He Quit Before Christmas by Holly Geely – Day 24 Advent 2017, 4th Sunday of Advent

He Quit Before Christmas by Holly Geely

Day 24 Advent 2017, 4th Sunday of Advent

“Your contract requires two weeks’ notice. You can’t leave tonight,” Santa said.

“I can, and I will,” Donner said.

“It’s Christmas Eve. We need you here.”

“My flight is booked.”

“We don’t have an airport.”

“Yeah, I booked myself. I’m done with this job. I’m done with you.”

“How can you say that?”

“As if you don’t know! I’ve stayed through some rotten curveballs. You promoted Rudolph over me, even though I have the most seniority. Fine, I can handle that. You cut out Christmas bonuses so you could afford to install that hot tub. The others complained, but I never said a word. I literally worked my tail off for you – my butt’s never going to look the same – and you’ve never once thanked me.”

“Donner – ”

“You’ve changed my name from Dunder to Donner and back again so many times I can’t even keep track. You consistently eat all the carrots the kids put out for me. Everyone else gets their carrots, but you come out of those houses and you go, oh sorry donner there’s only eight carrots. Guess there’s none for you!”

“I never…”

“I’ve had enough.”

“Where will you go? You’re a talking and flying reindeer. You don’t blend in.”

“That’s another thing I hate about working for you. You’re so tactless.”

“Think of the sad little children with no gifts on Christmas day.”

“You used an eight-deer team before Rudolph came along. You can do it again.”

“It won’t be the same without you, Donner. Is there some way I can convince you to stay?”

“Nothing comes to mind.”

“Money? A promotion? I’ll do anything, Donner.”

“Anything?”

“Anything.”

 

“And that’s why I’m hitched to the sleigh and Donner’s inside delivering your presents,” Santa said.

“Wow,” said little Billy. He had climbed onto the roof when he heard a loud thump. At six, he was familiar with the poem, and had expected a clatter.

“Now run along back to your room, son, before your parents find you up here and sue me for child endangerment,” Santa said.

“Okay.”

“And tell Donner this has gone on long enough. He’s being ridiculous.”

“You deserve it,” said little Billy. He tossed a snowball at Santa’s head and retreated back to his room.

The reindeer laughed.

 

“Well, what do you know? There were only eight carrots. I guess there were no carrots for you,” Donner said.

“We’ve been to eighty thousand homes. Is that ever going to get old?” Santa said.

“Nope,” Donner said.

 

And they heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight,

“Your employees hold grudges, so you’d best treat ‘em right!”


This is Holly’s second post in this year’s advent calendar, find her poem “Midwinter” here.

Holly Geely likes Christmas so much she dedicated her right arm to it (in the form of a tattoo). You can find her ramblings, short stories, and links to other works at hollygeely.com.

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Christmas… as an Agnostic by Melanie Noell Bernard – Day 22 Advent 2017

Christmas… as an Agnostic by Melanie Noell Bernard

Day 22 Advent 2017

 

Like many children, I was raised in my parents’ religion. For me, this meant going to a Presbyterian church once a week on Sunday (or trying. Sometimes life is a little busy.) But I was expected to get up earlier than I wanted, put on nice clothes to appear presentable, and head to church with my parents and older brother. However, my Christian-upbringing was a bit unorthodox.

I have never read the bible. I stopped going to Sunday school as soon as my parents would let me just so I could sit quietly (and impatiently) in service with them. (I was that person drawing on the bulletin during service… Oops.) No one ever really explained the bible verses to me or that there were two testaments. I had no idea who the apostles were. I can’t recount the ten commandments. Despite having been in church my entire life, I had no idea what I was doing there.

Maybe that is the reason (or perhaps it’s my scientific nature striving for proof), but I never really believed. Not to say I didn’t try. Many nights I would pray before bed, asking for a sign, and not getting one. Of course, that’s because you’re not supposed to base it on proof. You are supposed to believe in God without proof and live your life as a good person based on your faith. Unfortunately, the older I became, the more I realized I didn’t actually believe and no matter how much I tried and how much I prayed, believing is harder than you think. As such, over this past year, I finally told my family… I am Agnostic.

To be quite honest, this was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever told my family. Why? I’m not sure. I was finally being true to who I am, but I think there was this worry of disappointing my family if I admit to not believing what they believe. There was this fear of separation or disapproval from them. Funny thing is, none of them even flinched. I had gotten all worked up, spent nearly two years hiding it, only for it to not be a big deal. And life goes on, but to say nothing has changed would be a lie. Things have changed, namely around Christian holidays like Christmas.

