So, it's Christmas and I stumbled across a little "story" I wrote last year for an exercise I ran over at compu. The general idea was to write a story of Christmas past, present, future a la' Dickens, in which you show your characters at age 7, present day, and age 50. Ghosts had to be included in some form and there had to be some sort of "lesson" learned... I think. Anyway, think A Christmas Carol and you'll be on the right track.
I thought it might be fun to dust this one off and post it here. I'll do it over probably 2-3 days. It's a long one. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I swear, with all of the exercises I write using my characters from FI, I sometimes feel like I'm writing fanfiction of my own book. LOL. S'okay, tho. It all helps stir the batter...and sometimes I discover things I didn't know about my characters.
So...here we go.
(c) Jennifer Hendren 2009
I jerked awake at the sound of the doorbell. With a grunt in the general direction of the door, I whipped one of the throw pillows over my head, flopped onto my stomach, and tucked back into the couch.
It rang again.
I popped one eye open and studied the grains in the fabric.
Ten beats and nothing happened. I sighed and snuggled my face into the cushion.
This time the person went to town on the ringer. The continuous peal of sound practically made my ears bleed. I let loose a few choice words, shook off the blanket tangled around my legs, and threw the door open. “What?”
I blinked and lowered my gaze a couple of feet. Was the circus in town?
An elf was on my doorstep. I’m talking pointy ears, green hat, lots of little person cuteness.
“Took you long enough,” he said, barreling past me into the apartment. His voice was a complete contradiction to his appearance. He sounded like a well-seasoned smoker.
I bapped my forehead a few times with the heel of my hand, opened my eyes and he was gone. Whew. Must’ve been a dream.
I retrieved my blanket from the floor and that’s when I heard sounds coming from the kitchen.
I crept around the corner and found the elf rifling through my refrigerator. He was half inside the thing, reaching for the beer I kept stored on the top shelf.
“What the hell are you doing?” I yelled. In the scramble to get to my beer, he had managed to wedge his little slipper into the cheesecake I had thawed for dinner. He ignored my protests, kicked off his soiled bootie and clamored off to the living room, beers in tow. Too stunned to react, I followed behind, mute.
“Oh God, not my pillow!” I whined. He had planted himself on my couch and had his toes curled into the thick fabric. Even from a distance I could see the wiry hair sprouting out all over his feet.
“What a day,” he declared on a happy sigh. He downed a beer in one shot and let out a loud belch. Then he opened a second and fixed me in his sights. “I’m not gonna pussyfoot around this. You’re a fucking mess.”
My head snapped backward and I flicked my eyes around the room, looking for the hidden camera. “Excuse me?”
“Don’t get your panties all in a bunch. I’m here to help.”
“But who the hell are you?” I said.
He burped again and pushed off the couch. With a roll of his eyes, he cleared his throat and spoke in a falsetto. “I’m the ghost of Christmas past. I’ve come because you’ve forgotten the true meaning of Christmas.”
He coughed for a full minute after this little performance, whacking himself in the chest with a tiny fist. “Come with me,” he said, finally, eyes bugged out, face red.
“Where are we going?” I said, trying to figure out which would be the safer bet—the door or the bottle of pepper spray in my purse.
He stopped, hands on hips, and glared at me. “Don’t play stupid. You’ve probably seen this goddamn movie a million times. You know how this shit works.”
He had a point. And this was just a dream after all. What did I have to lose?
He disappeared through the door and I followed a few seconds later. Mist surrounded me, and soon I was falling down into a black void.
The mist slowly dissipated. When at last I had my senses back, I realized we were standing outside a two-story Victorian I hadn’t stepped foot inside for several years. My parents’ house.
“Aww hell,” I muttered.
The elf made a guttural noise in the back of his throat and motioned for me to follow behind him.
The yard was covered in thick snow drifts, but my stocking-covered feet seemed to hover atop them, impervious to the cold. Patches of light played across the vast whiteness, and in the front picture window, a huge Christmas tree blinked brilliant blues and reds and greens.
The elf was right. I’d seen this movie and I knew how these things worked. The only question was what year we had returned to. And what stupid event from my past would I be forced to relive.
The possibilities were endless.
There had been the time my brothers tied me to the track of their train set, always failing to save the damsel in distress before the engine rammed into my side. I’d been four, and the “whoo-whoo” of a mini chu-chu still made me tense.
Or there was the time when I was six. I’d received one of those dolls that peed when you fed her. My very funny brothers decided to put food coloring in her mouth and the resulting plume of blue dye on my mother’s new area rug had caused an uproar I wouldn’t soon forget.
Okay, if you haven’t guessed by now, my brothers were the bane of my existence when I was a child. A significant problem when I, junior to the youngest by five years, wanted nothing more than to be a boy so I could tag along and be in on all their jokes. It had topped my Christmas list for several years running.
With a sigh, I stepped up beside Grumpy, who stood peeking through the front window. He tugged on my sweats and with a soft whoosh, we walked through the wall together.
“Cool,” I said. “Wish I could do that trick in real life.”
He rolled his eyes, and I glared down at him. “You need to work on your people skills, you little f—.”
Voices from above interrupted my next words, and a moment later two dark-haired boys came pounding down the stairs. They had an “up to no good” aura surrounding them—as they always did—and I grimaced. Wherever they were going, you can bet I wouldn’t be far behind.
