Come back with me now, if you will, to that wonderful time of your life called childhood, when you still believed in magic ...
Once upon a time, in an attic apartment in the most squalid section of town, lived a young woman named Jennifer and her father, who was lame.
As Christmas approached, Jennifer grew gloomier and gloomier, for this year, they were so piteously poor, they could ill afford a live tree. No sprightly spruce adorned their living room; in fact, this Yuletide their "tree" consisted of a vased cluster of puny evergreen boughs which had fallen from the plump conifers in the Christmas tree lot across the street, boughs which the owner had given Jennifer in return for her running errands for him. At the pinnacle of this miserable, mirthless melange of branches sat a humble star made from yellow construction paper that was so old, it was nearly white.
"Oh, well, at least the branches smell like pine!" sighed Jennifer, trying to remain upbeat. "And we must always keep this holiday. Always!"
On Christmas Eve morning, after she had deposited the previous day's trash in the receptacle in the snowflake-dusted courtyard below, she saw, sitting atop one of the garbage cans, a bedraggled, stuffed blue calico goose, a happy goose, a lively goose. Hurriedly she scooped it up in her arms, raced upstairs, washed it with a damp cloth, and placed it on the rickety wooden table beside her bed. It was the only toy in her sparsely-furnished room.
While the carolers in the street were singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" in the lightly falling snow, she wrapped her father's present, a pair of plain black cotton socks, which she had purchased with money from running errands. Out-side the apartment, the revelers were still caroling when her head touched the pillow. As the melody of "We Three Kings" dimmed in the distance, she stifled her sobs in her handkerchief, for she missed her mother dearly, and this Christmas was her first holiday without her.
Soon Jennifer fell asleep ... but was awakened at the stroke of midnight, an event marked by the euphonic chimes of the big church clock down the street, and by, "Honk, honk, honk!"
Startled, she sat up in her bed, arms akimbo, "Egad! What on earth is that?"
"It is I, the Blue Goose," cackled the voice, from beside her bed. Indeed, there was the blue calico goose, its yellow beak moved as it "talked."
Shivering, Jennifer pulled the blanket up under her chin. "Jennifer, do you believe in magic?"
"Yes! Oh, yes!"
"Jennifer, you rescued me from certain death in the landfill, or worse, the incinerator. I'll reward you for your kind deed. In three days, make three wishes. If you don't make them within that time, you'll forfeit them forever. Now make your wishes wisely."
No sooner had the goose spoken, than she declared, "Goose, make my father well again!"
And so, on Christmas morning, when her father awakened, his body was as whole and healthy as it had ever been. "Father, you can walk!"
"Yes, Jen," beamed her father, "but I have no gift for you this Christmas."
"Oh, Father, to see you well again is the best Christmas present I could ever receive. Now if only Mother ..."
Then they spied a piece of white paper sliding under the living-room door. Her father hastily picked up the paper and read it. "It's a warning from the landlord," he said soberly, turning very pale. "He's going to evict us for nonpayment of rent!"
"But, Father, we paid our rent for January way in advance - five days ago!"
"Then he's trying to collect twice. Either that, or he's trying to get us out so he can double the rent."
"Oh, Father, we've got to do something!"
So on Christmas night, at the stroke of twelve, Jennifer made her second wish. "Goose, save our home."
"Honk, honk, honk! It's a done deed!" cackled the goose obediently.
On the day after Christmas came a knock at the door. Her father opened it.
In stumbled a bumptious little man, his tattered black jacket torn at the seams and hanging off one shoulder, his tie askew, his hair dishev-eled. "I'm a process server," he
chortled. "You won't believe this, but a gaggle of honking blue geese just attacked me on my way over here. Pecked at me with their beaks, they did, till I nearly dropped your eviction notice. Fact, one of the critters snatched it out of my hands and flew away with it! I've been plagued by Doberman Pinschers and beset by Rottweilers, but never by ... geese. Never seen anything like it. Look, I'm quittin' this business right now! After this nasty little episode, I've had it, Lawdy! Geese. The landlord can serve you himself. Good-bye." With those words, he slammed the door and disappeared down the creaky wooden steps.
That evening, at five minutes before midnight, Jennifer made her last, and most precious, wish: "Goose, bring my mother back to life!"
"Alas, said the Blue Goose ruefully blinking back a tear, "That command I can't carry out, for she's happy where she is and desires to remain there."
"Yes, Jen," came her mother's voice, resonating throughout the bedroom, "you mustn't wish for my return. I'm happy here. We mustn't interfere with the will of God, for He wanted me to leave your world. I love both you and your father, and I'm with you always, but I must remain here."
"Oh, but, Mother, I miss you so!" Jennifer's lips quivered as she spoke.
"Now, Jennifer, don't weep for me. You must go on with your own life. And you must always keep Christmas. No matter what befalls - always keep Christmas ... always ..." Her voice trailed off.
"Hurry, Jennifer," admonished the Blue Goose. "Midnight's fast approaching. You must make another wish, or else you'll forfeit it forever."
Visions of jewelry, a mansion, and all the riches in the world danced through Jennifer's mind. "Wait. Goose, where will you go once you've fulfilled my third request?"
"Why, back to the garbage heap. And afterward, onto the landfill. Or perhaps even to the incinerator."
"Then, in the spirit of giving - also known as love - which is Christmas, I ask that you remain here with me forever."
"Jennifer, you could've asked for anything you wanted, anything," honked the Blue Goose, "but instead, you gave me life."
In a brilliant blaze of blue light, a wild rush of whirling wings, and a furious flapping of fluffy feathers, the stuffed calico goose was a goose no more. In its place stood the most handsome man she had ever beheld - a prince, resplendent in robes of blue brocade.
"Jennifer, I'm the ruler of the Land of the Blue Geese. An evil sorcerer, jealous of my good deeds, placed me on the trash heap in the hope that the garbage man would cart me to the landfill. But you, Jennifer dear, rescued and redeemed me. I was condemned to remain a goose until a virtuous maiden sacrificed her well-being for mine. And you, dearest Jennifer, did just that - and lifted the curse. I love you, Jennifer. Will you be my bride?"
And so the prince and his princess, always keeping Christmas, lived happily in the Land of the Blue Geese, where no evil abounds and only goodness prevails. 1
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.