Christmas was always the time of year when everyone is preparing and busy and decorating. My family had plenty of traditions for the season. We promptly got our tree the day after (American) Thanksgiving (the first day the tree farm opened). After cutting it down, sipping on hot cocoa and petting reindeer, we would spend the rest of the day decorating the tree and playing Christmas music. My dad would hang lights outside and make a fake tree out of lights on a table that looked really cool at night. My mom would move all the ornaments I hung on the tree to another location and my brother would help her. (I’m not really the artsy one in the family. Hee hee!) We would spend the rest of the month buying and wrapping presents and planning Christmas dinner with a ham and potatoes and all the other yummy goodies. Then came time for Church on Christmas Eve.

This was one of two times a year when everyone (even the non-Church goers) would show up to the one of three services offered on Christmas Eve and listen to the story of Jesus’ birth and sing songs. The only lights during the last song, Silent Night, were candles being held by each of the church-goers filling the pews. I always remember the wax dripping down onto my fingers despite the little white paper that’s supposed to catch it, trying not to wince and keep singing as beautifully as I could (though I’m not really that great. Hahaha!), praying someone (or myself) would NOT light my hair on fire. Then, the song ends, everyone blows out their candles and files silently out of the church just after midnight to head home and go to sleep and wait for Santa to deliver presents. However, this isn’t the way it happens anymore.

Despite being back in my hometown near my parents, I don’t go to church. My brother lives in another state. My parents are divorced. I am Agnostic, and this last piece is the most drastic change of all.

Even as my mother still goes to church and has invited me to go to Christmas Eve service and join her and her church for dinner (aka lunch) on Christmas Day, I’m not sure I should go. I haven’t even put up Christmas decorations this year (nor last year) and anything related to the Christmas season feels… off. I feel like a poser for trying because it’s technically not my religion anymore. That’s not to say I don’t want to spend time with my family, or eat good food, or just bask in the joy and splendor of the holidays, but… I’m just not sure I belong.

What’s more, I’m worried about going to a Christmas service or dinner and having people presume I’m religious or presume I know things about the bible and practice the faith or ask me when I’m coming back to church. I don’t want to partake in something when I don’t fully believe in the very basis of what they are celebrating.

Were it just my family, waking up around a well-lit, gorgeously decorated tree with some snow on the ground and a warm, crackling fire to enjoy, I wouldn’t have a problem. There are no religious obligations behind a nice decoration or enjoying the company of one’s family, but going to church when I have finally been honest with myself about not being part of the church, feels like I am being dishonest to the people who are religious and who do go to church, but mostly it feels like I am being dishonest with myself. I spent too much of my life being afraid of admitting my religious beliefs. I should not have to explain them to anyone and I do not want to pretend again, even for one more day, that I still believe in the Christian God.

 


Melanie Noell Bernard is a graduate student who explores the blueprint for life: genes. Her scientific background is the inspiration for many of her stories. When she’s not honing her writing craft or researching in the lab, she’s reviewing books and hosting literary discussions on her blog, MNBernard Books.

Twitter: @NoellBernard
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melanienoellbernard/
Blog: https://mnbernardbooks.wordpress.com

The Magic and Curse of Christmas by Angela Guidolin – Day 21 Advent 2017

The Magic and Curse of Christmas by Angela Guidolin

Day 21 Advent 2017

When I was a child in the ’70, my parents had just started their own ice-cream business. To me, it meant not seeing much of them, having a few toys to play with (that sometimes my mum was forced to give as a present to other children if we were invited to social events like their First Communion for example), and clothes handed down from older cousins.

Christmas Day was a rare occasion to celebrate, and the anticipation for the family reunion and the chance to play with my cousins filled me with joy. Not to mention the expectations for the gifts I would find under the Christmas tree at my granny’s! However, delusion would quickly set in as my presents came always with the caveat, “For today and for your birthday but it’s so big!”

Yes, I am one of the lucky people who was born on 31st December. To add insult to injury, usually there would be just a birthday cake for me, but no party, because my guests’ parents would be too busy getting ready for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Growing up, I’d celebrate my birthday with my friends in mid-December or on the 31st, but eventually I stopped altogether because I’m always 28, you see.

I’m sorry I’ve digressed. Let’s go back to Christmas. During the festivities we used to enjoy visiting the various Nativities displayed in nearby churches, farms and schools. Some would be small and made with simple materials, others elaborate and covering a huge surface.

