“It’s Christmas Eve Eve Morning!” shrieked Stanley as he jumped through his fairy door and landed in the Welcome Room.
Colin and Carmen giggled from the central desk. Indeed, it was and, with it, the culmination of his big Christmas project.
They laughed as he shimmied around the desk, wiggling his tail with jingle bell in each paw. Stanley Shih Tzu was certainly in the Christmas spirit as he sung…
Oh, you better not pout
You better not cry
You better not shout
Stan’s telling you why
Santa Paws is coming to town
Shay’s making his list
Binky’s checking it twice
He’s gonna confirm
That all dogs are nice
Santa Paws is coming to town
Santa Paws is comiiiiiinnnnnnnnnn to town
“You’re here early,” said Colin, laughing and looking at his watch. It was only 9am and Stanley wasn’t a morning tzu.
“Well, I was up early and too excited to sleep so I thought I would come through and do a final check through of all the toys, snacks and blankets in the old barn so we are ready for tonight.”
He had worked so hard on his project over the past few months. Two years ago, with his girlfriend Maisie, they had helped when Santa Paws sleigh crash landed in Tzu Kingdom. They had inspired all the tzus to find a good toy or warm blanket that they didn’t want or need and donate it for all the dogs-less-fortunate than they. That year, King Bailey had stood in for Santa Paws (a soft coated wheaten terrier called Shay) as his crash-landing caused concussion and Queen Coffee would not let him fly. Their King, as well as a party of shih tzus that included him and some of his closest friends, had delivered presents to every known dog in the world on Christmas Eve and saved Christmas for dogs in the process.
Last year, to thank them, the team had visited Santa Paws Land on his personal invitation and had a marvellous day. They had learnt all about how Christmas worked for dogs, watched cookies being baked, toys being made and had a ride on the sleigh.
Stanley made a new friend that night when he flew over an abandoned zoo on his sleigh ride with Paddy, his best friend and Chief Scout, along with Maisie. With the help of magic Christmas sprinkles, they rescued a baby elephant called Vera just before the bad humans found her and she now lived in Santa Paws Land in a luxury outbuilding, looked after by Embry, Palace Manager, and all the staff there. Vera and Stanley remained close friends and pen pals too.
The toy collection and distribution was now a tradition and Stanley, under strict instructions from Maisie who was extremely busy in Tzu Library where she was Chief Librarian, was in charge this year.
Tonight, Santa Paws was coming to town, well, to Tzu Kingdom. Shay was to visit and have dinner with his dear friends King Bailey and Queen Coffee. They went back years and there was a special relationship between Santa Paws Land and Tzu Kingdom. There was also a happy photo of the three of them on Coffee’s desk in the Royal Quarters.
Meanwhile, his trusted companion and chief elf-dog Binky, a Pekingese, would supervise the tzus loading the wonderful and thoughtful gifts on to the sleigh to be delivered across the world to all known dogs.
Stanley had also organised a spread in the café.
The tzus jumped as the door to Tzu Library shut loudly and King Bailey appeared, looking uncharacteristically shaken as he wandered through the Party Room.
By coincidence, Queen Coffee sashayed in to view, coming from the Comforter Wing, carrying a suit.
“Well, that told me!” said Bailey, smirking a little.
“What Bailey Boo, who told you what?” Coffee pondered, kissing her husband on his ear as he took her free paw in both of his.
“Well, I took my library books back and I went to climb up the rolling ladder to put them on their shelf only to be scolded by young Maisie! Apparently, I would just do it all wrong, so I was to leave them on her desk in a neat pile for her to attend to later and go about my kingly business!”
“Bailey was she insolent to you?” Coffee gasped.
Respect for elders was important to the Queen of Tzus and, although they had no furs and graces, she expected everyone to be respectful and polite to each other. Maisie was usually one of the most well behaved tzus, always so grateful that she had been rescued by Stanley, Paddy and Phoebe a few years ago from a terrible fate in a loveless home with a bad human lady.
