A First Christmas (a Christmas short story)

Today’s Christmas story:

“Mmmm.” My eyes slowly opened. I could smell the bacon on the stove. I glanced over the side of the bunk. Stevie’s mattress was empty and his sheets in a tangled clump. I slowly lowered myself to the floor and yipped as my bare feet touched cold hardwood before I could find my slippers.

Landon still lay in his bed, half on his back and half on his side. His arm hung off the bed and his long, greasy hair covered his face. I grabbed Stevie’s pillow and threw it at my oldest brother. Landon grunted and stirred.

“What?” he mumbled.

“Come on! It’s Christmas! Dad’s cooking bacon and there are presents to open!”

Landon rolled away from me, not sharing my enthusiasm.

I ran to the kitchen. Stevie was already sitting at the table poking his fork into red and green pancakes.

“Good morning, Mark,” mom said and kissed my head. Dad slid a plate of three pancakes and a side of bacon onto the table.

My eyes grew big. “Looks delicious!” They tasted as good as they looked.

Stevie and I were done eating by the time Landon stumbled in scratching his neck. He yawned, stretched, and grabbed a pancake without sitting down. “Don’t we got presents or something?” he asked, crumbs falling from his lips. He glanced at me with a grin and a wink.

Mom clapped her hands together. “Yes, now that you’re all awake! Come, come!”

We moved to the living room and my brothers and I crammed around the tree. Stevie and I scuffled and scurried, trying to figure out which ones belonged to us.

“Boys,” dad said sternly as he sat in the recliner. “Calm yourselves. Landon, why don’t you pass out the presents this year?”

Landon shrugged. “Whatever.” Stevie and I sat back as Landon sorted through the wrapped treasures and stacked piles in front of us.

“On three,” mom said. “One… two…”

She didn’t make it to three before Stevie and I tore paper and sent it flying through the air. My first present was round and heavy. With the paper gone, I stared at a giant can of cut green beans.

Landon must have noticed the tears starting to well in my eyes. He leaned close and whispered, “Hey, buddy, remember you have to pretend to like it. That way they won’t realize that we know.”

I nodded, forced a smile, and glanced at mom and dad. “Thank you. It’s just what I wanted!”

The next Christmas was better. That first one was rough. That’s life, though, when your parents’ bodies get taken over by alien brain slugs.

©2020 Michael Bergman

Image by: unsplash.com/@hi_i_am_steph

Giving and Forgiving (A Christmas Short Story)

Here’s today’s Christmas short story. I hope you enjoy!

“Watcha have?”

I glanced at the shelves behind the bartender. “You got any eggnog?”

The tall lady raised an eyebrow.

I sighed and rubbed my face. “Just a Coke, please.”

She grinned and grabbed a glass as an older, grizzled man sat beside me. “You look festive,” he said while he pointed at me and held up two fingers. The bartender returned with two Cokes.

“I don’t feel festive.”

“The name’s Tim. What’s yours?”

I didn’t feel in the mood for smalltalk, either, but I sensed that Tim wasn’t going to leave me alone. I, however, didn’t want to explain the uniqueness of my name (Aloysius Frankincense Robbins), so I just said, “Al.”

“Good to meet you, Al.”

“Same to you.” I took a sip and nearly spat as the fizz burned my throat. It was the strangest sensation I had felt. No wonder the old man banned carbonated beverages. Yet, I also kind of liked it.

“Why so dour, especially this close to Christmas?”

I glanced at the man. “You really want to know?”

“I’m told I’m a good listener.” Tim smiled.

“I quit my job,” I said with a sad chuckle. “It was stupid, too. I was good at what I did, the best even, and the benefits were great.”

“What happened?”

“Sometimes the monotony gets to me,” I answered. “I wash tights. Every day–red, green, white, sparkly, tights, tights, tights, thousands of tights. It gets old but it also gives me time to think. It’s just that me and my girlfriend had an argument and it gave me too much time to think, I guess. So, I started throwing tights all over the place, screaming how much I hated everything. I didn’t mean it but others were staring at me, including the boss, and I stormed out and told them where they could shove the tights.”

“That’s not good.”

