Spirit (an acrostic poem)

Something about you is miraculous

Perhaps it is how you smile, or the way you pick at your food

I don’t really know how, but all I do know

Regardless of what the world says you are important

I believe we all are a Christmas miracle

The babe born anew in us today

 

 

Image: armenianchurch.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BLOG-Advent-Star-of-Bethlehem.jpg

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Finding Christmas

Thomas put the rest of Pops’ clothes into the closet, returning the hamper to the foot of the bed.  The small room was cozy and filled with knickknacks from Pops’ life as well as pictures of all eight of the grandchildren.  Thomas put away a couple of magazines before sitting next to the bed.

Pops gave a chuckle.  “You never amaze me.  I would yell at the top of my lungs to try to get you to put anything away when you were a kid,” Pops said.  “Now you can’t stop yourself.”  Pops pointed at a picture of Thomas posing with a woman holding onto two young boys who didn’t have a lick of hair out of place.  “Dorothy must have put the fear of God into you.”

Thomas leaned back in the chair and when he spoke he took on a conspiratorial tone.  “She actually put the fear of Dorothy into me.”

That gave Pops a chuckle.  “Well I hated when you would just keep leaving all that crap out, even when I threatened to throw all of it away.  It was hard enough after your mother was gone.”

Thomas reached out and gave Pops’ arm a gentle squeeze.  “You did good Pops.  It just took a while to sink in.”

Pops smiled and nodded his head.  “I know.  You’re a good man, Thomas.  I must have did something good.  But I want to know one thing.  Was it because of your mom leaving us?”

“Was what about Leslie leaving us?” asked Thomas as he crossed his arms.

“That’s your mother we’re talking about,” Pops said.  The silence stretched out a bit.  “Look, was you leaving all your crap out about your mom leaving?”

Thomas stood up and walked over to then picture of his family to give it a closer look.  “You really waited all these years to ask me that?  What difference does it make now?” Thomas asked to the picture.

Pops shrugged his shoulders.  “An old man’s prerogative?”  Pops broke into his best Jack Nicolson.  “Tell me the truth.”

Thomas turned back to Pops.  “That was Tom Cruise’s line, not Jack’s.  His was…” Thomas switched to his best Jack Nicolson, which wasn’t that good.  “You can’t handle the truth.”

“Whatever,” Pops said.  “Well?  What’s the truth?  I can handle it.  At least now.”

Thomas stood there silently.  Finally he said, “Yeah.  I was mad I didn’t understand why Leslie…”

“Mom.” Pops said softly but forcibly.

“Why Mom,” Thomas corrected, “left me behind.  I blamed you for so much of the pain I felt.  You were there, and she wasn’t.  It wasn’t fair, but nothing was then.”

Pops let out the breath he hadn’t known he was holding.  “That’s fair.  Nothing much more a nine year old would understand.”

“But I did all that stuff up to when I moved out to go to college.  It wasn’t till I was explaining it to her,” Thomas pointed back to the picture, “that I realized how much of an idiot I was.”  There were tears in Thomas’ eyes.  “I still am an idiot.  I’ve never said I’m sorry.”

“I always did like that girl.” Pops said.  He pointed to the closet and the magazines.  “And you have said I’m sorry many times over the years.”

Thomas wiped at his eyes.  “I love you, Pops.”

Pops nodded in response and smiled.  “Well turnabout is fair play.  Your turn.  Anything you want to ask?” Pops said.

“Really, anything?” Thomas asked.  Pops just gestured him on.  “Okay, this is going to sound stupid, but where did you hide the Christmas presents each year?”  Pops began to laugh.  “No really.  I tore that house apart.  I looked in the closets, the attic, the basement, Grandma’s, Jake’s place down the street.  I never found a single one.  I’ve always wanted to know,” Thomas said.

Pops was now in full belly laughter.  He finally came out of it long enough to wheeze out, “Are you sure you tore the house apart?”

“Come on.  It’s not that funny,” Thomas complained.

“You really want to know?” Pops said as he calmed down a bit more.  Thomas was about to complain again, but Pops cut him off.  “I put them where your toys should have been.”

