It’s that time of the year again, the time when the lights return and the street comes alive with their magic.
Quietly I sit in the back seat of our car, waiting anxiously for the show to begin. My parents tune the radio to the station posted on the sign in the main house’s front lawn. A moment of static passes, then the sound comes through and I start to quiver excitedly.
I press my face to the window as a voice comes on the radio. Out on the lawn, a bear made of an outline of lights has appeared and is talking in sync with the voice in our car. He welcomes us to the show and says he hopes we’ll have fun tonight. I know I will. I always do.
When the music starts, the lights on the streets dim. Another lit outline, a toy soldier playing a guitar, appears beside the bear. He softly strums the instrument as the sound of a real guitar plays through the radio. It starts out soft, then suddenly the music flares up and the decorated houses along the street come to life. Lights flash in colored patterns atop the roofs and in the lawns. My eyes shine wide with wonder; it’s finally begun!
A voice starts to sing over the music and the bear moves his jaws in sync with the words. Around him, the lights dance to the rhythm of the remixed Christmas carol he’s singing. Snowflakes twinkle in alternating patterns on the trees. Reindeer pulling sleighs glow on the rooftops. Christmas trees spin on the lawns and flash in bright patterns in the driveway of a house behind us. Outlines of familiar characters shine through a light grid on the roof. And all the while, every single light keeps perfect time with the music. It’s a magical sight!
My parents and I watch the lights dance to a handful of Christmas songs, many old favorites, some new tunes, and each more amazing than the last. Finally, the bear returns to speaking to thank us for watching the show and to ask us for donations to a children’s hospital. My parents must be able to read my mind because they turn around to hand me a $50 bill before I can say a word. I smile as I take it before I rush outside. As I drop the bill into the donation box, I look up at the bear to wink at him. I can almost swear I see him wink back at me.
It’s the most magical time of the year. I can’t wait for next year’s Christmas light show!
(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)
Natalie awoke suddenly to noises coming from down the stairs.
Carefully, she crept out of bed and peeked outside.
She caught sight of reindeer on the roof.
Excitedly, she hurried out into the hall.
He was in the living room.
Placing presents under the tree.
They were for her.
She was certain.
This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!
Back to the story
I boarded the plane with a racing heart and tears in my eyes. Goodbyes are never easy, especially with family. You just have to keep telling yourself that it isn’t farewell for good; you’ll see each other again on holidays and special occasions. In the meantime, the separation will make future reunions all the sweeter.
That’s what I told myself as I settled in my seat, what my subconscious whispered in the back of my mind through the whole flight as I read my books, watched in-flight movies, and struggled to fall asleep, tossing and turning under my blanket. The dark sky outside had never looked so welcoming and intimidating at once.
It wasn’t until the great city came into view below that I really started to feel excited. The end of my journey was drawing near. What was waiting for me on the other side? I already knew what to expect as I stepped off the plane. It was why I couldn’t stop smiling as I stood in line at Passport Control or shaking as I pulled my suitcase off the conveyor belt.
I knew that the moment I stepped through the doors to the Arrivals deck, I would see his face smiling back at me, his loving brown eyes just as bright with hope and happiness as mine. The feeling of running into his arms was the most comforting in the world, knowing I’d never have to leave them again.
Time for a fresh start. My new life was about to begin!
To my loving family,
I know you’re all still in pain, and you’re sad because you miss me. The truth is I miss you all too, but the time has come to move on. I’m in a much better place now, and I promise I’m comfortable and happy. But since I got here, I’ve been told that humans have trouble accepting the loss of loved ones, so I hope this letter will put you at ease and give you peace.
Please understand that this was not your fault. I know you did everything you could to make me stay, but there was nothing you could have done for me anymore. I didn’t mean to hurt you by leaving; it was just my time to go. Don’t blame yourselves, because you did exactly what you should have done: you gave me a good life and made my last hours as comfortable as possible.
I want to thank you all for giving me the best life I could ever have asked for. I know I was too small when you found me to remember living on the street, but I’m grateful that you took me in and gave me a comfortable place in your home and in your family. I always had plenty of room to play, a warm lap to curl up in, soft beds to sleep in, and all the food I ever needed – even if you didn’t always get the flavor right or put as much in my bowl as I wanted, no matter how much I cried. Maybe I wasn’t good at making it clear (I hear humans express their affection differently), but you all meant the world to me, and I did care for you all very much.
I also want to thank you for the comfort you gave me in my last moments. Curled up in Mom’s arms was exactly where I wanted to be, and your goodbye kisses were the perfect way to send me off. I’m sorry you had to suffer by seeing me go, but I’m glad I could be with you all in the end.
