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#FridayReads A Charming Christmas Story

Posted by mcm0704 on December 4, 2020 |

First, I want to tell you what I’m reading. Some time ago I joined NetGalley, where I can acquire books to read and review, and I’ve received a lot of good stories via that site. (You can, too, and it’s free to join.)

I’m currently reading In a Town Called Paradox by Miriam Murcutt and Richard Starks, and it’s a very complex and engaging story. I was captivated at once by the opening of the book:  “I wasn’t looking for Marilyn Monroe when I bumped into her, even though I knew she was in town filming River of No Return…

The story, told from the primary POV of Corin Dunbar, who is sent to live with her aunt in Utah after her mother dies, asks the question: If each of us has a life story, then who determines how it unfolds and how it should end?

It’s not a lighthearted read, but a very satisfying one. The paperback is available now and the eBook releases in February 2021.

Now, here is an excerpt from my Christmas story, THE LAST DOLLAR. This magical fantasy was originally written with a good friend, Craig Wargo, with whom I wrote many stories and screenplays before he passed away. He graciously gave me permission to publish this story under my own name.

THE LAST DOLLAR

Kate pulled her coat tight against the cold wind that pierced the thin fabric like fingers of ice. Last minute shoppers carrying gaily-wrapped packages crowded the streets, their breath little puffs of fog that caught the twinkle of holiday lights. Despite the cold, people smiled and greeted each other, and for a moment Kate almost let herself believe that the magic of Christmas could make a difference.

Earlier, even her children had been caught up in some unnamed excitement as they’d searched the house for pennies and nickels-anything they could contribute toward buying something special for the holiday. The boys had turned it into a treasure hunt, and each discovery of one more coin had brought whoops of joy.

The fruit of their labors was tucked deep in the folds of her pocket. She touched the coins, picturing the four of them waiting at home with great expectation.

Ella, the oldest, had barely resigned herself to a wardrobe from the thrift store. Ginger, the baby, couldn’t become accustomed to starvation. And Fifi, the cat, had come down with a rare case of facial cat-measles. Well, they looked like measles, Kate had agreed with the children, but in reality, she knew Fifi must have had a run in with an old car battery.

Thank God Jake and Edger were in perfect health. The only thing Kate worried about in their regard was whether they’d ever learn to share. She recalled how often, as they huddled together in sleep on the hardwood floor, Edger would be shivering. He’d miss the blanket and pillow by two feet, while Jake was wrapped as snug as a caterpillar in a cocoon.

She’d tried to teach them about sharing. “The greatest gift,” she often told them. “Is the gift of giving. Doing for others and doing until it hurts.”

Maybe the nightly blanket routine was Edger’s way of giving. But more likely it was Jake’s way of taking.

Kate stepped aside for a mother who was pushing a stroller, and for a moment envied the woman’s fur coat and leather boots. How warm they must be. If only… If only nothing. Accept your fate. Isn’t that what Mama always said?

Touching the coins in her pocket again, Kate lifted her chin and walked toward the entrance to the grocery store. That would be the best place to start. The prices on their holiday items would be slashed this late on Christmas Eve.

Nearing the automatic doors, Kate’s attention was caught by the tinny clang of a bell. She followed the sound to its source; a Salvation Army volunteer standing just inside a ring of illumination from strings of white and blue lights looped around the front window. A tin bucket was suspended from a hook in a metal tripod next to him. Few people paused before the old man, whose cold-reddened cheeks matched his uniform, but the negligence didn’t appear to daunt him. He greeted everyone with a bright smile and a booming, “Merry Christmas.”

Despite her initial inclination to avoid the man, there was something compelling in the cheerfulness he radiated. Kate paused, noting how even his thick, white mustache turned itself into a comical grin.

“Merry Christmas,” he called again, rolling his r’s and ending the last syllable with a crisp bite.

For a moment Kate wished…But that was silly. She was in no position to help the needy. She WAS the needy.

Sound reasoning or not, fingers of guilt squeezed her heart as she moved with the flow of customers into the store. Fine one she was to preach about giving.

She shook the recrimination aside and headed for the aisle with the toys. Maybe she could find something for the kids to share. But the games were priced beyond her meager stash, and four kids couldn’t play with one plastic truck. At least not in anything resembling peace and harmony.

The twinkling lights of the seasonal aisle drew her like a siren. She paused in front of a tree that was decorated in shiny bulbs. It would be so lovely in the corner of the living room, a bright splash of color against the gray wall. It would bring life to the whole apartment.

She turned away with a sigh. “You’re being silly again. Wishing is for children and fairy tales.”

Kate’s initial sense of purpose faded as she wandered through the store, finding nothing she could afford. What had she expected to do with only a dollar?

That’s all from me for today, folks. I hope you have a safe and happy weekend. If you enjoyed the excerpt of the story and would like to read more, click HERE. Enjoy…

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