A Christmas Story

The year was 1971. It was Christmas. Patricia was 19 years old, fresh out of high school and going to college in her hometown. The last year and a half had been painful for her, but she was traveling to her grandparent’s farm with her parents for the Christmas holiday. Because of the loss she had suffered and the way she had suffered it, she didn’t have much Christmas spirit that year. The trip wasn’t long, but she hadn’t wanted to go. 

Even though it was winter, the farm that her grandparent’s owned and still worked was beautiful. Stark, though in the summer it was lush and productive. Stark fit Patricia’s mood.  She’d felt stripped bare ever since “the incident” as her mother called it. Not only had Patricia felt stripped bare for the world to see, she’d felt lonely, afraid, and stupid, even amidst her friends at college. Since “the incident,” her mother had been more solicitous than usual, but her father, who she loved so much, had been distant and angry. It was decades later when Patricia finally understood that he wasn’t angry at her.

Patricia’s grandparents were getting old. They were still vital, particularly her grandmother. Her grandfather had been ill and was visibly slowing down. They were starting to sell some of the farm and its assets, knowing they couldn’t keep it up there for much longer. The parts Patricia loved were still intact. Once they arrived, Patricia realized she was glad to be there. She felt wrapped in a warm cocoon when she was with her grandfather.

Her dad was going to spend his time there fixing things around the farm that needed repair. Her mother was going to help her grandmother prepare Christmas dinner for the other family members who were coming on Christmas Day. Patricia had orders to read, study for her classes, and try to rest. They were all looking forward to the arrival of the babies on Christmas Day. Two of her mother’s sisters had little girls born in the same year. They were now six years old. Patricia couldn’t wait to see them. She couldn’t have loved them more if they had been her own.

Patricia awakened early on her first morning at the farm. She went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and found her grandfather dressed and sitting at the kitchen table. He was ready to go milk the two remaining dairy cows. When she sat down at the table, he asked her if she’d like to go with him, as she had when she was a little girl. She quickly said yes and he told her to go put on warm clothes because they might be a while.

Her grandfather grabbed his walking stick and they started toward the barn. He didn’t move as quickly or easily as she remembered, but she walked along beside him. He talked about farm-related issues and asked her if she wanted to try to milk one of the cows like she had in the past. He teased her about it and she said she would. She had never been good at milking. They pulled up side by side stools by the cows and Patricia tried to milk, but her hands just weren’t strong enough. Her grandfather laughed and quickly milked both cows.

As they left the barn, he stopped, turned, and looked up the steep hill behind the barn. He looked at Patricia, now almost grown, and asked if she would like to take a walk. He told her there might still be some hickory nuts on the ground for them to gather. Since she was a child, her grandfather had always sent her a letter when the hickory nuts were falling. She jumped at this chance to go with him, but she knew that climbing that hill would be hard for him now. She let him take the lead.

As they walked, Patricia’s grandfather talked to her. About life’s disappointments and hardships. About how she should hold her head high and never let them get her down. He told her to be proud of her roots. To get her education. To make him as proud of her in the future as he’d been in the past. All the while, he was breathing hard, struggling to climb that hill. When they reached the top, he rested against a tree and gave her a pail in which to put the hickory nuts. They would feed them to his two remaining pigs.

Patricia worked hard gathering those nuts while listening to her grandfather. He talked about his view of the world. How he wanted her to do well not only personally, but also for the world. He wanted her to never compromise her values. She heard every word he said and took those words to heart. Somehow she knew they were having a very important conversation.

As they started down the hill toward the house, she felt the burden of the last two years lifting off her shoulders. She felt better than she had in a long time. When they got back to the house, he went into his bedroom and said he was going to rest. He took a long nap. His morning with her had taken all of his energy. 

The next morning, the babies arrived and Patricia kept the two beautiful, blonde little girls entertained while dinner was being prepared. They were her little cousins and she adored them. Other family members arrived and the big family had a wonderful Christmas dinner at the long dining room table. The children all sat at tables prepared for them in the living room. The wonderful southern cooking and the love in that family was something she would remember all of her life. 