“You mean?” Thomas asked.

“Yep, if you had put one blessed thing away you would have found everything.  I never hid a single thing.  I just tried to put things back to normal the best I could.” Pops said as he began laughing again.

This time Thomas joined him.

Seeing Red

The bell over the door tinkled as Jonah stepped out of the night.  The bar smelled as if stale beer and Lysol had a baby, but he didn’t care.  Jonah shrugged out of his jacket and shook it to get the powdery snow off of it before hanging it up on the empty coat rack.  His thick black curly hair, a gift of his southern European heritage, held onto the snow, giving him melting snow highlights.  He walked over to the bar, rubbing his hands together.

The bartender smiled a warm smile as she pushed a stray strand of blond hair back behind her ear.  “Still snowing out there?” she asked.

“It’s snowmageddon,” Jonah said.  “I almost drove off the road like six times.”  He sat down on a stool at the slightly sticky looking black counter and looked at the myriad of taps in front of him.

“Why did you come out then?” the bartender asked.

Jonah looked back at the bartender, a whole lot of hurt in his eyes.  “I needed to get out,” he said.  “Can I get a Guinness?”

The bartender grabbed a glass from under the bar.  “Sure can,” she said.

As the bartender reached for the tap though, Jonah stopped her.  “Not a glass.  A pitcher,” he said.

The bartender shook her head.  “Really?  Are you sure?” she asked.

Jonah nodded his head.  “Don’t worry,” he said as he threw his keys on the bar.  “I won’t be going anywhere for a while.”

The bartender nodded and put the key on the shelf behind the bar.  “Okay.  I just don’t want to see you get killed in this crap,” she said.  She deftly filled the pitcher with the perfect amount of head and placed it and the glass in front of Jonah.  Jonah moved the glass and put the pitcher to his mouth, downing a quarter of it before coming up for air.  “Boy, what’s got you so bad?”

“My girlfriend of three years dumped me,” Jonah replied after wiping his mouth on his sleeve.  The bartender put a napkin on the bar.  Jonah dabbed at his now clean mouth sheepishly.  “Thanks.”

“De nada.  So pretty bad breakup?  What happened?” the bartender asked.

Jonah took another drink, but this time he held back a bit.  He used his napkin to wipe again before speaking.  “I can handle breakups.  I mean, I’m a guy.  It happens all the time,” he said.

“I thought you said you had been going out for three years.  That sounds pretty serious,” the bartender said.

Jonah laughed.  “Well, it was getting there, but like a year or two of that was more Netflix and chill than boyfriend and girlfriend.”  Jonah paused and watched the bartender’s face for a reaction, but when she kept it neutral he decided to continue.  “Well, she decided she wanted to make it more official and I was like I don’t know, but I decided why not.  She’s an awesome girl, way out of my league.  But then she met him.”  To punctuate the end of his sentence he took another long pull on the pitcher, almost finishing it.  He let a burp escape from his soul.  “Excuse me.”

“Who is ‘him’?” the bartender asked.

“This old dude,” Jonah said.  The bartender was about to speak, but Jonah cut her off.  “No really, the dude is old.  He’s got to be in his seventies.  The dude smelled like a zoo too.  He must have a hobby farm or something.  Though he does have an epic beard, let me tell you.”  With that he finished the pitcher and handed it out to be refilled.

The bartender put the pitcher behind the bar.  “That’s enough for a bit.  Let’s see how the first one settles,” she said.  Jonah looked like he was going to protest, but then the anger and anxiety melted like the snow that was in his hair.  He deflated and looked defeated.  The bartender poured him a Coke.  “Here,” she said.  “Now if he was old and smelled like a zoo, what do you think your girlfriend saw in him?  I mean, you are pretty good looking.”  The bartender paused, leaned forward, and took a deep breath.  “And you don’t smell like a goat.  Did you cheat on her?”

