Scottish Gaelic: Dreamer, Visionary

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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 24 (Part 2)

December 24th – Weihnachten / Christmas Eve (Part 2)

When all the Christmas carols were sung and everyone was exhausted, it was finally time for presents. It was always the most stressful part of Christmas, having the kids eat their dinner and sing the songs with the presents piled up in the room, within view. As soon as they were allowed to get to them, the kids stormed to the pile of presents, looking at the labels and shouting out the names they could read. Manfred and his brother Michael stayed in their seats at the table, knowing they wouldn’t get any presents and, considering what they had done, knowing their chances were even lower than ever before. Then they saw Gary coming towards them, carrying a stocking in his mouth. When they crouched down to pet them, he nudged them with the stocking. It had their names on them. The brothers were overjoyed to see the two toy cars in it. In the background, the pastor was smiling.

After all the children had unwrapped their presents and were playing together happily, the pastor made an announcement, something that was unheard of in the village.

“We will have Christmas Mass here in the barn! The church would be too small to host the whole village anyway,” he smiled cheekily.
When everyone applauded, he ran back to the church to put up a sign that mass would be held at the farm. And so it happened that it ended up being the best-attended Christmas Mass in the history of the village!

Madeleine, who had no children of her own, walked outside the barn for some fresh air and to escape the noise and craziness inside; she got plenty of that every day at school. Shortly afterwards, Markus left the barn as well, cheerful and tipsy. He tried to hit on the pretty teacher, hoping that he would be a little less intimidating without his Krampus outfit, but once again she turned him down. This time, he was standing under a mistletoe and felt it was his right to get a kiss, so pulled Madeleine into an embrace.

At that moment, Gary came around the corner, having no desire to be rushed by an over-enthusiastic group of kids again and saw her struggling. He broke into a run and shoved his head right into the side of Markus’ legs. The man stumbled and fell over, right into a large puddle of slush. Madeleine laughed as the wet and muddy man clambered back to his feet, cursing as he did so. Attracted by the disturbance, Ludwig came outside to see what was going on.

“Gary saved me, he really is a hero,” Madeleine explained and gave the goat an affectionate pat on the head.
“I am sorry he tried to force you to kiss him. The man is an idiot,” Ludwig said, embarrassed.
“Yes, it was horrible, I really don’t want to kiss him at all,” she said, looking at the farmer. “I really do want to do this.”

She grabbed Ludwig’s tie, pulled him towards her and kissed him. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard Gary making retching noises in the background.


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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 24 (Part 1)

December 24th – Weihnachten / Christmas Eve (Part 1)

The adults split up into two groups in the morning. One, led by Anton, took the kids who still believed in the Christkind into Vienna to the zoo, whilst the others helped decorate the tree, covering it with hundreds of twinkling electric lights. Candles were really not an option, because there was just too much risk of burning down Ludwig’s barn with the smallest accident. With the tree completed, they finishing up the cooking and began laying out the food.

The kids at the zoo were beside themselves with joy. The anticipation of the Christkind coming and bringing all the presents, the freshly fallen snow, the animals all made it hard for the adults with them to keep them in check. More than once a kid wandered off and got lost, but eventually they found each one and made their way back to the village for the Christmas celebrations.

When they arrived back at the barn, it was already dark. The huge door opened with a deep groan, revealing nothing as it was pitch black inside. Now it was Ludwig’s turn, he flipped the switch and all the lights went on in the barn. The tree was sparkling and hundreds of lights were wrapped around the wooden beams of the barn, making it look magical. The pastor rang a big cowbell to indicate that the Christkind had visited and left presents for everyone. Suddenly, the room was full of oohs and aahs, wide-eyed children and delighted adults. Anton, who hadn’t seen the barn lit up before, gasped and his eyes widened as much as any of the children’s, though his twinkled along with the tree, as they were full of tears.

Everyone sat down at the long tables in the barn for Christmas dinner. The mayor’s sister-in-law had never had such a tasty Christmas dinner before. The rest of the village, too, enjoyed themselves and the food. There was fondue and carp, roast goose, baked apples, mulled wine, teas, and piles upon piles of Christmas cookies of almost every variety. The mood was cheerful and everyone laughed and had fun.

After dinner, it was time to sing. Even with the choir leader lying down, the choir sang the Christmas carols beautifully, and the rest of the village joined in. Lyric sheets were handed out, just in case, and the barn filled with music. Big and small, young and old, human and goat stood around the Christmas tree and sang at the top of their voices.

