Sunday, November 30, 2014


The Mulch Elves lived happily in gorgeous symbiosis with a colony of ants.  Their home was a shared subterranean structure near the roots of an over-sized Sycamore tree in Sacramento.  Papa and Mama elf were very much in love with each other and proud of their triplets, Edna, Ferris and Anna.

I will tell you a secret, dear ones, that elves eat most foods that humans do, even though their palates are generally more discerning. Mama and Papa enjoyed delicate foods and wines, particularly those that possessed what Papa called “a great degree of subtlety”.  Mama Mulch delighted in preparing hot meals and healthy foods for her family. The children would take turns thinking up new recipes and proposing them to Mama, which she would serve with special pride.  Elves eat their meals on large leaves, similar to paper plates.  Now and ten, their leaves were laden with a beef filet or a coarse bread, which they ate with special thankfulness. 

At the end of November, the season when all of the great sycamore’s leaves would fall to the ground, Papa and Mama spoke about food in hushed tones together.  The children knew that with the oncoming winter, they were planning on storing up a great food pantry that would feed them during the lean months.  While the ants and elves strategically planned for a famine, the neighboring humans (the Coopers) were apparently planning a Thanksgiving feast for a crowd of friends and family.  The triplets had heard the boy, Simon, talking about it with his friends as they rode their terrifying skateboards in the driveway.  They reported the story back to their parents that evening, over a meal of mashed potatoes and dill.

“How many times have I told you not to go near the driveway?”  Mama exclaimed, fanning herself as soon as she heard.

“We were inside of the gate,” Edna reassured her.  Mama sat back on her chair and nearly fainted.  Ferris rose to his feet to fan her, but Papa corrected him.

“Sit down, son,” he said, chewing on potato.  “As long as the three of you are together inside of the gate, you should be safe.  Did you hide yourself among the lavender?”

“Yes, Papa,” Anna reassured him.  “Last week the Cooper girls were playing hopscotch near that spot while they ate candy.  We were searching for any stray pieces that might have scattered.”

“Who said you could have candy?” Mama shrieked.  The children stared blankly at her, knowing that she was utterly displeased with their behavior that afternoon. For a moment they thought the idea of the Thanksgiving feast would be lost in the fact that they had walked too far and searched for candy.  Thankfully, Papa wanted to know more.

“Dear,” he sighed, then smiled at Mama.  “Please let the children finish their story.  It sounds there may be many more opportunities to correct them.”  Then he raised his eyebrows and leaned forward, his fork still poised over his potatoes.  “Now children, please continue your story about what you heard.  What more do you know of this feast?”

Edna took it upon herself to share the details since she was the one who told stories in thrift and speed.  Mama and Papa listened as Edna explained that the three children heard Simon tell his friend about a “Thanksgiving feast” the family was hosting on the Thursday that was approaching.  Apparently, the food would not all fit in the refrigerators the Coopers had, so the family was keeping the overflow on the back porch. 
At this point in the story, Mama gasped and brought her hands up to cover her mouth.  Anna smiled, nodding.
“The boy estimated the size of the turkey they will be roasting,” she said loudly, interrupting her sister.  “He made a circle with his long arms, Mama.  It is equivalent to the diameter of the sycamore’s trunk!”

Papa gasped with delight.  “Is there a chance they will be opening the food, or perhaps preparing it on the back porch?” As he said this, his face became extremely solemn.  “There may be a way for us to gather some for ourselves if we are careful….”  For the rest of the meal there was silence as the family thought. 

The following day Papa and Mama led the family through the grass to the clearing, where they could see the picnic table stacked with boxes and cans.  Papa could also see something even more ominous laying beyond: the ferocious lioness that the family called “Lucy”.

“Look at that,” Papa whispered, peering from behind a pavement stone. “They’ve put that cat out on the table to guard the food!”

The children peeked around the stone to see the cat, lazily eyeing them.  (Although most people cannot see elves, since they are clever and blend into grasses and flowers, most cats are able to detect them right away.)  Lucy was not curious enough to move from her spot, but lifted her back leg to lick her fur flat, purposefully showing off her enormous feet to the elves.

“Maybe if you distract her,” Mama said to Papa.  “I can run towards the porch and make a dash for any food that has fallen from the table…”

“Are you mad?” Papa whispered loudly.  “I’ll not endanger my life - or yours - just for a scrap of sausage!  This Thanksgiving feast food is not worth dying for!”

The children were glad that Papa interrupted.  Once given a chance to think clearly, the family agreed that they were not ready to die.  They were quite ready to walk away, when they heard a recognizable sound coming from the house.  They looked up and saw that the Coopers were opening the kitchen window, most likely to let fresh air in.  The Mulches could hear happy conversation coming from the house, as if their feast was already beginning.  Suddenly, the smell of bacon frying in a pan filled the yard.

“Mmmmmm!” Ferris whispered, smiling.  His sisters giggled to themselves, breathing in the beautiful aroma and forgetting everything else.  The smell universally accepted among the elves as the most sublime aroma that ever existed.  

