Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)
By David Story
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Donald sat alone in his home, staring at the television set. The program on the screen didn’t matter to him. Instead he thought of a time far, far away from the present, a time when love and laughter filled the air. A time when he had her…
Bill and Susan Hammond were in the kitchen when Gracie came around the corner. They both smiled as she navigated her way up the stool that sat next to the kitchen counter.
Susan noticed the tote bag at Gracie’s feet. “What’s in the bag, honey?”
Gracie sighed. Her chin fit perfectly in the palms of her hands as her elbows rested on the kitchen counter. “I have to go somewhere.”
“Okay.” Bill said. “And where do you have to go?”
Gracie ignored the question. “Will you take me?”
Before either one of them could reply, she spoke again.
“I know the way.”
What should have been a feeling of concern for both parents was in fact one of curiosity. “Tonight? Now?”
She climbed down the stool, grabbed the bag, and started toward the garage. “It won’t take too long.”
Bill and Susan stared at each other, then quickly followed.
Donald turned off the television and sat quietly in the dark. He closed his eyes and saw memories of Christmas past. A tear ran down his face as he watched her decorate the Christmas tree. He opened his eyes and looked at the empty corner where the Christmas tree once stood. He reached for the whiskey bottle and took a long swig. He wiped the excessive whiskey from his chin as he slammed the bottle onto the table, right next to the bottle of pills…
“Keep going down this street until I tell you to turn.”
Bill looked over at Susan. “Why are we doing this?”
Susan shrugged as she grabbed his hand. “…It just…feels right. Doesn’t it?”
Bill held tight to the steering wheel and to his wife’s hand. “Yeah, it does.” He looked at his six-year-old daughter in the back seat of the car. “For some reason, it does.”
Donald stared at the bottle of sleeping pills in his hand as he considered his next step. He slowly started to remove the child protective cap from the bottle.
“Here, Daddy. Turn here.”
He emptied the pills onto the table next to the bottle of whiskey. He scooped up a handful.
“Stop in front of that house. Yes, that one right there.”
With one hand he held the handful of pills, and with the other the bottle of whiskey. He slowly raised the pills to his mouth.
Gracie leaned into the driver’s window, resting her elbows on the door. “I’ll be right back.”
As they both watched Gracie start down the sidewalk, Susan spoke. “Bill, are we really going to let her…”
Suddenly little Gracie turned around. “Don’t worry, Mommy. I’ll be okay.”
Bill and Susan Hammond watched their little girl walk toward the house.
He was about to put them in his mouth when he heard a knock. He considered ignoring it, but finally he put the pills down and headed toward the door. He was surprised to find a little girl standing on his porch.
“Merry Christmas, Mister.” The little girl smiled. “I have something for you.”
Donald reached out his hand and took the red card from Gracie.
“I thought you might like it.”
He slowly opened it and read the words written within. Through tears he looked at the little girl. “I love it. I love it very much, thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Mister.”
The little girl turned toward the street. “Have a Merry Christmas!” she yelled as she made her way to the parked car.
He smiled as he read the words again. “I will.” He whispered. “I will.”
Bill and Susan stared at their daughter in the backseat. They both watched as she grabbed the tote bag and pulled out another card. “Ready for the next one?”
They both slowly turned their heads and faced the front, as Bill drove off into the night…
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