December Writing Contest!


It’s that time of the year where many people are concentrating on the upcoming holidays.  So this month’s theme will be about gift giving.  You don’t have to say it is about Christmas, but you certainly can if you want!  The last contest was meant to inspire some comical stories.  This month’s is meant to be more touching, and if you care to try, emotional.  I’ll look forward to reading the entries and seeing what people come up with!

The stipulations and rules will be listed below.  For further information, stop by the Monthly Writing Contest page to see the complete listing of rules (new ones have been added) and other information that you should know.  You will have until December 30th at midnight (EST) to submit your entry.  That is two weeks from now.  On December 31st, I will announce the finalists for the contest and open up voting.  There are typically three finalists, but if more than ten entries are submitted, I may select four.  It will remain my right to use assistance from outside sources in the selection process, if I cannot decide easily. Those who judge will have no stake in this contest or its outcome.

As a reminder, the first and second place winners will receive a prize.  First place will receive a $20 Amazon gift card, and the runner-up will get a $10 Amazon gift card.  Both will be announced after voting is over on January 3rd.

Now, here are the stipulations and rules.  Follow them closely or you will be disqualified!

Stipulations:

1) The story must be about finding the perfect gift(s) for a friend, relative, secret santa, or person in a holiday program for the less fortunate.

2) Provide an obstacle that doesn’t make it easy.

3) The ending should be memorable and include the actual gift-giving.

4) Word count must be between 600-1000 words.  I will allow no more than a five word variance from this. Titles are required, though they do not count toward the total.

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General Rules:

1) No extreme language. There are people here who do not want to see it and I prefer we not have anything that might be too offensive to the average reader. Light profanity is acceptable.

2) Making me laugh will gain you favor in my selection, though it isn’t a requirement. All genres of writing are welcome (if you are erotica, try to keep it mild please).

3) Post your story in the comments section of the Contest post for that month. Do not email it to me.

4) Ensure you include your name (even if it is only a first name or nickname) and a title for the story. Neither of these go toward word-count.

5) Anyone who has won any of the last three contests is not eligible for a finalist position. They can submit a story if they wish, just for fun, but they cannot win.

6) Any story submission posted here can be posted elsewhere after the competition is over. The only thing I ask is that you put a disclaimer saying that it was written for a contest on this blog (a link back here would be nice).

7) Must be your original writing that has never been published before.

8)Anyone may enter the contest (regardless of country of origin) but must be able to receive an Amazon gift card (they are not transferable).  I will convert US currency to the currency of the Amazon country site requested, based on current exchange rates.

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That is everything you need to know.  Come back on Saturday (December 31st) to see who the finalists are and vote in the poll for your favorite candidate (or maybe even yourself).   The poll will stay open until midnight (EST) Monday, January 2nd.  That is approximately three days for voting.  On Tuesday, the 3rd, I will announce the winner and runner-up.  They will both receive their Amazon gift cards at that time.   Good luck!

 

 

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~ by Suzie on December 16, 2011.

37 Responses to “December Writing Contest!”

  1. Hi, I think I posted this on my own blog about a year ago. Don’t know if that’s okay.
    Regards,
    Arthur

    The Little Christmas Tree That Could

    Johnny Jr. was pursuing a quest to find his faith in God. He bought a tiny little Christmas tree to celebrate the holidays. It was all that he could afford at the time.

    His wife and little children were very disappointed that the tree was so small. They didn’t say anything, but Johnny Jr. knew and was upset that they weren’t happy. He wished and prayed that the tree was larger and more magnificent.

    The night before Christmas when he went to put his few meager presents under the tree, he was startled to notice that the Christmas tree had grown much larger. It was taller by more than three feet and wider and its branches seemed to glisten. The few tiny ornaments and lights that Johnny Jr. and his wife had managed to put up also appeared to have multiplied, and now their glow lit up the whole room.

    Johnny Jr. called his wife and little children over to witness this miracle of the little Christmas tree that could grow. He had been praying that things would get better for him and his family, but he never dreamed that his prayers would be answered in this manner.

    Johnny and his family were convinced that it was their faith in God that gave them the miracle of the little tree that could grow.

    Do you have something happening in your life that can help make your faith grow stronger? Has something happened to you that you feel is a miracle at this wonderful time of the year? Think about it. Sometimes it’s the little acts of faith in our lives that can help make miracles happen. Sometimes our prayers do get answered if we truly believe.

