Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Christmas Tale, Part 3

     The next morning dawned brightly through the thickly frosted windows. Clarisse sat up in her booth and looked around. The restaurant was completely empty except for the dozing family in one corner. The businessmen and the choir must have left earlier, she thought. A movement in the kitchen caught her eye. Sheila was fiddling with random appliances in the kitchen. Whether it was just for something to do, or if she was legitimately checking the equipment, Clarisse couldn’t tell, but the longer she watched, she noticed that Sheila seemed distracted. Clarisse got out of the booth and stretched. As she gingerly made her way to the kitchen, Sheila looked up. For once, she didn’t say anything.
     “Did they leave?” Clarisse asked, referring to the choir and businessmen.
     “No one’s come in or out since last night,” Sheila replied.
     “Look.” Sheila handed her a slip of paper folded in half. It shimmered faintly as Clarisse opened it up. Written in elegant cursive in gold ink was one simple sentence: “Thank you and Merry Christmas.”

* * *

It would later be discovered that other residents of the town, who had also lost power, reported similar experiences: carolers knocking at the doors of the dark houses, an entire choir at the nursing home and the hospital. All of the mysterious visitors hailed from Emery Gettings High School. After several curious and grateful citizens attempted to contact the high school, they found that it did not even exist. The only proof that any of the events ever happened was the residents’ word and the identical notes, written in gold ink on shimmering paper, received by all the witnesses.

A note about the story
Once again, I apologize for my procrastination on this story, partially due to writer's block but also due to other distractions. A few details: As some may know, Balthazar was the name of one of the three Magi who visited and gave gifts to Jesus after he was born. The name Natalie (the name of the little girl), fittingly means "Christmas." "Emery Gettings High School, IN" is an anagram of "Come, sing glory in the highest." Draw your own conclusions about the choir: maybe Natalie was right.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A Christmas Tale, Part 2

Before I begin this overly long part two, I would like to apologize for procrastinating on this. I hoped to get it done before Christmas, but obviously I haven't, which kind of defeats the purpose. Anyway, stick with me here. Part three will be very short. Another note: I failed to mention in part one that this is taking place on Christmas Eve. Disclaimer: McDonald's closes early on Christmas Eve, so for those of you who noticed a discrepancy, remember this is a work of fiction. Also the radio station, WTKO is in reality an oldies station in Ithaca, New York. This is completely accidental; those were the first call letters that popped into my mind.