“No.” I sighed. “I didn’t really hate my job. I was even offered a move to the toy line a few years ago but I turned it down, even though it’s supposed to be every el… er… person’s dream.”

“Would you go back, if you could?”

My eyes lit up. “Absolutely!”

The grizzled man smiled. “Well, Aloysius, why don’t you?”

I scrunched my face. “How do you know my name?”

The man began to laugh. His laugh echoed louder as he tossed back his head and placed his hands on his bulging belly. His beard grew longer and lights swirled around him. The tattered clothes he wore morphed into a red and white suit. “Ha ha ha! Ho ho ho!” His laugh became his famous bellow.

“Santa!” I exclaimed.

He winked. “We’ve missed you, Aloysius. It’s only been three days, I know, but the elves trying to replace you don’t have a clue what they’re doing. It takes a special person to handle delicate laundry. Merrywinkle has even shrunk three pairs of Mrs. Klaus’ unmentionables. I don’t think I’ll ever hear the end of that. We need you.”

“You really want me back?” I couldn’t believe it.

“Of course! Christmas is about giving and forgiving, as the Good Lord taught us. So, what do you say? Donner and Blitzen are waiting out back with the sleigh.”

I smiled. “Can I finish my Coke first?”

©2020 Michael Bergman

Image by: unsplash.com/@polarmermaid

The Fourth Wise Man (a Christmas flash fiction)

Ever here the story of the fourth wise man? I thought not…

The four men sat, warming themselves at the fire. Melchior eyed the others. “This is a fine work we do, honoring the stately King of kings.”

Gaspar nodded in agreement. “This is why I have brought gold.”

“And I frankincense,” Balthasar added. “From the finest spices in all the East!”

“Remind us, King Duncan, what is it that you brought?” Gaspar said to the fourth man.

Duncan grinned with the happiest of grins. “Clothespins!”

“Clothespins?”

“Yes, the child may be King, but he is still a baby. There will be plenty of diapers and laundry.”

The other kings laughed while Duncan continued to grin.

Sadly, though, as practical a gift as Duncan’s may have been, the common nature of it left the fourth king lost to most of history and forgotten in the words of the song.

©2020 Michael Bergman

/End Story

Hope you enjoyed! 🙂

Image cred: https://unsplash.com/@rthiemann

A Christmas Flash Fiction

Image https://unsplash.com/photos/h3wtp_1cW4g

The set up: Santa arrives home after a long night delivering presents.

“I’m getting too old for this, Mary,” the portly man said as he pulled off his boots.

The kindly woman smiled and continued to knit as her husband collapsed into his favorite chair. “Nonsense, you don’t act a day over five-hundred!”

“My bones say otherwise.”

“It’s always been a long, hard day for you, Kristofer, even when you were young.”

“I know, I know. But even creatures of magic don’t live forever. I’m afraid I’m hastening my end with the extra work year after year.” The old man sighed. “Maybe I should use the machine. It doubled the elf population in ten minutes and productivity went through the roof!”

The old woman raised her brows, still knitting, “Yes, but when you tried it on the reindeer, three Rudolphs and two Blitzens exploded.”

“That’s true. Timmins thinks he fixed the problem, though.”

“Still, Kristofer, you don’t know what it might do, especially with your magic.”

“Hmm. Fine, I’ll ask Timmins to do more research but don’t you think the world would be better off with more Santa Clauses?”

Mary reached and patted her husband’s knee. “I’m happy with the one I’ve got.”

A mug of hot cocoa sat on the end table. Kristofer smiled and laughed his famous belly laugh as he lifted the cup to his lips. “Thank you, dear. You’re always so good to me.”

“Oh, the other Mary made that. She’s working on your laundry as we speak.”

/End Story

Hope you enjoyed! 🙂

The Secret Baker (introducing my kid’s book)

In our three years of being foster parents, my wife and I have had several children in the 8-10 year old age range. My wife suggested, with those experiences, to write a book aimed at kids that age. She even had an idea: Write a story about a boy who is good at video games and discovers that he likes to bake and is good at it. He tries to keep it a secret but his friends catch him looking up recipes at school.

