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This morning I am sharing with you a flash fiction piece on conflict. It is short and comments are indeed welcome. Does the conflict speak to you?

All Wrapped Up and No Place to Go

Tomorrow is Christmas. We’ve come a long way from a child’s excitement and anticipation for that magical morning, when beneath a magical tree wonderful surprises appeared, equally magical. Things change in ways not always understood or appreciated.

I remember one Christmas, my brother and I were decorating the tree after Dad had done his ritual setting of the lights. Precision distribution was the key, and his artistic eye and engineering mind never failed to discover the perfect distribution. There were several ornaments Dad hung himself. They were ornaments he treasured from his youth and Christmases past.

One of the ornaments was a silver owl. It always struck me as a curious ornament. It was a silver glass material molded into a rather plump owl, neither life-like, nor abstract. It was most likely more shiny than it appeared now. Perhaps the wildlife glint of silver was a joyous reflection. Every year, Dad hung these five or six ornaments himself.

That particular year it changed. Dad was standing near the tree hanging his ornaments, whistling along with Bing Crosby, when I heard a crunch. I looked up quickly and Dad was standing there holding what remained of the owl in his hand. Little fragments of glass sifted through his hand and fell to the floor.

“What happened?” I asked.

“If someone else broke that owl, I’d never forgive them.”

“You didn’t cut yourself, did you?”

He shook his head no and retreated across the room to the upright Wurlitzer, where he played Christmas Carols.

That was some time ago.

I poured a glass of Argentine Cab to mellow the memories of those times and the mystery of breaking the owl himself. I understood the explanation; the real ‘why’ remains a mystery all these years. What about that owl was special that he could not endure anyone else breaking it?

Christmas is for kids. I chastised myself for giving way to such hackneyed observations the night before Christmas, and washed my recriminations down with the Cab.

The only thing awkward about tomorrow, Christmas, was feeling inadequate about my surprise and excitement for another shirt, or sweater, or new pair of New Balance exercise shoes. It’s not that I am not appreciative; I am. There’s no mystery. There are no unanswered questions wrapped in anticipation awaiting me tomorrow. Things have changed. 

I worry about my overly sentimental mindset. So, I swill more Cab! Why not? It’s Christmas eve, and I’m enjoying a little Christmas cheer!

The next morning is warm, not the Christmases of my youth, where six inches of snow was the rule. No it was damn balmy! I anticipated a headache from too much cheer last night. Remarkably, there was none. No snow; no hangover. What the hell was this?

Magic and mystery were well under way by ten AM. Children and grandchildren – in state- had gathered. The aroma of dinner filled the room, and my wife announced the gathering call for Christmas.

“Time for Santa Claus!”

Grandkids tore into the booty of Claus, shreds of colored paper floated everywhere. Somewhere within this mountain of paper and toys were the kids!

“Check that paper for kids, before you throw it out!”

I guess it was a good line, everybody laughed and riffed on the imagery. So far so good, eh?

My son handed me a large flat package.

“Merry Christmas, Dad. From ‘Santa’.

It was far too thin to be a sweater, or New Balance. Clever wrapping job if its underwear! I gently loosened the paper, nice paper, and we recycle good-looking paper, says my wife.

Removing the paper I am struck by a large montage of photos, aesthetically arranged around various styles of lettering that read “Family.” The pictures – a central photo from a summer gathering of all of us surrounded by pictures of our kids, with spouses and kids, screams time far louder than I ever imagined. Stunned, shocked, overwhelmed – take your pick – my eyes were submerged, and try as I might no words came out.

One of my daughters-in-law said “Awwww-ah!” You know, that uniquely feminine twist of sound signifying something too precious to interrupt.

Time is an illusion! I thought of myself as still young. But here, staring me in the face was a pictorial essay on the illusion of time. My kids had kids. This may come as a surprise, but I always did think time was an illusion, something to be manipulated, like a close-up magic trick. A sleight of hand card trick to be manipulated as I saw fit.

Time changed. It’s Christmas, anticipation and surprise normally wrapped and under the tree for kids, was there for me.

I’m afraid I’ll need more Cab.

That’s how I spent Christmas, Mom. Wish you could have been here. Love you, miss you, and Merry Christmas.

Your son

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