A vivid, yellow school bus bearing the name “Emery Gettings High School, IN” turned the corner sharply, almost losing control on the quickly forming ice. The bus was transporting a high school choir from a Christmas performance, and was nearly halfway back when the winter storm hit.
     “There’s a McDonald’s up here,” the balding choir director said loudly over the shrieks and general buzz as they came out of the intersection. “Let’s stop there and get off this road. We can get something to eat, too.”
     “Sounds good,” the slightly overweight, bearded bus driver replied. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to drive this thing if the weather stays like this.” He carefully maneuvered the cumbersome bus into the small parking lot.
     “Oh, I knew I’d need my purse…”
     “Yes! Food!” Various gleeful shouts and chatter came from the back of the bus as the doors whooshed open to let the students out. The bus driver waited until the last student had descended the steps, and the last “thank you” had reached his ears. The choir director remained seated behind him.
     “Turn on the radio,” the director said. “Maybe this storm won’t last long.”
     “Maybe, maybe not,” the driver replied as he fiddled with the bus’s rather finicky radio. “Even if it does stop, the roads’ll still be bad enough. We might be stuck here for the night.”
     “The students will need to call their parents.” The director was concentrating on the radio, which was now listing counties included in a winter storm warning.
     “...and White counties, all under a winter storm warning, in effect until midnight tonight. Again, that includes the entire WTKO listening area. For your safety, stay off the roads as much as possible, especially in the dark. And now back to the music—further updates will be broadcasted periodically, and as the situation warrants.” The driver turned the radio down as the opening bars of an oldies song began to play.
     “You might be right about being stuck here.” The driver sighed grimly as he hefted himself out of the vinyl-upholstered driver’s seat. “Well, let’s go get something to eat and hope for the best.”
     As the two men made their way across the snowy parking lot, hunched over against the bitter wind, similar thoughts were running through their heads. Why did this storm have to come up? They could have been safe in their warm homes right now, reading “The Night Before Christmas” to their families, sitting with their respective wives in front of a glowing fireplace, happy to be inside on this arctic night.
     Their cozy thoughts seemed to keep them warm despite the wind and sleet biting their faces as they reached the door of the McDonald’s. They entered to the sound of the twenty-some students ordering their meals and discussing the storm. Some had cell phones glued to their ears, reassuring parents that they were safe and off the roads, but that no one knew when they would arrive back home.
     “Can I have everyone’s attention?” The director shouted. The students quieted; one of them stopped talking mid-order and turned to face the man speaking. “This storm won’t stop for a while,” he said. “There’s a winter storm warning in effect till midnight. I’m sorry to break the news, but we might be stuck here all night. Everyone should start calling their parents, if they haven’t already.” The director’s regretful announcement brought moans to the group of students; a girl dropped miserably into a booth.
     Meanwhile, Clarisse was preparing another batch of fries in the kitchen. When she heard the choir director’s announcement, her gloved hand slipped on the handle of the fry basket and brushed the searing deep-fryer.
     “Ouch!” she exclaimed. She peeled off the plastic glove, which had melted in the spot where it had touched the sizzling fryer, and sucked on her burned knuckle as the fries finished cooking. She immediately took the basket out of the oil, which seemed to be hissing mockingly at her. She hurried across the kitchen and turned on the cold water the moment she reached the sink. As she let the ice-cold water splash over her finger, she removed her other glove in her teeth and ran her now free hand over her forehead. She glanced at one of the cash registers, where Sheila was taking orders.
     “Oh, no!” Sheila moaned. “Are you telling me I gotta be stuck in this place all night? I still got presents to wrap! How you expect me to...” The exasperated manager began muttering to herself, rolling her eyes every once in a while as she fiercely punched in orders.
     At the other cash register, the usually perky Deanna was ringing up an order with an exhausted look on her face.
     “Next,” she sighed dejectedly.
     At a corner booth, a small family was eating their burgers and Happy Meals; a toddler struggled to free herself from her tired-looking mother, who was attempting to wipe ketchup from her chubby face. The little girl’s father and older sister got up and made their way between the conversing students to the table where the choir director and the bus driver sat. The man called Balthazar was standing at the table talking to them, his forehead creased with concern.
     “The students—what will they do?” he asked in his deep, slightly accented voice.
     “They’ll just have to camp out here. They’re all calling their families as we speak.”
     The girl and her father approached the small group at the table.
     “Sir,” the father said to the director, “Did you say we would be stuck here all night?”
     “Unless this storm stops soon, we will be.”
     The girl’s face fell. “Oh no, Daddy! What’ll we do? Santa Claus won’t be able to find us!”