Another family tradition used to take place at the Sunday market, where we loved to drink the hot chocolate (or the mulled wine when I was much older), sold for a small price by a local charity, near a gigantic Christmas tree, listening to the Christmas carols spread all over the town centre via loudspeakers.

The magic of Christmas disappeared for me when at 18 I walked out of the Catholic Church and became an atheist. That was a revolutionary act in a small Italian village 30 years ago.

Many years later, I was living in France and pregnant with my only daughter. She was due on the 26th December. Yes, 26th December! No, I couldn’t let that happen her to her too. The curse of half presents for Christmas and half for birthday had to be lifted. So in my meditations and talks to her I often urged her to be born either in the beginning of December or in January. I must have been persuasive because she was born on the 4th December, the first day she could be born safely.

And with my daughter the magic of Christmas has come back into my life. I’m not merely talking about the photos taken with Santa Claus, and the plates filled with carrots for Rudolf and cookies for Santa, left by the window in the sitting room when she was little. I’m talking about the hope for a better future, the hope that whatever is in store for humanity, we will unite and rise to the challenge. For our children’s sake.

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Angela Guidolin is a science fiction author and lives in Folkestone (UK) with her child. She has recently released the science fiction romance novella Across Spacetime. She blogs at www.angelaguidolinauthor.co.uk

The Truck Stop by Trent P. McDonald – Day 18 Advent 2017

The Truck Stop by Trent P. McDonald

Day 18 Advent 2017

I slowly turned the dial with my right hand, keeping my left on the wheel.  Nothing but static, the dial was as barren as the empty highway in front of me.  The only music I had, came from the engine and tires of my old ’67 Ford, which hummed along as it had all day.

My mind was numb from that hum and my vision was getting a bit blurry.  It was a quarter past three in the afternoon, yet it was already beginning to get dark. The cola I’d picked up at that last gas station was making me uncomfortable.

I thought back over the day and my food intake.  A couple of bags of chips and a few candy bars.  An awful truck stop coffee in the morning and that soda I had finished a half an hour earlier.

That was the problem with traveling on Christmas day, not a thing was open.  Even finding an open gas station was near impossible.

Some music came out of the small speaker.  I stopped turning and tried to fine tune it.  It wasn’t country, which was surprising way out in the middle of nowhere.  The Gordon Lightfoot song came to an end and Barry Manilow started.  Not really rock, but I could listen to anything to drown out the tire hum.

I saw a sign for a rest area.  At last!  That soda was getting even more uncomfortable.  It was pretty much empty, as expected.  I could see two large semis over to one side.  A brand new ’79 Lincoln pulled out as I pulled in.  It reminded me that in a few more days a new decade would be starting.  And what had I done with the old?  I parked directly in front of the facilities.

After using the bathroom, I stood outside having a smoke.  Besides needing a break and a stretch of the legs, I tried not to smoke in the car.  Debby hated it.  I laughed, sending smoke out of my nose.  I hadn’t seen Debby in months, so why was I worried about her smelling smoke in the car?

I only had a couple of smokes left.  Not much money either.  My dad had given me a gas card for an emergency, and I thought I might need to use it.

I lit the next cigarette with the old.  I’m not sure why.  Well, I was.  I didn’t want to leave because I had no place to go.  I had left town when I figured nobody would be watching because I didn’t have rent money.  I just got in my car and started driving, unconsciously retracing my tire prints in reverse from a few months ago.

I’ll admit that I totally freaked when Debby told me she was pregnant.  I can’t be a dad!  I worked at a Burger King, for Christ’s sake, and made all of two bucks and ninety freaking cents an hour.  Debby did a little better, but she’d have to quit her job to have the kid.  No way I could be a dad.

Damn.

So I freaked.

I took all I could and headed West.  Didn’t care where, I just drove.  I ended up in some backwards town in Montana and got a job.  Flipping burgers, of course.

And now I was doing the same.  I had no clue where I was going, I was just heading East.  I had seen some signs for Chicago.  That sounded nice.  A lot of opportunity in the big city.  There really wasn’t anyplace else to go.

Home to my parents?  Nah.  They wouldn’t take me in, not after how I left without a word.  Well, they might, but could I go crawling to them?

As I was thinking these pleasant thoughts, an old trucker came up to me.

“Hey Bud,” he said.  “Can I bum a smoke?”

“Sure,” I said.  I opened the pack.  There were two cigarettes pointed the right way, filter up, and one upside-down.  That was it.  I didn’t have another pack nor money to spare to get one.