Jonah raised his hands up in front of him.  “No way!  I wouldn’t do that,” he said.  The bartender gave him one of those looks.  “No really.  Remember, she was out of my league.  I wouldn’t want to screw that up.  The old dude, he was always there, making her laugh, giving her gifts.  It’s like he knew where she would be all the time.”

The bartender shivered.  “I’ve met some guys like that.  Heck, I have restraining orders against some of them,” she said.

“I know,” Jonah said.  “I once asked him what was his deal, and he had the nerve to tell me he knew when we were sleeping and when we were awake.  Now doesn’t that freak you out?”

“Hells yeah!” the bartender said.  “Didn’t your girlfriend feel the same way?”

“No, she thought it was funny,” Jonah said. “I was like that guy gives me the creeps, but she was fine with it.”  He downed his soda in a gulp and let another burp escape.  The bartender filled the glass with Guinness.  That made Jonah smile.  He lifted the glass in salute.

“So when did you find out about the two of them?” the bartender asked.

Jonah put the glass down without taking a drink, but his eyes never left the frothy head of the beer.  “Today,” he told the beer.  “I went down to his import/export business.  I wanted to give him a piece of mind.”  He looked back up at the bartender.  “He runs some sort of special needs employment there.  He had a ton of midgets there working for him.  It’s almost like he has a height problem and wants to be the big man on campus.”

“Okay, that just sounds creepy,” the bartender said.  “You sure this guy isn’t some sort of Willy Wonka?”  She waited to get a laugh, but Jonah wasn’t in the giving mood.

“Nah, he’s more of the ‘I’ll eat you out of house and home’ type of guy,” Jonah said.  “Anyhow, I got there and marched into his office to see my girl sitting on his lap.  I couldn’t believe it.“  He picked up his glass and chugged it.

The bartender waited for the expected burp, but it was not forth coming.  “So what did you do?” she asked.

“I confronted the two of them.  He just laughed, but she was trying to give me some sort of story about she was just telling him what she wanted or some other bullshit.  I really didn’t listen.  My eyes told me everything I needed, so I stormed out of there and drove till I saw this place,” Jonah said.  “I don’t want to go back to our place.  Not yet.  I just want to forget.”

The bartender was about to say something when the tinkle of the bell over the door announced a new patron.  Jonah physically winced when the snow covered figure laughed, “Ho, ho, ho.”

Jonah turned around.  “Really?  You couldn’t leave me alone?” he asked.

The old man’s blue eyes twinkled.  “Come on Jonah, let’s get you home,” he said.

“I’m drinking, Nick!  Leave me alone,” Jonah said.

The bartender couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  The old man in his red suit put a hundred dollar bill on the bar and a small wrapped present on top of it.  “There you go Jessica.  Just forget what happened tonight and close up.  No one else will be out on a night like this.  I know,” Nick said with a wink.

Nick placed his arm around Jonah and got Jonah off the stool and steered him towards the door.  Jonah began to cry.  “I don’t want to go.  I’ve got my car and my jacket, and…”

Nick cut him off.  “Don’t worry.  Tomorrow you will have a massive headache, a new coat, and a new car.  It’s the least I can do.”

Nick reached for the doorknob, but Jonah stopped him.  “Why Nick?  Why?”

Nick smiled and his eyes twinkled again.  “She’s on the naughty list and you’re on the nice,” he said.

Jonah shook his head, but let Nick take him out of the bar and into the snowy night.  Nick yelled back inside as the door closed.  “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

A Touching Gift (a 150 word story)

Marvin dug through his grocery cart.  He knew he had that gift there somewhere.  He finally pulled out the single pink glove.  He handed it to Charlotte.  “Merry Christmas,” he said, his smile highlighting the many lines on his weathered face.

Charlotte took the glove and held it tight. She gave his cheek a brief kiss.   “Thank you,” she said.  She tried to slip it onto her swollen hand, but it barely covered her crooked fingers.  “It’s perfect,” she said, “but I’ve got nothing for you.”

“I’m used to nothing,” said Marvin.  Charlotte looked like she was about to cry.  “But I’ve got a whole lot now that I’ve found you.”

