Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Civil War on Christmas

Chuck Wendig, Supreme Wordist and Pen Monkey Lord, has issued another Flash Fiction Challenge.

In his own words:
"I love the concept of the “War on Christmas.” I don’t mean that I like the actual faux-bullshit “war,” I mean, I like that term.
I want you to use that term literally.
I want you to write a war about – or even against — Christmas."

With that idea in mind, I present to you my attempt at this holiday flash fiction challenge, at around 887 words.


The Civil War on Christmas 

Original Photo by:  vastateparksstaff of Flickr
We always expected the fall of Christmas to come from the secularists.  We never expected the real trouble to come from within.

I still remember Christmas growing up.  Mom would spend several hours the night before getting the ham and other side dishes ready.  We’d wake up early Christmas morning, pass around mugs of egg nog or hot chocolate, and open our presents.  Then we’d all sit down to watch a holiday movie—one of those classics like It’s a Wonderful Life or White Christmas.  Soon it was time for dinner.  My uncle would say grace, my father would carve the ham, and my mom would stand back observing the whole thing and smiling.  That smile glowed—she loved seeing us all together like that, fussing and fighting and poking at each other with our forks, urging each other to hurry so we could get some stuffing before Cousin Harry horded it all.

The first signs there might be trouble ahead was the arrival of those god-awful elves.  You know, those dead-eyed monstrosities that you hid throughout your house and tricked your kids into thinking were real so they’d behave whenever they saw them around.  Sure, they were creepy as all fuck, but hey, it kept the kids in line, and who doesn’t love that?  It was a hell of a lot easier than threatening them with a phone call to Santa.

For whatever reason, immigration into the US spiked, and that meant other countries kept bringing their own traditions into the country.  My nephews actually went to school with someone who believed the Three Wise Men brought presents on Christmas.  Now tell me, what kind of crazy shit is that?  It was evident that the purity of what made Christmas special was being watered down by a whole bunch of foreign trinkets and doodads.  It soon became impossible to tell anybody what you were doing over the holidays without getting bogged down in a lengthy explanation of the history of their traditions.  Even the goddamned Secularists wanted in on the action, co-opting our holiday. 

Pretty soon, a grass roots movement started.  Pictures began circling on Facebook and Twitter—“Out with the new! Keep Christmas traditional!”  There came a time when a line in the sand had to be drawn.  Either you celebrated Christmas—real Christmas, with lights on your house and Miracle on 34th Street—or you celebrated one of them weirdo hodgepodge “Christmases” with hidden elves or whatever.  I still remember the last Christmas card we got from Cousin Harry.  He and his family wearing Santa hats and floral print shirts in front of a palm tree with a string of lights wrapped around it.  When we got the card in the mail, Mom rushed out of the room sobbing and my uncle wouldn’t speak for the next two hours.  No one ever mentioned it again.

We heard stories, but the problem wasn’t real to us until Greg’s Hardware started stocking those toy elves.  That’s when it hit us.  We knew something had to be done.  In the cover of darkness, we snuck over to his shop and spray painted over the windows with a simple message, a message everyone would understand.  It was a traditional Christmas tree, the star on top shining like a beacon of hope against the scourge of radical Christmas celebrations.

The night of the attack on Terry’s Tree Farm shattered any ideas that things might resolve peacefully.  Once the flames had been put out, Terry realized he’d lost 50% of his crop.  A melted, wind up elf sat at the base of one smoldering tree, its soulless, mocking smile a blight on us and our traditions.  It was that very night that we decided to take up arms, to join our brothers across the country in defending what we held most dear.

In the years since that night, I sometimes look back and wonder if maybe things could have turned out differently.  Not that I regret fighting the good fight.  Some things should be preserved as they are.  But on particularly dark, cold nights, when the gingerbread men are gone and the nog has run low…well, we’ve all been there, right?

Last week my troop met up with another from up north, coming down to patrol the river valley.  We sat around a fire that night, swapping stories and food, when of them asked for a moment of silence.  We obliged, but when it was over, I asked what we were being silent for.

“We had let a couple of guys drop from our ranks yesterday.  Turns out, they’d been sympathetic to a bunch of radical Christmas crazies.”

It broke my heart to hear that.  “Who were they?”

The soldier spit into the fire and shook his head.  “Their mother and father.  Damn shame.”

I nodded.  “That’s why we have to be especially vigilant.  We can’t let any of those revisionist Christmas hippies getting their claws into our holidays.  Some traditions should be preserved.  There’s no sense changing something that’s already good enough.”

The soldier across from me nodded and swallowed hard.  “I hear ya, buddy.  We gotta keep Christmas the same.”  He leaned over and rummaged in his pack for a plastic container—Santa shaped with a red lid.  He opened it and held it out to me.

“Latka?”