Gary the Snowman

This week I’m sharing original flash fiction (500 words or less) inspired by some of my favorite sad Christmas songs. Here’s one based on Frosty the Snowman.

She knew what kinds of things the other kids in her class would say if they saw her running in her yard like this. 

Amelia, you’re gonna cause an earthquake. 

Whales can’t run!

Don’t fall. You’ll break the ground open, and end up in China.    

Little shits, each and every one of them, although Amelia didn’t describe them this way—that’s what her mother called them. Amelia thought of her classmates as bullies or popular people or sheep who went along with whatever everyone else was doing. One or two would make fun of her, and the rest would bah in agreement.  

Now, thanks to Christmas break, she was done with those dumb idiots for two whole weeks, and it was just going to be her and Gary, who she’d brought into existence the weekend before by mounding him up from freshly fallen snow. She’d made him as round as she was, packing on more and more snow, despite the fact that the moisture soaked her knit gloves right away and her hands were numb within minutes. 

Her backyard edged a small wood where she’d found the sticks she needed for Gary’s arms. His necktie she’d swiped from her father’s dresser along with an old pair of heavily rimmed black glasses. She’d found the supplies to make his face in the kitchen—walnuts in their shell for his eyes; a carrot for his nose, the baby kind; and red licorice for his lips, which made him look a like a clown but she took him seriously. 

See, when she made Gary, she’d only been trying to distract herself from her parents’ fight about where they were going to spend Christmas, but then, once she’d created him, it became clear to her: she and Gary were meant to be the lead anchors of the Local Action 7 News. And any self-consciousness Amelia might have felt as a twelve year old playing pretend, she discarded in the privacy of her own backyard, the pine trees their only audience. 

Together they covered a wide range of stories—sports, the weather, local and national politics, the feel good stories of the holiday season, and even an international crisis or two. They bantered. They said, back to you, and closed every show with that’s the way it is. Sure, they bickered off air, but together they were a great news team. 

That day’s broadcast was due to start in twenty minutes and there was a developing story about a mall Santa that Amelia wanted to talk over with Gary, hence her run to the backyard, but as she neared him, the sun shining down on her, she discovered to her horror that Gary was headless—his glasses and necktie crumpled together on the ground in front of his melting torso—his edible facial features in a Picassian disarray. The show would be cancelled. 

Amelia plucked a walnut from Gary’s remains and hurled it into the woods. Sometimes the way it was sure sucked. 

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

This week I’m sharing original flash fiction (500 words or less) inspired by some of my favorite sad Christmas songs. Here’s one based on Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (the original Judy Garland version).

All I’m saying is you could be more jolly, Mother. That’s all. 

Mrs. Hubert Huddleston heard her daughter’s chastisement, but as with much of what Bess said, she let the words roll by her like tumbleweeds in the vast expanse of West Texas where she’d been raised. It was her husband, dead now five years, who’d brought her and the children to this valley in California in hopes of paid work or fecund soil. Though he’d found little of either at first, he’d managed to make a better life for the family before he passed.  

Bess kept her attention on the silver tinsel, draping a piece over the branch of the balsam tree just so. She would set each strand by hand like this, a practice she’d learned from her mother, who now sat rocking by the wood stove, the familiar squeak-squeak-squeak of the chair more rhythmic than the holiday ballads playing over the radio.

Her mother was prone to fretting. For years, she’d fretted over the tinsel, admonishing Bess for sloppy workmanship, eventually withholding the box from her. These days, though, her frets were defined by the frequency with which she received Hank’s letters, often at first during his training, still somewhat regularly while he was stationed in England, and rarely since he’d stormed the beaches of Normandy in June. No word since November.

The lights strung on the balsam tree, half thumb sized bulbs of blue, green, yellow, and red, burned hot. Bess worked carefully to avoid scorching her wrist. Like her mother, Bess’s moods were often dictated by letters. 

She’d received one that morning from Robert. In it, he’d told her of the Christmas present he’d be bringing home to her—a wooden clock with a bird inside that cooed the hour. He said he intended to hang it in their house after she became his wife. 

Surely there was cause for joy in that vision Bess had thought when she’d shared the news, but her mother had remained stone faced and inquired after whether Robert had said anything of Hank. To which, Bess repeated yet again that they’d been apart since boot camp, and to which, her mother, as usual, replied that the army had done a disservice separating two such fond friends as Robert and Hank. 

