I’ve always loved Nutcrackers, but I haven’t ever had one of my own. Unless earrings count – and I don’t think they do. This Christmas, I decided to remedy the situation and get one. Or two. Or three. I did consider that the poor Nutcracker might get lonely, if I only got one, so it could only be kind to get some companions for him. That seems like good logic, at any rate.
I’ll blame Chautona that I went searching for a Nutcracker store. I didn’t know such a thing existed – let alone in Arizona – but she sent me a picture of the Nutcracker that she put in her new book, The Nutcracker Suite, and that is all I needed. Off I went on a hunt to find a store filled with Nutcrackers. My GPS led me to the wrong place three times, but I finally found it tucked away, all alone in the desert. Nifty Nutcracker’s Nook.
It really should have been Nutty Nutcracker’s Nook, if you ask me, but I get ahead of myself. The moment I stepped inside, the scents and sounds of Christmas engulfed me. Someone must have been baking cookies and brewing hot apple cider, because no candle can get those to such perfection. Music from The Nutcracker played at the perfect volume, while twinkle lights strung about the room seemed to chime with tiny bells with every sparkle. Green garlands decorated the shelves and tables, while a literal army of Nutcrackers in all shapes and sizes stood at attention. I didn’t see another human, but I can’t say that I looked for one.
Mesmerized by the Nutcrackers, I began wandering through the irregular store. Near the back, standing on a very furthest corner of an old bookshelf, decorated and filled with Nutcracker men, I saw one who I fancied looked rather shy. I reached for him and, to my horror, off dropped the poor Nutcracker’s head! I caught the heavy ball of wood, staring at those painted eyes, wondering where I’d seen them before.
“Puu eee ack!”
I think I just stared.
“Puu eee ack!”
The head of the Nutcracker began to tremble in my hand and I wondered what in the world I had gotten into.
“Puu ee ack, oo you ‘ear? I iding!”
Why I understood the thing, I don’t know. I suppose it must be difficult to talk without your lower jaw, but I knew what he said. No, my shock came from the ball of wood talking to me. Perhaps, I should have been better prepared. I’d just read Pinocchio, after all. I shook my head.
“Put you back? You’re… hiding?”
The eyes seemed to nod. That’s when I recognized the face.
“You look exactly like Chautona’s Nutcracker!”
His eyes widened.
“You are Chautona’s Nutcracker!”
“Puu ee ack. ‘Iding.”
“Why are you hiding?”
“I ‘on’t ee ‘ear ‘ong.”
“Why won’t you be here long?”
Either he didn’t trust me or he grew tired of talking. Both are plausible.
“Put him back! Put him back!” The chant, beginning soft and low, grew in depth and volume as the army of Nutcrackers voiced their support of their broken brother. I stared far longer than I should have, before I nodded. I moved two of the tallest Nutcrackers on the bookshelf, then carefully placed the headless body well behind them. Carefully, I balanced the head on top.
“ank you. ‘ot afe. ‘Ight eak ee again.”
Before I could assure the Nutcracker that no one would be breaking him again, that I would do my best to keep him safe, I heard the store door open. All the Nutcrackers grew silent. I moved the two giants further back to better hide the poor broken fellow, and moved to examine a row standing on a tall shelf.
“Where is he!”
I couldn’t see the speaker, but he sounded human and quite angry.
“The broken Nutcracker, lady, where is he?”
I stuttered, trying to see whoever seemed to see me. Also, I despise being called “lady” in that voice.
“I know that you know and you’ll tell me!”
“Don’t tell! Don’t tell! Don’t tell!” The Nutcracker chant began again.
“Where is he?” The figure started to come around the corner, large and intimidating. “If you don’t tell me-“
I bolted awake. When had I fallen asleep? I checked my phone. Of course, I ought to be asleep at 3:49 in the morning.
A message from an unknown number showed a picture of Chautona’s broken Nutcracker, demanding to know how he broke. Still fuzzy from my dream, I typed back a response, “I don’t know. I certainly didn’t break him. I only hid him. Go ask Sandra Barela.”
Not until the sun rose did it occur to me that answering unknown numbers with the names of people I knew, not only was something I never did, but also wasn’t all that bright. All the same, I’m pretty sure that Sandy can take care of herself, so she’ll be all right. I’m quite certain.