Day 1 Holiday Story: Millie’s Hometown Christmas, Seth Sjostrom
You could follow her paw prints in the snow, rising from the bank of the Washougal River. Slipping past the steel railway bridge, she followed the faintest sounds that beckoned her ears, the slightest scents that tickled her nose.
The curious black Labrador retriever pranced through the snow along the trail that led straight into town. A car’s tires spinning up slush in its wake, flinging cold and wet at the already shivering dog. With a shake, she cast off as much as she could, intent to find out what tantalizing aromas and joyful sounds were tempting her.
The streets were lit brighter than usual; the trees strung with sparkling lights. Moving past the big factory, the noises and aromas grew more intense. A curious dog by nature, she was entranced by the busy downtown streets.
People buzzed by with steaming drinks and tempting confections, causing her already excited nose to work overtime. Her empty stomach growled as she followed her nose.
Hitting a busy street with big cars that gave her fright, she tucked close to a group of humans that were crossing. A little girl squealed, “A doggy!”
Her heart swelling for attention as the human’s pitch indicated, disappointed when the larger human swept the girl away, “That dog is a mess. Who knows where it’s been!” Thwarted from a friendly touch, she had made it safely across the busy street. A building sea of human legs filled the sidewalks, heading towards the smells and sounds that summoned the dog, clearly summoned too. Snaking in and out of busy footfalls of the crowded walkways, she came to a colorful street strewn in wonderful décor. Trees strung with lights, wreaths adorn with bows and vibrant red flowers dotted the buildings along the narrow fare. The people seemed to be the more joyful, the closer they crowded, breaking into song as they circled around a tall tree. Unlike the others, this tree was not festooned with lights. It was a dark sentinel of which the people crowded around. One sweet child, curly hair ablaze in red, took notice of her. Giggling, she tore bits of treat and sent it flying in her direction. A welcome blessing, she gobbled each piece as they tumbled through the air towards her waiting snout. Joining in, children less intent than their parents to stare at the darkened tree, took up the task and sent bits of their confections and pieces of popcorn, cascading down.
For a moment, she felt warm. Among the people, receiving attention and delightful nibbles from the children, she pretended she had what she always wanted, a family.
Sitting amidst a particularly festive collection of children and their families, she lifted her head high in the air, her tail gently and happily sweeping the street.
Suddenly, the people’s voices became one. Singing a harmonious song that seemed to bring great joy to them, they held hands and swayed. An older girl crouched by and wrapped her arm around the dog. Her heart swelled with the loving touch. Mouth open, tongue dangling, she smiled as broad a smile as any dog could.
When the singing hit a wonderful crescendo, the darkened tree swirled to life in a brilliant display of light that brought great cheer to the crowd. Erupting in ovations, they admired the tree. Following their eyes, the dog did too. She stared at the brilliant tree, knowing in her heart there was something special about what it meant, even if she didn’t quite know what. Soon, the grasp around her tightened into a hug. She had felt it before. It was nice, but it also meant goodbye. Sure enough, the arms uncoiled, the child stood and grasped their parent’s hand. The girl was off into the sea of legs that once carried people to the spot near the tree but were now carrying them away. The people were going home. The dog’s head dipped as the streets began to empty. She followed families, especially those with children in hopes she could go home too. Inevitably, they would reach the family’s car and she would be left with a pat on the head or a weary wave goodbye. Retreating, she held her nose to the ground, searching for left behind morsels. Passing shops with owners locking up, they paused to give her a pat. Some magically had dog treats at the ready. All were preparing to go home. Past the hardware store, the salon, the school pride store, the studio, she’d receive a friendly word, a quick rub. They all had families to get home to. Past the restaurant and the antique shop, she got more of the same. Her hopes peaked at the friendly caffe. The corner shop employees cooed and gathered, treats from inside were found, but still, the people had to go home. As the snow drifted down from the sky, bedazzling her jet-black fur with sparkling little crystals, she walked, head down. Taking refuge under a tree, in front of the old theater, she sat. Looking around the once crowded streets now bare, she dropped her head, following her sinking heart.
For the rest of the story – visit Caffe Piccolo at 400 NE 4th Ave.
DAY 2 Holiday Story: The Christmas Gift by Ella K. and Bianca F. (ages 11 and 14)
As I was in my Mother and Father’s fancy horse and buggy, I could hear the horses’ hooves trot against the heavy packed down snow laying between the cobble streets. Stores were lined up in neat rows enclosing the area, almost as warm as a blanket. Bells jingled and chimed as the carolers sang with glee with their voices, big and bright. It was the perfect aura for the upcoming days and season. “Can we go to that store!” said Luke, my younger brother. “No!” I replied. “How about over there!” “No!” “Luke, Penny please stop that nonsense and apologize. Now until we get home I don’t want to hear you two arguing again,” Father said. Speaking of home, we live in a fancy mansion-like home with tall ceilings and a blush red long carpet leading through the hallways and into our grand room. We put up the biggest tree you would have ever seen in there. It gets full of ornaments and the shining bright star that goes on the tippy-top of the tree. When we got home I was so excited because it was Christmas Eve. Luke and I would get multiple presents each year. Some kids would feel so lucky if they got as many presents as my brother and I did, but for us it’s the same old same old. Luke and I raced to the door of our home where it was full of warmth. “Darlings, stop stepping in the wet slush. You are going to get your brand new shoes all dirty,” my Mother said as Father walked her to the front door, strategically avoiding any dirty puddles. Mother and Father were both too fancy unlike Luke and I. Mother and Father would drink politely while Luke and I slurped. Later, we all sat down at a long table, even though we only have four people in our family and we don’t even invite friends over. Mother says it’s a waste of time.
