Christmas Morning

Boy Christmas Tree

Ella settled onto her blanket, squirming with excitement. She could hear her heart beating -almost as loudly as Baby Mia’s breathing, from the crib.

Ella knew, when morning came, there might not be presents under the tree.

When she and Jake wrote letters to Santa forever ago, Mommy had said, “Don’t expect too much.”

When they had gone to the stores to see Santa, Daddy had said, “Now, don’t expect too much.”

That night, they had read about Jesus. “Jesus was the greatest gift,” Daddy said. He had looked at them, reminding them what was important.

Then, they had unwrapped the pajamas Mommy made. Ella wondered why Mommy kept crying. “Don’t expect too much, Mommy,” she’d said.

Ella heard a knock. She scampered to her door. She could see Jake’s dark face, peeking.

Mommy opened the front door. There were happy voices. Daddy turned, and scolded, “Ella, Jake! Get back in bed or Santa won’t come!” Jake’s nose went back into his room. Ella went back to her blankets.

Who is at the door? She wondered, as she drifted off to sleep.

Soon, Jake was shaking her. “Ewha! Chwismas!” He danced around the room, shouting. Mommy came in, looking tired. She scooped up Baby Mia.

Ella jumped up and followed Jake to the family room. She stopped, toes curling in carpet. There were boxes and boxes in bright, shimmering colors. Slowly, wondering, Ella walked forward.

She stopped, then looked happily at Mommy. “I guess I should have expected too much!”

 

Susanna Hill’s 7th Annual Holiday Contest

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Ladies First

“I’ve got to shop for pants today,”
She told the stingy traffic lights.
She told the grocer and the pump;
And then, the quickly-coming night.

“I’d love to try this recipe,”
She said, as they drew near to home;
With only time for Mac ‘N Cheese,
‘Midst whining, falsely-crying tones.

“A bath would be a lovely break
Whilst reading Lover’s Passioned Call.”
Alas, the heated water drained,
Whilst splashing children took it all.

The lights were off; he found her there,
Her loving, all-day-working man.
“I thought you wanted time alone.”
She sniffed; she said, “And, here I am.”

 

Flash Fiction Entry

Party of One

Woman

Don’t be afraid of you. Others want to know you. She glanced up; scanned the oblivious guests.

“Excuse me,” a sexy voice said. She turned, her finger marking the text. “I need to get to the bathroom,” he nodded, beyond her.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. She moved. He went past.

She opened to another, dog-eared entry. The surest way to make friends is to listen. She moved near a chattering group.

“Excuse me?!” A woman asked angrily. “This is a private conversation!”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

This was hopeless. Before exiting, she carefully tucked Surefire Social Success! into the garbage.

 

Flash Fiction Entry

Normal?

I come from a proud heritage of screwed-upedness. Most of my close ancestors have been religious, so the party hasn’t been as raucous as it had potential to be.

Still, I’ve spent the younger years of my life in anticipation of a horrid emotional surprise. Each year brings ever closer the question of whether I may finally be classified as a mental condition.

Do I have Depression? Anxiety? Social anxiety? Ooh! Maybe I can be diagnosed with a cocktail of disorders I’ve not yet heard of!

A cocktail is what to expect when one applies to a psychiatrist -one of medications.

I learned, in school, that a person is defined as having a mental condition when said condition interferes with normal life. And so, each day that is a bit more difficult than others, I wonder if I’ve finally crested the abnormal wave.

“Everyone feels that way,” I’m reassured, by a spouse who does not spend the morning crying.

“Oh, I’ve had those days,” says my neighbor, from her newly-decorated sitting room. I haven’t gotten around to mine for …four years.

Eventually, one of my children brings a true threat of fratricide within earshot, and I have to leave my self-pity rut.

It’s still there, though. Even a medicinal mix wouldn’t erase it. I often feel that drugs create potholes in other locations: side effects fallout.

What is normal?

How do I get there?

First Snow

pexels-photo-258303

Winter breath comes roaring down,
Madly scolding ling’ring Fall;
Brusquely ousting browning leaves,
Gath’ring frozen rain’s landfall.

Wintry hands paint sunsets gray;
Cloudlike masses broil near.
Roiling darkness cries its mists;
Spotted sidewalks drink their tears.

Wond’ring children turn to sky,
Tasting wind and hearing rain;
Watching sky-tears change to white,
Laughing at the snowed terrain.

Self-reflection

“Do you love me?”

She doesn’t answer; won’t look me in the eye.

“I’ve tried! I want to do better, but I often don’t feel like it!”

She glances over, back again.

“I fed you. We went to the gym together. Remember that movie we watched?”

Nothing.

“I remember. You were laughing as much as I was. I saw you.”

The ceiling now holds her gaze, as she heaves a heavy sigh. I catch a few tears in my peripheral vision.

“Okay,” I relent. I reach over; our fingers touch.

