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.

Gifts for Writers

If you have a family member or friend who is a writer, and you want to give them gifts—for birthdays, holidays, or just because—but don’t know what to give, you’re not alone. Even writers have trouble offering ideas.

Most writers use and keep the inexpensive basic supplies listed. Listen for them to mention they are almost out or need to buy more, soon. Some don’t use all these things, so you do have to familiarize yourself with your writer’s preferences.

On the more expensive end of the list, you will find items we need—like conferences and workshops, or things need done but don’t always remember to do—like fixing the car, or things to help us get away from the desk, once in a while.

Below are some good ideas. They start small and move up in price. Free or almost free ideas are at the bottom.
Erasers – Hand-held erasers or pencil-tops?
Pens – Plastic, wood, metal? Ink or gel? Ink color(s)? Clip on side? Rubber pads around the middle?
Sticky Pads or Stickers – Color? Size? Design?
Paper Clips – Color? Size? Design?
Staples – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Stapler – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Highlight Markers – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Permanent Markers – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
White-out – Color? Design? Brand?
Spiral or Other Notebooks – Wide ruled? College Ruled? No lines?
3-Ring Binders – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Copy paper
Printing paper – Some of us use colored paper or cardstock, too!
USB/Thumb Drives – Do they prefer small or large capacity? Is there a preferred brand or style?
Earbuds or Headphones – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Yarn – Some writers crochet or knit while conjuring stories. Know their brand, color, type preferences before you buy! There are other needed items, too, such as needles, hooks, etcetera.
Desk Organizer – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Chair Pad – For more comfortable sitting.
Business Cards – Only order these with your writer’s approval. You can reorder their normal ones or help them design new ones.
Pamphlets – Only order these with your writer’s approval. You can reorder their normal supply or help them design new ones.
Books – Hardcover? Paperback? Ebook? Audio Book? Listen for wished-for book titles.
Magazine Subscription – Ask which ones they really want.
Ink Cartridges – This is a great gift! All writers need these! Buy the cartridges their printer/copier requires.
Light bulbs – Type – CFL, LED, Halogen?  How many watts? Brand?
Haircut/Hairstyle – Great when the writer has an event coming up.
Manicure/Pedicure – Do they have a preference?
Bus Pass – If they ride the bus a lot, buy a season pass to help them get from Point A to Point B.
Taxi Pass – Is there a way to pay some taxi time in advance?
Turnpike Pass – Some writers use the turnpike. Apply some cash to their stash.
Computer Program or App – Which ones have they been wishing for?
Clothing – For desk time or public events. You’ll need sizes, colors, styles, brands, etcetera.
Cozy socks or houseshoes – Color? Size? Design? Brand? Style?
Photo Shoot for Author Picture
Cover Art / Illustrator
Carry Bag – For laptop, luggage, books, and more.
Gift Cards or Prepaid Credit Cards – For specific stores (print shop, gasoline, restaurant), or whatever they wish. These would be extra welcome just before a trip.
Advertising – Help them announce their new book, new project, etcetera.
External Hard Drive – Is there a brand or style they prefer?
Display Rack – for book signings and sales. Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Author Poster – for books, events, etcetera. (Design should be discussed with writer.)
Easel – to Display Posters. Color? Size? Design?
Computer – They will use this a LOT and need one that is up-to-date and suits their specific needs. (So, please learn their needs before purchasing one.)
Professional Edit – Is the work almost finished? Pay for a professional copyedit to polish the story.
Desk/Table/Chair – For office, or travel? Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Bookcase – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
File Cabinet – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Video Camera – For book trailers and more. Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Webinars – Listen for subjects your writer wants/needs help with.
Workshops – Listen for subjects your writer wants/needs help with.
Study Courses – Listen for subjects your writer needs help with.
Gym Membership – Staying healthy can be hard for a writer who spends much of her time in a chair.
Writer’s Retreat – Alone or with a friend or friends, it’s nice to get away and write.
Conferences – Pay their way to a conference they want to attend.
Online Conferences – There may be an online conference they wish to attend.
Travel – Pay for a plane trip, rental car or other transportation to get to conferences or other events.
Hotel – Pay for their hotel costs to attend a conference or other event.
Research Trip – Would it help them to be on location? Send them there, or help them afford it!
Automobile – Upkeep, repair, or replacement.
Home – Upkeep, repair, or replacement.

A fun get-away is always a good idea for a writer who stays shut in a lot.

Day/Night Out – At the fair or carnival, concert, movies, swimming pool, skating rink, bowling alley, pool hall, learning to ride a horse, or?
Hiking, Fishing, Camping – Take time away from the writing to enjoy some of their favorite down-time hobbies.
Cruise – Where do they want to go? Is there something to celebrate, or would a cruise help them get away from all the interruptions of daily life?

Other ideas which are shareable:

Walk – Walk or jog together, or walk the dog(s).
Drive – Take a drive to nowhere in particular. Just hop in the car and go away for an hour or two.
Join them at a conference. Some writers want to attend a conference or other event, but won’t drive there alone. Just having someone along is a blessing. Take something to occupy your time while they’re at the event, or sign up to attend with them!

There are many more I could add, but these are items we use and/or need. And, if you’re reading this, you care enough to buy your writer something useful. Thank you for that.

If this list helps you find a gift for your writer, or you have other ideas, please share. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

(Watch for more about the FREE 5th Annual MEET THE PUBLISHERS! event in Tulsa Oklahoma. The 2019 date is Saturday, March 30th. Mark your calendars!)

It’s Autumn!

This is such an exciting time of year! I love the autumn. It is a sign of things coming soon… Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, cooler weather, long hours writing great stories, and snow ice cream. I love my snow ice cream. But in Oklahoma, we only get enough snow every four or five years. I have my fingers crossed for this year. In the meantime, I’m doing what I can to insulate our home for cold weather. How about you?

This Saturday, October 24, 2015, I’m holding a workshop for folks who want to write a novel in 30 days. This is the last workshop for the year, so don’t miss it. (Click here for more info.If you’ve written a novel in a month, please bring some helpful notes explaining how you made it all the way to the end. This workshop will be more about sharing and helping each other. We’ll have a table or two for you to leave copies for others to take. 

In recent months, many things have been happening for me. I’ve been holding more workshops, attending great conferences, winning some writing awards, and working hard to bring The Adventures of Dayton Barnes to the market very soon.

Next year, thanks to a good deal of interest, I’m expecting to hold a few of my workshops online. Hope to see you there.

Have a wonderful and exciting autumn!