Please vote for the piece that you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Jan 2, 2011.
  1. kctan75 - Celebration at a sleazy joint

    0 vote(s)
  2. VM80 - The Last Thanksgiving

    0 vote(s)
  3. tnt007 - A Miracle and Bad Music

    0 vote(s)
  4. Corbyn - Life of the Party

    0 vote(s)
  5. Amanda Jones - Poor Man Celebration

    0 vote(s)
  6. passionate writer - Christmas for me...?

    0 vote(s)
  7. KeeleeHamomin - Blood on the Leaves

    1 vote(s)
  8. nova_vo1 - Happy Birthday?

    1 vote(s)
  9. DeviouSquirrel - The Runaway Roast

    1 vote(s)
  10. Marmalade - A Claus For Concern

    1 vote(s)
  11. BlueGreenYellow - Ruby Tuesday

    0 vote(s)
  12. FrailBeauty - 400 Days This Christmas

    1 vote(s)
  13. Rousel - Laureola

    5 vote(s)
  14. JohnathanRS - The Phantom From Within

    0 vote(s)
  15. April wilson - Santa please help....

    2 vote(s)
  16. Chudz - Second Jump

    3 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest 82: Celebration

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Dec 21, 2010.

    Voting Short Story Contest (82) Theme: Celebration

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned. No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Voting will end Sunday 2nd January 2011 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under or over the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    kctan75 - Celebration at a sleazy joint

    I had just clinched a major deal with a Government agency and my client and good friend Ronald insisted on bringing me to celebrate at a karaoke lounge called Boss at Orchard Plaza. Ronald used to be a very devout church leader and ever since he stopped going to church, he had strayed to the other extreme of visiting prostitutes and karaoke at an amazing rate.

    He informed me that Boss had many happening local girls. I was a little surprised because I thought most of the girls working in karaokes were mostly from Vietnam, China or Thailand. Local girls? That I had to see.

    The mamasan brought us into a small dingy looking room. The waiter turned on the karaoke system and we waited for the mamasan to bring the girls into the room. Ronald made sure the mamasan understood what type of girls he was looking for.

    “Can play one!” he barked into the microphone almost like a Sergeant major during a parade. I smiled to myself. I simply cannot imagine this man attending church and leading a small group of Christians.

    About two minutes later, the mamsan came back with four sweet young things. The girl that caught my eye was wearing a small black dress and had killer legs. The only minus point about this girl was that she had really small boobs. Almost non-existent.

    Ronald pointed to one of the girls with boobs spilling out of her dress and signaled for her to sit beside him. I think this is probably the worst part of a hostess’s job. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be standing in a row in front of horny men trying to get them to pick you. I remembered those PE lessons during my school days when the boys were choosing team mates to join the basketball team and I always dreaded it cause I was always one of the last ones to be picked.

    The girls must be feeling worse, especially since they have to keep smiling the whole time as the men scrutinize their body parts and face in close proximity.

    At that moment, I felt a tinge of pity but it almost instantaneously evaporated as the girl in black sat beside me and put her hand on my lap.

    I asked her for her name and she replied “Ice.”

    I assumed Ice was a ‘stage name’ that she used for work. As we continued our conversation, I was actually surprised by her level of English. She spoke very well. I complimented her on her English and she replied sweetly, “Of course. I am studying in the poly.”

    I was skeptical and I think she could tell. She whipped out her wallet and showed me her student card. Singapore Polytechnic. Wow! I wanted to ask her why she was working in a karaoke lounge but I figured it was a question that she would really hate. It’s like asking a toilet cleaner why he wanted to clean toilets. It was derogatory. I didn’t want to be rude and spoil our chemistry, especially since her hand had slowly wandered up my thigh to where my sensitive spot was.

    Then she whispered in my ear, “Do you play?”

    I didn’t exactly know what she meant but I guess it’s some secret language for “Do you want to **** me?” I didn’t want to appear like a green-horn so I just replied “Of course!” She winked at me and then said, “ Later ok. I go to the toilet first.”

    For those of you who are not familiar with the karaoke scene in Singapore, “going to toilet” basically means that she was going to another room to serve another client. It was a good way of putting it cause it would make her many clients feel like they were the only one. And that they were special in her eyes.

    After the girls left the room, Ronald rubbed his hands in glee and proceeded to describe his girl’s body in a way that Shakespeare would be proud. That guy has all the makings of a sex novel writer.

    We proceeded to down a couple of beers and waited in anticipation for the girls to return. Ronald explained to me that the second time the girls came into the room is when the action really starts. They would have made their rounds to the room and gotten suitably high. He made a promise to me that he would get all the girls to strip the next time they came into the room.

    He spoke with such strong conviction that I almost felt like I was listening to a Sunday sermon.

    About ten minutes later, the girls returned, and they look like they are either half drunk or on drugs. They mounted onto our laps and started to rub their bodies against us. True to Ronald’s words, the girls started to take off their clothes and I looked over at Ronald and he was already sucking on his girl’s nipples.

    At that moment a thought flashed past my mind. I wondered how many men have already sucked on these women’s tits. Do they even clean their tits after each room? If not, we would all be licking each other’s saliva, albeit on the woman’s body. I was pretty grossed out by this thought and even though Ice’s tits were staring at my face, I couldn’t bring myself to suck on them.

    After a couple of minutes of grinding, she got off me and then proceeded to belt out “My Way” in a horrendous off-pitch way that turned me off completely. I glanced over at Ronald and his girl was actually giving him a blowjob.

    That sight was a bit too much for me and I excused myself to go to the toilet for a smoke. Inside the toilet, while I was washing my face, I saw two men huddling in a corner and I glanced at them from the mirror. One had golden hair and was heavily tattooed while the other was bespectacled and scrawny. They appeared to be popping something into their mouths and when they saw that I was staring at them from the mirror, they hurried out of the toilet.

    When I returned to our room, the girls have already left and Ronald was singing some Andy Lau song. He sang with much emotion and gusto, and if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he had just gone through a painful break up. After the song ended, he proceeded to tell me in vivid details about his blowjob experience.

    I couldn’t help but laugh. And if I was honest with myself, I preferred him like this than when he was a church leader. At least he was more real.
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    VM80 - The Last Thanksgiving

    Aunt Bertha was happy once a year. Thanksgiving was the only day
    she ever had guests or cooked a proper meal.

    Her nephews Jack and Adam flew in and had done so each year
    since they’d left home. Her niece Delia drove. She lived only two States
    away. This year was much like any other. Aunt Bertha had ordered the
    freshest turkey and had made homemade bread and cake.

    One by one, her family arrived and they spent the first few hours
    catching up on news. Then they sat down in the dining room.
    “Let me get some wine from the cellar,” Adam said.
    “Careful dear, there’s a rat down there. I think. I hear strange
    noises at night sometimes,” Aunt Bertha said.
    Adam grinned. “No rat is going to stop me from having a drink.”
    “That figures.” Jack leaned back in his chair. “Now, how about
    that turkey?”
    Minutes later Aunt Bertha carried in the huge silver tray. “Will you
    do the honours, Jack?”
    Of course he would. As the eldest, Jack had learned to carve
    the turkey like a master chef.

    Food and drink were served and everyone ate. Aunt Bertha even
    permitted herself a small glass of red. She never drank as a rule.
    “You’re not eating, Delia. Take some more turkey. You need meat
    during this time…”
    Delia continued picking at her food. “Please don’t fuss, aunt. I’m
    not sick. Just pregnant.”
    “Just pregnant. Honestly, in my day –”
    “Can we not do this?”
    “I won’t say another word.”
    “Thank you.”

    They continued eating in silence.
    “Let’s have a toast,” Adam eventually suggested.
    “Any excuse for more wine,” Jack said. He loved his brother
    “Now boys, let’s be nice,” Delia said. “We’ll have a toast to good
    health and happiness. Because that’s all that matters.”
    They raised their wine glasses. Delia raised her glass of orange
    juice. Aunt Bertha hadn’t raised hers.
    “Are you all right, aunt?” Jack asked.
    “Yes, perfectly all right.”
    “I don’t want you boys to fight. You need to get along when I’m
    gone. Promise me!”
    “Calm down, aunt. We weren’t fighting. Right, Adam?” Jack said.
    “We weren’t fighting.”
    Aunt Bertha didn’t look placated.
    “You are the only family left. You need to be there for each other.
    This is the last time we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving like this, all of us
    “What makes you say that?” Adam asked.
    “I’m eighty years old.”
    “So?” Delia said. “You’re still in good health.”
    “No, I can feel it. Trust me.”
    “You say that every year!”
    “This time I mean it! It’s the last time.”

    No one knew what to say to that. They tried to fill the awkwardness with
    random comments, which only made things more awkward. Everyone
    was relieved when dinner was finished and they could go to bed.

    The next morning Jack and Adam caught an early flight home.
    Delia helped her aunt with the dishes and then set off in her car.
    Aunt Bertha tossed the turkey carcass into the garbage and froze
    the remainder of the bread. For what occasion, she wasn’t sure.

    A year later she remembered about the bread. It was getting dark
    and it was almost time for Thanksgiving dinner. Aunt Bertha crossed to
    the glass cabinet in the dining room and took out two envelopes. She
    unfolded the letters carefully. The first had arrived in July, written by a
    hand she hadn’t recognised. Delia’s boyfriend.
    There were complications during labour and…

    The second had come a couple of months later, alongside a parcel that
    contained two medals for bravery. She had been so proud when she’d
    heard her nephews had enlisted in the New Year.

    She clutched the letters tighter and placed them against her cheek
    for a moment. The aroma of turkey drifted into the dining room.

    Aunt Bertha set the table for one, and would so each Thanksgiving
    for twelve more years to come.
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    tnt007 - A Miracle and Bad Music

    Christmas 1976

    Earlier, in November, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by a news reporter who was interested in finding out just how well the 25 seventh and eighth graders from a very small school district could handle the pressure of being asked who they thought would become our next President. We had absolutely no idea how they would choose those good enough to be entertaining. My choice was based on my 13 years of worldly experience.

    Our Christmas Tree had been set up the day after Thanksgiving. We decorated with ornaments we held dear to our hearts. Hand made and gifted by neighbors, friends, relatives and our familial unit.

    When the time came to take on this task, I found myself taking special care to offer assistance to my mother. She had been ill for quite sometime, diagnosed with a tumor set up in her uterus. I was afraid. But the joy of a child anticipating the arrival of special gifts, not those yet under the tree, mellowed any fear I had about my mother.

    I had asked for one gift. A music album by my favorite musician at the time.

    Soon enough we had the tree decorated and my parents started sneaking gifts in every day and placing them underneath the heavily ornamented tree.

    The most wonderful day came and school was out for the holidays. I raced to get home and once inside I could not miss the new gift under the tree. It was for me, it was an album. All of my dreams were gonna come true. I did not peak, but it was not easy trying to stay away from that music that lay in waiting for me to open the wrapping and hit the 78 rpm on my silly little record player. Oh the stress.

