Several years ago, I contributed to a Christmas short story collection of “less than sugar and spice” Christmas tales called “FROST and other stories published by Michelle Browne. Last week I published about a third of my Christmas short story (See part 1 HERE), and now this is part 2 of the story. Part 3 will be published as my December 23rd blog.
I hope you continue to enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Santa’s Secret Helper – A short story (part 2)
Early the next morning Max came home, opened the front door, walked into the house and listened for sounds that would suggest his mom was awake. Hearing nothing, he gently closed the door, tiptoed into the kitchen, opened the pantry door and looked at the shelf holding the cans of soup.
Something was wrong. The cans were placed differently than the day before. After a long night of partying, however, he decided that he was imagining things, shrugged and reached behind the soup cans. He came up empty-handed. Reaching further back, his fingers moved to the left and to the right—nothing. He rubbed his chin, felt moisture, looked at his hands and realized that they were shaky and damp with sweat. He searched the pantry with frenzy and, as his eyes glanced over some freezer bags of powder, he froze.
“Oh, my God. The bags multiplied overnight.” He gazed up to the ceiling and called out, “Thank you, God.” Frowning at the thought, Max rubbed his hands together and said aloud, “No, that’s impossible. But where did these bags come from? And where’s my stuff?”
Realizing that he was shouting, he put a finger to his lips and touched his other hand to his chest, felt his heart pounding and thought of what could have happened to his stash.
A jumble of horrible scenarios popped into his mind. They congealed into one thought. “Mom!” He touched his finger to his lips again and whispered, “Oh, Mom, what did you do?”
He backed out of the pantry, slowly shut the door and zombie-walked to his room. In a daze, Max shut the bedroom door behind him, backed against the door, slumped to the floor and folded his hands over his head. He shook his head and tried to figure out what had happened.
Hearing the front door open, he listened closely. It was his mom. He remained on the floor, his muscles refusing to move. Eventually he stood and, as if in slow motion, opened the door and walked down the hall. His mom was in the living room reading a magazine.
Flor looked up when he entered the room, tossed down the periodical and tilted her head. “I didn’t hear you come in last night. Were you out late again?”
“Not very.” The words came out more like a squeak. His mom’s only response was a puzzled look. Max cleared his throat and forced a grin. After two attempts to talk, he finally said, “I see you made a new batch of your special tea, a big one this time.”
“Well, I had a nice shipment of holly leaves that I’d never used and my friend had a bunch of dried berries. I even found some in the pantry from a previous batch. I added that into the mixture and, before I knew it, I had enough for several bags.”
Max rubbed his face with both hands and slowly closed his eyes. “You found some old mix in the pantry? Some that you didn’t remember you had?”
“What a surprise that was. I didn’t realize I had plenty enough already to share with Martha. She stopped by yesterday to pick up a supply.”
“You made some for Martha?” Max seemed to choke on the words.
“Sure, and I had already made the fresh batch, so I just added the old to the new. Now I’ll have enough to add it to the holiday punch I promised to make for the Christmas party.”
“Christmas party?” There was that squeaky voice again. “Your new tea in a holiday punch—for other people? Where’s the party?”
“You know, that Lion’s Club Party I volunteered to help with for their Christmas party. I said I’d help with the refreshments.”
Max furrowed his brow, tried to think of something to say. “Will kids be there?”
“Of course, it’s Christmas after all.”
“Maybe that’s not such a good idea . . . to give kids something with your tea in it . . . you know, caffeine and all that.”
She gave Max a disappointed look, but it quickly turned to joy and she shook her fists in the air. “I know what I’ll do. I’ll make two batches of that festive holiday punch. The soda type for the kids and for the adults, I’ll spike it with some of my tea. Everyone will love it.”
“But, Mom . . .”
“Shush! I have so much now and with the party only weeks away, I’ll have a special brew for the adults too. Isn’t that a great idea?”
“I’m not so sure, Mom. Not everyone will like the tea. And there’s some old stuff in it.”
Flor put a fist on her hip and gave her son a look that would whither a rose. “What are you suggesting?”
“Maybe you should make a totally fresh batch for the party.”
“Nonsense! Besides, I don’t have any leaves left. It’ll be fine.” She got up to go to the kitchen, but stopped and patted him on the cheek. “Don’t worry, I’ll save some for you.”
Max thought about who would be at the party . . . tried to calculate how much cocaine would be in the mix . . . realized that it was too much, even diluted into the punch . . . understood that she would kill him if she knew . . . willed himself to keep quiet.
He decided that he needed to think and turned toward the hallway. “I have to go study now, Mom. See you later.” He retreated to his room, closed the door and found the small stash of coke that he kept for personal use. He needed to steady his nerves.
+ + + + +
Martha stopped by to visit with Flor a couple of weeks later and was telling her how wonderful her tea was, said that Jake was drinking two cups a day and that he was like a changed person. “His mood is, I don’t know how to describe it, but definitely less sullen. He even offered to help at tomorrow’s Lions Club Christmas party, without me asking, and he’s been singing ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ every time I mention the party.”
Flor smiled and nodded as she pointed at Martha. “My best batch yet.”
“And not only that, Flor, but Jake’s agreed to dress up as the Santa Claus to hand out gifts at the party. A couple of days ago he ordered the costume and got fitted for it—all on his own. Before giving him your tea, he was thinking of quitting the club altogether.”
“That’s wonderful,” Flor said. “The leaves I’m getting from my cousin seem to be stronger lately. Maybe I should market that tea.” She waved a hand high across the air. “I could call it ‘Flor’s Fabulous Fix.’ How does that sound?”
“Ambitious, but I can’t argue with the results. It has to be the tea that’s made Jake human again.
( PART 3 – To be continued on Dec 23rd)