With that he held out his hand and Charlotte grabbed it with her pink gloved one.  They began to dance under the stars to music that only they could hear, trying keep warm in a colder and colder world.

Welcome to the Corps

Christopher donned his white garb and covered his face.  This was supposed to be the hardest test yet.  If rumor was correct, this was the last one as well.  All he had to do was slip into this McMansion on this cold winter’s night and deliver a small silk wrapped figurine into the master bedroom and onto the nightstand.  If Christopher could do all of this, and get away without getting caught, he would pass.  The compensation for the job he was auditioning for was in the seven figures, so Christopher knew he was against tough competition, but they only selected the best of the best, and Christopher always believed in being that.

As he approached the wall from the downwind direction, Christopher placed a small listening device into his left ear.  Suddenly the mostly silent night exploded into sound.   He pressed his ear against the wall and closed his eyes.  Centering himself before attempting an insertion was one of the ways he earned top spot in his class as a Navy Seal.  Three breathes in and he could almost map the sounds from inside the compound.  There were at least three dogs wandering.  The hum of electricity spoke of cameras nearby.  He figured there must be at least two people, but they were on the far side or inside a structure since their voices were so muffled.

Christopher looked at his watch.  His diversion should kick in three, two, one.  He was over the wall before the lights had fully gone out due to lack of electricity.  He took out a small crossbow and fired off one, then reload and fired a second shot.  The smell of roast beef carried into the night.  Christopher ran the other way, turning down the listening device, but he didn’t shut it off.  Two dogs seemed to be running towards the free meal, but he could hear one coming his way.  Whether the animal could smell him, or Christopher had ran into the dog’s most likely path, he couldn’t be certain, but he reached for his favorite dog toy.  The Doberman came around a bush and Christopher triggered his ultraviolet flash, blinding the animal temporarily.  Christopher threw his last helping of meat in front of the dog as compensation before running as silently as possible to the window.

A few magnets were carefully stuck to the outside window casing and two laser diodes trained at the photodetectors to defeat the alarm system should it come back on.  A quick layer of tape over one of the panes and then a swipe of a glass cutter took off the first layer of glass.  Another cut and more tape took out the second layer.  He quickly opened the latch and let himself inside.  He fixed the windows with a bit more tape to stand up to a cursory inspection from the guards that were undoubtedly roaming the compound because of the loss of power.

Christopher military crawled on his elbows an knees out of the room and towards the staircase.  He didn’t have long before… and there it was, power was back on.  The cat jumped back from Christopher crawling up the stairs.  He had noticed the cat when he had done his reconnaissance two days ago.  The cat guaranteed that as long as he stayed less than two feet off the ground that the alarm shouldn’t trigger.  That and it was badass to talk later about military crawling a marble staircase, especially without pads.  At the top he reoriented himself to where the master bedroom should be.  He stopped in the first bedroom on the staircase and left a present of his own.  Once the package was delivered he continued down the hallway.

The master bedroom was closed.  Christopher put his ear to the door and listened, one person breathing in and out, slightly out of unison with something else.  Damn!  He didn’t think anything else would be there.  There could be another cat, but Christopher hadn’t seen anything other than the cat he already encountered.  Flashlights flashed above him from the floor below.  The guards must have found the dogs’ treats.  Well, fate favors the bold.  He pulled his feet underneath him into a crouching position.  The alarm must be off if the guards were in the house.  He pressed the button on his belt, opened the door and rolled into the room and to the right.  He tucked himself behind a chair as the alarms went ballistic.  An older man jumped out of bed, his white hair looking comic with a severe case of bedhead and his beard covered in drool.  The old man ran through the door among shouts from the guards down below.  The small dachshund that had been sleeping with the man blinked in the sudden light, but didn’t move from the warm pillow it had been sleeping on.

Seizing the opportunity, Christopher jumped out of his cover and ran to the nightstand, placing the figurine in place.  Glancing at the bed, the dachshund seemed to almost be smiling at him.  Christopher snapped himself back into the now and looked for possible cover.  With none to be had, he quickly slipped out onto the porch off the bedroom.  He slung himself down from the railing and fell the story to the ground below, rolling as he hit.  Christopher came up and tried to run, but found out he had twisted his ankle on landing.  He began to limp as best as he could, but the flood lights came on lighting him up.

