A Snowed In Christmas Present – Short Story

Back in March my local libraries hosted their annual story contest. It’s a chance for the people in the valley to get their creative hats going, especially the schools, to write a three-page story.  Or if you are the 1st and 2nd graders, well, whatever you can write.

Over the years I have entered at various points. This year I won first place and it was kind of nice, having one 2nd and 3rd as well over the years. Below is my entry. My Hallmark of a three page story. I entered this year to challenge myself to writing  a story in three pages. I guess I made it work. Enjoy. Oh and it was inspired by this picture from Bing from a few years ago.

A Snowed In Christmas Present

Christmas Eve

Jess tramped through the deep snow, her snowshoes keeping her above the deep whiteness. Her shepherd, Max, bounded along at her side. The destination was a cabin tucked into a copse of pines near the old ski trails at the back of the new ski resort. In dry weather it was a half hour hike, but with all the snow, it took Jess over an hour to reach the primitive cabin. Built in the 40s by her grandfather, when he had owned all the surrounding land, the cabin was a sturdy log structure with a small lean-to built out back where the dry wood was stored. There was a small loft with a bed over the main room of the cabin, and that was where Jess slept most of the time, though sometimes she’d crash on the ancient sofa some relative had somehow carted to the cabin. It had always been a mystery as to how it had gotten to the cabin from so far.

It was late afternoon when Jess and Max arrived. It took Jess another twenty minutes shoveling the snow away from the front door with the snow shovel tucked under the eaves before she could get into the cabin. She quickly started a fire in the pot belly stove then started another one in the small wood cook stove. She got pans of snow on the stove to melt while Max checked out all of the corners of that cabin for mice that might have set up house in the early part of the winter. Satisfied there had been no intruders, he flopped in front of the stove with a groan. Jess laughed at him as she lit kerosene lanterns. She brought in more snow and added it to the pans on the stove before she started dinner. She had brought fresh supplies to add to the many stored items in the pantry. A stew was in order for a cold, snowy night like tonight.

She cut up carrots and potatoes to add to the tinned beef. As the stew bubbled and simmered on the stove, she mixed up biscuits from the flour and dry ingredients in the mouse-proof canisters. Soon, she and Max were eating a hot meal on this last Christmas Eve Jess would be spending in this cabin.

It was while Jess was buttering a second biscuit that she was startled by a loud knock on the front door. Max growled low and deep as she went to the window and peeked out. There stood a man with skies and poles. She quickly opened the door and saw that the man had a gash on his cheek and one of the skies was broken.

“Oh come in,” she urged and shushed Max who barked.

“Thank you,” the man said, nearly stumbling into the room. “I didn’t think I would make it; then I saw your light.”

Jess grabbed the skies and poles from him and helped him to the weary couch and noticed he was limping on his left foot. He collapsed with a groan and Jess quickly leaned the skies against the wall and grabbed the small box of medical supplies off a shelf.

“What happened?” she asked as she dampened a rag and cleaned the bloody wound on the man’s cheek.

“I was cross-country skiing up one of the old trails and ended up too close to a tree. Sank deep into the snow, hit some branches, broke a ski, and sprained my ankle.

“Oh dear. Sorry,” she muttered as she dabbed at the gash with iodine and the man winced.

“S’okay. What is someone doing out in this cabin on Christmas Eve?” he asked as if to distract himself.

“Says the man out skiing on a night when it’s supposed to snow the same night.” Jess smiled as the man gave a rueful laugh. “Max and I are spending our last Christmas here. My grandparents have owned this cabin for years, but due to some bad business deals by my uncles, they finally had to sell it to some developer. I guess he wants to make a resort here to back up the ski resort on the other side of the mountain. My grandfather used to own that land as well, but sold it years ago. So, since the developer wants to get started as soon as the spring thaw, and it’s tradition, here I am.” Jess tacked steri-strips across the gash.  “I don’t think this is going to need stitches.”

“Thank you. I’m Tom, by the way.” The man reached up and touched his cheek gingerly.

“I’m Jess Simmons. Now let’s get your ankle looked at. I don’t think you are going to be able to get out tonight on that ankle. You are at least an hour from the highway in this snow.

“I can’t impose on you,” Tom protested half-heartedly. Jess made a face at his protest as she brought a pan of snow that was mounded and set it on the ottoman.

“Right. You can barely walk and the snow is already coming down. I don’t think you are going to be able to leave. Face it, mister, you are my captive. Now take off your sock and rest your foot on this snow. It should take down some of the swelling.”

