Arbitratus Short Fiction

The Fifth Day of Fic-mas …

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Christmas Miracles

Authors’ note – What kind of Demons Run Fic-mas would it be without a recipe to warm you up in the cold? Hopefully this one will be good for your heart and your stomach.

 

“Okay, Kelly, you ready?” Teddy asked, grinning at the way his little brother was dancing from foot to foot in anticipation.

“Ready!” Kelly practically shouted, in full excited preschooler voice, climbing onto his tiptoes and throwing his arms in the air like he was on the downslope of the world’s best roller coaster.

On the counter was a row of various cups and bowls, holding the recipe ingredients in the order they would need them. Ben had told Teddy setting up like that was a chef thing called … it was some German word or something, and with Ben you could never really be sure because he spoke like five or six languages or something … it was very important, though.

He was glad his mom had chilled out about him hanging around with Ben. She thought it was weird that he had a friend who was in college, but Teddy had pointed out Ben was only a few years older, he was Mal’s boyfriend, and he was not just Dr. G’s research assistant, but his roommate, too. It made him feel better about making the phone call to try to get some ideas about something to cook with Kelly this afternoon. Ben had given him the easiest recipe he could think of. And that was good, because Teddy didn’t know much about cooking. These would hopefully turn into Teddy’s favorite Christmas cookie, though he’d never tried making them before. Ben was sure he could do it, he’d said. Kelly was bored, so he sure was going to try.

Kelly started to climb onto the chair Teddy had pushed up to the counter for him and couldn’t quite make it on his own. Teddy grabbed the straps of his blue and white striped overalls and hauled him the rest of the way up, letting him hang in the air over the chair for a minute in the way that always gave him the giggles.

“Snickerdoodle!” he laughed as soon as he had eyes on all the ingredients.

He’d been giggling and saying the word randomly ever since Teddy had suggested making cookies after lunch. He thought the word was hilarious. Even funnier than saying ‘fart’ in front of guests. It made getting him to focus on what they were trying to do come down on the near impossible side of challenging. Kelly had also been running around the kitchen banging everything with a wooden spoon while Teddy tried to set up.

Teddy shook his head, still smiling. The challenges of making cookies with a four and a half-year-old, no matter how hilarious the name of those cookies, paled in comparison to one who wanted to walk up to the Battery and play in the park. “Why are you so mean, Ted? I like the rain! There’ll be puddles!” had been on repeat all morning.

Honestly, Teddy mused, looking out the window again. It isn’t raining that hard. And it is pretty warm for the middle of December … He thought better of it. His mother would murder him. Not just if she caught them in the act, but if she even suspected he’d let Kelly out in the rain on a windy forty-degree day. And his mom was one of the smartest people he knew. No one would ever find the body.

“Kel, buddy, get back here,” Teddy called, as Kelly wandered off again. He caught up with his tiny charge in the living room, face pressed to the glass of the picture window that faced the lake. “Kelly, c’mon. Let’s go make the cookies.”

He didn’t say snickerdoodles. He wanted cooperation, not another giggle fit.

“Teddy, I wanna play outside!”

“I know, kiddo, but Mom says no. But maybe it’ll stop raining if we wait a little. Let’s go make cookies for Santa.”

Kelly turned around, his grey eyes uncertain and his freckled nose wrinkled with concern. “Skyler says Santa’s not real.” He frowned a little, and it morphed into a pout as he thought about Skyler picking on him for drawing a picture for Santa at school before nap time.

“Not real?” Teddy widened his eyes dramatically.

“Uh huh,” he nodded earnestly. “She said only stupid babies believe in Santa.” His lip quivered just a little.

Teddy had hoped Kelly would be a little older before some other kid ruined Santa for him. Teddy remembered all too well what that was like. He wasn’t going to let that happen to Kel. He wasn’t even five! “That’s a pretty mean thing for somebody to say. Especially since she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

He reached down to pick Kelly up and carry him back to the kitchen, something he didn’t normally do anymore, but he felt suddenly almost overly protective of his brother. As he settled Kel on his hip and started back to the kitchen, the little boy went on. “She isn’t nice. Not ever. But Beau says she’s right and …”

“I don’t care what Beau says,” he said firmly. “Santa’s real, pal. He’s so real that it’s too big for some people to know.”

Kelly’s eyes got big and round. Teddy knew everything. “He is? Really?”

Teddy nodded earnestly. “Of course he is. And unless little Miss Skyler and Mister Beau can prove otherwise, Santa and I are very good friends.”

Kelly’s gaze took on a worshipful shine as his big brother plopped him down in the chair next to the counter. “You are?”

“You bet we are. And wait until I tell the Big Guy about those meanies at school.” This wasn’t the first time Kelly had trouble with those two. “But, Kelly, you can’t tell anyone,” he said, not wanting him to go back to school and invite more bullying.

“Not even Mom and Dad?”

“Oh, you can tell them. They’re Mom and Dad. You can tell them anything.”

Teddy pulled the first couple of ingredients they needed closer, so Kelly could reach. HIs little brother looked up at him, not necessarily all that interested in cookies anymore, even if they were fun to say. “But how?”

“How what, bud?” Teddy handed Kelly one of the eggs, showing him with his own how to crack it and drop it into the bowl.

“How do you know Santa? Kids can’t see him, right?”