“Hands above your head or you won’t have one,” called a deep male voice from the porch.

Christopher put his hands over his head and turned around.  He wanted to go for his pistol, but he was told no wet works under any circumstances.  There was the old man with a sniper rifle pointed straight at Christopher.  Christopher was impressed.  The man held it like someone who had many hours of practice with the weapon.  “Look,” said Christopher, “this is all a misunderstanding.”

The old man actually ho ho hoed.  “Misunderstanding young man?  I know who’s been naughty or nice, and you were definitely naughty tonight,” the old man said.  “Putting a fog grenade in a spare bedroom was brilliant. the perfect diversion.  Something I might have done back in my day.”  Christopher bowed but didn’t say a thing.

The old man paused, thinking.  He then threw the figurine, still in the silk cover, to Christopher who caught it with one hand.  “You forgot this.”

“Thanks, but I believe I was supposed to leave it with you,” Christopher admitted.

“Well, you earned it.  You made it farther than any of the others,” the old man said.

Christopher looked from the figurine, to the old man, and back to the figurine.  “What do you mean old man?” he asked.

“Open it if you want the job,” the old man said, a twinkle in his eye.

Christopher opened the drawstring on the silk bag and looked inside.  It was impossible to see what it was.  Christopher looked back at the old man.  “But I failed,” he said.

The old man whistled and out waddled the dachshund.  “There was no chance you could have won.  Not unless you had some magic of your own,” the old man said.  “Besides, Blitzen here has taken a liking to you.”

Christopher laughed and dropped the figurine out of the bag and into his hand.  It was a small statue of the man in front of him, winking with a finger alongside his nose.  Christopher held it out to old man.  “Okay, what’s next?” he asked.

The old man dropped the sniper rifle on the table and threw himself off the balcony.  Christopher tried to move to catch the old man, but his ankle failed him, dropping Christopher to the ground.  The dachshund morphed into a reindeer and lightning quick took flight and caught the old man before he had dropped five feet.  The two of them glided to a stop a foot away from Christopher.  The old man held out his hand to help Christopher up.  “Welcome to the corps,” the old man said.

Christopher stood and felt his ankle mend immediately.  “Are you Santa?” he asked.

The old man ho ho hoed again.  “If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that question I would be rich,” the old man said.  “Actually my name is Stanly. You just became a part of the Santa Corps.  People have screwed it up for so many years we decided to just keep the Santa Claus moniker.  Makes us seem even more mysterious, a single guy doing something miraculous.”

“How many are in the Corps?” asked Christopher.

“I know you have many questions, but I’m hungry, so let’s go get a bite to eat.  The elves should have something ready by now,” Stanly said.

“The elves?”

“My private security.  One can never be too careful,” Stanly said as he dismounted Blitzen.  “How do you feel about beards?”  He began walking back to the house.  Christopher fell in beside him.

“I don’t mind them,” Christopher said.  He looked at the house again.  “Why did you have me break into this place?”

“What can you do if your magic ever fails?  We need capable men and women,” Stanly said.

“Men and women?” asked Christopher.

Stanly put his arm around Christopher.  “It’s just the beginning.  I’ve got forms you need to sign, and we need to get you some training, but let me tell you the fringe benefits are awesome.”

Christopher let himself be led inside.  “But what of the pay?” he asked.

Stanly smiled.  “I can tell you it’s not just milk and cookies.”

Soliloquy of Opposites (100 words)

The lights dance upon that Christmas tree of green that is vibrant on the outside, but slowly dying on the inside.  That is me in a nutshell.  My hair and eyes are almost perfect.  I wear the designer clothes that are all the rage.  They might as well be my burial shrouds, my face paint for my eternal rest.  Am I misunderstood, or have just misunderstood what life was meant to be?  Some might blame teenaged angst, but I blame the angst against teenagers.  We are expected to play our roles, but I feel I am the one being played.