Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Michael D. Brown

It Takes a Village

Madame Treyne had crossed the Rubicon in a way she could never explain to old friends and acquaintances, with whom she could not even communicate in any way ever again as her fondest desire had been granted; the person and she had exchanged lives for this and all Christmases to follow. The lonely, imagination-clouded widower who had for many years been caretaker of the colorful little village would now reside, as she had done for several carol-filled weeks perennially in her flower shop and for the rest wrapped in paper along with the others in a box in a dark place, though he would most likely make use of one of the gingerbread cottages that had mysteriously appeared, propitiously electrified, on the west side of the mirror lake, two, perhaps three, years earlier. Time was so hard to reckon these days now that it flowed continuously and did not occur in fits and starts as it had done for as long as she could remember. Her greatest regret on coming to this seemingly unstill life was that the joyously uneventful, yet musically charged days she recalled came again so rarely and held little of the charming ambiance she had formerly found so stultifying, but now missed with all her porcelain heart. There were times, to be sure, so filled with activity she did not have time to think about her former occupation, where it had been so easy to relate with her kind, but for the most part she now experienced the longing to be small and uncharged with responsibility that had shrunk the lonely heart of the person with whom she had traded places for all the wrong reasons. She often found herself gazing upon the unresponsive hand-painted figurines who populated her ever growing holiday village, which was never packed and stored as it sat eternally on display beneath a small, potted, carefully tended pine tree in a dedicated corner of what people sometimes referred to as her living room.

© Author 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Harris Tobias

A Chanukah Story

It was the coldest Chanukah anyone could remember. Icicles hung from the eaves and a cold wind blew the snow into drifts on the lawn. It was the last night of Chanukah and the fully lit menorah would do what it could to compete with the multi-colored twinkling displays of Christmas lights on all the other houses in Stony Glen Estates.. As the subdivision’s only Jewish family, little Sarah Greenstein took special pride showing the menorah in the living-room window. The menorah was a heavy silver antique passed down, like her Jewishness, from her Mother. Unfortunately, it required a rather large odd sized candle which the Greenstiens had to special order many weeks in advance from a Judiaca store in Brooklyn. The candles were kept in the drawer with the tablecloths until they were needed.
This is how Chanukah had been for all of Sarah’s nine years. But this year something had gone wrong with the candle order. The count was wrong and the box from Brooklyn was short the nine candles needed for the last night. Instead of containing 44 candles, which covered all the nights of Chanukah, the candle box was completely empty after the seventh night. Not only were there no special candles left, there were no candles in the house at all and the storm outside made driving to the store impossible.
The mood inside the Greenstein’s house was as dark as the menorah. All around them the neighbor’s houses twinkled and flashed with Christmas color. Some houses had illuminated Santas and sleighs on their roof or lawn, some had reindeer and wise men, and one had a huge inflated snowman. Everywhere there were lights; cascades of lights hung off the roofs and engulfed every shrub and tree. The menorah’s slow build up to its fully lit splendor was all but lost in the Christmas glare.
Alas, it appeared that there was nothing to be done to salvage the situation. The festival of lights was headed for a cold and dark conclusion. Sarah sat in her room disappointed and stared out her window. The neighbor’s colored light show reflected off the icicles hanging from the eaves giving them the appearance of colored rods. Maybe it was that colored glow that gave Sarah the idea that saved this story and her final night. Running down the steps she ran to her father and told him her idea.
“Put icicles in the menorah”? her incredulous father asked. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea. They’ll only melt and make a mess”. But Sarah begged and pleaded until her father put on his winter coat and went to fetch the ladder from the garage. In a few minutes he returned with a pail containing nine icicles just about the size of the menorah’s candles. Sarah set them in their sockets ready for lighting. It looked a little strange but there was no denying it had a certain charm about it. The family gathered around the curious candelabra, joined hands and said the Chanukah prayer. Father even went as far as to light a match and touch it to the shamus, the center candle that lights the others.
No one was more surprised than the Greenstein’s when the icy shamus held the flame just like a real candle. In a few moments all the ice candles were lit and
the menorah burned in full glory. Not only did the menorah burn all night long but, if that weren’t miracle enough, the storm knocked out all the power in Stony Glen Estates plunging it into darkness. The Greenstein menorah was the only light anyone could see for miles around.