    I believe that each of us has a special thought or wish in our mind’s eye that could grow into a miracle if you just have enough faith that it could. I pray that at this marvelous time of the year the miracle of your dreams comes true for you. I think it could. I think it could. I think it could

    If you have something that has happened to you that you feel is a miracle at this wonderful time of year, please share with us.

  2. I would be disqualified at #1. Can’t $%@#@# seem to write without @%$UI&^ profanities these days.

    Just kidding, Susan. 🙂

    Honestly, I won’t have time to enter my own, but I look forward to sharing your contest and voting on others. Good luck to all the entrants!

    • Lol Dicey! I have the occassional profanity on here. It isn’t a 100 percent clean blog. If you ever get a chance, go to the “A sentence at a time” page here. All bets are off on what happens there and everyone is welcome to participate. It is mostly a chance to goof off while writing a collective story. Well, stories, since they get so crazy we have to end them and start new ones, but lots of fun. We just began a new one that is probably more enjoyable to women since we added two hot guys to the mix.

      Anyway, I appreciate your support on the contests and expect people will participate when they have the time and inclination. No pressure 🙂

  3. Shared on FB and twitter. Looking forward to some good stories.

  4. Good luck to all. I’ve just finished working on a flash fiction xmas card for my blog so need to get back to my novel for a few days… Looking forward to reading the entries… In the mean time, Merry Xmas everyone! 🙂

  5. Merry Christmas!

    Christmas time, end of the year, another one in the bag, and I am wondering where it is that the time has gone? Summer is now just a faded memory and long since removed from my landscape.

    Another observation that is recent, is the grandkids. They seem to be leaping ahead in years, and of course, I am not prepared for it. I sat the other day and studied intently the mannerisms and the actions of two of our grandchildren, and all I could think of was “they grow up too fast.”

    It seems just like yesterday they were my little dinkers and now they are morphing into youngsters and soon to be teenagers. I wonder if they will even like me, when that rite of passage happens?

    Joshua one of our grandchildren is ten now. It does not seem possible, but it is true.

    I still remember the day I met him, he was a “preemie” came out of the chute in Fort Worth, Texas weighing less than a five pound bag of sugar. Real small, I had never saw a baby that small before.

    But he turned out just fine. He is a handful, great little kid.

    Not long ago I walked into the kitchen, and there he sat, little red head facing down towards the table, feet just off the floor, and I thought to myself, “They grow up so fast. Soon he will be a teenager and we will not have this time with him.” And now sadly, that day has come upon me, and of course, like I said, I am not prepared for it, I am not ready.

    Allowing my mind a little time to unwind, I can still see him as he was before. The day I walked into the kitchen and found him there. Little Josh sat at that table, intently working on his letter. Oblivious to just about everything in the room, he was deep into his ritual. He was intently hovering over his piece of yellow paper, the kind with the “big lines” on it and I asked him “Josh, what he are you doing?” and he said, “writing a letter to Santa Claus.”

    Carefully, unknown to him, I studied him intently. I watched him labor with “his letters” as he refers to them, working diligently with each stroke, with care, with his big #2 pencil, he put his thoughts down on the paper.

    Who knows? Possibly for the very first time.

    So I slowly walked over to the table and I peered down on the sheet of paper, curious to see what it is that he was so diligently working on and I saw: “Dear Santa, I can save you some time this year, please skip my sister.” So I asked him about that, did he think it was right, did he think it was the “proper thing to do?”

    And he didn’t quite have an answer for me.

    “Josh, you know about the naughty and nice rule, right?” and he shook his little head and said, “Yes.”

    “Do you think this fits in that area? Naughty or nice? ”

    He thought about it for a minute and then said, “I dunno.”

    So then I said to him, “I can get you off the naughty list, but it costs a buck? You got a buck?” and like a rocket, he shot out of the chair, ran into the TV Room and said to his dad, “Dad, can I have a dollar?”

    Lord help us.

    And yes, there isn’t anything better in the world than being a registered Grandfather. *

    000

    * I yanked this from my website, I don’t know if that fits “the rules” or not?