Part of her motivation in that idea was you can find books out there about girls baking but it’s a little more difficult to find a book about a boy who bakes. In our home, both my wife and I love to bake and some of our foster kids, including boys, have gotten in on the baking as well.

Thus, The Secret Baker was born. The story does not go quite the way she envisioned, though it does involve a boy who learns he’s good at baking and tries to hide it from his friends. Without giving away all that happens, in the end, the story is about embracing what you’re good at and what you love, and getting past the fear of what other people think.

Second to this, The Secret Baker also touches on topics such as foster care and bullying.

I wrote the book for upper-elementary kids. You can check out a free PDF sample of Chapter One here: Mom and the Bakers.

The book is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats: The Secret Baker.

Here is the book’s description from Amazon:

Ten-year-old Callum doesn’t think he’s good at much. That’s about to change…

Meet Callum Martindale. He’s the son of the high school baseball coach in a family known for athletic ability. If you ask him, though, Callum will tell you that he’s “as athletic as a sloth.” Besides playing video games and doing mazes, Callum isn’t sure what he’s good at. That is until one day when he’s stays at home sick and binge watches a baking competition with his mom. Callum then discovers a love and ability for something he’d least expect…

The Secret Baker © 2020, Michael Bergman

The inspiration behind “The Weatherman” (of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 10 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

Everyone likes to complain about weather forecasts. I’m a bit of an insider when it comes to weather. I’ve never worked in the business, but my undergrad degree was in meteorology, so I know more than the average person about atmospheric science. What makes the weather so hard to predict is how complex the atmosphere is and how many influences impact the daily weather in any given place.

So, I empathize with the meteorologists who struggle to produce accurate forecasts. In reality, though, some are much better than others.

The Weatherman was an idea inspired by my wife. Without giving too much away, the story is about a TV meteorologist who is terrible at his job, quits trying, and suddenly becomes good. Personally, I think this story is simply a fun read. Yet within, there is also a kernel about self-discovery and embracing one’s true identity.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“The Weatherman” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “The Weatherman”

“I hate him,” I said, perhaps too loud.

“Mommy says not to hate.”

I thought my son was asleep. I sat on the couch in a t-shirt, boxers, and tube socks, like I had most of the day. Aaron was curled up beside me. He wore his Spider-Man pajamas but he, at least, had dressed to go out when Anna left for work and took him to daycare.

“I can watch him,” I had told her the day after I had been fired. She smirked and chuckled.

I rubbed Aaron’s back. “Mommy’s right. Daddy shouldn’t have said hate.” Except, I meant it. I loathed everything about John Manning, Channel 9’s evening weatherman. His perfect hair and its business part. His gleaming smile. His charming personality. His dimples. I hated it all.

Because he was me. I had been Channel 9’s evening weatherman until the prior week.

Ken Martin called me into his office. Carley Jackson flanked him on the right and Steph Whitehead on the left. “Tom, we’re sorry,” Ken said after a minute of small talk, “but we’re letting you go.”

“What? Why?”

“Well…”

“You’re terrible at your job,” Carley interjected.

The inspiration behind “A Grandfather’s Yarn” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 9 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

A Grandfather’s Yarn is, perhaps, the shortest story in this collection. I wrote it as a submission to a science fiction contest a few years ago. It has two inspirations: First, was a trip a friend and I took to Arches National Park a decade ago. It was a beautiful scene and I tried to capture that with my words. Second, is the old notion that grandfathers like to spin stories with embellished facts–like the “walk uphill both ways in the snow” idea.

I combined these two inspirations and added a twist. Maybe aliens are real or maybe grandpa just likes to talk…

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“A Grandfather’s Yarn” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “A Grandfather’s Yarn”

I sat on the porch in my chair with my three grandchildren at my feet. Peter and Lucy were eight-year-old twins, and Michael was four. Peter giggled as he listened to my story.

“Grandpa, everyone knows that aliens aren’t real!”

I smiled. “Just wait, one day you’ll meet them, too.” The night had grown dark and the full moon hung high in the sky. “Now go wash and get ready for bed.” I loved it when my grandchildren visited and they loved staying up well past their bedtime, even if they didn’t always believe my stories.