When it was time to put the angel on top of the tree, Bess sought out a chair from the kitchen, pulling it in as close as she could to the side of the tree without knocking off the thin metallic ornaments that would shatter if they fell. The tree’s branches were wide, and the top tall, so Bess had to stand on her tip toes, extending her arm fully in attempt to reach the angel’s skirts over the head of the tree. 

Mind you don’t fall, her mother said. 

And Bess wouldn’t have, if not for the knock at the door that sounded then. 

Last Christmas

Over the next week, I’m going to be sharing original flash fiction (500 words or less) inspired by some of my favorite sad Christmas songs. Here’s the first based on Last Christmas by Wham!

There are two truths applicable at any snow filled chalet gathering. What goes up must come down—that’s the basic law of skiing—and the last two people left awake at a cocaine party are going to sleep together. 

Robert and Janet had experienced the former on the slopes that morning—he, a black diamond aficionado, and she, a sensible enough downhill skier to know which passes she could handle. But this same sensibility had been discarded when she found herself in the latter situation—the rest of the party passed out upstairs or retreated to their rooms for holiday trysts—her left alone with Robert on the bear skin rug in front of the dwindling fire. 

He poured her another glass of gummy red wine and swiped a small box from the stack of presents heaped on either side of the tree. The name Cindy or Lee or Frasier was on the tag, but Robert discarded it with deft fingers, blood pumping through his veins like the Polar Express. 

Merry Christmas, he said. 

You didn’t know me before yesterday, she said. 

I had a premonition my life would change this weekend, he said. I knew I’d meet someone special. 

The star patterned gold wrapping came off without tearing—the thick paper creased in perfect straight lines and tight angles—signs of the wrapper’s care, likely a professional stationed in one of those basement booths at the department store. 

She let the paper fall to the floor, no one recycled back then, and opened the velvet box revealing the glittering brooch, a simple bouquet of a sunflower and a daisy—flowers she associated with girlhood but made womanlike rendered in white sapphires. Her breath caught at the words on the note tucked inside. 

I love you. 

How long had she been waiting to hear those words and now they were being fumbled on to her by a stranger. A Robert. A man she’d met only yesterday, 

You knew you would love me, she asked. 

He answered with a kiss, arms encircled bodies, and they tugged back and forth until finally he eased her on to the bear skin rug, fur warm from the fire. And then she felt taken care of, and then he felt like the conductor on a wintry night train bound through long tunnels blasted from pure granite. 

Afterward, he grabbed a knit blanket from the leather sectional and covered them up so they could slumber there on the rug, resting until they were awakened by the lover of Cindy or Frasier or Lee who demanded to know why his present had been opened. 

I’m terribly sorry, Robert said to Janet. 

She looked at him stricken, you said I was someone special. 

Corona Pt. 27

Tooth Decay
I apologize for the lack of poetry 
But my heart has been caught by,
Between my teeth waiting--waiting to 
Chomp down on this election cycle. 
I can feel the pounding resonating
Through my molars--pounding sensitive gums. 
I haven't been to the dentist
Since this whole thing started,
Six month check up supposed to be in May. 
How many cavities have gone unfilled? 
And do these tooth tolls matter to the electorate?
How about the other ones? 
I guess we'll find out soon. 

Corona Pt. 26

The Litter of Our Time
The thing about running is
There are always things
You need to dodge
On the sidewalk.
Like sometimes it's dead squirrels
That have been hit in the road,
And I worry when I pass by them
I'll step where their blood's dried
And carry disease with me to my next destinations. 
Well, the thing is now
When I'm running--the things
I find myself dodging most are
Various types of PPE--
Masks and gloves discarded on the roadway. 
I'm not sure how they're left behind. 

Corona Pt. 25

Home for Christmas?
You take it for granted,
You shouldn't have taken it for granted
That you can always go see your mother
And have her hug you
And give you a kiss on the lips
Like she likes to do. 

You take it for granted,
You shouldn't have taken it for granted
That the Fall ushers in time with family. 
Your annual trip to Gatlinburg, 
Then Thanksgiving and Christmas. 
Two eight hour rides to Cincinnati
To stay with the aunts
And then two eight hour rides back. 

What'll it be like to put up
Those Christmas decorations
You've been keeping in a box for years
Because you're never in Atlanta for Christmas? 
Good thing you have two trees
Since you're used to so many 
Filling up the aunts' house. 
The best one is the tiny one in the guest bedroom
Whose twinkled colored lights you fall asleep to. 

Are you surprised? 
For years, dread has crept into 
Your holiday season
Because you knew life would someday change
That you wouldn't always be a kid. 
That time is flowing not fixed. Not frozen. 