Patricia and her parents left for home the next day. She hated leaving the farm, her grandparents, and the babies. Her grandfather had given her the most important gift of all that Christmas. His wisdom and words of love. She went home stronger and she could hold her head up high. 

By The Sea

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When he happened upon the village, he had been traveling for a long time. Wandering from place to place. He stopped in the small restaurant for some dinner and that’s when he saw it. There was a sign advertising a position for a lighthouse keeper. His breath caught in his throat. He had worked as a lighthouse keeper many times in his life. Those were the only times he had been a good person. When he had a connection to the sea.

He called the number on the sign. There was a small room he could live in at the bottom of the lighthouse. It had been standing empty for a while now. Workmen came to set its light. He moved in the few things that he had.

That night, he went about the business of calibrating the light. An image came into the path of the light and he realized it was a large ship sailing too close to the coast. When the light began to work, he watched as the ship steered away from the coastline.

He sighed with relief. This Christmas he had done a good deed. Unlike so many Christmas’s in the past.

 

*Thanks to Susan Spaulding and #SundayPhotoFiction

 

 

Mashed Potato Surprise

The family sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. She had cooked quite a dinner and he had helped. Everyone was at the table and they were both carrying the dishes of food to the table when she heard a crash. She turned around and he had dropped a large bowl of mashed potatoes on the floor, splattering them everywhere. They were everyone’s favorite dish.

He smiled, walked to the table, and pointed his finger. A lightning bolt appeared and at the end, a large bowl of mashed potatoes.

She said, “Hmm, so why have I bothered cooking all these years?”

 

Thanks to Charli at the Carrot Ranch

 

 

The Abstraction

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The old man had entered the contest for wood sculpting six months ago. Now, at the deadline, it was finished. As the crowd walked by and viewed his creation, they remarked that he should not have carved a living tree. His vision wouldn’t have worked on a dead one.

As more people viewed it, he wondered if the world had forgotten abstract art. Did everything have to be realism? He got angrier by the minute at their criticisms and tried to explain abstraction.

He got angry and threw his ax in the middle of the tree.

He won the award.

 

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and Friday Fictioneers!

 

Haunted

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“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” That old quote popped into her head at 4 a.m. It wouldn’t be daylight soon this morning since the Earth was spinning toward the shortest day of the year. She was still awake at this ungodly hour, as she often was, yearning for the light.

She couldn’t sleep until it was daylight. The old dreams, the terrible dreams of her childhood, haunted her, and she knew she couldn’t sleep until dawn when they would subside. She remembered them when she awoke, screaming, but only for a few seconds. Only the light chased them away.

 

Thanks to Charli and the CarrotRanch!

One-Way Glass

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Doors to her were only a symbol. They had always kept her out, excluded her. From the time she was a child, she’d felt like she was on the outside looking in. She wondered if that clear blue pane would allow her to see inside. No doubt it was one-way glass. Doors were always one-way.

Since she’d become an adult and developed courage, she’d insisted on being allowed into the doors she thought were important to her. A difficult door had been to her career. It was not a career particularly open to women in those days. She had to push her way, kicking and screaming through that closed and locked door. It disillusioned her. During her career, she had to knock down one door after another.

Now she found herself fighting against the most difficult door of all. Time and age. This time, she wanted to stay on this side of that door, but she was being pulled toward it by an irresistible force. She didn’t want to go.

170 words

 

Thanks to Priceless Joy and Jade M. Wong for the photo prompt.

Beached

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Do you know what it feels like to be drowning? Not to be able to catch your breathe? It feels like you’re a fish out of water. Flopping on the shoreline. Gasping. Choking. Even if you manage to wriggle your way back to water, it hurts to breathe. You can’t swim very powerfully.

It feels like it does when your beloved leaves you and you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. You can’t catch your breath for a few seconds. Even when you finally do, it comes in short, hard gasps. You might take a few steps, but you grab at your stomach. Overcome with pain. Bending over as if that will help.

