By Adrian Hayes
Shelf to table to box. The repetition was unceasing. Sometimes, it was a slender ballerina adorned with the finest pink tulle. Frequently, it was steadfast soldiers dressed in red jackets with umber ermine fur caps.
A woman demanded a replica of her husband’s service uniform for her daughter, who had several of his soldiers. Though it took a while, the order had been filled. The woman had him wrap it in a pink box, with a lavender bow. Off she scurried, bag in hand, wrapped in a new raccoon coat.
Joy swept over the toymaker when he sold a new train set. Precision was put into each detail to make it appear as real as possible. The mother of the boy he sold it to hadn’t the additional funds for tracks, so Thromir threw a set in. It reminded him of the Christmases spent alongside his father, rolling sets across their front room.
When a sled was sold, Thromir wiped the wood to make sure he saw his wide smile. A red bow went with most sleds, as that was the biggest ribbon he could find. For hours it went on, the hustling sound of creaking wood, the jingle of a door opening, then closing, only to swing wide again with several patrons waving.
A man waited for him, dressed in a plaid wool coat. As the grey homburg came off, Thromir recognized his neighbor. A large order was filled, three sleds, a ballerina, a tin soldier, and a large teddy bear. From the gaggle of shoppers, assistants came to nab the purchases for the man. Bomar thanked the toymaker for his service, giving him an additional tip.
The madness didn’t stop until it seemed Thromir had no more toys to sell. The sign was flipped zealously, and his door was locked. He did his closing tasks, threw on his coat, and walked home. Beneath a vast moonlit sky, icicles glittered around bold iron holdings. Ochre flames waltzed behind soot laden glass. Snow covered every surface, and Thromir’s feet submerged with each step, leaving lasting footprints.
At the door of his home, Thromir looked back towards the village. From the view of his porch, he could see all the way to the toyshop. No one awaited him when the great oak door swung open. Time had slipped past him as he mastered his craft; years of his youth spent among the flitting light of a fire. When the thought of having a family occurred, he was a man well spent beyond the luster of youth. Near the hearthside, his thoughts wandered.
“It’s Christmas! Papa, get up!” Naya pulled at her father’s arm.
Eventually, Bomar rolled over to see Naya’s curly black hair, which was tied with a green bow. She wore a red velvet dress.
“Papa, come on, we got lots of presents.” The girl pulled the man from his slumber.
Coffee was poured. Bomar was on his third when his eldest found his sled beneath the tree.
“Don’t break this like you did your last one. No stunts or flips.” Bomar patted his son’s back. He was glad he’d purchased extra, just in case.
Drops of water formed slender icicles along the side door. Bomar sent them to the snow, where cylindrical holes formed near the right side of the bundles of timber. He picked up ten logs with his massive arms and, by chance, looked up the hill at the home of the toymaker.
Not a single light was on, although it was nearly midday. No carriages crowded the rounded drive. There were no people braving the landscape of last night’s storm to share the joy of Christmas with Thromir. While deciphering the scene, Bomar saw what he thought was the toymaker himself in a window. Looking again, Bomar caught a ghostly glimpse of swaying white sheer curtains.
Had all these years of the lonely visage on the hill been a lie? The villagers assumed Thromir retired to his mountain abode for the holiday season. There was always a sign in the window on Christmas Eve, saying he would return sometime in the new year. January 5th marked the day that anyone with issues with their Christmas toys could come into the shop for exchanges.
This isn’t right. Bomar thought, holding his logs against his chest. Once inside, he placed the wood by the hearth.
“Everyone, get dressed.” Bomar looked around at his wife and three children.
Naya’s eyes grew tearful. “What do you mean, Papa? It’s Christmas. We want to play with our toys.”
“Do not worry, little one. Where we are going, you will be able to play with all your gifts.” Hefty oak hands swooped under the girl’s arms. As Bomar lifted her into the air, he nuzzled his daughter’s nose.
After a peck on the cheek, he then plopped her down. “Now get ready. There is much to do. So, we must move swiftly.”
A knock came at the door. Thromir got up from his seat to answer it. As he opened the door, tiny hands grew around his calves.
“Thank you for my dolly.”
“Kaya! Did you ask if you could come in?” A boy was close behind her. “Thank you for my sled, sir.” The boy said, pulling his sister off of Thromir.
“Merry Christmas, Thromir!” Bomar and his wife had an entire throng of neighbors behind them. White pearls shone amongst dusky cheeks. “We saw you were the only one home without a light on and we chipped together to celebrate our Christmases with you.”
Warm smiles circled Thromir as tears swelled in his eyes. Amongst the crowd, he saw the customers of his shop, holding varied toys in hand. The adults held plates of turkey, roasted hens, chestnut stuffing, and plum pudding. From around others, he saw more food, wood, and wine.
“Well then. I invite you all in.” A wide smile across his hazel skin. After all this time, his family had been there all along.
Adrian Hayes is a journalism intern with Kinsman Quarterly. He writes fantasy and fiction stories and enjoys bike riding and reading as hobbies. His most recent work is the Mythos and the Madame Leaince Series. Each week, Adrian engages subscribers with intriguing questions to facilitate a vibrant writing community in Kinsman Quarterly’s Facebook group.