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Author Topic: Christmas Short - 2010  (Read 2319 times)
WarHorse
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« Topic Start: December 21, 2010, 07:32:59 pm »

This was originally a flash-fiction challenge to myself, a week ago today.  I completed the rough draft in one hour and twenty minutes.  It's been tweaked a little since then, but the essence is unchanged.  Enjoy. Smiley



   Sitting at his customary place in the common area, Cuthbert Long bowed his head over the steak and baked potato on his tray, savoring the aromas.  He thought it would be a shame to eat it and thus be deprived the wonderful smell and the anticipation.  After another moment’s pause, he picked up the rarely-used steak knife.  This was once a living being, he thought, fed by the grass, which was fed by the sun.  How I wish I had known your name.  He was slicing into it when the hatch opened.  Billy Langtree came in, full of saunter and dash, as he usually was.

   “How’s the steak?” Billy asked.

   “Decidedly dead, and apparently delicious,” Cuthbert answered.  To say that he was grinning would be an understatement.

   “Another twelve hours to mine,” Billy answered.  Stepping to the food server, he checked the status to make certain his breakfast was done, then opened the little door.  “Texas omelet,” he muttered.  “Now that takes me right back home.”

   “I thought you were from Arkansas,” Cuthbert commented.

   “Well I am, but pleasure is where you find it.  Any news?” he asked while taking the chair opposite Cuthbert.

   “Not much.  Cuba has officially lost a hundred square kilometers of beach to the rising ocean, Toyota is launching a car that can go a thousand kilometers on a fill-up, and New Zealand is in the final four.”

   “The World Cup?” Billy asked.  “Are they gonna do the Haka?”

   “I would certainly think so.”

   “Can’t wait to see that.”  Billy took a large bite from his omelet, delight evident on his face while he chewed.  “Hmm, that’s almost as good as mama’s.  In fact, given where we are and how long since it was made, it might have been better than hers.”

   Cuthbert half-grinned in agreement.  “The steak is amazing.  I don’t know how my taste buds survived this long without it.”

   Billy nodded, then all was quiet.  Some noise from the ventilation system was evident, but nothing else in the craft could be heard beyond the cutlery.  It was something that occasionally bothered them, but over time their minds acclimated to this strange reality.

   “So,” Billy asked over a mouthful of omelet, “What’s this all mean to you?”

   “You mean the holiday?”

   “Yeah.  What’s it like in north England?”

   Cuthbert swallowed a bite of steak.  “I suppose it means presents, a tree, and dinner, a big dinner with everyone there,” he waved his fork, looking for words, “and a couple bottles of wine.  Togetherness.  Family.  A time to be happy.”

   “Yeah,” Billy answered.  “That’s my take, too.  But what about the origins?  I mean birth of Jesus, saviour hallelujah, king of kings – does that play in?”

   With a mouthful of baked potato smothered in sour cream and butter, Cuthbert was not anxious to answer, though finally he did.  “It sort of does.  My grandparents still believed.  My parents never challenged them on that, the imaginary Right Hand of God, the old man with the great beard on a cloud hurling lightning bolts at random.  We just let them be, and continued the tradition.”  He furrowed his brow.  “Kind of funny, isn’t it?”

   “No,” Billy replied, mixing his hash browns.  “We did exactly the same thing.  Let them keep their beliefs.  But what gets me is why do we continue it?”

   “That’s simple: respect.”

   Billy chewed on another bite of omelet.  “Okay, I’ll grant you that.  But I’ll wager there’s more.”

   “Like what?”

   “Like a genetic pre-disposition to gather at the Winter Solstice.”

   Cuthbert put his steak knife down and looked intently at Billy.  “That’s, that’s interesting.”

   “Think about it, Cutter.”  Billy leaned in to make his point.  “Food supplies are dwindling, the weather is getting cold.  If you’re a cro-magnon, this is a good time to gather together, share supplies, build shelters.  We don’t know much about the living conditions then.  It’s only logical that they worked as a group, especially in northern Europe, where modernity began.”

   With great care, Cuthbert trimmed the last morsel of meat from the bone.  “And how does that connect with the current celebration?”

   “The real celebration is about each other – about who we are, alike and not alike.  It’s the gathering.  It’s the acceptance.  It’s about being with each other and sharing food and being caring instead of hostile.”

   After a moment’s thought, Cuthbert took his last bite of baked potato.  “So it isn’t about religion?”

   “From my point of view, religions carried the tradition.  So it is and it ain’t.”  Billy wiped his mouth with the cloth napkin.  “All I’m saying is that going back to the original intent of the holiday is worth exploring.  We’re all cro-magnons, in a way.”

   Cuthbert was about to retort, strongly, when a chime came from the communications system.  He looked at the console then looked to Billy.  “It’s from Mars.”

   “Play it.”

   A button was pushed and the console monitor illuminated.

   “Hey guys, down here on Mars Prime it’s pretty cold,” the Martian commander said, “but I bet it’s a whole lot colder out there!”  The picture widened, encompassing a dozen people and a forlorn artificial tree bearing a single string of lights in a claustrophobic office.  “Merry Christmas from us to you, because we have half an idea how bad you two got it!”

