Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with Gavin Bradley’s Mr. Bonsk, Evans, and Jack Frost from his story How Jack Frost Stole Winter, available now as part of the Frozen Fairy Tales anthology.
Frozen Fairy Tales
Winter is not coming. Winter is here. As unique and beautifully formed as a snowflake, each of these fifteen stories spins a brand new tale or offers a fresh take on an old favorite like Jack Frost, The Snow Queen, or The Frog King. From a drafty castle to a blustery Japanese village, from a snow-packed road to the cozy hearth of a farmhouse, from an empty coffee house in Buffalo, New York, to a cold night outside a university library, these stories fully explore the perils and possibilities of the snow, wind, ice, and bone-chilling cold that traditional fairy tale characters seldom encounter.
In the bleak midwinter, heed the irresistible call of fairy tales. Just open these pages, snuggle down, and wait for an icy blast of fantasy to carry you away. With all new stories of love, adventure, sorrow, and triumph by Tina Anton, Amanda Bergloff, Gavin Bradley, L.A. Christensen, Steven Grimm, Christina Ruth Johnson, Rowan Lindstrom, Alison McBain, Aimee Ogden, J. Patrick Pazdziora, Lissa Marie Redmond, Anna Salonen, Lissa Sloan, Charity Tahmaseb, and David Turnbull to help you dream through the cold days and nights of this most dreaded season.
The sun beat mercilessly down on the little prairie town, which was really nothing more than a handful of saloons, general stores, a post office and, in the middle of its one, dusty street, ‘Bonsk and Co. Family Foods’. Most of the people that came into town were farmers or cattle ranchers from the surrounding area, and they could usually do for most essentials by themselves, but for everything else, there was Mr. Bonsk and his little shop. It was free from cruel harvests, famine, pests, cold or heat- at least until now.
“Can nothing be saved?” whined Mr. Bonsk.
“Sorry sir”, replied Evans, shop boy and general handyman, “it’s all on the turn. It might,” he speculated, “even be on the spin”.
“The ham?” said Bonsk, desperately.
“It could crawl out of here and head back for the sties”.
“Practically clucking, sir.”
Mr. Bonsk triumphantly snatched up an apple from the counter, “Aha! The apples are green at least!”
“Yes sir,” replied Evans patiently, “but they were red”.
Mr. Bonsk, apple almost at his lips, made a little choking noise and threw it as far as he could out of the open door. He threw up his hands in exasperation. “That’s it, we’re finished! I hope they hang the blasted fool that flipped our stock Wagon. Seventy years there’s been a ‘Bonsk and Co.’ at the head of the frontier! My Grandpappy’s store, my own Pappy’s, God rest him, and now my own, providing for the pioneering people of this land, and at a fair price too!” he wailed, neglecting to mention that such prices were invariably what he, rather than the pioneering people, thought of as ‘fair’. “One hot summer and a driver that couldn’t lay off the hooch for one damned night, and we’re ruined! We may as well shut up shop tonight boy”.
“I think tomorrow would be better, sir,” replied Evans.
“Tomorrow? I don’t intend being stuck with this lot for any longer than I need to! There are colours on the cheese I’ve never even see before!” barked Mr. Bonsk. Then he stopped, and seemed to blink back an idea. “What”, he began, giving a nervous little cough, “are you suggesting we do before then?” His hand moved slightly, almost unnoticeably, towards the bucket of lamp oil in the corner.
Evans, who in many ways was a much cleverer man than his employer said, “Nothing quite so… drastic, sir.”
“Oh, of course”, said Bonsk, a touch guiltily, before rallying, “One of your silly devices, no doubt? Been tinkering with scrap metal in the back again, eh? My shop boy, the inventor!”
“No sir”, said Evans, nothing like that. “A sale. A big one.”
“Sale?” scoffed Mr. Bonsk, with a face suggesting that he’d just taken a bite out of one his products and, against all probability, lived long enough to taste it. He had heard of sales of course, but being the only shop in the only town this far west into the frontier meant that it was still a pleasantly foreign term to him.
“Who would buy this stuff?” he said, pointing around to the various levels of decomposition that was now his entire summer stock.
“Anyone boss, if it’s cheap enough,” answered Evans. “They’ll say things like: ‘Oh there’s families worse off than us that would kill for a slice of this’, or ‘It’ll be all right for the stew’. Who knows, we might even make enough to open a smaller shop, down behind the saloon perhaps?”
“Well,” said Mr. Bonsk reluctantly, “I suppose anything’s worth a try now. Fine. You organise the stock up front, and I’ll grab whatever we have left in the back.”
The next few hours were a calamitous, frantic mess of heaving, stocking, and with no small amount of tears on the part of Mr. Bonsk, the erasing of the nice, full, plump numbers on the price tags, and replacing them with much, much skinnier ones. They were both returning from their calls around town and the closer farms, advertising tomorrow’s ‘Black Friday’ sale (which, Evans thought, was a little melodramatic), when they found a visitor standing, frozen still in the middle of the shop.
