Pickle the Sourpuss Reindeer

Tucker Spolter

May I tell you a story only recently told?

Move in closer if you dare be so bold.

It begins at the top of the world, near the North Pole,

Where Santa Claus lives, in a white world of snow.

 

One magical morning minutes before dawn,

Comet, the reindeer gave birth to a fawn.

Blitzen, a new father with strong, stately grace,

Ran a pink tongue over his child’s dappled face.

Comet turned to everyone gathered and said with pride,

“Meet my new daughter with whom I’m quite satisfied.”

 

Craning her neck the newborn asked her mother.

"Who am I? What am I? Do I have a brother?"

 

“My, my,” mother laughed. ”You’re an inquisitive one.

Naming you will be wonderful fun.”

The young reindeer reared and kicked out her leg,

"A name.” She put a hoof on her chin, “how about, Greg?

Or maybe, Missy, Sissy or how about Ulysses?

Please don’t name me Fishy and definitely not Squishy.”

 

“Squishy?” Her mother teased. “You’re a reindeer,

You won’t be granted a name for exactly one year.”

 

Either her fawn did not hear, or chose to ignore.

She went on and on…… in a monotonous bore.

“If you called me Babylonia I wouldn’t mind,

And London, Rome or Paris would also be fine.”

 

Blitzen approached and tried to calm her with a smile,

"You can’t be named today, you have to wait awhile.

“That’s okay, Daddy, this is neat, this is cool!

As a brand new reindeer do go to school?”

Her big brown eyes and extra-long eye lashes,

Blinked and blinked in brown and white flashes.

 

She turned to Comet, “Wow, so many new things,

As a female deer, do I get to wear rings?"

 

“Hush, hush,” Comet said then came to a pause,

Because into the pen strolled Santa Claus.

“Ho, ho, ho,” said Santa hugging the new born doe.

“You're a welcome addition I want you to know.

We'll teach you to fly like a jumbo jet,

You can fly through the night; from sunrise to sunset.

And discover a world you can't imagine yet.”

 

“Fly?...Who are you?” She struggled from Santa’s embrace,

And what is that white stuff all over your face?”

 

“Whoa, whoa,” Santa said. "You are most impolite,

Being rude, or naughty just isn’t right.”

 

The fawn shrugged then backed away heel to toe,

She wasn’t sure if Santa Claus was friend or foe.

“Are you a names giver, because that’s what I need.

A name, a name….. pretty, pretty, please.”

 

Santa patted her neck and fed her some grass.

But everyone knew Santa did not like her sass.

“Easy, young one, there are things you must learn.

Names don’t come easy. Your name must be earned.

 

Every reindeer here, like your father and mother,

Has a special name - a name like no other.

And each name was earned right here on earth.

And bestowed to each reindeer, one year after birth.

 

Have you met Dancer? He’s a perfect example.

Though remember that he’s just one sample.

Dancer’s name might seem easy to explain,

But it's harder than cooking chicken chow mien.

 

Dancer doesn't dance. He can’t rumba or tango,

He can't samba, cha-cha or do a fandango.

But one Christmas Eve, in a cold, freezing rain,

Dancer waltzed my sleigh from a collision with a plane.

 

 

Your mother Comet leaped so incredibly far,

She had to hitch a ride home on a shooting star.

Vixen, Blitzen and Cupid all have tales you’ll hear,

But to earn your name – you must wait one year.

 

And now that you know exactly how it's done,

It’s time you learned to fly, go have some fun."

 

“Fly?” The fawn turned with a tight, puzzled frown,

“Frankly, Mister I’m content right here on the ground.”

 

Santa’s eyes challenged, “are you afraid of the skies?

Because it’s on young reindeers that Santa relies.”

 

 

“Afraid?” She turned and glanced above to a cloud,

Her heart beat, almost shouting out loud,

She was scared, very scared, but way too proud,

She’d never fly, never, ever, she privately vowed.

 

“Afraid? I’m not afraid. I don’t even know you.

