Of Love and Lunchboxes – A Free Christmas Story by Paul Bennett

Paul Bennett writes stories like you’re sitting on a porch in the winter, sipping hot cocoa and reminiscing about the past while you watch the snowfall. His Christmas story, today is no different.

Check out “Of Love and Lunchboxes

While you’re at it, why not check out our new book of short stories. It’s called THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, and it’s available in Paperback, Kindle, or Audiobook. Check out more of Paul’s work at his website: https://afallofsparrows.blogspot.com. He’s got some books for sale at his Amazon Author Page as well.

Thanks for checking out our stories. We have some Halloween and Thanksgiving stories as well, if you’re interested. Kathy Kexel will be with us tomorrow for another Christmas story. See you then. As always … Have fun, Stay healthy, and please don’t break anything.

Charlie Miller Hates Christmas – A Free Short Story from Joe Shaw

After my Thanksgiving story, people started asking if something was wrong with me.

The answer is “Yes. There is a lot wrong with me.” But that is neither here nor there.

People were concerned that I am incapable of writing a story where nobody dies and nothing extremely tragic happens. I don’t know. We’ll have to see. Here’s my Christmas story:

Charlie Miller Hates Christmas

Charlie Miller hated Christmas. Every kid at William Howard Taft Middle school loved Christmas. It was their favorite holiday. But not Charlie Miller. Charlie Miller hated Christmas.

It had been that way since he was a little kid. Back then, his parents both worked second shift jobs, so he spent most of his Christmas Eves alone in his room, watching cartoons and eating too much candy. Just like he did every night.

Even in the years when his parents made a go of it, things turned out bad. There was the year a water pipe burst, flooding the living room, destroying the floor, all the presents, and the discount fake Christmas tree his parents bought at McAlpin’s department store the previous January.

“They were practically giving them away!” Charlie’s dad said, when he came home with not one but five fake trees. “I can sell them next year and make some money.” Charlie had to get rid of most of his Lego collection to make room for the trees, most of which finally sold around Thanksgiving.

Then there was the year all of Charlie’s aunts, uncles, and cousins drove to Tampa to visit Grandma Joan.

“I don’t wanna go!” Charlie said. “I can’t hang out with my friends, Florida is too hot, and who puts Christmas lights on palm trees? It’s just weird.”

“This is Grandma Joan’s last Christmas,” his mother said. “And anyway, wouldn’t you like to go swimming in the ocean on Christmas day?”

“And get all that sand in my pants? No way!”

They went anyway.  Of course they did. Not only did they not get to go to the beach on Christmas Day – it rained the whole time – but Charlie had to sleep on his grandma’s brown, shag love seat.

“Thing looks like it’s straight out of a skin flick,” Charlie’s uncle said. Charlie didn’t know what that meant, but he was too tired to ask because he hadn’t slept in four days.

The worst Christmas, though, was the year his mother convinced him to be a part of Forrest Par Baptist church’s annual play. Charlie wanted a new bike, and his Mom said she’d get it as long as he played the part of Gabriel.

“Stand on a stage. Say a few lines. And BOOM! Free bike!” Charlie said to himself. “Easy peasy.”

One Christmas Eve, Charlie put on his white gowns and stood with the rest of the “actors” backstage. When it was his moment, he walked into the light to say his lines.

What Charlie was supposed to say was this: “His name will be Jesus Christ: the savior of all mankind.”

What Charlie actually said was this: “His name will be … Fudge, I forgot my line.”

Only Charlie didn’t say “Fudge.”

A wave of shock and disbelief swept through the audience. Parents covered their children’s ears. The blue-haired octogenarians grimaced from the back. An older gentleman in the second row burst out laughing, then stopped again after his wife hit him with her purse.

Two things never happened again that night. First: the play never started up again. In fact, it would take several years before the church elders would allow it.

The second: Charlie Miller was never welcomed back to Forrest Park Baptist Church again.  

Which was fine by him, because he’d already been on the fence about the whole Christmas thing. This just solidified it for him.

From then on, Charlie’s hatred of Christmas grew to immense proportions.

First, it was just Christmas songs. Charlie had comebacks for each of them.

