Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Note on Wally and Ninny

Wally, the Green-nosed reindeer, looked anxiously as Santa posted the Christmas Eve lineup.


Dejected, he slouched back along the snow-covered boulevard toward his humble stable. He was used to being left out. The other reindeer had never let him play reindeer games. They had even laughed and called him names. This year, though, he had thought it might be different. Blitzen had retired, and with Rudolph's promotion just last year, Wally felt sure Santa would choose him. After all, if Rudolph could do it, any reindeer could.

As Wally reached the stable, he sighed deeply and nudged the gate open. Nincompoop, the stable elf, saw him enter and rushed over to hear the good news.

"So, Wally, did you make it?" asked the tiny elf with the big pink ears.

"Nope, Ninny. Four-eyed Phil got the job."

"Four-eyed Phil?" Ninny exclaimed with surprise. "He can barely even see and he's not a glow-noser like you or Rudolph."

"Yeah, I know," replied Wally, resigning himself to failure, "but he aced his roof landing exam and that must have been enough."

Ninny could sense Wally's disappointment. Ninny knew he had worked all year long to be on that list.

"I'm sorry, buddy," said Ninny, trying to comfort his friend. "For what its worth, if I was ever in a fog, I'd want you to guide my sleigh."

Wally snorted his appreciation and retired to his stable. Ninny watched as Wally's nose flickered and then completely extinguished.

* * * *

The next few weeks dragged along at a snail's pace. The reindeer on the list practiced their landings and takeoffs and tried to get in shape for the big night. As for Wally, both he and Ninny were assigned to the clean up crew under Shenanigan, Ninny's uncle. It was an important job, but, considering Ninny longed to be a tinkering elf like his father, he and Wally spent most days wallowing in self-pity.

"Wally, I'm a great tinkerer," began Ninny one day as they mopped Santa's launching pad. "You saw the remote-controlled chomping alligator I made last week. It was awesome."

Wally looked down at his miniscule elf friend, who at that moment had mopped himself into a corner.

"Ninny, it almost ate your hand."

"Yeah, it was awesome," said Ninny as he mimicked the chomping action of the alligator and then tiptoed quickly across the damp pad. As he reached Wally's side, they both heard the door to Santa's garage open and in strolled a pot-bellied elf with a small white cobbler's apron.
"Shenanigan," began Ninny again, "you saw my chomping alligator last week, right? Now, be honest. Wasn't it awesome?"

Shenanigan looked intently at his young nephew, not knowing exactly where to begin.

"Look, Ninny, some elves are tinkerers," Shenanigan said, nodding to a plaque hanging on the wall with the words "Tinkerer of the Year" engraved beneath a picture of Ninny's father. "Others of us are cleaner-uppers, naughty-nicers, or even able-stablers. If your work here is any indication, Ninny, you'll be lucky to be a cleaner-upper. Look at those footprints."

"But, seriously, Shenanigan," said Ninny, ignoring the footprints, "don't you think I'd be a great tinkerer."

"Let me put it this way, Ninny. I would rather Wally guide the sleigh than have you tinker with the toys."

Wally's ears pricked at the mention of his name.

"What's that supposed to mean?" cried Ninny.

Shenanigan pressed forward without a tinge of regret at his honesty.

"All I'm saying is that as bad a flyer as Wally is, he's a better flyer than you are a tinkerer. Some of us just have to know our place."

Wally sat speechless for a few moments before he regained his composure. "I really fly that bad?"

Shenanigan laughed and patted the clumsy reindeer on the back. "Oh, Wally, surely you didn't think Santa was going to put you on the list? You can barely fly above the pine trees between here and the stables. I remember how I had to get you down off of the warehouse roof because you were too scared to fly off by yourself."

Wally remembered. All too well, he remembered. Santa was right to pick Four-eyed Phil. At least he could fly above the trees. Wally looked across the pad to where Ninny sat deep in his own thoughts. They were quite a pair.

"Like I said," continued Shenanigan as he picked up a small broom and prepared to go back in the garage, "some of us just have to know our place."

* * * *

Christmas Eve arrived with the normal fanfare. The elves all donned their spiffiest green vests and their pointiest shoes and the reindeer combed their thick coats and polished their hooves. One by one, Santa's helpers filed into his house to make the last-minute arrangements for the evening. Ninny and Wally waited to the very end to enter into the house. As cleaner-uppers, there was really no need for them to get good seats.

Things went pretty much like they always did. Santa gave an uplifting speech thanking all of them for their hard work throughout the year, the naughty-nicers gave an up-to-the-minute report of the children needing toys, and the loaders filled the heavy sacks with toys and hoisted them up on Santa's sleigh. Wally paid special attention to the reindeer that would be pulling the sleigh. The able-stablers had positioned the traditional bells around each of their necks. Wally thought they looked so dapper. It made him sick. He looked down the line at each of them wondering who would be the next to retire. As he reached the final reindeer, he noticed something was missing. Phil was not the same. Wally looked disgusted as he shook his head and whispered in Ninny's ear.


