Lumpy Stocking

Tim’s mother peered into the gift bag on her lap and retrieved a box with Zales printed on the cover.

“Merry Christmas, Rita,” her husband said.

Rita laid the diamond tennis bracelet on her wrist. “It’s beautiful,” she said, hand on chest, gently clearing her throat. She turned to Tim, and the wrinkles at the corners of her mouth and eyes strained as she feigned a smile. “Timmy, honey, do you want to see what Santa left for you?”

“I know Santa ain’t real, so you can stop with the bullshit.”

Timmy’s father slammed his fist down on the coffee table. Startled, Rita flinched and flicked the bracelet off her wrist. It disappeared behind the crisp, browning branches of the Christmas tree.

Tim rolled his eyes and snatched the stocking hanging from the fireplace. He turned it over and dumped charcoal and ash onto the carpet.

“Santa knows you stole Mr. Swanson’s bike,” his father said glaring.

“Then Santa should’ve given me one,” Tim shot back. He stomped to his room and slammed the door.

word count: 175

—Nortina


photo-20151214095129364This piece is a combination of Day 15 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans & Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (a weekly challenge where you write a story in 100-175 using the provided photo prompt as inspiration).

Criminal Santa (Part 3 of 3)

The Wal-Mart parking lot was empty save for a few cars. Santa pulled into the handicap space closest to the door. He turned off the engine and leaned over the armrest.

“I don’t imagine I’ll be able to convince you to leave that gun of yours in the glove compartment, huh?” he whispered.

“Not a chance,” Frankie said.

“You see, the thing is, carrying a gun on public property is sort of against the law. Add you being a kid on top of that and I’m sure to go to jail.”

“Breaking and entering is against the law too, Santa.”

He sucked his teeth. “Touché.”

“C’mon. Let’s make this quick.” Frankie opened the door and jumped from the front seat. He pulled his sweater down past his knees to conceal the revolver tucked in his back pocket.

Santa put his hand on Frankie’s shoulder and guided him through the sliding door. His grip tightened when he saw the security guard, and he pulled the strings on his hoodie to further obscure his face.

“Buying a last minute Christmas gift for Junior here,” he said quickly as they passed.

“And he’s with you?” The security guard frowned. Santa’s eyes immediately went to the gun at his side.

“I’m making sure he gets the right one,” Frankie said, then turning to Santa, “He gets it wrong every year.”

Santa forced himself to smile.

“Ha! I’ve been there with my kid myself.” The security guard laughed. “Store closes in ten minutes.”

They went straight for the electronics section. “Please, please, please,” Santa begged under his breath. They turned the corner, and Frankie dashed for the green and white boxes on the shelf.

“You’re in luck, Santa. Now where’s my game?”

“Is it not enough that you got the Xbox?”

“What am I supposed to do with it if I don’t got a game to play on it? You promised me Grand Theft Auto. I want my monster truck!”

One of the store attendants approached them, hands folded in front of his belt, and with a wide grin, he said, “Happy Holidays! Is there anything I can help you with tonight?”

Santa looked over his shoulder as if about to tell a secret. “Hey, uh…” he glanced down at the man’s name tag. “Brian. You don’t by chance have GTA, do you?”

“Uh, sure, but..” Brian hesitated. “Don’t you think that game’s kind of old for him?”

“I’m eight and a half!” Frankie said stomping his foot.

“Shhh, pipe down,” Santa said then turned to Brian. “Look, man, you don’t want to be the reason this little kid’s Christmas gets ruined. It’s not like he’s buying it, right?”

“I guess.” Brian looked down at Frankie, who wiggled in his ninja turtle slippers, struggling to hold the heavy box above his knees. “I’ll take that,” Brian said, relieving Frankie of his burden. “Follow me. The games are this way.”

At the register, Santa laid five credit cards on the counter. “One of them’s bound to work,” he said as the computer beeped, and “Declined” flash across the screen each time he swiped a card.

Frankie held his hands behind his back, whistled toward the ceiling as he waited.

“Don’t mock me, kid.”

“I just hope you can pay for it.” He pointed his fingers to Santa as if they were a pistol, then flicked them back as if firing. “Or else.”

On the last card, Santa pulled back his hood, revealing hair, the same rusted yellow color as his beard, tied into a low pony tail. Beads of sweat formed at his hairline. He slowly slid the card across the reader, drummed his fingers. He breathed a sigh of relief when the receipt printer came to life. Brian yanked the paper from the machine and put it in the bag with the Xbox and game. “Enjoy,” he said as he handed it to Santa.