    Christmas Eve came and went without incident. We made all of the usual rounds to grandparents and cousins and friends. A child, at best, will fall asleep from too much too fast. I fell asleep and do not remember getting into my bed. My best guess would be that my dad had carried me from the car to the house to my room. My dad, Santa, had much to do after we all went to bed.

    I was sound asleep when I heard the cries of my mother. I thought 'this is it, she is dying'. I jumped out of bed and ran to my parents room from which the sound of human agony had called me. My mother, in horrible pain, told me to get my father.

    I did not know where he was.

    I made a fast round of our property and eventually found him in the old barn, putting a tricycle together for my youngest brother. I ran faster than he did and made it back to my mother before him. One final groan from her and the surprising sound of a newborn followed. My mother had just given birth to my fourth brother leaving me smack dab in the middle of a malfunction which was quickly becoming my life.

    An overnight stay for my mother and the newborn did not intrude upon our Christmas celebration. Grandparents had arrived in the night and took care of Santa's work.

    Honestly, I didn't care much about the baby, I wanted to play the music I had asked for a few months before and when I awoke on Christmas Day, I ran to the living room and zeroed in on the treasure in it's delicate wrapping.

    Wow! Shaun Cassidy, here I come. I snatched up the present and tore off the paper.
    'What the hell?' I said to myself.

    Who gives a dang Bobby Sherman Christmas album to a Shaun Cassidy freak on Christmas day?' I cannot even explain the horror of this moment. I think I lost a year or two of my life at that moment. I cried.

    Oh yes, for you who remember the student interviews, I made the cut and landed on my first television appearance. One glance at myself on TV and I covered my face with my hands. I had no idea that my overdose on blue eye shadow would become my first, most embarrassing moment. I chose the loser of the Presidential race.

    Was it the blue eyeshadow that caused Ford the race? Maybe I will wear blue eye shadow in future elections.
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Corbyn - Life of the Party

    I remember it quite clearly, three days before my tenth birthday my mother told me we would be going to a special party. She described it as a celebration of life a lot like my birthday party would be. The anticipation was too much. I fidgeted around in the days leading up to the party like a butterfly takes to a flower for food. I was full to the brim with questions for my mother; would there be lots of people there? Would we have games and cake? Grandma will be there this time won’t she? I couldn’t think of any holidays that might account for the special celebration. My mother simply returned to her house work leaving me to play as she usually did.

    Those three days were the longest of my life but the morning of the party finally arrived. As the sun filled into my room drawing my eyes open with the warm ambient light it gave I sprang out of bed. I could hardly contain my glee. I remember thinking, it’s time! It’s time! All the while I jumped up and down on my mattress as if it were a trampoline. My bedding flew one direction to the floor and I vaulted down at a dead run through the hallway leading from my room.

    As I quickly brushed my teeth, mother peeked in to tell me she was laying out special clothes for me to wear. Much to my dismay she made me bathe AND wash my hair. I hated the wet mop like mess of curls the soap left behind.

    “But Mom! Why do I have to look my best? We’re probably just gonna play chase anyway!” I remember saying.

    Mother frowned at me, “You and your cousin’s WILL be on your best behavior today. You promised.”

    She kept saying things like that scolding me as she tried to stuff me into a dress. With each push of her hands and prod of her fingers she became more and more distant, sad. Again I protested refusing to wear it. She scolded and stuffed me into the thing anyway. I still remember the hideous fabric; it was my grandmother’s favorite. It had been a lacey black with a pink bow and pink flowers stitched here and there all over the thing. It was stiff and it scratched at my skin horribly. If the dress wasn’t bad enough, Mother plaited my hair tightly to my head the way Grandma always did. The braids were tight and they pulled at my skull uncomfortably.

    While Mother dressed I was allowed to play quietly in my room. I remember taking the opportunity instead to redress myself in my favorite play dress. It was lime green with black polka dots. It was comfortable and didn’t itch and the colors were so bright. I was busy retying my shoes when my mother found me.

    “Kate what are you doing? We don’t have time for this,” Mom sighed and dragged me along.

    It was a short ride across the small town we lived in. I knew most of the store fronts we passed because it was a familiar route.

    I beamed looking up at her through the rear view mirror, “We’re going to grandmas?” I had a hard time controlling my enthusiasm.

    “Yes Kate, remember we talked about this, we are going to Grandma’s and there will be lots of people you might not know there,” Mom frowned.

    I can’t remember the last time I saw my mom look so sad. She drove on and finally we arrived. She let me out of the car taking my hand squeezing it tightly. I thought it was strange because I tugged to go play with my cousin Suzy, but mom wouldn’t let go of me. She kept me pulled in close as we made our way up the front steps and into the house.

    I saw faces then a lot of sad, thin, pale faces. Some I knew like the baby sitter Ana, my aunts and uncles, but they were different. They all seemed sad, like they wanted to cry but couldn’t. I began to get confused and looked up at my mom. Her eyes were puffing, growing more and more red the deeper into the house we moved. Toward the back of the house where the family room was, the sea of people thinned some. There on a golden stand surrounded by flowers was a picture of my grandma. I looked at my mother and then to the portrait of my smiling grandmother and I wanted to cry too. I wasn’t sure why. My mother bent down and hugged me tightly.

    “Shhhh… Don’t cry, it’s her wake, we should celebrate her life,” Mother hugged me tighter then.

    The dam that held back my tears broke as I looked over the sea of people in black and couldn’t find my Grandma; something in me knew I wouldn’t find her there or ever again.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Amanda Jones - Poor Man Celebration

    Part One
    'It's easy to say you love the holidays when you can afford it,” Sam argued, “but when you have nothing, and still can enjoy this season, that's something special.”
    Angie rolled her eyes. Sam was pulling her leg, and she wasn't that gullible. Sam was an optimistic about everything. When the glass was empty, he saw it as potential to be filled. Sam's optimism was almost sickening.
    “Just look at how happy poor people in low income cities are.” Sam continued.
    “Easy for you to say when you're living on 75 thousand a year,” Angie challenged, “ I bet if you had to live the way of the poor, you'd break that little charade and complain worse than Mr. Scrooge.”
    Just then, Tim walked up. Tim was their boss, and enjoyed a bet like a alcoholic enjoys free drink night at the local bar.
    “Did I just here someone say 'bet'?” He questioned.
    “Sam was trying to tell me that people who have nothing enjoy the holidays more than people who aren't poor.” Angie accused, knowing who's side the rich boss would take.
    “Are you crazy, Sam?” Tim accused.
    “Well, that isn't exactly what I said,” Sam defended, “I was merely making a comparison to people who don't have much, and those who have it all. I'm just saying you don't need to have it all to be happy.”
    “Well, this is a very intriguing conversation. I'd like to see where this is going.” Tim added. “Are you sure of what you are saying, Sam?”
    “Yes, I am.”
    “Good. Then first thing Monday, You will live on $250 a week. You will need to find a cheap motel to move into, and you will spend 4 weeks there. This means you will live on only $1,000 for the entire month, that includes food, bills, and holiday spending. No outside money allowed. Each day, we will check you bank statements and make sure you aren't dipping into your account. No car either. We will check the mileage on your car this weekend, and at the end of this wager. I will personally hand you your allowance each week on Monday, and the rest of your pay will go into your account. We will also be watching your attitude. I've got friends all over this city, and when I show them your photo, and include a early Christmas gift for their cooperation, they will report your disposition to me. Now to make this interesting. What shall the winner of this wager receive? ”
    Sam stood there listening as his boss listed out the rules for his new life. Could he do it? He was sure he could, but for a whole month? It might be a good way to prove a point. Yes, he would do it.
    “How about we wager $100?” Angie threw in.
    “No, that's no where near as high a bet. It needs to be high enough that our buddy Sam will want to participate. I suggest... your holiday bonus. Whomever wins the bet, gets the others Holiday bonus.” Tim added enthusiastically.
    “But-” Angie started to add.
    “I'll do it.” Sam jumped in, eager to prove his point.
    “Then it's settled.” Tim shouted.
    “Hold on now!” Angie exclaimed, “I want one more thing. Sam, if you lose, no more boasting and carrying on about your silly philosophies.”
    “Great!” replied Tim, “The bet starts at nine Monday morning. Four weeks after that will be... December 20th. Just before Christmas, and the day before the office's Secret Santa party. If I were you, Sam, I'd look into some cheap motels in the area, and learn the bus system. Alright now, Everyone back to work!”