Look at me. Do you see wings? What’s your I.Q?"

 

 

“If you’re scared,” Santa said, “I can deal with that,

but please stop acting like a rude little brat.”

 

“Brat? I want a name. I don’t want to wait.

I want a name. A name to love, one I won’t hate.”

 

Santa moved in close and looked down at the fawn,

And everyone knew that something was wrong.

“Even though you’re not quite an adolescent,

You little one, are causing too much dissent.”  

 

"Harrumph," the young deer pouted.

The other reindeer gasped as the new fawn shouted.

"I think you are mean! I don't like you at all.

In fact you’re rather fat and not really tall."

 

A horrible silence rippled round the pen.

A silence like this silence there never had been.

No hoof pawed the ground. Not a snort nor a grunt.

For Santa had been insulted by this new born runt.

 

Santa’s voice got louder with words cold and true,

“It’s a name you want. Here’s a perfect one for you.

I give you a name that is not worth one nickel.

For your first year of life, I dub you Miss Pickle.”

 

“Pickle’s are things!” The young fawn cried.

“They’re lumpy, and gunky with warts outside.”

 

“You’re Pickle!” Santa said.“With the sour disposition.

You wanted a name, and  now you are christened.”

Antler on antler the reindeers clacked.

When Santa decrees there’s no turning back.

Now this was something Pickle hadn’t expected,

But Santa disappeared before she objected.

 

Blitzen and Comet were filled with shame.

Pickle was a terrible, dreadful, horrible name.

And it became like a gruesome curse,

For Pickle’s behavior got worse and worse.

 

As the days, weeks and months passed by,

Pickle never tried to learn to fly.

She became a bit mean and ever so haughty.

Things Pickle did were more than just naughty.

 

She stepped on the foot of a tiny green elf,

Then lied to her parents to protect herself.

 

On one occasion she acted as weird as some loons,

At a birthday party she bit into balloons.

When the balloons popped all over the place,

Chocolate ice cream flew in everyone’s face.

 

Later in a game of pin-the-tail on the donkey,

Pickle gobbled up the cake just like a monkey.

She opened presents that were not even hers,

And soon lost the friendship of the other reindeers.

 

Wilder and wilder Pickle became,

“Why? Why?” her mother and father exclaimed.

 

And when Santa caught Pickle at a real mean trick,

He boomed in a voice hard and strict.

 

“You’ve been rude to me and the others here,

And you’ve ignored the rules we all hold dear.

Enough is enough. Who do you think you are?

Carry on like this you'll never get far.”

 

Comet buried her head, so sad was she,

“Why, why does my daughter do this to me?”

 

Santa pointed to the fawn and in a harsh voice,

“I’m sorry Pickle but you leave me no choice.

 

“Exile,” Santa said. “For one week you’ll be all to yourself.

No one to play with, not even one elf.”

 

“Exile?” whispered Rudolph, Dasher and Blizen.

“Oh, dear, Oh, dear,” muttered Donner, Prancer and Vixen.

 

Elves and reindeers exchanged looks of dread.

While Rudolph’s nose blinked red, red, red.

 

The North Pole is a rugged place at best,

Santa was giving Pickle a difficult test.

The Arctic is beautiful but hard and stark

And no one goes there just on a lark.

 As cold as it gets near the North Pole,

That day it got colder than ever before.

 

Silence, ugly silence washed through the pen,

With the word “exile” whispered again and again.

 

“There’s little to eat and think of the wolves.

Wolves!” Vixen said clicking her hooves.

 

Santa’s voice broke the quiet and the tension,

Pickle’s behavior and rudeness he did not mention.

 

“Before you depart, I have a friend you should meet.”

There was a beat of wings, a hoot and a screech.

As if out of nowhere appeared a snow white bird,

Majestic in flight and easily heard.

 

“Hi ya, Santa, hi ya, hi ya, how have you been?”

The small white owl flew once around the pen.

 

“Hoot!” Santa said. “Now this is grand.”