     “It’s all right, sweetie. Santa Claus never fails. We’re going to make the best of this.” Her father patted her comfortingly on the back. “Now, what brings everyone else here?”
     “We’re a high school choir. We’re on our way back from our last concert of the year.” The director was glad to have something else to think about.
     “Really? What high school?”
     “Emery Gettings High. It’s...up north a ways.”
     “Hmmm...” the father thought for a moment. “Never heard of it. What would you say to a little concert right here? I’m sure you’d love it, wouldn’t you, Natalie?”
     “Of course we could do that for you! I’ll get them together,” the director agreed. “Hey everyone!” he shouted over the chatting students. “We have a request for a serenade. We’ll do our songs—concert order.” He paused a moment for the students to get to their feet and shift into their rows. He raised his arms high and began to conduct “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” As the choir started to sing, the family and the businessmen turned around in their seats to watch, and the employees came out of the kitchen. 
     The patrons listened, starry-eyed, as the choir sang its way through most of the concert. The wind howled its frustration in not being able to slip into the restaurant as snow and sleet pelted the windows. As the choir sang “O Holy Night,” there was a great gust of wind, and the lights flickered and went out. Several people gasped in the pitch darkness, and a few, thinking quickly, took out their cell phones and lit up the screens. Everyone in possession of a phone followed suit, lighting the McDonald’s with the dim white glow of their screens. The other two businessmen had joined the table where Balthazar and the father and his daughter sat, near where the director had been conducting his choir. The four men began discussing the situation in low voices.
     “Daddy?” Natalie whispered, her face lit faintly in the light of the phones that lay on the table. “What’s happening?”
     “The power’s out because of the storm. Don’t worry,” he said reassuringly. “We’re safe here.”
     The choir director rose and addressed his choir in a low voice, inaudible to the rest of the patrons. His intentions were made clear when the choir reorganized themselves and began to sing softly: “Silent night, holy night...” The students had raised their lit cell phones to light their faces, giving them the unearthly look of a celestial chorus, seemingly out of place in this grubby McDonald’s.
     Clarisse leaned against the counter, watching the spectacle. Lost in the music, she didn’t notice Deanna appear beside her. Deanna elbowed her gently, holding her cell phone, which showed the time: 11:37 p.m.
     “It’s almost Christmas,” she whispered, smiling. Not even their bleak situation could dampen the holiday glow. Clarisse felt chills run up her arms as the choir finished singing. A few people clapped, including Deanna, the young girl, and her father. The choir sat down after being dismissed by the director, who resumed his seat at the businessmen’s table. At a nearby booth, Sheila sat resting her chin in her hand, a gloomy look on her face. Deanna and Clarisse walked over and joined her.
     “Go away,” Sheila said sulkily. “And don’t say ‘Merry Christmas’ to me, ‘cause it’s not.” Deanna seemed to be resisting the urge to say exactly that, when one of the businessmen stood up. In a soft yet commanding voice, he said, “Can I have everyone’s attention?” He looked around at everyone’s faces, making sure he had undivided attention. “Considering the circumstances, we think it is a good idea for everyone to try to go to sleep. No one should open the door except in an emergency, since we have no heat as of right now. Thank you, and Merry Christmas.”
     “Some Christmas,” Sheila declared loudly. At this, the little girl, Natalie, came over to the table where the three employees sat.
     “Hey,” she said. “At least it is Christmas. You could’ve been stuck on the road. You could’ve been—“
     “I coulda been home,” Sheila interrupted. “I coulda been in my warm house, with my cat, in front of a fire, with—“
     “Remember Mary and Joseph?” Natalie countered. “They were away from home too. They didn’t have any heat, or electricity. It was cold and dark—not much different from now, right?”
     “I guess, but—“
     “Look, there’s even an angel choir,” she said, pointing at the choir, the nearest of whom smiled at her pep talk. “And three wise men,” she continued, motioning towards the businessmen. “You guys are just like the shepherds—you know, just regular people who—“
     “Who witnessed a miracle,” Deanna finished simply. “Sheila, you can’t just focus on the bad things. It’s Christmas.”
     “All right, all right,” Sheila said, raising her hands in defeat. “Just let me sleep.” She leaned back and closed her eyes, not about to listen to another word. Deanna turned to the Natalie, whose father had appeared behind her.
     “Thanks.” Deanna smiled at her. “She needed that. And don’t worry—she’ll come around. Merry Christmas.”
     “Merry Christmas,” Natalie replied shyly. The boldness from her speech had left her. Her father put a hand on her shoulder.     
     “Thanks for everything,” he said to Deanna and Clarisse. “Merry Christmas.” He led his daughter back the table where his wife and two other children sat.
     “Guess we should try to get some sleep,” Clarisse said to Deanna, glancing at Sheila, who snapped her eyes shut when she saw Clarisse look at her. She stood up and found an empty booth, where she lay down on one of the benches and closed her eyes. The last thing she remembered was the odd smell that had come to her before: the churchlike aroma of incense and candles.