“Can I help you sir?” asked Mr. Bonsk, easing behind the counter and nonchalantly kicking a pound cake that he’d been using as a door-stop behind some sacks of flour.
“Just passing through,” said the stranger. It was a strange voice, thought Evans, somehow cold. It made the hairs on your arms stand on end and try to knit themselves together. “I spied your shop and could not help but notice the remarkable shades of…colour on some of your produce.”
“I assure you sir,” replied the shopkeeper, “that these foods are of nothing but the highest quality”. Behind him, an egg rocked treacherously in its basket.
“Indeed?” asked the strange man. That was the other odd thing, Evans considered, that although he had been, he must have been, staring directly at the newcomer since first noticing him, he knew that if he closed his eyes, he wouldn’t be able to describe a single feature. It would be like trying to paint a snowflake from memory. The man continued, “And you intend on selling these items to…humans?”
“Yes,” replied Bonsk, all enthusiasm now, “tomorrow, in our first ever Black Friday sale!”
“Well if they sit out much longer, it might be a rather Green Saturday.”
“Haha yes!” chortled Mr. Bonsk, with the manic cheer of the very nearly bankrupt. “That’s a good one, Mr…”
“Frost”, said Frost.
“Well, Mr. Frost,” interrupted Evans, who was becoming rather irritated by the man that he couldn’t hold in his head, “I’d like to know what else you think we could do?
“You, nothing?” said Frost. “But I might be able to lend a small hand. I used to be in the…preservation business.”
“Preservation? Like pickling and smoking?” asked Evans.
“More like…cold storage” said Frost.
“Cold storage eh?” chirped in Mr. Bonsk. “Big business?”
“Global, you could say.”
“Well that’s well and good”, grumbled Bonsk, “but there isn’t a chance of anything like that around here. That’s the problem you see? Hottest summer in, oh, must be fifteen years, or so, and the wagon’s gone and flipped before it reached the prairies. No salt, no fresh produce, and definitely, no ice.”
“Oh, I don’t know…” said Frost, walking around the shop. “The eggs? It would possibly be best to just let them hatch, but the meat, poultry, fish, bread- I think I could do something.” He smiled. “It’s amazing where you can find ice, if you know where to look”.
“But…” Bonsk began.
“Sir” interjected Evans, “I think we should listen”. He was staring at the floor around Frost’s feet, where a small, icy blanket of crystals was already beginning to spread…
“Oliver!” yelled Mr. Bonsk over a crowd of customers, “Go back to the storage room and see what you can find- we’ve run out!”
“Of what?” Evans called back, head peering over his own personal mob.
It was the morning, and there was barely room to move in the little shop. Where last night there had been foodstuffs practically fused to almost every surface, and a cacophony of smells that would have made any cocker spaniel believe in an afterlife, today there was nothing but glorious empty spaces, and, relatively, fresh air.
“I filled those little chilling boxes that Mr. Frost left behind with all the food that was left; they ate it up! This Black Friday was my most brilliant idea yet! I hope you’re taking notes boy!”
“You sold the boxes!” Evans cried incredulously. “I didn’t even get a chance to take one apart and see how it worked!”
“Never turn down a sale Mr. Evans.” replied Mr. Bonsk, economic philosopher. “Learn that and you just might make it in this business after all, so long as you stop fiddling about with those gears and leavers and trinkets of course.”
“But…” started Evans.
“But nothing boy! Now get back there and find me something more to sell before I’m stampeded!”
Evans trudged back towards the store room. ‘How could people be so stupid? he thought, miserably. Boxes, with ice that doesn’t melt? Nothing need ever spoil again! It could have been the biggest invention since the wheel, but old Bonsk had gone and sold them all. Mr. Frost wasn’t around either; he had left sometime last night, after making the amazing little boxes. Now that Evans thought about it, he couldn’t actually remember the strange man making the boxes at all, they were just…there. No matter, he thought, as he entered the store room, he might be able to track one down and convince someone to let him take one apart…maybe he could throw something together?
Evans sighed and began to look around for an errant sack of apples or a stray bit of beef that they might, with relatively clear conscience, sell when…something caught his eye. It was a white, crisp envelope, sitting alone on a shelf, and it was addressed to him.
He opened it hurriedly and read the top of a folded piece of paper:
“For Mr. Evans, who likes to tinker with things.”
Evans unfolded the rest of the paper; it was a diagram. A detailed, annotated diagram of a large box, with metal pipes and vapour swirling throughout…
Far away from the town, at the foot of a tall, snowy mountain, Mr. Frost, too, was smiling. He glared up, unblinking towards the sun, whose rays were reflecting blindingly off the fresh, white snow.
“A nice attempt, but another time, old friend. Another time”.
The snow danced beneath his feet, swirled around him in a sudden gust, and when it settled, Jack Frost was gone.
Meet Gavin Bradley!
Gavin Bradley is originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and has been working in Edmonton, Canada, for the past two years. In that time he has published poetry and short stories in The Glass Buffalo, an award winning literary magazine run out of Edmonton.
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