his neck curiously, but he needed encouragement to have a closer look.
“Is it a stable, Mama? I saw one once by a boy. He had small wooden animals.”
“No, Adam, it’s far better…It’s a house called a ‘theatre’ where you can watch or even show stories. Look!”
Inger opened the red curtain and took a small stick that protruded out of the first of three vertical slits in the sidewall of the small box. Another stick looked out of the opposite wall. And in front of a nicely painted back wall that showed an old castle, a young girl with a crown on her hair moved from the left to the right side. Suddenly a green and purple dragon came in scene from behind a paper bush on the right side and threatened to eat the princess. Inger moved the little paper figures back and forth and gave them voices. When in the end, the young prince killed the dragon and freed the girl, Adam cheered and clapped his hands.
Then he was allowed to investigate how to play. Ben remembered that his little explorer found quickly how everything worked, and a few days later he presented his first own play.
But Adam’s reaction when Inger played for him, his laugh and happiness, had always held something special for Ben. Maybe because of the smile and the kiss Inger gave him that day whispering, “He’s happy! Not on his guard, only a happy child.”
Ben smiled at the memory, and it felt like some of Inger’s cheerfulness and confidence flew into the cabin.
Ben had given the boys a small pot with porridge to put out for the barn elf, the way Inger had taught them, and told them to also give the animals the special treats they had saved up for them for Christmas. Little Hoss had carried the bowl, eager to make all the creatures happy, and Adam watched over his little brother.
While the boys were outside, Ben lit the candles on the tree and stood the little box underneath it. The nights before, Ben had not only made a new box but also three different back walls and six new paper figures. He even repaired the dragon. Am I a little bit nervous now?
When the boys went back, as they unbuttoned their jackets, he watched over the milk on the oven. The rustling behind his back ended abruptly.
“What’s that? Santa is coming soon?” Hoss asked.
“No, it’s … all right, it’s Swedish,” Adam answered hesitantly incredulous himself.
Then Adam came to him, embraced him and kissed him like when he was a small boy. “Thank you, Pa!” They stood for a while embracing each other.
Then a voice came from behind, “Adam, what is it? It looks like a fancy stable.”
“No, Hoss, it’s far better… It’s a house called ‘theatre’ where you can watch or even show stories. Look!”
As Ben watched the boys, he thought, Can you see him now? He’s happy—both your boys are happy. Did I do all right? Or will you blister my ears again? Thanks for all the good memories, Inger, my love, and the lesson in how to use them.
Gift: paper toy-theater
Thank you Southplains and Sklamb!
Link to the Bonanza Brand 2020 Advent Calendar – Day 23 – A Book: A Gift of Reading by fanofoldTVshows
Other Stories by this Author
- The House Jack Built (by Sibylle)
- Christmas Decorations (by Sibylle)
- The Smell of Bread (by Sibylle)
- Christmas Presents (by Sibylle)
- Chinarosa (by Sibylle)