Flash Fiction: The Pile

 

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Courtesy of Alethia Young. 

 

The Pile

Christmas Eve.

Mouths opened. Lungs expanded. Eyes gleamed.

“Not a word.” Dad leaned in over the table, finger extended, a twinkle in his eye. “Not a word.”

Five mouths clamped shut.

23 sleeps ago.

The Five, armed with saw and wagon, hurried out into Grandma’s fields, hunting just the right tree. In the back pasture they examined tall trees and short, round and skinny. Each child voted yes or no. The tree had to be perfect. It would take the center, Norman Rockwell stage for the whole month. Victorious, they return home over the small hills and dells, scratched but happy. Decorating and off-key singing ensued.

The holly green, the ivy green, the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen…

14 sleeps ago.

Boxes arrived. Big boxes. The Five immediately helped unpack.

“The tree doesn’t look lonely anymore,” the youngest said.

“Everyone keep your fingers to yourselves,” Mom said. “Don’t touch the pile.”

8 Sleeps ago. 

From under the prickly cedar tree, trussed up with lights and handmade decorations, spilled the pile. It spread into the narrow living room, cutting off the path from the kitchen to the bathroom. The Five huddle around it in the dark morning, dreaming of toys and more toys. Waiting. Waiting. The countdown dragged. The older ones swore the pile extended further into the room than any piles had before. Each present had been examined. Each of The Five knew which present was theirs, and the noise it made when shook. The Five had the entire pile mapped out.

1 sleep to go.

Christmas Eve sauntered in. Anticipation reached a breaking point. Tomorrow the paper would be ripped off and the toys would be theirs. Just a few more hours. One more sleep.

“Not a word.” Dad leaned in over the table, finger extended, a twinkle in his eye. “Not a word.”

Five mouths clamped shut.

Dad held out his hand to Mom and the two of them retired from the kitchen table for what The Five prayed would be a short winter’s nap.

Their parents’ bedroom door shut.

Screams of joy erupted.

In a moment of real Christmas magic, The Five gathered the dishes, ran hot soapy water in the sink, wash, dried, cleared, and cleaned the kitchen without a word of disagreement. Not one single squabble arose. No one pushed, pulled, glared, or even joked. Instead, carols erupted from them, swirling about the room on winds of excitement.

…it’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Sunlight streamed into the tiny mobile home as The Five went about their work. It splashed across the pile, the wonderful, huge pile.

Dad, king of his castle, lord of his family, general over the ranks of the Five, had superseded the holiday.

“I have an announcement, but I don’t want to hear a word. Not a single sound,” Dad had declared, as they sat around the table on that now famous Christmas Eve, eating tomato soup and grilled cheese. “Are we agreed?”

The Five shared a glance, then nodded in unison.

“Good.” Dad smiled. “Mom and I are going to take a nap. During the nap I want the table cleared and the dishes done.”

The Five waited. That was normal. Nothing about that part of the announcement would induce anything but sighs.

“After we get up,” Dad took a deep breath, “we’ll open presents.”

Five mouths opened. Lungs expanded. Eyes gleamed.

“Not a word.” Dad leaned in over the table, finger extended, a twinkle in his eye. “Not a word.”

Five mouths clamped shut.

The End


On January 1st, I’ll be posting on a new blog and other social media sites. If you follow me here, please hope over to the new blog and follow me there. That way you won’t miss any new articles or updates.

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If you enjoyed this story, please leave a comment! Share your own Christmas adventures.

 

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Christmas Traditions (Part 12)

Christmas dishes are a huge part of my Christmas Cheer. My Mom had very special Christmas dishes when we were growing up, and it is something I’ve continued…being me, none of mine match. 

Every year I try to add a new dish to my collection, especially if I see one with a deer on it.

Several years ago, Potter Barn featured a set of dishes based around the 12 Days of Christmas. I circled, stared, and pointed it out in the catalogue to my extra parents when they asked what I wanted for Christmas. They are my most favorite Christmas dishes! I love unpacking them every year and I hate packing them away! 

I use the big platter with a Partridge in the Pear Tree to hold all my Christmas cards every year. 

They make me sooooo happy!

Merry Christmas!!!

Christmas Traditions (Part 4)

One of my very favorite Christmas Traditions is the Church Christmas Party for the Adults. It’s a fun evening of dressing up, finger foods, laughter, and good fellowship. Sometimes there is even Christmas Carol singing.
By this time of the year, it’s usually quite chilly… to us Texans anyway… so we can all wear sweaters and boots. We drive in the dark evening out to the Hodson’s beautiful home, checking out the Christmas Lights on the way. Then it’s in through the front door with crackers and cheese, greetings far and wide to the people I love most in the world, a quick word with my Mom and hug for my Dad, fill a plate–where are the rum balls?– and find a table. Then talk, talk, talk: Movies, books, TV shows, life, theology, personality types, life, more theology (we’re reformed Baptists after all), and more laughter. With a busy weekend, we decide to stay only a short time, but another theological question takes my husband off to a corner, so I rejoin the party. We go home late, but we go home happy.