“Here is your food, my lady,” said our servant, handing my mother a plate of food. What I still don’t get in this family, is whenever we have lunch, we have a big plate, but only the fanciest, tiniest bit of food that doesn’t fill my stomach. Later, Father and Mother gathered Luke and I up, and Mother said, “Ok my two sweethearts, we can now head down to the tree lighting.” We hopped in the buggy and rode back to town. A man standing by a button said, “Ten, nine, eight…” He started counting down as everyone in the streets joined along. “…Three, two, one!” On number one, the man pressed a button. A tree almost as big as the one my family has lights up bright with colors like green, red, and blue. Everyone started cheering with joy, yelling, “Merry Christmas!” I was so happy, I also started to cheer along. Mother nor Father minded, because when I looked at them, I could tell they had Christmas joy as well as everyone else. “Ok my darlings, time to head home before it gets dark. Santa will deliver your presents when you’re in bed,” Mother said. As we all hopped in the buggy, I looked out my window and saw that in a small ally with a dead end, there was a family. I saw two little girls, and also a young boy with their Mother and their Father. They were all wearing some ripped and dirty clothes while trying to stay warm by a miniature, worn down fire. When Mother and Father put me to bed, I kept on thinking about the family. I wondered if they needed someone to make their family’s Christmas happen. The next morning, Mother walked into my room and opened the curtains, flooding my room with light. “Merry Christmas, my darling,” she said. Later I got dressed in some warm clothes and headed down the stairs with my brother. As we went into our grand room, we saw that by our Christmas tree there were many presents wrapped in colorful wrappings. “Merry Christmas,” Father said. Later, we opened our presents and got wonderful things like candy, some food, and lots of toys, though some were things I already had. As I was opening another present, I thought about the other family I saw. Something was telling me to do something… but what? And then right there, right then, I knew it. Quickly, I grabbed my brother and ran up the stairs while Mother and Father were in the kitchen. I told him, “Luke, I have to tell you something.” I explained everything that I thought of, then headed back down stairs and told Mother and Father, “Luke and I are going to go outside and play with the snow, bye.”
For the rest of the story visit 4Ever Growing Kids at 440 NE 4th Ave.
DAY 3 Holiday Story: by Michal Conger
Gemma Peabody warmed herself by the potbellied stove and pressed her nose up against the frosted windowpane so hard her green velvet bow touched the glass. She squeezed her eyes tight shut and whispered, “I wish, I wish for a white Christmas.” She and her grown sister Ida had spent the afternoon decorating their little church, festooning pews and lintels with ribbons and greenery. Now the early dusk was nearing, and Ida pulled the little girl away from the window to slip a dainty winter coat on her. “Gemma, dear, it’s only three. Papa and Grandpa won’t be here for an hour or two. Why don’t we stop at McMaster’s for a peppermint stick?”
Brown eyes danced under Gemma’s hood at the thought of candy, but she couldn’t resist stopping by the boxes of sweet-smelling beeswax candles awaiting that night’s candlelight service. “I do hope Mama lets me hold my very own this year,” she told her sister. “Don’t you think I’m old enough?” “Oh, quite old enough,” agreed Ida with a smile. “Now let’s get our candy, and go home to help Mama get ready for Christmas Eve dinner.” The air was crisp and cold for a Camas December, and Ida could see why Gemma held such high hopes for snow. They left the track through the wood and passed the quiet Mill on the way to the General Store. The little town was bustling and festive. Just before McMaster’s, Mrs. Lane waved them down from across the street and flapped, hen-like, through frozen wagon-ruts to squawk at them, “Oh, my dears, what will your Papa do about all the snow?” Ida and Gemma glanced at the grey snowless sky. “In the valley, my dears! A storm just blew in over the mountains and the train is delayed, the roads covered— a pity, I was so looking forward to Parson’s wonderful candlelight service tonight.” Ida hid her alarm from Gemma, whose gaped at Mrs. Lane and would have started to gibber if her sister hadn’t quickly steered her into McMaster’s General Store.
By the time they reached home, the peppermint candy couldn’t console Gemma, who ran sobbing wordlessly into her mother’s arms. “For goodness’ sake, what’s happened?” Mrs. Peabody asked in alarm. “Mrs. Lane said a snowstorm has delayed the trains and slowed the roads,” Ida explained. “Though I’m not sure what’s wrong with Gemma. I told her Papa will make it home just fine.” Two hours later, night had fallen and snow was indeed falling thick and fast. Inside, the fire blazed cheerfully, the table was set for a feast, and Mama, Ida, Gemma, and 12-year-old Joe cradled mugs of steaming chocolate. But Parson Peabody and Grandpa had not returned. Gemma was beside herself, and Ida could tell even her mother was getting anxious. The night was cold, the snow grew deeper, and the candlelight service was in a few short hours. Everyone jumped up eagerly when muffled hoofbeats sounded out front. But it was not Parson Peabody who stood at the door.
