A Holiday Story: Visiting Home

In honor of the holiday week, here’s a story about the transition between ‘coming home for the holidays’ and ‘visiting home’.

Thanksgiving had been short. We’d celebrated a day late to accommodate schedules. An aunt and an uncle who both worked shift work, and me, with my job at the bookstore/coffee shop that graciously allowed me Black Friday off…after I’d worked past 1 am Thanksgiving Eve.

But now?

Now I had a shiny new job and paid holidays. Working a job that used that expensive degree I’d spent four years earning. A job that closed between Christmas Eve and New Year’s day.

Thus, on Christmas Eve’s Eve, there I was, sitting in an office as the sun sank beyond the horizon, counting down the minutes until 7:30 pm.

The rest of my coworkers were long gone, having the leave available to start their holidays a bit early. I was still on a loaner laptop, in the glory that was my own office: half-storage space, half fish-bowl, looking out upon the glory that was a parking lot–and the smoker’s alcove. The office was a bit drafty, but my grandfatherly manager, after noticing me huddled in my coat and gloves at my desk had finagled me a space heater the week before. I had it cranked all the way up.

Finally, 7:25 pm rolled around.

Close enough, I thought.

Traffic was still rough as I headed the thirty-one miles down Interstate 95, through holiday traffic.

In my shared apartment, I grabbed dinner and waited. By 9:30 pm, traffic was as died down as it was going to get, that eve before Christmas Eve.

I piled all the gifts I was bringing into my trusty red Ford Taurus, most of them books hastily bought on credit before my bookstore employee discount ended. And before I’d actually earned that first non-minimum wage paycheck.

Taking a back highway south, I managed to make reasonable time, arriving home before my parents went to bed for the night.

The electric candles gleamed in the windows, the Christmas tree was framed in the living room window, making sure to impose that holiday spirit to any who drove by.

It looked just as I remembered it.

I smiled as I gathered my bags and made my way towards the door that had been mine for eighteen years.

“Oh good,” my stepdad was standing in the doorway as I approached. Had he heard my car pull up? “Can you hold the door for me?”

My hands were full, so I used my hip to catch the screen door and stepped back to let him pass.

Blinking, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“Is that my bed frame?!” I asked in disbelief as a familiar, twin-sized headboard, with space for books, passed by me and headed up the driveway to the road.

“I went in to change the sheets!” my mother explained as I stumbled into the house, bewildered. “You never told me that bed was ready to collapse! I thought I was getting you a good, solid bed. I spent my coach’s stipend on it, that year.”

As a high school librarian, even coaching Academic Bowl didn’t make her salary go very far. I knew how much she’d given up to get me that furniture.

“It wasn’t that bad, Mom. I loved that bed,” I hastily reassured her over the cheerful yapping of our puppies. The sideboard was a little crooked, but it couldn’t have been that bad.

“There was only one cross-wire supporting the thing. We’re lucky it didn’t fall with you sleeping on it,” Mom said.

“Wait. Really?” I stared agape.

Mom raised her eyebrows and nodded.

I slumped, then pushed past the puppies, bags still bundled over my shoulders, and made my way down to the end of the hall where my old childhood bedroom lay.

Opening the door, the scent of a stale, closed-off room welcomed me. And the sight of a mattress made up for me on the floor.

“Welcome home,” I sighed to myself.

It was still a good Christmas.

Do you have a story about visiting home?

For My Dearest Peddler

(I haven’t put any of my fiction up here, so this is a first. Just a short vignette I wrote this week.)

She’d had to cram a year of work into a few short months. That’s when her stasis ended. The magic that took the year and compressed it for her gave her just long enough to do her work. Four months out from delivery was now when they could calculate what might be wanted and what would be needed.  It was part of the deal she’d made.

For much of the year, the little ones experimented and worked on pet projects, lived their lives, grew their families. But once she awoke, it was time for all-hands on deck, around-the-clock work. They had deals through many of the large manufacturers: two percent of the merchandise would be delivered there for her purposes. It was easy to get these deals when you got in early, while the companies were still small, before they’d grown into the massive conglomerates that they were now.

They had to start sorting, organizing, and filling in the gaps as soon as possible. Towards the end, they got specific requests. Those took some shuffling, since she worked hard to get everything lined up right. But it was all worth it after they made their deadline–a day to celebrate. A day to relax.

It seemed every year was harder than the one before. Every year her time was just a little longer than before. Fortunately, they only had to take care of the one night. There were others who had their own arrangements to handle the other nights.

Tonight was their night. She’d gotten to see him when he awoke. They’d shared a filling dinner, but it hadn’t been long enough. He didn’t have time. His stasis was longer than hers. Rather than a year compressed into four months, he got a year compressed into one night. And one day.

She still wanted to help all the children, to make sure none under her charge were missed. She loved giving them hope and sharing what she could with them.