***

As Santa slowed to a stop back in front of Frankie’s house, Frankie removed the gun from his back pocket and placed it in his lap.

“You know, I didn’t come here to buy you an Xbox,” Santa said.

“I know,” Frankie said.

“You won’t tell your folks about me, will you?”

“I think it’ll be more fun to watch them guess how I got it.” Suddenly he took the gun in his hand and pressed it against Santa’s temple. “But next time, you better knock. We got a lot of burglaries in this neighborhood.” Santa shook his head, held onto the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white.

“Ho, ho, ho!” Frankie winked and jumped out of the truck.

  —Nortina

Part One
Part Two

Day 13 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

Criminal Santa (Part 2 of 3)

He didn’t look anything like the Santa Frankie was expecting. He was skinny. So skinny that Frankie thought to toss him a cookie, had he not already eaten them all while waiting. His beard was only partially white down the middle. The rest of it was the color of burnt straw. He wore are gray hoodie pulled down over his eyes. Even his sack wasn’t its classic velvet red, but a black plastic trash bag.

Frankie put both hands on the revolver. “Where’s your red suit?”

Startled, the man backed into the door. “Whoa, kid. What the hell are you doing up?”

“I said, where’s your red suit?”

“Do you even know how to use that?” He pointed at the revolver.

Frankie cocked the hammer with his thumb. “Do you wanna find out?”

“Ok, ok.” He waved his hands to get Frankie to lower the gun. “Let’s not get trigger happy here.” He scratched at his beard. “My suit, well.” He shrugged his shoulders and weakly laughed. “Santa forgot to do his laundry.”

“And why are you so skinny? And why do you have a trash bag?”

“Economy, kid. Even Santa has to cut back.”

“So you come to my house with no presents?” He closed one eye and aimed the gun at Santa’s head.

Santa stumbled back and crossed his arms over his face. “Easy there, kid! Did you forget Santa has magic?”

“I’m listening.”

Nervously, Santa stepped to the side to avoid the path of the gun. “See, it wouldn’t make sense for me to lug around a big, heavy bag filled with all the presents of the world.” He nodded to make sure Frankie was following along. Frankie only stared. “You see, the bag…the bag,” Santa stuttered, “the bag is like, like a portal. Yea, a portal back to my shop. I wave my hand in front of it and poof!” He snapped his fingers. “Presents under the tree.”

Frankie turned to the tree. Sure enough there were boxes stacked on top of each other, star-shaped bows stuck to the sides, shiny gift bags reflecting the bright lights from the tree, colorful tissue paper spilling over the tops. Frankie shook off his astonishment and raised the gun to Santa’s head again.

“How do I know they weren’t already there?”

“Did you see them already there?” Santa asked hesitantly.

Frankie squinted his eyes. He remembered looking at the tree, but not the presents. He was so focused on the door, shooting Santa the minute he walked it. He bared his teeth, angry at himself for not sticking to the plan. He pointed the gun, pressed his finger against the trigger. “Where’s my present?”

“Well…I’m sure it’s there,” Santa stammered.

“No, it’s not.”

“You didn’t even check.”

“Don’t have to. My present’s too big to go under the tree.”

“What on earth could be too big to go under the tree?”

“A monster truck.”

“A monster truck?” Santa bent over and laughed. “How old are you? Seven?”

“Eight and a half!”

“You’re not even tall enough to drive a monster truck.”

“Doesn’t matter. I still want it.”

“And a Hotweels toy won’t do?”

“That’s for babies. Now give me my monster truck or I’ll shoot!”

“Look, kid. Santa doesn’t have a monster truck.” He began to talk fast as Frankie came closer with the gun. “How about an Xbox. And a game? Grand Theft Auto! That’s like driving a monster truck.”

“Let’s see it.” Frankie held out his hand.

“I-I don’t have it.”

Rolling his eyes, Frankie again pointed the gun at Santa’s head. “Ok, you die in three seconds.”

“No, no, no! What I meant to say was that I had just delivered my last one to the previous house.”

“Sucks for you. Two!”

“Wait!” He was pressing his back against the door now, as if doing so would flatten his body and make it harder for Frankie to aim and fire. “How bout we go to the store and buy one. I bet Wal-Mart’s still open. What do you say?”

