The door sways open. Snow from cloven hooves marks a trail to the kitchen table.
He sniffs a plate of cookies, and passes.
He spies a glass of schnapps. He downs the slug. He grabs the bottle.
“Oh, thank you!” he laughs.
“You’re welcome,” she says.
His broken chains clatter. Goat-headed and horned, he snarls at her. “I don’t do favors!”
She’s resolute on arm crutches. “I don’t ask any.”
“A bribe won’t spare your naughty child!”
“I have none.”
He cocks his head and peers. “Then why the gift?”
“Just, a thank you,” she says.
He swilled from the bottle. “I don’t have fans.”
“You have, one. When I was—”
“A poor crippled child?” his claw points. “Those girls broke your crutches. Left you on the ice?”
“Very naughty. A memorable catch.”
“I didn’t know of you,” she said, “but they never hurt me again.”
He nodded preening his bundle of birch branches.
“Santa gave me new crutches. You’ve given many like me the gift of justice. Thank you.”
“I give few gifts, but—”
The branches hit her.
Cloven hooves step on torn clothes.
“Come, Perchten,” he says.
She touches her horns and white goat’s face.
“Run with me. Let’s hunt some bullies!” he grins.
Throwing crutches, she nods. She runs.
He chases. “Let me catch you, and you’ll enjoy it!”
Copyright © 2019 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.
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