Tom did as she bade, winced at the cold, but then relaxed into the couch as Jess brought him a bowl of stew and a biscuit. He ate quietly while Jess made coffee and pulled some canned peaches from the pantry. They feasted on peaches and cream for dessert.

Then they talked after that, Jess telling Tom of the history of the land around the cabin and the cabin itself.  Outside the snow came down faster and faster.  Tom talked about his love of skiing and the mountains and getting away from his life in the city. Jess ranted about the investor who probably planned to tear up the land and make a gaudy resort. Tom told her he was an investor as well, but hated gaudy. He preferred classic mountain lodges. They talked late into the night sharing their life in the unusual circumstances of their meeting.  

In the morning, it was clear that they weren’t going to be able to get out of the cabin except to reach the outhouse behind the lean-to and the lean-to itself. They were snowed in. Which was what Jess had planned on, but Tom had not. He was worried his assistant would be going crazy since he’d never made it back to his hotel room at the ski resort, but there wasn’t much that could be done about it. So Jess and Tom spent an unusual Christmas together, playing cards, eating the simple but tasty meal Jess fixed and talking more and more.  Max claimed Tom as his own, using him as a pillow and not wanting to leave his side. Jess had never seen Max be so taken with someone other than her.

They spent two days together in the cabin before the snow blew away enough from the door that they could make their escape. Not that Jess was complaining. She liked Tom and was sad that their interlude was at an end, as strange as the situation was. It hadn’t hurt that he was a rather charming companion and quite good looking as well.

The hike to the highway was slow going, as Tom still had a limp and the one ski was broken, but they made it after a few hours. From there, Jess was able to drive Tom to the ski resort. In the whirlwind shuffle of getting him into the hotel and the staff making a fuss, she and Tom got separated. Jess thought of staying and calling his room after he got settled, but decided that she would come back tomorrow. She and Max went home, which was only an hour down the road in the small mountain community. Much to her dismay though, when she called resort, the staff told her that Tom had checked out and not left any forwarding address. Nor was the hotel going to give out his phone number.

Jess spent the rest of her holiday in a slump of disappointment, wishing she could speak with Tom and knowing the sale of the land was at the first of the year.

“Well, Max,” she said on New Year’s Eve, “it was fun while it lasted.”  Max sighed against her. He’d been moping since she’d let Tom off at the hotel. It was a very unsatisfactory way to end the year……..

Christmas Eve one year later.

Jess hiked through the few inches of snow towards the cabin. Max, as usual, bounded along beside her. There was a lot less snow than last year and the sky was clear and crisp. It was going to be a gorgeous Christmas Eve, made even more perfect by the fact that Jess now held the deed to the land around her cabin. The sale had gone through for the cabin back in January, but not long after the papers had transferred to the new owner, a thick packet had arrived in the mail. Much to Jess’s surprise, the new owner had learned of her love of the land and had gifted it to her with the deed to the land and cabin. Her grandparent’s bills were paid and she had the cabin now in her name. 

Jess had sent a thank you note through the brokerage firm that handled the sale, but she hadn’t heard anything else. Even now, months later, she was still semi stunned that she owned the cabin and could come here whenever she wanted.

The cabin was waiting there in the trees, cheery as when she had closed it up a few months ago for winter. She was looking forward to being able to celebrate again.

The lanterns were lit and a thick steak was sizzling on the stove when a knock came at the door. It was with a sense of déjà vu that Jess looked out the window to see a man standing at the door with skies in hand.  She opened the door.

“Tom!” she gasped. “What are you doing here?” She stepped aside to let the tall man in. “How did you know I was going to be here? Were you out skiing again? You aren’t hurt are you?”

Tom laughed. “You ask a lot of questions.” He leaned his skies against the wall and scratched Max who had come up to lean against the man.  “I’m here to see you. I was only skiing in from the road; no I’m not hurt. And as to why I’m here….” He paused.  “I wanted to see if my investment was getting good use. Since you are here, then I would say it is.”

“What do you mean your investment?”  Jess flipped the steak and peeled a couple extra carrots since she knew Tom was going to stay.

“Well, you did receive the deed to this cabin, yes?” Tom leaned against the counter near where she worked.

“Yes. How did you know about that?”

“Because, I’m Tom Winterthorne. I was the person that had been investing in the land around here.”

“What?! You’re Winterthorne Investments?” Jess stopped peeling.

