Christmas

I wanted to take a break from my manuscripts and write a Christmas story. I ended up with something of a Christmas story, but it didn’t go as planned.

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Angela Green walked home with a bag of Christmas presents, but lights and decorations distracted her, and she turned the wrong way halfway home. She often let herself be distracted. She liked discovering out-of-the-way places and odd treasures no one else wanted.

Holidays lured Angela from her path every year. Her parents gave her string and pebbles to follow home, but she ended up lost no matter their efforts.

No harm had ever come to her though. She’d look up dazed at her surroundings, but she always found someone to bring her home safe and sound. She told her teachers that she was charmed. This got her a detention and a phone call to her parents.

Angela found many amazing things on her wanderings. One year she saw a flock of pink flamingos in a tree. Another year she listened to a retired opera singer singing in her back yard to her dogs. And yet another year she found a circle of polished stones around a tunnel deep into the earth. When she knelt down and looked in the hole, she heard voices from another land. She didn’t tell anyone.

But word spread of the strange schoolgirl who kept getting lost, who scribbled stories in her notebook, and who carried odd things in her bag, like the bones of a sparrow and strands of a mane from a white horse she claimed was a unicorn.

Her parents told her not to draw attention to herself. Angela didn’t understand their warnings. She understood very few warnings. The world was dangerous and wonderful, and what was the point of avoiding danger if it meant avoiding wonder?

Her parents grew more and more impatient. They called a doctor in. He looked at her stories and shook his head. Something about her stories unnerved him. For weeks after reading them he dreamed of giant snow spiders and monsters made of flowers vines. The doctor instructed Angela to focus on her school or she might come to harm. He told her parents that if her stories became any wilder, she’d need closer observation.

This Christmas Eve, she walked back from her grandmother’s house, presents in her shoulder bag and a candy cane she twirled between her fingers. Gingerbread crumbs clung to her jacket. She heard carolers singing a carol she’d never heard before, and that is when she turned right at the corner of 5th and Main when she should have turned left two blocks down.

Angela didn’t recognize the street. She thought she knew all the neighborhood by now. She’d gotten lost down all of the streets at least once, or at least that was what her mother said. But this one felt unknown, and she loved the unknown. The sun was setting behind the houses and porch lights came on along with strings of holiday lights.

However, no people appeared anywhere, and no other sounds reached her except for the carol singers. She walked by picture perfect houses and the sounds of cars faded, as did all the town noises. But Angela focused on the singing.

The street became narrower and narrower, and still she found no sign of the carol singers except for their voices filling the air.

Angela walked and walked, the singing always beyond the next corner. She didn’t know the town went so far. Darkness fell over everything, and she continued on, determined to find the singers and join them even though she didn’t know the songs. She was quick. She knew she’d learn. The voices reminded her of dreams and the taste of clementines.

Of the dreams that rushed back into her thoughts while she walked, one dream loomed over all the others. In that dream she sped along city streets all over the world leaving starlight in her wake. The dream felt so real, she glanced behind her to see if anything glimmered in the air where she’d walked. There was nothing but the empty sidewalk. She kept walking.

Somewhere along the path Angela realized she’d lost the bag of gifts from her grandmother. Her parents would scold her. Perhaps send her to bed without supper. Angela was sorry for the lost of the gifts, but she assumed she could look for the bag on the way back. She was in trouble either way. She was going to be very late, and it was Christmas Eve.

She reached the last house, and the road turned into a path that led into the woods. Stars glittered in the winter sky. She stood at the edge of the pavement, thinking. Go on or turn back?

The singing stopped. The silent night blanketed twelve-year-old Angela Green. A footfall on grass caught her attention and she squinted to see further into the woods. A deer appeared. It stood at the edge of the forest, its black eyes gazing back at her.

Angela imagined the deer called her to follow.