    Part Two
    Sam woke up with a slight pain in his lower back. The cheap motel mattress just couldn't stand up to his Tempur-Pedic back at home. Stretching out most of the pain, he showered in the small shower, and dressed for work. It had been two weeks since he'd started the bet, and he felt a new strength rushing through him.
    “I'm halfway there.” He said, while walking to the bus stop.
    This little bet had pushed him to his limits, but he would never complain. It wasn't as hard as it could be.
    “At least I have a place to sleep,” he said, thinking about the lumpy mattress. “And food to eat.”
    Sam looked down at his sagging clothes. In the last two weeks, he'd went down a few sizes. His diet changed from eating fatty, greasy foods four times a day, to eating lean, small meals, two or three times a day. He couldn't afford to eat at Olive Garden, let alone some of the restaurants he usually ate at. Nope, it was toast and cereal for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly for lunch, and one of the many flavors of hamburger helper for dinner and if he was lucky, made with hamburger meat.
    The bus arrived shortly, and as Sam stepped on, the bus driver glanced at him in the usual odd way saying, “So how's you doing today, got anything you wants to talk about?”
    “Just fine, and no.”
    Could the guy be any more obvious! Clearly he thought he was being discreet as he shrugged his shoulders and shut the doors. Just a few more stops, then Sam would be within walking distance from his work. It was the same thing over and over again with the driver; everyday when Sam got on, he asked the same question, and everyday when Sam got off, he'd say, “Well, if ever you wanna let it all out, I'm here for you. My momma always said I gots good listenin' ears.”
    Sam stepped off the bus, and into the cold air. The sun was just high enough that he could see where he was walking, and the ½ mile hike to the office was peaceful. Sam listened to the cardinals sing, and wondered why he hadn't noticed their songs before this little adventure. The cold air didn't bother him as much as he looked around at the beautiful world that didn't exist two weeks ago. He would definitely have to take this walk to work once in a while when spring came.
    As Sam walked into the big office doors, he was greeted by yet another one of Tim’s obvious spies. Joe, the office security guard, sat up from his usual laid back position to question Sam as the bus driver had. Since Joe had to check Sam's security badge, their conversation tended to be a little longer than the conversation with the bus driver.
    “Sure seems cold outside today, doesn't it? You walked to work again today, didn't you? Was it too cold out there?”
    Sam sighed and braced himself and answered honestly, “Yes, is was a cold morning, but I hardly noticed it. Have you ever noticed the beautiful songs the cardinals sing? It almost sounds like they are saying 'What cheer'. No, you haven't noticed? Well you should listen one day, it really is a beautiful sound.”
    On that note, Sam headed to the elevators, and into another mass attack by his co-workers. The elevator was unusually empty for this time of day, so Sam was able to breathe for a moment, enjoying the calm before the storm. Right as Sam let out a huge sigh signifying what lay ahead, the elevator opened, and Angie stood there, hands on her hips.
    “Ah! Getting tired out I see! Looks like I’ve won the bet already!”
    “Come on now Ang, you know I’ve always had a fear of elevators. Even before the bet.”
    “Yeah, I know. I just thought I’d catch you at a weak moment, and then win this bet early.”
    “Nice try, but it's not going to work.”
    “Yeah, whatever. Just go. Oh and don't forget about the meeting at ten.”
    Sam shut his office door as the last of Angie’s words came out. Rubbing his head, more out of habit than stress, Sam sat at his desk and opened his inbox. Several messages he marked as spam, and several others needed only a quick glance before being deleted.
    “Heya Sam, just wanted to see-” Garbage.
    “Hello Samuel, I was writing to find out how you-” Delete.
    “Sam, How are you-” Trash can.
    “Sam, my man! What's new?”
    Sam looked up as his best friend walked in the door. Mike sat down in the lounge chair on the other side of Sam's desk. Great, just what he needed, another interruption during work hours. How did anyone get any work done?
    “Not much here, you?” Sam responded.
    “Nothing man. Dude, how long are you and Angie doing this thing for again? Another two weeks, right? Shoot, I would've caved by now. There's no way I could go twelve hours without playing 'Black Ops', let alone four weeks. You sure you aren't going crazy? Cause you know you can tell me, and I won't say nothing to the boss man.”
    “No, Mike. Actually, I’m enjoying myself. Since I can't 'afford' to drive my car, I end up walking part of the way, and it's actually very nice. Did you ever notice how the snow falls down in the early morning? Or how certain plants seem to hibernate too? This morning I was saying to myself, how I’d like to walk part of the way to work in the springtime, when all the flowers and plants come back to life. I've never noticed it before.”
    “Yeah man, sure. But whatever you're smoking, save some for me, okay? Now come on, you know Tim gets upset when I'm late to the meetings.”
    Sam logged out of his email and followed Mike to the conference room. If he thought bumping into co-workers one at a time was bad, dealing with all of them at the same time would be disastrous. Twenty faces looking at him, all eager to see him slip in his quest, so they could earn their bonus. Walking into the conference room, Sam said to himself, “I should be psychic.”
    “Glad you're all here.” Tim announced. “Now we can get started. Here in this bucket, I have the name of everyone in our department. Pull a name out, and keep it to yourself. You must spend at least $50, and same as last year, there is no max on spending. And remember, the gifts are due Tuesday, the 21st at noon.”
    Sam reached into the bucket, feeling around for a slip of paper. How would he afford to get his Secret Santa gift? He could barely afford to buy the hamburger meat for dinner, let alone buy a gift for someone else. Sam was still pondering the thought, when he pulled out the paper. Unfolding it, Sam read the name. He was in luck! If all went to plan, his gift would be the best gift of all!

    Part Three
    Finally! Today was the last day of the bet. Sam looked up at the clock on the wall. 8:45a.m. In fifteen minutes, he would've won the bet. The last few weeks seemed to breeze by, sort of. Sam was starting to get used to his new life, and the last month had changed his perception on life. He was beginning to love life, and see it for all the wonders it really is. Just this morning, he'd had the pleasure of enjoying a beautiful sight; a mother deer walking with her fawn, heading towards the nearby forest, and the comfort of their den. That sight was one Sam would treasure all his life. And to think, he wouldn't have noticed any of this if he hadn't taken that bet! A bet that he just won! Tim had just opened the door to Sam's office with an envelope in his hand.
    “Well, you've won! Got any complaints now that it's all over, and you've won?”
    “Actually, no. As strange as it may sound, I-”
    “Did he confess yet?”
    It was Angie. She was hiding behind Tim, like a serpent waiting to strike.
    “Sorry, Angie. It's no good. Sam appears to be sincere. Looks like he really did win.”
    Angie stormed out, clearly disappointed. Not only had she lost Sam's bonus, which she had planned on using to get a new plasma TV, but she'd lost her own!
    Tim reached for a pen off Sam's desk, so he could make out both checks in Sam's name.
    “Now, hold on, Tim. I've got something I need your help with...”


    Crawling into his own bed last night seemed strange to Sam. He had gotten used to the lumpy mattress at the motel, and when he laid down on the Tempur-Pedic, he felt almost out of place. Sure, it was nice having his bed back, and his car, and digital cable on his 60” HDTV. But it all seemed different now. Something had changed. When he'd pulled up outside his home, he noticed that there were plants growing outside his home. Not wild plants, since his gardener was paid a month in advance, but little bushes that looked like someone had planted them there. Had they always been there? They didn't look new. Yes! They had been there before, because he remembered once last summer when he dropped his house keys in the bush next to the door. Strange that he never noticed them before.
    Sam walked into the office, and instead of greeting him as he had the last four weeks, Joe the guard waved his hand at Sam nonchalantly, never taking his eyes off the security monitor.
    “Good morning Joe! How are you doing today?”
    “Good morning. So I heard you won. Angie sure looked upset this morning. You'd think she forgot Christmas was just around the corner.”
    “Well, I have a feeling she'll perk up later.”
    “Good ol' Sam, always optimistic.” Joe added.
    “Well, I'd better get going, Joe. Have a good day, and Merry Christmas!”
    Sam decided since he didn't walk to work, maybe he could take the stairs. Surprisingly, he made it all the way up, without getting too tired.
    “I guess walking ½ a mile to and from work each day will do that to you.” Sam told himself. After making a quick pit stop at the Secret Santa table, Sam headed to his office. On his way, he ran into Angie.
    “Good morning Angie!”
    “Good morning to you too.” Angie muttered under her breath.
    Sam smiled all the way to his office. After reading and deleting dozens of congratulation emails, Sam started to work. No time had passed, or so it seemed, when Tim opened his door, dressed in a Santa suit, and placed a small box on his desk.
    “Ho ho ho!” Tim said in his 'Santa' voice.
    “Hey Tim. Have you-”
    “It's not Tim! It's Santa!”
    “Oh. Hey Santa. Have you given Angie her gift yet?”
    “No, She's next on my list.”
    “Great. Thanks.”
    Sam jumped out of his chair, and followed 'Santa' to Angie's office. When 'Santa' handed Angie the thin envelope, she stared at it puzzled. Who would give her a card? It didn't feel like it had a gift card inside, but surely no one went under the $50 spending limit. As she opened the card, a slip of paper fell to the floor. She read the card, then in a daze, reached for what she dropped. It was her Christmas bonus, made out to her! Angie looked again at the card and read the words carefully:

    If there's anything I learned the last four weeks, it's that money can't buy happiness. It can't buy true beauty either. Beauty like a sunrise, or the birds singing. Thank you Angie, for helping me see. Thank you for showing me all the beauty that surrounds us everyday. Please enjoy this small token of my appreciation, for without your bet, I wouldn't know what Christmas is all about. What every season is all about. Appreciating the beauty that God has given us.
    Your friend,
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    passionate writer - Christmas for me...?

    I stumbled along the stairs of my room to the dining room. Tears brimming in my eyes. So, it was Christmas after all. The first real Christmas after my dad. How months had passed I never noticed but I was always in the depths of despair. I missed him so much and still was unable to realize the bitter reality. Was my dad really taken away from me? His gentle eyes never to be seen again? His beautiful laugh forever forgotten? I couldn't even stand the thought. I gulped two mouthfuls of toast and took my tea miserably. In a corner, I saw mom cry bitterly.
    I ran to her and tried to comfort her...but how could I comfort her when I myself couldn't keep my tears back?
    I envied those whose fathers were still alive...who were still HAPPY...when I knew that I would never be able to get truly happy. All the feelings of happiness seemed to be washed away from my very heart like rain washes away mud and debris. My heart was now only a bleeding mass with a little beat...not really alive...but working. My actions were robot like, my grades still excellent but it looked like the soul had been taken away from me. My eyes were lifeless, my heart bearing no emotion other than sorrow and bitter grief.
    After some time I went to my room. The previous Christmas happenings flashed back before me. Dad laughing out loud and me opening a gift with a cat inside utterly surprised. All the emotions wept themselves out of me. I did not exist and I will not exist. My existence had been wiped out together with my father's.
    It was true...no father ever cared for his family like mine did. He pressed our clothes, polished our shoes and sometimes even cooked food if mom was sick. He gave us as much money as we wanted and we never spent money on useless things. He laughed and joked even in the hardest times when even we knew about how much pain he was in. Sometimes he even said that he wants to go to God because he couldn't bear the pain but we comforted him.
    His gentle eyes still haunt my desolated thoughts. Every moment makes me more sad and grieved. We gained a loss...that could never be consoled...never be forgotten. I hear his jokes even now and find myself laughing at them. I wake up at mornings even now weeping skeptically and begging him to hug me, to come back.
    But I know...he will never come back...even on the Christmas.
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    KeeleeHamomim - Blood on the Leaves

    Fallen leaves always remind me. That sugary smell of autumn mixed with the flame tinged winds, cold enough to burn your lungs.
    There is that anticipation of the harvest, followed by the frosts of winter, their cold fingers of death spreading out over the life giving green.
    Nothing was greater than that feeling.
    That day there was not a cloud in the sky. The breeze was light and still a little too warm for the early morning frosts. All of the leaves had begun to change, brazen gold, burnished copper, dark crimson red, and had started to fall. Lazily wafting from their safe and lofty homes to crumple upon the earth only to rot or freeze or be swept away to some distant land.
    There was busy laughter in the orchards and the fields. The harvest festival would be starting soon and there was much work to be done. The cheerful ladies gathered swollen pumpkins, golden squash, and the shiniest red apples you would ever see. As each bounty was accepted from the great earth, a bounty of milk and honey was given in return along with thanks and blessing for the goddess.
    A happier, more peaceful community, you could never find.
    There was no warning of their approach. No one had seen them coming. No warnings were given, natural or otherwise, to avoid this immense danger.
    They were greeted with warm smiles and eager helping hands. They were given food and grain just newly harvested and fresh milk and the sweetest, most pure of our honey. They were treated like old friends though no one knew where they had come from. Their strange symbols of crucifixes were met with polite curiosity and their odd mannerisms were watched with a hunger for knowledge and understanding.
    They did not return these gestures.
    Instead we were given death. The death of our culture, the death of our people, the death of our land as we knew it and, worst of all, the death of our goddess.
    They said things like ‘devil’ and ‘evil’ and ‘hell.’ Words that held no meaning to us, things we didn’t understand but were still punished for.
    They said they offered salvation and glory, but only if we accepted their new god. They told us that the goddess was a creation of their devil and that our ancestors had been misled by Satan.
    They said we would go to a lake of fire if we did not recognize our evil and give everything we had to their church.
    “Live as our Lord, Christ did.” Said the man, all fine silks and glimmering gold. “To know absolute freedom from the material world is to know God.”
    Those who refused to give up their homes, land and practices paid dearly for it. Our wise women were taken from us; presented before us, humiliated and bloody, as broken as the most delicate of ice, crushed beneath a boot heal. They were taken to the center of our village, dragged along like the most disgusting refuse, trails of blood etched in the leaves behind them.
    A pole of pine was erected in the center of the village, where our harvest altar normally sat. We were forced to watch as our leaders, parents, children and warriors were lashed to the pole, one by one. Resisters were cut down where they stood; women and children were taken by hungry eyed men as trophies.
    The air smelled like our harvest bonfires mingled with something darker and much less pleasant.
    That harvest there was no singing. Neither celebration nor preparation for the coming festival of Yule was made. Those that survived will always be reminded. The sacred grove was burned and in its place now stands a golden cross, the symbol of the God who murdered our Goddess.
    Fallen leaves always remind me. Each blood red leaf that falls is a life. Withered and broken, and then swept away into the blurred winds of time, lost forever.
  9. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    nova_vo1 - Happy Birthday?

