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“Rodney, hold this ribbon down for me, will you? I need more tape.”
The black-and-white rat obligingly put his front paws on the length of red satin while I reached for the dispenser. I tore off a length of sticky stuff and secured the ribbon, being careful not to catch any rodent toes in the process.
“Are you excited about spending Christmas in the Valley?” I asked as Rodney smoothed the tape down for me.
Nodding happily, he mimicked the action of skiing.
“You’re planning to go skiing?” I asked. “How are you going to do that?”
From beside me, a disembodied voice said, “Mistress Glory ordered Barbie skis from the Amazon River.” Darby materialized and offered me a tray of hot chocolate and cookies.
Having a brownie around the house who likes to cook and clean is a good thing. Trust me.
“Thank you, Darby,” I said, taking the cup and blowing carefully on the hot liquid, “and it’s not the Amazon River. It’s a store on the Internet called Amazon. How are Barbie skis going to do Rodney any good?”
“Mistress Glory showed the skis to your father,” Darby said, “and Master Jeff is making a special pair just for Rodney.” As the brownie set the platter on the work table, he added helpfully, “His will require a place for four feet.”
Refraining from making some wisecrack about the obviousness of that statement, I said, “Where will this skiing take place?”
“On the snow drifts in Master Barnaby’s garden,” Darby said. “Mistress Glory feels a mountain might be too scary.”
We might not have any official “children” around for the holidays, but Glory — a Barbie-doll-sized green witch, Rodney, and Darby can get in every bit as much trouble with their bright ideas.
Completely as an afterthought, I asked, “Darby, are you going to ski, too?”
“No, Mistress,” the brownie said as he winked out of sight again. “I do not enjoy broken bones.”