A Holiday Flash Fiction Story

I recently offered to post this story on my website for the holidays. I wrote the first version for a contest in 2013 and changed it over the next six years. Here is my new and improved 2019 version. Please enjoy, and have a wonderful Christmas, however you spend it!

Look What the Wind Blew In
by Renee’ La Viness

Steam rose from Opal’s cup of hot chocolate as she carried it to the living room.

The early December snow was beautiful, but to an elderly woman living alone, it was cruel. It made the bones ache and the body shiver. She set the warm drink on the side table then wrapped the small blue afghan around her legs and settled into her easy chair.

A soft thump sounded on the front porch. It was probably a wandering dog, but she decided to check it out. Slowly, she rose from the chair and shuffled across the room.

When she opened her front door, the bitter wind barged in without permission, and tiny ice crystals danced in with it. On the porch floor, a mess of shoe prints led to a pot of poinsettias trimmed with a wide gold ribbon. They were her favorite holiday flowers. In the middle, a small note attached to a plastic stick fluttered in the icy air.

Careful not to slip on the porch, Opal leaned over and snatched the flower pot. She quickly carried it inside and shut the door, locking out the wind and snow.

In the warmth of her living room, she read the note.

“WILL YOU…” The rest had been torn off.

“Will you what?” she asked out loud, as if expecting an answer. “I need the rest of the note. I wonder who left it.” She set the pot on a small table between her matching chairs. The bright red flowers seemed to make the room smile.

“I bet this is from Betty.” She picked up the phone to call her friend. It rang twice before anyone answered.

“Hello?”

“Betty? It’s Opal. Thank you for the poinsettias. They really brightened my day. But, part of the note was missing.”

“What are you talking about, Opal? I’ve not left this house. I’m not stepping outside until the ice and snow melt.” Betty chuckled, then gasped. “Flowers, you say? A note? Did somebody leave you flowers, Opal? Do you have a boyfriend I don’t know about?”

“I’m not sure,” Opal replied, absently running a finger around the rim of the flower pot. “I’ll let you know.”

After hanging up, she leaned back in her easy chair. Trying to occupy her mind with something else, she opened the newspaper. She had read all the stories yesterday, but there wouldn’t be another issue until tomorrow, so she would read ads and clip coupons today.

A dentist was running a special on dentures and cleanings, a furniture store was having a price blowout, a book club was searching for new members, and the senior center wanted grandparents for needy children, especially for the holidays. She had signed up for one of those surrogate grandchildren last week, when the medical folks gave free blood pressure checks. She always took advantage of the health checkups. A person should be watchful of their health.

When she finished reading the ads, she reached for her scissors.

THUMP.

Another sound on the front porch. She headed to the door with great curiosity. Nobody was there, but another poinsettia had been delivered. She brought it in and set it beside the first plant. Taped to the side of the pot, she found the other half of the note.

“PLEASE…”

Opal raised one eyebrow and lowered the other. “Great. Will you please what?”

Her mind struggled to put the clues together. It wasn’t her birthday, but it was almost Christmas. Could it be a romantic gesture from a secret admirer?

“No,” she surmised. “Just like Betty said, nobody my age in his right mind would be out racing to disappear after leaving me a secret admirer gift, no matter how important the question. Not in this weather.”

Her face melted. It had to be some heartless kids playing a practical joke. There was no other explanation. She wondered if they knew her husband had recently died. Having no family left, she was all alone in the world.

With shaking fingers, she called Betty and asked her to help watch for the pranksters. She would not let those brats taunt her. She would catch them and call their parents or the law. If parents don’t know what their kids are doing, they can’t fix the problem.

Opal sat back in her chair and picked up her newspaper and scissors. Maybe clipping coupons would help her sort things out.

She considered calling the police. Even if she did catch the kids, what would she say to them? She’d heard today’s teens could be dangerous to deal with.

The phone rang, startling her out of her daydreams. She quickly answered.

“Opal, someone’s walking to your porch. They’re—”

“Thanks, Betty.”

Opal hurried to the door. When she opened it, a woman and a young boy stood before her on the front porch. The boy raised a handmade sign that said, “BE MY GRANDMA?”

Opal’s heart melted and a smile stretched across her face. “Oh, my surrogate grandchild is here! Please, please, come in.” She held her door open as they entered the warm, loving atmosphere of her living room and her heart.

Closing Time

The year 2019 is closing down, soon to be a dusty memory on the shelf, while 2020 is waiting for us to make fresh new memories. This has been a good year for me, but I hope 2020 will be even better.

Although I didn’t enter as many contests in 2019, I won a fair number of writing awards, including:

Each year, I sponsor and/or judge multiple conference contests. In 2019, I added the

La Viness Short Story Writing Contest

a new contest not involved with any conference. This one is my own special offer. Check out our 2019 winners on the contest website. Being the first year, it wasn’t yet known well, but I still had some rather competitive entries in the bunch. A big “THANK YOU” goes out to the judges who helped me determine the winners. The website will be updated in early January with the 2020 contest information. Submissions will be accepted from June 1st to August 31st, 2020.

I will also be offering a new contest at the White County Creative Writers Conference in 2020. Watch for it on their website.

All the 1st Place winners of my past contests are listed here.

Along with all the writerly news of 2019, we have some wonderful family news to share. We became great-grandparents in the spring! However, the little guy lives near the east coast, so we’re hoping to meet him in 2020, if possible.

Along with the new year comes a plan to attend some different conferences. I’ll still be at some of my regulars, and I’m still offering all the same contests. But, I want to visit some events in Kansas, Missouri, or Texas. Of course, if I am asked to speak at any events, you can be sure I’ll be at those! For more information, see my ABOUT page.

I have a fabulous panel of publishers lined up for the 6th Annual Meet the Publishers! event, in Tulsa. In past years, I’ve brought in book publishers from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. This year, I’ve added a magazine publisher and a newspaper publisher. So, don’t miss our 2020 event on March 28th. Check out the website and save the date! Here’s a link: www.jespiddlin.com/publishers

If you’re following me to the conferences, keep an eye on my SCHEDULE page for the latest updates on where I’ll be.

Thanks for stopping in. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season! Wishing you all the best in 2020!

Renee’ La Viness