The Hallowe’en That Wasn’t – By Kathy Kexel

If it were 1965 and we all lived in a small town somewhere in Wisconsin, I’m sure we’d all gather ’round Kathy Kexel’s porch on brisk Fall evenings to eat some hard candies and listen to the latest story she’d spent the day developing.

Sometimes, that story would be heartwarming, and sometimes it would be scary. But it would always be good.

Today, Kathy brings us a story about a Halloween never experienced, but an experience that has outlived many other extant Halloweens for many years. Check out her story, The Hallowe’en that wasn’t.

f you have the time, please check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, wondering if the monsters in our heads matter only to us, or if one day they might come out of the dark to terrify you as well.

If you’d like what you see, you might also check out our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Derek Alan Elkins will be back on Wednesday with another Halloween story. Until then, keep preparing for that final holiday, keep hoping it never comes, and always always … don’t break anything

Under the Infernal Sky – by Paul Bennett

I’m a day late getting this up here, so if you’re following the other Fondue Writers (which you should be!), you’ve probably already seen a few of them comment on Dr Paul Bennet’s strength in moral character relative to my own. Which, of course, is true. We all know that’s true.

Listen, each group of people has different types. There’s the good one, the weird one, the loud one, and the scary one. The rest of the writers might fluctuate from character to character, but there are two stalwarts among us. Dr Paul is the Good one, and I, dear reader, am the scary one. Which is why I so love our Halloween Flash Fiction Explode-A-Ganza. This is MY time. I can pretend to be a good hearted moral person at Christmas, Thanksgiving and the rest of the stupid holidays on the calendar, but Halloween is when everyone else has to try (and fail) to be me.

Try as he might, Paul expertly fails at being me in this short story. Which is a good thing, but he 100% succeeds at being Paul. He’s got another wonderful story this week, entitled, “Under the Infernal Sky.” Check it out.

f you have the time, please check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, wondering if the monsters in our heads matter only to us, or if one day they might come out of the dark to terrify you as well.

If you’d like what you see, you might also check out our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Kathy Kexel will be back on Monday with another Halloween story. Until then, stay safe, watch out for monsters in your closet, and, as always, don’t break anything.

The Patch – By Jamie Greening

It’s a skilled writer who can, with a mere head fake, encourage you to believe a story is going one way, while deftly sliding the knife between your ribs and into your lungs. There were some mixed metaphors there, but you get the idea.

And, when it comes to today’s Fondue author, Jamie Greening, I would not be surprised if he attempted a linguistic head fake and actually attempted to shiv me. He’s just that good.

See if you can’t get yourself equally thrown for a loop when you check out Jamie’s Halloween story, The Patch.

If you have the time, please check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, wondering if the monsters in our heads matter only to us, or if one day they might come out of the dark to terrify you as well.

If you’d like what you see, you might also check out our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Paul Bennett will be back on Friday with another Halloween story. Until then, mind your Ps and Qs, always listen to your elders, and, as always, don’t break anything.

It All Started With An E-Mail – by Joseph Courtemanche

Ladies and Gentlemen. The Quasi-Annual Holiday Explode-A-Ganza is upon us. The Fondue Writers have cranked up the word-whammer machine and we have begun spitting out free (FREE!) short stories for all of you.

Today’s story is from the Senior Vice President of Insanity and Bad Strangeness, Mr. Joseph Courtemanche, and he’s got an answer to the age-old question: “What happens when you mess with the big dogs?”

The answer: You get messed with. That’s what happens. Check out the happy, fun time clown to visit Courtemanche’s website and read his story: It All Started With An E-Mail.

If you have the time, please check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph Courtemanche, Jamie D. Greening, Kathy Kexel, Derek Alan Elkins, Rob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, wondering if the monsters in our heads matter only to us, or if one day they might come out of the dark to terrify you as well.

Jamie D Greening will be back on Wednesday to fill you with dread and psychic wonderment. Until then, don’t break anything.

Authors You Should Check Out – Jamie D. Greening

It’s not often that you find an author (or any kind of public figure) who openly refers to himself by comparisons to a vegetable. But Jamie “Green bean” Greening does. With a name like Greening, though, the comparisons almost make themselves.

I met Jamie Greening and Joe Courtemanche at the Athanatos Festival in 2018, where all three of us were speaking. Afterward, Jamie, Joe C, and I rode together back to the airport and, along the way, struck up both a friendship and plans for future writing projects. Joe C started this Covid Quarantine Cantina thing and Jamie and I were two of the first three.

