THE FOUR CANDLES
A Christmas Anthology by Wangew_Wick
The First Candle: A Home for the Holidays
Snowball was tired, cold, and hungry. She had trudged through the West Virginia hills for weeks now, without any sign of another fluffy pony. Or a human, for that matter.
Every fiber of her being had told her since the day on which she had left her cozy home that leaving had been a mistake. But by the time she realized that it was too late: she was lost, and there was no chance her old mummah would find her. If her mummah even cared enough to look anymore. She certainly hadn't cared enough to let Snowball have babies.
There comes a time in the life of every fluffy pony mare—usually some time after two months of age—that she develops an unyielding desire to have foals. Usually this desire is triggered by a visual stimulus, such as seeing another mare playing with her foals, or seeing a foal at the fluffy park, or perhaps by watching some of the more controversial FluffTV programs. But sometimes, base instinct establishes itself, and the mare begs to “haf babbehs” all on her own.
This seems to have been the case with Snowball, seeing how her mummah never took her to a fluffy park (there wasn't one in Greenbrier County) or on a “play date” with other fluffies (she was too much of a homebody). And there was no way she could have seen “Babies!” on FluffTV: her mummah didn't even own a television.
But whatever prompted Snowball to “wan babbehs”, mummah always put her foot down. Her parents had given her the white filly with the black mane and tail as a birthday present a few months before, and she quickly learned that one fluffy was all she could handle.
The pegasus mare endured countless water bottle assaults, sorry boxings, and sorry sticking, but she remained steadfast, yet sweet, in her pleas. So while mummah was away at her resort job (and contemplating letting Snowball have just one litter—surely she could find enough takers for a single litter of weaned foals!), the resolute fluffy decided to take care of the matter herself.
Mummah usually left the doggie door to the backyard unlatched during the day so Snowball could go outside to play or to do her business. The earth was soft and wet, thanks to a rainstorm the night before, so the mare was able to tunnel her way under the privacy fence in a matter of hours.
Getting out was the easy part. But finding a stallion? She searched everywhere—the neighbors' backyards, down the road near the school, in the woods behind her house—but there was no other pony to be found. Not even another mare, who might be able to explain to her why she needed a stallion to have babies in the first place.
It was so frustrating. All she needed to do was to get tummeh-babbehs, and she knew mummah would happily welcome them all. In fact, if she had foals, mummah might even give her sketties every day!
In her desperation to find out how to make babies, she instead made another big mistake: she wandered deep into the woods. So deep, in fact, that she lost sight and smell of her home and the town. By the time she realized she needed to turn back, it was nighttime. She cried herself to sleep that night—her first away from mummah since she could talk.
The dead leaves on the ground didn't make for as soft a bed as she had next to mummah at home. Nor were they as tasty to eat as her kibble (or her once-a-week sketties). Each passing night got colder, and the water that fell from the sky chilled her to the bone.
Mummah wasn't there to brush out her matted fluff, and, as much as she hated baths, she thought she wouldn't mind one just this once. She felt as though she would never be clean again.
In hindsight, it was fortunate that no predator saw fit to pick her off. But with her ribs now showing, not even a passing bobcat would think her much of a meal. Of course, swift death by black bear or coyote would have been merciful compared to the slow, excruciating death by starvation that seemed to be her fate.
On the second day of the snowstorm, she happened upon a clearing. There was a small, one-room cabin with wispy smoke coming out of the chimney. Twine fences held up by wooden stakes marked several now-desolate garden plots. A shed near the cabin was filled to the top with cut firewood, and several rudimentary tools hung on its three walls.
Snowball crawled with the last of her strength to the cabin and pawed at its thin, wooden door. Her only hope was that its occupant knew mummah, or that he could at least give her nummies for her empty stomach.
A haggard man with a long, gray beard opened the door and looked down. Snowball, who had slumped down out of exhaustion, looked back up at him with sad, lonely eyes, and then she closed them as she passed out. And that was how Snowball met Isaiah the hermit.
The white pegasus slowly awakened to find herself wrapped in an old patchwork quilt made out of raggedy t-shirts. She felt warmer than she had felt since before she foolishly left her mummah to bring home babies. But a ravenous hunger filled her tummy—one that seemingly threatened to eat her from the inside out.
The old man appeared to have a keen sense of hearing, as he turned from his large black kettle and regarded the awakened fluffy. He smiled kindly, and continued to stir the pot. The rich, hearty smell of tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes wafted out and enticed Snowball to salivate.
“Hmmm,” the hermit pondered, “I'd say it ought ta be ready by now.”
He dipped a ladle down into the pot and filled a wooden bowl halfway, setting it in front of the fluffy. She sniffed at it—not to be picky, but rather out of habit—and then began lapping up the soup hungrily. Mummah had never given her exclusively human food before, but this was delicious!
“Can Snowbaww haf mowe nummies, pwease?”
The old man chuckled. “Aww right, maybe a little. But I don't want'cha gettin' a stomachache, ya hear?”
“Otay, nice mistah! Fankoo fow da nummies!”
“Yer welcome. And you can call me Isaiah.”
“Am nice fow meet'chu, Mistew Isaiah!”
“I ain't never seen a fluffy pony 'round here before. Where'd you come from?”
“Snowbaww come fwom mummah's housie. Am bad fwuffy, an weft mummah 'cos Snowbaww wan babbehs! Snowbaww kno dat mummah wiww wuv babbehs, 'cos mummah wuv Snowbaww! An babbehs am da bestes' fing in da wowwd!”
