Snow Globes and Other Birthday Surprises

Submitted into Contest #140 in response to: Start your story with the narrator or a character saying “I remember…”... view prompt


Historical Fiction Fantasy Friendship

“I remember the first time I was given a birthday present that wasn’t a toy,” Sergeant Plundell said. “I had turned twelve, and my father gave me a watch. I was confused, because I had wanted a new bicycle, and he told me that there was going to come a time where I would appreciate getting things I actually needed as gifts.”

The middle of May brought beautiful weather, along with the young soldier’s birthday. A whole twenty-six years old that day, and spending it in a prisoner-of-war camp in southern Germany. He had been showered with gifts and shouts of “Happy birthday!” from just about everyone in camp since getting up that morning. It was exhausting, so much so that Stalag V C’s commandant, Captain Westheimer, took Plundell aside so he could catch his breath.

“What did I even do to deserve so much?” Plundell asked, looking up at the older German.

“Your birthday is a celebration of your life,” Westheimer replied. “You are fortunate to have so many people who love and care for you here.”

“I’ve been given enough candy to start my own store today. Where did everyone even—” Plundell caught Westheimer grinning. “Oh. Right. Smuggled from Switzerland.”

“I told people to put in requests for things they wanted to give you, and, yes, Major Kersting is going to be stopping by with your cake. I told him to get something small, just for you, but I have my doubts he actually listened.”

Plundell turned red. “There isn’t going to be a party, is there? Come on, Captain, I’m no one special. Aren’t you worried the Gestapo might come by and wonder what’s going on?”

“It’s just going to be a handful of guests in my quarters. My wife wants to meet you. Kersting, obviously. I think he’s bringing Captain Veidt and Lieutenant Gensch as well. Liebermann and Jahn will be there. Kesby as well.”

“I still don’t think it’s necessary, sir.”

“We all wanted to put this together for you, to celebrate you and the impact you have had on all of us.”

“That’s the thing, sir—what have I done to help you? I’m not exactly an active member of your resistance group. I haven’t provided any information or decoded any messages. I’ve just sat here and haven’t bothered trying to escape.”

“I have told you before, not escaping has been beneficial. It has kept the Gestapo out of this camp and far away from my operation. I have noticed you tend to be the first to step up and convince newcomers not to attempt escaping.”

“Yeah.” Plundell rubbed the back of his head. “That hasn’t won me any friends, even after I tell them what you’re doing. Some of them think I’m a traitor.”

“And they can think that all they want.” Westheimer fell silent for a few moments as he lit his pipe. A gentle breeze carried the smoke toward the main gates of the camp. “I understand you have been bombarded with gifts this morning, but you mentioning your father giving you a watch and telling you that one day you would come to appreciate gifts you needed reminded me—” He reached into one of his pockets, pulling out a small wrapped box. “At some point, you will need this.”

Plundell slowly pulling the paper off, revealing a dark crimson-colored velvet box underneath. He opened the box to find a gold ring with a small diamond anchored in it. “Is this an engagement ring?”

“Yes, it is. For after the war, when you are ready to tie the knot with Monnie.”

Gently, Plundell took the ring out, turning it over in his hands. “I can see it on her hand.” Tears welled up and choked him. “It’s lovely, sir, I-I don’t know what else to say. You didn’t have to get this.”

“No, but I did anyway. It also has one of Liebermann’s protection spells on it. No witch, poltergeist, vampire, or werewolf can ever harm Monnie as long as she is wearing it.”

“Thank you.” Plundell put the ring back in its box. “Well, at least I know I’m making Liebermann my best man.”

“He will probably be delighted to hear that, and you won’t have to spend money on flowers with him there. Just give him some empty pots and let him go wild with his plant-growing spells.”

The two looked up when Major Kersting’s staff car pulled into the camp compound. Westheimer let out a sigh as he and Plundell stood. “I can already sense this is going to be a repeat of my birthday back in October.”

Kersting was wearing a big smile on his face as he walked over to the front steps of Westheimer’s quarters. “Happy birthday!” He picked up Plundell in a tight hug. “How old are you again?”

“Twenty-six, sir,” Plundell grunted.

“Ah, so you’re half Ludger’s age now.”

“I was twenty-six at the end of World War One when I acquired my limp,” Westheimer said. “At least you can live the rest of your life without this kind of pain, son.”