“If it’s supposed to be a Silent Night, why do I hear you singing?” And. “Who wants to ride in a one-horse open sleigh? The horses stink and it’s cold outside.” And. “Why does this ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ song feel like a couple of months?”

“If I hear someone scream ‘FIVE GOLDEN RINGS’ one more time, I’m just gonna lose it,” Charlie said.

In fact, the moment Christmas started rearing its ugly head – earlier and earlier each year, by Charlie’s estimation – Charlie would question loudly, “Why does Santa keep sticking his fat butt into other holidays? He’s got the whole month of December. Why must he take over Thanksgiving, Halloween, The Fourth of July? This keeps up, we might as well parachute him in during the Super bowl halftime show and start the whole mess over again.”

Yes. Charlie Miller hated Christmas. Charlie Miller hated Christmas very much.

But this year, the year Charlie Millr turned fourteen, was turning out to be the worst on record, and it had nothing to do with Santa or presents or Christmas Carols. This year, Charlie Miller hated Christmas because of Emily Campbell.

More specifically, Charlie hated Christmas because of what his friends said about him and Emily Campbell.

Charlie went to the middle school homecoming dance with his friends back in September. At first, they hung out together in a corner dancing and making jokes about how their principal, Dr. Rivera, looked like a Manatee. But when the DJ put on the first slow song of the evening and the dance floor split with boys on one side and girls on another, Charlie, in a moment of rare courage, stepped across the dance floor and asked Emily Campbell to dance.

She said yes, and they slow danced in the middle of the floor through three whole songs while every other kid at William Howard Taft Middle school looked on in jealousy and disbelief.

They were officially an item after that, whether they wanted to be or not. This, of course, meant that Charlie Miller’s friends constant hounded him.

“Did you kiss her yet?” they asked.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because.”

“Are you afraid?”

“No?”

“Well, I’d be afraid, if I were you,” one of his friends said. “My brother went out with this girl once. He went in to kiss her at the end of the night and he said it smelled like Salt and Vinegar potato chips and rotten cheese.”

“Gross!”

“What did he do?”

“He kept going. Had to at that point. It would have been rude not to.”

“True,” they all said.

“I’m sure it won’t be that bad, Charlie,” another kid said. “Just stick your tongue in her mouth the next time you see her. See how it goes.”

It was the same thing every time Charlie and Emily went anywhere or did anything.

After a date at the movies: “Did you kiss her?”

After going with Emily to see her older sister’s college play: “Come on! Kiss her!”

When Charlie walked her home from school just before Thanksgiving break: “Seriously, dude. Just stick that tongue in her mouth when she’s not looking. She’ll love it. Trust me.”  

Charlie wanted to kiss her, but he never really had a chance to. Almost every time they went somewhere, it was with other people. The one time he took her to the movies, Emily’s Dad insisted on going with them. He sat two rows back, and Charlie could feel him staring daggers into the back of his head the whole time.

Other than that, they were usually with family or friends. The last thing Charlie wanted was for him to finally work up the nerve to try to kiss her, only to have one of his friends interrupt to say, “Dooooood. Toooongue!”

The truth, though, was that Charlie Miller was also a little afraid. He’d never kissed a girl before. What would she say if he did it wrong? He was the man in the relationship, Charlie told himself. He was supposed to know these things.

But he didn’t. That scared him.

When Emily asked him to join her family for Christmas Eve dinner, Charlie hoped maybe his parents would be up for another trip to Tampa to visit Grandma Joan – who STILL hadn’t died, even all these years later. They had their usual work shifts to contend with. He tried to get one of his friends to plan something, but they weren’t having any of that. He asked his friends at Forrest Park Baptist if maybe he could come to the play this year.

“Absolutely not!” they said. So Charlie reluctantly accepted Emily’s invitation.  

Charlie’s friends sat him down for a talk.

“Look, dude. It’s now or never. You have to do it. You don’t have a choice.”

“Right, Charlie. It’s been months. People are starting to ask questions.”

“Who?” Charlie asked. “And what questions?”  

“Nevermind. You need to focus. It’s the fourth quarter, your team’s down by three runs, and the shot clock is running out. But the goalie left an open net. All you have to do is slide that puck across the ice!”

“What?” Charlie said.