As the owl landed on Santa’s outstretched hand.

 

“I am here, I’m here. Heard you call my name?

What should we do, Santa?  Can we play a game?”

 

“Not now,” Santa laughed, with a short little bellow.

His stomach jiggling like a bowl of red Jell-O.

Santa paused a moment and then got serious.

“Hoot, meet Pickle, a reindeer rude yet curious.  

 

Please teach her manners and courtesy too!

These most difficult tasks I leave up to you.

She needs to learn to fly and be polite,

Though she’ll probably argue and probably fight.”

 

“But, how can I teach a reindeer? I am so small.

Especially this reindeer who’s such a screwball.”

 

“You are wise,” Santa said. “I know you can do it.”

Please help Pickle. She’s become such a nitwit.”

 

Hoot turned to Pickle, “Hello. Hi ya.  Hi ya.

If we work together could I fly with ya? Fly with ya?

If you learn to fly, I won’t have to do a thing.

I can sit on your back and not flap my wings.”

 

“Stupid bird,” Pickle said. “You have two eyes.

How many reindeer do you see in the skies?”

 

Pickle looked at Santa, Comet and Cupid,

Then did something that was completely stupid.

Without saying good-bye; without one single word,

She nuzzled her way through the reindeer herd.

 

She trotted past the toy shop and Santa’s Chalet,

Below the North Pole and round Santa’s sleigh.

She ran further and faster, tears in her eyes.

Santa, his elves and reindeer let out a sigh.

 

“Look after her,” Santa said to Hoot with alarm.

“Please make certain she comes to no harm.”

 

Hoot soared up, his chance to help Pickle was slim,

So the tiny owl would wait until Pickle needed him.

 

 

II

 

Faster and further Pickle did run,

Bounding and leaping toward the setting sun.

She weaved through the forest her head bent low,

Mumbling to nothing except the trees and the snow.

 

“Santa and his elves are stupid and lame.

I like being alone. It’s a wonderful game.”

She lapped a snowflake landing on her tongue,

And suddenly forgot where her journey’d begun.

 

Pickle realized that now that she was the boss,

She’d become totally, utterly, horribly lost.

Right there and then a shiver of loneliness set in,

Pickle found she wanted, and needed a friend.

 

A smile lit her face when she stumbled upon a moose

Munching on leaves from a beautiful, blue spruce.

​“What's your name?” Pickle asked. His answer was a blow

The Moose stared bewildered, “Em’, I don’t really know.”

 

“A nameless Moose, why you’re a disgrace.

At least I know who I am, and I know my place.”

 

The Moose bellowed, “You’re mean and not very nice,

I thought little girls were made of sugar and spice.”

With a groan and a grunt the Moose trod off,

“No friends. All alone,” he snorted a scoff.

 

Pickle roamed further and further undeterred.

“Hi, I'm Pickle!” she greeted a grazing elk herd.

 

“Please play with me? I’m not a freak.

How about a game of tag? Or hide-n-seek?”

 

 

We have no time to play, we’ve got things to do,

You’re one of Santa’s, you have responsibilities too.

In two’s three’s and four’s the elks drifted away,

Pickle shouted, “I did’t want to play with you anyway.”

III

Flying above a dark speck in the sky.

Hoot the owl hummed a child’s lullaby.

Wise and patient Hoot soared though air,

Watching poor Pickle with love and care.

 

 

One day, two days, then a third day passed by,

Pickle hated being alone and would often cry.

Though, she did enjoy the gentle rustling of leaves,

And the warm feeling she got in a small stand of trees.

 

She was lost, lonely and feeling her life was cursed.

And just as she wondered if things could get worse.

From deep in the forest came an ominous grrrrrr.

Pickle’s nub of a tail rose up and so did her fur.

 

Yellow eyes peered through branches and leaves,

Yips, howls and growls made Pickle freeze.

Hairy, dark shadows darted from out of the night,

A starving pack of wolves closed in from her right.

