Day 8 | Advent Calendar
Franz and Helga and Their Just Rewards by Holly Geely
The cold winds of winter blew outside the cottage. Franz and Helga were the brother and sister who lived inside the cottage. They had been farmers once but that was a long time ago.
Franz and Helga had boarded up their windows against the chill. They had little food on the table but Franz was too old and Helga was too infirm; neither could brave the storm to collect more.
“I told you we should have hired help,” said Franz.
“What good would that have done?” said Helga.
“We could have continued working the land, and we would have food to eat,” said Franz.
“We will make money when we sell the merchandise,” said Helga.
Helga was convinced that their hand-carved toilet roll holders would catch on with the locals. Franz was not so sure, but he could not argue with his sister when she had an idea. So far, he had been patient. That night he might have pressed the issue, but there came a knock at the door.
“Hello in there! I am a weary traveler and I beg shelter.”
Franz and Helga’s parents had warned them never to open the door to strangers, lest they be selling something, but the night was so dreary they were moved to remove the boards. They let the weary traveler into their warm living room, and gave him a seat by the fire.
“Why are you traveling in such weather?” asked Franz.
“I had no choice,” replied the traveler, without further detail. There was a mysterious look about him. Something in his eyes made the onlooker shiver with something like dread.
“We do not have much to eat, but we do have a spare room if you would like to spend the night,” said Helga, who could not bear the thought of anyone trekking through the blizzard in the dark.
“And the room is a reasonable rate,” said Franz, at which Helga nodded.
“Sleep would be welcome, and whatever food you can spare would be even more so,” said the traveler.
Franz and Helga could not afford to spare any of their food, but they were generous, and they portioned the traveler some of their meager rations. The traveler gobbled down the food and went straight to bed. Franz tucked him in as he might have tucked in his own child.
In the morning, the traveler ate more of their sparse supplies for breakfast, before Franz or Helga woke for the day. They found him at the table, slurping up the last of their sausages.
“There is nothing as comforting as good sausages in the winter,” said the traveler.
Franz and Helga agreed, and neither was pleased to see them gone.
The mysterious traveler took his hat and coat and bid the brother and sister goodbye. He looked at them with his mysterious eyes.
“You showed me a great kindness,” said the traveler, “And you should be rewarded.”
“Are you a magical creature who has come to bestow upon us great gifts in return for an act of charity?” asked Franz.
“Me? No, of course not. You deserve a reward but I’m not going to be the one to give it to you,” said the traveler.
“At least buy a toilet roll holder,” said Helga.
“Are you kidding? I’m not touching that garbage,” said the traveler, turning his nose up at Helga’s offering.
Helga, in a fit of anger, shoved the toilet roll holder in the traveler’s mouth and pushed him out the door. Her bones ached for days afterwards because of her infirmity, but as she would later recall fondly, it was totally worth it.
“Now we are out of food,” said Franz, looking with a forlorn expression into their pantry. “I fear we may starve to death, for it is still too difficult for either of us to traverse this snowy wilderness.”
Many days later, when Franz and Helga were both weak with hunger, there came another knock on the door.
“Are you the kind old couple who housed a weary traveler this month past?” asked a well-dressed woman who stood upon their doorstep.
“Yes, we are,” said Franz.
“Who are you?” said Helga.
“I am a rich merchant and I would like to purchase in bulk your toilet roll holders.”
Helga wiped tears from her eyes, and said, “I am so happy that someone finally appreciates our workmanship!”
“Your workmanship is fine, but it is the practical use I am interested in,” said the well-dressed woman.
“Yes, for holding toilet rolls,” said Franz.
“No, not that. You see, when my son arrived at my home with the roll stuck in his mouth, I had trouble removing it. His language, when he could speak again, was exceptionally foul. I then replaced the roll from whence it came and my son was not able to complain the entire Christmas season.”
“I did not make them to be used as gags,” said Helga.
“Shut up, Helga, she’s offering to buy the lot,” said Franz.
The well-dressed woman paid Franz and Helga in cash and took the abundance of wooden rolls of their hands. She rode away into the night and the brother and sister clutched their money happily.
“Although, the money won’t do us any good if we can’t get into town,” said Franz.
Helga dashed out into the snow as quickly as her infirmity would allow, and called after the well-dressed woman to beg for a ride. They reached town a few hours later and purchased an apartment so they would not have to return to their dreary cottage.
Eventually Franz and Helga made a fortune selling their homemade mouth-stoppers and their poverty was long-forgotten. They never forgot that it was an act of kindness that had saved them.
They also did not forget how irritating the weary traveler had been and they never helped anyone else for as long as they lived.
Holly Geely is the author of several short story anthologies and a few assorted novels. Due to a fear of ghosts, she has always been full of the Christmas spirit. Aside from writing, she enjoys singing, eating cake, and spending time with her at-home zoo (two dogs, two cats, all attitude).