“No, no, Coffee my love, not at all, she’s just focused on her job and getting the library all shipshape so she can show Santa Paws Shay tonight. She’s not stopped for days. No, not naughty at all, just focused on the job in paw…she reminds me of someone I knew when I was younger…” he sniggered, looking at Stanley, who knew exactly what he meant. Queen Coffee was Maisie’s role model and there were more than a few similarities. Stanley wondered what Coffee was like when she was younger, when she was Chief Scout, or even before that when she was simply Miss Coffee. He thought she might have been a lot like Maisie.
Stanley was so proud of his girlfriend and wanted to share some news.
“Coffee, Bailey, do you know what Maisie will unveil in the library tonight for Santa Paws Shay?”
They both shook their heads.
“Well, she has pulled together all the Christmas books – books about the Santa Paws myths and legends, biographies and memoirs of all the Santa Paws there have been, maps and diagrams of Santa Paws Land, recipe books, picture books, toy catalogues, sleigh manuals…well, anything to do with Christmas for dogs. Some of the books are antiques, but they won’t leave the library you see, she has put them under glass cases and if you want to look at them you have to open them on mini beanbags and wear white paw gloves to turn the pages.”
The King and Queen smiled. Maisie was a lovely tzu with great leadership skills.
“Little Beth is helping too, she has to dust all the books and wear a special apron and fur net.”
Beth was Maisie’s little sister now. She had been rescued from a puppy farm by Stan, Maisie and Paddy when Phoebe got trapped on a big rescue. With a little fairy magic, they had got them back to safety and, after time in the Comforter Wing, she was homed with Maisie and her new family.
“Well,” said Coffee, “I think this is going to be the best evening. I love Christmas Eve Eve...the anticipation of the fun ahead, spending time with friends and family, playing games, singing and dancing, wonderful food but also remembering those less fortunate than us and making sure they have a good time too.”
A tear rolled down in to her beard and Bailey caught it on the reverse of his paw.
“It is a time for appreciating what we have and looking out for those that don’t,” he said.
“Oh Stan, you must be wondering what I’m doing with your best suit!” said the Queen. “Well, Maisie has insisted that you be in your best for when she takes Santa Paws Shay to the library. I had it cleaned for you, there were a few jam splodges and half a custard doughnut in the pocket, but it’s all good as new now.”
Stan blushed, wondering how he had missed that half doughnut.
“Paddy said he would hang it in your locker in Scout Tower. He’s due on his shift in a few minutes so I am meeting him here quickly.”
Right on cue, Paddy Chief Scout appeared behind them with his tall rescuer girlfriend Phoebe and burped. Loudly.
“Pads!!!” Stan hugged his friend. “Have you just been through your fairy door, is that why you burped?”
Paddy grinned. “Erm, no, I think that was me pre-shift banana milkshake and pancake-maple-syrup-ice-cream-stack with side order of churros popping up to make your acquaintance!”
The boys screeched with laughter, Stanley holding on to Paddy whilst he chortled hysterically, gasping to catch his breath. Coffee and Phoebe rolled their eyes.
Coffee tapped her paw and waited for them to calm down.
Finally, she took Paddy’s paws in hers and inspected them both sides.
“Hmmmm lemme see, no jam, no cheese, no gravy, no milkshake...all clean and dry,” she passed him the clean suit. He giggled, he loved Coffee so much, he was her deputy until a couple of years ago, but he sometimes tried her patience! She loved him back, he had been her fast-tracked protégé and he wouldn’t be Paddy without his crazy sense of humour, dramatic ways and healthy appetite!
“Hang Stan’s suit up, I’m trusting you with it mister. Quick like a bunny, we all have a busy day!”
Coffee looked wistful. The first time Stanley had worn his super smart suit King Wolfgang had been visiting, from another time, and a special luncheon had been held in his honour.
Wolfgang was the second ruler of Tzu Kingdom and went missing in a sea rescue in 1945, presumed lost for all time, but he wasn’t. A time burp had thrown him forward and he reappeared in modern times. He had stayed with them for nearly a year, living in the bedchamber in the Royal Quarters and becoming so popular with everyone that they called him Wolfy, Uncle Wolfy to some of the youngest.