 

Terrified, Pickle’s eyes darted from side to side.

And just as she was about to scream out a cry…

 

Above, a small shadow on the moon Hoot flew high

Then like a bolt of lightning he dove from the sky

Down, down, down in a spiral descent,

Hoot had to save Pickle, from a horrible event.

He extended his wings, then tucked into a dive,

Hoot’s heartbeat, thump,thumping inside.

He heard the wolves howling below,

Talons tucked to his belly, he had further go.

Hoot found Pickle trembling in the hollow of tree,

Sternly, he whispered, “Now you better listen to me.”

 

Frozen with fear Pickle began to protest,

But Hoot the owl, knew what was best. 

 

He placed his wing over Pickle’s mouth.

“Ssssh,” He cautioned. “Quiet. Say nothing aloud.

 

The wolves are hungry, but don’t know you’re here.

And sadly, they love to eat Santa’s reindeer.

You’re like candy or ice cream an incredible treat,

Way beyond anything, wolves love reindeer meat.

 

Don’t move. Talk. The wolves don't have your scent.”

Pickle slid further backward without argument.

She eased in the hollow and stayed statue-still,

The wolves yipped and yapped, piercing and shrill.

They dashed right and left and, then sprinted back,

Except one wolf in front, the leader of the pack.

 

He was lean, mean starving for a feast.

In this pack of wolves he was the king of beasts.

Lobo circled closer his snout sniffed the air,

His yellow eyes drifted, then froze with a glare.

Pckle was about to run. Hoot signaled her to stay.

Lobo howled a dreadful howl, then led his pack away.

It took ten long minutes until the danger passed,

Finally, Hoot told Pickle she could move at last.

 

“Whew, that was close, too close,” Hoot said.

“If they’d caught our scent we’d both be dead.”

Hoot peered down from a branch in the tree.

“We are about as lucky as lucky can be.”

 

Pickle shivered and shook the snow from her back.

It was still obvious, good manners she lacked.

She didn’t even thank Hoot for saving her life,

Instead she looked up and continued the strife.

 

“Go away, you stupid bird. You’re Santa’s friend.

I said I never wanted to see either of you again.”

 

“What? Can’t hear ya,” Hoot said scratching his ear.

"You’re one of Santa's, why don’t you fly up here?”

 

“You’re a fool. I don’t fly... I can’t fly in the air. 

Won’t anyone listen?. . . Doesn’t anyone care?”

 

“Pickle, sorry, but you have sooo much to learn,

And I think in your heart - you're also concerned.

Please go back to your team, your family and friends.

Apologize nicely. You can make amends.”

  

Hoot dropped from the branch spreading his wings.

"Family and friends are such wondrous things.

Hurry back to Santa, back into your fold,

Otherwise, young one you'll be left in the cold."

 

Pickle snickered, “What are you some kind of cop?

You’re not my mother. You’re not my pop.”

 

“Correct. Right!” Hoot said. “I’ll leave you alone,

Careful Pickle, you’re creating an unfriendly zone.

 

There’s no one here who wants to play with you.

You might as well be in a cage in a zoo.

See ya, see ya, later,” Hoot waved goodbye,

Flapping his wings getting ready to fly.

 

Right at that moment Pickle of the bad disposition,

Made the first of several important decisions.

 

“Okay, okay, Hoot, please don’t go. Stay for awhile.”

Sour puss Pickle even managed to force out a smile.

 

For a moment Hoot pretended to hem and haw.

Then he slowly waved his talon like claw.

“Sure, I guess I might fly along with you.

Maybe I can really help, cause you don’t have a clue."

 

For the next two days Hoot and Pickle were a pair,

Pickle plodding through the tundra, Hoot in the air.

 

Pickle had a hard time finding food to eat,

She had a cramp in one leg and cuts on her feet,

Her fur was matted and her flank had two gashes,

One ear was torn and she’d lost some eye lashes.

 

With all that was wrong there was some that was right,

Pickles behavior was improving to Hoot’s delight.