"I didn't want to tell you, Wally," replied Ninny in an equally loud whisper, "but Santa had them made up special for him as a welcome gift."

"So much for Four-eyed Phil."

Wally didn't care to pay attention to much more of the festivities. He couldn't wait for them all to be over. He suddenly had a headache and couldn't wait for Santa and his reindeer to just leave.
After a few more speeches by Mrs. Claus and a couple of the administrative elves including Ninny's father, the moment they had all been waiting for arrived. Santa climbed aboard his newly waxed state-of-the-art sleigh and let out a great big deep laugh that caused his belly to shake like a bowl full of jelly. Despite his foul mood, Wally couldn't help but smile. Santa then drew in a big breath of cold air and began to hum loudly. Then, with a gigantic "Ho, Ho, Ho," he voiced the words they had all been waiting for.

"Oh....You better watch out,
you better not cry,
you better not pout,
I'm telling you why.
Santa Claus is coming to town."

The elves and the reindeer erupted with joy as they clapped wildly and joined in.

"He's making a list,
he's checking it twice,
he's gonna find out
who's naughty or nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town."

Amidst the singing and the bell-ringing and the clapping and cheering, Santa cracked his whip and urged his prized reindeer and his precious cargo high into the air. Like a roar of thunder they were off on their yearly jaunt. Wally couldn't help but feel envy creeping up his spine. He again felt sick to his stomach. He knew he would never be one of them. He watched as they soared into the silhouette of the beautiful full moon. The lump in his throat nearly choked him.

The singing and the laughing continued for several minutes before all the elves and the remaining reindeer calmed down and prepared to retire to Mrs. Claus' annual Christmas Eve feast. Within minutes, they had all left leaving only Shenanigan, Ninny and Wally on the huge barren launching pad.

"Well, boys," Shenanigan good-naturedly bellowed, "I'd love to help you clean up this mess, but Mrs. Claus is fixing up a mean batch of figgy pudding and I'm not about to miss out like I did last year. Do a good job and remember your place."

He winked at both Wally and Ninny as he skipped his way off to Mrs. Claus' party.

"I figured he'd leave," said Ninny as he picked up a broom and kicked off his pointy boots. "Some cleaner-upper he is."

Wally couldn't quite bring himself to pick up another broom and help out his friend. He just sat in silence and looked into the still, bright night.

"Ninny, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, Wally, what's up?"

"What's your destiny?"

"How do you mean?"

"I mean, what do you see yourself becoming? A cleaner-upper? An able-stabler? Maybe a loader? Or do you see yourself as a tinkerer, despite what Shenanigan said?"

Ninny leaned on his thick broom and peered out at the same still, bright night.

"I am a tinkerer in my heart, Wally. I may be cleaning up the pad this year, but my toys will be on that sleigh someday. I just know it."

"Even though you're a worse tinkerer than I am a flyer?"

Ninny nodded. "Yeah, even though I'm worse than you."

Ninny inched his way across the launching pad and patted his friend on the shoulder. "Wally, you're a fine flyer. You'll see."

A smile started to form on Wally's reindeer lips. He tried to fight it off, but it was hard to ignore what a good friend he had in Ninny. He picked up another broom and as he followed Ninny out on to the launching pad to begin sweeping, he noticed a small red light blinking way up high on the Naughty-Nice board. He hadn't seen it before and he was pretty sure no one else had seen it blinking, what with the singing and cheering. Wally wasn't the sharpest reindeer, but he knew a blinking red light on Christmas Eve was a bad sign.


"Yeah, Wally."

"I think we've got a problem."

Ninny swung around to see Wally's nose signalling the way to the small red blinking light on the Naughty-Nice board. He, too, knew it was a bad sign. He immediately ran up to the board and began climbing the periscoping ladders he'd seen the naughty-nicers climb so often. After a few hectic seconds he finally reached the ladder that lifted him to just under the red light. There in blinking red letters were the words he dreaded seeing.

"Mister Ernest Presentworthy---NICE"

"They missed one!" Ninny shouted down to Wally.

"What do you mean they 'missed' one?" Wally couldn't believe his ears. He had never heard of Santa forgetting a toy, and he had never, ever heard of the elves forgetting to make a toy.

"I mean, they missed one. This little boy must have been naughty up until just before Santa left, but then he got nice. You know the rules, Wally. Once Santa is gone, all rulings are final, but they must have just missed this one."