I pulled out one of the right-side up ones, since it would be bad luck to take the upside down one, and handed it to the trucker.  I gave him my smoke to light his.

“Thanks,” he said as he drew in his first puff.

We smoked in silence for a while before he spoke again.  “Where you headed?”

“Not sure,” I said.  “East.”

He laughed.  “Well, if you were headed North, South or West you picked a funny way to go about it, being here on 90 East.”

“Yeah.”

“So, going to see family on Christmas?  Need to hurry, it’s getting late.”

I shook my head.  “I’m alone this year.  I guess always have been.”

“Yeah, me too,” the trucker said.  “Been alone my whole life.  Grew up alone.  Never met my pa.  I guess when Mom said she was pregnant, the bastard got scared and ran.  Shoot, I know lack of money and all, but, damn, it was tough.  We had nothing, and he didn’t have much more.  But I wish I could have met him.”  He drew in a deeply on his smoke.

“Yeah, I guess I’m lucky to have known my dad,” I said.  I thought about the gas card in my pocket.  My childhood wasn’t easy, and we didn’t have much.  But he did take care of me and Mom.

“Hell, I guess I shouldn’t have brought up that ancient history,” he said.  “These days my rig is my family and the open road my best friend.  Wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

“Thinking of that, I’m surprised you’re driving on Christmas,” I said.  “Seems only the bigger truck stops are open today.”

He shrugged.  “What else I’d be doing?”

I shrugged.  I wasn’t sure.  I obviously had nothing better to do, either.

I reached in my pack and grabbed the second to last cigarette and lit it off the one I was finishing.  I usually don’t chain smoke, but I had only had two all day before the rest area.  I wasn’t ready to get back in the car yet, and smoking gave me something to do as I stood around.

“Mind if I have another?” the stranger asked.

I looked in the pack.  The lucky turned-around smoke was all alone in there; the first out was put back and so the last out.  I stared at the cigarette, trying to make it multiply by thought alone.  The craving just gets so bad when I don’t have one.  It drives me crazy.  Having one more, for when it starts was a kind of insurance policy.  Even though I was chain smoking, I could feel the craving deep inside.  My hand began to shake.  My head felt like it was both empty, sucking in air, and a balloon about to burst.  I needed that single smoke.  I needed it.

“Sorry, Bud,” the trucker said.  “Didn’t realize that was your last one.  I’m fine.  You keep it.”

Hands still shaking, I took out the lucky last smoke and handed it to him.

“Merry Christmas,” I said.

“You sure?” He narrowed his eyes.  I nodded.  “I hate to take a man’s last smoke.  I can always get more later.  You sure?”

“Yeah, take it.  I’ve been meaning to quit forever.  I don’t smoke in the car, so…”  I shrugged.

“Thanks.  Makes it special, don’t it?”  He lit it from the old one and took a long drag off of it.  “Yeah, that’s some fine, there.  Extra special.  Thanks, Bud.”

“Not a problem.”

“Do you know where you’ll be stopping tonight?  I know it’s s only a little after Three, but it’s getting dark.  You going to be traveling far?  Have a place to stay?”

“Haven’t given it a thought, really,” I said.  “I guess I’ll sleep in the car.”

“It gets mighty cold.  My rig is warm enough when I need it, but a car?  No, you need to find a place to stay.  Got family anyplace close?”

“Don’t think so.  Actually, I haven’t been paying attention.  Where are we?” I asked.

“That big city you passed about three hours ago?”

I laughed.  “Yeah, the oversized cow town.”

“Yep, if you didn’t blink you should have seen Sioux Falls.  I bet you could make Milwaukie by Seven Thirty, maybe Eight if you didn’t pay attention to speed limits.”

“How did you… I mean, why would I want to go there?  I was thinking Chicago is my type of town.”

He laughed and took a puff from my last cigarette.

“Chicago gets cold and lonely in the winter,” he said.

I was about to respond when I realize that the two big trucks had just pulled out.  My car was the only vehicle around.  Where was his rig?

“Uhm, did you miss your ride?” I asked.

“No.  Did you?”  He stared at me.

I shrugged my shoulders again.

“Look, Bud, you seem nice and all,” he said.  “Gave a stranger your last cigarette, once you start Jonesing, might as well have given the coat off your back.  But you need to get beyond yourself.  I mean, is heading to Montana on the first sight of trouble really how you want to live your life?  Not very responsible, if you ask me.”

“I think I do OK,” I said.