Teddy patiently picked shell fragments out of the egg dish. “Well, yeah, usually we can’t. But one Christmas … before you were born,” he began, starting to stir the butter to soften it up. “Actually, the year you were born … I asked Santa for a friend.” Kelly’s eyes were fixed on Teddy’s face, the snickerdoodles mostly forgotten. “See, I knew some kids like Skyler and Beau …”

“I’m sorry, Teddy,” Kelly said with big eyes and a very sincere voice.

“Now you put the sugar in on top of the butter, Kel,” Teddy prompted. As his brother complied, Teddy continued to spin his story. “Those kids didn’t really matter though, buddy. Because Santa came to me himself, to make sure I was ready.”

“For what?”

“For you, silly.”

“For me?” he asked, confused.

“Well, yeah. I asked Santa for friend. One who was funny, and smart, and who kicked butt at Candy Land. You know, just the very best friend a guy could ever have.”

“So Santa gave you Petra,” he said, nodding knowingly. Petra always beat him at Candy Land.

“No! I knew Petra for a long time before this. And she’s a good friend. But I needed a very best friend. So he gave me you.”

Kelly tilted his head to the side like he just couldn’t figure out how he could be Teddy’s very best friend. Teddy was the coolest, so his best friend had to be the coolest, too. And if Kelly knew anything from Skyler and Beau, it was that he wasn’t even a little bit cool. Teddy could practically read his brother’s thoughts. “Huh?”

“Santa said, from what I described in my letter, what I really was asking for was a little brother. The coolest little brother in the whole world so we could be best friends forever. And he was right. Ooof,” Teddy grunted as Kelly flung himself around his brother’s middle, hugging so tightly it almost hurt. “Oh, boy,” Teddy added, even as he hugged back, because the flailing little limbs had knocked the canister off the counter.

The plastic bin hit the floor with a loud pop, sending the flour into the air in a blinding cloud. After a few seconds it started to settle, covering every surface, including the two brothers. “Whoops,” Kelly said quietly.

From down the hall, Teddy heard the jingling of keys, followed by the clicks of the door opening, then closing. There was the familiar sound of a heavy purse being set on the stand next to the coat rack. “Hey, boys! I’m home! My shift got over early!”

Teddy assessed the scene. Flour still drifted lazily through the air. Everything was white and dusty. “Of course. Of course it did.” He sighed. “Timing is everything,” he said to himself.

His mother stopped in the doorway, her mouth pulling into a surprised ‘O’, then starting to twitch at the corners almost immediately. Her boys were two pale apparitions standing guiltily as the dust settled, their matching grey-green eyes round and slightly scared at what her reaction might be to the destruction in front of her. Their expressions relaxed into relieved grins as their mother started laughing. “Alright, I’m going to go shower and change. You guys be sure to clean up when you’re done.” Her eyes surveyed the carnage that was her kitchen. “And, yeah … Let’s do take out. Talk about what you want. I’m up for Chinese or Chicken Charlie’s, but you decide.” She smiled and left the kids to their mess.

Kelly breathed a sigh of relief. “I thought we were gonna be in big trouble.”

Teddy nodded. “Me, too. But I guess Christmas is a time for miracles,” he grinned. “Now, let’s finish these cookies, pal.”

“Snickerdoodle!”

∞∞∞

 

Snickerdoodles are a Flaherty family favorite, and not just because they’re fun to say. They are as much fun to make and eat as sugar cookies, but a heck of a lot easier. The classic warm cinnamon and sugar flavors on a rich, almost creamy, butter cookie, make them perfect for the winter holidays.

 

Ben’s Snickerdoodle Recipe

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour (for a less chewy cookie, you can use Cake Flour)

2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar

1 teaspoon Baking Soda (if you don’t have Cream of Tartar, you can use 2 teaspoons Baking Powder instead of the Baking Soda and Cream of Tartar, but it does change the taste just a little)

3/4 teaspoon Salt

1 3/4 cups Sugar (2 tablespoons of the Sugar should be set aside)

1 cup Unsalted Butter (Some recipes will tell you to use shortening. Throw them out. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.)                                                                 2 Eggs

2 tablespoons Heavy Cream

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract (the good stuff)

1 tablespoon Ground Cinnamon (Mix with the Sugar you set aside on a plate)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  2. If you didn’t do it already, mix 2 tablespoons of the Sugar with all the Cinnamon on a plate or in a pie tin (I like a pie tin, so I don’t make a huge mess).
  3. Mix the Flour, Cream of Tartar, Baking Soda and Salt in one bowl.  
  4. In another bowl, cream the Butter and Sugar together until it’s light and fluffy (you can do this by hand or with an electric mixer – just make sure the Butter is room temperature or your arm will get tired and you will get frustrated).
  5. Once the Sugar and Butter are well mixed, add the Eggs, Heavy Cream, and Vanilla. Mix until well-blended
  6. Gradually stir in the dry mixture until it’s completely incorporated.
  7. Shape dough into small balls. We always use a small scoop or disher for this.
  8. Roll the balls in the Cinnamon Sugar mixture until they are completely coated.
  9. Place the balls about two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  10. Bake until lightly brown around the edges, or for a crisper cookie, until the tops are all slightly brown.
  11. Cool in the pan for a couple of minutes to allow the cookies to set.
  12. You can cool them completely on wire racks or eat them warm – Nobody here is going to judge you. And as we all know, holiday treats have no calories.

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