She stepped off the paved road and onto the grass. That’s when she saw the old woman. Angela blinked. How had she not noticed the old woman before? She was tall and elegant, like the movie stars her mother liked to talk about. But she was old. No, Angela reconsidered. The woman had thick white hair that flowed down almost to the ground, but she wasn’t old. Nor was she young. Her skin reminded Angela of her father’s coffee after he mixed in cream. The woman wore a red velvet dress that looked like something out of a picture book.

The woman smiled, and she curled her fingers in a gesture of calling Angela to follow her. Angela did.

The carol singing began again. The two of them headed deeper into the woods, neither speaking until they reached a clearing. Angela started. Wild animals waited—wild rabbits, deer, a stag, foxes, ferrets, and even a couple of wolves. Butterflies and lightning bugs flitted above them all. And in the midst of the menagerie sat a sleigh. Or Angela decided it was a sleigh. She wasn’t that familiar with such things, and something about it struck her as unusual, not quite like the sleighs she’d seen in books, but she settled on calling it a sleigh. She very much wished to touch it.

The woman nodded and stretched out her arm, pointing to the sleigh.

Angela smiled and though her first step was hesitant, confidence settled over her. She knew the woman meant for her to fulfill her wish. She strode through the animals to the front of the sleigh and placed her hand on the highly polished wood. The animals milled around her feet. A fox nudged her with its nose. A wolf howled.

“Why are you showing me this?” Angela asked the woman, though she kept her eyes on the sleigh.

The woman glided over and stood beside her. She too placed a hand on the sleigh. Angela compared the woman’s hand to her own. It was the hand of a very old woman. Carefully, Angela lifted up her own hand and set it back down on the woman’s hand.

The woman nodded.

Angela understood.

This was an opportunity.

Angela didn’t think of her parents. She felt as if she could anything, even fly. The woman nodded towards the sleigh.

The animals moved out of the way, making a path. Angela walked around and climbed into the sleigh. Sitting there, cold came over her. A snowflake drifted down. The woman took her hand from the sleigh and stepped back.

The air wavered. Everything stilled. Angela watched the old woman change. She shortened. Her hair changed as did her clothes. A few moments later, Angela was looking at herself. The woman had become the girl.

Angela looked down at herself, and her school uniform was now a velvet red dress.

Angela picked up the reins as if she’d been doing it her entire life.

“You are now hope in the darkness,” the woman said in Angela’s voice. “It’s your turn.” The woman was a perfect copy of the girl in every way.

Angela nodded. With a tug of the reins, the sleigh lifted into the air.

Once the clearing was empty, the animals wandered away, and the woman, now the girl, turned around and went back the way the original Angela had come. She walked back to the road where she found the bag filled with Christmas presents from the grandmother.

She walked all the way to Angela’s house where impatient parents waited.
“Where on earth have you been?” the mother asked.

“Traveling the world brining hope to whomever I could reach,” the new Angela said.

Her mother frowned. “Well, I guess it’s good you’re home safe.” She then took a deep breath and forced a smile. “Are you excited about Christmas tomorrow?”

“Of course.”

“What do you think Santa will bring you?” her mother asked.

Angela smiled but looked out the window as if seeing a far off world. “I’ve already gotten what I wanted.”

Forgetting and Writing

I’ve been rewriting since the last time I posted, but I forgot I wanted to post anything. I just forgot. My brain is a sieve.

But anyway, I’ve added a new scene into the first half of the manuscript. And here it is! Thanks for reading.

Hannah ran like the old woman had told her to. She ran by strange souls lingering in the hall. They were blurs in the corner of her eye. She thought she glimpsed a girl with flame red hair and a boy made of scars.

She was almost to the door when a lone black bird flew into the hall from the shadows of a patient’s room. The bird swooped and cawed. Hannah jerked sideways to avoid its mad flight, and she crashed into a man wearing a doorman’s uniform. She knocked him into the wall.

The lockpick fell from her hand. Hannah stumbled backwards and looked at the floor for the lockpick. It was her favorite.

“Who the hell are you?” the man asked.

She looked up. His nametag reflected the hall light. “George.”

“I’m George.” He looked puzzled and rubbed the back of his head.

