Gillian Church posts Writing Prompts every Wednesday and I like to take part with a few snippets and pieces of flash fiction.
Why don’t you come home for the holidays anymore? We miss you.
Sebastian was busy gawping at the Christmas tree; he couldn’t help himself from fiddling with the boxes and packages wrapped up underneath it, even the ones that weren’t his. Marie liked to reprimand him, but he was a good kid, really; he didn’t pick or rip at the wrappings and was very gentle. He was just curious, and excited for Christmas.
“I dunno, Nan,” I was saying into the phone as I watched him. “It’s probably better we stay at home this year.”
“Oh, but we haven’t seen you in so long, Josh,” my nan whined down the line.
“Well, I can’t help that, Nan. You know how things have been.”
“All the more reason to bring that lovely wife of yours over. I’m planning on doing turkey with all the trimmings, gravy, roast tatties…”
My mouth was watering at the thought; Marie was a vegetarian, which meant we had to have nut roast. I wasn’t bad, but it couldn’t beat the succulent taste of perfectly roasted turkey. But still… “Nan, I really don’t think…”
“And your grandfather is just dying to see that boy of yours!”
“Josh, he won’t be with us forever. You simply must come or else I’ll be just heartbroken.”
Sebastian had been excited throughout the entire drive. He was singing and giggling on the back seat of the car, but Marie sat scowling in the passenger seat, staring daggers at the countryside as it sped past us. I couldn’t blame her; last time we’d been to see my grandparents, it hadn’t exactly ended well for her. Luckily, the creams we’d picked up had soothed the worst of the scarring, but it couldn’t be denied that Nan was really starting to lose touch with reality.
When Nan opened her front door, Sebastian ran into her arms for a big, warm hug and I could swear I could see tears in her eyes. I was blasted with a soothing warmth and the succulent smells of meats, cinnamon, herbs… dinner was definitely in the oven. “Oh, Josh! I’m so glad you came!” she cried, slapping a big wet kiss on my cheek.
The little cottage hadn’t changed at all in the last five years. Everything was still exactly as I remembered it: the beaded covers on the chairs, the old CRT television in the corner, the maned framed pictures of my, my brothers, my mother… and, of course, innumerable tacky ornaments strewn all over the place. A small fibreoptic tree sat between the sofa and the electric heater, the lights fading from red to green to orange.
“This is for you, champ!” Nan cooed, handing Sebastian a box.
“Fank ‘oo, Nanna!” he smiled a toothy grin.
“Save that for later, sweetie,” Marie said.
“Oh, pish!” Nan snapped. “The boy can open it now; it’s Christmas!”
Marie seethed but said nothing. Sebastian tore open the wrapping and unpacked a toy police car; the packaging promised it had “flashing lights!” and “realistic siren action!” Marie shot a look at me, but I pretended to not see it.
Nan had prepared a massive spread in the small dining room. The old table was decorated with a vivid red cloth, matching placemats, and a festive glass at each place. Cream candles burned in jars surrounded by holly, and a cracker had been laid out for each of us. “Sit, sit, I’ll bring out the food!” Nan insisted.
Marie sat at the far end of the table, cringing, fussing over Sebastian and making sure that he was facing away from my grandfather. Pap sat at the head of the table as always and, as always, Nan had decked him out in his finest festive duds. He wore a maroon-striped shirt under a sleeveless cardigan, brown slacks, and already had a paper crown on his forehead. No amount of Christmas apparel or clothing could change the fact that he had significantly deteriorated, though, and Nan’s best efforts were starting to fail her.
“Well, dig in!” she encouraged as she sat down.
The were piping hot serving trays laid out on the table, each one holding sliced turkey, honey roast gammon, crispy roast potatoes, and steamed vegetables. Marie reluctantly began spooning stuffing onto her plate and Sebastian, completely unaware, began cramming pigs in blankets into his mouth. I dropped a couple of slices onto my plate and was picking up a Yorkshire pudding when Nan lightly gripped my wrist with her cold, gnarled hand. “I’m so happy you could all make it,” she said, her eyes swimming. “We both are!”
She glanced lovingly at Pap.
Marie visibly shuddered and kept her eyes down.
I sighed and looked at my grandfather’s dead, soulless eyes and grinning skull. He sat there, rigid and unmoving, festering in the candlelight and stared out lifeless at his family.
As I regarded Pap’s skeletal remains, I could’ve sworn I saw his head tilt ever so slightly.
What did you think to this week’s writing prompt? Did you submit anything for it? Have you ever written any flash fiction before? I’d love to know what you think to my snippets and writing prompts, so feel free to sign up and let me know what you think below or leave a comment on my Instagram page. You can also follow Gillian Church to take part in her Wednesday Writing Prompt challenge.