It’s December already. Where did the year go? In honor of December and the holiday/Christmas season, I’ve decided to share a Christmas-themed, horror-flash, fan-fiction story I wrote.
I’m linking this story in the comments on Chuck Wendig’s blog, where he posed a challenge to write a Flash Fiction Challenge: Holiday Horror Extravaganza.
A Taste of Christmas Spirit
By Miriah Hetherington
Ethan rubbed his hands together and blew into them with steamy breath. He looked from the tip jar to his watch. It was six o’clock. Time to close up the espresso stand, and his tips barely covered the bus fare home. At least the boss was paying him double for working the Fourth Avenue cart on Christmas Eve.
He made two large mochas before closing up the stand. He was half-way to saving enough money to buy his own coffee cart, and someday he hoped to own his own restaurant. Ethan decided to save his meager tips and walk home, but stopped by the bus shelter to give one of the coffees to the homeless guy who’d been sleeping there for the last three nights. He wasn’t there, and Ethan hoped he’d found a better place.
Ethan turned the corner next to Macy’s on Main Street and joined a throng of foot traffic crossing the street. On the corner sidewalk, an older woman in a heavy white coat and ear muffs was busy setting up a vintage snow cone vending cart with a snowman painted on the side. As he got closer he heard her humming the Frosty the Snowman tune.
“Hello,” he said.
She turned, and Ethan could see that she was older than he’d first thought, but her eyes were lively and bright. “Sorry, my boy. I’m not open yet.”
“Uh, I wasn’t-” Ethan looked around. Other passers-by seemed to ignore her, and the old woman appeared to be alone. She opened a box full of snow cone syrup bottles and put one on the counter. “Ma’am, nobody’s going to buy snow cones tonight, it’s too cold.”
“I’ve been doing this for over fifty years — every Christmas Eve.” She winked. “Is one of those hot drinks for me?”
Ethan looked down at the two mochas he still held in his hands. “Sure.” He handed over the cup he’d intended for the homeless man.
“My name is Karen.”
“Ethan.” He shook her hand, a little surprised by how firm her grip was. “Would you like some help?”
Karen’s smile widened. “I would be delighted.” She took a sip of the mocha and gestured to the box. Ethan began unpacking the syrup bottles while Karen lined them up on the counter.
An overhead street light flickered in the early evening gloom. The light made the syrup bottles glimmer. He unpacked five shades of red, from blood-red charitable cherry, to wispy pink wise watermelon. Kindness kiwi glowed a tempting green, next to generous berry blue and orange tropical contentment.
Karen placed an empty gallon-size jug on the counter, and Ethan read the sign taped to it. “Pay what you wish?” He snorted, remembering his mostly empty tip jar from earlier. “Really?”
Karen shrugged and began filling a paper cone from the snow bin. “I’m serving Christmas Spirit. Who can put a price on that?”
“Uh-huh.” Ethan regarded the oblivious shoppers waiting at the corner for the street light to change. The old woman was clearly reality-challenged. But he couldn’t leave her here in the cold alone, waiting for customers all night.
Just then, a middle aged woman wearing a stylish overcoat and designer shoes stepped up to the stand. “I’ll take jolly raspberry.” She dropped a twenty dollar bill in the jar.
More customers began to stop at the snow cone cart. Karen poured grateful grape for a sullen teenager texting on her cell phone. A grey-haired man who announced he was a retired traffic cop chose playful peppermint.
A crowd surrounded the cart and Ethan filled paper cups with snow as fast as he could while Karen poured the syrup. Finally, the snow bin was empty except for a corncob pipe, button, and two lumps of coal. Ethan’s announcement that they were out of snow was met with a flurry of disappointed sighs as Karen sent people away.
Ethan stretched and looked at the gallon jug. It was full of bills, none less than twenty as far as he could tell. “I don’t believe it.”
“I always save one cone,” said Karen. She opened a side compartment and took out the last snow cone and an old silk top-hat. “I’m getting too old for this, Ethan. How would you like to take over?”
“Are you kidding?” It was Ethan’s dream come true. “But, I don’t think I can afford it.”
Karen pressed her lips together in a thin smile. “Consider it a Christmas gift. The cart, everything — the jar of money too. But you have to accept the responsibility. The snow bin can only be filled once a year, on Christmas Eve.”
With the money in that tip jar and his savings, Ethan could buy his own coffee cart. The unflavored snow cone glittered red and green, probably reflecting the changing traffic lights. Ethan’s mouth watered in anticipation as he reached out.
Karen pulled it back. “You must accept responsibility for the cart and agree to sell Christmas Spirit yourself, every Christmas Eve. Do you accept?” She held out the hat and the snow cone.
“Absolutely, I accept.” Ethan grasped the hat and brought the snow cone to his mouth. It cooled his tongue with a burst of sweetness like nothing he had ever tasted before. All at once he felt everything each syrup bottle had promised. He slurped charity, wisdom, kindness, generosity, contentment, gratefulness, playfulness, and joy. Everything the holiday season was supposed to be about. Far too soon, the cone was empty.
Ethan regarded the empty snow bin. “Just tell me what I have to do.”
Thanks for reading. I hope you liked it.