Hannah snorted. She tried to keep one eye on him while she searched for the lockpick. He might be able to lunge and take hold of her, but she sized him up. He wasn’t a man who knew how to deal with someone who fought back.

George continued to rub the back of his head. “Go back to your room,” he said. “You patients can’t be running willy nilly out here. Nurse will have us all hung.” He squinted. “What was I doing?”

At that moment, the old woman caught up with Hannah. “He’s one of Them,” she said.

“I don’t think he’s going to bother us,” Hannah replied still looking for her lockpick. The doorman bent over forward and put his hands on his knees.

“I think I hit my head,” he mumbled.

Hannah hesitated. She’d crashed into him hard, but his apparent disorientation unsettled her. “You okay?” she asked, glancing at him sideways.

He stayed bent over, but he laughed. Then he coughed. He hacked. “Can’t say a patient’s ever asked after me like that. Am I okay?” He leaned even farther forward. “My head hurts.”

“What should we do?” Hannah turned to the old woman. “I think I…”

“I told you not to stop for any reason, and here you are, worrying about one of Them.” The old woman stepped over to the doorman.

A thin line of silver flashed a few feet away. It was the lockpick. She knelt down to snatch it up, and when she stood back up, a loud thud startled her. The uniformed man was out on the floor. The old woman stood over him.

“What happened?” Hannah asked.

“He fell.”

Hannah didn’t know what to do. “But he’s unconscious.” The old woman could’ve knocked him out, but that seemed ridiculous. The old woman couldn’t be that strong.

“He fell hard,” the old woman said. “Now go. Run like I told you to.”

Day 26 Not Quite Written

I didn’t think I’d get to go to a friend’s wedding this week, but surpassing things happened, and tomorrow I’m leaving!

The day has gotten away from me, and tomorrow I’m not taking my laptop with me. So, I’ll try to write thing by hand. We’ll see what happens. I’m a bridesmaid and will be doing wedding-esque things. Which, because my friend is who she is, involves a morning spent driving bulldozers. That’s right! Playing in the dirt. Apparently it is a thing. Go Las Vegas!

I’m looking forward to it.

But not sure how much writing will happen.

Hope you have a good week.

Day 22

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Still here! Next week, I’ll be without a computer for a few days! Egads! I’ll write on paper, but I won’t be posting. But that’s not until next week. In the meantime, I managed something for today.

Thank you for reading!

*

Everyone in town said a flock of blackbirds from the east brought bad dreams to everyone and misfortune to a chosen one.

Hannah loved to watch the blackbirds though. Breaking her parents and her community’s rules, she would climb a tree as high as she could and look for swooping dark cloud of birds. Weeks could pass before she’d see them, sometimes in the distance and sometimes surprisingly close.

If she were caught up in the tree with her father’s binoculars, her mother would rage. “Why do like to invite trouble?” her mother would shout. “Do we not provide you with enough problems?”

One night at dinner, when Hannah was fourteen, she asked her mother, “Which is worse: looking for blackbirds or climbing trees?”

Her mother slammed down her fork. “They both cause broken bones and bad luck. That’s what matters.”

“But how can birds break bones?” Hannah asked.

Her father focused on his food. His pasta seemed quite interesting to him at the moment.

“Hannah Clare,” her mother replied. “Why must you always ruin dinner with nonsensical questions?”

“But—”

Her mother pointed at her father. “His side of the family I blame for this. Curiosity pollutes the entire bloodline.” She dropped her hand to the table and turned to stare out the dining room window. “You don’t have to feed your curiosity. You don’t.”

Hannah knew she should keep quiet, but the same impulse that drove her to the treetops threw words out of her mouth. “I’d rather feed it than drown it like you do.”

The slap Hannah got ended the conversation. It did nothing to end Hannah’s fascination with the rumors about the birds.

Day Twelve. Not exactly a failure.

I’ve written something, but it is late and I’ve got a huge day tomorrow. I don’t feel like posting what I wrote. It takes too long. But I’ll add to the scene tomorrow and post whatever I end up with.