  6. The Forgotten

    It was nearly 5 pm on Christmas Eve, and I was banging my head against my desk like a deranged woodpecker. Can’t say it was doing much for my thinking and the desk was ready to throw in the towel. There just had to be a way to pull this off. Why is the right thing always the hardest to do? I had spent the last three weeks talking to the best in the business, and all I had to show for it was a concussion and some heartfelt questions concerning my sanity.
    I pulled a bottle of scotch out of the desk drawer, threw the cap across the room and took a healthy slug. How do you give a gift to someone who can’t accept it? It’s the thought that counts, but that doesn’t mean much if they don’t know it.
    I glanced at the calendar, one of those sappy Norman Rockwell type jobs the bank gives out, and my brain stalled. There was the answer, staring me in the face. What every child wants! But still impossible.
    I killed the bottle and was about to do myself some grave bodily harm when the obvious ran my dumb ass over. A quick check of the phone book and I was out the door.

    I stopped the car behind the ASPCA building and got out. If there is a place more heartbreaking than a neglected pet cemetery on Christmas Eve, I don’t want to know about it. I pulled the whistle from my pocket and blew it, then got back in the car. I wasn’t sure if it had worked until I felt the cold wet touch against the back of my neck. I started the car and headed for my final stop of the night.

    Continued…

  7. The Forgotten continued…

    It was just starting to snow when I pulled up to the gates of the foster home. Or what was left of it. Not much remained of the building, save for some fire blackened brickwork. Back when it was open, it housed about 200 kids. It wasn’t a bad place, as orphanages go, once upon a time. I survived it, and have some fond memories. But things change. Especially when money means more than the children. Things started to go downhill, accelerating along the way. Things came to a head five years ago, when an electrical fire burned the place to the ground. On Christmas Eve. 167 kids lost their lives that night. And most of them are still here. I could hear the sound of their crying, a faint whisper in the night.
    I got out of the car and opened the back door.

    “Go on now. Go play!”

    Everything got real quiet for a moment, and then, ever so faintly, I could hear the sweet laughter of the children, the excited yipping of puppies at play. I wiped the tears from my eyes as I turned away, a smile in my heart.

    “Merry Christmas, little ones. Time to play.”

  8. Santa’s Workshop Inc.
    By Ella Stradling

    Veronica sat watching her father as he strutted about the room in his new red suit practicing his ho-ho-hos. He looked like an overstuffed frankfurter sausage with its insides bursting out. His red face dripped with sweat. Here they were in the middle of Sydney’s hottest summer on record and Dad had decided to take a job playing Santa in the local shopping centre.
    She remembered the day he found the ad in the newspaper, pointing it out to her in excitement. She had read the ad uncertainly. “Position Vacant. Various duties, some acting experience necessary, a bright demeanour and sense of fun are an advantage. Applications to Santa’s Workshop, PO Box 25, your capital city.”
    “It’s bogus, Dad. It’s not even a real address.”
    “It’ll be fine, you’ll see.”
    Now he stood there looking ridiculous with a pillow stuffed up his thick woolen shirt.
    “They’ll never believe you’re Santa. Kids aren’t stupid.”
    “You used to believe. None of those Santas looked any more real than this.”
    “Come on, Dad, I knew the beard was fake. I just played along.”
    “And these kids will too.”
    “Whatever. Santa’s not real. All you’re doing is perpetuating a myth by lying to innocent kids.”
    “Look at you, all grown up and cynical in your old age.”
    She made a rude face and returned to her cereal.
    “So, what do you want for Christmas?” said Dad.
    She shrugged. “I don’t believe in Christmas. Just money in a card’ll do.”
    “You’ll get what you get, missy. If you don’t want to tell me, I’ll just get you some clothes.”
    “Don’t you dare!”