“Yes. It was your stories of this cabin and spending time here charmed me so much I couldn’t let it leave your hands. So, I bought the land and had it righted back to you. There will always be land to invest in, but well, it’s not too often you find a woman you like who has such passion for the history of land.”

“I can’t believe you did this. I can’t believe you are the investor. I wasn’t very nice in describing you last year.” Jess ducked her head, embarrassed.

“You were unhappy. I couldn’t take it personally since I have done a few things that are like what you said.”

“I called the hotel after I let you off last year. You had checked out.  I thought I wouldn’t see you again.”  Jess dumped the cut up carrots into a pan with butter.

“Did you want to?”  Tom tipped his head to the side in question.

“I did. Very much so. I liked you. I liked our time we spent together, as strange as it was.” She ran her fingers through her hair.

“So did I. That’s partly why I came here tonight. I was hoping you would honor your traditions and come back. I was hoping to find you here.” He reached out and grabbed her hand and tugged her close. “I was hoping you wouldn’t hate me too much for me being me. I was hoping I could spend this Christmas with you as a friend again.” He leaned down and kissed her gently. “And maybe as the promise of something more.”

“I don’t think we are going to get snowed in this year,” Jess replied, “but I can’t think of a nicer present then to spend it with you.”

And if you had been standing outside of the cabin at that moment, you would have seen Jess lean up and kiss Tom as high in the sky the stars twinkled on this clear Christmas Eve.

 

Copywrite 2017 by Katie Lyn Branson

Under The Clock Towers – Flash Fiction

clock tower

Circus Lane, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Omar Yassen

Shafer nursed his pint of Guinness at the worn bar under the Clock Towers that sheltered the old tavern. The pub had been there so long the wood bar was dark and greasy from years of dirty palms and spilled drinks. Dents and gouges marked the wood giving it character and a sense of presence to the smoky interior. Old men of a certain age sat huddled in groups, round tables or in the hard wooden booths. There was an air of silent comradery to the mumbled conversations that filled the pub with a hum that had neither a beginning nor an end. It was as it had always been, ever since Shafer was old enough for his first pint.

That was long ago; though not so long that he was ready to join in with one of the groups of men. That and he was still a loner. Always had been. Maybe it was his occupation that kept him from joining in. He knew too much about everyone there. He knew who had been unfaithful to which wife, or who owed so much on their bill at the pub. He dealt in information, using it like currency. Though he never used it for favors. He was, at best an honest dealer.

People came to him for information, he gave it to them, and they paid, leaving happy with the news, or at least, satisfied, albeit disturbed at times. But he couldn’t help how people took his information. He never promised to sugar-coat it. He was blunt and to the point. If people didn’t want to know the answer, they shouldn’t ask the question.
Despite what he knew, people still treated him with a modicum of respect. He supposed it was because they were afraid he might report any illegal activity to the authorities, which he could have done numerous times. But he had a reputation of discretion and he liked to keep it that way. It was bad for business if you were a snitch.

The door to the pub swung open and an icy blast of January cold blew in through the door, biting at the heels of the charming woman who stepped in hesitant and unsure. She quickly shut the door behind her as some of the patrons emitted growls of displeasure at the cold surrounding their old bones

Shafer watched her as her eyes adjusted to the gloom. She was as lovely now as when she had come to him two weeks ago. Dressed in a long, forest green wool jacket, buttoned up to the neck with brass buttons, she looked very prim and proper. And so out of place in the pub that Shafer decided to be nice and rescue her from her fortress of uneasiness. He tapped his glass creating a slight ring and her eyes flew towards the sound. He saw a smattering of relief in her eyes as she recognized him and made her way around the tables to the bar.

Normally he would have met her in his office, but the walls there had ears, especially with the information he had found out. Here, at least, no one cared that much about secrets. Beer had a tendency to loosen the tongue and nothing was ever taken seriously.

“Mr. Shafer,” the woman greeted, her eyes darting around the room.

“Mrs. Ballington.”

“You said you had some information for me?” She questioned as if unsure of the message he had sent her telling her so and where to meet him.

“I do. Would you like a drink?”

“No. No, thank you.” She nervously moistened her lips

Shafer sighed. He hated to do this with such a decent lady.

“Could you just tell me?” she nearly whispered.

“Yes. Your husband is having an affair. In fact, he’s having three.” He sighed again as he saw the way the words hit her and she started to crumble.

