I’ve always liked the wonder of the Christmas story. I think I originally wanted this to be more Gremlins then anything else, but as usual when writing flash, you let the story lead you quickly and without recourse to a different destination. As always thanks for reading.
The Christmas Knuck.
Misty always hated this time of year. She would find herself burnt out about two weeks into the season by the raucous cacophony of Christmas tunes and department store barkers. She reluctantly held her station at the Wenterms make up stand with great diligence despite her indifference. December 24th would be here tomorrow and she could relax for a night and a day. No noses to powder, no eyeliner samples to apply.
Misty’s family was all gone except her Father. But she would have to settle for calling her father, far away, constantly on some deployment or classified mission. It would be nice to hear his voice, which with each missing year became something more nostalgic but less tangible. She would then settle in for a marathon of old comedies. Last year she watched more episodes of Coach then anyone should endure. But it was a peaceful time, with no sales goals or customer experience metrics. A cup of tea, a warm blanket. A recovery day.
She left the store that night to the season’s first snow flurry. The flakes blew sideways in gusts of wind like tiny dancers in a larger play. Misty pulled hard on the old Buicks rusting door and it groaned with the transfer of air. The old heater came alive with a faint burning smell, and it lurched into drive out onto the roads. Misty had driven about a half mile when she first heard it. It sounded kind of like a squealing pig, but lighter and less in pain. She turned off the heater to listen closer. It was coming from the back seat. She pulled over in a donut shop parking lot, a neon glow lighting the insides of the cars.
She got out and carefully opened the back door. Inside Misty saw a small furry ball creature with one eye and a half bird beak. It stood on two naked bird legs. It looked like it was shivering. Before she thought it through Misty was reaching for the creature scooping it up and wrapping her jacket over it as she pulled it closer.
Its squeals changed to a soft murmur and its breathing slowed considerably.
Misty felt a motherly protection of this strange little fur ball and decided it would be best for it to head home with her.
Misty got the little beastie home, found an empty box filling it with an old t-shirt and put down the now sleeping one eyed fur ball with a beak.
“I’ll call you Max.”
Max slept soundly occasionally letting out what closely resembled a burp. While he slept Misty searched on the internet for what kind of creature he was. She had stumbled on a weird site of ancient folklore creatures when she found a drawing that closely resembled the little guy. He was called a winter knuck. The page had average weight, fur color, and said little else except that they were believed to be from the North Pole and pets of Saint Nicks elves.
“Is that what you are? What are you doing down here little knuck?”
Misty checked on the little guy one more time and turned in for the night.
Bang! Something loud and from the kitchen. Misty woke quickly, then CRASH! That was a dish breaking for sure. Misty grabbed the bat she kept behind her closet door for just such occasions. She crept out of her bedroom and down the hall towards the kitchen. The only light coming from the room looked to be from the refrigerator. Shadows bounced in the light as another dish crashed. Misty came around the corner fast, the bat high above her head, and stopped short from swinging. Standing on the kitchen counter another plate in his beak, sat Max. His one eye stared at Misty for a few seconds then he dropped the plate with a crash and hopped over to her. She caught him in one hand and lowered the bat.
“What a mess you’ve made. Going to have to figure out what to do with you while I’m working tomorrow. “ Max just let out another purr.
Christmas Eve at the store was busy but was filled more with husbands buying emergency gifts than customers sampling the products so it was an easy day for Misty and she checked her watch often to make sure the clock was getting closer to close. Her boss, feeling sorry for her, invited her to his family’s house for Christmas dinner, but Misty said no. He wasn’t the only one to ever do so. Last year her coworker wanted her to go to a ski resort with her. But Misty had grown used to being alone on Christmas and did not want to impose on anyone else. She usually regretted the decision a few hours into her sitcom marathon each Christmas day but it had become tradition. And Christmas is a day for enduring traditions even those self-inflicted ones.
She drove home through a snow that grew thicker with each mile. As soon as she opened her apartment door she heard Max squealing in her homemade cage. He jumped right up into her as she let him out and to her surprise she was glad for the comfort of the little creature. Later that evening Max would fall asleep next to her watching bad infomercials on the TV.
The sun peered through her window waking Misty. Max stood on the couch next to her blinking his one eye at her repeatedly.
“Good morning Max. Merry Christmas.” Misty swung her leg over and got to a sitting position just as the doorbell rang. Max let out an excited squeal and hopped down from the couch towards the door.
“Who in the world could be here on Christmas?” Misty made her way to the door still wiping the sleep from her eyes. She opened it slowly.
“Hello Baby Girl” called the voice from the other side. He was thinner than the last time she saw him and had more grey hair, but she nearly toppled him as she jumped into a hug.
“Dad! Your home.”
“Yeah, I got a few days. Merry Christmas. Hope this isn’t an inconvenience.”
Misty just hugged him tightly and led him inside.
“Can I get you coffee?” She started for the kitchen, but then stopped remembering Max. She turned and realized he must have went out the door.
“One second Dad, I’ll be right back.”
When Misty stepped outside, she saw Max hopping away towards a tall oak tree in the far corner of the yard. Misty called him just as he reached it. “Max”
He turned and looked at her, then back to the tree. A plump arm adorned in a red sleeve with white fur around the wrists reached from behind the tree. Max hopped into the extended white glove who picked him up and went back behind the tree. Misty ran out to the tree but when she arrived Max and the mystery arms owner were nowhere to be seen. She looked around the tree twice when her dad called from the porch,
“Everything okay Misty?” She took one last look before smiling at her dad, shaking her head in disbelief and heading in.
“Goodbye Max, I guess. Merry Christmas.”
As she shut the door to her house to spend Christmas with her father for the first time in years, the wind carried a faint echo, and it sounded like Ho. Ho. Ho.