“The world don’t need no more fatherless kids, mind,” he said.  I jumped.  How did he know?  “I was one, you know.  It’s a hard life.  But I make do, I make do.  I have my beautiful rig and the road.  My customers all know how reliable I am.  I take responsibility for whatever it is I’m hauling.  Whatcha hauling, Bud?  Taking responsibility for it yet?”  he narrowed his eyes at me again.

“Uhm, yeah.”  I felt uncomfortable and needed to get away from this old trucker who didn’t have a truck and knew so much about me.  “I got to go use the John.  I’ll be right back.”

He laughed.  I knew what he was thinking, about being uncomfortable and running and all, but I had to go, but not to the bathroom.

I stubbed out that second to last cigarette and went to the main building.  I found the payphone I thought I had seen earlier and dropped in a quarter.  I dialed the number without thinking.

“Martins’ Residence.”

“Hi Mom.  Merry Christmas,” I said.

“Tom?  Where are you?  Where have you been?”

“I don’t know, I’m about half way between Sioux Falls and home, I guess.”

“You heading this way, then?”  Her voice sounded dull.  Did she want me home?

“Look, Mom, I have to tell you something.  I knocked up Debby.  When I found out, damn, don’t know what came over me.  Yeah, I do.  I’m sorry, I freaked and ran.  But now I have decided I need to man up and take care of it.  I’m heading home to find Debby and, well, if she’ll take me back, to be there for her and my child.”  I think this was the first time I said “my child”.  It sounded right.

There was a long pause on the other end of the line.

“Tommy?” she said.  “We know all about it.  She ran out of money and her folks wouldn’t take her back, not in her condition.  Your dad asked her to stay here, feeling responsible for your stupidity.  Why’d you run off?”

“She’s there?  Can I talk to her?”

There was another long pause. The phone asked me to drop in more change.  I didn’t have a lot left.  I dropped in what I did have.

“She’s pretty hurt, but yeah, sure.  Hold on,” she said.

Another pause.

“Hello?”

“Debby?  Oh my God, I am so sorry!  I was scared.  I freaked.  I had no idea what to do.  I was stupid and selfish.  I know, selfish and childish.  But I’ve thought about it.  I want to come back and take care of you and the child.  I mean my child.  Our child.  Will you let me?  Please?”

“Do you promise you won’t just go all flakey again?  We need a man, not some idiot who runs at the first sign of trouble.”

“I promise, a million times over, I promise.  I love you…”

“I don’t know.  If you were only a tenth the man your father is…”

“Please?  I can grow into a man like him.  Please?”

“Come back and we’ll see.”

“Thank you!  I love you so much, I was just so frightened what you’d say if I ever talked to you again.  I was afraid you totally hated me.”

“Who said I don’t?  When you going to be home?”

“I don’t know, about three or four hours, I guess.”

“We can talk then.”

“Thank you, thank you.”

The phone asked for more money.  I didn’t have any, so I said goodbye and hung up.

I went out to try to find the old trucker, let him know I made up my mind about where I was heading, but he wasn’t around.

Another big 18-wheeler pulled into the rest area and a man jumped out.

“Hey,” I said. “I was just talking to an old trucker.  You seen him, or anything?”

The trucker smiled.  “You must be the guy the others have been laughing about on the CB radio.  Talking to old Ed, huh?”

“Old Ed?” I asked.

“Yeah.  He died at this rest area about 10 years ago.  Christmas day it was.  He had no home or family.  Not sure what they did with the body.  Some truckers put a marker over there for him and as far as I know, his bones are under it.  They say that sometimes he gets lonely and talks to people.  If they’re mean or nasty to him, they can expect a really rough journey, but if they’re nice to him, the road ahead will be smooth.  If you believe in that nonsense.”

“What would happen if I gave him my last smoke?” I asked.

The man laughed.  “Hell, I guess you can expect a Christmas miracle, then.  If you’ll excuse me, it’s been a long road.”

I thanked the man and he headed to the bathroom.

I noticed a faint glow were the guy pointed, and walked over and found a small stone in the field.  Sitting on the stone was the butt end of that last cigarette I gave old Ed, still glowing red.  I silently thanked Ed, went back and got in my car.

I eased onto the highway, 90 East, and got up to speed.  I had no idea how I’d be received back home, but I knew that whatever happened, I would try my hardest to be there for Debby and the child, my child.  My child!  Something inside of me had changed.  Going into the new decade, I’d be a new man.

I pushed the pedal a little harder and got up over the speed limit, trusting Ed and my luck.  The radio came in much clearer.  The sappy Middle of the Road music gave way to equally sappy Christmas songs.

