Tag Archives: Magic

Flash Fiction: Solstice Magic

We’re getting into the Christmas season and all the crazy madness that entails. Since I haven’t had a chance to write or post any flash fiction lately, I thought I’d revisit this heartwarming story of Christmas magic.

This was originally written and posted last year, and is one of my favourites. I hope you enjoy it.

Solstice Magic

The kid was sucking on a cancer stick when he walked into the office. I stared at him for a bit, the way you do, and he stared right back at me. He couldn’t have been a day over nine.

“Those things’ll stunt your growth,” I said by way of greeting.

He gave me the bird. Then he sat himself up on the recliner. “I’m here to hire you.”

“Right,” I said. I opened the top drawer and dug around for a cigarette. I wouldn’t normally smoke in front of a kid, but he started it. “You’re the Winter boy, aren’t you?”

“My name is Colin,” he said. “Charles Winter is my father.”

“And is he paying for this… whatever it is? You lose a toy or something? Your dog run away from home?”

I’d been glared at by grown men who had nothing on this kid. He didn’t speak for a full minute. I lit my cigarette and puffed on it a few times while I waited.

Finally, he opened the bag he’d been carrying – plain white, just like the rest of his outfit – and took out a small bottle. “I can pay,” he said. “This doesn’t involve my father.” He stood up to reach the desk, and slid the bottle toward me.

“You’re paying me in bad booze?” I asked, amused.

“It’s good booze.” He dropped the butt of his cigarette in the ashtray on my desk, then climbed back on to the recliner. “And there’s this.”

He reached into his bag again and pulled out a handful of black fabric. I watched him unfold and spread it out until it took on a familiar shape.

“A hat?”

He nodded. “A silk hat.”

I raised my cig to my mouth and inhaled deeply while I considered the boy in white with the black hat in his lap. “And what do you want me to do for this…” I paused to glance at the label on the bottle. “…fine scotch whiskey and that tattered silk hat?”

“I want you to dig up a body.”

“What?”

“I want you to dig up a body,” Colin repeated. Calmly.

A host of questions sprang to mind. After a moment’s pause I went with a simple, “Why?”

“Do you read?” he asked.

“Do you?” I countered.

He reached into his bag a third time, and this time drew out a faded square of paper. A newspaper clipping. Without a word, he climbed down and placed it on the desk. Then he returned to his seat while I picked it up and scanned it.

Under the headline was a photo of children standing in a snow-covered field. “I remember this,” I said. “It was a couple of years ago. A group of rich kids said their snowman came to life and danced away.” I glanced at the boy. “You one of them?”

He nodded. “Yes. It really happened. The hat brought him to life.”

“The hat?”

“The hat.”

“That hat?”

He nodded, and lifted the black silk hat up for me to see. “This hat.”

I didn’t say anything, just finished my smoke.

“There’s magic in it,” he said. “It brought the snowman to life. It can bring other things to life. It can bring the dead back to life.”

“Right,” I said. “So you want me to dig up a body for you to experiment on. Is that it?” The kid was starting to give me the creeps.

“No,” said Colin. “I’ve already done the experiments.”

I licked my lips. “What do you mean?”

“The hat can bring things to life, but not all the time. It only works on the Winter Solstice.” He stared at me for a long moment. Waiting.  “Tonight,” he added.

“And you know this because…”

“I experimented,” he said again. I must not have looked convinced, because he kept talking. “There are a lot of dogs on my father’s property.” He smiled. “There used to be. I had to find out when the magic would work, so I killed one and tried the hat each day. When the body started to smell, I killed another one and started again. Last year, on the Winter Solstice, it brought the dog back to life.” He paused a moment, then looked me in the eyes and said, “I need the body tonight.”

He needed a body. I needed a drink.

I grabbed the bottle he’d put on the desk and said, “And in return, you’ll give me a bottle of whiskey?”

He shook his head. “No. You can have the booze anyway. If you help me, you get the hat. After I’m finished with it.”

“Won’t you need it?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No. Not after tonight.”

I opened the bottle and tipped a measure into my mouth. Colin was right. It was good stuff. “Whose body?”

“My mother’s,” he said.

And just like that, it all came back to me. Two and a half years ago, the police were called to a disturbance at the Winter house. By the time they got there, Mrs Winter was dead. There’d been suspicions of foul play, but it was eventually ruled an accident. Mr Winter was too rich to be a murder suspect.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll help you.”

And I did. I dug up his mother, and he put the hat on her head just as the town clock struck midnight.

That was a year ago. There’s no need to ask if it worked.

If it hadn’t, he wouldn’t have given me the hat. And you’d still be a corpse.

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The Real Magic of Narnia

 

Big Brother’s love of books started early. At barely 8 months old, he’d happily lie on his tummy and flip through books looking at the pictures. Bedtime stories were the norm by the time he was a year old, and they’ve continued to this day. (Don’t ask about Little Brother — he thinks books taste yummy.)

While he still loves looking through picture books on his own, we moved on to early readers a while ago for our evening storytime. Although the many misadventures of Spot are entertaining enough during the day, when night-time comes he wants to hear about Knights and Dragons, Beowulf and Grendel, or (at the very least) what that naughty Cat in the Hat has been up to this time.

I’ve approached the idea of reading him a “grown up” book several times — you know, the kind without any/many pictures — but he’d resisted. Last week, he agreed to give it a try. (He’s a Big Boy now, you know.)

