A Collection of Winter Short Stories!

Maddie Miles, Gabby Martis, and Kathryn Artis

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Take It or Leave It

By: Maddie Miles

 

Free falling were the flakes of winter onto the freezing, dead ground. The shining moon gleamed but blazed, victim behind the dark, encompassing clouds. The harsh wind’s screams fought against the struggling branches on the leafless trees. Vacant was the silent streets, not a person, not a word. Except for one. On the corner of the street sat shaking was a figure; a woman. Beside her was nothing but a small bag containing little and hardly any food. She had been unemployed for much time with no one there to help and no hope. Day after day she sat, begging, starving, and wishing that life was better than it was.

Light shown in the heavens above. Candle after candle lighting every window, every home. Her hand clasped the open, cold air as if somehow the heat, the food, even the family could be hers. Yet, all the woman had was a blanket, holes in her gloves, and tattered boots on her feet. Nothing but a couple quarters and a dime rattled in her pocket. The generosities of all was stretched thin especially to her. Charities was where the money went, but not to the people who really need it. “How could my life be like this?” She always said to herself. Life was hard, but to have no one with her made it that much worse.

It was Christmas night and all was quiet, not a soul in the street except for the woman’s. But as the flakes of winter trickled down the beating of boots against the compressing snow could be faintly heard. The silhouette of a man emerged, his features still discreet under the dark sky. Only the moon’s rays breaking free from the clouds gave way to who he was.

“Miss,” the man started, “it is Christmas night and you are here all alone. May I get you any food or donate any money?”

“No,” the woman replied foully. “No, hardly does any soul help me. I have long since given up on the generosity of men. You think that this is kindness? It is nothing more than pity.”

“It’s only a contribution.” The man said in astonishment. “A selfless one, for it is the time of giving.”

“There should never be a single time of giving.” The woman said in disgust. “And there is no such thing as a selfless contribution. It is sad you know. People do this every year. They give money as a way of reassuring themselves that they can be selfless, that they can do good deeds. Funny how that’s never true. You are trying to give me something to eat as a way of telling yourself that you are a good person. And yet, you never choose to go out of your way during any other part of the year. Hundreds, even thousands, of people like me, suffer every day because people like you will never give others a chance.”

The man contemplated on whether or not to stay. This woman, and though she had a point, was wasting his time. If she wasn’t willing to use his money than so be it. But on the other hand…

“Look maybe there are people out there who don’t go out of their way to help those like you, and maybe people do this to feel better about themselves, but the point is we contribute. Isn’t that enough?” The man’s voice was almost pleading.”Why couldn’t she understand?,” was all he thought.

“You don’t know what it’s like,” her voice was almost a whisper. “Every day that I am in this situation, I have to rely on others. Can you imagine how hard it is when you only get something real once a year? Can you imagine how frustrating it is when people are only willing to contribute now, and because it’s this time of year? I’m thankful that people like you have the compassion to contribute, but it is not enough.”

“I am sorry,” the man said, his voice as faint as hers. “I never realized.”

“That’s because no one ever does.”

The clock rung eight, and the man had places to go and people to see. He told the woman and leaned in to shake her hand. She was reluctant at first but was willing to do so. His large gloved hands covered hers, as they said their farewells. Slowly, his silhouette disappeared into the darkness and midnight returned once again.

All was silent again and the woman returned to world of the whispering winds and falling snow. But from her cupped, laying in the glove, was an object that had not been there before. Folded so its smallest, was a bill, and on it was a number: one hundred. A thin smile appeared on her face as a realization came to mind.

“Not out of guilt,” she whispered “out of kindness.”

 

Skating for Two

By: Gabby Martis

Flakes of snow individually being ripped away from the ice as blades of steel attack it. Couples holding hands as they are protected with their warmth of love from the icy cold reality of loneliness. Each one balancing the other, a challenging art of equilibrium that is easily mastered with someone else. There I stand bundled in clothes to fill the warmth I never had, trying to balance on the cold ground that I call my reality.

This season, this year a new perspective has been laid upon me. Unlike the ones around me, focusing on themselves and the holiday spirit. I bear a child within me, without a choice to come into this world of brutal truth. Dare I say, I didn’t understand the reality of giving myself to another would be ridiculed by others and myself. The hasty decision I made that late spring will cast over me for the rest of my life. People my age, they worry about getting into college or their SAT’s being high enough. The thoughts going through my mind are if I will ever master the diaper change or if I am eating enough for two. I wish I wouldn’t have to take care of her by myself, but I’m glad she doesn’t have to bear any loose ends in her life.

The news of my pregnancy became a household gossip, each one with different false stories of how it happened. My story was never mine, it was my towns and the mission to succeed without the gossip following me forever became less and less conceivable. My aunt gave me the idea of working here, at a highway exit ice skating arena. I started online school to get away, hiding from something that was an everlasting physical mark of my past and future.

I would peacefully watch from the highest point of my town; the teens and children skipping from store to store dreaming of the gifts they would receive. I knew my adolescents had expired and to even imagine doing the same as those teens was unimaginable.

Now, after carrying her for eight months, all that gossip and ridicule meant nothing. I stand here with the snow wrapped around me; cold filling my system. My childhood is gone; I can’t do the things I originally loved to do. Years of opening presents with the latest toys and treats are gone in a flash. I am no longer having to only care for myself; my child is what matters. I may not be old in age, but I’ve come to be mature from my past. The ice skaters was my planned future, ending up with someone safe and consoling. We would hold each for balance and comfort, only us in our world. But that never was my reality, I am walking on ice with no guidance. My body fighting with itself for its old freedom as I protect myself from the fear of falling. I care too much for her to feel lost on this ice; I am her rock and her balance through her difficult times. Nothing matters anymore but her; my mission is to protect her from the icy cold we all dread.