(to be continued…)

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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 23

December 23rd

”Gary, where are you?” he called out, but no reply came.
Then he heard a noise, a quiet crunching from the far corner of the barn. A large cardboard box sat on the floor under one of the tables and strange sounds were coming out of it. Ludwig pulled the box out from underneath the table, finding it much heavier than he had expected. The reason for the weight became clear when Ludwig opened the lip to find the goat sitting inside, surrounded by crumbs of what had once been a pile of gingerbread.

“Gary!” Ludwig shouted, and scared Gary so much that the goat stiffened up and fainted in the middle of the gingerbread crumbs.
Despite the fact that his goat had eaten a huge box full of cookies, Ludwig couldn’t help but laugh. The image of Gary with his bloated belly full of gingerbread, passed out in a circle of crumbs inside a cardboard box looked like the very definition of ‘just desserts’.

When he woke up the next morning, Gary realised he was in the farm kitchen, but still in the box with the last of the cookie crumbs. He thought this was quite excellent, because it was warmer in the kitchen and he didn’t have to move for more gingerbread, so he turned around in the box and continued to eat the delicious crumbs.

“You are insatiable,” Ludwig stated, looking down at his crazy goat.
“Fforry,” he replied, crumbs shooting out of his mouth.
Ludwig sighed and went back to preparing what felt like a ton of gingerbread dough to make up for all the cookies Gary had eaten.

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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 22

December 22nd

Otto, the choir master, was under strict instructions to stay in bed and rest, but at last he was given the okay from the hospital to leave. He would stay with the pastor, where the housekeeper could help look after him. Most of the village came to visit at some point and Ludwig came up with a plan to make sure he could take part in the festivities. Since Anton was staying with Ludwig for the festivities, he was able to lend Otto his fancy, movable bed. They would be able to decorate it nicely and, by wrapping him up in festive blankets, he would be able to spend Christmas with everyone else in the barn, without disobeying doctor’s orders to stay in bed. Otto was so happy, he cried when they shared the plan with him.

Ludwig returned to the barn in the evening, to run through the plans once again, double-checking every item to ensure that nothing was missing. The villagers had done a great job, hanging up decorations, setting up the tree and piling up the presents around it. Everyone had a task and they all worked together to see it through. The electrician helped wire all the festive lights properly, so there would be no chance of a power outage. Some families had brought and set up warming plates and fridges in the barn to keep the food and drinks warm or cold, as necessary. Most brought heaters and blankets, pillows and chairs to make sure everybody would be cosy, warm and comfortable.

Huge pots of punch and boxes upon boxes of Christmas cookies began to fill the barn with the scent of cinnamon, apples, oranges cloves and gingerbread. Ludwig saw that the first items of fresh food were already in the fridge and cutlery and napkins had been laid out on the tables.

He thought he could sit in here forever, but it was getting late and the barn was no substitute for a comfortable bed.

“We should call it a night, I think, Gary,” he said.
Silence. The goat, who had been by his side all day, was gone.

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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 21

December 21st

On the last school day before the Christmas holidays, Gary accompanied Ludwig to see the kids. At first, the goat stood in a corner of the room while the little monsters sat in their chairs, everyone talking over each other and clamouring for Ludwig’s attention to show him the Christmas decorations they had made. Because they didn’t know of the deal he had made with their teacher, they made him promise that he would take each kid once around the farm on his tractor.

Then the dreaded biology lesson came. When Miss Madeleine told the kids to get up slowly and carefully approach the wild animal. Gary dreaded the worst. He turned out to be right. Ten first graders jumped up from their chairs and ran at him as a single mass of bodies. The goat tensed up, afraid of what they would do to him, scared they would prod and, oh no, he realised, there it goes.
The stress was too much, and Gary passed out on the classroom floor. That was all the kids needed to spiral into a panic. Ludwig tried to convince them that they hadn’t killed Gary and he would wake up any second now, but the goat thought it best to stay tense and keep his eyes shut.

“I’m so sorry, I should’ve told you,” said Ludwig after the class, as Madeleine helped him carry all the boxes full of craftwork to the car.
“It’s fine, at least they had an exciting day before the holidays,” she smiled, gave him a quick peck on the cheek and turned to leave.
“See you at the party!” he called after her, but Madeleine had already closed the school door behind her.