It had been wonderful to have him around and sad when he jumped back in the next time burp where he lived out the rest of his life, sending a message through time to let them know he had got back safely, even though he closed his eyes for the last time shortly after his return.
Coffee and Bailey often wondered if they would ever see him again, but the time burps were deemed unsafe and only to be used in desperate emergencies.
She clapped her paws, and everyone scarpered. Paddy climbed the rope ladder to Scout Tower clutching Stan’s attire, Phoebe skipped off to the Rescuer Den and Stan pulled on his coat and boots and scampered out to the barn to check his toys.
Bailey took Coffee’s paw, they smiled at Colin and Carmen on the welcome desk as they walked regally and elegantly to the café to thank the team for organising tonight’s buffet and their own dinner with Santa Paws Shay.
It was sunny yet chilly today and Stan was glad of his good, sturdy grip boots. The ground was very muddy, slimy and slippery as he made towards the old barn. He had to slow down as he walked down the slope to the entrance where he had stored all the presents that had been donated for fear he would lose his balance.
He reached in his pocket for the key, everything had been stored safe and secure on shelves, sorted by types, colours and size.
But, as he got nearer, he heard a sound he didn’t like.
He could hear water dripping. He looked down at his paws by the barn door and they were sloshing in a puddle of dirty water. He gulped, fearing something terrible had occurred.
He unlocked the door but before he could turn the handle, a wave pushed the door open, knocking him to the ground. He squealed as he landed in a muddy puddle.
As he sat up, he peered in through to the barn. It was unrecognisable from what he had left yesterday.
He pulled himself up from the ground, his fur covered in gloopy mud and grime. He slowly entered the barn, hoping that everything was somehow going to be OK.
But as he surveyed the scene it was clear it was not. Every toy, every blanket and every snack lay floating in muddy water. Conscious that the building was brighter than before he looked up to see an enormous hole in the roof.
A rare storm in Tzu Kingdom had destroyed Christmas for the dogs-less-fortunate. There would be no presents this year and, Stan reflected, it was totally his fault.
He had let Santa Paws down and Christmas was ruined.
The little vanilla dog didn’t think he would ever stop crying. His loving eyes were red and sore, the upset hurt in his tummy and pounded in his head.
He picked up teddy bear after teddy bear and they were full with yucky rain. He pulled out blankets and they were too waterlogged for him to even lift. The treats were all in pieces, no more than crumbs floating in dirty water.
He caught sight of himself in a window. His beautiful red and grey coat that Granny had bought him for being a good boy on holiday in York was filthy too and his boots were caked in mud.
He had to get away. He ran and ran until he couldn’t run any more. Stanley fell to his knees and cried until his throat was sore. Looking around, he realised he didn’t know where he was, but he thought this must be the very edge of Tzu Kingdom. There was a bridge over a river that must lead to another world. Still sobbing, he dragged himself over to it and held his head in his paws.
He was a failure - the worst. His tears ran down his beard and plopped in to the river. He couldn’t ever imagine going back to Tzu Kingdom now. They would soon find out what he had done and he wouldn’t be welcome anyway.
Santa Paws would arrive tonight and King Bailey and Queen Coffee would have to inform him that there were no presents for the dogs-less-fortunate this year. He would be polite of course and return to Santa Paws Land empty-pawed, striking Stanley off the good list and flying right past his house on Christmas Eve, not even delivering his gifts from his friends and family. ‘That’s OK,’ he thought, ‘they can go to some less fortunate dogs.’
The tears started to fall once again, and he looked in to the river.
A glow of light in the river startled him. It was magical. He wiped his tears. He could feel something behind him and he swivelled around.
“Stanley, dear little friend, come here for a hug. Why the tears? Look at you, you seem to be in a most dreadful state. What can I do to help?”
A big, cuddly tzu sporting a majestic beard and a resplendent pair of dazzling angel wings stood before him. Stanley ran in to his outstretched paws.
Tzu Kingdom: It's A Wonderful Kingdom
Copyright © Karen Chilvers & Gill Eastgate - 2018 First Edition
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