“Focus,” they said. “Complete the mission.”

“Okay,” Charlie said, resigning himself to the idea whatever happened at this Christmas dinner, it was going to be bad, because Christmas is bad and Charlie hated it. “I’ll do it.”

The night of the Christmas dinner came. As Charlie’s dad drove him there, he closed his eyes and made up his mind.

“Tonight’s the night,” he said to himself. ”We’ll find a moment alone, even if we have from her dad. I’ll kiss her, get it over with, and then all this insanity comes to an end.”

Emily opened the door to greet him and nearly thirty members of the Campbell family greeted him in unison.

“Merry Christmas, Charlie!” they said.

“I hate Christmas,” Charlie said, and stepped in site.

It was as awful as Charlie expected. There were songs and Christmas stories, little kids running around throwing toys every which way, and old men talking about politics and work while drinking too much wine. All of it gave Charlie a headache.

Just before dinner, Emily’s aunt Delia brought out a box and made an announcement. She’d found a treasure trove of Christmas sweaters in the discount bin at WalMart, and she brought one for everyone. Charlie’s had a reindeer dancing with what looked like a clown on the front of his. They took pictures and immediately posted them to social media, tagging everyone there, including Charlie.

“I can’t wait for this to show up next year,” Charlie said.

Seeing him in the reindeer and clown sweater made Emily laugh. That made Charlie smile just a bit, too.  

“Wanna get out of here for a minute?” she asked.

“Um … Yeah. Sure”

She took his hand and led him to the steps leading to the second floor. After checking if the coast was clear, she led him upstairs.

“This is it,” Charlie told himself as he walked up the steps. “Do it, get it over with, and move on.”

Charlie could hear the family starting into “The Twelve Days of Christmas” from the dining room as they walked.

“As if this could get any worse,” he thought.

When they got upstairs, Emily led him into her room. Charlie had never been into a girl’s bedroom before. He was surprised to see that it was a lot like his. A desk. A bookshelf. A comfy chair next to the window. Her bed had a pink comforter, but that was to be expected.

Charlie didn’t want to appear over-eager, so he pretended to be interested in her books for a moment.

“Jane Austen,” he said. “Nice.” Personally, Charlie thought any collection that did not include Jane Austen was a good collection, even if had no other books. But even at fourteen, he knew better than to say that out loud.

“Charlie?” Emily asked from behind.

“This is it,” Charlie steeled himself. He closed his eyes, turned around, and prepared to make his move.

But before he could do that, Emily ran toward him, wrapped her arms around him, and gave him the biggest, wettest kiss he’d ever seen or heard of.  

“Waaaa!” Charlie said.

Emily pulled back.

“What,”she said. “Did I do it wrong?”

“No,” Charlie said. “No. It’s just … I wasn’t expecting that.”

“I’m sorry. My friends keep pushing me. I shouldn’t have done that.”

Charlie laughed out loud, then he saw Emily lower her eyes, and he explained.

“My friends have been doing the same thing.”

“really?

“For months. They’re relentless.”

They shared stories of their friend’s antics. Emily laughed when he shared the part about the tongue guy.

“I think I might like that,” she said.

And for the second time since they’d met, he plucked up his courage, took her in his arms, and kissed her. Only this time, because they weren’t so nervous, it was wonderful and exhilarating, and beautiful all at the same time.

“Maybe Christmas isn’t so bad after all,” Charlie thought.

A few minutes later, Charlie and Emily walked downstairs. Emily’s Dad eyed them warily, but Charlie smiled back and asked if they were done singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

“We’re on the tenth day,” Emily’s mom said. “Join us.” 

Charlie held hands with Emily and sang the Twelve days of Christmas with all his heart. He sang extra loud on the Five Golden Rings part. After that, he led the chorus on Jingle Bells, and smiled all the way through Silent Night.

Emily’s Dad drove Charlie home that night and Emily walked to the porch with him to say goodnight. He kissed her again, even though he knew her dad could see them from the car.

He watched her walk down the sidewalk to her car and step in. Charlie saluted her father as they drove away and went inside his house to wait for his parents to come home.

From that moment on, Charlie loved Christmas. Christmas was Charlie Miller’s favorite holiday.

