Wednesday, January 5, 2011

flash fiction Xmas

As usual the flash fiction contests are 2000 or less words written in 60 hours, with three words and a photo for inspiration -->
(don't blame me, I didn't pick the picture) This time the words were:
...and the story was also supposed to have a winter theme this round.

Christmas Eve With Timmy
I sat and stewed while Hermey the elf sang in the background. New Years was still over a week away, but I already had my resolution firmly in mind: I was never going to babysit on Christmas Eve again, no matter how cute or how desperate the person asking me was. All that got you was a bruised shin and a stupid hat.

Rubbing my shin, I thought back ruefully to how I'd gotten here. It all started just after lunch on a day that was otherwise shaping up to be peaceful. Little did I know then that the peace was about to be shattered.

I'd answered a knock at the door, hoping that it was someone dropping off a package for me since I wasn't going to be going home for Christmas this year. Instead, it was my neighbor, Ryan. He'd moved down the hall from me four months ago, I'll admit that I was instantly attracted to him. My heart fluttered a little bit when I saw him standing there because I had been trying for weeks to find a way to start a conversation with him that didn't seem completely contrived. So far I had failed.

It was only after I stared at him, wondering what I should say, that I noticed that he looked really upset. Without even having to think about it, words fell out of my mouth. "What's wrong?"

He bit his lip, which was adorable, and gave me a shy look. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm in a real bind. My brother and my nephew just got here yesterday, and my brother hurt himself."

"He did?" I asked, wondering why he decided to tell me. "How?"

Ryan sighed. "They're from Dallas, and the thought of winterizing a car is completely beyond him. Instead of covering the car last night when it snowed, he just left it. And he didn't have an ice scraper either when he wanted to go shopping, then decided not to come back up to ask for one... Long story short, his method of cleaning ice off the windshield involved a screwdriver, and now he needs stitches."

I winced. My mind shied away from all the possible ways one could have injured themselves with a screwdriver, since it probably wasn't very pretty. "Oh, that's terrible."

"Yeah... I'm going to be bringing him to the emergency room. The problem is my nephew." He looked away, his cheeks suddenly appealingly pink. "Look, I know that you don't know me, and I won't be upset if you say no, but do you think you could keep an eye on my nephew today so the kid doesn't have to spend the afternoon at the hospital too?"

"Uh..." I stammered, stalling for time. I was trying not to let on, but I was disappointed that our first real in-depth conversation just involved him asking me for a favor. "How old is he?"

"Timmy is six."

Timmy. That sounded like a name for a nice little boy. How bad could babysitting the little boy named Timmy be? Without much further thought, besides the fleeting one that maybe this would spark a friendship at least between Ryan and me, I found myself saying, "Sure. Bring him over."

Ryan's face lit up, and for a moment I was convinced that I had just made a very good move. He touched my arm, and I tried not to shiver. "Thank you, you don't know how much I appreciate this."

If I had been another sort of girl, I probably would've purred that I was sure he could think of a way to thank me, but that's not me. "No problem. I hope they get him fixed up quickly."

"I'm sure it's nothing a few stitches won't fix," he said over her shoulder. "I'll go get Timmy right now. Thanks again for doing this, Hannah."


A couple minutes later Ryan returned, this time accompanied by a little boy, and his brother. He looked a lot like Ryan and probably was nearly as attractive when he wasn't white with pain. Ryan looked down at the boy, and said, "Timmy, this is Hannah. She's going to watch you so you don't have to go to the hospital with us."

"Come on in," I said to Timmy, who immediately brushed past me. Looking up at Ryan, I asked, "Two questions. Is it okay if we leave the apartment? And do you have a number in case I need to reach you?" I handed him my own cell phone number.

He deferred to his brother, who mumbled something about not caring what Timmy and I did, before shrugging. "I guess you can go wherever. I'll give you a call when we're on our way back." He glanced down at the boy again. "Be good."

"Whatever," the boy muttered, steadily refusing to look at any of us.


Timmy sulked for ten minutes after they left, then gave me a calculating look. "I want coco."

"Sorry, I don't have any."

His look suggested that I'd just committed an unpardonable sin. "But Uncle Ryan promised me some!"

Deep breaths, I told myself, the kid doesn't know you, and his dad's hurt, so he's having a bad day. "Let's go buy some then."



"We have those at home," he said in a way that suggested familiarity wasn't a plus.

"Oh. Well, there's a café near the mall, too," I suggested. "Famous for their coco, even." In a moderate, small town sort of way.

Timmy perked up. "Is Santa going to be at the mall?"

"I don't know, maybe."

"I wanna see him! Dad said we would, but he hurt himself like an idiot."

It felt like I should protest, but his father did strike me as sort of dumb. I mean a screwdriver, really? So I just ignored that. "If he's there, we can see Santa." It didn't seem like my idea of fun, but what else was I going to do with the kid?


Things seemed to go well least until we'd been served. "Do you like the coco?" I asked as we sat in the café.