I smiled and sang along.  Maybe it would be a merry Christmas yet.


Trent McDonald blogs on the site Trent’s World, the blog, which is an outlet for his creative ventures, such as fiction, poetry, music, photography and other visual arts.  In 2017 he released a book of short stories, Seasons of Imagination, and an urban fantasy novel, The Fireborn.

Footprints in the snow by Tess M Garfield – Day 17 Advent 2017, 3rd Sunday of Advent

Footprints in the snow by Tess M Garfield

Day 17 Advent 2017, 3rd Sunday of Advent

Footprints in the snow

Silence falls
over a sleeping town
as the icy breeze stills
snow starts coming down

great big flakes
thickening fast
swirling and drifting
and falling at last

by the time the town wakes
there’s a blanket of white
a Christmas surprise
like a gift from the night

children rush out
big ones and small
leaving electronic toys
and having a ball

further afield
walking families find
unspoilt fields
thorny hedgerow lined

taking large strides
they’re careful how they go
leaving behind them
footprints in the snow

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Tess Garfield is a fiction writer based in England, she mostly writes romance and blogs at https://tessmgarfield.wordpress.com.  You can follow her on twitter ‎@TessMGarfield.

Tess participated in the year’s calendar on an earlier date, read here lovely short story, “The worst Christmas ever” here. 

Christmas Fun, circa 1968; an argument and having a gas by Geoff Le Pard – 3rd Sunday of Advent, Day 17 Advent 2017

Christmas Fun, circa 1968; an argument and having a gas by Geoff Le Pard

3rd Sunday of Advent, Day 17 Advent 2017

Maybe it’s a childhood thing but my memory of Christmas is of a happy day enjoyed by all. They were never spoilt by arguments or friction. They might be boring, they could be wacky, or hilarious, and sometimes eye opening but never was a voice raised in anger.

Apart that is, than the year my Gran, my mum’s mum, got a bit squiffy on the port and lemons, eat heartily, fell asleep during the Queen’s speech and woke up in a bit of a state.

To set the scene properly I should perhaps explain, for those reading this who gave up on the British Empire as a bad job 200 plus years ago and those others on whom the benefits of British dominion was never endowed, that this means listening to Queen Liz’s Christmas message to her subjects at 3 pm every Christmas Day. This was as much a Christmas ritual in our house, as was Mum up with the lark ‘to put the bird in’ (inserting a huge turkey in the oven at stupid o’clock so it might be ready before Christmas ended), satsumas in my Christmas stocking and Dad saying grace at Christmas dinner.

And there’s another quirk of Christmas. In our house, resolutely middle class and Southern, the meal in the middle of the day was lunch, unlike in working class households, or those north of an imaginary line between Bristol in the West and the Wash in the East where the middle of the day meal was dinner. Yet, at Christmas we passed on lunch and had Christmas dinner. I’ve never understood this other than as some sort of inverted snobbery on the part of my parents.

Where was I? Oh yes, Gran. She ate a hearty dinner, fell asleep and woke at 5 demanding food. She would only believe she’d had her turkey when she saw the destroyed carcass but swore we’d not been given her Christmas pudding…

Christmas pudding, if you’ve not enjoyed this most British of desserts is not so much prepared as evolves over several months. The ingredients, which oddly include beef suet, are mixed for the first time in about July. Over the following months the concoction is stirred – stirring is accompanied by wishes – and copious alcohol is added. On the day the pudding is steamed for hours until the outside would do Pirelli proud and the inside tastes of a pudding made over months that includes beef fat and alcohol and has been steamed for hours. It is served with rum custard and brandy butter which may explain its popularity.

On this particular day there was none left and the pudding plate had been washed so there was no evidence to show her that she had, indeed, eaten a significant portion. She was angry at what she saw as her daughter’s duplicity. She seethed and she scolded for what appeared to be hours, until my father refreshed her glass and she dozed until nearer midnight.

While Gran slept my uncle aunt and cousins came round for tea, sandwiches and games. Mostly charades. This was the time Mum and I were teamed for this ridiculous miming extravaganza but a problem was brewing. I was rather full of gas after the turkey feast and had bravely held it in check in front of my gorgeous cousins for a good hour. But there is only so much self-control a young man can be expected to maintain. As soon as we left the room to plot our team mime my muscles gave way to the seismic forces within. Mum was half a sentence into her plan when the guttering, choking bit of Wilfred Owen’s WW1 poem about Gas! Gas! got to her. She stopped, went pale and staggered back into the sitting room collapsing on the floor into a dead faint. When she had been dragged upright she pointed at me and said, ‘How can any human body convert good food to silage so quickly?’ I suppose the only thing that saved my shame was that, at that time, my cousins didn’t know what silage was.