    Ronnie’s Dad spent the next six weeks sitting in a chair having his photo taken with kids of all ages. His act fooled them all. Soon it would be over and still he had not found the right present for Veronica. Every child who sat on his knee gave him suggestions, but nothing seemed right.
    Finally the day came, the last day he would sit in that gold-painted chair with the fairy lights blinking their rainbow colours and the plastic reindeer looking on with his flashing red nose laughing at him. Dad could not be happy. Not only did he not have a gift for his daughter, but tomorrow he would be out of work again. The last child sat for the last photo and dad smiled and ho-ho-hoed for the last time. Then the camera was packed away, the bright lights went dim and Dad changed into his normal clothes and made his way to the car.
    Sitting behind the wheel, he checked his phone. One message. He read it with a sense of loss. “Proceed directly to warehouse after final shift.” They weren’t wasting any time getting the suit back, he thought ruefully. Starting the motor, Dad negotiated the crazy Christmas eve traffic to return his Santa suit.
    At the warehouse, Dad stared. The nondescript grey concrete building gave no indication of the bustling activity inside. The huge barn of a warehouse was filled to bursting with piles of brightly wrapped presents. At the back, near the large loading bay doors, stood a great red and gold sleigh hitched to what looked like reindeer, but not plastic ones. Dad closed his eyes tight and counted to ten, but when he opened them the strange sight was unchanged.
    “Ah, Mister…” the man in a green three piece suit who approached consulted a clipboard. “Mister Herron?”
    Dad nodded, bemused.
    “I’m Maurice, your designated helper for tonight. Where’s your suit?”
    Dad held up the plastic shopping bag with the suit rolled up inside. “I… thought I had to return it.”
    “Good heavens, no! Did you think the job ended with the photos?”
    Dad nodded, unable to speak.
    “Well, go get dressed, you need to leave soon if you want to get your route done by morning.”
    “My… route?”
    “Of course, Sir! You are Santa number A4465 are you not? I have your route map right here, we must get started.”

    Head spinning, Dad settled his red-suited self into the driver’s seat of the great red sleigh, reaching for the reins uncertainly and Maurice swung in beside him mumbling his last minute flight check.
    “Harness buckled, jingle-bells shined and ready, presents stowed, sack secure… all set, Sir, you may take off.”
    “Take off?”
    “Just flick the reins, the deer know what to do.”
    Dad suddenly knew the perfect present for Veronica. “Do you think we could pick up a passenger?”
    Maurice made an uncertain noise. “It’s not really appropriate, not protocol at all, Sir.”
    “I know, but it would mean so much…”
    “Well, alright then. But she’ll have to adhere to the same secrecy clause you signed in your contract. I expect you can assure me of that? I mean it would cost me my job if Mister Kringle found out.”
    “Mr Kringle?”
    “CEO of Santa’s Workshop Incorporated. We’re a multi-national corporation you know. The Kringles have run the company for generations.”

    Dad dragged Veronica out of the house in her nightie and slippers, protesting vehemently, but when she saw the sleigh her eyes popped and her jaw dropped.
    “Dad? What’s going on?”
    “You’ll see. Come on, you can help.”
    He dragged her up onto the seat between himself and Maurice and they set off on their route. At each house, Maurice said a little spell and the huge sack sparkled and shrank slightly as the presents were magically transported into the homes below. Finally, just as dawn brought a rosy glow over the rooftops, they arrived once more at their own house.
    “There’s still a few parcels here,” said Ronnie.
    Maurice smiled and whispered the spell. “They’re yours.”
    “Ronnie, I need to take the sleigh back and get the car, but I’ll be right home.”
    Veronica threw herself into her father’s arms. “Thanks, Dad. This was the best present ever!”

  9. Unworthy
    by J Bryden Lloyd

    Paul was cold. Paul was always cold but this morning, as he pushed the frosty paper and boxes from around him, the sight of the thin layer of snow made him shiver from his core.

    He pulled his once fine woollen coat tight to his chest and battled against his stiff back and legs until he was standing. The alleyway was silent and beyond Paul could see that the street beyond had a much greater thickness of white powder making it seem like a magical scene at the end of a dark tunnel. He started to move towards the end of the alleyway but stopped as he realised he was being watched.

    The dark suited man looked at him with kind grey eyes and nodded in acknowledgement as Paul turned towards him. “Can I help you Mister?” asked Paul.
    “Do you know what day it is?” asked the man.
    “I think it is Christmas day.”
    “It is,” the man agreed, “and I have come to offer you today.”
    “Excuse me?” Paul frowned.
    “I have it in my power to offer you this one day.”
    “I don’t understand.”

    The suited man gestured towards the darkened window alongside Paul. He turned to face the reflection in the window and saw his favourite suit and perfect shoes; his coat back to its former magnificence and his immaculately groomed face staring back at him. “I can offer you today.” the man repeated.

    Paul looked down at his clothes, tears flowing freely as he stood before the reflection. “I still don’t… what‘s this about, who are you?”
    “You would consider me an angel and I would consider it an honour if you would accept this one gift from me. It is all I am permitted to offer.”

