This one isn't erotica, even though there's a bit of sex in it. I wrote it last year for a Secret Santa project where folks specify three items that have to be included in the story, and then readers guess who requested what and who wrote the pieces. The requests I had to include were a cute little kid, dirty socks, and a clock that doesn't work. I deduced which member of that forum had made the request and just what cute little kid living in Europe she had in mind, so the story was extra fun to write.
A Little Bird Tells All
I used to be able to tell Saint Nicholas a thing or two about who is naughty and who is nice. “A little bird told me” is not just a saying, you know. The birds outdoors see many things you might wish were kept secret, and we indoor birds—even I, who might well be called an in-clock bird, only popping out to announce each hour—see more than you might realize, and tell it, too, if Santa asks.
My problem is that I have not caught up with modern times. It is so difficult to know what counts as naughty these days, and what is nice. For more than fifty years I saw nothing at all, hidden away behind old trunks in an attic.
When the little blonde girl found me I was overjoyed. So sweet, so sunny, so angelically innocent in appearance—and with such skill at using all these things to get whatever she wants! But I would never tell on her. Without mischief, childhood would lose much of its charm, and Santa knows this as well as anyone.
My concern is more with her aunt. Scarcely out of childhood herself, she seems to veer from niceness to some very strange activities indeed. It was certainly nice to bring the child to the old attic to search out toys from her own youth (toys so broken down from misuse as to be beyond repair, but interesting nonetheless.) And her astonishment and delight when her niece, festooned with dust and cobwebs, dragged my clock out from under heaps of rags in a far corner, was everything the finder could have wished.
“Look, Auntie! A bird clock, with leaves and flowers and little animals, like the ones we saw at the Christmas Market, but those cost far too much money!”
“You’re right!” She picked my clock up with care and handled it gently. “I never knew we had such a thing in the house! I wonder whether it still works.” So far, quite nice. But then, as they made their way down the narrow stairway, she muttered to herself, “I wonder how much we could sell this for.” Not so nice, and of course the little girl heard her.
“No Auntie! We can’t sell it! You must…you must have it in your bedroom, so the little bird can keep watch over you!” The angelic glow on her face lit up the dim hallway.
So of course she got her way, for a while at least. I was dusted and adjusted, and admired by the granny who had just returned from shopping and did remember that her own granny had had such a clock, though she hadn’t known it was still in the house. My song of “cuckoo…cuckoo…” counting out the hours was much admired as well, even by Auntie’s visiting friend, although I didn’t miss the way she nudged Auntie in the ribs and smothered a laugh. Still, this young woman was nearly as angelic in appearance as the child, so I held to my first opinion that she too was very nice.
But that evening, all my ideas of nice and naughty, good and bad, were thrown into a turmoil of doubt. The granny had gone to help decorate the church for the next night’s Christmas Eve Mass. The little girl, worn out from playing in the snow with cousins (and with Auntie and her friend, both as nice as is at all possible when snowballs are involved, or so the child recounted,) was sound asleep in her room downstairs. The two young women, quite likely also worn out from outdoor play, were sprawled on Auntie’s big bed.
I can only see a very little of a room while I am inside the wooden clock, but I can hear, and all seemed calm. They chatted in low voices that grew lower still, but as the hour of ten o’clock neared they seemed to be rested enough for some sort of indoor play. The bedsprings creaked. If they had been boys, I would have guessed they were wrestling; but perhaps, these days, girls play at wrestling, as well. Times do change.
On the hour, I sprang forth with my “cuckoos,” and only with the most strict control did I keep from stuttering before even five of my ten calls had sounded. They were wrestling indeed, and with no clothes on! Auntie glared up at me, snatched a dirty sock from beside the bed, and hurled it upward and over me so that I could see no more, though I could hear her friend laughing so hard the bedsprings creaked even more loudly. The worst part was that the sock wedged around me when it was time to retreat into the clock, which stopped the clockworks from working properly, and I was stuck half in and half out.
“Poor bird!” the friend said, still laughing.
“It was watching me with those beady little eyes!” Auntie said. “And mocking me with those silly noises!”
