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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Lights (10/30/08)

TITLE: Marie's Christmas Cookies
By Sara Harricharan
11/05/08


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Coldness seeped through every fiber of the apartment complex. Here, every door was battered and busted. Most windows were broken and heat was a winter necessity folk wished for.

Marie rolled out of bed, taking care to smooth her sheets and plump her pillow. The wind from the hallway was colder than the bedroom. But there was no heat today. Marie shuffled toward the kitchen, fumbling with the fabric belt of her ragged bathroom, a faded peony pink. Her fingers shook as she tried and failed, twice, to properly tie the knot. Her toes curled in the battered bedroom slippers, making it a little harder to shuffle.

A long, low sigh echoed through the tiny apartment as she hovered in the doorway of the kitchen. The icy wind blew through the patched hole in the window, accompanied by a few stray leaves and snowflakes. “Pesky leaves.” She murmured, wrinkling her nose at them.

Tiny snowdrifts were visible around the kitchen sink. Marie tugged her robe tighter around her shoulders as she inched towards the junk drawer. It was mostly filled with scraps of paper, wire-ties, tiny pencils and bent nails. She rummaged through the mess, shivering. Her fingers closed around the almost-finished roll of duck tape, she drew it out, heading for the sink.

There, she found a knife and cut a few strips to patch the torn plastic. The loud flapping was a tad distracting, but it would have to do. The old kitchen towel was used to brush the unwanted snowflakes into the sink. When finished, Marie felt in the pocket of her bathrobe, fishing out a box of matches. She lit the stove burners after three tries and stood, warming her fingers over the glow.

A smile touched her lips, it was Christmas Eve. “Some holiday baking ought to warm the soul.” She mumbled, stepping out by the sofa to plug in the old string of Christmas lights. The colorful spots of light added a cheerful atmosphere to the room as she turned back to the kitchen.

Her joints seemed to creak in synchronization as she bent to retrieve mixing bowls, a spatula and bent measuring cups. From her half-empty cupboards, the ingredients for Christmas cookies were found and arranged in a neat row. The last egg in the refrigerator was put in a pot with water to boil for breakfast, as she began her holiday baking preparations.

Careful hands wiped down the tiny counter, trembling in the chilly air. Hints of warmth slowly curled through the air, her hands steadied as she began to hum a Christmas carol. She worked in rhythm, forming the dough then rolling it out for the cookie cutters.

The oven temperature was set and the baking pans were greased. The humming grew louder as she cut out the shapes and pressed a heart stamp on every cookie. Gentle, expert fingers transferred the cookies to the baking sheets and filled the heart-shaped indents with a bit of homemade jam.

She cleaned the kitchen as the cookies baked and ate her solitary boiled egg. When the timer rang, she set the pans of cookies on the counter, smiling at her handiwork. When they’d cooled for a half-minute, she counted them into little paper bags. Two bags, she left on the counter, the rest she gathered in her arms.

In her old pink bathrobe and matching bedroom slippers, she crept out the front door and into the hallway. With a schoolgirl giggle of delight, she tip-toed to each apartment door, pausing to leave a sack of cookies behind. A tear spilled down one cheek as she whispered a blessing over each one. “Merry Christmas. God bless.”

When this task was done, she silently returned to her own home. By the dimming string of Christmas lights, Marie curled up on her rickety sofa and cradled the two sacks of cookies in her hands.

“This one’s for you Mark.” She told the empty apartment. “So nice of you to come visit your old mum. And this one’s for you, Stacy. You ought to come visit your mum more often. She misses you. Merry Christmas and God bless.”

More tears streamed down her face, her eyes squeezed shut. In the silence of Christmas Eve, the small string of colored lights flickered out. A breath of winter blew past, ruffling the plastic patches on the windows. A heavy stillness hung over the room, deepening as her breath slowed to a whisper.

And then she died.

Copyright 2008


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This article has been read 758 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mary Alice Bowles11/07/08
Good writing but it is really too sad.
If I were you, I would leave off the last sentence, "And then she died".
I would have her float toward heaven to spend Christmas with the King of Kings.
Laury Hubrich 11/08/08
Oh my. That was rather an abrupt ending. Very good writing. I really got to like Marie and felt compassion for her. Why'd you make her die? Oh my:(
Carole Robishaw 11/10/08
It was such a good story, I liked your MC, but I have to agree, it was a little abrupt to end like that. I can see her being ready to "go home" but maybe a gnetler way to say it would have worked better.
Sharlyn Guthrie11/10/08
I enjoyed so many of your descriptions and word pictures, but had a difficult time knowing what to feel for the woman without knowing more. I was left with a haunting feeling.
Pamela Kliewer11/10/08
I like this too, but have the same feelings as the others... it left me feeling a bit empty. It is very well written and you have great descriptions, while reading though, I felt it would have fit better in the Christmas Baking/Cooking topic - just IMO, though.
Scott Sheets11/10/08
It truly is a sad tale. I enjoyed here spry act of giving and the vivid descriptions you used. Ending it with "And then she died," seemed a little blunt. Having her breathing slow to silence may have been more effective. Just some thoughts. Good reminder however, of the frailty of life and those who are alone during the holidays.
Celeste Ammirata11/10/08
This story is well written. I love how she baked the cookies and gave most of them away. I didn't understand where Mark and Stacey are...in heaven, or just away? The ending was sad. Did she die because her last deed (baking and giving away cookies) was done? All in all, I enjoyed this. Nicely done!
Beth LaBuff 11/10/08
I could feel the chill in her apartment with your vivid descriptions. Great work!
Leah Nichols 11/11/08
This kind of leaves me with a feeling of emptiness as the reader....so few details as to her life and why it ends so sadly. Unique approach....very descriptive language.
Joanne Sher 11/11/08
Amazingly descriptive and visual piece (as usual!), Sara. That ending just came SO suddenly.
Marijo Phelps11/11/08
You took us there - and left us wanting a sequel or two - sometimes 750 just isn't enough words, is it? I think in the 2nd paragraph you mean to say bathrobe (fabric belt of her ragged bathroom). Would like other sotries from her kids POV. And one about her going to be with the Lord. Good thing to leave us wanting more!
George Parler 11/12/08
I love the concept of this story. I agree with another comment that this story is a victim of the 750 word cap. Some stories cannot be fully expressed within that limitation. I hope you do something with this story as a regular article. Filling in the blanks of what brought her to this end will draw the reader so much deeper. Good job.
Shirley McClay 11/12/08
Ok.. I am going to be different here. I liked the last sentence. I felt it with you.... to me..as I read.. that last sentence put just the right strength at the end.I don't know.. it read perfect to me. Its supposed to leave you feeling the unsettledness I think.

(BTW.. its duct tape actually)
T. F. Chezum11/12/08
Very well written and descriptive. Shirley already caught the "duct tape" - but this is a great story.
Gregory Kane11/24/08
I also enjoyed this wonderful story of loneliness and abandonment. The paragraphs crawled by ever so methodically, ever so slowly, just like the old woman. And the ending - well maybe a different turn of phrase might have been more poetic - but I liked the suddeness of it all. Well done.