    The flames flickered out of existence for the eighth time as Elsea sat there staring at the outline of the wax-topped cake. A sigh escaped her but her hand automatically grabbed the next candle and held it in front of her face so that she could see it properly. Just as automatically, her other hand lit up the candle with a lighter. Slowly, she leaned forward and stretched as far as her little hand could reach so that she could put the candle into the cake in a spot that was still soft enough for her to force it in.
    She whispered the number out loud to herself. Her eyes fixated down at the candle on the cake, the only light left in the room. “Happy 9th Birthday Elsea”. It was probably the 50th time that she had read that phrase in her mind to herself tonight.
    The wind blew by and the whole house creaked a little bit followed by a slight cracking sound coming from upstairs but Elsea chose to ignore it. It was like that every year she had been there. Though, each time she came, there was bound to be something different about the house. Two years ago, the first time she came, the house still had a mostly intact roof. But the year after, half of it was gone. This year, the door that used to guard the front of the house had fallen down, revealing the charred insides of the house.
    Elsea watched her feet dangle from the small chair and she kicked them up a little, letting out a small laugh. Then she realized that she had forgotten to do something. Quickly, she jumped off the chair out of the room and to the fallen front door. The moon light illuminated the front hallway as she searched along the mostly white door frame to find the markings that she had left the last two times she were here. When she found them, a smile crossed her face and she around her on the floor until she found a piece of charred wood. She turned her back to the frame and stood up against it as put one hand on her head and took the charred wood with the other and marked where it was. Turning around, she laughed out loud for the first time that night.
    “Mommy! Daddy! Look! I grew!”
    She peeked through the door frame and looked at where the cake was sitting, as if to expect a response. While she was looking, the flame suddenly went out, and with it, her smile. Elsea took one last glance at the line that she had made on the frame and trotted back to cake. She bent down and picked up the cake that was probably bigger than her head and walked out the front door and into the lawn. There were two small mounds of dirt by the fence and she walked up to them. She managed to put the cake down on to the floor, by the small mounds without dropping the heavy cake.
    “Happy death day mommy. Happy death day daddy.”
    A small smile crossed her face again as she looked down at the poorly made graves and the wax-covered cake.
    “Elsea will come back next year and celebrate with you!”
  10. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    DeviouSquirrel - The Runaway Roast

    I pushed my hair away from my forehead. It had become wiry and tousled, courtesy of the hot tropical climate, and it stuck to my skin with sweat. I’d been on this particular island for only a day when our makeshift camp, so small and over populated beyond its limits, forced me to venture out on my own.
    Exploration, I found, was ever so different to sight-seeing with a guide. There were no paths to follow, at least none I could find, and the trees, however beautiful, all seemed identical to my untrained eyes. The camp sat on a riverbed, within sight of an idyllic sandy beach, and I assured myself that I could always follow the beach back home.
    I swept towards the deep forest, glad to be away from the celebrations. Strolling, I began humming a calm tune and admiring the exotic plantation. One large conifer was layered thick with tinsel and lights, and I groaned, rolling my eyes. How much farther from civilisation would I need to be to escape the typical Christmas idiocies?
    ‘So it’s the twenty fifth of December,’ I thought angrily, ‘does that very fact make my mail unimportant, my work unnecessary and my deadlines less strict?’
    I remembered early family holidays, being bored to frustration by forced conversations with people to whom the only connection I shared was bloodline. The people here didn’t even have that reason; their only motivation was my money, and far more than they were worth at this time of year. The muscles in my jaw clenched. But then I remembered last Christmas, and the look of glee on my baby’s rosy cheeks when he opened presents. A smile grew, then faded fast. I could also recall Frank’s anger as I ran for the boat not more than an hour later. I began to feel a knot tighten in my stomach, but a long, deep breath cleared my thoughts.
    I assured myself again that I wasn’t missing a thing. Not the over-cooked meats or under-cooked vegetables, and not spending ridiculous amounts of money I couldn’t spare on a decoration for the back of the recipient’s wardrobe. Not that I had anyone to buy for now. I told myself this was a good thing, and I almost believed it.
    No, I was perfectly sure I wasn’t losing out, and I smiled, reassured. But my smile faltered when I realised that my wandering thoughts had disrupted not only my calm stroll, but my focus on the beach as well. I turned quickly in a circle, seeing only trees, and my heart began to race. I then decided to try and retrace my steps but the forest around me gave no sign of which way I’d come, or which way I was heading. The dense foliage beneath my feet showed me no sign of my footsteps, and I began to shake, feeling incredibly isolated; the very sensation that minutes earlier had been my goal.
    ‘It’s an island,’ I ran my fingers through my tangled hair, my eyes darting all around me. I bit my lip and took a few tentative steps. ‘If I walk in a straight line, eventually I’ll come to the beach. And from there I can follow it back to camp.’ A smile grew on my thin lips as my shaking relaxed and I began to walk more briskly.
    I’d convinced myself of my own genius until, after only a few steps, something obscured by the foliage wrapped itself tightly around my ankle. I had a second to tilt my head with confusion and wonder, and then it pulled me abruptly into the air. My lungs let out an unnaturally high pitched scream and when I convinced myself to open my eyes the world was upside down.
    A twig snapped somewhere in the shadows and I tried to reach up to untangle my foot, my loose skirt very immodestly revealing my pristine white bloomers. Any chance I had of remaining unnoticed had vanished, and I fought harder with one arm against the rope, the other trying to cover my underwear. Even although it seemed no one was watching me, my face flushed red.
    Something hit the back of my head and I cried out again, twisting to see my attacker. I caught a glimpse of a man, wearing patchy leather around his waist, and I saw his small wooden baton as it flew towards me again. My last thought was for my modesty, and then I was unconscious.
    I jerked awake when something touched my ribs. Gasping, I tried to swat the culprit away, but my arms wouldn’t move. I sat up, my spine aching from being left slumped uncomfortably. My legs were crossed around a wooden stake, tight rope holding my wrists and ankles together in front of me, secured to the stake by a metal ring. I shook my head, trying to move my hair from unpleasantly clinging to my face, wishing that I could simply reach up and wipe away the sweat droplets before they rolled down my face.
    I remembered the reason for my waking and looked around for the culprit. The room was very small, obviously built from natural wood with a very primitive structure, and the only other occupant was a child. It was a girl, wearing a dress adorned with thousands of coloured beads. She looked at me so intently, with a slight frown on her face, and even when I tried looking away her stare never faltered. After some time I stuttered hoarsely, “do you speak English?” The girl nodded, and I sighed with relief. I was positive there had been some misunderstanding and if I could explain, I was sure it could be sorted out.
    “Is your mummy or daddy around?” The girl shook her head and as I was about to press the point she frowned and tilted her head, reaching out to run her small fingers through my mess of red hair. I noted that her head was smooth, it had been cropped short, but she was obviously still very feminine.
    “All have good time before feast,” the girl’s voice was awkward as she elongated the words in an odd way. “Must share story of year and prepare. Drink and sing, then we eat.” Suddenly she didn’t seem so alien, as their customs seemed very similar to our own. She moved around in front of me to save me from having to twist my head awkwardly to look at her, and pulled the leather flap that was hanging across the doorway to the side. Holding it open she pointed out.
    “Mam,” she smiled, “Pa.” There were many of her people there, sitting around a long table that stretched around the building so that I couldn’t see the full extent of it. They all had no hair and the couple that the girl pointed to looked happier than most. Her mother’s stomach looked swollen and a few moments passed before I realised she was with child.
    “Congratulations.” I said, with less emotion than I was trying for. The girl frowned, her eyebrows furrowed. “Your mother is having a baby?” Immediately her eyes lit up and she nodded.
    “Yes. Thanks to you I see little baby.” Her statement confused me but I said nothing, accrediting it to a misunderstanding within the language barrier. Simply smiling, I asked the girl her name.
    “Lara!” The voice didn’t come from the girl, but the large, pregnant woman standing behind her. She wore finely beaded clothing too, but it fit awkwardly over her bump. She spoke quickly their own language. I thought she must be angry, her arms waving around violently as she spoke, towering over the small girl. The intimidating woman glared darkly at me, then left as abruptly as she’d entered. Lara looked at the earth beneath her, fiddling with a stone.
    “Mam say no talk with food. Only prepare for feast.” She stood slowly and walked around behind me. I let my head fall back and saw the table, laden with all kinds of vegetable. No meat, though. I suddenly realised how strange it was not to have seen any animals whilst wandering out around the island. I wondered it out loud.
    Lara said nothing, but the sounds of her chopping on the wooden planks stopped.
    “Ani-maal?” She asked, without turning. I tried to explain, although it felt like trying to explain how to breathe. If you didn’t ‘know’ what an animal was, it was difficult to understand. Eventually she shrugged and from her arched eyebrow I didn’t think she believed me. Feeling almost defensive about our omnivorous eating habits, I tried to explain that eating meat was good, that it made us strong, and Lara walked around to look me in the face. Her mouth opened slightly and she scratched the back of her head.
    “Yes. Meat.” She said, as though I was being stupid. I asked her to explain.
    She pointed at me. “Meat.”
    My heart began to race, and I couldn’t speak. Me? I was dinner? Shaking my head I tugged harder at my hands and ankles, but the rope only became tighter with every move, until my feet began to tingle. I pleaded with Lara, and she seemed confused by my reaction.
    “Honour to give self to sustain family.” She remarked, returning to the vegetables. “Mam, new baby, need strength. All family need strength.”
    “Yes!” I squealed, “But you can’t eat people! I have my own family, I have a baby, I love my family…” I realised then that I did miss them, and the worst part of being close to death was the idea of never seeing them again. She didn’t reply and I fought to calm my thoughts. Arguing with a child wasn’t the best use of my last few hours- minutes?- alive. I had to try and escape, and quickly.
    Lara chopped vegetables for a while longer, and I decided that the best chance I would have to escape would come when they had to move me to cook me. I gulped at the thought. My skin burned, clothing clinging to me awkwardly, but the idea of being on an open fire made my skin crawl. If this seemed hot, that would be… Well, a whole lot worse.
    “How will I… How do you cook your meat?” I asked tentatively, my voice shaking feebly.
    “On big fire, outside.” Thankfully, that meant I would have to be moved. I had a chance, especially if it was down to skinny little Lara to prepare the meat as well as the vegetables, which, considering the lack of help she’d been offered so far, seemed possible. Suddenly the significance of something Lara had said earlier stuck out. She’d said thank you to me, for letting her see the new baby.
    “If they hadn’t caught me, would it have been you instead?” I felt sick. Her silence gave her away. It took her a few moments to speak, and she spoke quietly.
    “Yes. Baby need meat to grow.” She paused, “but also need big sister to look after.” Tears sprung to my eyes suddenly and I choked. If I managed to get away, they’d kill their own daughter. Could I live with a young girl’s blood on my hands? I tried to be cold, told myself that yes I could, because they were savages, cannibals, and that they were planning to kill me. But tears still flooded my face.
    When the moment came, and Lara bent down to unlock me from the stake, I had to make my choice. I could dash out the door and away from the table, running into the cover of the wood before the adults would realise what had happened. When I was out of sight, I just had to run and run until they gave up looking. Then, they’d come back and…
    I imagined them tying little Lara to the wooden post out by the table, but it made my head spin. She loosened the rope around my ankles and the pole, leaving my wrists tightly looped together, and Lara held the end of the rope. “Come.” I didn’t move. Slipping my feet out from the bindings completely, I looked down at my hands. They had a family so loving and so devoted that they were willing to die to give everyone else a better chance at life. I couldn’t think of anyone in the whole of England who would do such a thing for me.
    Feelings of sadness made my chest heavy, and I almost let her drag me away to my death. But just as we moved past the leather door flap, my instincts kicked in and tugging the rope from her tiny hands, I ran.
    Low hanging branches whipped my face, my bound hands inadequate protection. But I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop until I reached the line of trees. The men weren’t too close behind, but I knew that they would find me if I ran. They lived here, they knew the area, and I was about as clumsy as a three legged horse, especially on such uneven ground. Spotting a tall bush, I edged my way in and stood still, crouched behind the dense leaves.
    The men ran past me with spears not a few seconds later, and I breathed a silent sigh of relief, although I thought perhaps my heart was beating hard enough for them to hear me, and tried to slow my panting. Every noise I made sounded as though it was booming, and each time I shivered with fear the leaves rustled and tears sprung to my eyes. They’d caught me once, what if I happened upon another of their unfortunately placed traps? Many of them were searching for me, and Lara’s father came so close that I could see his stern, angry eyes and note that they were pale grey. I held my breath as they walked slowly back towards me, hovering but a few feet from my hiding place. But eventually they returned to their feast, and I let loose a few tears of relief.
    I realised, when I became brave enough to look around, that if I stuck my head out a little I had a good view of their tables, and Lara’s face when her father arrived back without me. She looked torn, tears bringing out redness on her cheeks, but she wasn’t weeping loudly. I knew that she’d face it proudly, solemnly. It was an honour, she’d said.
    But that didn’t help the guilt. I thought about running over, telling them that I’d do it, just to see that little girl stop crying. But as I followed my feet away from the village, I knew I couldn’t do that. I had more important things to do, and I was a coward. I had my own family to worry about. The idea of that little girl never getting to see her new sibling couldn’t surpass the feeling of terror I felt at the prospect of never seeing my own flesh and blood again.
    I thought about Frank. I’d given up on our marriage and our baby boy, to explore the world looking for something great. It had taken me this long to realise that I’d left something even better behind.
    It was almost morning again when I slinked back into camp, and instead of irritation, the Christmas tree filled me with hope. Most of the workforce were still around the fire, and the musician stopped playing as I arrived.
    They were all looking at me blankly, but I flashed them a broad, knowing smile. “What say we go home and have ourselves a proper Christmas?”
  11. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Marmalade - A Claus for Concern