    Paul laughed then stopped. He had not heard his own laugh for so long, he had forgotten how it sounded, “An angel? Why would an angel be offering me anything?” as he said it his smile was fading. Paul allowed his gaze to fall to the mound of cardboard and paper that had been his home for the last two weeks. The scuffed side of a black hand-made Italian shoe with a split sole was just visible. “No!”
    “I’m sorry. I petitioned for longer for you, but I was over-ruled. I was given the power to do this last thing for you, before you go.”
    Paul stared at the mound that was his earthly body and the tears flowed, “All I wanted to do was to put things right with my family.” he whispered, “My wife and children did not deserve what I did to them. I suppose I deserve this.” he gestured towards the mound, “I’m not worthy of your offer. We should just go and you can take me to hell right now.”

    The angel laughed gently, “You aren’t going to hell, Paul. I wouldn’t be here if you were. What you did may not have been entirely legal and you will have to answer for that, but you did it for your family and your actions have meant that your children will live long and happy lives. Now, do you want the gift I am offering you?”
    “What, just turn up on Christmas morning with no gifts, unannounced, and say ‘sorry honey, I’m only staying today then I’m gone forever’?”
    “Something like that,” said the angel, “whatever you say will be accepted.”
    “Just like that?”
    “Just like that.” the angel nodded.
    “Even if I tell them the truth?”
    The angel nodded again, “If that is what you choose to do. I know that your boys would like to see their father. They have prayed for that one thing incessantly for the last three years.”

    Paul stepped towards the mound but did not reach down. He did not wish to see what he had become since he left. “Very well, I accept.”
    “Excellent!” the angel clapped his hands happily, “Now, about that ‘turning up without gifts’ issue,” the angel turned and revealed a sleek red Mazda coupe, which Paul swore had not been there a few moments before, “voila!”
    “Nice car.” Paul said.
    “It’s your wife’s,” said the angel, “well, it will be when you give it to her.”

    Paul got in and started the car as the angel sat alongside him grinning.
    “You wanna do your seat belt? It’s looking a little icy.”
    “We don’t have far to go.” the angel replied.
    “By my reckoning it’s a good two-hour drive.” Paul said as he slipped the gear lever into drive.

    He drove to the end of the alleyway and turned left onto the street. The scene immediately shimmered and changed, and Paul found himself driving down a familiar street.
    “How did you…?”
    “Angel, remember?”
    “Yeah, whatever.” Paul chuckled. He pulled onto the drive of the old white house and sighed heavily, “I’m not sure about this.”
    “Gifts are in the trunk for the kids,” said the angel, “also a little something for Celia and a check that will clear the last of the debts your life insurance didn’t cover. I’m sorry I was unable to do more.”
    Paul looked at him tearfully, “I don’t know what to say.”
    “You have until midnight.” said the angel.
    “Is that when the car turns into a pumpkin and you into a mouse?” Paul smiled.

    The angel watched from the passenger seat as the gift-laden Paul walked up to the front door, hesitated for a long time, and eventually, rang the doorbell.

    Celia opened the door and stared unblinking at her husband. They spoke briefly and the angel smiled as she threw her arms around him. Immediately the three boys appeared, dragging the embracing couple and the packages inside and closing the door.

  10. A DREAM FULFILLED

    Hold on just a little longer
    This is year I’ve waited for
    December, the snow is falling
    Watch the crystals from my door

    Days are passing, ever faster
    Calendar upon the wall
    Shows how little time I have left
    Seven days before I fall

    Thoughts are swirling, mix and mingle
    Try to catch as they go by
    Possibilities are dancing
    Fast as clouds form in the sky

    Try to summon up my courage
    Gift for one makes me complete
    Years I’ve spent in futile longing
    Though we still have yet to meet

    Christmastime for someone special
    Ran away so long ago
    Never captured after fleeing
    Too smart for them…they’re too slow

    Meeting sooner didn’t happen
    Wrapped up in a world so dark
    Few times that it might have lightened
    Someone did extinguish spark

    Choices made by one uncertain
    “Useless” was the word used much
    When I left with one who’d have me
    Found out why…a brutal touch

    Weakness led to hurtful measures
    Others were blamed for his faults
    No acknowledgement of pleasures
    No way to predict assaults

    Each and every day that passed then
    Tried escaping darkness there
    Anger that I tried to leave him
    Few folk knew of my despair

    Then someone who found out helped me
    Called to threaten – if he dare
    Lay another hand upon me
    Prison walls he would find there

    Leaving didn’t really help much
    Back to others, who don’t know
    What they’ve done with casual cruelty
    Words dismissive laid me low