I look around at these people, these normal, average, ordinary people and realize these will be the people I’m with forever. Not just now. Not just for a handful of years, but forever. I can’t tell you how much that thrills my heart.

I look forward to this event every year. Some of us have been coming for more years than we can count, some of our young people are coming for the first time. Some can’t make it and are missed. Some of us mingle well, and some of us are horrible at mingling, but you should know that just seeing fellow saints, being in the same home with them, is a joy and delight.

Merry Christmas!!!

 

Christmas Traditions (Part 3)

For years now, my Decembers have involved  Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter movies. This year was no different. My three writing students/dear friends treated me to Fantastic Beasts. We had a wonderful time. We met first for coffee where we loudly discussed Harry Potter and writing. Then we made snide remarks during the pre-show, and ooohed and awwwed at previews. then Silencio for the movie other than popcorn crunching. Good times! The movie was beautiful and fantastic. I had some issues with it, but still loved it. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS !

Christmas Traditions (Part 2)

“The holly green, the ivy green
The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen 
Is Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
It’s nice you know, to kiss your beau 
while cuddling under the mistletoe 
And Santa Claus, you know of course
Is one of the boys from home

The door is always open

The neighbors pay a call.”

– Christmas in Killarney by Bobby Vinton

Part of the joy of Christmas is all the wonderful food that you wouldn’t eat on a regular basis. One of those special foods in our family is Sausage Balls. Super easy to make, this wonderful tasting delights are a Christmas must have. We usually make a few batches for ourselves, and then one for each side of the family on the actual  holiday.

Three ingredients.

Ready to go in the oven.

Yum yum!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
This is the recipe. 😊

http://zachandashleyjones.blogspot.com/2013/02/simple-sausage-ball-recipe.html?m=1

2015 Jones’ Christmas: Babysitting Claire and a Wedding

Over the weekend, we had the great pleasure of babysitting Claire. We have enjoyed two joint vacations with her family and Claire is very partial to Mr. Pie. (Price) It was great to both spend time with Rachel and Aaron, be a help to them, and spend more time with Claire! And Felicity of course!
Just to make things more fun, we spent the night and enjoyed breakfast together like we did on vacation!  🙂 Sorry again about all the dirty dishes left behind!

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Story time!

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Watching Peter Pan.

She wouldn’t let me put her to bed. Mr. Pie had to do it or we had tears. 🙂

After we returned home, we got all spiffied up for the long awaited wedding of two of our dear friends! Congrats Allen and Raelea!
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Merry Christmas!

A Texas Cousins Adventure: First Christmas in Greenhome

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Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

 

The trees were trimmed and the halls decked. Good Christian men and women rejoiced, and all the stockings were hung on walls and over fireplaces in several homes. A few days before Christmas, nine cousins gathered together to cut out snowflakes and draw pictures with Grammie while eating more sugar than their mommies really approved of, but it was the holidays. Cookies, fudge, and pie filled the house.

Tired, slightly grumpy, and played out, they gathered around the lighted tree for a story:

Once upon a time, Aunt Abby started, there was a little town east of Fort Worth called Greenhome. It sat out in the middle of flat Texas plains surrounded by a hedge of white roses that bloomed year around. A tall tower stood near the gate in the Hedge with a loud bell ringing and ringing from its tippy-top. An old olive tree guarded the way into Olive Hall where boys and girls ate three meals a day.

See, the boys and girls in Greenhome were orphans. They had no mommies and no daddies. They were all alone and they didn’t know anything about Christmas.

“That’s so sad.” Imogene frowned.

Remi and Shannon nodded in agreement.

“I’m glad I have a Mommy and a Daddy,” Jules stated.

“I have a Mommy and Daddy too!” Ellie shouted with her eyebrows raised.

“And I bet all of you know about Christmas?” Aunt Abby asked.

“Yes. It’s when we get presents,” Bruce said.

Joshua grinned. “Lots of presents.”

“And toys,” grunted Jude.

“And,” Constance said. “It’s about Mary and baby Jesus.”

“Sunday school answer.” Grandpa interrupted from the couch.

They didn’t know, Aunt Abby continued, that the King had come. They didn’t know he had humbled himself so that peace could come between him and sinners. They didn’t know about Christmas. They didn’t know that what was important about a babe in a manger wasn’t the sheep and the donkeys, but that God, who created everything, became man to save the worst people in the world just like he’d promised.