*** *** *** ***

Thanks for visiting with us! While you’re at it, why not check out our new book of short stories. It’s called THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, and it’s available in Paperback, Kindle, or Audiobook.

Thanks for checking out our stories. We have some Halloween and Thanksgiving stories as well, if you’re interested. Yours Truly will be with us tomorrow for another Christmas story. See you then. As always … Have fun, Stay healthy, and please don’t break anything.

Banished – A Free Christmas Story by Jamie D Greening

Family Fueds are a terrible thing. They destroy the bonds that keep us together, and they throw families and friends into utter turmoil.

Throw zombie elfs into the mix, and things get exponentially worse.

Today’s Christmas Story from the Fondue Writers comes from Jamie D. Greening, and it’s got all of the above. And then some. Check out “Banished.”

While you’re at it, why not check out our new book of short stories. It’s called THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, and it’s available in Paperback, Kindle, or Audiobook. Check out more of Jamie’s work at his website: https://jamiegreening.com. He’s got some books for sale at his Amazon Author Page as well.

Thanks for checking out our stories. We have some Halloween and Thanksgiving stories as well, if you’re interested. Yours Truly will be with us tomorrow for another Christmas story. See you then. As always … Have fun, Stay healthy, and please don’t break anything.

Krampus vs Santa: Dawn of Righteousness

The Fondue Writer’s Club and Bar& Grille and Laundromat is back, this time with some Christmas stories to salve the soul.

Batting leadoff is Derek Alan Elkins, who writes the kind of stories high school kids would read under their desks in English class while the teacher was trying to get everyone excited about Shakespeare or John (bleeping) Steinbeck or something.

Today’s story is a cross between the traditional Christmas tale and the Ultimate Christmas movie: Die-Hard. Check out Krampus vs Santa: Dawn of Righteousness. Yipee Ki-Yay!

While you’re at it, why not check out our new book of short stories. It’s called THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, and it’s available in Paperback, Kindle, or Audiobook. Check out more of Derek’s work at his website: https://derekaelkins.com.

Thanks for checking out our stories. We have some Halloween and Thanksgiving stories as well, if you’re interested. Jamie D Greening will be with us tomorrow for another Christmas story. See you then. As always … Have fun, Stay healthy, and please don’t break anything.

Elevator Conversations: The Results of Learning

Person 1: “You know what bothers me?”

Person 2: “What?”

Person 1: “The kind of people who work really hard to learn something and then, when they get it, find out they’re no smarter than when they started.”

Person 2: “Why is that so bad?”

Person 1: “Because those smart people tend to take out their frustrations on the people who didn’t work quite as hard at being ignorant. And they can be really mean about it, too.”

Person #2: “You should stop eating olives at lunch. You get all weird and philosophical.”

#elevatorconversations

The Years The Locusts Ate – A Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Story by Paul Bennett

The Final Thanksgiving story from the Fondue Writers Club (and Bar & Grille and Laundromat). Dr Paul Bennett (and, yes, that’s an MD) brings us a story of Thanksgiving that warms the soul. To attempt an intro would only cheapen it. Go read it for yourself. Here it is.

Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. We’ll be back in a few weeks with some Christmas stories.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.

Thanksgiving for Two – A Thanksgiving Message from Kathy Kexel

This one was unplanned, but I’m including it anyway. Kathy Kexel shares a wonderful message about Thanksgiving for everyone.

Check out “Thanksgiving for Two

Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. Come on back tomorrow for the finale.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.

Thanksgiving with the Family – A Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Story from Yours Truly

Ray Davidson stood in the only open checkout line at the local Publix grocery store, carrying three cans of green beans, two cans of cream of mushroom soup, and a bottle of Italian Amarone from the expensive part of the wine section: the part behind the glass partition where the manager has to unlock it. Ray Davidson was also mad.

A few hours earlier, Ray and his wife Michelle got into a fight over who had mistakenly used the necessary ingredients for her world-famous green-bean casserole – a staple at all Davidson family get-togethers, especially and including the Thanksgiving festivities which, right at this very moment, was taking place at the Davidson family home three miles away. Michelle argued that Ray fed the green beans to the boys with dinner a few nights back when she was volunteering at the local animal shelter. Ray said that was a bunch crap. He ordered pizza like he always did.