“Hopefully,” Plundell said. “As long as the major doesn’t crush my ribcage.”

“Alright, Dieter, put him down and let’s see the monstrosity of a cake you got him.”

“Who said the cake was going to be a monstrosity?” Kersting asked. “You told me to get a small one, and I did.” He took a tiny fairy cake out of a small cardboard box.

“I know there’s a bigger cake in that car somewhere.”

“You know me too well.” Kersting opened the trunk. Inside the trunk was another cardboard box, this one much larger, almost a meter long and just as wide. “I just couldn’t bring myself to give him just a tiny little cake. He’s been such a help the last few months.”

Plundell’s smile faded. Have I really?


At least Westheimer promised there would be no singing, but he kept making references to a surprise. Plundell would have demanded that there be no party at all if he wasn’t so curious what that surprise was. Westheimer was keen on remaining vague and giving no hints. Then again, a man in charge of a resistance cell in the middle of Nazi Germany had to be good at keeping secrets.

It was a joy to meet Westheimer’s missus, Anneli. She was a small and thin woman with gray streaks appearing in her mouse-brown hair. She entered the building carrying two enormous tins of gingersnaps—one for the party and one specifically for Kersting. “Because I know you’re going to eat them all before anyone else can have some,” she said, dropping the tin in his arms. After setting the other tin on the table, she approached Plundell, who was shyly standing in the back of the room. “Hello, dear! Come here, I don’t bite.” She hugged him. “It’s so good to see you in person.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Westheimer,” Plundell replied. “Well, an honor, really. I don’t think there’s any other person in the world the commandant has spoken so highly of.”

“He speaks very highly of you in all his letters. You’re like the son he never had.”

“Really? I . . . I never felt like he treated me as a son. I mean, that would be favoritism.”

“Ludger sometimes has trouble expressing what he really feels. I can’t say I’m surprised he’s never said that to you.”

“What did I do to make him feel that way?”

“Nothing. Being who you are and being curious about magic is what endeared him to you. Trust me when I say I’m glad he has you in his life. He’s been through a lot of pain, and it’s wonderful seeing him happy again.”

“I’m glad I’ve been able to help him feel better,” Plundell replied. “He’s been good to me over the last several months.”

“If there’s one thing Ludger will always be, it’s the kindest soul that walked the Earth.”

“Kind I may be,” Westheimer said, walking up behind his wife, “but I am not perfect. I have had my moments where I snap at people and treat them poorly.”

“I will admit you are incapable of taking praise.”

“I try to be humble.”

“Sometimes, you are a little too humble.”

“I would rather be humble than arrogant.” Westheimer kissed Anneli’s cheek before looking at Plundell. “Liebermann wants to show you something in the kitchen, and he’s getting very jittery. Could you please go see him before he explodes?”

“Yes, sir.” Plundell made his way to the kitchen, where Liebermann was in front of the stove. A kettle of water was boiling. On the counter behind him was a box and several cups with the strings of teabags hanging out of them. After taking the kettle off the burner, Liebermann grabbed Plundell in a hug.

“I know I said ‘happy birthday’ at breakfast, but I’m going to say it again,” Liebermann said. “Happy birthday.” He let go and gestured to the box. “Open it, open it.” He rubbed his hands excitedly.

“None of you should have gone to all this trouble for me,” Plundell said, opening the box. Inside was a large snow globe, and inside the snow globe was an almost-perfect replica of Stalag V C.

Liebermann was grinning from ear to ear. “Now shake it.”

Plundell gave the snow globe a gentle shake. Snow began falling inside, and tiny Christmas lights began glowing on all the buildings. A giant conifer tree appeared in the yard in front of Westheimer’s quarters, complete with lights. “Did you make this?”

Liebermann nodded. “Well, I had help making the inside, but I made the water.”

“Is it a potion of some kind?”

“Yes. It’s a decorative crystal potion. All the little lights you see are actually crystals. They’re grown in special conditions and then ground up to be sold.”

“How do you put them where you want them?”

Liebermann tapped the side of his head. “Magic. You can either dump them in and leave them, or move them. I moved them around so they looked like the perfect Christmas display.”

“That had to be . . . strenuous. I can’t imagine doing that. It sounds like organizing grains of sand.”

