Happy holidays, friends! Here’s a little flash fiction gift for you. Enjoy the season!
The Controversial Invention
by MM Schreier
Alabaster Snowball knocked and poked his head into the workshop. “Bushy Evergreen? Are you in?” His voice cut through the air, squeakier than his normal cheery tone. “I brought you the latest list.” Spotting the chief toy engineer hard at work, the list maker crossed the room and dropped a stack of computer printouts on the workbench. “According to my analytics program, there’s been a two point one percent shift from Naughty to Nice. Geez terwilligers! We’ll need more gifts than anticipated.”
Bushy didn’t glance up from what he was working on. Wood shavings drifted in piles on the floor like snow. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “There’s another load in the hall for Misfit Island.” He sighed and shook his head. “More and more broken toys returned every year. Such a shame.”
“Bushy, please.” Alabaster shoved his candy cane striped spectacles up the bridge of his nose. “It’s a week before Christmas and we need new toys. The returns can wait until after the New Year.” He gestured at the empty shelves that should have been filled with dolls and trains and roaring dinosaurs. Bushy’s Toy Making Thingamajig (patent pending) sat lifeless and gathering dust in the corner.
Alabaster marched across the room, the merry jingling of the bells on his shoes contrasted the worried expression on the elf’s face. He sidled up to the behemoth contraption. “Why don’t we just get things moving along?” He reached for the ‘on’ button.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Bushy mumbled, still engrossed in his project.
Too late. Alabaster jabbed the button. Gears whired. Lights blinked in a chaotic pattern, and the machine shuddered and groaned. A tremor ran through the floor. Wide-eyed, the elf inched back. With a clap of thunder, a cloud belched out, raining glitter down on everything.
The Thingamajig fell silent.
“Good gumdrops, Bushy!” Alabaster brushed rainbow sparkles from his hair.
“I told you not to do it.” Bushy added a part, fitting it in place with intense concentration. “I had to pull a couple of doohickies from the Thingamajig in order to get the transmographer to work properly.” He clucked his tongue and rotated the thing he was working on ninety degrees. The complicated gadget let out a gentle hum.
Alabaster stomped his foot and huffed. “Listen. I know you love to tinker, but this is getting out of hand. If you don’t fix the Thingamajig right now and start filling the Christmas orders, I’ll have no choice but to call security and have them make you.”
Bushy set his project on the table and looked up, a steely glint in his eyes. “You’d sick Pepper Minstix on me?” He crossed his arms over his chest and smirked. “Go ahead and try. Pep and I have an agreement. He leaves me alone and I don’t tell the Big Guy that he’s fraternizing with Sugarplum Mary.”
Alabaster’s jaw dropped.
“That’s right. I caught them in the kitchens sampling the bonbons together.”
Face flushed pink, Alabaster shifted from foot to foot, clearly uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was going. He opened his mouth. Closed it. Brushed more glitter from his coat.
On the workbench, the gadget chirruped.
Alabaster jumped. “Fiddlesticks! What is that thing?”
A wide grin split Bushy’s face. “It’s the thing that will revolutionize the toy industry.” He picked up a small square and held it out for the other elf to examine. Made from wood, twisted copper, and bits of colored glass, it strangely appeared to be a single piece without seams or joints.
Alabaster raised an eyebrow. “But what is it?”
“It’s nothing. But it becomes everything.” Bushy winked. “When held in the hand, it automatically turns into the exact thing a person wants.” He held it out. “Go ahead, old friend. Give it a try!”
Alabaster gingerly took the square and held it in his palm. In a puff of strawberry flavored smoke it transformed into a sleek new cell phone. “Holy banana shenanigans! This model isn’t slated to be released until next year!”
Bushy clapped and danced around the workshop in a victory jig. “Oh, Al. It gets so much better!” He squealed and grabbed a cup off a desk and took a swig. He grimaced and spit, spraying chocolate on his friend’s glittery coat. “Blech. Cold.”
He set the cup down and wiped his mouth, his expression turning serious. “You know how I feel about broken toys, right?”
Alabaster nodded. Everyone had heard Bushy’s long lectures about overcrowding on the Island of Misfit Toys. Handwritten flyers were found slipped under doors and rolled up, stuffed into stockings—-multicolored sheafs of propaganda detailing the evils of programmed obsolescence, consumerism, and the woeful state of toy longevity.
“Well, no longer.” Bushy pointed to the cell phone. “I found the secret to make the gifts indestructible. Forget everlasting gobstoppers. Think trains whose wheels never come off and dolls with button eyes that stay put no matter what kind of adventures little Suzy drags them on. No more bears leaking stuffing or dinosaurs that lose their roar. It’s spectacular!”
Alabaster cleared his throat. “So you’re saying that no toy would ever break? The kids would be able to keep them forever? Never need new ones?”
Alabaster slumped into a chair, his face in his hands. For a long moment he sat there. When he finally spoke, his voice sounded muffled. “Dammit Bushy. You just put us out of a job!”