The Raggedy Mattress, by Steve Carr

I lay head my oily head on the raggedy mattress of my old sturdy bed. In the darkness, as I drift off to a tenuous sleep, my three legged cat settles in its usual nighttime spot on the edge of the mattress. I toss and turn. I strain to calm my worries as I lay on my raggedy mattress that is ripped and torn. My love addled cat lays her head on my outstretched arm until morning. She shares my raggedy mattress, unaware I think of the rips and tears, getting bigger with the passing years.

Holiday, 2017, by Iris N. Schwartz

In your home: tinsel displayed on tiny tree. Christmas cards, opened, dump glitter on laps. On elevator: neighbors, their kids, clutch gift-stuffed shopping bags. Wheelchair woman races across street amid silent DON’T WALK / DON’T WALK taunts. You buy strawberries, blueberries, blackberries from Broadway fruit guy instead of supermarket because fruit guy smiles at you and his berries look fresher. She addresses Harvey, Bouncer, and Latke when she sees them, but doesn’t remember owners’ names. You rush cards and money to super, mailman, though Disability check arrives fourth Thursday each month.

Christmas Again, by Adam Smith

Christmas Competition 2017 Highly Commended

Robin sobbed as she watched her mother carrying the tray of cookies out from the kitchen. Daddy took one before the tray was even on the table, his grin as wide as Montana. Mother pretended to be angry and slapped his hand, then he pulled her down onto his lap and covered her face and neck in kisses.

The light faded and Robin wiped her eyes. She missed them so. Christmas was never the same after they had died in that terrible wreck.

She restarted the video once more, leaning in even closer to the monitor and memory this time.

Don’t Bug Me on Christmas, by Adam Smith

“They are weak and fragile. Just destroy them.”

“We were once a young species as well, Jarnaak. Give them time. They haven’t even left their solar system yet.”

“Rugaal, you are such a romantic. These beings are nothing more than insects! The universe would never notice if they disappeared.”

“Jarnaak, think of what you say! What if we had never been given the chance to evolve? What if we were wiped out just because we were young and ignorant?”

“Any superior species would move on and forget the insects they had squashed.”

“But Jarnaak, it’s Christmas! Are we not Human?”

Transcendence, by Michael Croban

His footsteps echoed through the empty corridor. He was walking around in circles, biting his nails. He stopped. Suddenly, silence. Helplessness was overwhelming. Screams obliterated silence in a second; screams so terrifying, he could feel the colossal pain behind them. Through the window, he saw the snow falling quietly, as though it was in another dimension. Was it Christmas already? Screams stopped. The deafening silence ensued. He forgot to breathe; sterile air filled his lungs when he inhaled. Someone somewhere was laughing. “It’s a girl,” the voice yelled. The sense of relief flooded his soul. “What a Christmas present!” he cried.

Widower’s Holiday, by Adam Smith

Elizabeth died after Thanksgiving, despite her wish to live to see Christmas.

George had heard the terrible, wet sucking sound of her last breath. He had watched the light leave her eyes and he had felt her hand cool, as he held it in his own.

The doctor said there had been no pain, but George knew better.

Elizabeth would feel the pain of an eternity of guilt for having left him during the Holidays. He was sickened and saddened by the thought and vowed to never celebrate again. He kept his promise, dying himself on the twenty-third of December.

At Home in Carolina, by David Lawson

A warm wind blows off the ocean, bringing the smells of fresh bread, ham and pecan pie into my room, waking me. It is quiet and calm; Mom is finishing breakfast as we gather in the dining room … it’s Christmas Day on Sullivan’s Island outside of Charleston. The Christmas tree lit with candles, handmade decorations and presents for the family. It’s a day that will be ever etched in our minds. Christmas at home with the ones you love.

“Lieutenant … wake up. You’re dreaming.”

“Where am I?”

“You are at a Union hospital; your wound became infected. You’re in Gettysburg.”

Buzz Aldrin Would Understand, by Robert Bermudez

Santa reached down and patted the little one’s furry head while gazing into three sincere, hopeful eyes. He could feel the tentacles which held onto him squeeze tighter in nervous anticipation. He loved their innocence as much now as ever.

“Look under your Grakkalak on Christmas morning,” he said with a wink.

The little banok squealed with delight. His rakka beamed and reached out for him with her three-fingered claw as the next little banok scurried up, eyes all purple with excitement.

It always amused him humans thought they were the only ones who had Christmas.

The Way Forward, by Fliss Zakaszewska

“ … why don’t you sign up for internet banking?”

“I’m no good with computers.”

“It’s really easy … ” Libby talked yet another customer through the routine as she’d been trained to do.

December 2016: Slypperies Bank closed 2,000 branches – didn’t need them now that so many people used internet banking. Libby was made redundant – but she got a job at Penny-Save Supermarket.

*****

“Where’s the ‘express’ checkout, love?”

“There isn’t one, but I’ll help you with self-scan,” said the ever-helpful Libby.

By December 2017 Penny-Save installed another twelve self-scans in every store. Last in, first out, Libby was unemployed again. Merry Christmas.

In the Bleak Mid-Winter, by Martin Donaghy

In the bleak mid-winter …

By the Sacred Fire, I gnawed a blackened bone, then took pleasure in the booze soaked straw.

By Columba’s cross, I stroked the crib where He first gurgled, then stuffed my gut to ease the Fast.

By John Knox’s pulpit, I heard, “No pagan singing!” then up ‘n toiled like every day.

By the glowing hearth, I bent dead Albert’s tree, then drew an orange from a tattered sock.

By the flickering screen, I watch Mrs. Brown, then listen for a phone call or a chap on the door.