“You probably just forgot to get them,” he said, mistakenly believing this would be helpful.

It was not. It was not helpful at all.

So Ray found himself standing in the checkout line at Publix with several expensive cans of what the can said were “Gourmet Green Beans straight from the south of France.” The wine he bought because he knew it would piss Michelle off. She hated Amarone, and complained every time he went for the expensive stuff.

“Cost of doing business, my dear,” he said to himself, and laughed. At least here he didn’t have to listen to his father-in-law’s jokes, or his sister’s never-ending stories about her trials and tribulations working a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ray had all the sympathy in the world for everyone in the healthcare industry fighting the good fight, but his sister-in-law made herself out to be some kind of angelic superhero. Ray knew better. She was in the IT department. She sat in the basement with the rest of the nerds, and she only went in two days a week. The only thing she’d contracted since this whole mess started was an incurable addition to daytime television.

“She’s always watching that crap,” Ray’s brother-in-law told him earlier that afternoon after his second shot of bourbon. “The hospital computer be crashing all the time and she’s just like: ‘Nah. My stories is on.’”

It all made Ray Davidson wonder if maybe the lockdown laws and shelter-in-place orders which had put the kibosh on the holidays in other states were maybe a good idea after all. At least that way, he and Michelle could fight in peace and privacy like normal couples. Like they always did.

There was a commotion at the register.

A man in a tan jacket and jeans leaned into the plastic partition.

“Please,” he said. “It’s Thanksgiving. I just want to feed my kids.” He shoved the partition hard. “Come on!”

The cashier stepped back, flustered. She dialed the phone next to her.

“Manager to aisle three,” she said over the store intercom. “Manager to aisle three.”

Ray intervened. “I’ll pay for it,” he said. “No need to make a big deal.”

Both the cashier and the man in the tan jacket looked at him in shock. Ray glanced at the conveyor belt. “A turkey and a box of stuffing. What’s that? Twenty bucks? Add it to my total.”

Ten minutes later, Ray was in the parking lot, fumbling for his keys, when he heard a voice from behind.

“Hey man.” Ray turned. It was the man in the tan jacket. “Thanks for that.”

“No problem,” Ray said.

“No, really. Thanks. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feed my kids a Thanksgiving dinner this year. Times have been tough. I recently lost my job. All I had was ten bucks.”  

“Well, there you go,” Ray said, still fumbling for his key. He wasn’t really trying to be a Good Samaritan. He just wanted to get home as quickly as possible so Michelle wouldn’t yell at him again.

“It’s getting late and those things,” Ray motioned to the turkey, “take a while to cook, so you’d better get home and get started.”

The man laughed. “You’re right.”

Ray found his key and turned to his car. His phone buzzed in his pocket. Probably Michelle, complaining about how long I’ve been gone, he thought.

The man stepped closer. “One more thing,” he said.

“What’s that?”

The man in the tan coat punched Ray in the face, breaking his nose with one hit. Ray fell to the ground and spat blood. The parking lot was cold. The smell of antifreeze mixed with exhaust filled his nostrils.

“Better get that fixed, or Michelle will be mad,” he thought to himself, then wondered why he thought that.

He raised himself to his hands and knees, trying to get back up, confused at what was happening. He could feel fresh cuts on his hands and knees. His left cheek had been torn open by the pavement. His nose throbbed as blood poured out of it.

Ray looked up, raising one hand to block out the light poles, which had recently turned on. The man came down again, this time, knocking out a tooth. Everything went dark.

*** *** *** ***

Ray Davidson came to a while later. He was riding in the passenger seat of his car. Everything was dark.

“What the…where are you taking me?”

“Woah, dude!” the man in the tan coat said. “Looks like you had yourself a little accident. Are you feeling better?”

“What?”

“I said you had an accident. Passed out there for a bit. You were starting to worry me.”

“I didn’t have an accident,” Ray said. “You knocked me out.”

“You’re still stuck on that?” the main the tan coat said. “We were just having some fun. You need to lighten up, friend.”

“Fun?”

“Yeah, fun.”