On a side note, I’ve been considering some of the craziness I’ve read about on TV these days, most recently Penny Dreadful and Salem. And also Game of Thrones. You know, I can’t write anything that crazy. I feel like my stories are boring in comparison.

Versatility Is Good Either Way

Nancy Lauzon over at The Chick Dick Mysteries thought of me the other day and gave me this Versatile Blogger Award.

Most of the time I think I’m alone here and any attention comes as a nice surprise. And I’m trying to be versatile. At least in my thinking.

So, the award asks for a link back to the giver. Done.

Share 7 things about yourself. Hmmm. What could possibly be interesting at this point? Well, I won’t try for interesting and see what happens.

1. I want and hate attention, and when I get awards I tend to take them home and hide them in the back of the closet. I got a trophy for a poem once. Eventually threw it away. Now my son wins trophies and medals and I find places to display them.

2. I caused a fender bender a few days before Christmas and I’m in something of a snit about it. In 27 years of driving and I’ve never hit another car. But that doesn’t matter when the officer gives the ticket for $167 and the only damage to the other car was a bit of paint off the fender under the license plate and the driver of the other car wouldn’t acknowledge me until the police arrived. My fault though. So. I can’t say anything in my defense.

The lady was actually quite nice when she finally did speak to me. “Now don’t you let this ruin your holiday!”

3. One of my least favorite ordinary questions is: what do you want to eat?

4. My mother’s death from an aortic aneurysm was terrible. But I’ve always been secretly glad it happened at work. If it hadn’t happened at work it might have happened when she was alone in her apartment. It would’ve been days before anyone found her. Or it might have happened while she was driving on the Interstate. I’m sorry for her coworkers, but…

5. For a few years I believed that I could make this writing career thing work with enough determination. That belief has changed.

6. I’m a wee bit irritated that my boss waited until after I left the meeting to announce his plans to resign, and then no one from work contacted me to let me know. I got the news through a facebook status update. Wouldn’t that annoy you?

7. If they ever invent a pill that makes sleep unnecessary, I’m going to take it.

The next step is to link to 15 blogs you enjoy reading.

This is where things get tricky because part of me thinks a shout out to some blogging friends is a good thing. You wouldn’t mind if I said I liked your blog, right? But another part of me thinks that you don’t want to share things and find 15 other blogs to link to and it seems like a lot of work. But then I think it isn’t that much work, and you must like 15 other blogs you’d like to give attention to, right? But maybe this feels like social pressure and it strikes you as chain-lettery and popularity seeking…

oh, whatever…I’m going to link to blogs I like and if that happens to be you–carry on as you wish. I like you and just want to say so. I like Nancy too so I want to play along. I do suspect a couple of folks of reacting with a rather aurgh-I-don’t-want-to-get-sucked-into-this sort of reply. Gnash your teeth and pretend you saw nothing here.

If I don’t link to you it is probably because I’m flawed and miss great things all the time.

1. Running After My Hat. His Friday posts are the best if you like poetry, quotes, and other gems.

2. Shelly Lowenkopf. read his blog because you probably can’t get to his class.

3. 7 Impossible Things before Breakfast. I love this blog but avoid it often because it is impossible to read just one post and then I miss breakfast.

4. Sherri Blossoms. Because she’s a writer that understands me.

5. The Querulous Squirrel. Querulous and sharp. We need more of that.

6. Warrior Girl. Writer and artist. I’ve got one of her pictures on my wall. Now if only I could have a book by her on my shelf…

7. Write out in the Open. I just discovered a friend has this blog and she’s been writing about her mother’s death. I hope she keeps writing.

8. And the Walls Came Tumbling Down. Aother soul I’ve met in cyberspace whose point of view and insights I like.

9. The Gray Pen. A young man who writes. I noticed he hasn’t been blogging lately and I think he has a lot of things getting in the way. Maybe a nudge from new readers would get him back to writing again.

10. Ami McKay. My college roommate who is a published author! Buy her books, people!

Oh…5 more…

I’m going to think about them and post them later. Who knows what will pop into my head before I fall asleep.