Winter Holidays - Story 2 - That Holiday Newsletter by Diane Arrelle

This story was originally published in Freedom Fiction and The Best Of Freedom Fiction in 2011 and 2012, Death and Decorations in 2016, and Short and Twisted Christmas Tales in 2017.

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Hi, All Important Family Members and Dear, Dear Friends:

Well, it's that time once again when I know, if you are at all like me, you look so forward to these long personal Christmas letters. Although this year has been very, very eventful and incredibly full for my entire family, I wouldn't want to disappoint anyone and not get our annual letter out. So have cheer; I managed to sit down and get this one done on time.

January:

The new year began with great things looming. I started working full time at the mall. I am making 20 cents above minimum wage at a coffee kiosk and the future looks bright. Stu (my husband for all you who have forgotten I got married two decades ago) is still looking for a job. Stu was let go and has been diligently seeking employment for the last nine months. The boys and I have been very supportive, and we realize that a man of Stu's intelligence cannot settle for just any job but must find a position. No worries, with my new job and all the overtime I get, once again our house is safe, and we have food on the table all the time.

Both boys, Andy and Manny, went to school every day, not missing once due to sickness, even though I normally would have kept Manny home with that gunky, green eye infection and all. I don't have any sick days yet at work, so even with a fever of 102, I figured that he's still better off in school learning and socializing with all his classmates rather than home alone watching TV.

February:

Worked all month. Andy told us he spent an evening at the ER for some sort of personal infection and is taking antibiotics. He's such a mature and responsible young man now and we are looking forward to him graduating this year.  Last year's confusion over all those days the school had wrongly marked him absent is behind us, and we are sure that Andy didn't mind the extra year of education.

For Valentine's Day, Stu took me to Atlantic City on a casino bus where we enjoyed an almost free buffet. Stu won a hundred dollars on the five dollars that we got free which was great since I somehow misplaced my paycheck earlier in the week. I was impressed at how long Stu was able to make that $5 last before he hit the $100. I lost my five in about a minute and he was able to keep playing and playing. It seemed like he was putting more money in the machine, but since he only had the $5 it had to be an illusion. I mean where else could he have gotten money to gamble?

March:

Had my birthday, and yes, I still celebrate them. We all went out for a special birthday dinner at McDonald’s and I even got a sparkler in my yogurt dessert. Stu, as always, remembered everything to make my day special. At the end of the month we got the best news of all: Stu finally found a great job and now all our worries are over! I've contacted our lawyer, Larry, and stopped the bankruptcy proceedings just in the nick of time. We are sure that this job will be the one to carry Stu to retirement and there is real growth potential. I'm so happy for him, what with all those other dead-end jobs he had to suffer through year after year. It is so tough to be appreciated in this world and at last, this year, Stu will finally get his due.

April:

The boys had a wonderful spring break. They stayed home all week and cleaned their rooms. I am definitely blessed with such wonderful boys, so I paid them $100 each for being so industrious. Sometimes when I look at them, I see them both growing up to be just like their father.

Manny worked the whole month on his science fair project, growing leafy plants and drying out the leaves. He kept me busy buying plastic snack bags, but I'm sure he will get an A on whatever his project is.

May:

We had a close one this month. Stu got a splinter in his finger and it wouldn't come out. Poor Stu. Oh how he suffered, couldn't help with any of the house or yard work for two weeks.

I was so scared he'd have to go to the doctor, but then it got infected and oozed out all by itself. What a lucky event for us and I was so proud of Stu, he was so very brave throughout the entire ordeal, although he used up all his paid sick days for the rest of the year.

Once he was better, he took on the job of fixing my car, Louis. Stu told me that after ten years, a car should have a complete tune-up, and why should we spend all that money on it when he is perfectly capable of doing it himself? Am I lucky to have married such a versatile man or what?

June:

Louis, my car, and I were in an accident. I was all right thanks to my seatbelt, although strangely enough the airbag failed to deploy.  I still don’t know what happened. All of a sudden, I was off the road and into the trees. Lucky for me I had decided to take the long way to work instead of the cliff road.

Louis had to be out of commission for six weeks and the insurance company tried to total him, but Stu stepped in and said that this was my car, and damn it, I deserve to keep him. Stu managed to get the parts we needed, and Louis pulled through almost as good as new. He pulls to the right and the brakes slip about fifty percent of the time, but Stu insists that it isn't really dangerous at all and that I shouldn't worry. I'm so lucky to have married a man as caring as Stu.

School ended and, sadly, Andy somehow forgot about his graduation ceremony and we all missed it. But he said not to worry because the principal would send him his diploma during the summer. Both boys are happy to be home. They are busy catching up on their sleep and I find I have to wake them when I get home to make dinner. Kids... gosh they never change.