Ray took stock of his surroundings. It was nighttime now. He was seated upright in the passenger seat of his car with his seatbelt on. They were driving down a remote, wooded road that seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. An old Led Zeppelin song on the radio.

Lots of people talkin’, few of them know. Soul of a woman was created below.

“Ain’t that the truth?” the man in the tan coat said.

“Where are you taking me?”

“It’s Thanksgiving! I’m taking you home to have dinner with me and the kids. You bought us the turkey; I figured it was the least I could do.”

“Let me go.”

“Let you go? You could at least say thanks. Jeez.”

“Please let me go.”  

“Calm down, man,” the man in the tan coat said. He took a swig from the bottle of Amarone, then offered it to Ray. “Have some of this. Should take the edge off.”

“That was mine,” Ray said.

“Right, and now it’s mine, and I’m offering you some. Take it.”

“Let me go.”

The man in the tan coat tucked the bottle between his legs, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small pistol and pointed it at Ray’s head.

“Enough of that, Ray.” Ray made a face of shock at hearing his name. The man in the tan coat grinned. “Surprised? I checked your wallet while you was napping.”

Ray shuffled. The passenger seat was suddenly uncomfortable.

“Enough of that letting you go crap. You’re gonna love Thanksgiving at my place. I need to stop off and get some presents for the kids before we get home.”

The man in the tan coat pulled the car into a Quick Stop gas station and convenient store. He parked in the back, away from everyone else. The street lights behind the gas station were broken. In this remote part of the state, this late at night, they were in near total darkness.

“Here,” the man said. “Turn around.”

He grabbed Ray’s shoulder and twisted him so he faced the passenger side door, away from the driver, then wrenched his hands downward. Ray could feel rope passing around both his hands, pulling them tight against the gear shift.

“Don’t want you running away, now,” he said.

The man in the tan coat gave the ropes an extra tug, nearly drawing blood from Ray’s hands, then stepped out of the car and made his way into the convenient store.

As soon as the man was out of sight, Ray started pulling on the ropes, hoping to pry himself loose. His cell phone was still in his pocket. If he could just get one hand free, he could call for help. If he could get both hands free, he could run.

The ropes held firm for what felt like an eternity, digging into his wrists. Ray could feel trickles of blood pooling against the ropes and dripping onto the gearshift. Just when it seemed like there was no hope, his right hand slipped forward a bit. Not enough to pry it free, but enough to know it was possible.

Ray tugged harder, nearly pulling his right shoulder out of its socket. He had to hurry. What had it been: three minutes? Four? This was his chance. His one shot. The man in the tan coat would be back soon.

“If he makes it back and I’m still tied up, I’m done,” Ray thought, and pulled harder.

Three shoulder wrenches later, and Ray dislocated his shoulder. Two more and his hand came free. Ray went straight for his phone. He pulled it out, and was able to dial 9 and 1 when there was a tap on the passenger side window. The man in the tan coat smiled at him.

“Uh Oh. What did you do, Ray?”

He opened the door, grabbed his cell phone, and threw it to the ground, crushing it.

“Don’t need that anymore,” the man said. Then, he slammed the door shut, catching Ray in the temple with the door. Ray was dazed for a moment. The next thing he heard was the man in the tan coat climbing into the driver’s seat.

“Aww, Ray. I can’t put the car in drive. Your hand is still in the way.” He grabbed Ray’s left arm, the one still tied to the gear shift, with both hands.

“Here, let me help.” The man in the tan coat, yanked Ray’s arm upward, breaking his wrist. The ropes dug into his skin, cutting deep into the meat of his hand.

Ray’s hand was still tied to the gear shift, so the man in the tan coat pulled on his arm like he was trying to pull a tree stump out of the ground. Ray wasn’t sure how many bones he broke before the arm eventually pulled free, but it was more than one.

The man in the tan coat, then adjusted the mirror, put on his seat belt, and moved the gearshift into drive.

“You might want to put your seat belt on, Ray. You never can be too safe.”

*** *** *** ***

Two hours later, and they were deep into the Woods; no signs of civilization anywhere.

“I got you a present,” the man in the tan coat said.

“What?”

“A present. Back at the gas station.”

“I don’t want anything,” Ray said. “I just want to go home.”