I give myself enough strength to stand up and take steps into the icy arena. I will be ready to guide her each slippery step of the way. Because she is my partner in equilibrium, and we will learn to master it together.

 

Worlds Away

By: Kathryn Artis

Surfaces glistened and shimmered in the evening’s fading sun, a reflection of yet another day gone passed.  Off in the distance the sounds of cold waves frothing along a frozen shore echoed among the stone buildings and were heard only by the men who occupied them.  The noise was a constant reminder to everyone of the quiet, the peace for the time being. Inside one of the sturdy homes rested three of the fifteen men occupying the town.  They surrounded a small wooden table, warm and freshly pressed coffee melting the cold from deep within their bones.  Their thick and heavy trench coats were spread precariously across the backs of the wooden chairs they occupied and their neatly clipped heads were bereft of their usual attire. They talked in hushed yet boisterous tones, eager to keep the peace while still retaining some amount of normalcy.

Frank, a twenty two year old with the build of an skilled linebacker, threw his head back in quiet laughter at Bill, who had made one of his usual run-of-the-mill ‘Bill’ jokes pertaining to Roberto’s lack of facial hair.

“Piss off, will ya?” Was the only response given by the baby-faced youth.

Across the narrow way rested five more men who, instead of holding coffee, held tea within their warmed grasps.  A few doors over from them slept another three men, and then across the way from them stood four final men, their tired gazes taking turns gazing at the town from the view of an open window while they exchanged stories from their days as children.

Christmas lay right around the corner, and it would be a lie to say that the men weren’t prey to the joy and peace it brought among them.  It was going to be an eventful day, usually filled with cantankerous laughter and carefree chatter, and although things would be a bit different this Christmas, the men were sure to continue the joyous tradition.

Crack crack crack crack crack crack.

Frank jumped to his feet, throwing himself across the quaint room until he was flesh against the wall underneath a window. Bill and Roberto were quick to follow his lead, the three men each occupying the space beneath a broken window.

“Where’s my goddamn rifle?” Bill’s panic-laden voice rose over the sounds of shots being fired.

Frank, who had just stuck the barrel of his weapon through his window, spared him a quick glance.

“Up your ass, just like your head.”

With that, a volley of fire sounded from Frank’s weapon, the distant shouts and cries of unknown men thereafter taking place of the sounds produced by the nearby ocean waves. In a moment, Roberto followed Frank’s lead, releasing a spray of bullets into the open center of the small town, where foreign men demonstrated a grand display of both idiocy and bravado. Soon, all three men were focused on their fire. They had become not unlike ancient gods sending a rain of metal, determined the ultimate fate of their adversaries.

Overhead, the sounds of a Dornier Do 215 droned it’s ominous alarm. The men all ducked, covering their heads as they waited for the inevitable. Not but a few moments later, the ground shook violently beneath them, dust, dirt, and shrapnel flying through the broken windows and a now gaping hole in the cement wall. Immediately, agonizing wails sounded from within the room. Without having to even look, the men knew that Frank had been hit. He had been, after all, the closest to the destroyed wall before the explosion. Jumping into action, Roberto immediately sprang to his comrade’s side, assessing the damage that had been done. Tears immediately began to cloud his vision, the sight of his friend bleeding from every orifice and now severed from his lower half forever ingrained into his mind as he stared into panicked brown eyes.

“Frank, man, listen to me! We’re gonna be fine, alright? We’re gonna get us all outta here. You just gotta hang on tight for me alright?”

Frank seemed to be in a daze, his still wide eyes moving ceaselessly about the room. What was left of him shook violently, the pain and agony pushing his body into shock.

“Bill get over here! Help me out with him man, we gotta get to the other squad.”

Without hesitation, Bill leaped to his feet, pausing only to decipher how he was going to go about carrying the remaining bloodied half of his friend. Shaking his head, he decided on gripping the torn cloth of Frank’s pants, looking to Roberto to signal he was ready.

Once the three men had made it out into the open street, they turned to find enemy troops still adamantly firing away. As quickly as they could, they made their way across the empty street, ducking as bullets flew towards them. Both men, Bill and Roberto, released a silent sigh of relief as they managed to take cover inside the building that had been occupied by Bravo Squad. Inside, two of the squad’s soldiers spotted the newly arrived men and quickly began clearing off a nearby table in order to see to the injured man.

Another man, his rifle stuck through a hole in the window much like Frank’s had been, gave the group a glance.

“It’d be a hell of a lot easier to take care of em’ when the enemy is dead. Will one of you get your ass over here and help me?” His deep voice broke through the silence.

Bill immediately jogged over to where the man sat, grabbing a rifle off the floor and positioning himself similarly as all yet again went silent.

Three of the men – Roberto and two others named Riley and Mario – worked away to attempt to seal Frank’s wounds and stop the bleeding. All was quiet aside from the constant sound of exchanging fire, and no one dared to challenge it.

It seemed that hours had passed before the enemy troops finally began to retreat, leaving the American soldiers to assess their carnage. Five men dead, three injured, two in a state of shock, and five who were utterly worn and exhausted. All around them, the town seemed to exude the same feelings, buildings lay nothing more than rubble and soaked bullet sponges now, and piles of rocks collected hazardously around the foundations of buildings.

And yet, despite the rubble- the ruin, the pain- Christmas was right around the corner and they couldn’t help the hope that the greatest miracle of all might be bestowed on them.  Victory, and nothing more than their lives.

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