For the rest of the story visit Arktana, 415 NE 4th Ave.
DAY 4 Holiday Story: “Beelievable Snow” by Noelle Jimenez
The chilly wind blew his orchid colored scarf up around him catching his freezing tears as they drifted down his lonesome face. As shivers climbed up his back, his antennae drooped low next to his big lovely eyes and soft round head. He pitter pattered along the frost strewn leaf laden path not noticing anything but his woes when suddenly, OOF! BAMM! SPLAT! He tumbled ferociously head over heels spinning over and over landing hard on his back. With the wind knocked out of him he lay sprawled across the snowy terrain, his delicate wings that were once tightly held to his back now displayed out flat behind him, his scarf wound tightly around his neck, his legs sprawled haphazardly in all directions. How could this day get any worse he thought. As he was trying to stop the spinning stars in his head a VERY large shadow suddenly appeared overhead blocking out the light from above.
“Hey! Didn’t you see me?” asked the shadow cheerfully. “I mean, I thought you did, and you knew I was playing hide and seek, so I stayed really still inside that pile of snow and I was giggling A LOT so I totally thought you caught me and then you bumped right into me and fell and WOWWWW!!! Wait, are you making snow angels???!!! I LOVE snow angels!! Can I join you??? Can I??!!” And with that, the once ominous shadow plopped down next to the sad little bee and began flopping his wings in the freshly fallen snow smiling the whole time. “I think yours might look better than mine,” said the shadow grinning at the small bee who was just catching his breath. “Yoo-hoo! Can you hear me? Because you haven’t said much since you tripped over me,“ said the huge fuzzy shadow as he rolled over onto his side to look at the little bee.
Now that the little bees head was clearing, he glanced over at the once frightening figure to see that this joyful voice belonged to an enormous grinning bumble bee slowly peeking out from the dark shadows into the light. “Hey there little guy….you ok??” whispered the concerned bumble bee. Clearing his throat the little bee mustered up his courage and said solemnly, “Umm, I think so.” “Well, let’s have a look,” said the bumble bee climbing to his feet as the sun shined on his magnificent fluffy coat. The little bee then carefully rolled onto his knees, adjusted his scarf, and rose up slowly looking over his body for any injuries. “I think I’m all in one piece,“ he said cautiously optimistic. The bumble bee started with a roaring laugh holding his giant fuzzy belly and said, “Not YOU silly! Let’s have a look at this AMAZING snow angel you created.”
The little bee gazed up at this gentle jovial giant and felt all warm inside. Stepping back they both glanced down at the beauty they had created from such a reckless encounter. A smile crept up on the little bees face. The bumble bee grinned as well. There in the midst of their accident was the most beautiful snow angel scene either of them had ever seen. The little bee’s tumble and roll made dashes in the freshly fallen snow that resembled a multitude of little wings with glorious figures dancing among moons and stars in a speckled frosted land.
For the rest of the story visit Cake Happy, 340 NE 4th Ave.
DAY 5 Holiday Story: “Aunt Charlene” by elmo shade
It had been a challenging year finding a path to living a mindful and awakened life. At least I had begun the process by becoming particularly interested in Eastern religions, e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism etc., convinced that the answers that had eluded me could be discovered within the practices of these new and different spiritual roadmaps.
It was the holiday season, oddly enough, and I had been invited by a friend to visit her 85-year old aunt who had been admitted into a distant hospital awaiting Christmas Day surgery. Imagine, being a hospital patient awaiting surgery on CHRISTMAS MORNING. When discovering that Aunt Charlene had no immediate family in the area and how initially resistant I was in accepting the invitation to come along for her visit, I felt embarrassingly sad.
While in route to the hospital, my friend began sharing some of Aunt Charlene’s life history and the difficult struggles she had to overcome as a younger woman, school teacher and mother. At the young age of 29, with three small children, Aunt Charlene was stricken with a spinal aneurism that left her paralyzed from the waist down, confined to a wheelchair, never to walk again. It wasn’t long after that unexpected disability that her husband abandoned her and their three children, leaving Charlene to face the reality of not only raising the children but doing so as a handicapped parent. I felt a painful, triggering emotion of grief immediately arise in my body when hearing those words. It was as though a 500-pound gorilla had sat directly on my chest. I was silently intending that our visit to Aunt Charlene might be a brief one. I hate hospitals. Ever since my mother died of cancer when I was 31 years of age (and now my wife 30 years later), I have intentionally found ways to avoid visiting them or worse, being admitted into one.
Even walking through the corridor, I had created a mental picture of this feeble little woman all shriveled up in her birdcage-looking hospital bed and, after the formalities of introductions, to be held hostage to her painful stories of abandonment and victimhood, not to mention the “smell” of disease, old age and death. What happened next was nothing less than a miracle.