“Oh, but you’re gonna love it.”

The man in the tan coat turned into a disused gravel path off the side of the road.

“Is this where your house is?” Ray asked. “Are we finally going to meet your kids?”

The man in the tan coat laughed.

“You idiot. I don’t have any kids. I left the turkey you bought sitting in a shopping cart back at the grocery store.”

“Then where are we?”

“We’re at the place where I’m going to show you my present!”

The man in the tan coat drove a few hundred yards into the woods, then stopped the car and turned on the headlights.

“Get out,” the man said.

“No,” Ray said.

The man in the tan coat pulled out his gun again.

“What’s that matter?” Ray said. “You’re just going to kill me.”

“Not until you get your present, I’m not.”

Ray got out of the car. The man in the tan coat followed, pointing the gun. Ray stopped when he saw large, burnt patches on the ground.

“What’s this?” Ray said.

The man the tan coat hit ray in the head with the butt of his pistol, knocking Ray to the ground, then kicked him in the stomach several times. Ray vomited in the burnt leaves as the man walked back to the car.

“I need to get your present, Ray!” he said, opening the trunk.  The man in the tan coat returned, carrying a large, plastic can.

Gasoline.

He gathered leaves and sticks around Ray’s body, then poured out the entire can onto Ray and the kindling around him.

“I want you to know how thankful I am that you helped me out back at the store, Ray,” the man in the tan coat said. “You really made this a Thanksgiving to remember. My kids are going to be so happy.”

Ray coughed, barely able to speak.

“Please don’t kill me,” Ray said.

“What?”

“Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.”

The man in the tan coat knelt down close to Ray, held his chin in his hands. Like a father.

“Aw, Ray. This way, we can be friends forever!”

He poured the last of the gas can onto Ray’s head and stepped back. He pulled out a cigarette and a lighter, popped the cigarette into his mouth, and lit it.

“I didn’t smoke while we were driving, Ray. I didn’t want to mess up your car. I figure it was okay, now.”

“Please! Please don’t kill me.”

“Turn around, Ray. Turn around and close your eyes. I hate watching people’s faces when I do this.”

The man in the tan coat stood next to the car, cigarette in hand, with a docile smile on his face.

There was nothing Ray could do. He slowly turned away from the man in the tan coat and closed his eyes.

As he waited for the click of the lighter and the flash that would bring even more pain, and the end of his life, Ray thought of his wife. He thought of their fights and disagreements. He thought of how much he had complained about having to get the green beans, along with all of the little tasks Michelle had asked of him over the years.

Ray thought of his kids, how they were always asking him for a few more minutes of his time at the end of the day when he was trying to finish up something for work or relax in front of the tv with a glass of bourbon. He thought of how he rarely said yes. How he always denied them.

Ray felt regret. Ray mouthed the words, “I’m sorry,” loud enough for only him to hear.

Two seconds later, there was a click, the roar of an engine, and a woosh of leaves.

Ray turned around to see his car backing quickly out of the woods to the main road. He sat in silence in the un-burnt pile of leaves and sticks as he watched the headlights disappear.

A few hours later, as the sun came up, Ray stumbled into another remote convenient store.

The clerk wanted to call the cops, but Ray insisted that he call his wife first.

“Sure, pal. Whatever you want.”

“Thank you,” Ray said. “Thank you so much.”

****** ****** ****** ******

Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. One more to go, and then we put the Free Flash Fiction machine on ice until Christmas.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.

Thanksgiving Trauma: A Pilgrim’s Story – A Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Story from Joe Courtemanche

You can always count on Joe to go dark and deep. That sounds like a euphemism for something. It isn’t. He takes the story to heretofore unknown depths and then starts digging.

Check out “Thanksgiving Trauma: A Pilgrim’s Story

Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. I’m up next. Be prepared.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.

A Thanksgiving to Remember – A Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Story from Derek Elkins

The next piece for our Thanksgiving Story Extravaganza is from Derek Alan Elkins. This is where de delve into the weird side of the Fondue Writer’s club. If you’ve ever wondered how to mesh the themes of revenge and Thanksgiving … wonder no more!

Check out “A Thanksgiving to Remember

Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. Things get dark and weirder starting tomorrow.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.