"No, it's gross. Can we see Santa now?" Timmy asked, sliding off his chair.

Mortified that a waitress had overheard, I left a big tip before bolting out the door.


Two hours later I knew that bringing a kid to the mall on Christmas Eve was to pass an occasion in hell. Children were running all over the place, only to stop abruptly and make you trip over them as they chattered about the coolness of whatever had caught their shifting attention. I almost trampled six kids before we even got to fake North Pole at the far end of the mall.

Timmy's excitement had waned once he saw how long the line was, but we stoically joined it. Or, at least he was stoic about it - after an hour, I was beginning to whine like a toddler myself. "Timmy, are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yeah, I gotta!"

"You must have already sent a letter to Santa," I said, feeling both desperate and clever at the same time. "So he knows what you want."

"No, not this," Timmy insisted. For a moment I began to feel bad, and assumed that he was going to ask Santa to make his Dad feel better. That seemed rather sweet. "I only saw it here in the mall."

Oh. So much for sweet. I stared ahead a the seventy kids in front of us, and thought about throwing myself on the ground and kicking my feet like the little girl having a tantrum in front of the toy store was. "Oh, okay..."

Timmy was quiet for a while, but eventually he looked up at me. "How come you don't have kids?"

"Um...I'm not married."

"Do you at least have a boyfriend?" Timmy asked, and I could almost swear he gave me a pitying look.


I was trying to think of a subtle way of asking if his uncle was single when Timmy looked me up and down. "Because you're fat?"

"Jesus, Timmy."

"You shouldn't say that."

"We're giving out prizes!" a booming voice announced next to me, making me jump a foot. A man stood there holding the ugliest hat I'd ever seen. He gave it to Timmy. "Here you go!"

"Thanks," Timmy muttered.

"Wow, you won an ugly hat," I couldn't help but remark.

"You wear it," Timmy insisted.


Then the brat hauled off and kicked me in the shin. Hard.


"Wear it!"

"For God's sake!" I jammed the hat on my head and grabbed him by the arm. "We're leaving."

"But Santa!"

"Forget Santa. I hope he brings you coal."

"You're mean," Timmy whined, looking over his shoulder as I pulled him through the mall. Santa faded into the distance, and I was happy to get the hell out of there. We'd wasted hours in the mall, and neither of us had anything much to show for it.



I hadn't been naive enough to expect better behavior from Timmy when I got him back to my apartment, but I hadn't anticipated worse, either. While I set about making us soup and sandwiches, he trashed my living room.

I almost dropped the tray when I saw that he'd flung my laundry about, using it to redecorate. Seeing me, he pointed at my bike. "Guess you don't use this much."

"Why?" I asked, waving a hand at the mess.

He shrugged. "Bored."

"Put everything back!"

"Yeah, right." Timmy grabbed one of the sandwiches. "Are you getting paid? 'cause you suck at this."

"I'm never having children," I muttered, bending for my strewn clothes.

Timmy laughed. "Of course you're not. Who'd marry you?"

I took a deep breath and counted to three thousand. I started over when he toppled a bookcase.


Things did not improve. Defeated, I curled up in a chair and decided to ignore Timmy until they came back. I'd hidden the matches and knives by that point.

"Uncle Ryan!" Timmy shouted eventually, making me look up. Ryan was standing in the doorway, taking in the disaster zone my apartment had become.

"Timmy, go back to my place," he said, yanking Timmy out into the hall. Looking at me he said, "Sorry?"

"Oh, you better be," I snapped.

My pant leg rode up as I brushed past the bike and Ryan noticed the huge bruise already spreading on my shin. "Bookcase falling over do that?"

"No, your nephew kicked me," I said, only to remember I was still wearing the stupid hat. I yanked it off.

"Timmy can be a handful," Ryan said apologetically before beginning to pick up the things that used to live in my bookcase.

I looked up at him, incredulous. "A handful? You're a master of understatement."

"I know. I'm sorry." He did look contrite.

"His behavior is your brother's fault, not yours," I said grudgingly.

"It's just...the divorce has been rough on the kid."

I nodded like I knew what that was like. "Sure."

"They're going home on Tuesday," Ryan said, apparently trying to reassure me that Timmy wasn't going to be a permanent fixture.

"Oh." I wasn't supposed to say "good" but it was hard not to.

"So, you have plans for Friday?"


"Want some?" he asked, giving me a hopeful look.

I took a moment to think it over. "Alright."

"Great, so it's a date." I half expected him to say something about how it didn't have to be, but he stood firm. I liked that.

"How often does your brother visit you?"

Ryan blinked, apparently not expecting that question.

"Once a year. I mostly visit him."

I nodded. I guess if things worked out, I could put up with Timmy once a year. Then a horrible thought hit me. "You're not Timmy's godparent, are you?"

"No, why?"

"Just wondering."
The End

"Too much to pay, no one to blame" - Junk Circuit, The Devil Wears A Crown 

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