Ho ho ho!

Time for another Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction entry. And this story was LONGLISTED! Even more surprising is I actually like this one, so I’m sharing it. It’s also very appropriate for this time of year in this year!

December 2020 Furious Fiction criteria:

  • First sentence must be exactly 3 words long.
  • The story must include a gift of some sort.
  • Must include the words ROSE, PALM & MATCH (or longer versions of those words, provided the word remains intact e.g. MATCHing

My Story Placed: Longlisted! (it’s times like this that I wish Word still had marching-ants font – I’m showing my age now)
My Story Word Count: 498
My Story Title: Christmas 2020
My Story Story: The first three words came to me in a flash, then the rest of the story wrote itself. I was convinced every other story would start with the same 3 words.

Christmas 2020

“Ho ho ho!” I stop myself before I say ‘Merry Christmas’. It’s been banned this year. Not just because there isn’t a lot of Merry around, but it’s not considered inclusive enough. Just another in the long list of disappointments that 2020 has served up.

The next kid vaults onto me before I’m ready. The bones of his bum dig into my thigh like an angry masseur.

“Not this year,” I laugh through tears of pain as I try to slip him off. “Don’t forget social distancing.” He’s already counting off what he wants on his fingers. He doesn’t even look at me.

“A PS5, earbuds, smartwatch, electric bike…”

As he rattles things off, I manage to push his legs to the ground, relieving the agony in my leg. That’s when I realise he’s not counting his requests on his fingers, he’s reading from a list he’s written on his palm. He clearly didn’t want to forget anything.

His mum lifts her phone while I’m grimacing. I guess with the mask on it must look like I’m smiling. She snaps a few photos and I reconcile myself with losing another $5 commission for the official store photo that won’t be purchased.

“Well, laddie, that’s quite a list you’ve got there.” And worth more than I’m likely to earn this year, even with Job Seeker. “Here you go,” I hand him a gift from the box beside me. “Remember, don’t open it before December 25th!” We don’t want any tears here – I know he’s going to be disappointed.

I watch him walk away. When I turn back there’s a little girl standing next to me, a rose in each cheek and emeralds for eyes. She looks frightened. Wise kid. I drop my voice a little in the hopes of appearing less scary.

“And what would you like for Christmas?”

“To find my mummy.” Her bottom lip quivers. Looking around, I can’t see anyone trying to take photos or watch my hands like a good parent should.

“Carol,” I say to the woman who drew the short straw today. Her name’s not Carol, but the contract we both signed says it is for this gig. “Give me the mike.”

“Sure, Santa,” she says, passing the microphone like a baton.

“Attention, everyone! We have a lost child. Please come and see Santa if you have lost a child.”

A desperate woman breaks through the crowd of shoppers lined up at a juice bar beside us. The matching set of wild emerald eyes tell me we’ve got the right woman before the joyous squeal beside me confirms it.

“Thank you!” the little girl says. She darts in to hug me before her mother sweeps her up in an embrace of her own. They start to walk away.

“Wait!” The little girl cries. She turns her bejewelled eyes onto me. “What do you want for Christmas?” she asks. My heart melts.

“I want everyone to have a reason to be merry this year!”