July:

We spent two afternoons at the community pool this month and we used our brand-new portable charcoal bar-b-que grill repeatedly. I couldn’t believe that Stu had actually gone to the store and got it for our anniversary! Is my man thoughtful or what? Thanks to that grill, we ate hotdogs and burgers almost every night. I just love a grilled hunk of red meat with a side of corn smothered in butter and a baked potato topped with sour cream and melted cheddar cheese with real bacon bits. What a special month that was, and what a special twentieth anniversary!

August:

I proclaimed August “clean the house month” and every weekend we all worked together as one big happy family cleaning and dusting and vacuuming every room. I'm sure we've created wonderful memories of family togetherness that will last a lifetime.

Manny was so industrious that he kept his spring science project going and now has fourteen of those leafy plants in the backyard. He is such a good farmer.

Andy went out several times this summer to collect money door-to-door for the Scouts. It came as a surprise to me because I didn't even know he joined the Scouts and I thought he'd be a little old for that, being nineteen and all. Children are always full of pleasant surprises, and the Scouts must be so happy to get all the cash he raised.

September:

Well, back to school month again and Andy told us he signed up for classes at the community college. I was so glad that he took those two classes that we told him he needn't find a job. Who would have believed that Andy would want to continue his education? College must be very different than high school because it seems to me that his two classes are constantly meeting on different days and at different times. I found that he sometimes even had go to school on Saturday night.

Manny bought a game system as well as a new fifty-five-inch smart television. When I asked him where he got the money, he said he found an after-school job. What a great kid, getting a job as well as doing his homework. 

Stu started working overtime. He stayed late almost every night trying to get an important project finished on deadline. It was so good to see him happy with his job. He came home after midnight every evening and although he was too tired to even kiss me goodnight, he was very happy.

October:

Stu went off on a business trip with a special new friend from work. They are spending lots of time together, but Stu said it was a busy time and he had to put in even more night and weekend time. I was glad his new co-worker Sheila was there working at his side so he didn’t feel lonely at the office. In fact, as soon as their schedule slows down, I'm going to fix Sheila up with my cousin Tony.

I discovered that Andy had a special little girlfriend, because he was constantly on the phone all night with her. Sometimes I overheard their conversations and I got such a kick out of hearing him moan, "Oh baby," over and over. How cute!

November:

Great news. I earned a free turkey at the supermarket, so we had Thanksgiving at home for the first time in years. It was a shame Stu had to work all weekend, but I saved him leftover turkey and he said it was great.

We had a mystery here at home: our phone bill was $978.00 and filled with 900 number phone calls. I know I didn't make those calls to Hot Babes in Bikinis. We are working with the phone company to have them remove those calls since they couldn't have possibly been made from here.

December:

Well, it has been an entire year of thrills and excitement and here we are, almost at the holidays again. But what an eventful month December has been.

Sadly, Manny was arrested in school for selling pot. I have no idea where he got the stuff, but when he gets out, I'm sure he will have learned his lesson. After all, he has always been a smart boy.

The phone company continued to bill us for those Hot Babes in Bikinis calls. Hopefully, our lawyer Larry, when he gets back from vacation, will be able to clear that up.

Stu has had it rough as well. He lost his job and it appears Sheila, who has mysteriously vanished, was embezzling huge sums of money from the company. Stu said she framed him.

Worst of all, it appeared that someone took Louis for a joyride and his brakes completely failed and he went over a cliff. Unfortunately, he burst into flames and when the wreck was recovered, there was a headless woman's body burnt to a crisp inside the trunk. Stu has been arrested for the embezzled money and the mysterious body in the trunk.

On the plus side of all this, I am hoping that he can bond more with Manny now that they have criminal records in common.

As for me, well, you've probably read in the papers or saw on the news, I'm probably dead, my murdered, decapitated body discovered in that accident.

And even, if by some chance, that slut Sheila was the body in the trunk instead of me, and I'm really still alive somewhere on a tropical island spending Stu's missing company funds that I accidentally found in the garage, and I’m there with Larry our lawyer, well, then I'll be really, really busy taking notes for the next twelve months so I can keep everyone abreast of our special little family.

Happy Holidays and the best to everyone.

Jill

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Diane Arrelle has sold more than 250 short stories to anthologies and magazines including Bards and Sages, State Of Horror: New Jersey, Siren's Call, Sha'Daa Pawns, Sha'Daa Facets, Sha'Daa Inked, Sha'Daa Toys and Space and Time Magazine. Her work Just A Drop In The Cup, a collection of flash fiction and short-short stories, was published in 2007 by Darker Intention Press, and her new book Seasons On The Dark Side was published in March 2018 by JPI.

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