© Harris Tobias 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Michael D. Brown

Don't Open 'til Christmas

In the bakery Señor Wemple is making the cookies for the children’s posada because the Christmas season is when he comes alive. The incessant caroling, however, has him a little on edge; it’s not that he doesn’t like Christmas carols, but there are only five of them and they play continuously while the people are away.
The florist, Madame Treyne, has made her most beautiful arrangements and is now sitting back to admire them, and this year a family will stand in front of her window apparently about to enter her shop, but they never will. All year long she works so hard in the box hoping that when they let her out they will appreciate her toiling, but nobody seems to have a care; only she must look her best to please them.
Madame Sparger lives on Crescent Way, alone except for her little dog Caesar, and a rabbit named Luther, and she is unaware that Caesar and Luther, able to communicate with each other, have planned a surprise for her this Christmas. How could a dog and a rabbit execute a plan one might ask, but one must wait, like Madame Sparger, until Christmas morning to find out.

This year there were two new buildings in the village and lights where there never used to be; in addition, children would be able to ice skate on a mirror, but since they rarely had time to move, nobody but tiny Rudolph was able to take advantage of the innovation. A young couple, obviously lovers, she with a muff, and he sporting a tam o’shanter, sat on a park bench that had been installed in the cottony snow bank, never moving even when it was possible; though Rudolph said they had snuggled closer during the time he had ventured out onto the icy mirror. Madame Treyne had looked her absolute best last year before being put in the box, but never reappeared in her florist shop, which continually displayed previously-fashioned arrangements, and it was rumored she had been broken in storage, which happens occasionally. Madame Sparger spent as much time as she could in the bakery with Señor Wemple, which kept him unaware that the caroling repertoire had been increased by several songs from an earlier era, and the two made suppositions as to who might be inhabiting the new houses, if anyone did, as the lights stayed on all hours. Caesar could have told them the little houses were electrified but empty as he discovered from sniffing around, but aside from these few moments snatched from suspended animation, there wasn’t much activity in the village this year, and it was rumored the people rarely went out because times were known to be hard, in spite of the new pieces, which were probably set up to distract from that fact.

With my Lois and Clark ® mug of coffee in hand, I sit staring at less renowned, yet smiling porcelain figurines, and invest whatever emotions I suffer to run into theirs. Outside the season, they don't have any of their own, you see. Before the deaths of friends and loved ones on key dates, it was just a holiday experience, from the ides of November through the opening of January, but lately the time frame has expanded on either side of the calendar, and now my ennui obtains until well past anniversaries in April. As the miasma of the rainy season, with nary a catalytic flake of snow, synthetic or otherwise following, lasts here from April through September, the year is fairly well drenched with unextraordinary days. Sometimes, I wish I could go back in the box and sleep along with Madame Sparger, Señor Wemple, and the rest for eleven months, but then there would be no one to awaken them and let us have our lives. Alternatively, I wish I could, like Superman, fly backwards really fast around the world and relive undamaged days.

© Michael D. Brown 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Harris Tobias


Blang! God damn this ground is hard. It’s like steel. The damn pick just bounces off the permafrost? It’s like steel I tell you.
Blang! You hear that? Steel. You try digging in frigging permafrost. No one can.
Blang! And here it is freaking Christmas eve. What the hell am I doing working on Christmas eve anyway?
Blang! At this rate it will take a week to dig the grave. just look at the size of that guy, will you? Just my luck to have to bury a giant fatty.
Blang! There’s got to be a better way. I wish I had some dynamite or some of that High Explosive crap we use. That would make short work of this job. Yeah, dream on. Like anyone cares about making my job easier.
Blang! Who test fires a missile on Christmas eve anyway? What, they don’t have anything better to do? Don’t they have families? Sure they have families. They’re home with their families right now decorating the tree and drinking freaking egg nog while I’m out here freezing my ass off burying some fat guy. It’s so not fair.
Blang! Will you look at that hole? I’ve been banging away for almost an hour and I couldn’t bury a frigging tea cup. Damn this ground is hard.
Blang! Well, I guess things could be worse. They can always be worse, right? Never better, only worse.
Blang! Phewwww. Man this is hot work. Look at that poor schmuck. Dead. Dead as a doorknob. What the hell was he doing out on a night like this anyway? Flying around in restricted airspace is asking for trouble?
Blang! Well it could have been worse. At least I don’t have to bury the freaking reindeer.

© Harris Tobias 2011

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