So please don’t be sad, dear family. Remember the good times we had, and think about all the joy we shared in my ten years of life. I hope I’ve enriched your lives as much as you’ve enriched mine, and I’m sure you won’t forget me any time soon. I’ll certainly never forget you. This isn’t goodbye forever; we’ll see each other again soon. So be happy, and know that no matter where I am, you will always be my family, and I’ll love you forever. Until we meet again, a loving purr and great big meow to you all!
Your Little One
P.S. The dog sends her love. She and I have put in a good word for you all with the Caretaker!
So our family cat passed away last month, a tragic day for us all. I wrote this letter in loving memory of her as my way of getting closure; though we all still miss her terribly, I like to imagine she’s in a better place now and still loves and remembers us wherever she is. We love you, Piccolina!
Oh, and the dog mentioned in the postscript is the same dog from “My Last Bark“, another “loving memory” story I wrote a few years ago. Yes, I really love my pets!
Welcome to the conclusion of “The Monster Under The Porch”. If you haven’t yet, read Part 1 here. Otherwise, enjoy!
Autumn watched anxiously as her mother walked around the porch, peeking under the boards on her way to the far end by the side of the house. Try as she might, the child couldn’t stop imagining what sort of monster might be lurking under their house. Was it a troll? A gremlin? Or what if, with those bright eyes – she shuddered – it was a wolf? The girl shut her eyes tight to keep from crying, but after a minute, she looked up again at the sound of a woman’s voice exclaiming.
“Autumn, come quick!”
Suddenly curious, Autumn hurried to the edge of the porch and looked down over the railing. To her astonishment, she saw her mother kneeling on the ground and smiling up at her. Next to her, a black kitten was sniffing at a few pieces of candy that had rolled off the porch.
“He must have gotten lost and wandered under our house,” she said, stroking the cat as he pawed at the candy. “I think you scared him more than he scared you!”
Autumn grinned as the kitten looked up at her, no longer afraid of his bright yellow eyes. Just then, a group of costumed children appeared in front of the house, heading up the walk toward the front steps. The girl’s mother gently scooped up the cat and rose to her feet.
“Sweetie, can you keep an eye on this little guy while I hand out the candy?” she said as she returned to the door. Autumn eagerly agreed, taking the animal in her arms so her mother could distribute the sweets. The cat was surprisingly calm around her, considering the fright she had given him a few minutes ago.
“Can I please keep him, Mommy?” the girl asked after the other children had left with their candy.
“He might belong to someone,” said her mom, taking a broom by the door to sweep up the mess of confectionery left on the porch. “We’ll wait until Daddy gets home, then he can hand out the candy while you and I go door to door looking for the cat’s owner.”
“And if no one claims him?” said Autumn, her eyes bright with hope.
“Then Daddy and I will talk about it.” And that was the end of the discussion.
For the next hour, Autumn played with the kitten on the porch while her mother sat beside her with the bowl of candy, handing out sweets to every trick-or-treater who stopped by. When her father came home, the girl set off with her mom in search of the cat’s owner, but after knocking on every door on their street and on the neighboring streets, they hadn’t found one person who had ever seen the kitten before, and mother and daughter returned home with the stray animal still purring softly in the child’s arms.
Autumn sat on the living room floor stroking the sleeping kitten in her lap while her parents talked in the kitchen. By the time they returned, her heart was pounding. She was ready to cry and beg to keep the little cat to which she had grown so attached in the last few hours, but to her immense relief, she noticed when they asked her to join them at the table that they were both smiling.
At ten o’clock that night, Fred returned from his friends’ party to find his family seated around the living room waiting for him. He was about to ask what was going on when he caught sight of a small mass of black fur on the carpet, staring up at him with round yellow eyes. When he took a step toward it, the animal hissed and scurried off to jump into his sister’s lap. Stunned, the boy looked up to see his parents laughing from the couch.
“Welcome back, Fred,” said his mother. “I see you’ve met the newest addition to the family.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll warm up to you soon,” said his father, though his smile suggested he looked forward to seeing their new pet put his rambunctious son in his place.
“Yeah,” Fred muttered, realizing that a lot had happened since he deserted his sister on the street. “So, um… what’s his name?”
Autumn, still in her costume, smiled from the armchair across the room, stroking the black cat affectionately as they both eyed her brother like a real witch and her loyal companion would a frightened child.
Hope you enjoyed the story! Thanks for reading!