One Last Christmas
This is a very, very, short story I wrote as an exercise in writing a scene specifically intended to capture a mood. That scene was assigned in my Screenwriting class last week and I actually wrote it in about 15 minutes the hour before it was due in class. To my surprise, the teacher was very impressed with it, and said he really liked it because “It’s a complete story. Excellent work!” Suffice to say, I was shocked, and read it again. Sure enough…it is a complete story. Somehow. I’ll let you be the judge of whether it’s actually any good at capturing a mood or not!
The faint buzz of TV static permeated the small, tobacco-stinking room, punctuated only by the slow swing of a wall clock’s rusty pendulum. Two small children huddled under a blanket in one corner of the room, snuggled up for warmth, yet shivering as if their small bodies couldn’t generate quite enough heat. A paper Christmas tree, carefully colored by the hands of children, hung from the wall by a single piece of duct tape, and under its illustrated branches rested two candy bars, each with a half-flattened bow on top. The dim hum of a microwave oven, its timer counting down from 2:17, draped the room in an electric glow, its sole source of hope. An empty carton rested atop the microwave, the promise of shaped and formed turkey with mashed potatoes reflecting light at the dismal shape of a woman; her face carried far too many worry lines for her years, and her chest heaved in half-controlled sobs as silent tears dripped down her face.
Outside, a man with a dirty Santa hat and ragged shoes knelt against the railing, his frame racked with unreleased sobs. His cheeks were dry, but his eyes glistened like pools on the verge of overflowing. Slowly he rocked, forward and back, his stomach growling and his fists clenched as he listened to the faint hum of the microwave through the slightly open door. He counted the seconds, each one a breath from his solid frame, and as he rocked forward for the last time, the faint ding of the microwave signalled his time was finally over.