    Surrendering to the warm clutch of familiarity, Santa Claus, the itinerant benefactor of the North, melted into his lay-z-boy with a glass of thirty-year old Irish brandy, and let his heavy eyelids fall--the only destination now was comfort. There was more to do--there would be always--but that was tomorrow’s problem. The fulfilment of four hundred million or so children’s wishes in a single night entitled him to a few well-earned spoils, a little Me time.

    In the kitchen, Margaret bleated as she hacked at unsuspecting onions with a cleaver, filling the hazed air of violence with random acts of speech. Most of them Santa guessed were commands of some species--mandates from a higher power--which competed with the peal of lo-fi voices from the box; though he was happy to leave the wife and television blaring indiscriminately in the background while he gorged on Russian fudge.

    Christmas day was his one free day of the year, and that meant only a single day in which to alleviate the accumulated stresses of the previous three hundred and sixty four. Achieving this state of relaxation required a zen-like focus in the moment, and in that moment as little as possible would be accomplished: a deliberate and determined waste of time. It was an art form communicated with complete elimination of unnecessary thought or movement--a symphony of leisure punctuated by interludes of self-indulgence.

    He began with macaroons, licking off the coconut flakes with chameleon-like ejections of his tongue, moved on to butterscotch next, which were gooey rich and oozing caramel, and ended with Afghans that bordered on orgasmic. He stopped: breathing was necessary. Then, he filled his mouth with an entire slice of shortbread, just to see that he could. The brandy beckoned, so he took a deep swill, savouring the liquid through his entire body, let it work in its charm like the welcome routine of an old friend--one he could not do without.

    ‘Have you been listening?’ Margaret at the doorway. She still held the cleaver, wiped her eyes on the other sleeve.

    Santa’s lips pursed underneath his beard like two chillis on a bolus of white cotton. ‘Starting from when?’

    She ignored him: ‘No. As usual, you haven’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t still be sitting there in your work clothes. Oh, and look. You got chocolate all over your jacket. Don’t I tell you to wear a bib? It’s for a reason, you know. That’ll never come out. Not in a hundred washes. What do I say when you eat in the lounge, Nick? A thousand washes. What do I say? . . . Don’t just nod . . . Huh? . . . What was that? . . . No, I will not shut up. I don’t like nagging you either, so why do you make me do it? I’ve got a hundred things to do. I don’t have time for this. There are still vegetables to prep. Yams. Turnips. Celery. The flan has to cool. A thousand things. I have a whole turkey to cook, and you can’t even change your own pants! Is my misery entertaining you? Is this some kind of secret pleasure of yours, watching me stress and suffer--No! Don’t answer back. Not today, sonny. You may be a saint but don’t think I won’t give you a slap that’ll make you regret your very birth. Mark my words. Even the Lord our Saviour won’t be able to revive you--’

    She took in a deep breath, ready for round two. ‘And I don’t want a dead body lying around when the guests arrive, do you? . . . Eh? . . . What did you say? . . . Oh, ho ho. Very funny. So you’d rather be dead, would you? Well not today, mister comic. Not on Christmas day. I will not have any of these drunken shenanigans like last year. No, you clearly couldn’t care less, or you wouldn’t be sitting there with that look of indifference on your face, stuffing your gullet with food I spent all week preparing and which I made especially for our guests (which is now nearly all gone thanks to you), stubbornly intent on spending the entire day doing so--and without even the briefest of considerations for your wife to change into some decent clothes!’

    With the long sigh of inevitability, Santa knew it was not to be. For, in a way, Christmas was her special day, the one day in which she could shine.

    Her eyes welled with tears. Their whites were blood-shot. Was it her pride, or merely the onions?

    ‘I’m sorry?’ he said, rising tentatively as if the action were asking permission for itself. ‘It was a long night, Margaret. I haven’t slept yet.’

    He shrugged defenselessly. She tried to scowl but couldn’t. She knew he was right, that he had earnt every millisecond of his indolence.

    He said, ‘I’m getting changed. Right now. I’m walking to the door. See? In mere moments I will be in the bedroom.’

    ‘Hold it.’

    He was in mid-step. He turned his head reluctantly. ‘Yes?’

    A smile found its way across her mouth. ‘Wear the sweater I made you.’

    He nodded. ‘Of course.’


    Lunch was magnificent. A multifarious spread of all colour and aroma in nineteen separate dishes including candied yams, Scotch egg, poached halibut, vichyssoise, fried sourdough, smoked ham and shaved ham from the bone, devilled onions, angels on horseback, a sprightly green salad in three variations, chorizo with cracked peppercorns, bushels of fresh apricots, salsa verde mingling with capers, a twelve-inch pavlova a la creme fraiche--all supporting like an edible armada the prodigious, golden turkey at the centre.

    Over forty guests Margaret had invited this year--fewer than last, though still a logistical nightmare to a lesser individual--only thirty two were present, including twenty three elves clad in pointed hats and impossibly cute munchkin shoes. It was not only considered a privilege for an elf to be invited to the Claus’s for Christmas--more importantly, it gave him full and exclusive bragging rights. This Santa either denied or was unaware of. And of the hundred and twenty thousand full-time employees at the winter factory, a mere two dozen would be picked to attend the annual feast.

    Due to their nonpareil work ethic and to the inherent demands of the job, an elf’s career in Santa’s toy factory was short-lived. This meant the chances of actually meeting the titular Christmas himself were very slim.

    Many did their best to improve the odds, brown-nosing unabashedly or simply asking outright for an ‘invitation’. Either way, it made no difference. To Santa, it just wasn’t that big a deal. Frankly, after being cooped up in the factories three hundred and sixty four days of the year with the little buggers, he didn’t care who attended. But as it happened, the guest to his immediate left was one elf he relied on in many a difficult time, and one he cared for a great deal.

    ‘Jee Jee, my old pal,’ Santa said, leaning over the smaller figure like a portly Goliath. ‘So glad you could make it.'

    Jee Jee peered up through slender pince-nez and nodded. His smile was pure, and his childlike dimples seemed to counterpoint his haggard eyes; the only way to deal with the sheer immensity of his job was to laugh regularly. At least, that was how he did . . . .

    ‘You didn’t think I wasn’t going to come?’ the elf said.

    Santa shook his head. ‘Not for a minute.’

    The old man across the table, Margaret’s paternal cousin and sole living relative, Gerard, grinned and tapped his spoon on thin air, as if to crack an invisible egg.