The inspiration behind “Space Dinosaurs” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 8 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

In my one-year-old son’s room there hangs on the wall behind his closet door a banner to measure height and growth. My wife and I went with a dinosaur theme for his room, so in keeping with that theme, the banner has blue and green dinosaurs, a t-rex and brontosaurus, dancing and smiling. In between are the words Little but Loud.

Change the brontosaurs to a triceratops and you’ll notice a matching banner in this story.

In the mornings or after naps, H will walk to the edge of his crib, smile, and start waving at his banner. It’s just like one of the characters in this story. Who knows what goes on in the mind of a one-year-old, but I thought it would be fun to write a short story to give a reason behind the why? of smiling and waving at that banner.

And, so, “Space Dinosaurs” was born.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“Space Dinosaurs” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Space Dinosaurs”

Lydia’s blue eyes narrowed before they rolled. “Not this again.”

“Come on…”

“No, Steven. The theme is space and astronauts, not dinosaurs.”

“Just pretend they’re space dinosaurs.”

She glanced down and rubbed her belly. Our son, Issak, was due in two weeks. “What are we going to do with your daddy?”

I laughed. Then I held the banner against the wall. “How about over here by the closet door. When the door is open, you won’t even see it. Please?” I saw her look. I knew I was pushing it. “It was on my wall as a kid. It meant a lot to me.”

“Why? I mean, it’s cute, but why is it so important?”

The inspiration behind “The Perfect Man” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 7 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

“The Perfect Man” is the first story in the science fiction section of my book. It is a story about love, with a twist. It’s hard to dive too much into the inspiration of the story, because that would give away the twist.

I do, however, owe the story to my wife. A few years ago, I was suffering a case of writer’s block and I told her that I wasn’t sure what to write about. She thought for a moment and replied, “You should write a story about…”, and then four hours later, the first draft of The Perfect Man was finished.

I also submitted this story to Writer’s Digest annual writing competition. It took home an honorable mention. And, yes, they sent out the image below to use for “bragging rights.”

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“The Perfect Man” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “The Perfect Man”

Hearing their voices urging her on, she filled out a profile for an online dating site, entered her credit card information, and clicked Match Me!

And then she went to bed.

The next morning, Tamara found herself matched with ten guys. She immediately got rid of three who had no pictures. Four more seemed only interested in showing off muscles and cars. “Grow up,” she murmured as she closed them as well. Another guy looked cute, but was three years older than her and still lived with his mom. Another claimed to be some sort of wizard supreme from a parallel realm, whatever that meant. The last guy seemed normal and sweet, but he was an inch shorter than her and she just couldn’t see that working.

After the failure, she went about her day and woke with anticipation the next morning, much to the same results. Finally, on day four, she came across the profile of a man named Chad. He was thirty-two, never married, and an accountant with a legitimate firm. He had no pictures of himself flexing, none with his car, and none that appeared to have ex-girlfriends cropped out. He liked reading and hiking, and he owned a single cat—a British shorthair named Milo.

Best of all, she had a message waiting from him.

The inspiration behind “Trail Blazing” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 6 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

“Trail Blazing” is the final story in the life, love, and loss section of my book. It is a story about growing up and leaving behind childhood loves for new grownup loves. It is the adventure of two brothers and a cousin as they spend a week hiking along the Current River in southern Missouri.

One inspiration was growing up canoeing the Current River. Almost half the summers of my life have time spent on that river. Another inspiration is reflecting back on my own experiences of how life changes as you age.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“Trail Blazing” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Trail Blazing”

On that first trip Xander took with us, Parker was still out cold well after Xander and I woke. My brother sat beside me with a mischievous grin as we munched on granola and dry cereal. Then he told me his plan for a practical joke that involved a hatchet, duct tape, and the words last one up.

Now, as we waited for my brother to emerge, my and Parker’s laughter turned into solemn stillness. Without saying a word, we both knew what weighed on each other’s minds. He and I had just finished college, Xander would soon be a high school senior, and I was engaged to be married at the end of summer.

“I think I’m going to take the job in Virginia.” Parker broke the silence.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”