So she goes firmly onto the naughty list! I thought. “Silly noises,” indeed! And the noises the pair of them went on to make, after a short pause, went so far beyond silly as to sound downright frightening. Auntie in particular seemed to be doing something quite violent to her friend, who was gasping out sounds without words that I thought must be cries of pain. If only my woodcarver maker had thought to supply me with some sort of siren or other means to summon the constabulary! I could do nothing, wedged into my little doorway by a sock that had clearly been sweated into copiously during the day.
At last the sounds subsided into sighs and soft words. I could make out just enough, through the muffling of the dirty sock, to realize with amazement that the friend had found the whole encounter to be very nice indeed. When they began their wrestling again, this time with Auntie more on the receiving end, I rather wished, smothered as I was by the sock, that she really was in pain, but I was not surprised when she ultimately sounded most extremely satisfied with the proceedings.
Eleven o’clock came and went, and twelve, with no assistance from me or the stopped clock. I judged it to be about seven in the morning when the bedroom door creaked open. I heard the little girl gasp, and something grated across the floor, and then small fingers reached up to tug away the sock. I saw that she was standing on a chair she’d dragged over in order to reach high enough.
“Auntie, why is there an old smelly sock on the little bird?” Her voice echoed all the scolding tones she’d ever been subjected to.
Auntie, with the coverlet pulled up to her chin and her friend muffling laughter under the pillow, tried to sound soothing. “Sweetie, his sounds kept waking me up, every hour. A bedroom is really not the right place for a cuckoo clock. And besides, don’t you think he’d like to see the Christmas tree in the parlor, and all the candles, and the gifts when we open them on Christmas morning? Let’s move him out there. He can hang on the nail where that picture of a wild stag hangs now, and I’ll bring that one in here.”
The child agreed, but still cast an accusing look over her shoulder as she left the room, and could be heard tattling to her granny about the dirty sock Auntie had put on the cuckoo bird.
“Do you think,” the friend said, “that you’d rather have a big-eyed stag watching you than a little bird?” And her shoulders shook with laughter until the bed creaked again, but only a little.
So that is how I came to be waiting for Santa in the parlor while the red coals in the fireplace reflected off the sparkly ornaments on the tree, especially the colorful foil-wrapped Szaloncukor. “So, my little friend,” he said when at last he arrived. “Have you anything to tell me about the people in this house?”
I struggled to speak, but my tiny mouth, such as it is, was full. Santa peered closer. “What have they done to you? This doesn’t look good!” With a flick of a finger and a twist of his hand, he had me cleared of obstruction, and the clock running just as it ought to. “Now tell me, just how naughty have these folks been?”
“It is…well, it is so hard to say! The crumbs in my beak and inside the clock are explained innocently enough. The little girl didn’t know any better. She thought I deserved a treat, after the way her Auntie had treated me, so she crept in here after everyone was in bed, and tried to feed me a bit of poppyseed cookie. She had seen her Auntie feed seeds to the birds in the yard in cold weather, and thought that I would like them too.”
“So what did this Auntie who is kind to birds do so unkindly to you?”
I told him, in general, but added, “I did seem to be intruding on a most intimate occasion, so perhaps she could be excused. Not but what there was certainly a high degree of naughtiness going on, seen from one viewpoint, but for those involved it was clearly very nice indeed.” I twitched on my perch, which is as close to shaking the head as a wooden cuckoo bird can manage. “Santa, I try to do my best, but this world is so far from the one I remember! There is no telling now what is naughty or nice!”
“Just tell me this,” Santa said. “Are they kind to each other, more often than unkind?”
“Oh yes. I think they all truly love each other.”
“Well then,” he said, “that is all we know on earth, and all we need to know.” He spun around once, with amazing grace considering his portly bulk, and a stack of gifts appeared beneath the glittering tree.
It was midnight, as it is always midnight where Santa is delivering gifts. I rode my perch out into the room and began my song, while Santa departed for his next destination, but even over my aria of a dozen “cuckoos” I heard him exclaim, “Merry Christmas to all, and welcome to the twenty-first century!”
No on H8