    'Incidentally, Claus, what would you do if your dependable manager here were, say, overcome with fatigue and suffered a mental breakdown?’

    Margaret forced out a nervous laugh and gripped his hand. ‘Please, Gerard. No vulgarities today. And I don't want any business-related talk at the table.'

    Both men ignored her.

    ‘Well,’ Santa started, ‘truth be told, we would in all probability struggle the first few days. We have very little margin for error, timewise. One setback is one too many.’

    He bit a yam off his fork, turned to Jee Jee. ‘Our success turns on men--sorry--elves--like him. His loss would be a tremendous blow to the company and to me. I can honestly say that in all my hundred and sixty years in this position, Jee Jee is the finest and most professional individual I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.’

    There was a collective lawk from the other end of the table, gasps from little mouths. Num Num, a young parvenu from the lesser factory, looked up at the more experienced elf, at his loving eyes filled with an unfamiliar pride and, feeling the sudden weight of awe, made a mental promise to never forget this day, that he may cherish it for the sake of both posterity and his own future inspiration.

    Jee Jee opened his mouth, expecting of himself some profound speech in gratification. Instead, he could find only three words: ‘Thank you, Nick.’

    Margaret lowed mawkishly, and the others attempted to join in. Santa wanted none of it.

    ‘Come, come. No more sentiments. Let’s eat.’


    After the glut and felicitations as to a job well done, Margaret stretched out on the settee with Gerard and friends, unable to peel the epic grin of satisfaction from her face. She had wanted to speak longer with the younger elves, always keen to hear first-hand anecdotes of her husband and the workshop, but they proved somewhat frustrating in the context of grown-up conversation, skipping from one subject to another in desultory slews like the flight of hyperactive damselflies.

    Their attention span she discovered was better suited to Twister.

    In the living room, the girls had discovered the Claus’s catalogue of photo albums, and were sprawled on a deliciously soft rug of ptarmigan motif, reliving happy memories vicariously in front of a welcoming fire.

    Outside, it was dark, fiercely cold--the hibernating sun would not rouse from its arctic slumber for another three months. Santa shivered in his jacket as he crunched over the heavy snow. A blizzard is coming, he thought, hugging the bottle tightly. Tomorrow or the next day.

    Ignoring the elfish cachinnations from the kitchen, he whistled an impromptu melody as he strode to the stable, guided by his oil lamp and by the eternal lights above. He looked up to the zenith, to Polaris marking the True North.

    ‘Hello again, beautiful. We shall be seeing a lot more of each other. Alas, the only gift I can offer you is a little night music.’

    With that, he cleared his throat and soared into Mozart with operatic volume. He opened the stable doors, sharing his voice proudly with the magical reindeer, and wondered if the maestro would object his singing of this particular piece in the afternoon. Comet, Prancer, and Dasher cared little about the error, barking an atonal but enthusiastic accompaniment: a chorus of caribou. Blitzen detested the noise, stamped angrily on the floorboards in a zapateado of disapproval, while Rudolph snoozed peacefully unaware in the corner.

    ‘You all did incredibly well last night.'

    He poured a pailful of grain into the oak feedlot with several handfuls of smoked kelp for essential vitamins, into discrete sections so their antlers would not tangle.

    ‘And I know I say this every year,’ he said as the reindeer approached. ‘But there would be no Christmas without you.’

    All except Rudolph dove in to eat. It was not a stately scene like the feeding of horses--more wolf-like, a frenzied spectacle of gnashing and growling. They had a right to be a little cranky: circumnavigating the Earth was hungry work.

    ‘Eat up, now. Can’t have my animals starving. You’ve all earned a treat.’

    He put his head against the wall facing the house, peered through a crack to make sure nobody was watching. Confirming that there was not, he undid the top buttons of his jacket and withdrew the brandy.

    ‘And so have I.’


    Alone under the christmas tree, Jee Jee stared out the window at the stable and shook his head solemnly. Even today, he thought.

    Num Num emerged from the kitchen, sat next to him on the indented lay-z-boy. He said nothing, stared at him in quiet appraisal.

    ‘Please,’ Jee Jee said in a sighing tone. ‘Don’t just stare at me like that. He was exaggerating. I’m not the best. And he probably says that to all his managers.’

    Num Num simpered, like a kitten. ‘Even so, it is a nice gesture. I’d always hoped he would live up to his reputation, you know, jolly.’

    Jee Jee looked at the young elf for the first time, at his cerulean eyes glowing with humility and enterprise, at the whites as white as stratus. He smiled. Nice kid. A pleasure to work beside, no doubt. He tried to guess how many truths (if any) had affected him in a negative sense, stained his optimism a different colour; and he wondered if he had ever met a hero who had broken the secret promise of the reputation he bore.

    ‘Come to think of it,’ Num Num said. ‘Where is he? I should be so lucky if I could speak with him, even for a minute.’

    Jee Jee turned again to the window. ‘He’s . . . busy.’

    One hundred or so feet beyond, the stable was barely perceptible--a suggestion of an old shape in the darkness.

    Soon, it would surrender to time.
  12. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    BlueGreenYellow - Ruby Tuesday

    "Daddy, will you and Mommy ever be ready," a small voice called from across the hall. This was my daughter, my life, Ruby. She was patiently (at least for her) waiting for my wife and I to take her to her favorite store on her favorite day, Ruby Tuesdays.
    My wife, Natalie, eyed her with amusement. "Now, sweetie, let me get ready, if I don't do all this then Daddy wont love Mommy anymore," she said punctuating with a pouty face. Ruby covered her eyes and said no, she didn't want that and I promptly told her I would still love her mother. How couldn't I, although Natalie had never been sought after at our high school. I had always loved her, and it took her until college for her to realize this. We married and six years later we have Ruby, our four year old daughter, waiting impatiently to leave.
    "Alright Ruby, lets go to the bathroom so you can brush your teeth while Mommy gets ready," I said. Ruby nodded and walked off in that direction, I followed her getting a small wink from my wife.
    Ruby sat on the toliet lid waiting for me, I lifted her onto the sink and turned her to face the mirror.
    "Daddy will we get to the place soon," she said with a mouthful of toothpaste.
    "Sure, as long as you let me finish" I said with a chuckle. Soon Ruby was finished and she raced happily out of the bathroom to her own room. I went into the direction of my own room, as Natalie walked by me on her way to the bathroom.
    Going to Ruby Tuesdays, which Ruby affectionately called "the place" was something we started a year ago. Ruby had loved the name, and by default loved the day, personally I had hated Tuesday until now.
    We got in the car, strapping Ruby into her seat. Excitedly she hopped in her chair as we got in the front.
    "Mommy I'm going to get everything!" Natalie nodded and entertained Ruby's ideas as I drove us to the nearest one.
    I felt a wave of pain next, glass was all around me, and Natalie lay next to me.
    "Where"s Ruby?" Natalie's doe eyes scanned the area, with no hope. I felt the flood gates release, four years in the making come crashing down. But through the tears I saw it, a red dress.
    "RUBY!" I ran, I sprinted what was only a yard seemed miles. I ripped the door open to see her lying there, blood trickling down her leg.
    I could almost cry just thinking about what happened last night. And to think, Christmas is only a few days away and I had lost the main thing I had to celebrate for.
    "Daddy, why are you up so early?", but then again we've all heard of a Christmas miracle.
  13. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    FrailBeauty - 400 Days This Christmas

    Yet another year had gone by and I honestly didn't know where it went. There I stood in the family living room on Christmas day, facing the brightly lit tree my nephews and grandparents had put so much effort into decorating. I vaguely remember going through the motions of everyday life. I was facing the tree, looking at it, but I wasn't really there. Throughout that entire year my thoughts had been held captive elsewhere. Each day since you left I would relive our life together. I never did realize what I had until it was snatched away from me, and I'd been kicking myself for it ever since. I suddenly realized that it had been exactly 400 days since you left us. I'm not totally sure how I knew this. I vaguely remember keeping a calender and crossing off blocks, but I never understood why I did it. Until that very moment. 400 days. I hadn't seen, touched, spoken to... 400 days. I felt numb.

    I was about to sit down when I noticed that my mother had entered the room. She took her time and approached me slowly, almost as if I were in some sort of 'personal space' bubble that she didn't want to invade. I appreciated this. I knew how difficult it was for her to see me this way. How heart wrenching it was for her to not be holding me tightly right now, telling me that everything would be okay. She knew me though. Well enough to know that this was not what I wanted or needed. It would just be too much. I had been unable to get physically close to anyone since the day you left, not even family.

    Suddenly, I felt her break my invisible barrier and step closer to me. "This came in the mail today," she said. I took the letter. It was from you! Finally! Since you'd left I'd received five letters like this. 400 days and only five letters from you. I had tried to convince myself that this was just you trying to protect me from the harsh reality which you found yourself trapped in. The bombings. The many hideouts. The war. Still, my irrationality would creep in ever so often and plant seeds of doubt in my mind. "War changes people," my father had once said to me. He was a wise man, but a strict one. He and my mother had never truly been happy. Not since Vietnam. "You gotta brace yourself, Sweetheart. Johnny's comin' home alright, but he won't be the man you once knew and fell in love with. He'll be a changed man, a broken man. You're gonna have'ta nurse him back to health, and I ain't talkin' bout those scars on his skin either," father had said. I didn't want to believe it. I wanted to believe that what you and I shared would not break because of something like this. I was just a naive girl, still seeing you as her Prince Charming. "Please don't return to me as the stone hard Beast," I thought. I would not know what to do.

    I opened the letter.

    To My Dearest Tammy,

    I'm doing good and everything is going well here. As you know I'll be home for the entire summer this year. Gosh, all I can think about is taking you out in one of your lovely dresses for ice cream, or perhaps to the beach... It's what I want to think about all the time. It's what I want to write to you about. But I can't, Honey, I just can't. I'm a machine here, if I were anything else I'd be useless. Momma told me about your sadness. Sweet Cheeks, you can't turn into a machine too. I know you're out there fighting your very own war alongside with me, but you gotta let go. Momma said Christmas was especially rough last year. But this year is gonna be different, ya hear me? Baby, just try to enjoy it. The family loves ya and they're worried sick. I know my letters are always short and there's not nearly enough in 'em to keep you warm at night, but I swear it's only because I have to keep it together 'round here if I wanna survive. If I let go even for a second, kinda like I am doing right now, I expose myself to danger. I can't explain it to you right now, Darling. But I will some day. I'll be back. This summer. It's ours!

    Your Johnny

    I knew that war never stopped. But right then, right there in that small and cozy living room of my childhood home, it felt like it had. I held your letter close to my heart and I let the warmth from it seep into my chest. I was smiling. I looked at my dear aging mother. She was standing there shaking. So fragile, so broken. Seeing me break had hurt her too. More than she'd ever care to admit. Mother had felt it all. I embraced her. I held her close and told her that I loved her. In that moment, in that delicate portion of the hour that we both shared, we had a true celebration. We had our very own Christmas. One that I would relive for many years to come. One that I would one day tell my children about.

