| Tales of Treeo |

Up North: Chapter 3

The last place he’d expect to find a group of frum families is the north pole, but this place looks like his family’s last Chanukah party

Eli: Well, we managed to escape the polar bear.
Nellie: Thanks to Eli’s quick thinking and my quick running!
Squizzle: Thanks to you? I’m the one who escaped onto the boat, where we actually found other people!


Eli hadn’t realized how freezing he’d been until he steps into the trailer. Inside, there is some kind of heating system, so warm that there’s no need for a coat. Nellie nearly cries. “No more snow. No more cold.” She looks happier than she’d been since they’d first found themselves here. “I love it.”

Eli laughs. Nellie is so dramatic sometimes. And she definitely knows how to hold a grudge, even against snow. “What is this place?” he wonders, looking around.

The last place he’d expect to find a group of frum families is the north pole, but this place looks like his family’s last Chanukah party. There are a bunch of adults and loads of kids, most of them older than the twins. The trailer opens up into a large dining room, with rows of tables and a kitchen on the side. The kids sit at tables, playing cards and kugelach. They smile when Eli and Nellie come in and then return to their game like it’s perfectly normal to see a set of strangers here.

“You must have come with the other group,” says the boy who brought them inside. “I’m Nachi Teichman.” He’s older than Eli, at least 16 or 17, and has blond hair and a smattering of freckles on his nose. “Did you get separated from your family?”

“Yep,” Eli says truthfully. “What are you guys doing here?”

“The same thing your group was doing,” Nachi says, gesturing around the room. “So many frum people have been traveling to the north pole lately, but there’s no kosher food and no minyan. We came to set up a welcome center for tourists with a shul, kosher kitchen, and extra bedrooms. We’ve already heard that a few tour groups will be coming to visit.”

Nachi frowns. “You should call your parents to let them know you’re with us,” he says. “It’s way too far for two little kids to get here themselves. I still don’t understand how you both made it here!”

Two little kids? Eli scowls at Nachi, offended, but Nellie tugs him away before he can say anything. “Maybe we should call home,” she whispers. “If Mommy and Tatty realize we’re gone, they’ll send out search parties.”

Eli considers it. He doesn’t know how he’s going to explain that they’ve somehow made it to the north pole, but at least then they won’t worry.

But there’s something wrong with that. “I don’t think it’ll work,” he says slowly. “I mean, it was fall back home.”

Nellie blinks at him. “So what?”

“So I don’t think it’s fall here. I think it’s summer.” Eli’s voice rises. “It’s light outside. It’s only supposed to be light at the north pole for a short time every year. The sun doesn’t set, and there’s no nighttime in the summer. And it’s not that cold, either—”

Not that cold?” Nellie repeats, hands on her hips. Summer or not, Nellie is still icy cold. “Where were you raised, in a freezer?”

Eli rolls his eyes. “Nellie, if it were cold here, it’d be, like, negative 40 degrees. Right now, the weather is like the coldest day of winter at home. Also, I’m pretty sure that we’re not exactly in our time, either.”

Nellie grimaces. “If the treehouse can take us to some other time, why wouldn’t it take us somewhere a little cooler than some recent summer at the north pole?”

Eli can’t resist. “I thought you were complaining that it was too cool here.” He ducks away before Nellie can poke him. “Besides, this is plenty cool. Imagine who we might find up here. Or what adventures we might have!” Now he’s getting excited. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”

Nellie blows a stray hair out of her face. “As long as I never have to go outside again, I’m in.”

Eli peers around the room. A little two-year-old girl is playing kugelach. She throws them too hard and catches only one of them. Another one whacks Squizzle, who lets out a grumpy noise and runs to Eli. Eli strokes his fur and crouches down beside the girl. “Give them a light throw,” he says, tossing the kugelach up and catching them. “The more you practice, the better you’ll get.”

Nellie says, “I’m Nellie, and this is Eli.” The girl grins. Her hair is braided into pigtails, and she wears a fuzzy purple sweater. “I’m Ariella Teichman!” she announces. “You my friends?”

Eli glances at Nachi. If Nachi already thinks he’s a little kid, then hanging out with a two-year-old isn’t going to help that. But Nellie has already held out a hand to the girl and pulled her up. “Friends,” she promises the girl. “Want to show us around?”

Ariella is only too happy to bring them through the trailer, though she doesn’t have a lot to add. “Shul,” she says, pointing at the doorway to the right of the dining room. “Kitchen! Closet, closet, closet,” she adds, scampering past each one and tapping the knobs. “Bathroom. Bathroom. Warm room.” Eli opens that door to find a boiler attached to a generator. It’s so hot in there that it’s hard to breathe. He closes it before Nellie can lock herself in it.

“And upstairs are the bedrooms?” he asks.

Ariella beams. “My toys!” she says importantly. “Read me a book!” She tugs at Nellie’s hand until Nellie laughs and follows her upstairs.

Eli stays behind, lingering near the table of boys playing cards. There’s one kid who’s younger than him, sitting at his brother’s elbow, but the rest are all older, and they don’t pay attention to him. “Could I join next round?” he ventures after a while.

A dark-haired boy glances at him. “No little kids in this game. Sorry, but we’re pretty fast. Maybe you could help in the kitchen,” he suggests. “I bet they need someone to peel potatoes for dinner.”

“Or you could play a game with Mordechai,” someone else says, nodding to the little boy at the table. “He’s been hoping for someone closer to his age.”

Mordechai holds up a hand. “I’m five,” he says. The boys return to their game, ignoring Eli, and Eli sits on the bench. He feels a little irritated, but he refuses to show it. They’ll just add it to the list of reasons he’s little, as though the other boys aren’t just a few years older than him. Squizzle nuzzles him comfortingly.

Suddenly, there’s a commotion. A group of men come over to the older boys, interrupting their game. “We’ve got a problem,” one of the fathers announces. “The trailer is sliding.”

“Sliding?” Nachi repeats. The boys jump to join the fathers, and Eli trails them. “But the wheels are locked.”

“It’s not enough,” one of the men explains. “In this ice, the wheels are slippery. At this rate, the whole trailer is going to slide back into the water!”

The room explodes into animated chatter. Everyone is shouting ideas. At the same time, Eli can see through the windows that the landscape around them is moving slightly. Inch by inch, the trailer is sliding away.

He shuts his eyes and concentrates for a moment. When he opens them, he sees the supplies that are bolted to the walls, different tools to help get around in the snow. There are sleds and boots and skis, along with the poles that skiers use. “Ski poles,” Eli says aloud. “Drive them into the ice to hold the trailer in place.”

No one hears him, except for the dark-haired boy. “Hey!” he calls. “Why don’t we drive ski poles into the ice to hold the trailer in place?”

A man brightens. “Brilliant idea, Pinny! There are loops on the corners of the trailer that we can use.” He claps Pinny on the back. “You boys have been a great help with this project.” The men spring to action, taking ski poles and heading outside.

Meanwhile, the other boys turn to Pinny. “How’d you come up with that?” one of them asks. “So smart!”

“We saved the day,” another one adds, slinging an arm around Pinny’s shoulders. “Score one for the kids.”

Pinny shrugs. “I’m just glad we’re not sliding into the ocean,” he says, and all the boys laugh. Eli, left outside of their circle, grits his teeth and doesn’t speak. No one will believe him if he points out that it was his idea. He’ll just have to let it go.

And yeah — at least they’re not sliding into the ocean.


(Originally featured in Cozey, Issue 996)

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