I immediately borrowed The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe from the library, and Big Brother waited impatiently for bedtime to roll around so he could hear the start of the story.

It took seven nights to read him the book. Seven nights of two or three chapters read aloud while Big Brother snuggled under the covers and watched me with shining eyes and an excited smile. Seven days of, “Is it nearly bedtime yet?” and “How long until dinner time?” and “Can I have my bath early today?” as he eagerly awaited the next instalment of “Narnia! Narnia! Narnia!”

And over those seven nights I learned the real magic of Narnia  — and of any book magical enough to spawn generations of avid fans. Over those nights I was immersed in the world of Narnia through the eyes of a four-and-a-half-year-old child.

I saw hs eyes widen in horror when he realised Edmund was talking to the White Witch.

He was devestated by the idea of it always being winter but never Christmas (despite never having experienced a wintery Christmas himself) and enchanted by Mr. Tumnus. “Mr. Tumnus will be okay. He just has to be.”

He loved Mr Beaver instantly, cheered out loud when Father Christmas showed up, and staredin awed wonder when Peter received his sword and shield.

And Aslan… Oh, Aslan. I don’t think Big Brother knew whether to love him or be terrified of him at first. I saw the emotions warring across his face. But when Aslan roared his terrible roar and scared the White Witch away, Big Brother’s face lit up and he grinned at me in triumph. “Go, Aslan!”

His favourite part of the book was when Peter, even though he was scared, killed the wolf that was attacking Susan. Big Brother barely moved a muscle as I read the scene to him, his eyes wide, his little fingers clenched around the blanket as though ready to pull it over his face at any moment. As the wolf died, Big Brother gave a yell of triumph, pumping his fists through the air and grinning wider than ever before.

When we finally got to the moment — that moment — I read with trepidation. Would he cry? Would he be sad? Would he even want to hear the end of the story? I needn’t have worried. He listened with wide eyes at first, and then covered his own eyes when Susan and Lucy covered theirs. When the chapter ended with the two girls sitting and crying and crying, he clenched his fists and narrowed his eyes and said, “Now they really need to kill the White Witch!”

And oh, didn’t his eyes light up when they found Mr. Tumnus! And when the Giant Rumblebuffin thought Lucy was a hankerchee! “Rumblebuffin! Hee hee hee! Say the name again, Mum!”  And when battle was joined, and the White Witch defeated!

He wasn’t initially sold on the whole King and Queen thing. “I don’t know about Peter being the High King. What if Aslan turns him into a lion? That wouldn’t be good. Not good at all.” But by the end of the book he was announcing over and over,”Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia!”

And in the end, the magic of Narnia had engulfed him and worked its wonders. “Do we really have to take this book back to the library?” he asked, cuddling the picture-free paperback to his chest. “Can’t we keep it forever and ever and ever?”

I smiled and ruffled his hair, not telling him the Truth that he will learn in his own time: “Yes, you can keep it forever and ever. And you will. The whole story is written right there in your heart.”

 

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Filed under Life With Kids, Reading

Bring on the Christmas Spirit(s)

If you’ve been reading my blog for the last few weeks, you’d be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that I’m not really into Christmas. Maybe you think I’m a bit of a Scrooge. Or, at the very least, that I merely go through the motions of Christmas, hating every bit of it.

First I complained about retailers asking my son about Santa Claus. Then I explained that I’ve told my son that Santa isn’t real. Finally, I blogged at Momma Be Thy Name about how hot Christmas is in Australia.

I haven’t, in fact, said anything particularly good about Christmas at all.

But let me make something clear:

I. Love. Christmas.

I really, really do. 

Christmas is a magical time full of stories and games, exchanges of gifts and fond wishes, food and drink, and love and laughter. It’s a time where we celebrate the beauty of a tree decked in trinkets, and pause to take stock of everyone and everything in our lives that we love. It’s a time where receiving a greeting from an old friend can bring tears of joy to our eyes. It’s a time when the Ghosts of Christmas Past loiter in our minds, reminding us of the wonder of family and friends and fond memories.

It’s a time for joy.

Not the manufactured-in-a-factory Joy that you can buy at the department store for $99.99 plus tax. Real Joy. The Joy of spending time with people who really, truly speak your language and know your history. The Joy of seeing a child’s face light up in delight before he’s even unwrapped the first present. The Joy of breaking bread with relatives you see only once, maybe twice, a year and wondering why you don’t make time to do it more open.

The Joy of Love.

The Joy of Peace.

The Joy of Christmas.

There’s definitely something magical about Christmas. 

But the magic of Christmas is not a fat man in a red suit, or a tree covered in sparkling lights, or a turkey roasting in the oven.

No, it’s something much, much better.

The magic of Christmas is the feelings and memories all those things bring with them.

The feeling of home, when you’re far from it. The memory of childhood, when you’re decades removed. The feeling of togetherness, even when you’re alone. The memory of people and places you once loved, whom you haven’t thought about all year.

Christmas is magical. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

And now I’m off to pour myself a drink and engage in some light-hearted banter (and debate) with my siblings and parents, while my children sleep peacefully in their beds. Bring on the morrow!

Happy Yuletide, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Saturnalia, and a Festive Non-Denominational Winter Solstice Holiday to all.

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