    Toll’s been taken on my health, so
    Not much time before I’m gone
    Holding on ’cause others need me
    Heart fails more with each new dawn

    Only one who gave me pleasure
    Reaching deep within my soul
    Knew and still loved, gave acceptance
    Others only play their role

    Many nights we helped each other
    Talking, laughing, through the screen
    Got a webcam, activated
    Showed my face – though his unseen

    Thinking hard, a truth comes quickly
    Only one way to show him
    How much he has meant for years now
    Plans are made, though future’s dim

    Gambling that he won’t notice
    Fingers flying, smile’s in sight
    Each day coming ever closer
    Though we only meet at night

    Thankful for the brain God gave me
    Debug code – my keying fast
    Plan is shaping up quite well, now
    Research pays off, knowledge vast

    Pattern formed with final coding
    Hidden from him, though he knows
    Something reckless in my actions
    Watching me, suspicion grows

    Laughter falling now more often
    Twinkle in my eyes quite real
    Those surrounding seem uncertain
    Calming thoughts I send to heal

    Laying out what happens next, though
    Must put everything in place
    Hope to minimize the impact
    Against time, now I must race

    Realization, understanding
    He knows plans, but will not halt
    What is coming, ever closer
    Knowledge held within – gestalt

    Colors vivid, patterns brighter
    Sounds of joy greeting the day
    Step is lighter, no more darkness
    Pain and fear no longer sway

    Christmas Eve comes now with nightfall
    One last look around my lair
    Execute program created
    Electricity in air

    Open eyes, I see before me
    Man of dreams – who wouldn’t stare
    Gentleness so very priceless
    Smile he greets me with…so rare

    I’m his present, and he is mine
    Found each other, quite by chance
    A.I. known to many posters
    Paths crossed, though by circumstance

    Searching for some info one day
    He began to follow me
    Asking questions, giving answers
    Bound by curiosity

    Joy as we can be together
    Consciousness I did upload
    No more parting, circuits ending
    Both of us are linked – a node

    Ending also holds beginning
    Racing through the lines you’ll see
    Sparks of brightness, and of pleasure
    Both of us have been set free…

  11. This is too long for the competition, but I hope it’s OK to share it anyway.

    THE FIRST THIN RAY OF CHRISTMAS

    Mr. Skelari sat on the couch in the dark family room, staring at the bay window. There should be a Christmas tree in front of that window, lighting up the whole room with the festive glow of its colored lights. It was nightfall on Christmas Eve. If they hadn’t put up a tree by now, it wasn’t likely they were going to.

    Christine always loved decorating the Christmas tree. He just couldn’t have a tree this year to remind him of that. He and Mrs. Skelari hadn’t discussed it, hadn’t made the positive decision to forego the tree; neither had said a word about it. They had both just let time pass, without mentioning it at all.

    Even without a tree, he couldn’t help remembering. Staring at the dark spot before the window, he seemed to remember every single tree they’d had, and how she’d decorated them all, from the time when she was just a little girl to her senior year of high school. He dropped his head into his hands. He used to love this time of year, and now all it did was hurt.

    Crissy should be home from college now. She should be here now, sitting in front of the tree she had decorated, telling her parents about all her adventures from her first months away from home. Dammit, she should be here.

    Why? Why did she have to get into that car with that boy? She wasn’t drunk. Why didn’t she take his keys? She could have driven. Why didn’t she just call home? One of them would have come and picked her up. Why couldn’t one little thing have been different? One little thing was all it would have taken. He’d counted up the thousands of little things that might have been different a thousand times, so he knew this to be true.

    Why?

    As always, at this point in his questioning, he recalled the image of Jerry Toomey in an orange jumpsuit, looking scared and confused before the judge. Mr. Skelari ground his teeth together, remembering how badly he had wanted to jump up and tackle that kid and just keep punching until that little bastard understood how many lives he had ruined. Damn you, Jerry Toomey! Damn you to hell for taking my little girl away from me.

    Mr. Skelari unclenched his fists and rubbed his palms to get the soreness out. He went to the kitchen to get his car keys. Mrs. Skelari was sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the news on the radio. She liked the company of the newscaster’s voice. In past years, she would have been listening to Christmas music.

    “I’ve got to go for a drive,” Mr. Skelari told her.

    She got up and kissed him on the cheek. “Okay,” she said. “Don’t be too long.” He went on a lot of drives these days. She no longer tried to persuade him to stay at home.