Some people are like wolves or bald eagles or penguins. They mate for life. If their mate is gone, they find their way alone. Lonely, but with their memories. Occasionally gasping for breath like the beached fish. You may see them walking along the beach and if they raise their head, you’ll see the pain shining out of their eyes.

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Thanks to Priceless Joy and to Jodi McKinney for the photo prompt.

 

The Bend in the Road

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Richard looked at the steering wheel in his hands and felt fear.

He drove fast. He had to get away, but he reflected on his surroundings. He had always loved this highway with its view of the ocean. Now it was a place where he felt trepidation.

Richard kept looking in his rear view mirror. He saw something in the distance. He recognized Arnold’s car. Arnold was a vengeful coward with a fragile ego and muscles the size of softballs.

Arnold was a sociopath. A mean, whisky drinking liar who tried to con everyone he knew. His friends saw him as a fun, nice man, but he wasn’t.

Arnold was behind him now, swerving and trying to run him off the road. Richard knew he might as well pull over. He got out of the car.

Arnold bellowed, “You owe me money. Time to pay up!”

Richard could tell he was drunk. Arnold came running at him, swinging his fists. Richard was ready for him, standing at the side of the road. As Arnold reached him, swinging and yelling, Richard stepped aside. He stepped the wrong way. Right over the edge of the cliff. Arnold ran right into Richard’s car.

200 words

*Thanks to Susan and Anurag Bakhshi for photo prompt!

 

 

 

Pillars – #writephoto

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She walked among the pillars of the old building on the monastery grounds to gather her thoughts. She found it cool and serene here. Many things had gone wrong in her life recently. Not only in her life, but in the lives of some of her friends and family. She touched the cold, gray marble of one of the pillars in the colonnade and she felt a frisson of emotion. She yanked her hand away. It was exciting and frightening. Slowly, she touched the pillar again. The same emotion overcame her. She felt strength. Through her mind and body, she was flooded with the strength to meet her problems head on. She didn’t want to take her hand away, but she finally did. The strength to fight on remained.

She walked to another pillar and touched it. She was shocked with the emotion of hope. Hopelessness about her life had permeated her world for so long that she had forgotten what it felt like to feel hopeful. She felt strong and hopeful. Ready to tackle the problems in her life.

She had to touch another pillar. She could not imagine that it would cause any further emotion in her. Strength and hopefulness had already been granted to her. She touched the pillar. A sense of worthiness flooded through her. She had felt unworthy to tackle her problems. To even live her life. For years now, she had felt no self-worth at all and, by touching this pillar, that changed. It gave her great relief and made her feel that not only could she solve her problems, but she was worth the life she was living.

After she caught her breath and composed herself, she decided to try touching only one more pillar. She walked to one near the front of the colonnade and put her hand on it. She smiled and the smile got bigger as she left her hand on the pillar. She felt gratitude. She was grateful she was alive. Alive to live the life she had been given.

Strength, hope, worthiness, and gratitude. The pillars in the colonnade at the monastery gave her those things that day. She asked herself whether it was real or not. Did they give her those things? Or was she just ready to feel them on her own?

She’ll never know.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the great photo prompt!

Don’t You Love Me?

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”I thought we came to the Beach Bar to have a drink and then go parasailing, Michael? We haven’t even made it to the bar. You captured me way out here,” Gale exclaimed.

”C’mon, honey. I’ve missed you all day,” Michael said as he tried to steal a few kisses.

”Later, Michael. I’m thirsty for a beer and I really want to do some parasailing this afternoon,” Gale said as she pushed against Michael’s chest.

She pushed away and Michael turned away. With his back to her, he said, “Honey, don’t you love me?”

”Michael, don’t you even use that line on me,” Gale said.

Michael turned around grinning and grabbed her, kissing her again.

”Do we really have to go parasailing today, Gale? Let’s have one beer and then go to my apartment.”

”I know when I’ve lost an argument,” she said and started walked toward the bar.

Michael didn’t know that, once she made it to the bar, she wasn’t going anywhere with him after this.

168 words

 

Thanks to Priceless Joy and Michelle DeAngelis for the photo prompt.