The village baker, dusted in flour head to toe, waved his rolling pin over his head and shouted orders. The Queen had decreed two dozen walnut cookies to be delivered that afternoon in time for a gathering of regal importance. The baker’s wife and daughter raced here and there, down to the cellar, out to the pasture, over to the well, scurrying in frantic glee, for they did enjoy doing a job and doing it well.
‘Bring only the best and fattest!’ screamed the baker at his daughter, Felice.
Knowing precisely what he meant, Felice raced to the nut bin in the corner and flung off its round wooden cover. She began digging around in search of the best, the finest, the most beautiful walnuts. She muttered ‘Here’, ‘Here’, ‘Here’ as she plucked up and arranged in a row the most perfect specimens. When the row of nuts was two dozen long, she hurriedly gathered them in her apron and ran to her father.
‘Well? Crack ’em!’ shrieked the baker, and he directed his gaze at the ceiling before adding, ‘Do I have to think of everything?’
‘Oh, right,’ said Felice, and she ran to fetch the nutcracker.
She was oh so careful in cracking the shells, intent on keeping the nut treasures inside unbroken. And so she came to the most splendid of the walnuts, the one she had saved for last. Into the jaws of the nutcracker she placed it. She pressed down on the lever, steady and sure.
‘Finally,’ said a tiny voice, and a very small woman dressed in pink, blue and yellow finery pushed out of the broken walnut shell. ‘Boy oh boy, that was some curse, I’ll tell you. Whew. Glad that’s over. Now. A wish. You deserve a reward, I suppose. What is it? Hurry up. I’ve got places to go and things to do.’
The baker and his wife and Felice, stunned for the moment to stillness, recovered and hurried to huddle together. After much fierce whispering and waving of hands, they stepped apart.
‘We want a new, bigger oven,’ said Felice.
‘Whatever,’ said the tiny lady, and she raised a hand and moved it in a complicated manner, wiggling her fingers all the while. Then she flew off out the window.
The baker and his wife and daughter hurried around, happily preparing the cookies, and every so often they glanced with pride at their new oven.