    No, war does not stop during Christmas, but mine did. And it only took one letter. It only took one single doze of you to make me realize that things were going to be okay and that it was not a sin for me to breathe without you. You set me free. For this I thank you. For this I love you even more.
  14. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Rousel - Laureola

    It was raining out when the UN transport dropped him off at the town line. Hefting his bag over his shoulder, he looks about at the mounds of rubble plaguing the once quiet surface of his pristine place of belonging. So much destruction occurred here; even the place he would get his ice cream in the summer was no longer. Most of the trees in the area are completely dead from fires once raging. Once his bearings are gathered, he begins the walk to his house on this day. Stepping over mounds of rubble and rock he catches sight of the center of his town. It is completely destroyed. The only structures standing are rock or concrete buildings that are scorched black by fire. A crow sounds above him as it sits in a dead oak.

    Completely in shock at the sight, he grows weak in the knees. Leaning up against a rock wall, he closes his eyes. A lonely tear runs down his aged, unshaven face to his chin. Soon that tear was no longer lonely. His eye lids fill with tears as he begins to see visions of the once warm and loving soul of his home town.
    An old man sits at a café drinking his coffee, reading a paper and some kids stroll by him on bicycles. Cars roll about with everyday traffic, even the play ground was teaming with the local youth. The sounds of life fill the late summer’s air. The sweet smell of the pie festival in the center of town makes his mouth water and tears intensify. All of this was of times past; those times are no longer upon him.

    As the warm vision of his town melts away so do his tears. Reality stings his senses as the visions of burned out buildings and hell fill his swollen eyes. Gaining the strength he gets up from the wall and walks down the main road into the town.

    Glancing down his road, he discovers that most of the buildings and houses here are intact despite the devastating aerial RCF bombings. Though many of the houses were windowless; glass blown out from the shock wave of the bombs that had dropped years ago. Seeing the condition of the houses and not seeing another living soul, his hope and only wish to see his family was nearly dead. Burned out cars line the north bound side of the road. Some cars remain in the driveways of the houses sitting there lonely; just as he is. Catching a glimpse of a familiar site his staggering walk turns into a slow trotting run.
    Arriving to the site of his memories; he places his hands on this large stone on next to a sidewalk. More memories flood his head of playing on this rock as a youth. More tears fill his eyes as the painful memory slices into his mind of scrapes this rock gave him growing up. A chuckle bounces its way up from his chest and into the quiet air.

    His eyes open all fogged with tears, he sees himself on the rock with his best friend, Jen. His heart skips as he blinks. Jen and his young self are washed away from reality like rain upon a windshield. It was just himself, right here; right now. Pinching the tears from his eyes he turns his head and gazes upon his old house.
    Standing at the mouth of the cracked pavement drive way, no tears form at his tired eyes as he looks upon his place of birth. Not quite as he had remembered it. All of the windows were blown out and sections of the roof are buckled under years of abandonment. A vehicle sits in the drive way. though it doesn’t look familiar and he can’t remember mention of a new car from the letters he had received from his mom and sisters. Looking to his right he notices the mail box on the dead lawn of his house. Upon the mailbox, the name Dockers was in white. Opening it he finds on letters and envelopes from companies and invoices to bills. Amongst the mail he finds a dirtied UNA letter sent home from a Corporal Ryan Talowski. Sitting down on the curb, he began to read the letter.

    “Hey mom, I got your last letter and sorry for not getting back too you sooner. Our unit has been re-deployed to the other side of the country and the fighting is bad. Ben was killed last night in a mortar strike. He didn’t make it to the fox hole we were sharing. I was forced to watch him die as I sat in the safety of the hole he dug. It’s been hard but this war is soon to be over. You’ll see! The will of the enemy is broken. The capital of this country is so close we can see its lights in the night sky when it’s not raining. I suspect we will be there before the New Year.”

    Stuffing the letter into his pocket he gets up from the cold curb he was just sitting on and walks to the front door. The door was unlocked and opened slowly because of the rusty hinges. The smell of mold smothers his nose upon entry. Turning on his flashlight, he looks into the cold rooms of this empty house. Memories enter his head of years passed. But things are not the same here. ‘Where is the green sofa that belongs in that corner?’ ‘Where are the paintings that hugged the wall tightly in the den?’ ‘Why does the mail box say Dockers when my last name is Talowski?’
    Stumbling his way up the stairs and down the hall to his old room, he pushes the door in and observes a nearly empty room with a soiled mattress on the floor in the corner. Dropping his bag, he staggers over to the mattress and collapses. Laying there the cold bites at his nose and fingers reminding him that he is alive, possibly more so then his family. Convinced his family had been killed in the bombings or some other attack on the UN state, he was all alone. His house was given to some other family to live in after his. This was more torturous then anything he had endured in his 6 years of war. 6 years of watching friends and brothers die, 6 years of watching the world fall apart in front of him, 6 years of hoping the next nuke dropped wasn’t on his home town. 6 years of longing to see his family just one more time.

    Corporal Ryan Talowski of the United Nations Armed Forces, 10 armored company slides into a deep sleep. Perhaps the deepest sleep he had ever been in since before birth. Perhaps the same as his conception prior. He wakes in his former house. All warm and healed from the life before. Getting up from his bed, he is dressed in his formal dress uniform. His jacket peppered with decorations and awards from years and years of fighting. There was a glow about his face end eyes of renewence. A smile comes about his face as he feels the warmth of the sunlight on his olive jacket. Warming his death chilled bones and soul; he leaves his room and walks down the stairs to be alerted to the sounds of music in the streets. Affixing his cap he runs to the door in excitement like a child at Christmas.
    The street was packed with people of the town and of people he had never seen before. Some were in uniform, some were in business suits. The people of the streets are singing and chanting “happy Laureola day!” and “Laureola! Laureola!” in just a jubilated sprit. The energy of the crowd is that of any atomic weapon tenfold. Corporal Talowski weeps in joy.

    “Ryan!” a voice floats from the crowd. The corporal looks about and sees his friend Ben Masters running to him. The two brothers in arms embrace and cry at the sight of each other. “Ben! I thought you…?” Ryan asks as his voice cracks to the memory of watching die out side of his fox hole. “Not here Ryan, we are alive here! Come on! They’re waiting in the hall!” Ben says as he pulls Ryan through the masses of people to the down the road. After bumping their way through the energetic crowed, the two soldiers stand in the shadow of the massive celebration hall.
    The hall before them stands tens of stories into the sky and reaches farther than the eye can scope. The hall doors are massive in make. Made of only the rarest materials known to man, the doors were open in such a manner where thousands would enter without struggle.

    The interior of this hall was lined with white marble and dark wood pillars. From the pillars, massive rafters studded with highly polished bolts hang suspended by their ends. From the studded adorned rafters, massive golden chandeliers hang 100 across and upon the golden chandeliers 300 bright white candles flicker with an awe inspiring glow.
    Under the chandeliers were rows upon rows of benches and table like seating. Even though every seat was taken, there was always room for one more. The tables were mounding with food from exotic places. Foods that haven’t been seen in years and some just discovered. A chalice sits in front of every person in the hall; sitting or standing, every one saluted this day with their cup raised high as the sun in the sky.
    The corporal looked about for his family and did not see them in the hall. Feeling that they were here, he began walking down the center most isles in search. A loud and commanding voice booms through the hall as Ryan searches, freezing him in his spot. The voice is warmly familiar, a voice he has heard many times before. From childhood to his darkest day in the field, he was familiar with this voice. It was the voice that gave him hope, and guided his hand in battle. It was then that he saw her. His mother gowned in all white and her father in a white suit trimmed with gold, sat at a table eating with his family. It was 5 years since he last saw them. His sister was not sitting at the table. With the largest smile upon his face, he loses himself at the sight and runs over to his lost family, his beloved family. His found family.
    It was here, on this day that they celebrated life and Laureola.
  15. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    JohnathanRS - The Phantom From Within

    Here in the town of Oakley, a small and secluded town, lies the basic definition of boring. The town is boring, the people are boring, the school is boring, and of course, Blake is boring. Blake, a sixteen year old high school student who attends West Hill High. His routine was very standard; go to school, go to football practice, come home, and sleep. Peaceful days; a normal and balanced high school life is what everyone wants. However, something was amiss. Blake had this problem--whenever he would sleep, he would have this reoccurring dream.

    “Help me.” a shadowy figure of a girl is seen in the distance.
    “Who are you?” Blake replies,
    “please......help me,” the figure repeats.

    There was nothing but a few trees that stood there, they did not move, they did not sway; everything was silent, too silent.
    Blake examined the girl, who was standing around fifty feet away. She had on a long white dress of some sorts; he couldn’t make out her face due to the darkness that engulfed it. The ground was soaked in a deep fog, yet even without a cloud in the sky, and the moon shining brightly, why....why, was darkness hiding her face?

    “Who are you?” he asks again.

    He knew something was wrong, but for some reason, he couldn’t do anything, as if frozen in place, his heartbeat was the only noise that he could hear, thump...thump, as it gradually grew faster, every hair on his body stood up, as if warning him, trying to tell him to run, run as fast as he could.

    A sinister laugh slowly broke his daze, as he looked up, breaking his mental image of his heart. His expression abruptly changed, the laugh was originating from the girl. He began focusing on the shadowy girl figure, as everything, like magic came into focus.

    "huuu" a quick gasp of air, as his chin dropped slightly. He could finally see the girls face, he started panting, his disbelief growing larger every second. The little girl had blood all over her face, and her eyes, they where dark circles, as cold as the moon itself, no expression, no life. She had long brown hair, and stood not even five feet tall.

    Blake took a step back, current suspended in an incredulity state.
    “What do you need help with?” he whimpers, as her face begins transforming, her eyes turning a dark red sapphire, as the blood on her face magically disappears. She smiles sinisterly.
    “...You can’t escape.”

    "huuu" as Blakes sits up, panting heavily, his environment coming into focus. He was lying in his bed; it was nothing but a dream. He let out a sigh of relief, running his fingers threw his hair as he laid back down. He began staring up at the ceiling, unable to sleep, as he tried to calm his rapidly beating heartbeat.
    “Why do I keep having that dream?” glancing over at the clock. It was 2:33am, “happy birthday” he whispered; he was now 17 years old.

    Later in the day Blake went to school, as normal, luckily it was a Friday. Mr. Tashin, one of his teachers gave him a pop quiz in 3rd period, and lunch was especially bad.

    “Wow”, proclaimed Katie on the bus ride home, whom was sitting to his left.
    “Happy Birthday, I am looking forward to the party tonight.”
    “Thanks,” Blake replied as he stared outside the window
    “It’s cool that your birthday is today, they are having a festival at grand national park, there’s going to be fireworks, you’re so lucky!” Katie smiled, as she looked away.