 

Wow. So I don’t normally finish a piece of fiction thinking, “wow,”, but this time I certainly did as I read this on Saturday at my writing group. D and I sat there and I just knew it was a good piece.I want to finish it, but I’m not sure how, or where I’d go with it. But with the word prompts of clock towers, forest green, and Guinness, I went from being totally uninspired an hour prior, to being super excited at the end. I’m loving this flash fiction moments that hit. They are really inspiring.

I sort of saw this as a piece that could take place at any time, though with the coat the woman wears, I think steampunk. A long green jacket that goes almost to the floor, with those brass buttons that I picture as being shiny. And I see the woman as an auburn haired lady with her hair up almost Gibson girl style.

I do hope you enjoy and I’ll see if I can make this go further.

Kate

Morning in Prose – Poetry

Winter DaysI’m not awake as I wait for the coffee to perk, my dog trying to make sure I love him with head-butts nd snuffles since he is why I’m up; he knows I wanted to sleep in as we now sit crashed on a sofa, him under my old baby quilt, fast asleep and cozy while I’m bleary-eyed waiting for the only thing that makes the mornings tolerable, while outside the sun shines warm, trying to beat back the cold north wind of a blustery March day, trying to be spring as winter hangs on with sharp, clutching nails, though the violets seem oblivious to the cold as their warm, sweet scent floats up, mocking the cold.

Now the mountains are shrouded in mist and cold, a wild needle-like wind bites and sinks into the skin, and I feel like I’m back in January while the calendar says spring is moments away, or years, or just days…. Only the weather seems to know what the mornings shall bring…..

 

Just a bit of prose, I think.

Kate

What Are We – Poem (and more)

What Are WeI swear, I have written more ‘good’ poetry in the past week than I have all year. Sometimes one needs a focus, and right now, I have one. (on a side note, I’ve been watching too much ‘magical-ish’ type things as I’m thinking of ley lines and focuses for magic) But as writers, we do need a focus. Be it a song, a picture, or a person. Everyone needs their muse. My muse is a person right now. Frustration runs supreme with him, but it makes for some of my best work. I honestly wonder if writers can actually be happy. Maybe they need the unhappy in life to write the happy. Because I can say that I write best when I’m in a depressed mood. Not like seriously depressed, but when I’m not my perfect giddy self. When I’m giddy, I just want to absorb life. When I’m down, I write to escape life. I focus on the gritty of life. I write poetry and I get my hands dirty. So to speak.

So, as you can see, my frustration is hitting my poetry. And I’m listening to the most amazing playlist and it works with my mood. Check out the playlist here, Great Northern Campfire Vol. 5. 

Maybe you can play it while you write. Maybe it will inspire you during this cold time of year. While the nights come too soon, and the new year is here.

Kate

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas deariesMerry Christmas, readers one and all. My dearies who have held up under my very random, but Christmas inspired 25 Days of Christmas.

I hope you all have a wonderful day. I’ll be taking a few days off through the weekend to just relax a bit and hopefully write some posts for future dates. I’ve been doing these blog challenges and I love ’em, but man, they require a bit more foresight that I don’t seem to always have. Especially towards the end. I still have a Toolbox post in the works. A Writer’s Path (Ryan, I think)  knows what I mean since I commented about his blog and his toolbox… I’m rambling. Anyways, I have ideas in the works. I still need to attempt more flash fiction, but it seems to have escaped me this month. Ironically since I want to write Christmas flash fiction! I had this thought about being snowbound at Christmas, a la Hallmark-y film with the Bing wallpaper that was the other day’s…..SJMountainCabin_EN-US11195673674_1920x1080 I just have ideas I need to work on!  Now that I don’t have sewing projects, I might be able to finish or start some writing things.

So, I hope you all are having a great Christmas wherever you are. North, south, east and west.

Kate

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

merry christmasJust a short post today since it is Christmas Eve and I’m sure we are all traveling somewhere, or are with our friends and family for the holidays.  This year it is very quiet for my family and I. We didn’t go to any friend’s house for eggnog and cheer… though we did do it a couple weeks ago and hot buttered rum was the specialty of the day…. That was incredibly good and I’ve since made the recipe and we have enjoyed that immensely.

My grandparents are way down south, along with my girl friend Jules (Mrs. Austen) and Boris is down under…. As in Australia.  (pssst…. I wish I could have gone with him. I’d love to go to Australia. And well, to go with Boris… who has someone drive him to his hotel. He doesn’t drive himself. I swear, it’s like Edward from Pretty Woman….)

There is snow on the mountains here in CA. A fast moving storm blew in and dropped a bit up in the peaks… And made it incredibly cold. Brrr.  Not a white Christmas per say, but close enough.

So, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! (don’t forget to hang those stockings and put out the milk and cookies.)

Kate

I Smell Snow

Tonight, it smells like snow.  Or December.  I think December has a very distinct smell that reminds me of The Carpenters, John Denver‘s “Aspenglow” song, Columbia, California  and clearly Christmas.  It’s this woodsmoke and cold, mountain air. It’s misty cold from the pines. It’s pines.  It’s the smell of Christmas trees and old candy canes.

Snow smells. People that don’t get snow wouldn’t understand, but snow has this metallic, slightly dirty smell. Like damp dust.  Only it’s cleaner and fresher. And colder.  I know it sounds strange to say snow smells like dust, but every snowflake is made from a speck of dust.  you would not have snow unless you had dirt.  Sounds even stranger.  But seriously, melt snow and the water isn’t very clean at the bottom.  And it tastes weird.  Definitely dirty.  I like to eat snow, but even it doesn’t taste like clean water. Yet you think it is because it’s white.

So, tonight, it smells like metallic cold pines and woodsmoke.

Tonight I smell snow.

That being said, I don’t know if it’s going to snow, but it might be in the mountains. All of California is getting much needed precipitation of some sort.

Kate

Winter Haikus

I was inspired recently by C.B. Wentworth‘s post on haikus, The Haiku Debate.  Her article was quite interesting and I urge you all to go take a look.  I liked how she talked about traditional form and non traditional.  The 5-7-5 rules and how Japanese haiku was never written in three lines, but one long line. I figured that out from reading Liza Dalby‘s East Wind Melts the Ice (a personal favorite book of mine).

 

I actually really like haiku, though I don’t read much of it.  It’s rather soothing, short and says a whole lot in a very little space. I’m very wordy, never get my point across quickly, and ramble. So this is like a breath of fresh air for me. So, haiku is this cute little package of poetry. You can jot it down on a small piece of paper and it doesn’t take up any room.

 

So I pulled out my Haikubes the other night and used them to come up with two wintery haikus. I just picked some keywords and added in what I thought fit for the time of year. Here is what I came up with

 

 

 

Winter promises

English: Flying geese over Marsh Farm Marsh Fa...

English: Flying geese over Marsh Farm Marsh Farm campsite http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1396185 has lots of fishing lakes to attract birds, these seem to live on the site full time apart from when they all take their evening flight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Grand icy traveling

 

Fire warms any heart

 

 

 

And

 

 

 

Flocks of lofty geese

 

Flying giant arrow vees

 

Wind over water

 

 

They might not be quite right, but I liked the thought.  And it’s practice. I feel I should probably read Basho’s book on haiku, but I’ve not gotten around to reading it yet. I only have so much time for poetry and I have a lot of poets I follow now.

 

But I want to thank C.B. for her post because it was the inspirational kick I needed.

 

What do you all think? And do you write haiku?

 

Kate

Eve and Noel – Flash Fiction

green-velvet-bow-long-sleeves-1950s-vintage-dress blue-velvet-short-sleeves-1950s-vintage-dressEve and Noel, identical twins in almost every way. Born only a couple minutes apart, Eve on the 24th, and Noel on the 25th, they were named after the holiest of days. Serene and elegant, both women were lovely to look at and calming to be around.

They both attended the Christmas Eve service with their parents. Eve wore a forest green, velvet dress, the skirt full from layers upon layers of tulle, with one of the layers edged in delicate silver, giving a glint as she walked. Her heels were matching velvet, with silver glitter on the four inch heels, twinkling as she walked. She kept with the theme of forest green on her nails, and a huge emerald and silver ring on her middle finger. Silver and green like a diamond Christmas tree, said her father. She had giggled in delight. Every year a specific color stood out for the holiday season. Last year it had been cranberry red, the year before, silver, black, and red.

churchatchristmas_2772351b 6332648515_fbf297138e_zWhile Eve was resplendent in green, Noel was in shades of sapphire blue. They set each other off perfectly with their red gold hair, similar to Rosemary Clooney’s in White Christmas. They were a statement as they walked into the little chapel, arms linked as they made their way to their favorite pew to the delicate strains of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.”

Heads turned as watched the two women. Neither of them were proud, but it was impossible to ignore the stir they made.

“Our girls look like models,” their father remarked as he and his lovely wife followed behind their daughters; and it was true.

 

Okay, I wrote this piece of flash fiction last year on Christmas Eve. There wasn’t much of a plot other than velvet dresses and Rosemary Clooney. Enjoy

Kate