That was why they’d accepted the bargain. They could stay on and fulfill their mission, continuing on, with all their time condensed into the days they were needed–those that would do the most good. In exchange they got an eternity together.

Even if it was just one day a year.

Familiar Tales and Twists

I love fairy tales.

When I was in elementary school, I read every single book in the fairy tales and folklore section. I’ve always been a sucker for retold fairy tales–modern retellings, expanded retellings, reinterpreted tellings, gender flipped retellings, new endings, new twists– you name it, I’m probably your audience.

Which is part of the reason I have no free time left.

I’m part of a podcast (that should be launching its first season soon!) called Anansi Storytime. It’s radio-drama style podcasts of traditional folktales. We hope to expand that. We just started recording Season 2. I’ve gotten cast for a couple of lines as a Goddess. Who could hate that?

Another friend of mine just started up a Fables game. Based in the world from Vertigo Comics: Fables, we’re fairy tale creatures, fleeing from The Adversary, whom no one has met, who is conquering all the lands from the fairy tales and collecting all the magic items.

The humanoid fables live in a few blocks of New York City that they’ve owned since it was New Amsterdam, the rest are forced to live on The Farm.

My character is Lizina, from A Colony of Cats – a sweet girl, driven from home to live in the colony of cats outside of town. There, she’s so kind and helpful that when she puts in her notice–because she misses her abusive mother and sister, that she’s dipped in gold and ends up with a gold star on her forehead. The golden clothes and star won’t come off, and her skin looks like she’s wearing glitter-lotion, but her hair is still black and her eyes are still dark, dark brown. She can speak with cats, fashions crazy outfits over her un-removable golden peasant clothes, and tends the shop for Grannie Yaga. Her gifts? If she’s greeted a cat, it will feel compelled to help if she asks. She’s blessed–and cannot do evil. She’s stunning–she can enchant, or she can blind with light reflecting off that gold star of hers.

Yes. Baba Yaga is one of the fables. She’s pissed because in this world, her sisters have been edited out of the stories and she’s terrified that’s what happens when The Adversary  kills a magical person/creature. Other witches have had her stories softened and given to them. She was the Grannie in bed with the wolf when Little Red came to call, with offerings and fear. Here in New York City, much of her magic is restrained, but her will is still strong. She can bake magic into her cooking. Luckily, Lizina deals with the customers, because she doesn’t have time for that. And don’t call her Grannie without her invitation.

But you can’t all be goodness and light, or darkness and merciless. There exists something in between. Puss in Boots–Female puss in boots. Who’s had a hard time keeping to one form after eating that old Ogre (even if it was in mouse form at the time). Luckily, she used her whiles on a magician who’s helping her keep her form. She uses cons to pay the rent, and Schmendrick, (who botched the Last unicorn‘s transformation), is trying to get it right, this time.

And there are two more characters left to join the story. Weaving new stories with friends is fun.

The rest of my free time? Working on my step-count–collecting all the Pokemon. And longsword class on Thursday nights. What else would a busy fantasy writer be doing?

How are you keeping busy? Any new tales to tell?

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Sunset on the lake.

Don’t Blink

Remember that momentum I talked about last week? I seem to be rolling in it this week!

I’ve gotten 2 new story ideas. One that’s gonna wait a bit and one that… well.

Did you know that writing a short story can be done in 90 minutes? And that editing can take a day or two? For a novelist like me, having a project done so fast is kinda giving me whiplash. I suddenly see why people do it! Although, being me, there are lot’s of stuff in the story that can easily be expanded upon, and a sequel wouldn’t be hard. The only worry is if the story is too derivative.

The only thing is, all those story ideas? Are completely different genres! I mean, I’ve been working on my novel for a couple years now, and it’s maybe YA, maybe new adult? And I’ve been playing with a picture book for a while now. The short story I just cranked out? Definitely middle grade (8-12 year olds), especially with a little tweaking. Of the things I haven’t written yet? One’s a horror short story and one might turn out to be a romance.

I have no clue how my brain works. But, I’m excited about all the ideas I’ve been having. Should I blame spring?

Do most writers blink around on what age range and genres they write? I mean, Asimov did try to write something for every Dewey-Decimal section.

But hey! Progress: I fixed the opening chapter of my novel. I changed 2 sentences and added 2 more and suddenly, the inciting incident has a lot more motivation to happen NOW instead of just a trigger to get ready.

I was gonna write/edit some more tonight, but there are webcomics to read!(1)

P.S. Yeah, I know it’s a bit cheap to use a Doctor Who title for my blog post, but I seriously feel like the short story developed that fast!(2)

1- I read Digger this weekend. Leftover Soup last week. And started Rain last night. YES. I have a webcomic problem. At least Digger’s already finished…

2- Now I have the country song, “Don’t Blink” stuck in my head…