And to cap my misery, we were disqualified as mum had spoken during our turn.

The archaeologist and me, forced to look happy…

Anyway, Christmases were and are and, I hope, will remain happy, pleasant if not often especially memorable family occasions. However Charli insists we take a different stance and this foreign air I’m imbibing has once again triggered two ideas.

First there is Mary. Here’s the link to her back story

Hanging the decorations

‘Let’s do the decorations today, mum.’ Penny rubbed her hands. She loved the tradition of dressing the tree.

While Mary fetched the box and Paul put the tree in the stand, Penny disappeared to her room. ‘Look,’ she said, ‘Uncle Rupert gave it to me. He got it from Grandpa.’

Mary googled at the hand carved Santa hanging from red string. Didn’t her half-brother realise how this much would hurt?

‘Let me,’ she said.

While Paul fixed the star and Penny the tinsel, Mary coiled the string into a noose, hiding the loop in a groove. ‘All done.’

And here’s an alternative

The stuffing

‘Reindeer? But we always have turkey.’

‘It’ll be a change.’ Patrick grinned. ‘Special offer.’

Marcie swallowed her anger. Always doing things on the cheap. ‘Patrick, it’s Christmas. Can’t we forget the cost…’

Patrick’s smug grin was almost too much to bear. ‘I know you hate waste so we’ll just have to go with it.’

Patrick was pleased when, later, Marcie began hunting for a recipe. ‘The stuffing,’ she said. ‘It has to be perfect.’

Patrick carved. Inside there was a roasting bag. ‘For you Patrick.’

He held the divorce papers in sticky fingers.

‘It won’t be cheap,’ she said.


Geoff was already a guest to this year’s calendar with “The Fourth Plinth

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

My father and other liars final for kindle 6 JulyMy Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.

Smashwords

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Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.

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Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015

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Salisbury SquareSalisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.

This is available here

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Buster & Moo is about about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?

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Solveig’s review

Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com Smashwords

Merry Christmas to You by Tara Paray – Day 15 Advent 2017

Merry Christmas to You by Tara Paray

 Day 15 Advent 2017

 

Merry Christmas to You
by Tara Paray

If it seems rushed and hectic,
If you have to do this or that and you’re not having fun,
If you have to spend a certain amount of money or risk looking bad/cheap/Scrooge-like,
You’re doing it all wrong.

Take time to slow down, and really enjoy all the season has to offer – colorful lights, delicious treats, the company of others, the hope of peace.
The only list that’s made (or should be) this time of year is Santa’s.
And the best gifts are free.

Like a wish to you from me… and Nat King Cole.

Merry Christmas… to you.

 

 

Visit Tara at DaisySmileyFace.com  or on twitter @Taradsf

Of Memories Of Christmas Past by Beaton – Day 14 Advent 2017

Of Memories Of Christmas Past by Beaton

Day 14 Advent 2017

Christmas is the one holiday I look forward to all year round. I see some shops have started advertising Christmas Specials, so it’s not too early to talk about the festive season………

You know it’s almost Christmas when you walk into a shop and they are playing carols and of course a Santa Claus Station where you get your photo taken, sitting on s red suited guy’s lap. This is mostly kids’ stuff. I don’t think have had my photo taken with Father Christmas since I was in kindergarten. It used to be such a big deal and you would get a gift box too, I don’t remember if our parents paid for it, if they did they never said and we never thanked them for it.

Note to myself: This year I am definitely having my photo taken with Santa or I just might be Santa my beard is practically all white I could pull off the look.

Its weird how we grow up and things that seemed to be super important when we were toddlers suddenly have less significance. All the thoughts we lose on our way to becoming adults. I can remember past Christmas holidays from my childhood as if they happened just yesterday but I can hardly remember my last Christmas.

Growing every Christmas we got new clothes, new shoes and then a gift probably a toy or board game. You would wake up on Christmas morning and you could practically smell Christmas. Christmas smells like my mum’s baking, a multi coloured cake we called The Rainbow cake. I thought it looked a touch hideous but my grandmother loved it to so every Christmas it showed up it was tradition.