Wally's thoughts were swirling in his head. He suddenly felt a surge of duty and responsibility. He thought of the little boy waking up the next morning and rushing out to look under the tree. He would be devastated that Santa had forgotten his present. Wally then thought of Santa's disappointment at discovering he'd missed one deserving little boy. He would be crushed. Wally looked at the giant clock above the door to the garage. It was already past 1:00 A.M. It was too late to summon any of the tinkerers. They were all the way over at the party. Wally then glanced up at the equally gigantic global positioning map on the wall that indicated Santa's exact position throughout the night. He was just passing through Seoul, South Korea. There was no way he could come back to the Pole and still deliver all of his presents. Someone would have to meet him. Just then an idea entered his reindeer mind.

"Ninny, it doesn't look good. If we are to have any luck getting a toy for Ernest Presentworthy on Santa's sleigh, you'd better get on it soon."

"What do you mean, I'd better get on it soon?"

"You heard me, Ninny. You're the only tinkerer here."

"But you heard Shenanigan. I'm worse than you."

"Yeah," replied Wally exuding a newfound confidence, "but I also heard you tell me you were a tinkerer at heart, Ninny. And this is going to take a lot of heart."

"And when I get the toy completely tinkered, then what? Are you going to fly us to meet up with Santa?" Ninny laughed at the thought of Wally trying to fly above the trees.

Ninny asked the question in jest, but he could see from the hurt look on Wally's face that the clumsy reindeer was seriously considering the venture.

"Oh, Wally, I'm sorry. Do you really think you can do it?"

Wally, his confidence now waning, looked up at his so-called friend, high atop the tallest periscoping ladder, and began to laugh as well.

"We'll be quite the pair, Ninny. You with your terrible tinkered toy and me scraping the treetops trying to rise above the roofs. We won't be pretty, but if we don't do something, that little boy will wake up tomorrow without a single present from Santa, and I don't know about you, but I know my place and it's flying on Christmas Eve."

A tiny tear trickled down Ninny's cheek as he jumped down off the ladder and ran to give Wally a big hug.

"I'll get right on it, Wally, and you'd better come up with a plan to get this on Santa's sleigh."

Within minutes, Ninny had rushed to his tool bag and had begun tinkering as fast as he could. Wally, in the meantime, consulted the Big Book of Children for Ernest's address and found that he lived in the small town of Minidoka, Idaho. He did some quick calculations and found out he and Ninny would have to make it all the way to Calgary, Canada to meet Santa on the roof of Emeline Smiley's house. It wouldn't be easy, but it would be the only way to make sure Santa had the toy for Ernest Presentworthy. As the minutes sped by, Wally got more and more nervous. He had never flown so far in all his life, and Shenanigan was right; he was a terrible flyer.

As Wally nervously paced back and forth along the launching pad, Ninny carved, drilled, painted, and sanded away in a cloud of sawdust. After what seemed like an eternity to Wally, Ninny finally stood up from his little tinkerer's stool and made a glorious declaration.


* * * *

"Hurry then and jump aboard," cried Wally, without even glancing at Ninny's finished product. "If we don't get going now, we'll never meet up with Santa and the other reindeer."

Ninny did hurry and as he swung his leg up over Wally's back, he heard the door to the garage swing open once again and in strolled a figgy pudding stuffed Shenanigan. The head cleaner-upper laughed at the hilarious scene of Ninny on top of Wally like they were going to fly off at once.

"What in the name of mistletoe are you two up to?" Shenanigan chuckled.

Ninny didn't answer right away, but rather pointed to the blinking red light high up on the Naughty-Nice board. Shenanigan followed his nephew's fingers and immediately knew the situation. It was, indeed, dire. Still, he couldn't get over the sight of TweedleDum and TweedleDumber preparing to fly off into the winter night.

"You two?" he roared, hardly containing his incredulity. "You two are going to save Christmas?"

Not wanting to listen to his uncle make fun any more, Ninny tapped on Wally's shoulder and whispered in his ear. "Let's go."

Wally couldn't wait. He built up speed just like he'd seen the reindeers do when they launched more than an hour before. As he reached the end of the runway, he jumped into the air with all his might, but instead of soaring into the moon's silhouette, he and Ninny spiraled downward off the launching pad landing clumsily in the white, fluffy snow.

Both Wally and Ninny could hear the deafening laughter of Shenanigan emanating from above them. Wally again felt useless, but without a bit of reproach, Ninny again whispered in his ear.

"Let's go, Wally. I know you can do it."

"You really think I can?" said Wally as he pawed at the snow.

"I know you can."

Wally dug his hooves into the newly-fallen snow and again tried to build up as much speed as he could, but this time as he sprang off the ground hoping to fly, he actually did. His hooves left the snow and, with Ninny holding on for dear life, the two of them slowly rose into the Christmas sky. Shenanigan stood dumbfounded on the launching pad as the ragged crew of two scraped the top of a giant pine tree but kept on flying.