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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 20

December 20th

For the first time in Manfred and Michael’s house, there was a kind of peace and quiet that felt like it was going to last and not be just a short relief before the next storm. There was toast for breakfast and smiles from their mother. When they left for school, she hugged them both extra tight. Not a hug that was really an apology, but one that said that everything was all going to be all right.

“You know, I don’t care about presents anymore,” Michael told his big brother when they were walking to school.
“Why’s that?” Manfred asked.
“I think we already got the best present of them all.”

Manfred nodded, and put an arm around his younger brother.
After school their mother was surprised to see them home so quickly, she didn’t even have lunch ready. The two boys usually went wandering off on their way home, but not today. Now they were eager to come home to their mother, who looked happier and younger than they had ever seen her.

There was Wiener Schnitzel for lunch, the boys’ favourite – as well as every other Austrian child’s. For dessert, their mother had made Kaiserschmarrn; it felt to them as if Christmas had come a few days early this year and they grinned from ear to ear as they were digging into their meal.

“You are still grounded, you know,” she reminded her sons, who were still beaming at her as they nodded dutifully.

She wondered if she had ever seen her sons so relaxed and enthusiastic. The guilt inside was eating her up, but she had had long talks with Meli who had promised to organise some help and allow her to finally get out of this relationship. All she could do now was love her boys and make sure they had a great Christmas. Thanks to the pastor, they would even get some presents.

If the day couldn’t get even stranger, the boys did the little homework they still had on the kitchen table, quickly and without being told, before going on to play in the living room. Usually, they would retreat into their bedroom and stay there until dinnertime. The two boys and their mother had a great time playing together all afternoon. They all knew that things would be much better in the future.

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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 19

December 19th

Ludwig was woken up far too early by the pastor hammering on the door. Even though he was very sleepy, he could see the clergyman was very upset.

“Good morning, come in, what’s going on?”
“Otto, our choir master, had an accident. He’s in the hospital.”
Ludwig almost dropped the coffee mug that he was holding and stared at the pastor.
“Oh, no. What happened?”
“Well, he was in the city buying presents for the kids who didn’t have any yet. He already had most of them, when he was run over by a Fiaker.”
“A Fiaker? Did the driver not see him?”
“No, the horses came around the corner too quickly and the carriage couldn’t be stopped in time. Then again, Otto wasn’t looking either; he had his nose in the wish list he received from the parents.”
“How badly is he hurt?”
“When I got there they were just prepping him for surgery. A few broken bones, but nothing life-threatening. He’ll be lying down for quite a while though. I got the presents he had picked up so far and went to get the rest. They’re in my car.”
“Thank you, that’s a great help! What will Otto do for Christmas, I mean will he have to spend it in the hospital?”
“They didn’t know yet, but the next issue is the choir, both for the fete and the Christmas Midnight Mass.”
“Could you do it?” Ludwig asked.
“I hope so, I think they can sing most of their songs themselves all right. I guess…”
“It’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
“There was something else I wanted to ask you,” the pastor continued. “Could we hold Christmas mass in your barn as well? Everyone will be there anyway and it would be more convenient and nobody would have to go outside again.”
“Sure, sure,” Ludwig grinned.

He suspected that the pastor wanted to seize the chance to speak to more people than would go to Christmas Mass, but in the spirit of the day, he thought he might as well fulfil his wish too. Those who didn’t want to stay that long would have gone home by then anyway.

“Just let me know about Otto, so we can make sure he’ll have a good Christmas as well,” Ludwig told the pastor before he left.

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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 18

December 18th

The shouting had lasted far into the night. Then the noises started, doors slamming, walls being kicked, sobbing and screaming. The boys’ father hadn’t bothered to close the curtains, so the police could easily see what was going on within. All they needed was proof. Meli had requested backup and they burst into the house as soon as he raised his hand against his wife. Once the drunk was handcuffed and taken away, his wife burst into tears and the boys, who saw Ludwig and Gary come in after the policemen, ran to the goat to hug him.

During the next village meeting, the mayor cheerfully announced that the presents had been found, but wouldn’t say who was responsible, only that the culprit was very apologetic and had learned his lesson. But that’s not how it works in small villages. The gossip started to spread and when people found out that the village drunk was arrested and charged with assault, they all concluded that he stole the presents in a drunken stupor and now he was charged and locked up, he was no longer a threat to anyone.