You haven't lost much. 
You might lose more. 
You're afraid of the risk. 
Afraid you might compound the problem. 
This year's season of joy
Is a time for sacrifice! And safety!
Right?! Right?! 

For the first six months of the pandemic, I tried not to think much about what would happen around the holidays. but I’ve started to think about it more over the last couple of weeks, and it’s making me sad.

Corona Pt. 24

Before Normal
I shattered my cell phone screen
When I accidentally dropped it square
On the ground, solid pavement, at the Farmers Market.
Luckily I found a good place to repair it in downtown Decatur.  
They required masks and had two hand sanitizer stations. 
The whole process was done in about an hour and a half.
In the "before" times, I hate calling them that,
I would have gone to a coffee shop or restaurant nearby, 
But instead I walked to the Decatur cemetery 
Where I sat on a wall scribbling in a journal.
(Remember my cell phone was being repaired.) 
I was comfortable enough
Until a teenager who talked loudly
Started coughing in my audible vicinity, 
And I got scared and left. 
But then I had to walk around in the hot sun
Passing by and walking behind strangers
Some masked and others unmasked. 
There were diners gathered on the patio at Leon’s. 
There were people standing in line for ice cream. 
And queued up at the indoor poke bowl place. 
But I couldn’t or wouldn’t do any of that. 
So I just walked and waited
Until my cell phone was repaired
And "normal" life could resume. 
The Covid Weight
I thought I’d outgrown my size 8 jeans,
But it turns out they were size 10. 
And they still fit over my hips,
But I have to breathe in sharply to 
Bring up the zipper. 

Corona Pt. 23

The last things I did before the world changed
We went to eat Hot Pot on Buford Highway
And ran into an acquaintance who said
Business was down on that strip
Because of the outbreak in China. 
Then there were the marathon trials
I watched with a friend on February 29th in Atlanta.
There was an outbreak in Italy then.
In the US, it was spreading, 
But we didn’t know the extent
Because of our problems with the tests,
And because our president was lying to us,
Telling us it would disappear. 
“Covid-19” my friend said while we stood on the 
Sidelines of the race,
And I remember the way a tremble 
Rolled down my spine.
I should be worried I thought,
But we were still nearly two weeks away
From that day in March when everything was canceled.  
We were still being told it wasn’t a problem
That travel bans would keep us safe
180,000 deaths later and here we are. 

*I drafted this poem on August 29, and I believe my 180,000 statistic is accurate for around that date. Currently, it’s September 16th, and the death count is closer to 195,000.

Corona Pt. 22

Livestream Wedding
Until today, the closest wedding
I'd ever attended was a ten minute
Uber drive from my house.
(This was before I switched to Lyft.)
Today I was set to attend a
Wedding in my house--a livestream affair.

I dressed four minutes beforehand
In a simple gray cotton skirt and a pink shirt
Because it didn't feel right to
Wear my Corona daytime PJs,
Even if I was just watching it over YouTube
And not video conferencing on Zoom.

We arrived on time to technical difficulties.
Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.
A flurry of comments, "What's going on?"
"We're working on it."
But the wedding never came through.

Instead we watched the YouTube videos with the
Most ever views--Despicito, Baby Shark Dance, and
Recipe for Disaster, a Russian cartoon
With a checkers loving bear and
A rambunctious blonde girl who makes too much oatmeal.

I worried that maybe the wedding had been called off,
But then I saw the bride had changed
Her relationship status on Facebook. Phew.
The groom later sent us the link to the recording.
Everyone looked lovely in their formal wear and masks.

The maid of honor's pale blue mask matched her
Spaghetti strapped floor length dress.
The groom's black mask lent a distinctive air to his suit and tie.
The bride's mask was beaded, her dress lace.
At the end, they exited the spot where they'd exchanged their vows
And were cheered by masked strangers passing by,
Unintended guests more present than we were. 

Corona Pt. 21

When I agreed to love you
In good times and bad, 
I thought the bad times would be
Unique to us--internal. 
Sickness, poverty, infidelity, bickering. 
I didn't think the bad times would be
A global pandemic, 
The erosion of American democracy, 
Environmental destruction brought on by global warming. 
I took the security of our world for granted--
Restaurants, businesses, and shops would always be there. 
I never thought most of life would be off limits
And that we--the two of us--
Would be left alone in our home
Safeguarding ourselves from the outside world
One Amazon purchase at a time. 
I'd still say, "I do."