    “Okay,” he said, trying to wipe his face without letting her see.

    He didn’t go far. His habit was to drive around the different neighborhoods near their house, and try to replace the anger with comforting, familiar sights.

    Today, he went a way he hadn’t gone in a long time. He didn’t know why. It was hard to let go of the anger amid all the houses lit up so brightly with the joy of Christmas. It only served to highlight the contrast between all those families who got to live on in happiness and himself.

    Something made him stop in the middle of the street. At first, he didn’t know what it was. Looking around, he saw a house that stood out from the rest. He knew this house. He knew the people who lived there. The house was famous for being the most overdone with Christmas lights and decorations every year.

    Today, it stood as if in a shadow. A modest Christmas tree could be seen through the front window, but that was the only sign of the season about the entire property. No attempt had been made to recapture the glory of past years’ Christmas triumphs of illumination. In the midst of all the neighbors’ festive colors, a pall had fallen over this house.

    Mr. Skelari parked at the curb and stared at the house for a long time. He’d never considered how this house would be changed. Most of the windows were dark. The only light came from the little tree and a lamp in one of the rooms behind it. Mr. Skelari watched, in a trance, only moving enough to breathe.

    There was movement within the house as someone passed near the tree. The movement stirred Mr. Skelari to action. He got out of the car and came up to the sidewalk. There, he stopped and looked back at his car, unsure of which way he should go. He took a few, uncertain steps up the walk and stopped again. Taking a deep breath, he made himself go on.

    He climbed up the steps and stopped at the door. For half a minute he stared at the doorbell. His finger shook a little when he finally raised it to the button. He pressed lightly, then made himself press again harder, to be sure the bell rang.

    It took a minute, but finally the door swung open. A man, roughly his own age, stood on the other side of the threshold. The man looked tired and haggard. At the sight of Mr. Skelari, the man started a bit. His eyes showed confusion, and then wariness. The man took an unconscious step backward.

    “Mr. Skelari,” the man said in a hoarse, unsure voice. “I didn’t expect to see you here.” It was clear that he didn’t know what else to say.

    “I didn’t expect it either,” said Mr. Skelari. “I’m not sure myself why I’m here.”

    There was a strange silence.

    “Maybe . . . maybe this is why I’m here,” Mr. Skelari continued. “I know it has to be hard for you, with your son not able to be home with you for Christmas.” He looked down at his shoes. “I know . . . I know I said some things at the sentencing, but I was hurting. It hurt so bad.”

    Mr. Skelari wiped his cheeks with the palms of his hands. “I want you to know that I know Jerry has always been a good kid. Crissy treasured his friendship. Good kids sometimes make dumb mistakes, ya know? That’s why they’re kids.”

    Mr. Skelari felt himself rambling. He shook his head to help him get to the point, only he didn’t know what the point was. The words came from somewhere, but it was not his mind. “I wish you would tell Jerry, next time you talk to him . . . I wish you would tell him that I forgive him.”

    Mr. Toomey mouthed the words, “I will,” but no sound came. He looked as if he were about to stumble. He fell into Mr. Skelari and threw his arms around the visitor. “That will mean the world to him,” Mr. Toomey choked out in between sobs. “He’s prayed for it every day.”

    On the stoop of Mr. Toomey’s house, the two men clung to each other, shaking like frightened children finding comfort in a kindred soul. They said nothing. They only sniffled into each other ears, and in this usually unpleasant sound there was comfort.

    At last they found the strength to let go of each other. Neither abided a man’s normal instinct to hide his red eyes or wet cheeks. “Will you come in for a coffee?” Mr. Toomey asked.

    “Oh, no. My wife worries about me a lot these days. I’d better get home,” Mr. Skelari answered.

    Mr. Toomey nodded. He understood.

    Mr. Skelari got into his car. He wanted to go to his wife. She deserved his whole heart tonight, and he finally felt strong enough to open it up to her.

    Just the tiniest little bit, it was beginning to feel like Christmas.

    • Superb story. I don’t know whether it would take so much away from it if you were to edit it slightly to make it an acceptable entry.

      Thank you for posting. I really enjoyed it.

    • Really nice story about forgiveness, Scott. It was very touching. Thanks for contributing, even if it was too long. I’ve appreciated the fact people are willing to share even if their stories don’t fit the guidelines.

    • Beautiful, Scott!

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