I will never forget the palpable, positive energy I felt when entering her hospital room that night. What I witnessed was not a feeble old woman curled up in a blanket of helplessness, but a vibrant, energetic, strong human being sitting straight up in bed with dignity, and who greeted us with kindness, with warmth and a gleeful welcome. It was as though we had just entered her home. “Hello you two, I am so happy that you are here” smiling as she greeted us. “Who is this handsome friend you brought along with you?” She had me at “Hello”. I stood, even when invited to sit, and remained motionless, speaking when only spoken to. I wanted to give Aunt Charlene the gift of presence, something I was not accustomed to giving anyone or anytime. My expectation of being held hostage had quickly been displaced by an outpouring emotion of respect, humility, and curiosity.
elmo shade is a Camas resident and local poet who has been featured in Camas Life Magazine, River Talk Weekly and NextDoor. His new poetry release, A Glorious Poetic Rage (Atmosphere Press) will become available 1/15/21. All proceeds will benefit Meals on Wheels and M4BL.
For the rest of the story visit Camas Antiques, 305 NE 4th Ave.
DAY 6 Holiday Story: by Rebecca Kramer
Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Humphrey, minds made up, hastily threw on overcoats, and marched up the street with so much conviction in their hearts they were “willing to go to jail for life!” which after all, really “wouldn’t be that long of a sentence,” since they were both in their late eighties.
The two friends hurried past neighboring homes, replete with Christmas figurines and lights, until finally, they reached the entrance to Mrs. Owens’ yard.
“Let’s do it!”
“All’s fair in love and WAAAaaarrrr!” Mrs. Jones screeched as she and Mrs. Humphrey started towards Mrs. Owens’ Santa display.
Every year, two Rudolphs led the sleigh in Mrs. Owens’ yard. It was “ridiculous” and “certainly confusing to the children.”
This particular year, an opportunity for a good deed had arisen for one of those Rudolphs to finally go elsewhere. Mrs. Jones had phoned ahead to explain “the situation with the boy” and though “it was undeniably the right thing to do,” Mrs. Owens snorted she was “too sensible to get involved with those types of shenanigans.”
“Oh no you don’t!” cried Mrs. Owens from her doorway, scrambling for her boots. “Don’t you dare! You thieving rats! Get your hands off my Rudolph!” she shouted, barreling into them.
The three elderly ladies toppled into the deep snow and a fair bit of screeching ensued as the trio attempted to untangle arms, legs and curlers.
“It’s MY property!”
“You old goat!”
Neighbors began to come outside and confer with each other as the bickering continued and, just as Mrs. Owens’ son appeared at the door wanting to know “What on earth was going on!” the snowballs began to fly.
“Stewart! Stop them! They are stealing Rudolph!”
“Mrs. Jones? Mrs. Humphrey?”
Mrs. Humphrey stood tall, brushing the snow from her face, “Yes, Stew it is us.”
“Were you trying to take Mama’s Rudolphs?”
“Well, yes, Stew,” Mrs. Jones began, “but there is a very good reason-“
“Good reason, ha!” said Mrs. Owens, “She phoned earlier talking nonsense about some personal ad. Always got her nose in “Older Gentlemen Seeking Senior Lady” classifieds!”
For the rest of the story visit Lily Atelier, 237 NE 4th Ave.
DAY 7 Holiday Story: Mary’s Gift, by Seth Sjostrom
Mary looked forward to Christmas more than any other time of the year. The moment it was deemed reasonably acceptable, her tree was up and decorations were out.
Even her neighbors didn’t tire of her classic Christmas music, tapping and humming along as they walked by her door.
This Christmas, perhaps more than any other, she was eager for the holiday to roll around. She hadn’t seen her family for nearly the entire year. Easter, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving plans had all been cancelled. Even in between visits were ruled out.
Mary enjoyed the phone calls, status updates and Zoom calls, but it was the personal visits she longed for. To see her family’s eyes. To break bread with them. More than anything, she missed hugs.
Even her friends had relented to distanced waves and cordial but spaced apart courtyard visits. She was a hugger and the physical connection was a part of the emotional one. Mary wasn’t doing well and that was part of the restriction. Her family was afraid to get her sick, even when the edicts weren’t in place.
Instead of a week of periodic visits and long but wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas day gatherings, she was granted only a few family members for twenty minutes. Hugging was strictly forbidden. The thought made her heart drop, but the fact that her family would soon be there raised her spirits.
Staring in the mirror, Mary didn’t remember looking so old and frankly, so sad. Straightening herself up, she wore her favorite Christmas sweater and wore the Christmas light necklace her granddaughter gave her last year.
“Not as good as I once was, but serviceable, I’d say,” Mary chuckled, turning away from the mirror.
She inspected her tiny apartment. Downsizing from the house she shared with her husband for over forty years, finding room for all of the Christmas decorations she couldn’t bear to not put on display, made her place almost farcical.
The knock on her door made her nearly burst with excitement. Shuffling quickly across the floor, she pulled open the door. Her daughter, her son-in-law and their two children stood in the hallway. Hand to her chest, she gushed at them all, her eyes carefully taking in each one, savoring the sight.
Their eyes gave away their smiles, though mouths were veiled.
“Your mask, Mom,” Mindy reminded gently.
“Oh, yes. This dumb thing!” Mary snatched her face mask off the counter. Donning it over her head, it’s bedazzled ‘Merry Christmas’ across the front.
“I like it, Grandma!” Marley cooed.
“I do, too!” Jacob exclaimed.
