Two gifts sat under the tree. It was a fifty-fifty shot. Kyle reached out, took one, and opened it.
It was the gift he had brought. The re-gifting he had attempted. Probably better it end up with him, he thought.
Across the room, Melissa’s eyes flashed. She saw what she had given him last year. She knew.
Allison had her cats all in a field, ready for a picture. Now it was matter of getting them together.
She tried chasing them down, but even when she caught them, they would just run off again.
She tried running around them, herding them into an area, but they avoided each other as much as they did her.
She tried putting food in the centre to pull them all toward that spot, but they weren’t hungry.
Allison sighed, and lay down in the centre of the field to sob. The pilot above was charging a hundred dollars per minute. She would be broke soon.
As she lay there, though, the cats came. Ignoring them led to them coming to her, and as she did nothing, they gathered, lying beside her, around her, on top of her.
The picture was a success. Allison was delighted.
Getting the cats home was a whole other tale.
Two monkeys stared at each other across the lab.
The first monkey screeched. The second monkey tilted its head.
The first monkey screeched and threw some poop. The second monkey dodged, then threw the poop back.
The first monkey grabbed a stolen pen, and wrote threatening messages. The second monkey pointed these out to the researchers.
The researchers removed the first monkey, and the second monkey was moved to the nicer cage.
A violin sat in the corner of the room. It was grey, had been for some time. The strings were tight, instrument ready, but for the thick layer of dust.
Outside, a child sat on a stone step, staring at a phone. The instrument remained quiet, resting after its long years of fame. No longer would it be heard.
Sweet ambrosia. Joy to the palate. Delight on the tongue, heart of my mouth.
Grape pop. Purple, sugary, and terrible for me. How I yearn for you above all else.
Come to me, my sweet.
Dave was munching on some leaves when his mother came up and smacked them out of his hand.
“Davey! What are you doing?”
“Just having a snack,” Dave said.
“Don’t eat that! Don’t ever! How many leaves did you eat?”
“Umm…” Dave counted on his fingers, not sure what answer would keep him out of trouble. “One?”
“Whew,” Dave’s mother sighed. “Good. Don’t ever eat that again!” She lifted the poinsettia and placed it high above Dave’s reach.
Dave walked away, looking for something new, while his stomach began to grumble.
One pastry was left on the tray. No one touched it.
For hours, no one touched it. The party wound down, and the pastry stayed.
The next day, during the proper clean-up, still the pastry stayed. The whole family looked at it longingly. But it stayed.
The day after, the pastry was still there.
Finally, two weeks after the party, just as it was about to sprout some mold, Natalya said, “I’m eating it,” and popped the pastry in her mouth.
The rest of the family was sad.
Benton grabbed his knife. He slid it in, and tore upward, slicing open the envelope.
Inside, it was exactly as predicted. The inside of an envelope, and a card. Heavy stock, thankfully not caught by the letter opener. He pulled the card out, looked at the front, looked inside at the vague greeting from someone he sort of knew, and set the card down on the shelf with the rest.
The shelf was full, would soon start to push old cards off. Such would happen. But it was festive, for Benton.
Gerald’s ears were still ringing.
He hadn’t signed up for the job. Hadn’t auditioned for the orchestra. But they were holding an event where, if you bought a ticket, you could play with them on stage for the annual Christmas concert. Gerald had a ticket, and he won.
He was escorted on stage. He was sent to the percussion session. He was given a brief training in sleigh bell use, holding the handle, the bells hanging down, his other hand tapping the top in time.
And then away they went.
Sleigh Ride was a fun piece. He hit the sleigh bells when the conductor pointed at him, stopped when waved at (which wasn’t until the end), and kept time, nodding with the other percussionists.
But the bells were loud. So loud. And when they finished, he could still hear them. Wanted to keep playing with them, though he knew he shouldn’t.
Gerald took his bow, the audience laughing and applauding, the orchestra shuffling their feet. But he couldn’t hear it, so he just smiled, and made his way back to the seat. He hoped his ears would recover son.
With strings of sugar everywhere, Laurie was in heaven.
The place was a spider’s web of cotton candy, blue and pink and yellow and green strung from wall to wall, ceiling to floor, stuck, somehow, to every surface. You could eat your way to a diabetic coma, or just lie in the soft, cushy candy.
Laurie looked around, imagined the taste in his mouth, and he salivated. He opened up, and began to enjoy the fruits of his labour.