    Blake glances over. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans with a regular t-shirt. She was of British descent, and was quite slim and well developed, her hair, being a light darkish brown, with hazelnut brown eyes. Blake and Katie knew each other sense middle school, seeing how they lived close to each other. Although, it was weird that she was riding the bus home today, she was part of the swimming team, and usually stayed over at the gym.

    “Are the others coming too?” Blake asked.
    Katie turned towards Blake, “Oh you mean Rica and Ashley?” Blake nodded. “Yeah their coming, just about everyone is.”
    “Oh, I see, cool” not being able to focus, his mind wandering on the scenery outside.

    After the bus ride, he immediately headed towards his room, deciding a change of clothes was in order.

    Time flew, as he finished getting ready. He was wearing a pair of long jean shorts, with a black shirt and plain black baseball cap. Taking a final look in the mirror, he headed out the door.

    “Mom, I’m going to bike over there, I’ll see you there.”
    “Okay dear, meet us at the regular spot at 6 pm”
    “Alright,” as Blake left his house closing the door behind him. He hopped on his bike, and began peddling towards the park, gazing up towards the sky. It was a bright and sunny day, and not a rain cloud was in sight. The wind felt nice as he peddled onto the street. The road was rather wide, and traffic was limited on this particular route. In the distance, rural houses could be seen, on the right, a plain grassy field with a few particular trees that seemed out of place. On the left, a neighborhood of victoria and duplex houses. A sign slowly crept up, as he continued his basic pace, the sign was quite withered, paint chips and cracks seemed to embody it, the words "3rd Halsberg Cove" was barely recognizable. Making a right turn at the sign, he quickly slammed on the breaks. He was panting for some reason, but wasn’t sure why. This was a routine trip, it was only two miles, and he was in good shape. For some strange reason, he was mentally disturbed, as if something was magically draining his energy. Looking down at his hands, they were shaking.

    He slowly inhaled as he closed his eyes, exhaling as he re-opened them. He took his hat off, running his hand threw his hair. His eyes slowly drifting upwards; as he placed his hat back on, letting out a large sigh of relief as he managed to catch his breath. "how weird" he thought, as he continued peddling towards the park. In the distance, a familiar area was approaching. It was a basic grassy hillside that sloped downwards in a forty-five degree angle. At the bottom, a river bank was seen, forty feet wide, although unknown on the waters depth. He quickly detoured off the main road, as he peddled closer to the spot, coming to a halt upon arrival. He hopped off his bike, and sprawled on top of the grass. The grass felt comfortable, as he laid down starring up at the sky while achieving a full body stretch. He enjoyed watching the clouds slowly drift by as he tried to form some mental image of each shape. At times he would glance at his watch, until 5:45 came around. Time moved forward as he yawned glancing at his watch for the 10th time; it read 5:44 pm, jumping up to his feet, he hopped back on his bike, and began heading towards the park once more.

    Finally arriving, he saw his group all awaiting his arrival in the distance, his mother, Heather, waving to him. Blake quickly locked up his bike at a nearby bike rack, as he shoved his hands in his pockets, while he walked quickly towards them.

    “Here he comes, now everybody” Heather yelled, “Happy Birthday” the group said out loud as everyone clapped, random shouts of joy heard throughout the crowd of people.

    Suddenly, Blake stopped right in front of the group, as his eyes widened, looking across the nearby street; his chin, slowly dropped, as he made a small squealing sound. “It can’t be” he whispers, as he looks over to see a little girl wearing a dress. Heather, curious by her son’s expression, followed his glance “Oh, Clare, come over here” she yells.

    The little girl begins walking over, as his heartbeat continues to rise rapidly with every step. “Blake...Blake.......BLAKE” Heather exclaims, as he manages to break his daze from the approaching girl. “What’s the matter?” she asks, as his eyes continued to dash from her to the approaching girl.

    She pauses, “Are you feeling alright dear?”

    He slowly turns to the little girl in a scared state.
    “Hello brother, happy birthday,” as she smiles leaping forward and hugging him. She whispers into his ear, “I told you last night,...you can’t escape” slightly chuckling “Enjoy the celebration, dear brother” as she secretly licks his ear.

    Heather smiles, "Ah, how cute, such a loving sister."

    Blake slowly turns to face his mother, while embracing the little girl, a look of pure dread on his face,

    “what are you talking about.......I don’t have a little sister.”

    The town of Oakley is quite boring, school was boring, the people are boring, even Blake was boring, well...at least until she showed up.
  16. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    April wilson - Santa please help....

    Where is Christmas if it isn’t in the hearts of those you love? When your Christmas tree becomes shorter each year, and the magic of Santa and candy canes fade with the colour of the Christmas decorations. When important things like how big your presents are or how you plan to catch Santa out this year, are replaced with how much loading you earn if you do overtime on Christmas day and will this help you avoid Christmas dinner with the rellies, It is difficult to capture the spirit, the spirit of Christmas, of giving and receiving. Words come to mind like joy and good cheer, right alongside buy one and get one free, fifteen percent off all store items.
    So I ask myself, where is my Christmas cheer. Where are those who I love? Well, I loved my Dad when I was growing up, as most kids do. One year he had an accident and left us, two days before Christmas. I lost Christmas that year. Ten years later I got married and lost my wife, in childbirth, two days before Christmas. I lost Christmas that year.
    Last year my daughter turned seven and this is the story of how she helped me find Christmas.
    Three weeks before Christmas and Jenny explains...
    “Daddy, I want a really big stocking this year.... filled with presents. I have a list of presents right here...”

    She pulled out a piece of notebook with a list of presents that were most unlikely choices. The list read...
    A large bag of peanuts
    Three picnic blankets
    A box of tissues
    Some drawing crayons and paper
    A tin of dog food
    The newspaper
    And some bacon and eggs.
    Some marbles (one bag)

    I read the list and pushed it in my pocket. And really didn’t pay mind to what I thought was just silliness from my seven year old. The following week I was surprised to find the same list, rewritten in crayon on my dresser. Signed please Daddy, love Jenny.

    I was mildly curious but too busy and important to bother; I gathered that the presents that would be arriving on Christmas Eve would be more appropriate for her than the list of presents that she had requested.
    Two days before Christmas I find a letter under the tree addressed to Santa. The letter read.

    Dear Santa

    You are my last hope; I really need you this Christmas. I don’t have a mum. My Dad is a really busy man, he is very big and important and he doesn’t have time to buy the presents on my list this year. I have asked him. I think there is someone who you can’t afford to miss this year. My friend at school has a family and they are having trouble.
    I found her crying in the playground. she told me it was because her mum said that her father has lost his marbles, that he is three blankets short of a picnic, and she hates him because he never feeds the dog. Then they argued a lot and he said that he would feed the dog if she remembered to buy the bloody dog food and that everything would be just great if he got bacon and eggs for breakfast once in a while, and was allowed to read the newspaper in peace.
    My friend said, her mother said, she was sick of working for peanuts, and she was going to quit her job, only to stay home and make bacon and eggs all day. To which he told her that perhaps she would be happier now if she had had a box of crayons to play with when she was younger.
    As you can imagine my friend was extremely upset, but I think we can fix this for her for Christmas if we just.
    Replace the marbles that were lost (Some marbles (one bag)) give him plenty of blankets so he can have a Christmas picnic (Three picnic blankets)buy a tin of dog food, so he can feed the dog and she will love him again, tissues to wipe up the mess when the food gets bloody, bacon and eggs so she can make him breakfast, a newspaper so he can find peace, peanuts that she doesn’t have to work for so she won’t quit her job and box of crayons and paper so she can be happy now and they can all have a merry Christmas.

    I know you will agree that this is urgent. Thank you and merry Christmas
    Love Jenny. Xxx
  17. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Chudz - Second Jump

    The drone of the Cessna, the stark light of day, the dizzying altitude, they were all different than the last time Harold Lutz II jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. Putting those thoughts aside, he leaned forward on the signal—connected to the tandem master—and they were out the door of the aircraft.

    Gravity swallowed them in a roaring of wind as Harold viewed the patchwork landscape below. Then he sensed movement above, as Robert, the tandem master, released the drogue chute that would slow their descent. Off to their left, another body plunged with them, filming the jump for posterity.

    They fell for what seemed like ages to Harold, before Robert waved off the photographer and pulled the ripcord. When the canopy cracked open, jerking both of them upright, Harold was sent spiraling into the past.

    He found himself braced in the open doorway of a Douglas C-47 as it rumbled through the darkness some six-hundred feet above the ground. Though, with the partly-cloudy sky, it was tough for eighteen-year-old Harold to determine exactly where the ground was. In truth, he was more concerned about the orange blossoms of enemy flak that were tearing up the sky in the distance. Thankfully, though, the sky around Harold's plane remained quiet. And when the green light over the door signaled it was time to jump, Harold leapt into the abyss.

    The static line deployed Harold's parachute, and he was jerked upright a second later. His training kicked in at that point, and his gaze swept upward to see a fully inflated canopy. Not that checking would really do him any good from this low altitude, he thought. As the noise of the wind faded, the drone of countless aircraft engines came to the fore. And he began to shiver, not entirely from the cool weather either, because he knew the Germans were hearing the same thing.

    Harold flashed back to the present, and he found the world spread out below him in all its glory. There was a degree of serenity as he drifted ever downward. And Harold smiled, thinking about how his children and grandchildren thought he was absolutely crazy for doing this, while his great-grandchildren had decided that he was totally cool. But none of them realized that this was nothing compared to the last time, for he'd never spoken about his time in the service to any of them.

    Once again, memories from over sixty years ago welled up, engulfing him. And Harold found himself back amidst the uncertainly of that night. He broke out in a sweat as sinuous arcs of tracer fire drifted up toward him and the others. He was spared, but some of the others weren't so lucky, including one of his good friends. He wouldn't know what happened to Tommy until much later.

    The jump itself lasted less than a minute, but it seemed like an hour before Harold hit the ground. He landed awkwardly in the darkness, managing to sprain his right ankle in the process. But he was soon up, adrenaline masking the pain of his injury. Once he was set, he headed into the chaos of the night.

    The present once again caught Harold, and he glimpsed a grassy field rising up to meet him. As expected, Robert brought them in for an easy landing. And soon Harold was standing on his own, a brilliant smile creasing his weathered face.

    It had taken sixty-six years, but he'd finally done it. Too bad Marjorie wasn't here to see it, he thought. But he felt she was watching from somewhere. A commotion caught his attention, and Harold looked up to see the members of his family spilling across the field toward him. Soon, he would be swept up in their warm congratulations, and the day would become a celebration. A single tear of happiness rolled down his wrinkled cheek as he decided to open up about his short time in the war. Then he headed off to meet them.
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