Frankie pondered the idea then dropped his arms and put the gun in his back pocket. “Ok. Your sleigh on the roof?”

“I have a pick-up.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Don’t believe the fairytales, kid. Eight reindeer pulling a sleigh screams animal cruelty to the cops every time.”

—Nortina

Part One

Day 12 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

Holiday Shoppers Anonymous

She twisted the sleeve of her Frosty the Snowman sweater and stood before the semi circle of people. “Hi, my name is Sharon, and I’m a holiday shopaholic.”

“Hi Sharon,” the group recited back, their voices echoing of the walls of the empty high school gymnasium.

“Last Chris– I mean holiday,” she stuttered.

“No, no,” counselor Higgins interrupted. “Say its name. You must remember the holiday you are celebrating. Recognizing Christmas and what it represents…” he waved his hand for the others to repeat after him. “Love.”

“Love.”

“Peace.”

“Peace.”

“The birth of Christ.”

“The birth of Christ.”

“Salvation.”

“Salvation.”

Dr. Higgins raised one hand in the air, curled his fingers into a fist to silence everyone as if he were conducting a choir. “This will lead you to recovery.”

Sharon looked down at her sleeve. The thread had loosened above her thumb, creating a hole, which she poked her nail through, widening it further. “You see, the thing is… I’m not even Christian. Growing up, my family celebrated Hanukkah—”

“Ah, we have another Jew!” Dr. Higgins clapped his hands, motioning toward a man three chairs to the left of him wearing a red, grey, and white striped sweater. His hair fell over his face as he bowed his head and waved to Sharon.

Sharon returned a quick smile and continued. “I spent $200 on a mountain bike for my son. It was on sale at Wal-Mart… If you could’ve seen how his face lit up when he saw the commercial…” She turned away, rubbed the rough wool of her sweater against the bags, purple like bruises, under her eyes.

“Yes, yes. Go on,” Dr. Higgins said.

“He can’t even ride a bike. He’s still on training wheels. I’ve been trying to teach him for the past three weeks. I’m here because he’s finally given up. $200! Wasted!” She fell into her chair and it slid back, leaving a black streak on the floor and making a scraping noise like tennis shoes skidding across the basketball court.

Dr. Higgins stood at the center of the circle and clapped. The group followed in applause. “That’s good! Let it out! I want to feel your disappointment, your frustration, your anger even,” he said, turning to look at each person. “This is what happens when you allow commercialism and political correctness to turn your Christmas, or in Sharon’s case, your Hanukkah, or in Tanisha’s case, your Kwanzaa, into a generic holiday for everyone to spend, spend, spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need, running through stores like chickens with their heads cut off! We must take back our religion, our ethnicity! These holidays make us who we are, but they mean nothing if we don’t know them.”

“Amen!” shouted an older black, as if in church. She stood, her purse slung over her shoulder, and clapped more vigorously. The others followed, all clapping, shouting, whistling, closing in around Dr. Higgins.

Dr. Higgins again raised his hand to silence everyone. “Your assignment for next week is to bring in an item you think represents your holiday. Sharon…” he took her hand and held it against his chest. “You can bring in your family’s menorah if you still have it.” He then turned and spread his arms toward everyone. “I want to see you all next Tuesday, ready to learn the true meaning of your holiday! You’re dismissed!”

—Nortina

Day 8 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

He Is Real

Christmas doesn’t exist. Maybe if you live in a three-story house in the suburbs with a fireplace, two cars in the garage, both parents at home for the holidays.

But we live in a two-bedroom, Section 8 apartment in the city. Our Albanian landlord doesn’t speak English. The ceiling leaks when the upstairs neighbor flushes the toilet. The only Christmas present I get each year is the tap of coal pebbles against my window from the ghostly locomotives that power down the abandoned railroad behind our building, and the false hope that my dad will be released.

Tonight, I don’t hear the light hum of a passing train from history.

The furniture rattles as it slows. The horn startles me out of bed. I lift my window, the cool air and dirty snow rush inside.

“I’m on a tight schedule!” the conductor shouts from below.

“Where does this train go?”

“725 kilometers north of Greenland! 90 degrees north latitude! The middle of the Arctic Ocean!”

“The North Pole,” I whisper, and I leap from the ledge.

word count: 173

—Nortina


Ah, is it Christmas yet? One of my favorite Christmas movies of all time is The Polar Express. I just couldn’t resist with this week’s prompt for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. Thank you, Louise at The Storyteller’s Abode! 

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