“What did they know?” Constance hugged Shannon sitting in her lap.

Well, these children in Greenhome were very special children. They weren’t just orphans. They were also specifically chosen to live in Greenhome.

“Were they the kind people?” Jules asked.

“I bet they were very brave,” Bruce guessed.

“I bet they were very obedient,” Ellie joined in.

Joshua and Jude waited with Imogene and Remi to see what made these children so special.

Nope. They weren’t kind, obedient, or even brave. They lied. They stole. They hit and kicked smaller children. They were horrible, awful children. They were children who were so bad that they were about to be thrown in prison.

But! Just as the prison gates opened, the adults from Greenhome came. They paid the cost for all the children and then adopted them into their homes.

“Oh yuck!” shouted Ellie. “I wouldn’t want those bad boys and girls in my home.”

“Me either.” Jules crossed her arms.

“Awww,” Aunt Abby said. “But see, that’s what Christmas is really all about. Jesus came and paid the cost for sinners who believe in him and then adopted them into his home. See, even though the children didn’t know what Christmas was they had experienced all the magic of Christmas already.”

“So, did they find out about Christmas?” Bruce wanted to know.

“Why yes they did!”

“How?” Imogene leaned forward.

“That’s another story. Would you like to hear it?”

“YES!” Nine cousins agreed.

“Let’s try again, and no interrupting,” Aunt Abby instructed.

From the tallest to the shortest, biggest to littlest, all the cousins scooted closer around their Aunt.

Once upon a time, a long hot summer faded into a wet fall around Greenhome leaving puddles in the streets and leaves in the gutters. Children studied history and math with no end in sight. In a house in the back near the Hedge an old man grunted as he sat down. He knew winter was coming and had spent all day gathering fuel to keep warm against the wind and snow. In his big chair he rested, alone and lonely. His wrinkled boots sat near the fire and his battered hat hung on a hook. His knurled hands ached, and his bushy white mustache hung limp around his mouth too tired to curl up around his face.

Someone knocked on his green front door.

“Who is it?” he called grumpy at a disturbance so late in the evening after a long day.

“It’s Soul.” A clear voice answered.

Grumbling, the old man climbed to his feet and made his way through his messy house to the door.

“What do you want? Can’t you see it’s dark out?”

“I need you, Claus.” Soul held up a lantern lighting up his bald head and bright eyes.

“What for?” Claus didn’t like the sound of that. Need? He didn’t want to be needed. He wanted to go sit in his chair.

“He’s not very nice,” Imogene said.

“Shhh.” Constance hushed her.

“Shhh.” Joshua hushed Constance.

“Be quiet.” Grammie ended the argument before it started.

“I have a boy that needs to be saved before he gets sent to prison,” Soul said softly.

“What? Me?” sputtered Claus. “I’m an old man Soul! What would I do with a boy under foot?”

“You’ll feed him and let him play with those snow globes you’re always making. Someone needs to play with them.”

“No. A boy from the prisons will only break my snow globes.”

“He’s selfish,” announced Remi who had just learned the word ‘selfish’. She caught Grammie’s eye and quickly shut her mouth.

“He might, but you could teach him to make more.”

“Go bother someone else.” Claus started to shut the door.

Soul stopped him, hand on the doorknob. “There is no one else, and I’ve chosen this boy to be saved.”

Muttering, murmuring, grumbling, complaining, and whining, Claus put back on his wrinkled boots and his battered hat. He slipped into his old sheepskin coat and stomped out to the shed in his backyard. Old Tell, his longhorn bull, turned his head and stared at him with one eye while he chewed his cud.

“Come on, you old monster,” Claus said. “Soul says we have to go save a boy.”

Old Tell flicked his tail and backed out of his stall so Claus could hitch him to the wagon with a bell-covered harness.

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Cold night air gathered in the dark around Claus as he flicked the reigns and drove Old Tell towards the prison. Bells jingled and jangled. Claus hunched down and wished anyone other than himself had been sent to pick up some wild urchin who probably didn’t even know how to eat or speak properly. Why him? He wondered. Why would anyone, especially Soul, send an old man to save a boy?

Late in the night, he arrived at the prison with a ringing twinkle of happy bells that only grated on his nerves.

“Who’s there?” The prison warden called.

“It’s Claus. Soul sent me to save a boy about to be sent in.” His voice came out muffled from his numb lips and frozen scarf.

“Come on down.” The warden waved. “I’ll take you to him.”

Claus stumbled from the wagon, patted Old Tell, and stepped into the warden’s well-lit and warm office.

“Here he is. They say his name is Haze.”

A tall little boy with a cut by his eye and a bruise on his cheek stumbled into the room. He straightened up and made fists of his hands. His clothes were too small, showing ankles and wrists. He looked skinny and hungry and cold.