Not that this makes us special, mind you.

Along the way, it’s been great getting to know Jamie and to call him a friend. Hopefully you like him as much as I do. Check out Jamie Greening.

How was your experience writing stories for the Covid Quarantine Cantina?

It was fun. At the beginning we were just thinking about providing people with something to read while they were on lockdown, but then it turned into a part of our normal rhythms, producing one story each week, which is not easy to do. At the time, my work as a pastor increased exponentially and that made the schedule for new stories challenging, but it was good for me. 

Which of your stories here is your favorite?

That’s not a fair question, a little like asking which is your favorite child. Each one reflects a different side of me and my writing. It is tempting to say the Butch Gregory version, since torturing poor Pastor Butch is one of my passions. But, honestly, The Vid Kids was probably my favorite just because I really hammed it up. But Let’s Do It is in that same category of just taking a completely silly and overblown part of the COVID-19 experience and blowing it up to its logical conclusion. 

Favorites from other authors?

All of the Fondue writers are so very talented, and their stories are wonderful. Kathy Kexel’s story about Janelle getting tangled up in Chinese spies somewhere in Wisconsin was a hoot. It is the Secrets trilogy. Who can ever forget Derek Elkin’s weinermobile in Them Ole Pandemic Blues Apocalypse. Paul Bennett evoked many emotions in his As It Is In Heaven. Robert Cely is the master of myth, and his epic retelling of the origins of the deadly COVID-19 virus in The Farmer, The Demon, and the Canyon of the Four Winds has stayed with me. I really liked Joseph Courtemanche’s Nema What, so much fun. Joe Shaw really impressed me with his four part story titled Two More. 

But again, picking out favorites is almost impossible. They are all great. 

How has the COVID pandemic affected your life?

People I know and love have died. Many have been very sick. I buried a lot of people in December and January from COVID. 

It has had a terrible impact upon church life, and I don’t mean the rhythms and practices of meeting regularly. I mean on the people. People have changed. I think the emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact upon folks will take a decade or more to heal, if ever. The levels of distrust, paranoia, and downright meanness is hard to fathom, especially among people who claim to follow the Lord. 

Current Projects?

I am editing my monster book, a further fleshing out of a series of short stories I wrote years ago about The Deep Cove Monster. I am also writing a reflection piece incorporation creative writing and poetry into the Gospel of John. 

Where can readers reach you?

The easiest place is jamiegreening.com. That is where I blog, and there is also a link to my Amazon page that has the books and stories I’ve written.

Santa Claus is Here – A Free Christmas Story by Santa Claus (aka Joe Courtemanche)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

We’ve made it to the end of another Holiday Explode-A-Ganza with the Fondue Writers Club AND Bar & Grille AND Laudromat. What better way to polish off this one than to end with a story from Santa Claus himself, Joseph Courtemanche.

Here’s a wonderful story about communities and the Spirit of Christmas. It’s called “Santa Claus is Here

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 Santa Joe’s work at his website: https://commotioninthepews.com/. He’s got some books for sale at his Amazon Author Page as well as on Audible.

Thanks for checking out our stories. We have some Halloween and Thanksgiving stories as well, if you’re interested. It’s been a wild ride this year. We hope you had fun. We know we did. Have a Merry Christmas everyone. Have fun, Stay healthy, and please don’t break anything.

Christmas Fair – A Free Christmas Story from Kathy Kexel

If Kathy Kexel were a baseball player, she’d be Ted Williams. She’d be Hank Aaron. She’d be Joey Votto. Every time she steps to the plate (literarily speaking), something exciting happens.

Kathy’s got a new story up today. It’s call “Christmas Fair,” and there are a lot of German words in there. Which is fine by me, because I grew up in a town with a lot of German roots. All drinking and food and dancing and music. No Fascism.

Check out Kathy’s story, and see if you can’t find the same kind of Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz I felt when I read it.

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 Kathy’s work at his website: https://kathykexel.wordpress.com. She’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. Santa Claus his ownself will close us out tomorrow with the last Christmas Story. See you then. As always … Have fun, Stay healthy, and please don’t break anything.

The Spirit of Christmas – A Free Christmas Story from Rob Cely

Rob Cely has a knack for creating engaging stories that keep you wanting more. Today, he brings it back to what everything is all about with his Christmas short story, The Christmas Spirit,

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.

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.