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A Christmas Eve Story by Milan Smith

December 24, 2009 Humor, Mainstream 1 Comment
A Christmas Eve Story by Milan Smith

A Christmas Eve Story

by Milan Smith

Thank you, thank you, if I can just sit here a few minutes, I’ll feel much better. Yes, please, the more light the better.

 

“Do you want a drink?”

 

Yes, please. Something to calm me down. Whiskey if you have it. Thank you. I’m sorry to barge in on you like this, David, on Christmas Eve, but I was sure it was over for me if I stayed home. I hope I didn’t disturb your family?

 

“They’re sleeping soundly. ‘Becca always sleeps hard, and the kids won’t be up before morning. Of course, it’s Christmas, so morning may be four o’clock. But maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll let me sleep in ‘til five.”

 

Well, it’s good of you to see me like this, this late at night. But, you’ve always been good to me. You and my wife are – were – the two closest to me in the world. I miss her, even after all this time. It’s been a year now. It’s hard to be alone, especially on Christmas.

 

“I know, Phil. So tell me, does this have anything to do with the ‘feelings’ you’ve gotten over the last two weeks?”

 

It’s all about that. But there’s more I haven’t told you, or anyone else. Mostly because I know how people think of me. You know, this here. I admit I drink too much, my wife tells me – used to tell me – every day. But I’ve never seen things before, so I don’t know why I would now.

 

“So tell me what happened. All of it.”

 

I don’t want to end up in the funny house, David.

 

“You won’t. Tell me what happened, then you can stay on the couch tonight.” ** Read on! **

Hippie Market by Tom Mahony

October 17, 2009 Mainstream 2 Comments
Hippie Market by Tom Mahony

Hippie Market
by Tom Mahony

The hippie market is next door to my office. I buy a sandwich there almost every day. There’s no other place nearby to get food, and I’m too lazy to make my own lunch. The deli at the market is excellent. The people are friendly, and though they prepare the sandwiches with a plodding slowness characteristic of devout stoners, they also maintain a stoner’s freakish attention to culinary detail. The tomato slices are works of art.

There’s only one problem: the granola woman who works the register is always inviting me to one rally or another. She’s really into rallies. She’s really pumped up on “causes.” I’m neither for nor against her causes. I just want to pay for my sandwich.

Today I stand in line behind several people. Today I will ask her to please refrain from soliciting me for future political rallies.

The line moves forward. I’m up next. I don’t want to alienate this woman—she seems nice enough, and sincere in her beliefs—but I have to say something, as the situation has become untenable. I dread purchasing my daily sandwich. But I must be careful in my technique. If things go wrong, I’ll have to face an even more awkward exchange on future sandwich runs.

I reach the register, preparing for the confrontation. But she doesn’t invite me to a rally. She seems subdued, just mutters a greeting and rings up my purchase. I wonder what happened. Has someone else complained about her pamphleteering? Has she become cynical and apathetic overnight?

“Everything okay?” I ask.

She shrugs. “I got laid off today. They’re cutting back on staff.”

I’m struck by the news. I feel bad for her, and tell her so. Though I can’t deny a certain relief, I regret my past irritation with her. She’s a thoroughly decent person. I almost feel nostalgic for her proselytizing.

“I hear they’re looking to hire a receptionist next door,” she says. “You work there, right?”

I hesitate. We are in fact hiring. “I’m not sure.”

“Not sure that you work there?”

“That we’re hiring.”

“There’s a big sign on the window advertising the position. I saw your name listed as the contact. I recognize it from your debit card.”

“Oh. Right.”

“What do you think? Do I have a chance at the job? I could really use the money.”

I clear my throat. “What are your skills?”

“I can do it all. I was a receptionist for five years before I started here.”

This is getting bad. “It’s dull work.”

She points at the cash register. “You think this is exciting?”

I start to panic. My mind races. I can’t think straight.

“We get along, right?” she says. “Other customers are so rude when I talk politics. You always seem interested, like we’re on the same wavelength.”

Same wavelength? I should’ve spoken up long ago, as apparently every other customer has. At least this woman is firm in her beliefs. I’m always weaseling out of confrontation and stand-taking. Who’s the kook here?

I have to come clean. I could not possibly work with her. Avoidance and apathy have cost me dearly throughout life. I either take a stand now or I never will.

The line stacks up behind me. I glance at the irritated faces. Everyone’s watching me. They know the score. One by one they’ve made peace with the woman by politely telling her to shut up. I envy them. As they glare at me, I can read the look on their faces: what kind of man are you?

What kind of man, indeed.

I turn back to the woman. “When can you start?”

* * *

Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications, including Surfer Magazine, Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, 34th Parallel, Diddledog, Foliate Oak, and Decomp. His short fiction collection, Slow Entropy, was published by Thumbscrews Press in 2009. He is looking for a publisher for several novels. Visit him at www.tommahony.net.

“Hippie Market” originally appeared in Bartleby Snopes and in Slow Entropy.

Stock image credit: Pioi

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