   The dozen or so people broke out into song.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou tree most fair and lovely!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou tree most fair and lovely!


   Billy turned to Cuthbert.  “A gathering.”

   Cutty took in a breath, appeared to soak it through his lungs in slow motion.  “So it would seem.”

The sight of thee at Christmastide
Spreads hope and gladness far and wide
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
Thou tree most fair and lovely!


   The transmission ended, and Billy grinned.  “I bet they paid a steep price to get that tree all the way out there.”

   Cuthbert stood and took his tray to the cleaning station.  “We’re starting our crossing of the asteroid belt tomorrow.”

   “I know.”

   Once his tray and utensils were loaded in the machine, Cuthbert turned to face Billy.  “I don’t know how I’ve survived this long, you know, without a ceremony.  Some ceremony.  Something from home.  Four and a half months.”

   Billy took a long breath.  “We just had one.  A new ceremony in our new home, with our new family, such as it is.”  He raised his milk bottle in salute.  “Merry Christmas, Cutty.”

   “Merry Christmas, Billy.  And thanks for the - feast for thought.”



Pop quiz - at what point did you realize they were on a space ship? Wink

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« Reply #1: December 21, 2010, 07:57:18 pm »

Pop quiz - at what point did you realize they were on a space ship? Wink
When the hatch opened, in the first paragraph.  Oh, at that point it was just a guess - lots of places where hatches might be found - but it was my first guess, partly based on where a hatch you were writing about might be found, and partly because I really wanted that to be where it was.

I enjoyed the story very much indeed - just the thing for Up All Night.

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« Reply #2: December 21, 2010, 09:37:32 pm »

...partly based on where a hatch you were writing about might be found, and partly because I really wanted that to be where it was.

I enjoyed the story very much indeed - just the thing for Up All Night.

Sunflower

That's almost cheating. Grin  I'm glad you enjoyed it.  The fun thing about flash fiction is you have no idea what will pop out of your head.  The cro-magnon thing had never occurred to me before.  The sub-conscious at it's best, I hope.

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« Reply #3: December 21, 2010, 11:46:09 pm »

Pop quiz - at what point did you realize they were on a space ship? Wink


About the same time and for the same reason Sunflower stated. Smiley "Cutter" also made me immediately think Planescape... Yes, I'm a geek like that, lol.

Really enjoyed this WH, and I think you could probably put together a decent sized story around it if you wanted to expand it.

Glad Yuletide to you, and thanks for sharing. Smiley
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« Reply #4: December 22, 2010, 03:47:34 am »


Pop quiz - at what point did you realize they were on a space ship? Wink



Guessed at the hatch, and was confirmed when Billy said he had another 12 hours before steak. Smiley



Very nicely done! I enjoyed this immensely. Thank you for sharing.
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« Reply #5: December 22, 2010, 10:50:38 am »

...
Pop quiz - at what point did you realize they were on a space ship? Wink
When Billy said he had 12 hours until his steak. Smiley

Great story!
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« Reply #6: December 22, 2010, 01:40:46 pm »



About the same time and for the same reason Sunflower stated. Smiley "Cutter" also made me immediately think Planescape... Yes, I'm a geek like that, lol.

Really enjoyed this WH, and I think you could probably put together a decent sized story around it if you wanted to expand it.

Glad Yuletide to you, and thanks for sharing. Smiley

I don't know nothin' about Planescape, though I think I've read the title before.  The fiction universe is getting crowded. Wink

I'm glad you enjoyed it.  Expanding probably won't happen, but incorporation might.

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« Reply #7: December 22, 2010, 01:44:40 pm »

Guessed at the hatch, and was confirmed when Billy said he had another 12 hours before steak. Smiley



Very nicely done! I enjoyed this immensely. Thank you for sharing.
When Billy said he had 12 hours until his steak. Smiley

Great story!

Now I feel cheap! Cheesy  My audience is waaaaaaaaay more intelligent than I anticipated.  Must write something more complex...

PS: "Billy" is Tripp and "Cutty" is Malcolm.  I just finished watching the first season via Netflix.  Hard to get those two out of my head.

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« Reply #8: December 22, 2010, 07:19:21 pm »

I don't know nothin' about Planescape, though I think I've read the title before.  The fiction universe is getting crowded. Wink

I'm glad you enjoyed it.  Expanding probably won't happen, but incorporation might.


Planescape is an AD&D setting focusing on the multiverse, plane hopping, and the city of Sigil with it's own slang. A 'cutter' is basically anyone in the planar setting, but has an overtone of being somewhat daring (a 'berk' on the other hand is a fool Smiley ). It's been too long since I played... I seem to see things I can reference as D&D in lots of things lately, lol!

Incorporation is the word I was looking for this morning.... *sigh* Brain does not like to function with very little sleep. Wink
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« Reply #9: December 22, 2010, 07:55:20 pm »



Thanks for the education. Smiley

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