* * *

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Christmas Tale, Part 1

     "...and it looks like this snowstorm is going to keep pounding the area all night, and possibly carry through until tomorrow afternoon, turning to sleet at around nine p.m...."
     Clarisse sighed as she turned down the radio of her secondhand Honda. She'd never make it to her McDonald's shift on time, let alone make it back home, with all the ice and snow starting to build up on the roads. It was a 20-minute drive on a good day, but tonight it would probably be twice that. Clarisse drove as fast as she safely could on the quickly-freezing road. The wind whistled like a boiling teapot through the quarter-inch of space between the glass of the passenger-side window and the frame of the door--the window had never gone all the way up for the entirety of the two years she had had  the car. In the summer, this was no problem; the mild weather from April to September allowed her to roll it down all the way and forget its faultiness until the colder months set in. Now, however, the frigid winter wind forcing its way into the car chilled her bones.
     After ten icy minutes, Clarisse finally pulled into the half-full McDonald's parking lot. The only patrons were those Christmas travelers with the tenacity to brave the icy roads as they made their way to the houses of relatives for the holiday. The bells dangling from the door handle jingled festively as Clarisse pulled the door open. She relished the sudden warmth as she pulled off her gloves, but her brief moment of bliss was interrupted by the exasperated, impatient voice of Sheila, the long-suffering restaurant manager.
     "Clarisse! Do you realize just how late you are?" Sheila's slight southern accent made her scolding seem more admonishing.
     "I'm sorry, the roads were--"
     "Do you know what time your shift starts?" Sheila snapped.
     "Eight," Clarisse mumbled.
     "And what time is it now?"
     "Now stop wasting time and get to work before eight-thirty. This is supposed to be a fast food restaurant, and you are the only fry cook on this shift. Well? What are you standing there for? Get to work!"
     Clarisse trudged to the back of the kitchen  and took her once-black, stained apron from  a hook mounted to the wall, replacing it with her black pea coat and brightly-patterned Vera Bradley purse--a splash of color in the otherwise dull industrial kitchen. As she prepared the deep-fryer for another batch of fries, the bells on the door jingled, heralding the arrival of three rather formidable-looking businessmen in dark suits. An icy gust of wind and snow chased them inside. As they stood in front of the counter examining the menu, Clarisse caught a whiff of something else--something that smelled like the inside of a Christmas Eve church, like incense and candles. But it was gone as quickly as it came. She put the potato strips into the hot oil. They began sizzling the moment they touched the cooking grease, splattering Clarisse a little with burning droplets. She sighed. What she would give to be sitting in front of a merrily crackling fire instead of this spluttering deep-fryer; a mug of steaming hot chocolate in her hands rather than the greasy handle of the fry basket. Well, this would have to do for now, she thought.
     When the fries finished cooking, Clarisse removed them from the fryer and placed the dripping basket over an empty compartment in the stainless-steel countertop. As she let the excess grease drain off, she looked over her shoulder to see the men placing their orders. One of them, a tall, thin man with very dark skin was speaking. His deep voice carried a slight foreign accent; Clarisse guessed it to be from somewhere in Africa.
     "...with a medium soda, and hold the lettuce," he said. Deanna, the newest addition to the eight 'o clock shift, tucked a strand of honey-blonde hair behind her ear and punched the order into the cash register.
     "A number five meal, hold the lettuce, with a medium fry and medium soda?" Deanna checked.
     "Yes. That's all."
     "And the name on that?" she asked.
                                                                                             * * *

This is only part be continued.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

In Memoriam

Phoenix Tears


A flash of green light
and it was over.
I suddenly wish
I knew more about you.
What made you who you were?

When we knew you,
we saw your long white beard,
silver as the sword.
Your piercing blue eyes
always seemed to know.
Just know.

They said you were getting old,
that we needed new ideas.
Oh, you had them,
but they were deceived by your snowy hair and wrinkles.

Then one fateful night,
the boy
trapped you at the top of the tower.
You knew he couldn’t,
wouldn’t do it,
when even he himself wasn’t sure.

But then one of your own,
one that you had trusted,
came and finished the job the boy had meant to do.
A flash of green light,
and it was over.

Even phoenix tears can’t heal this emptiness,
this gaping dark space,
where you used to be.

But life must go on.
After all, you’re not really gone,
not while those loyal still remain.


This is a poem I wrote last year for English class. It would have been more appropriate two weeks ago when the Harry Potter movie actually came out, but better late than never. 

Monday, 22 November 2010


Since I will most likely be busy on Thanksgiving Day, I would like to share my thanks now. Firstly, I'd like to thank the Academy, and my fans...just kidding. On a serious note: I wish to thank God, for giving me all my opportunities that some aren't fortunate enough to have, especially simple things like a roof over my head and a family and friends that are very close to me. That brings me to my family, who are always supporting me in some way or another; they're my biggest fans at competitions and they will always be there no matter what. This is becoming very cliché, so before it starts to sound like the last page of  some tearjerker novel, I'd like to thank my friends (who accept me for who I am despite my quirks), teachers (especially my English teachers, who have made a huge impact on my writing abilities), and everyone else who's had some sort of influence in my life.

A few other things I'm thankful for:
-a thesaurus
-Harry Potter, of course
-chocolate, cheese, and various other foods that are good for the soul (if not necessarily the body)
-my quirks, in spite of which my friends accept me
-and last but not least, Cheetos.

Hoping your Thanksgiving looks as good as the one in the picture~

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Welcome/First Post

Hello, hello. Welcome to Small, Dangling Rag-tag, a blog about everything. Hold your applause...thank you. This is by definition my random blog to put my art in, and other unrelated things. Mainly a source for something to do with my drawings, other than have them cluttering up my bedroom constantly. I might post my stories, too. So be looking out for those. Thanks for bothering to read this!