 

But when Hoot encouraged Pickle to fly,

Pickle always argued with a Why? Why? And Why?

“I'm a reindeer content with my feet on the ground,

So why do you badger me, why do you hound?

 

Birds such as eagles are meant for the sky.

Hasn't anyone wondered, how reindeer do fly?

You need wings and things, propellers at least.

I'm a reindeer, proud of it, but still I'm a beast. 

 

Birds like you have wings and fabulous feathery tails.

I'm a deer with hooves surely I'll fail.

I can jump quite high, though I prefer the earth.

Or just fooling around for all that I’m worth."

 

But Hoot continued to nag. He continued to pester,

Often tossing in a joke like a silly court jester.

 

On the sixth day of exile Pickle decided to relent,

Though she was hungry, exhausted and totally spent.

She stood on the edge of very high hill,

Though, all through her body ran a horrible chill.

 

Once, twice, a dozen times she tried to take flight,

She pushed, shoved and jumped with all of her might,

 

Finally, she turned to Hoot with resign and dread,

“I just can’t do it,” she said shaking her head.

"Please go back to Santa and tell him I tried."

 

"But, you can do it, you can do it" Hoot replied –

 

“You’re one of Santa’s reindeer, in fact more than that,

You can fly and land on roof tops with a clickityclack.

You could fly if you wanted all the way to the moon.

And soar through every morning right up till noon.

 

You have one more day ‘till we go back to Santa Claus.”

Hoot’s words came faster and faster without any pause,

“You can do it, you can do it. Tomorrow one more try.

I know you can do it. Tomorrow you’ll fly.” 

 

Pickle was exhausted too tired to fight.

She settled under a log to sleep for the night.

 

Hoot’s talons clung to a branch, his eyes wide at attention,

Because his poor heart was full of apprehension.

Perhaps he couldn’t teach Pickle to fly.

Why me? Perhaps Santa had chosen the wrong guy.

 

 

 

IV

 

 

For one week Comet and Blitzen searched for their fawn,

Rising with the sun each morning at dawn,

Over tundra, through dark forests, high and low,

They’d soon have no more places to go.

 

And this night when they laid down to sleep,

How could they know Pickle was 200 yards to the east?

 

V

 

Hoot was almost asleep when he first heard the sounds,

A low growing rumble, not like a dog, nor like a hound.

 

Hoot’s eye flew open. “Wolves, wolves” he said,

Leaping into the air with his wings wide spread.

He flew to the howls, growls and the shrieks,

When he saw what he saw he couldn’t open his beak.

 

Hoot zoomed back to Pickle as fast as he could.

Something was to happen and that something wasn’t good.

 

Hoot flapped his wings in Pickle’s sleepy face,

“Hurry up, hurry up,” Hoot hooted, “We’re in a race.

Wolves are after your mother and father,

And I know they can’t hold out much longer."

 

Pickle didn’t need one second to think,

She leaped over a boulder and over a creek.

Pickle was a blur across the hard ground.

Foraging an iceberg in one single bound.

 

In three minutes they arrived at a horrible scene,

Both Hoot and Pickle had to stifle a scream.

Twenty feet below, trapped in the snow,

Comet and Blitzen where trapped,  nowhere to go.

 

Circling the pair were seven hungry wolves

Each carefully avoiding the reindeer’s hooves.

But some heavy damage had already been done

At the North Pole you can’t call 911.

 

Comet was bleeding from her neck and her thigh,

Blitzen could barely lift his hooves to fight.

 

Pickle reared, her antlers glistened in the sun,

She bent her head and charged. War had begun.

 

Hoot and Pickle made a formidable pair,

They attacked from here, there, devil may care.

When one wolf tried to drag Comet to the ground,

Pickle was at her mom’s side in a leap and a bound.

 

In a rage, Pickle hooved a grey wolf in his jaw

That fellow wouldn’t wake until next summer’s thaw.