Sure enough, not thirty seconds later, I came trouncing down the stairs in full whig-out mode, the idea of being left behind too much for my little self to handle. Mini-Madison practically thrummed with pent up frustration.
I guessed my age to be around seven or eight. It was the Barbie jammies that gave it away. Not to mention the pigtails done up with pink cotton ribbons.
Oh hell. I looked like a girlie-girl. The kind I always felt an irrational need to choke.
Grumpy snorted beside me. “Nice outfit.”
I ignored him and followed behind mini-me. I had a sudden flood of remembrance and saw the rest of this scene play out in my memory. Oh hell.
We passed through the swinging door leading to the kitchen and the boys almost immediately exited, me hot on their heels. They were loaded down with a bunch of random items—some tools, rope, a few pieces of wood from the stockpile in the kitchen.
“What are ya doin?” Small Madison squealed, trying to keep up with their longer strides.
“Shutup, Sonny,” Ian growled, drawing back his fist in warning. My parents were in the living room watching TV, just a few feet away. I flinched backwards, but immediately gathered my wits to follow them upstairs. They slammed their bedroom door behind them, but I squeezed inside and quietly climbed into their bottom bunk.
I sat very still, and they ignored me as they arranged the hodge podge of items before them on the floor.
Grumpy and I stood near the window, watching the boys hard at work.
“Whatcha doin?” I had inched forward on the bed, curiosity finally getting the better of me.
Paul rolled his eyes and exchanged a look with Ian. “Get lost, squirt.”
Being the older of the two, Paul had always shown me a little more patience. But even he had his limits.
I had my finger in my mouth. At first glance it looked like I was sucking on it, but I recognized the gesture at once. Born with a deep dimple in my right cheek, I had been cursed with always being told how cute I was—followed by painful pinches to my cheeks. At an early age, I had determined that my dimple was to blame and had begun a campaign to rid myself of the dang thing. I’d spent hours, finger or tongue planted firmly on the inside of my cheek, hoping I could pop the sucker back out.
I grinned at the memory, and ran my tongue along the familiar spot. I’d been so determined, and sometimes found myself unconsciously repeating the action.
“Stop doing that,” Ian said, glaring at me. “You look like a baby.”
My brows knit together in a frown, but I resolutely kept my finger where it was.
They continued working, and eventually even my younger self figured out what they were making.
“I wanna play!” I squealed, climbing off the bed to stand above them, hands on hips.
“It’s too cold outside, dumbass,” Ian grumbled. “Besides, it’s our swing.”
My face crumbled, tears close to the surface. Paul stole a glance at me and frowned. Seeing this chink in his armor, I stuck out my lower lip a little further.
Ian rolled his eyes at this exchange and threw himself on his back with a groan. “God. Can’t we do anything without the little freak?”
“I’m not a freak,” I moaned, a few real tears squeaking through my lashes.
Ian sat back up, fuming and glaring at Paul. Then his expression changed, a slow smile creeping across his face. “Hey, Sonny. You can play.”
I perked up at his words, my tears drying up quickly. “I can?”
“Sure,” he said, standing and moving over to the window to glance out at the snow. “You wanna test our swing?”
“What are you doing?” Paul began, but then stopped, light dawning. He grinned then.
Boys should never be left to their own devices for too long. Seriously.
I groaned beside Grumpy, and the elf chuckled. “What a dumbass.”
“Hey!” I said. “I was seven!”
He smirked. “Even three year olds are smart enough to see this one coming.”
I ignored him and watched as Paul and Ian tied the swing to the bunk bed they had wheeled over to the window. I stood behind them, a look of self-importance on my face. They were letting me play for a change, and I glowed with excitement.
“Do you think it will hold,” Ian asked Paul, pulling on the ropes, testing their strength.
“Oh yeah.” Paul paused, doubts flickering behind his eyes. “We’re gonna be so busted if Mom catches us.”
“Sonny won’t tell, will you, Sonny?”
I shook my head vehemently and stepped forward to take my place on the swing. They opened their window and hoisted the wood—with me sitting atop it—onto the windowsill. My hands clung to the ends of the swing, scared, but determined to please them.
It was cold outside, and the wind bit at my hands and face. My feet dangled over the edge, the ground looking so far away. I could remember the way my heart had pounded in my chest, racing so fast that I could barely breathe as I looked down at the indistinguishable snow-covered lumps in the yard below. They seemed so menacing, but had been nothing more than the small bushes and flowerbeds that my mother pruned relentlessly during the summer months.
“You ready, Sonny?” Paul shouted above the swirling snow.
“Yes!” I answered, teeth chattering from the cold.
The boys exchanged a glance. “On the count of three, lower her down slowly,” Paul said.
The door opened behind them. “Madison!”
My parents, probably thinking they would find us playing quietly in our rooms, stood with their mouths agape at the sight before them.
The boys wore matching guilty expressions, their hands wrapped tightly around the rope attached to their makeshift swing. And I—dressed in my Pepto Bismol outfit, teetering stupidly on the window ledge. Gullible to the last.
We were back in the mist.
When my flaming cheeks cooled at last, I frowned, puzzled. “What the hell was I supposed to learn from that?”
Grumpy smirked. “Nothing. I just thought that shit was funny.”
Stay tuned for the next installment...Christmas PRESENT. Muhahahaha. :)