Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Christmas Elves--A Flash Fiction Story

I've been taken with the concept of flash fiction which I just learned about from blogs. I decided to try my hand at it. Here is the story--

The Christmas Elves: A Flash Fiction Story

It started in the late 1940s with the neighbor across the street. She always liked us when we were little.

At Christmas, about the start of Advent, each night she put candy bars on our outside windowsill. They came from the Christmas elves. The elves left each of us a Snicker bar.

Good or bad, we got a Snicker bar. Except once as she was putting candy on the windowsill, our neighbor looked through our font window. She saw my sister spit on me. My sister got a note. “I saw you spit on your brother,” the note said. “You don’t get a Snicker bar tonight.”

So the elves knew everything.

Then our neighbor had a stroke. In the middle of the second Christmas season, she couldn’t be an elf. She was disabled. Our parents had to take over being elves. And the candy changed. Sometimes we got other kinds of candy bars.

“I don’t like 3 Musketeers,” I whined one time. “I want a Snicker bar.” The next night there was no candy bar for me. I was too ungrateful.

~

The years passed. When we had our children, there weren’t any neighbor elves. You couldn’t trust the neighbors. You never knew who might be a pervert. Only parents could be elves.

It was a different time. A favorite teacher in our local school turned out to be someone who seduced a teenage girl. The police caught a local priest from a town nearby in the men’s restroom up in Kansas City. He was soliciting sex. Television anchor people spouted stories of mothers who killed their little babies, sometimes because of postpartum depression, though most people never understood. The non-parental elves went out of Christmas

~
“We’ve found a way to put the elves in Christmas,” my now-married daughter told me last Christmas with a smile. She remembered when we had been the elves. “There is a man across the street. He is an old man now. He lost his teaching job, accused of molestation.” I didn’t tell her I knew him. “When he got out of prison, his wife had left him,” my daughter said. “He just hunkered down alone in the old white-paint-flaking family house. He lives in poverty on the remnants of family savings. He never leaves the house. He has his groceries delivered once a month. Neighbors protested, not wanting a molester next door.” I didn’t ask her if she was among them.

“Then the teenager who accused him—she was a woman now—contracted breast cancer. Suffering greatly, on her deathbed, she confessed that she had lied. The man accused--indeed, the man convicted because he didn’t put up much of a defense--didn’t do the crime. He was the same kind of victim we had thought she was. His life was ruined.

“We are still careful,” my daughter said. “But now we know that not all our perceptions are the way the world is.”

“And what about the elves?” I asked her. “You said you put the elves back into Christmas.”

“The children are the elves now,” my daughter said. “Starting on the first Sunday of Advent, they take the Snicker bar and sneak over and put it on our neighbor’s windowsill.

“It took him a couple days to find the first candy bar. Then, he didn’t seem to know what to do. We left a note that said, ‘From the Christmas elves.’

"Now, when he comes out to get the candy bar, he waves at our house. He knows our children are peeking out from behind the Venetian blinds. They are the Christmas elves.”

In memory of Mrs. Claire Stevens who was our Christmas elf more than sixty years ago.

Copyright by Joe Barone, 2009. All Rights Reserved.

12 comments:

Corey Wilde said...

I like this story, Joe, and you might consider sending it to the Chicken Soup for the Soul folks. A paradigm shift, genuine neighborliness, seems like it's something they would be interested in, and I think they're always looking for stories.

Joe Barone said...

Thanks, Corey. I enjoyed writing this and will probably write more, though I won't impose them on blog readers.

I wanted to try flash fiction without going the noir route. Also, I wanted to start with a Christmas story because I see flash fiction as more in the line of Dickens than of Chandler.

Jim Coffman said...

Joe,
Thanks for sharing. It is great to see you continue your writing and venturing into new forms. Good first flash fiction story!
Jim Coffman

Joe Barone said...

Good to hear from you Jim. I still write books too.

Erica Orloff said...

LOVE THIS!!! Should be in a magazine come Christmastime.
E

A Clardy said...

Great story Joe! I'm glad you shared. I think I remember at least part of this from one of your sermons.? Can't wait to get moved and get together with you.

Joe Barone said...

Erica, I'm complimented that you would like the story. Thanks for the note. --Joe

Joe Barone said...

Amy, I probably some time did use the story of the woman who used to put candy bars on our window sill. The rest of the story, of course, is fiction.

Best of luck in the move. Carrollton's loss is our gain. When you are settled, we look forward to seeing you.

Jan L. Coffman Design said...

Great story.

Joe Barone said...

Thanks, Jan. --Joe.

Paul Brazill said...

Powerful stuff. Very impressed!

Joe Barone said...

Thank you, Paul. Your comment means a lot because it comes from someone who writes good flash fiction and knows what the challenges are.