In the Woods

It’s Christmas Eve. I’m outside in the woods with a flashlight, covered with red cellophane. Rudolph has landed behind our house. Santa is in the neighborhood.

My wife and my daughter are at the slider door, watching as I slowly move around, turn my head, and bend toward the ground as if to nibble on something tasty.

I move a little quickly, raising the flashlight higher and higher over my head in mock takeoff. It’s time for Rudolph, the reindeer, and Santa to move on.

And it’s time for me to go back inside to hear about what I missed.

Angel of Midtown

By: Laura K.

Final approach! I cue up my Discman.  

A cold and wet December day, when we touched the ground at JFK…

Despite the jetlag I bounce to the tambourine. Passport control takes eternity.  

New York, like a Christmas tree

He’s not home yet.  I shower, disappointed. Shaving my legs I hear him singing, sounding bemused, annoyed. I redo my makeup.

Showtime. We pretend we don’t care about each other. I crash on the couch. 

Morning brings Advil, coffee, another flight, my parents, The Holidays.  I know he’s doing the same, but I can’t picture it.

Jesus Christ I miss you. 

Home for the Holidays

By: Laura K.

The sky is marginally lighter than the slush walling the streets. The air stings my nostrils. It’s a relief after yesterday, too many people and stories squeezed into that house; nineties Christmas albums; cookies and champagne at noon, wrapping paper and packaging everywhere. 

He’s divorced, now, no kids.  I made it here okay, not even skidding around Dead Man’s Curve, to his East Side walkup with a young lawyer couple below. 

It’s better than after-Christmas sale shopping would have been. 

Afterwards, we’ll attempt small talk. I’ll blast The Cure on the way home, just like before our lives stopped intersecting.

Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

By: Laura K.

“Here, take these to Nicole?” Mom hands me a dozen cookies, iced gingerbread and pfeffernusse, and a glass of eggnog (the boring kind). Mom is always super-sweet to them, like they’re not being paid thirty-one dollars an hour (Dad mutters) to be here.

Nicole (my favorite) works nights. She’s in the foyer of the townhouse (our third “home” this year) (fucking doxxers), pistol holstered on her hip. There’s a tree, but no ornaments (in storage). 

I am proud of Mom, but courage and feminism and stuff fucking suck, sometimes.

Nicole lifts the glass to me, a toast.  “Merry Christmas, kid.” 


By: Laura K.

My grandfather died yesterday, of COVID. He was ninety, but not waiting to die. He used to fly planes into hurricanes and he adored his great-grandkids. 

There will be no funeral, no looking at pictures with my aunts. 

Over in the next universe, there is a hell of a party, with ice cubes in the white wine and everyone acting Midwestern stoic but elated, except my sister, who is just giddy. 

No invite to that party, yet. Instead, I feel guilty, but take my ‘bereavement leave.’ I buy some Christmas presents online and go for a walk.  And….that’s it. 


By Ed Dzitko

Imagine, every December, the pain the holiday season brings.

In the windows of 20 houses, 20 where kids lived, a single candle burns. It’s been eight years, but the hurt remains. Moms and Dads are older, aged twice that, at least, and siblings are grown, but their grief has not subsided.

Their pain is as fresh as the newly-cut trees they decorate with bright and shiny orbs, strings of garland, popcorn and berries, and flashing lights.

Will Christmas ever be the same for any of them? Unlikely. There’s nothing worse than an innocent child, in school, shot by a psycho.

The Jig is Up

By: Lauren Spagnoletti

At five and a half, my son came to me.

“Santa’s not real, right? It’s just you guys leaving gifts while we’re asleep?”
“Did someone tell you that honey?”
“No,” he replied, “I just thought about it.”

I couldn’t keep up the ruse. I sat him down and explained about the magic of Christmas, and how he could help us create that magic for his little brother. He was on board, excited to be a part of the whole thing.

Five minutes later he came to me again.

“Mommy, does that mean there’s no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy either?”

The Letter

By Ed Dzitko

It was on page 11 of the News-Tribune in the “Letters to Santa” section. Timmy now understood why his schoolmates were asking about the Vikings pajamas he had asked for for Christmas.

“I dropped that in the mailbox,” he said to nobody. “I addressed it to the North Pole. How’d it get into the newspaper?”

He sat a few of minutes, thinking, and using deduction skills he learned in the Hardy Boys adventures. He grabbed paper and pen.

Dear Santa,

Sorry to tell you this. There’s a leak at the North Pole.

Be careful with all those letters.



Do You Still Believe?

By Ed Dzitko

Fourth-grade Bobby stared hard at the question on the board.

“Do you still believe in Santa Claus?” The question went along with a story in the class reading book. His group hadn’t been in the teacher’s circle yet.

What does that mean, Bobby wondered. Aren’t I supposed to still believe? I’m supposed to be stopping? Why would I? Do I not know something everybody else does?

Bobby tapped Kim on the shoulder. He pointed to the question, smiled, and said, “Yes!” Kim didn’t smile back. She just turned away.

“Group 4,” teacher called.

Bobby sighed. Time to face the truth.

Meditation on a Christmas Tree

By: Megan Cramer

Deepak Chopra would be proud (I’m nothing if not a teacher’s pet…). 

My meditation began purely: tree lit, Netflix fireplace ablaze, Alexa providing peaceful music, “Forest” candle aromatically wafting. I stared at the Christmas tree in silence for 15 minutes, studying the quality of light, the bristly branches, the individual ornaments with all their respective stories of origin. 

But then Chris Cuomo butted in, needing to share some news… and then a few emails needed responses… “Warnock Your Ossoff!!”… my feet got cold and I had to pee. 

The tree would have to wait for tomorrow’s meager re-attempt at self-actualization.

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