 

Hoot pecked at eyes and his talons ripped at fur,

He even bit off the tail of one surly cur.

 

When two wolves attacked from the front and the rear

They found out quickly she wasn’t a timid reindeer.

Pickle kicked one on the nose and one in the side.

Comet and Blitzen watched their daughter with pride.

 

“Get ‘em!” they cried. “Kick ‘em, Pickle”

And she lashed out like a hammer and a sickle.

The fight went on for almost one hour.

Until one by one the wolves began to cower.

 

The wolves were startled by Hoot and Pickle’s attack,

For one brief moment they all drew back,

But they wanted dinner, reindeer steak,

And a young Pickle and Hoot were icing on the cake.

 

Pickle reared on her haunches giving quick kicks,

She nipped and bit leaving deep bloody nicks,

Her hoof caught a grey wolf above the brow,

This pack of wolves had never been in such a row.

 

Two wolves circled Hoot; it was a horrible thing,

One got some tail feathers, one snapped at his wing.

Hoot made it to a tree, just out of the reach

Of the leaping wolves and their very sharp teeth. 

 

And now Pickle was left to fight all alone,

When she kicked a cur she broke several bones.

Another wolf charged but ran out of luck,

As Pickle dodged and gave him a bite on his butt.

 

Pickled charged and butted with all of her might,

Until one by one by one the wolves took flight.

 

All except Lobo. The largest. Leader of the pack,

Who snarled and growled, hairs raised on his back.

 

A string of drool dripped from the corner of his mouth,

He glared at Pickle, “You better head south.”

His lips pulled back bearing sharp, white teeth.

“You and your parents will be tasty to eat.”

 

Pickle clicked her hooves and leaped into the sky,

Then landed and stepped in close, eye to eye.

They circled each other for a minute or two.

Pickle had no intention of becoming wolf stew.

 

Lobo’s jaws snapped as he went for Pickle’s throat,

Pickle evaded his fangs with no time to gloat,

Again and again and again the wolf attacked,

Again and again Pickle stepped back.

 

Comet, Blitzen and Hoot watched terrified.

Still Lobo advanced. He would not be denied.

With Comet, Blitzen and little Hoot out of the way,

One by one the other wolves returned to the fray.

 

Lobo snapped at Pickle’s ankle and then her flank,

Until she was trapped high on an iceberg bank.

 

Lobo forced Pickle to the very edge of the cliff,

Then licked his chops and gave her a sniff.

“Well, well, little friend, this is your end,”

He turned to his pack, “Come, let our feast begin,”

 

Lobo lunged. Pickle flipped backwards into the air,

But she didn’t fall, she kept hovering there.

She was flying! Flying!  There was no magic wand.

It was incredibly! Wonderful! Phenomenon!

 

Lobo sat back on his haunches and let out a howl.

Which terrified Comet, Blitzen and Hoot, the owl.

 

Lobo yelped, “If you can fly, I can fly too.”

He leaped … but wolves can’t fly, a sad tale but true.

His howl faded as he tumbled down the snow bank,

Disappearing with a puff into the snow Lobo sank.

 

And while Comet, Blitzen and Hoot cheered,

The rest of the wolves quickly disappeared.

 

Which brings us to the end of this particular tale.

Though I promise others, one about a whale.

 

But if one Christmas Eve, very late at night,

You lay in your bed without even one light.

 

And you hear a clickity-clack ever so low.

Please hop from bed and peek out your window.

Because if you’re lucky, as lucky can be,

There is something wondrous that you might see.

You’ll see Rudolph, the Reindeers and Santa of course,

But look far behind…….that’s not a flying horse.

It’s a young reindeer just learning the ropes.

A hero in the North Pole with very high hopes.

 

And did you notice that tiny speck on her back?

That’s Hoot, perched on a pillow totally relaxed.

 

And this reindeer who once was so sour and fickle,

Has decided she will forever keep the name, Pickle.

A special thanks for your editing job, Waffle.

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© 2019 Tucker Spolter