Bruce leaned in closer. “I had a cut like that.”

“Yes, you were my inspiration, now be quiet.”

Something in Claus cracked. All his grumbling and complaining mocked him. He had a warm home, work to do, a nice fire, warm boots, and Old Tell with his bell-harness. He had friends like Soul and little Ms. Carolyn who lived next door and baked him pies. He had all that and more and he complained because Soul asked him to help a little boy with nothing.

The crack grew until all his selfishness shattered down around him. Claus knelt down in front of the lost little boy and held out his hand.

“My name’s Claus. Would you like to come live with me?”

A puzzled look came over Haze’s face. His eyebrows wrinkled. His fists relaxed.

“Claus? Like Santa Claus?”

“Santa Claus? Who’s that?”

Haze reached under his threadbare shirt and pulled out a small red book. On the front was an old man in a red sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer.

“Santa Claus brings presents to children,” Haze recited, “in honor of the greatest gift given to mankind: salvation.”

“I’ve never heard of Santa Claus.” Claus paused shocked to realize that that one little red book may have made Haze richer than he ever could be. This little boy had a story about salvation, and what did Claus have? Nothing but wanting to be left alone. He was a selfish old man. Wiping a tear from his eye, Claus said, “Will you come home with me? I have snow globes you can play with, and a little room you can have. We’ll get you some boots and Ms. Carolyn can make you a pie.”

Haze’s eyes widened. “You’re my Christmas present. I never got a present before. Why would you give me one?”

“Because the salvation you talked about is given to people who don’t deserve it.”

Haze threw his arms around the grumpy old man. Claus stumbled back not sure what to do with a hug. Then slowly, he wrapped his arms around the little boy. “And I think you’re mine.”

Nine cousins cheered.

Grammie smiled, a twinkle in her eye.

Claus bundled little Haze up in a blanket and hurried out to Old Tell. With many a jingling bell they drove back to Greenhome. Haze told Claus all about Christmas, Santa, Presents, and the real Christmas Story. They reached Claus’ home as the sun rose on a crisp white morning. Haze smiled. Snow edged the gingerbread house and smoke curled up out of the chimney.

“Today is Christmas day!” Haze flipped to the back of the book and showed Claus the calendar.

“Then come on!” Claus jumped from the wagon like a man far younger. “Let’s give someone a gift in honor of our gift of each other.”

The two hurried into the house where Claus chose his favorite snow globe from a high shelf.

“What is it?” Haze gazed at it in wonder.

Claus turned it upside down. Snow swirled around an oak tree and a pine, settling on their limbs. Beneath them a man walked carrying a lantern and an umbrella.

“It’s a snow globe, my lad. And we’re going to go give it to Ms. Carolyn right now.”

And that is how Christmas came to Greenhome. In going to save a little boy who needed him, Claus was saved as well. He gave out many gifts that day, and by the next Christmas, he was called Santa Claus and had married Ms. Carolyn, who became Mrs. Claus.

Haze had many rough days as he learned to live in Greenhome, because, if you remember, he wasn’t a nice little boy. He’d been about to be thrown in prison when Clause rescued him, when he was shown grace. But he always had a friend in grumpy old Claus. Haze grew into a strong and good man, and he always celebrated Christmas with a full heart remembering the year Santa Claus came and gave him the greatest gift of all: salvation.

One day, when he was much older, Soul came to him with news of save several little boys about to be thrown in prison. Just like Claus had done for him, Haze saved those kids and was the better for it.

The End.

“Well,” Aunt Abby asked, “what did you think?”

“Who did Haze save?” Bruce bounced up and down on his knees.

“Well, that is a whole other story.” Aunt Abby ruffled Bruce’s hair.

“Will you tell it?” Joshua gave her his best smile.

“Sometime soon.”

“Happy Christmas,” Imogene said softly.

“No, it’s Merry Christmas!” Jules corrected.

“Merry Christmas!” shouted all the cousins.

“And God bless us, every one.” Grammie gathered everyone into a hug.

The End

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My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

 

2015 Jones’ Christmas: Baking with my extra Mom

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Baking is the theme this week, just like I had a week of gift wrapping and a week of card making. Wanda, my extra mom, is helping me get the more physically intense fudge and sausage balls done.  I’ve done one batch of each on separate days, but to finish the holiday right I need two more batches of each. I’m out of Time! So here we are enjoying Christmas baking together. Plus,  we included a lunch to Paneras. 🙂 I also made a batch of Cranberry Orange Bread which didn’t set right and turned into Cranberry Crumble. I’ll enjoy it just the same with a spoon.

What would I do without Family??? 🙂
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Merry Christmas!