“If you tried organizing it with your fingers, yes, but with a wand, it’s no different to painting or drawing. It did take a lot of time, but it was worth it.” Liebermann’s eyes were filling with tears, and his hands were shaking. “I want this to be my career after the war. Snow globes. I want to make the prettiest snow globes. I had so much fun making this.”

“Now I’m going to be terrified of breaking this,” Plundell replied.

“I reinforced the glass. The base is quite sturdy, too. Speaking of which—look underneath.”

Plundell raised the snow globe above his head to see under the base. His name was engraved in cursive lettering. “Honestly, I don’t know how to thank you. You went to all this effort for me?”

“You gave Westheimer the idea to bring my parents here for a visit. I had been working on this for a few months when you did that, but after that, I was confident that this was a perfect gift for you. When you return to Britain, you’ll have it to remember me.”

“I’ll have this and the amulet, along with the enchantment you put on the ring Westheimer gave me. Still . . .” Plundell paused. “I’ve been saying this all day, but I’m still not sure I deserve all of this. Just saying that you appreciate me is good enough.”

Liebermann shook his head. “Not for me, and certainly not for Westheimer.”

Kersting stuck his head in the kitchen. “Plundell, come out to the dining room. That big surprise is waiting for you.”

Plundell followed Kersting and Liebermann back into the dining room. Westheimer was hanging up the jacket of Lieutenant Hans Gensch, a Luftwaffe pilot who happened to be a warlock and one of their resistance’s best agents. When Gensch moved to lean his broomstick against the wall, Plundell caught sight of a young, stocky woman with dark hair behind him.

“Monnie?” Plundell said. Shock and disbelief gripped his chest. There was no way that was Monnie.

The woman glanced over at the sound of her name. She looked Plundell in the eye, smirking and holding back tears. “Hello, Elliot.”

Plundell was trembling as he walked over to her. His breath was rapid and shaky as he pulled her into a hug. “It’s really you. Oh, love, it’s really you.” His grip tightened. “I’ve missed you so much, I can’t even describe it.”

“I’ve missed you, too. I knew you were safe when I got your letter that you were captured and sent here, but that didn’t stop me worrying about you getting sick or depressed.” Monnie kissed Plundell. “The only thing I’ve wanted over the last year has been to see your face and hold you again.”

“I’ve been wanting to hold you as well.” Plundell managed a smile, then looked at the group of Germans gathered around. “How on Earth did you do this?”

“Very carefully,” Kersting said.

“Ludger had the idea of inviting Monnie here after the visit with Liebermann’s parents was a success,” Gensch explained. “He gave me her address and asked if I could up to England by broom to talk with her about coming to Germany to meet you.”

“I was terrified of the idea!” Monnie said, laughing a little. “You were insistent that I would be safe as long as I stayed close to you.”

“How was riding on a broomstick? I haven’t had the chance to ride one yet,” Plundell said.

“A little scary at first, but you can see so much of the world on one.”

“After the war, I’ll take you for a ride,” Gensch said. “Anyway, we were all in agreement that this would be the perfect birthday surprise for you.”

“Despite it being extremely risky,” Kersting added.

“Frankly, this is far from the riskiest thing we’ve ever done over the last four years.”

“Us being here is risky,” Westheimer said. “Life itself carries risk, and we risk our lives every day for a better tomorrow. I don’t have any alcohol, but—” he lifted a mug of tea, “let us toast you, Elliot Plundell. You are supposed to be an enemy, but what could be a better act of defiance against the Nazis than by considering you a friend? The war won’t last forever, but what will last forever are the memories we have shared within the fence of this camp.”

“In that case,” Plundell raised his tea as well, “let’s offer a toast to that bloody poltergeist. If that thing hadn’t attacked me in the middle of the night back in October, I never would have learned magic was real, nor would I have brought up the courage to see you as more than just my captor.”

“Poltergeist?” Monnie raised an eyebrow. “This is one story you’ve never told me.”

“I was afraid of what could happen if the letter ended up in the wrong hands.” Plundell kissed Monnie’s forehead. “Let’s have some cake and I’ll tell you.”

April 03, 2022 21:54

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Jeannette Miller
16:43 Apr 10, 2022

Part of a longer story?


16:44 Apr 10, 2022



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