5. Happy Factory! by John Cooper
Just like last year, everything ran late.
The designs had taken an age to finalise, the mock ups had failed to perform anything like adequately, and to cap it all, just as production was due to go into full swing, a flu outbreak had left the main production line idle for weeks.
It really was touch and go right to the end.
But as ever, when the big day came, everything ran like clockwork. The deliveries all got away on time and the senior elves gave a collective sigh of relief and swore it would definitely be better next year.
4. Here They Come A-Caroling, by Nicky Johnson
The holiday season always was the highlight of Jenny’s year. Of the many merrymakings, she looked forward to the carolers the most.
The troop was rumored to be around town again. Last year’s performance was flawless; each member’s part was executed in pristine fashion.
Jenny opened the front door, beaming. “I was hoping you would return this year.” She offered a thermos of eggnog with paper cups. The carolers obliged.
Suitably, they opened with Silent Night, for the tranquilizers would soon take effect. The caroling crooks truly were magnificent singers, but Jenny wasn’t having a repeat performance.
3. The Forgotten War, by J.J. Landry
The snow fell heavily around me as I crawled between dead bodies, those killed and frozen to death. I’d been there for several months, fighting a ruthless enemy I’d never forget.
I was only nineteen, but remember it well. This damn sure wasn’t my older brother’s Marine Corps. His war was hot and tropical. Mine was a frozen hell.
I took a deep breath of cold mountain air, held it, and then exhaled. I aimed my M-1, squeezed the trigger. A young North Korean soldier in the distance collapsed into the red snow.
How could anyone have forgotten this war?
2. Green-Stuff Stuffing, by Lisa Miller
My second Christmas Eve dinner, cooking for the in-laws with all the trimmings. But it must be flawless this time. Last year the cat was nipped and knocked over the Christmas tree, making a big mess. And I burned the flank steaks.
This year, my mother-in-law insisted I use her oyster and spinach stuffing recipe for filling the turkey. And it was perfect. Saying grace, thankful, we finished our feast. Afterward, I stood up to make a toast when my glass slipped, spilling champagne. I further continued to spoil my image, talking with spinach — that dreaded green stuff in your teeth.
1. She’s Done Crying, by N.T. Franklin
She wasn’t crying today. First day in years. All dolled up with makeup and wearing her fanciest dress, she was going somewhere. And she looked good, so good, that even her children smiled a little. Friends had been expecting this, and some stopped to see her. Daniel wasn’t there. He never was. His love for her was long gone. After being gone for fifteen years, even the kids didn’t care about him anymore.
It was time. A loud thump signaled the end. The latches sealed and locked; the casket closed. The finality of it was unmistakable. She was done crying.