Thursday, December 23, 2010

Friday Fiction for December 24, 2010

This impromptu, unofficial Friday Fiction is hosted by Mari on her blog, A Mari Heart. We were all going to take the holiday weekend off, but decided we really had the urge to post some Christmasy fiction. After all, it’s Christmas Eve!

When I first started participating in the Faithwriters Weekly Writing Challenge, there were only a few weeks before the final quarter of 2008. At that time, the themes were all based on the Christmas Holiday. The third week of the quarter was my first placement in this theme, with this partly humorous take on the Holiday Meal.

Merry Christmas, and may your holiday meal be at least as fun as this was to write.

REAL Man Christmas Dinner

Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not Recipes)

Challenge Entry, Week of October 16, 2008

2nd Place, Advanced Level; #3 in Editor’s Choice

We, the Responsible, Evangelical, America-Loving men of this country, do hereby promote the following directions for the REAL Man Christmas dinner preparation.

Whereas many might believe cooking to be “womanly”, we REAL Men recognize that the roasting of meat over flame is a very manly thing to do. Therefore, it stands to reason that REAL Men will cook the Christmas turkey over flames.

Real flames, fueled by charcoal; if you’re going to cook over gas flames, just cook it in the house. While this tends to work better in locations where you don’t need to tunnel through snow to get to your barbecue grill, many of the principles herein can still apply. Adapt; improvise; overcome. After all, we are REAL Men.

REAL Men also understand that our wives, whom God has given to us as precious gifts and helpmates, should not have to remain enslaved in the kitchen all day on Christmas while we play with all the cool toys we got that morning, like the ultra-spiffy radio controlled tank with laser sights and real shooting cannon and KA-BLAM! Take that, you mangy cat!

Ahem. Where was I? Ah, yes; our wives should not have to be enslaved in the kitchen all day while we play with our toys. They should have a chance to terrorize the cat with the radio controlled tank, too. What could be more fun than that?

The turkey should be cooked over indirect heat on the barbecue, with the coals banked to either side of the bird, and a drip-pan partially filled with water and aromatic herbs beneath it. The beauty of this, men, is we need only check on the barbecue infrequently, adding charcoal as necessary to maintain the heat. Using a spray bottle to bathe the turkey in apple juice during cooking will produce a crispy, golden-brown skin which will impress the daylights out of your guests, and also tastes mighty good. In the meantime, where’d that cat go? To a man with a tank, every cat looks like a target.

When the turkey is partially done, place foil-wrapped sweet potatoes on the grill over the coals.

No, don’t put the little marshmallows on the sweet potatoes before cooking. Yes, I know how much you like those crispy little marshmallows. Look; just trust me, okay? Bake the sweet potatoes on the grill, without additives. Open them hot, put real butter on them and some pumpkin pie spice, and they don’t need marshmallows. We’re already going to need weeks at the gym to work this feast off as it is, and, dude, that spare tire is starting to look like a full-sized 4 by 4 off-road knobby, know what I mean?

Now that the sweet potatoes are cooking we can (hey, put the tank away; we have work to do) get the rest of the side dishes cooking. This is where we will demonstrate our skills in the conventional kitchen, though it’s certainly not unmanly to invite your wife to help out if you so desire, so you don’t end up ruining the microwave by putting the metal saucepan into it.

Yeah, I know it looks real cool to nuke a saucepan in the microwave, but guys, it’s Christmas. Be serious for a moment, okay? Your wife will appreciate it, trust me. Bake some rolls (the kinds from the exploding cans are okay for this), heat some veggies, dish up some cranberry sauce, and you’re the Christmas hero.

Important note here, men; don’t make a point while saying grace of mentioning that you cooked the meal. Anybody who needs to know already does, including God. If you managed to finish everything up without reducing the turkey to an oversized, odd-shaped football, He was probably smiling down on you the whole time. Heck, if you managed to light the barbecue without removing your eyebrows, it’s clear He was watching over you.

Final secret: Always arrange to have someone else bring the pies. You’ve cooked the turkey, the sweet potatoes (would you forget about the marshmallows already?), and the other stuff. Most people are relieved when all they have to bring is a pie. They can buy them from the store, and not feel guilty that you did everything else.

Best of all, you made it look like the coal in your stocking was a good thing.

(No cats were harmed or harassed in the writing of this entry, though a few got fat on leftover turkey)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Friday Fiction for December 17, 2010

Merry Christmas! This final Friday Fiction of 2010 is hosted by Catrina Bradley, over at A Work in Progress. Head on over for some terrific Holiday reading!