“Mary, it’s good to see you,” Matthew waved.
“It is so wonderful to see you all. Come in, come in!” Mary waved.
Making their way into the small one room apartment, Mary fought the tears of joy that bubbled up. Suppressing them, she didn’t want to waste a moment.
It was good to have the four family members assembled into her living room. Mary reasoned, her apartment wouldn’t have accommodated many more. She usually made the trek to one of her kids’ houses for the holidays where they could all comfortably be together.
This year, no one thought it was wise for her to travel with her health and the virus. Her physician and her family fought her on even this simple visit. It was one fight Mary was not willing to lose.
“You guys have gotten so big. And Marley, your pictures don’t give your beauty justice. Jacob, you look just like your father. Handsome, the both of you,” Mary declared.
“You look well, Mom,” Mindy said. “I can’t believe you got all this stuff up in your apartment. It looks like a Christmas bomb exploded in the middle of an estate sale!”
“I think it looks like a Christmas wonderland!” Marley said, dancing around the room, taking in every shiny bauble her grandmother had laid out.
Jacob was prone on the floor, hands holding his head up as he studied the Christmas train making its steady loop around the tree.
“You always did like that train,” Mary observed.
“I missed it this year,” Jacob turned and exclaimed. “I missed you, Grandma!”
The words seared into Mary’s heart like a loving brand. “I missed you, too, Jacob. I’ve missed all of you so very much.”
To Mary’s dismay, Mindy was vigilant with their time limit. Rising, she pat her Mom on the back in lieu of a proper hug. Mary’s heart sank, but she stifled her disappointment.
“We’ll video call you tomorrow,” Mindy promised.
Mary nodded. She wanted drop to the floor and hold her arms out the way a grandmother should to hug her grandbabies, but she knew it wasn’t to be. She wanted to hug her daughter and Matthew.
Hugs were something she missed the most.
As she reluctantly walked her family out, their presents stuffed into a shopping bag that they would open in front of the camera phone on Christmas morning, they were gone. Only once the door was shut and Mary ripped the mask off her face, did the tear that had been wavering, finally crest and begin sliding down her cheek.
Her heart was filled and emptied yet again in a span of twenty minutes.
Tidying up, she removed Christmas light necklace and headed for bed.
For the rest of the story visit Juxtaposition, 425 NE 4th Ave.
Day 8 Holiday Story: His Dog, by Adam Fong – The best part of writing is getting lost
It was a cold day for the Pacific Northwest, 27 degrees. It wasn’t often we would go to school during a day it had snowed. But hey, that’s the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
“Braydon.” The teacher said aloud. “Would you like to come up and tell us how you got 72?”
Braydon wondered why he had been called up, it was just a simple long division problem. Anyone could’ve answered it. Teachers are weird, he thought.
The demonstration went by fairly quickly, after all it was just a long division problem. Still puzzled by the fact the teacher called him, he moved back to his table. He didn’t know anybody in the rather large classroom. He supposed he should’ve made friends with someone, after all there were nearly 30 students. By far, he was in the largest class, for each period too. He was fine with larger amounts of students, after all he was less likely to be called on.
The bell rang, echoing through the hallways, making their way into the classrooms, waking Braydon up. Guess I fell asleep again, he thought. Sighing, he grabbed his backpack off of the floor. He stood next to his chair, pulling his backpack to his back.
After each period ended, there was something called Flex. In flex, you could do whatever really, though the teachers wanted you to finish school work. Though he did sleep through some classes ;though the teacher would always wake him up, he didn’t really have missing school work. Whenever he would get home, he’d instantly do his school work, staying up for hours on end. He grabbed his sweater off of his waste and stuffed it in his crowded backpack. He had a normal backpack, a few plain colors and some zippers. But the twist was, it could fit a lot. He normally stuffed a lot of random junk, ranging from old pencils to other people’s papers.
He opened the beige colored door to the restroom, practically elbowing the door. He entered the small restroom, tiled walls and a tiled floor. His gaze focused on the mirror, he wore a large white shirt that was a bit over sized. He liked his shirts like that. He shuffled further back into the wall as 3 kids entered the now cramped restroom. Looking back at the mirror he could see he was wearing similar beige jeans.
It had been a good amount of time since he was in the bathroom. The bell rang again, echoing through the halls and the cafeteria. He quickly put on his dark blue sweater and ran towards the front of the school. He had wanted to say goodbye to his snail. He had named the snail Jeremy. Jeremy was different from the other snails, he had a red mark on his shell and would wait for Braydon each and every time he went there. He heard laughing in the distance, from the general direction of where he was supposed to meet Jeremy.
“I swear, If anyone hurts my snail, they will pay the price.” He said aloud to no one but himself. He saw the backs of 3 kids laughing and jumping up and down.
“What the heck,” he started, “HEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” He yelled in a panic. One of the boys tapped the middle boy’s shoulder and then pointed to Braydon. Braydon was already running towards where he was supposed to meet his snail. The boy in the middle chuckled as Braydon went onto his knee to find Jeremy smushed. He fell into tears, running from where Jeremy had had his final moments. He quickly ran onto his bus and ran to the back seat, putting his backpack to the side and leading his head onto the window.