Because of this, the Mulches stood in the clearing, hypnotized and immobile.  They didn’t even notice the cat creeping up to them in the distance.  Lucy would have had a delicious snack that afternoon, since the Mulches were in such a trance, therefore incapable of defending themselves.  Instead, the back door swung open, causing both cat and elves to snap to attention.

“Here, Kitty, Kitty!” a strong voice came from the back porch.  As Lucy turned her head, Papa and Mama bolted upright, realizing that they were going to be eaten if they did not hide themselves in the grass.  As the family darted behind some thick blades of greenery, Lucy trotted back to the house.  From their cover, the Mulch elves could see the furry beast go into the kitchen and the door shut behind her.

I’m sorry to say that at this moment Mama fainted and fell to the ground with a terrific thud.  Papa fanned some air in her direction while the children looked out for the other furry beast the Coppers possessed – an even more dangerous tigress by the name of Violet.  Usually when one cat went inside, the other came out. 

Seeing no threat, the children asked their father if they might go explore the porch.  He was still trying to revive Mama and paid little attention to their pleas. 

“Papa we will be very fast,” Edna whispered. 

“And we will come right back,” Anna said.

Mama was bleary eyed and had pink cheeks, but quickly was able to discern what the children were asking. 

“I can’t risk sending you on the chance that another one of those beasts will come out the door,” she said.  “Although I have can smell the aroma of bacon, I cannot let it cloud my judgment.” As she said this she looked up at her children, who stood above her.  Their faces held such hope and promise that she was quickly changing her mind.  “Papa, should we allow them to look at the place?  Perhaps they can see things that might be worth bringing back to our food storage…”

Poor Papa was torn, only just recovering from a near cat attack and his wife fainting before him.  He finally gave his permission, but only because the smell of bacon was in the air and anything seemed possible.

The children were magnificent.  They could hear a cacophony of cooking noise coming from the kitchen, on which they decided to capitalize. They used their most treasured maneuvers to advance toward the porch and were able to scale the cement platform with ease.  The massive table, laden with boxes and cans, seemed even more monstrous up close.  Also, underneath it were plenty of scraps, but not from the groceries.  It seemed as if the family had recently picnicked in that very spot and plenty of perishable delights lay all about, ready to be eaten. 

Elves are not scavengers, dear ones.  They would rather eat a fresh tomato than a bit of food that has fallen from a plate, but this case was different.  The children could see that the food that had fallen from the table was unusually shaped, like the pictures of lava spewing from a volcano they had seen in a book left behind from the Cooper children.  All around lay gnarly pieces of fried dough that glowed with such a strange red-orange color that it held the children spellbound.

Ferris examined a large specimen (the piece was bigger than the Mulch sleeping chamber), feeling the sides of it carefully with his hands, then placing his nose up against it. 

“It smells like sulfur,” he called back to his sisters. 

“Sulfur is not good,” Edna walked over to him and smelled it herself.  “I see what you mean.”  The children agreed that the smell was both curious and inviting, which made them decide to taste it.  Ferris carefully removed a splinter from the food and placed it in his mouth.  As the girls watched, he reacted quickly, clasping his hands to his chest and gasping for air.  His face became a bright red, and he fanned at his mouth with panic.

“HOT!” he choked. 

The girls looked everywhere, but they soon realized that there was no water around. 

“Hurry!” Edna said.  “Let’s get back to the grass!”  The girls took their brother by the hands and half walked – half dragged him back toward the greenery.  They made it to the place where Papa and Mama were wating for them.  As Edna tried to break off a stalk of grass, Mama examined her red-faced son with great fright.

“What happened?!”

“He ate the sulfur food!” Anna cried.  She was frightened that her brother might not ever return to normal.  He only seemed to grow redder by the moment. 

“What sulfur food?” Papa asked.  Edna had managed to chew some grass in her mouth and place it into her brother’s.  At first, Ferris choked on it, but soon, he chewed it and his face started fading into a creamy shade of normal. “I knew this Thanksgiving food was nothing to be trifled with!”

As Edna explained about the fried red-orange dough, Mama hugged her son, cradling his face and blowing cool air on him. Within a few moments, the family was much restored and made the trek home, eating nothing but yogurt for dinner.  They were happy to have such a dull food after such a stressful day. 

I’m sorry to tell you, dear ones, that the food that Ferris Mulch tasted that day was nothing more than a Flaming Hot Cheetos, (a particular favorite of Simon Cooper, who had spilled a few on the back porch).  As I told you earlier, the palate of an elf is much more discerning than humans, so what is delicious to us might just kill an elf child. 

I also should add that when the colony of ants heard about the Mulch family's near death experience, they quickly assembled a line and made their way to the back porch.  There they retrieved most of the crumbs from the Cheetos.  Ants love Flaming Hot Cheetos, especially when they can have them with an ice cold Coke.  

But you already knew that, didn't you?

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