"You did it," yelled Ninny. "Keep it up. We'll be there in no time."

Wally did keep it up and within just two short hours they saw the lights of Calgary and Emeline Smiley's house. Santa and the reindeer were just preparing to takeoff when Wally and Ninny crashlanded on the rooftop. Wally slid wildly off the side of the roof and into a weeping willow while Ninny managed to jump off and smash into the chimney.

"Santa, Santa," hollered Ninny as he scraped some snow out of his ears and tried to catch his breath. "You forgot a present. Wally and I brought it to you."

Santa stepped down off of his sleigh and carefully eyed the tiny elf. "Ernest Presentworthy, was it? I knew he could be nice. He cut things pretty close this year."

Santa looked pleased as he thought about young Mr. Presentworthy, but then he quickly turned his attention back to the miniature elf. "Why, Ninny, how did you ever make it here? There couldn't have been much time."

Ninny finally caught his breath and motioned toward Wally, still stuck in the willow tree. "It was Wally, Santa. He's not a great flyer, but he has a big heart and he got us here in time."

Santa looked over to the disaster that was Wally and smiled from ear to ear. "Wally, I never figured you for a Christmas Eve reindeer. I must say, you have surprised me. Now where is this gift you brought me?"

Wally slowly extricated himself from the willow and pointed toward his little elf buddy. "Ninny has it, Santa. He made it from scratch."

As the words left his mouth, all of the other reindeer burst into laughter at the mention of Ninny's name.

"Ninny? A tinkering elf?" shouted Four-Eyed Phil as he fell over laughing at the thought. Phil wasn't alone, however. Santa's sleigh almost fell off Emeline's roof, the reindeer were laughing so hard. Ninny felt so embarrassed that he hid behind the chimney trying not to be seen. Santa brought his finger to his mouth and silenced all of the reindeer and then spun to find the elf cowering behind the cold bricks of the chimney.

"Is this true, Ninny? Did you make young Mr. Presentworthy's gift?"

Ninny nodded shyly.

"Well, then," continued Santa, "I should like to see it so we can be on our way."

Ninny bowed his head, regretting that he had even considered accompanying Wally on this fruitless adventure. As he removed the small toy from his backpack, he could already hear the snickers. It was hideous.

Santa stood silent as he looked over the mash of wires, wood, and duct tape that would be Mr. Presentworthy's Christmas gift. Then with a curious and bewildered expression he spoke.

"What is it, Ninny?"

Ninny started cautiously. "Well, erm, uh, its a thingamabob that, well, it does stuff while you're out of your room."

"Yes?" Santa said, still curious.

"Okay, here's the deal," Ninny said with a bit more confidence. "It's a Cleaner-Upper just like Wally and me. See, I heard that Ernest was a Naughty 'cause he didn't like to clean up his room. Well, now he won't have to. He just has to tell the Cleaner-Upper what to do and it'll do it for him. I've been thinking about it for awhile now. I think he'll love it, but I have never been a very good tinkerer. I am just a Cleaner-Upper like it."

Ninny bowed his head, ashamed that he had even thought of the idea. It was a bad idea, just like everything else he had invented.

Just then, Santa reached down, picked up Ninny, and hugged him like a teddy bear. "This is perfect, Ninny. Ernest has been needing this for quite some time. Now, I'd like you to join me in the sleigh where you'll be my special assistant for the night."

Ninny beamed. He couldn't quite believe that Santa thought it was a good idea.

"And you, Wally," said Santa as he sat down in his sparkling new sleigh, "I'd like you to join my reindeer team for the rest of the night. You have proven worthy, indeed."

Wally beamed, too, but instead of trotting up and joining the other reindeer he stumbled across the roof and leaned on Ninny. They were quite a pair. Ninny was still scraping snow out of his ears and Wally had at least three big twigs twisted up in his fur.

Wally looked down at Ninny and they both knew what they needed to say. They looked up at Santa and with as much courage as they could muster, they proceeded.

"Santa," began Ninny with a surety he'd never known before, "me and Wally are Cleaner-Uppers."

"Yeah," joined in Wally, "we appreciate the offer, but some of us just have to know our place."

Ninny nodded in agreement. They were quite a pair.


Anonymous Grandpa Jones said...

I liked your story, I was a little bit disappointed in the ending until I realized that its okay to be a cleaner upper. Especially if you have tried to be a star, and really didn't enjoy it. Such is life, but you should have a love for what you do, and come to appreciate what you do and surround yourself with good friends. May we have more Wally's and Ninny's in the world.

2:55 AM  
Blogger Le laquet said...

I thought was lovely ... everyone needs a support team!

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Pearl said...

I liked the story. If you have heart, you can do a lot even when people say you can't.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous guile said...


11:01 PM  

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