He woke up, colder than he had been earlier. Braydon quickly scrambled to his feet realising that he had missed his stop. He got up, but nobody was there, in fact he had no clue where he was. He looked out one of the windows of the bus only to find an empty football field. His mother used to drive buses, he had no doubt that he would be trapped in here for very long.
He eventually escaped the bus, puzzled at how he had been left in the back seat of the bus. He supposed he was the last stop and had a tendency to not ride the bus sometimes, but it was like 25 degrees, and besides, did the bus driver really not see him running onto the bus? Braydon put that thought away and checked his phone. Of course, his sister unplugged his phone this morning and now his phone was at 1 percent. The time read 7:38.
For the rest of the story, visit Cedar St. Bagel Co. at 316 NE Cedar St.
Day 9 Holiday Story:by Bianca F., age 14
Wet. Wet was a word in Ralph’s frequent vocabulary, as well as frigid, achy, and oftentimes, impoverished. In fact, these words were sometimes the only ones that could circle about Ralph’s numb head that resided among torn up scarfs, and which housed beedy eyes that surveyed the streets. Perhaps, the rough soles on his feet with relief provided only by the minuscule garments that were wrapped with fancy bows on top, could also relate to the words in his vocabulary.
Ralph’s life was in a bag, a soiled rucksack that hung over his shoulders most of the time. Today, he was digging through it for a relief from the biting temperature that was crawling lower by the minute. The park bench he’d accommodated for the last few days wasn’t hiding his grimy hair from the coming snowfall of the hour.
With his newfound cap pulled over his head, and arms warmly wrapped around his body, the man was able to bow his head politely and hope his shivers wouldn’t keep him awake. A store nearby was showcasing a small children’s choir, and the carols being echoed down the streets seemed to reach his ears with ecstasy.
Ralph didn’t have much to look forward to, nor did his days ever seem to bring a new spark of interest. It was just during these days, where the children came to play because of the inviting snow, and families roamed the streets more often to satisfy their shopping sprees, Ralph could enjoy the Christmas season the most. It was this pleasure in which he was able to close his eyes and relax, until his head could travel into a place much warmer than his weather-exposed body. There he stayed, for hours, until a few small tuggs came at his feet. The man couldn’t decide whether to be delighted or surprised at who stood only a few feet away.
It was a child, not even eight years old, it seemed. As Ralph’s eyes opened from his solemn nap, he had caught the boy crouching on his knees, grasping in his miniature hands a slip of paper from under the bench the man was sitting upon. It wasn’t until the boy had caught Ralph’s eyes, stood up straight, and then discovered the $5 bill in his hand, that Ralph had been able to comprehend it.
The boy studied the old man’s eyes for a few fleeting moments. Ralph, being caught in this new and exciting interaction, wasn’t sure how to respond, and was certain the child didn’t know either. It was almost a relief when the boy reached his stubby little hands out towards the man.
“I found this under your feet, sir. I don’t know if it’s yours.”
The man eyed the bill in the boy’s hand, and then let a smile tug at the corners of his mouth. He understood the value in the piece of paper, but did not let that affect his answer.
“Well, my boy, it isn’t mine. So it must be yours.”
The boy’s wide, doe-like eyes sparkled as he shook his head in response. Thin layers of brown hair fell into his face as he did so. “Momma’s got all the money for gift buying. This isn’t mine.”
Ralph’s heart was warm. The child, innocent and tender, was in no rush, nor had any wish to leave with the money in his hands for himself.
The old man leaned forwards, took the bill and the boy’s hands in his larger, rough ones, and then nodded. “Then it’s yours now. Why don’t you go get someone you care about a gift with this money?”
The boy considered this for a moment. Ralph’s hands left the boys’, and the boy took a few steps back, stopping to hesitate a second, before turning on his heels and heading back towards the center of town. The old man hadn’t received a ‘thank you’, but the excitement that glistened in the boy’s eyes had been enough. Perfectly enough, the man told himself.
For the rest of the story, visit Natalia’s Cafe at 437 NE 4th Ave.
Day 11 Holiday Story: by local author, Seth Sjostrom
Allison chewed on the end of her pencil. She had been studying the numbers all day. With a deep sigh, she set the pencil down and leaned back.
“They don’t change no matter how long you look at them, do they?” Ryan grinned from the doorway.
Allison did not want to smile, but seeing Ryan standing there, two coffee cups in hand, she couldn’t resist. “Please tell me one of those is a Peppermint Latte and it has my name on it,” she said.
“Rough day at the shop?” Ryan asked, handing her a cup.
“This year is tough on everyone. Folks come in and it’s great to visit, but no one can afford much for Christmas this year,” Allison lamented. “The store just isn’t doing well enough. And it’s not just my store, it’s most of us. We count on this time of year to carry us, but the economy being what it is and online shopping killing us more than ever…”
Ryan took a sip from his cup and pondered. It was a look Allison had grown to be familiar with, it meant a plan was hatching inside his head.
“The solution isn’t more money from the few that are already struggling, it’s enticing others from surrounding towns to come here instead of shopping the big boxes or online,” Ryan announced.
“How do we do that?” Allison asked.
“How do you feel about ice skating and snowmen?” Ryan grinned.
Allison looked wary, “Why?”