“Weeeell, it sounds like yer heart was in the right place. Ah don't know if we'll be able ta find yer owner or not, but yer welcome ta stay here as long as ya like.”
The fluffy thanked Isaiah profusely, and the old man responded that it was nothing. After eating some of the vegetable soup himself, he picked up his fiddle and started playing a tune. He sang the melody, and beautifully played the harmony:
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord.
“Thank ya, Snowball. You know, with Christmas comin' up, it gets one ta thinkin'.”
“Wha' 'bout, Mistew Isaiah?”
“About hope. Christmas reminds us to hope.”
Two weeks passed, and Snowball was as strong and healthy as she had ever been. Isaiah had a bumper crop of root vegetables that fall, and so there was never a shortage of soup to be had. It was too cold and the snow too deep for Snowball to go outside for any longer than it took to relieve herself, and so she was content to play inside the one-room cabin for her exercise.
Yet despite being confined to the cabin, neither Isaiah nor Snowball seemed to get bored, nor did they tire of each other's company. The hermit appeared to enjoy having someone to talk to for once, and the fluffy loved when her human counterpart played his fiddle. He played long into the night, and then would read his Bible (one of the few books he kept on a shelf above the fireplace) after the pegasus had gone to sleep.
One night the old man was reading, when the fluffy woke up with a start. She had been dreaming of her old mummah, and then she fell down...down...down...
*snnnnnnx* *kaff* “Nu!”
“Hm? Bad dream?”
“Yus, Mistew Isaiah! Haf wowsest sweepy-pictuwes!”
“It's all better now. It was just a dream. Go back to sleep.”
“Weadin' stowies? Fwuffy wuv stowies! What am dis stowy 'bout?”
“It's about a young girl who finds out she's going to have a baby. Here, she's talking about how good God is ta her—kinda like a poem.”
A baby? Snowball loved babies! They were the best things in the whole world!
“He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent away empty.”
As he finished reading, he smiled at the fluffy and closed the book. “That's what Christmas is all about: just when ya least expect it, God gives ya everything ya need. Turns the whole 'a' nature upside-down, just ta make things right.”
“Chwistmas am da bestest, Mistew Isaiah!”
“Yep. It's a special night. A special night.”
Snowball's excitement built over the next week leading up to Christmas Eve. By the time that day rolled around, she knew the choruses of at least three different songs, and she wondered what stories the old hermit would have to tell her that night—the night of hope and promise.
Isaiah was cutting the tops of carrots for the evening stew and humming “Angels We Have Heard On High,” when the mare decided to join in the chorus.
The man chuckled and nodded his head. “That's passable.”
“Snowbaww wuv Mistew Isaiah's nummies!”
“Mmhmm. And these're gonna be extra special nummies, too!”
“Wai am nummies extwa speshuw, Mistew Isaiah?”
“'cause it's Christmas Eve!”
The fluffy cheered and fluttered her tiny wings.
“Hooway! Am Chwistmas! Am Chwistmas!”
When the old man had finished cutting up the vegetables and throwing them into the pot, he stood up and pored through his tool cabinet.
“Hmmm...now, where'd I put th' dried peppers?”
“Mistew Isaiah fowgot a cawwot!”Snowball exclaimed, gently picking up the orange root with her teeth.
“Naw, not the black pepper...Oh, don't worry 'bout that one, Snowball. We don't need it fer th' stew.”
The pegasus shuffled over to her makeshift bed, as she usually took a nap before dinner. She was just settling in to a happy dream about people with little wingies like hers, when she felt herself lifted up by the scruff of the neck.
“EEEEEEEEE! Bad upsies! Nu wike!”she yelled, as the old man carried her back over to his stool. He held her over the compost bucket and squeezed her hard.
“Owwies! Wai Mistew Isaiah gif Snowbaww huwties? Am gud fwuffy!”
“Yer a damn good fluffy, Snowball. I thank God he provided you to me.”
The hermit picked up the “forgotten” carrot and shoved it as far up the fluffy's anus as it would go. Snowball screamed again about “poopie-place owwies”, and then she gasped when Isaiah grabbed the carving knife.
“The traps've been empty fer a while now. I've not had good meat since the leaves turned brown. Then, like the quail that blew into the camp o' th' Israelites, the Lord met my needs.
The mare had never before felt pain like the knife that now penetrated her skin. The old, self-sufficient woodsman knew his craft, as only one who had lived off the land for years could know. He made short work of the soft, white fluff, then set it aside on the countertop to be used for other things.
“SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Wai take pwetty fwuff? Pwease gif back, Mistew Isaiah! Gif Baaaaaaaack!”
“He hath filled the hungry with good things,” he said, lifting the lid off the black kettle as Snowball screamed. Steam billowed from the stew as the root vegetables cooked in the thick sauce. The fluffy wailed even louder as her pink flesh met the near-boiling liquid. Her blood mixed with the red tomato sauce, and she struggled to gain a footing on the large chunks of potato.
“...and the rich he hath sent away empty. Amen.”
The fluffy's eyes met the hermit's one last time as he set the lid back on the cast iron pot. If she had hoped for mercy in his gaze, she found none.
“Pwease, Mistew Isaiah! Fwuffy nu am nummies! Sabe Snowbaww! Nu wike buwnie-huwties! SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
The old man sat down on his stool for a moment and thoughtfully stroked his beard. The Lord had given him brief companionship, and a Christmas dinner fit for a king. Blessed be his name.
As his stew continued to settle in the pot, he again picked up his fiddle and began to play “Silent Night”.
And soon, it was.