I’m pleased this week to present a brand-spankin’-new-just-for-the-blog Pod Christmas Story. This one takes place the Christmas after the ending of Cardan’s Pod, and the event is alluded to in later Pod stories.

The Christmas Reading

By Rick Higginson

Just to one side of the door of the new Family Room, a brightly lit and beautifully decorated tree stood. It was larger and nicer than the tree that Josh had lowered to the old chamber the previous two years, and other decorations that would not have been practical in the stone cavern now adorned the walls of the room. Just as the song playing through the sound system said, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

After their years of hiding, the mood that first Christmas Josh shared with them had been hesitant and uncertain. While things were much improved over their hand-to-mouth existence in hiding, their experience with the holiday had been limited to some special music and food that Dr. Marcel had provided when he was still with them. With Josh, that had changed, and this year the mood was very different. Excitement and anticipation filled the air, and the Pod from the youngest to the eldest couldn’t seem to wait for the day to arrive. The first year in the old chamber had been a surprise to all of them. The second, they had been uncertain if the festivities would repeat. Now, they knew Christmas would never be just another day again.

For one, a large television monitor hung on one wall, providing an option for holiday entertainment that they had not had before. Josh waited while the Pod gathered around, in response to his announcement that he had something special for them that Christmas Eve.

“All right, Josh,” Eva said. “Everyone is here. What’s your surprise this year?”

“Well,” he said. “This is something I’ve enjoyed for many years, and I hope you all love it as much as I always have.” With a smile, he hit the ‘play’ button on the remote, and the screen faded from black to blue with a title in the center. He weaved through the audience to take a seat next to Marta, and reclined to watch the show.

The opening musical sequence finished, and the narration began. For a bit less than a half-hour, Josh was taken back to childhood Christmases, and being surrounded again by family simply heightened the nostalgic pleasure.

When the closing credits rolled up the screen, he stood up and pressed “stop” on the remote. “Well?” he asked. “What did you think?”

There was quiet for a moment, until Ophelia spoke up. “Aren’t you going to read the story to us this year, Josh?”

He shrugged. “You just had Boris Karloff read it to you, with Chuck Jones animation.”

Denise looked around at the other Pod members, and then pointedly didn’t look at Josh. “It was okay,” she said. “But I’m not sure I really care that much if I ever see it again.”

Other Pod members mumbled similar sentiments, and then drifted off to other activities. The atmosphere of anticipation had been replaced by an air of disappointment.

Josh watched them go, and then settled back to the floor. “I really thought they’d like it better,” he said.

Marta tapped his side, and gestured towards their room. She didn’t wait for his response, and crawled past the open curtain.

She was waiting in the back corner when he entered the room, and he slumped against the wall and slid to a seated position on the floor. “I don’t know why they didn’t like it,” he said.

Marta rolled onto her side, and rubbed his foot gently. “You still have a lot to learn about the Pod, Josh,” she said.

“I guess so.”

“I still remember many years ago, when we were still very young, and there wasn’t that many of us. Dr. Marcel would read to us – oh, nothing quite as whimsical as Dr. Seuss, but he did read to us. As we got older, and more Pod members were born, Dr. Marcel had less time to spend with us. Between taking care of the youngest of us, and continuing his research work, it wasn’t long before he focused his time with us on essential lessons. Eva and I became the ones who read to the younger children, but that was still limited to the books that Dr. Marcel provided.”

“I still don’t get why the cartoon was such a disappointment.”

“It wasn’t the cartoon, Josh. It was that it wasn’t you reading the story.”

“But it was so much better than my voice or my ability to tell a story.”

She took his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Josh, you could read a boring textbook to the Pod in a monotone voice, and they would appreciate it, because you were taking the time to do so. It’s not the story, or the quality of the reading. It’s the fact that you love them and care enough to take the time. Boris Karloff has a wonderful voice, and his reading of the Grinch was beautiful, but he doesn’t know us and we don’t know him. I’m sure he loved the story, but you – ” She kissed his arm. “You love us, and that makes all the difference. Josh, if you want them to enjoy the cartoon with you, then don’t let it take the place of the reading.”

He chuckled, and met her eyes. “Okay. Let everyone know I’ll do the reading tomorrow morning.” He leaned down and kissed her. “Merry Christmas, Marta.”

“Merry Christmas, Josh.”