“Just something I need to speak with Mayor Faslee about,” Ryan said and bolted out of the office.
Allison stared over her mocha at him as he left the store.
Ryan’s conversation with the mayor was a rather animated one. The mayor knew he had to do something to help the businesses, but Ryan’s ask was not a small one.
“We have a tree to light and carols to sing, can I think about it?” Mayor Faslee asked.
“You can, but remember, time is running out. Some of these shops may not be here next winter,” Ryan warned.
“I got it, I got it,” Mayor Faslee waved his hand over his head as he walked off.
Ryan hurried across the street where Allison stood in front of her shop. Sliding his arm around her, they counted down with the crowd that had gathered around the tree until the entire downtown was ablaze in brilliant, twinkling lights.
“So, how did your discussion with Mayor Faslee go?” Allison asked.
“He said he’d think about it,” Ryan said.
Allison laughed, knowing who she was dealing with, “He doesn’t have a choice, does he?”
“Not really,” Ryan grinned.
The next morning Ryan rapped on the gift shop window. Peering in, he could see Allison scurrying towards him. Unlocking the door, she smiled at Ryan and then was quickly taken aback as two fire trucks with lights flashing appeared on Main Street.
“Is something wrong?” she asked, craning her neck to look up and down the street.
“No,” Ryan shook his head.
“This was your doing?” Allison asked.
Ryan smirked, “The mayor’s. I merely gave him the idea.”
Behind the fire trucks, a fleet of dump trucks rolled down Main Street. To Allison’s shock, they began dumping loads of snow onto the roadway.
“Uhm,” Allison looked confused. “Won’t that make it more difficult for shoppers to come downtown?”
“Yes,” Ryan grinned. His eyes twinkled, “But it will make it a whole lot more exciting!”
Allison took a step out to see crews leveling snow along the entire stretch of Main Street. In one section, the snow was banked on all four sides and the fire department began spraying water over the area. Sections on either side were piled deep with snow.
“Ice skating and snowmen?” Allison asked as the picture in front of her story began to take shape.
“Yeah. Who doesn’t dream of finishing their Christmas shopping or sipping cocoa with their family in a winter village?” Ryan asked.
“And that area?” Allison asked pointing over Ryan’s other shoulder.
Ryan winced, “I do believe that is the arena.”
“Snowball fight arena. I warn you, if you step foot in there, well, I don’t miss,” Ryan grinned.
Allison shook her head. “Alright, it’s great and all, but people still have to be able to get here. Where is everyone going to park?”
As if on cue, or coinciding with Ryan’s pre-worded text he hit send on, jingle bells rounded the corner and a horse drawn sleigh powered up the snow covered street.
Allison rolled her eyes.
“I already got the word out with the help of a few friends…,” Ryan began as a helicopter rattled overhead. “The transformation is being broadcast on news channels all over the region. This town is so charming, people need to know about it. They need to see that it is worth the short drive. It may not be as efficient as clicking ‘purchase’ on a laptop, but it is an experience that they don’t want to miss,” Ryan said.
For the rest of the story, visit Salon Magnolia at 218 NE 4th Ave.
Day 12 Holiday Story: by Caroline Mercury, a retired engineer from the Camas Mill and the Board President of the DCA
Faffy and Cal, In their Room
Once there were two sisters. Their names were Faffy and Cal. Of course, these were not their real names -their mother called them Catherine Jane and Caroline Sue but those took too long to say and Faffy and Cal didn’t want to waste any time. They were Very Busy Girls.
Even though they argued sometimes, they were always together and at night they slept in a big bed in the room they shared with ballerina wallpaper one wall and snowflake wallpaper on the others. Cal believed that the ballerinas all danced over to that wall to get out of the snow.
Once when Faffy was really fed up with Cal, (she had refused to eat the mudpies Faffy made her with Mother’s cornmeal and special mud from Mr. Simon’s rose garden), Faffy took a purple crayon and drew a line RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR BED. Down the headboard, across the sheets and over the footboard.
The ballerinas looked down from the wall and seemed to shake their heads slightly – “Tsk, tsk, tsk”, they whispered.
“There!”, she huffed. “This is MY side, and this is YOURS. Tomorrow, we’ll start building a fence down the middle of the room.” Faffy was always the one with an Important Plan to be accomplished and Cal was her Willing Assistant.
“You drew on the sheets – Mother is going to be mad”, Cal said, her voice hushed and her eyes big and wide.
“Well, it had to be done. Mother will understand.” Faffy was always sure her plans were good ones and that Mother, an Uncommonly Sensible Woman, would agree. She stood on the bed, surveying the room, rubbing her chin with a thoughtful scowl on her face.
“Now…I suppose we will have to cut the dresser in half….and put a gate in the fence so I can get to the closet.” Faffy was always careful about details. Cal curled up on the bed with her pillow over her head, already beginning to fret about all the trips up the stairs from the yard, all the wood, all the tools. Sometimes these plans of Faffy’s were very distressing.
As it turned out, Mother did not agree this time. And instead of spending the day on the construction of the fence and sawing the dresser in half as they had planned, Faffy and Cal scrubbed the headboard and footboard clean while Mother laundered the sheets.