Finally, I meet her deep, hopeful gaze.

“I’m sorry,” we say, then smile.

All the World’s a Staged Place

Audience

For a long time, I sat and watched.

People eagerly rushed to the well-lit stage and spoke their bit. Many just shared what someone else had -and again, and again.

From the spectator’s rows I heard and felt bodies rise and seats flop-flop closed. Soon, I realized the audience was few; the performers were most.

Envy set in. I want attention. I want fame. I want love, respect, and acceptance. I finally rose and joined the stage-bound queue. I stood quietly behind a grandmother, a pre-teen, and a retiree.

Then, it was my turn. Shy, though, I peeked around the curtain. “Come out,” a friend encouraged. “Share what you have made.”

I scampered quickly to the fore; I held up my opinions and waited.

My circle of fellow stage-friends complimented, and encouraged. Smatterings of applause came from family still seated beyond the stage lights.

I smiled and grew more confident. Recognition felt good. I returned to the audience, sated.

My seat creaked as I frequently leaned forward to applaud other performers. What brave souls to simply speak, I thought. And surely, they will return the approval.

Encouraged and emboldened, I performed again. In the warming spotlights and comments, I spoke freely and assumed affection. I chanced the stage many times, basking in attention.

Today, I stepped confidently forward, then hesitated. My step echoed. My speech resounded hollowly. I squinted out to an empty, dark room.

Where is everyone?

Not By Half

I find eating decisions simple when I first sit down.

“Yes, that’s my order,” I say to the server, then eagerly take the first bite. Besides an odd habit of eating my hamburger upside-down and setting it with the bite away from me, I have no concerns of direction or hesitation.

Somewhere just past the middle is when the problem sets in.

“Do you want any?” I ask my husband. His meal is also half-finished; he was going to ask me the same.

We’ve reached the awkward point of portions: too little to box, and too much to finish.

Half is exactly the problem we encounter with brownies at home.

Easily enough, the pan is reduced to a row, two servings, then one. Once there, at a reasonable final square, we play the mind-game of a psychological mathematician.

Every time I want to eat a bite, I cut what is left in half. When my selfless husband walks by the pan, he removes exactly half of what he encounters.

If Zeno had his way, neither of us could claim selfishness. But we’re talking brownies.

And this is the real reason, I tell the doctor, that I cannot stick to my diet.

Life Cycles

Running Shoes

Sometimes I leave the house, pay the child care, and run round the track at our tiny neighborhood community center. It’s called exercise: this monotonous plodding round and round.

Fourteen laps is one mile.

For inspiration and distraction, I listen to music as I jog the endless circuit. I pick adrenaline as I lag, interest to keep enduring, or awesome bass for confidence.

Still, I need to run. I need to run the same path. I need to run the same path fourteen times. I need to run the same path fourteen times with only myself to think to, and the songs to divert me.

Life is repeated monotony, and I try to switch to a different track whenever the boring frustration drives me crazy! -even that, in a repeated pattern, though.
There is no escaping the circuit, but it needs to be the cog of life and not a mouse exercise wheel.

I always play the same song for my final lap. I get excited to hear it, and know my heart rate increases in anticipation of finally getting to sprint one instead of shuffle-jog thirteen. The introduction plays, and I nearly Whoop! aloud.

Get a song to anticipate, a time to finally reward yourself, a goal to sustain you through the doldrums. Otherwise; you’ll break stride, stop for a drink, excuse yourself to favor a small pain, check your phone, or push too hard in panic and not have the energy for your favorite parts.

And you won’t want to miss your favorite parts.

Word-Pruning

I wrote something Saturday for a writing competition.

If you, like me, sometimes need a little kick (or, very large boot) to start your writing engine, then you know that 100 word stories are a great motivation.

Properly nudged, therefore, I began my little story.

“Hey, this is turning out well,” I complimented myself. Gears turning, I added details. I named my character. She did cute little gestures with her face.

Then, I remembered my limits. I stopped, counted. I was at 88 words and little Sadie was still on the couch. I was not going to fit my planned end dialogue from a candy corn man in just 12 words.

I began trimming. Sadie’s lips no longer pursed thoughtfully as she scowled impatiently. Her comforter didn’t swish to the floor; then, it was no longer mentioned at all. The candy corn people originally came from a dish of various confections, but “Mellowcreme pumpkins” was two extra words too many.

Like a manic killer, I slashed adjectives, actions, and prepositions. Two descriptive sentences became one of a somewhat less interesting run-on sentence.

There! I counted again. Argh! 115 words.

I pored through any possible excess, one word at a time. Initially happy at the prospect of creating a workable masterpiece, I now cursed the word limit in frustrated whispers.

Finally, I gathered my remains, stuffed them into a somewhat-coherent form, and clicked Publish.

Staring round at the dismembered body of my original story, I vowed to never again write such a restrictive theme -at least until tomorrow.