Meli, Ludwig and the mayor knew the truth, but they preferred the version the villagers had made up for themselves. They were quite happy to let the people believe that the violent alcoholic was to blame, as did his family. As punishment, the boys would have to work hard on the preparations for the Christmas fete, hang up decorations and so on. Even after that, they were to help out at Ludwig’s farm as a means of keeping them out of trouble, about which they were more excited than feeling punished.
As they left the village hall, Madeleine came up to Ludwig.
“You found the presents, didn’t you?” she smiled.
“Actually, it was my goat, Gary,” he said.
“More and more curious,” the teacher linked arms with the farmer and walked back to the farm with him.

They ended up talking late into the night, with the goat sleeping at their feet.

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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 17

December 17th

Michael and Manfred carried the presents back into the barn, one by one. Their mother had given them a lift and was now standing outside, still looking upset. Their father was nowhere to be seen. Once they were done, their mother told them to wait in the car while she went inside with Ludwig, Meli and the mayor. Manfred didn’t know what the adults were talking about, but he quickly became bored waiting, so left his brother in the car and walked over to the goats. Gary came to him and licked his outstretched hand.

“You are the only one who is still nice to me,” the boy said to the goat. “It’s probably just because you don’t know what I’ve done. Everyone is going to shout at me and be so disappointed. I know you found us in the forest. It was a stupid idea, I know that. Michael was just so upset.”

A tear ran down his cheek and he had to sniff a few times before he could talk again.

“When we get home we’ll get hell. My dad will beat us all up again, and whenever I want to go to the police he threatens Michael. Oh goat, I don’t know what to do,” Manfred said and sobbed his way back to the car.

As soon as he had turned away, Gary raced towards the barn, from which the adults were just leaving. Whilst the boys’ mother was returned to her car and the policewoman was talking to the mayor, he nudged Ludwig urgently. The farmer stepped to the side to hear what his goat had to say.

Ludwig was alarmed at Gary’s story and told the others about it. The mayor confirmed that there had been rumours for a while that the boys’ father was violent, certainly everyone knew he was an alcoholic, but no-one ever had enough evidence and his family never went near the police.

“Meli, you have to protect them from him!” Ludwig implored.
“I can’t do anything if they refuse to make a complaint and I don’t catch him.”
“You’ll never have a better chance than tonight…”

They looked at each other, understood and left to secretly follow the boys home. This time Ludwig didn’t leave Gary behind.

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A Very Gary Christmas – Dec 16

December 16th

Gary was still angry with Ludwig; he knew he wasn’t just a goat, but here he was again: locked up in the pen, eating grass. The fact that it was mid-December and there was still grass visible made Gary even more annoyed. On top of all that, he was a superhero and he had found a clue to the missing presents, but instead of being able to do anything about it, he was stuck here in the pen. He started cursing at the grass and Ludwig out loud, not noticing Anton, who came closer to see him.

“Stupid weather, stinky old snow-free poop.”
“You can speak?” Anton stared at the black goat.
“Yes, but I need to get out of here, we need to find who stole the presents!”
“You know where the presents are?”
Despite his surprise and confusion, the old man opened the door to the pen, put his walking stick firmly to the ground and followed the goat down the street towards the forest.
“Where are you going?” asked Anton.
“Following the scent, of course!”
“You’re not a dog; you can’t follow the scent of the presents.”
“Of course I can, goats have a great sense of smell too.”
“Since when are goats used as sniffer dogs?”
“Well never obviously, because we’re not as daft as dogs,” Gary explained.
“And you would probably eat whatever you find,” Anton replied.

Gary stuck out his tongue out at the old man and walked into the forest along a small path. It didn’t take him long to find the cave. They could hear children’s voices inside.

“I didn’t know there was a cave here and I’ve lived in this village all my life,” Anton whispered, looking around. “We don’t know for sure if they have the presents, so we can’t just storm in there. What if they only sound young, but are actually dangerous criminals? No offence, but we can’t really take on grown men…”
“Hmmmm, I think I have a plan,” Gary said.

So Anton covered Gary in moss, leaves and twigs and then hid behind a bush. Gary carefully approached the cave entrance. He hoped his voice would carry inside loud enough for his idea to work.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas and I am here to avenge the children, HA HA HA!” he shouted into the cave. His voice reverberated and echoed off the stone walls, making it sound much scarier than it really was. Then he retreated back to wait. He thought that even if they saw a goat, they wouldn’t perceive him as a danger and Anton was well hidden.

It didn’t take long for Manfred and Michael to run out of the cave, screaming, “I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY!”

When he saw it was only two young boys, Anton came out of hiding to talk to them.

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