In the afternoon, while the sheets fluttered on the clothesline, they all three sat down in Mother’s sewing room and she made the girls make matching red aprons with a ruffle on the bottom and white rickrack on the pockets. Mother embroidered each girls’ name on the front like this – Catherine Jane and Caroline Sue.
They wore their aprons the rest of the day – while they helped Mother get supper, while they watched Ed Sullivan on TV, and by bedtime they were laughing and holding hands. Mother, who was also Uncommonly Wise, smiled her soft smile as she tucked them into the big bed with no line down the middle.
The ballerinas looked down from the wall and seemed to nod their heads in approval –“Yes, yes, yes”, they whispered.
Faffy and Cal, In the Attic
Faffy and Cal lived in a big white house on a big square green lawn with hedges all around, right on the corner of Frost Avenue and Wooden Street. It was an old-fashioned house with a real attic and a real cellar and a huge parlor.
The parlor was a quiet, peaceful room with a piano and fat upholstered furniture that Faffy and Cal were not allowed to play on. It was a room for special occasions. It was where they put the Christmas tree.
The house also had a wide, grand staircase with a splendid landing halfway up where the stairs turned. And in the landing, there was an enormous stained glass window of purple and blue iris with leaves in different shades of green. Faffy and Cal liked to play there where the light coming through the window would make their faces flower colored.
But their favorite place to play was the attic. Its bare creaking stairs led up to an enormous space that smelled of warm wood and birds’ nests and held all the family’s treasures and memories of days gone by. Mother and Daddy were both in the Big War and a special cedar chest held their stiff woolen uniforms and packets of love letters, carefully tied with blue satin ribbon. There was a bottle of perfume Daddy brought all the way from Paris and a thick, shiny black record of Daddy singing songs for Mother who was an ocean away.
They married the minute Daddy came back from Europe and they bought the big white house and filled it with three handsome dark-haired boys and two matching girls and all the love that the letters told of. He was an Uncommonly Romantic Man, and the attic was the keeper of all these cherished things.
Rainy days were the best for playing in the attic. The rain drummed on the roof so loud, they could hear no other sounds from the household below and it was as if they had a house all their own. There was a spare bed right under the double window and they would lay on their bellies looking out at all the goings-on on Frost Avenue and in the park across the street. The windows were level with the treetops so Faffy and Cal came to understand very well the habits of the gray squirrels who scampered and chattered through the wet leaves.
On sunny days, the air in the attic was still and warm and sometimes those Busy Girls
lying on the bed,
propped up on their elbows,
looking out the window,
planning a New Plan ,
would drift off to sleep.
Faffy dreamed of chasing through the tress like the squirrels and living in a green world above, never touching the ground. Cal dreamed of going across the ocean, buying exotic perfume in a beautiful shop in Paris and speaking French.
The ballerinas in their bedroom, who always knew what the girls were doing, seemed to close their eyes –“ Hush-a-bye, hush-a-bye, hush-a-bye” , they whispered.
Faffy and Cal, In the Snow
In the winter, the big white house lost its sharp corners to the snow. Now all its edges were soft and round. Fat mounds of white sat atop the hedges and the porch railings. The gray squirrels tried to keep their feet out of the snow as they leapt from tree to fence to porch, certain to find bread crusts set out by the girls whose New Plan was to feed each and every hungry creature in their yard until the crocuses came up. Mother, who was an Uncommonly Kind Woman, agreed wholeheartedly with this plan.
The snow-covered hill in the park called out to the girls so Mother bundled them up beyond recognition and after kissing their noses (she knew which nose was which), wrapped the sled’s rope around Faffy’s mitten and watched them cross the street. It was a fine, wooden sled with red runners and Champion written in swirling gold letters down the middle.
They trudged up the hill, leaving two sets of footprints between two long sharp lines all the way up to the top. On the way, Faffy laid out The Plan. Cal was to roll down the hill, flattening a wide path in the snow. When she was exactly halfway down, Faffy would push off on the sled, whooshing down the hill with ease on the smooth snow. They would arrive at the bottom together, perfectly synchronized. Cal liked the plan – it was simple and required no work on her part, so she plopped down and began to roll.
She saw only flashes – Faffy poised on the sleek sled, the bright sun, then sparkling snow; Faffy, sun, snow, Faffy, sun, snow – faster and faster. In the next flash, she could see the sled tip down the hill and in the next, Faffy and sled starting down. With each revolution, the sled came closer. She could hear Faffy yelling, “Faster, Cal, faster!”
Just as Cal was thinking to herself, “How am I supposed to roll faster, Bossy?”, Faffy screamed and the red runner nicked Cal right in the forehead, above her left eye. The sled flipped over, sending Faffy down alone. Faffy and Cal had arrived at the bottom together, perfectly synchronized.
The girls sat up, stunned. Faffy, seeing that The Plan was flawed, was already revising it in her mind for the second run. Cal’s eyes were watering, and her head hurt. She didn’t want to cry but when she looked down and saw red drops on the snow, the tears came hot and fast.
Faffy came back with the sled and when she saw
her best friend,
her partner in all her Plans,
her little sister,
crying in the snow,
she cried too.
For the rest of the story visit The Soap Chest, 521 NE Everett
(Faffy and Cal pictured below)