I remember grandma telling me the story of how a saviour was born in a stable and lay in manger and how we must not forget the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas, if it was not true why do all the cows and goats wake up facing east, to watch the sunrise; to honour a king. I never saw them actually do this and grandma used to laugh when I asked and told me I was not waking up early enough…. I haven’t seen them do it but I tell the story anyway….

What’s Christmas without a tree

What’s a Christmas tree without decorations

What’s Christmas breakfast without bread and jam and cake

What’s Christmas without memories like these

Christmas seems like an affair for children but don’t be fooled, the older generation are moved beyond words at a chance to see their children with their children’s children and possibly their children’s children’s children since it now seems we only ever gather like this at funerals….

Writing this post has put me in the festive spirit and this Christmas I will definitely put in the effort, I’ll even buy cards and post them, I’ll dress up in a red jump suit and give gifts, I will tell stories and create timeless memories……

Stay festive

~B

This post was originally published on Beaton’s blog on the 25th of September 2017, check it out for some pictures.


Bio

IMG_20171211_182541

I am an analogue man in a digital world….. Evolved to tell tales and start fires, my spirit an

 

imal is a dragon, and I am mastering digital storytelling…

You can read me on my blog
http://www.BecomingTheMuse.wordpress.com

Facebook www. facebook.com/BecomingTheMuse

Or find me tweeting my life away 280 characters at a time on twitter @beatonm5

~B

Sankta Lucia by Annika Perry – Day 13 Advent 2017

Sankta Lucia by Annika Perry

Day 13 Advent 2017

HAPPY LUCIA

TODAY in Sweden nearly every home, school, hospital, factory, workplace, church, hotel and restaurant is celebrating LUCIA.

Lucia is the Bringer of Light and is celebrated on what, in the old almanac, was the darkest day of the year. The day is one of light, hope and love. The tradition has its roots in St. Lucia of Syracuse who died as a martyr in AD304.

Whilst the dark holds its firm grip on night, households across the country waken and quietly prepare. The long white gowns will have been carefully ironed the day before, the red sash belts laid out, candles and matches placed at the ready.

Lucia herself carries a crown of candles on her head. These are often now battery powered but not too long ago normal wax candles were used. The crown was placed on a damp handkerchief on the head. As the wax melted onto the damp fabric, a sizzling sound could be heard by those closest.

As well as Lucia there are her attendants, tärnor, who are dressed in white gowns with a silver glitter circle on their heads and carrying a lit candle.

In the later years a place was also made for boys, mainly as Star boys, stjärngossar, wearing a white gown, a pointed conic hat with a star and carrying a silver star stave. Recently younger boys are also dressed as gingerbread men.

The hushed bustle of the waiting crowd falls to stillness and into the darkness comes Lucia and her train, the glittering light from the candles heralding her visit, traditional songs sending a dusting of heaven across the darkness.

At this point both men and women are tear-eyed.

As the Lucia train approaches the songs ring light and clear. One is ‘Sankta Lucia’, which is the song that epitomises Lucia. Its evocative tones weave their way into my soul. I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this.

Here is the translation of the first verse:

‘The darkness lies weightily
on fields and cottages
in places forgotten by the sun
the shadows brood.
Into our dark homes She steps
with lighted candles on her head
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.’

The spirits continue to soar as Lucia and her attendants come to a halt, either at the front of a larger gathering or if at a home in front of the rest of the family.

Now other festive songs lilt their way across the break of morning, the star boys even having their own solo performance. The mystical magical aura shimmers in the candlelight, spreading across the nation.

Being Sweden no festive occasion would be complete without its own traditional fare. Particular for this day are Lussekatter (Lucia Kitten Buns), which are made with saffron. Also on offer are pepparkakor, cinnamon/ginger biscuits. Although many in Sweden now buy theirs. To drink there is either coffee, milk or for the more daring a cup of julglögg. Please, join me today, on this special Lucia day for a cup of coffee or glögg. Help yourself to Pepparkakor. Enjoy the song below whilst you nibble away. Happy Lucia to you all!

This was originally posted on Annika’s Blog on the 13th of December 2015, find the original, with pictures here.

Midwinter by Holly Geely – Day 12 Advent 2017

Midwinter by Holly Geely

Day 12 Advent 2017

 

Midwinter

 

‘Tis early on midwinter’s day

And Nature is in all her glory

Never was a day more perfect

Not in any rhyme, or story.

 

Her beauty is beyond compare.

 

O see. the sparkling winter morn

With blanket white upon the ground!

Fresh footprints trail across the lawn,

And I, well…I’m still laying down.

 

It’s really freakin’ cold out there.