Kelly Shew and I are participating in Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge again this week. Chuck surprised everyone by announcing a fast one. He gave participants a day to produce a story based on the phrase “Christmas in a strange place.” Just like last week, I’m close to the 1000 word limit.
Jimbo thought it was a brown plastic bag. It blew across the median of the highway and into Jimbo’s peripheral vision. When it blew onto his side of the highway and right in front of his car, Jimbo realized it wasn’t a bag. It was a person. A little skinny person, but smaller than any person could ever be. It looked like the wooden mannequins that artists use, and it was moving fast.
Jimbo slammed on his brakes. It wasn’t the best thing to do. His car slewed sideways on the icy road. Jimbo’s hands jittered on the steering wheel as the car’s wheels caught on the rough pavement of the shoulder. The car rolled to a stop, but Jimbo’s hands kept jittering for a long time.
Jimbo couldn’t leave it in the ditch. He just couldn’t. Whatever it was, it was alive. And it looked human. Jimbo laid it carefully on his passenger seat and resumed his treacherous drive. The little man quietly opened one eye, but Jimbo didn’t notice.
“What the hell is it, Jimbo?” Mom’s fourth husband was a blunt old fart.
“It’s a man. It’s a little man, Sam.” Mom eased in front of Sam to get a better look.
“He ran right out in front of my car. I don’t think I hit him, but he won’t wake up. Maybe I should take him to a hospital.” Jimbo looked down at the little man on the sofa. The little man was brown all over. His skin, his hair, his clothes.
“Careless,” Sam offered. “You’ve always been a careless driver.”
“Fuck you, old man.” Jimbo had never liked Sam.
Mom drew back to blister Jimbo’s hide with her tongue, but the little man interrupted her. He laughed. It sounded like twigs cracking, but it was a laugh. His brown eyes popped open and he gave them a grin with his yellow pine colored teeth.
“Hungry,” he rasped.
Dinner was a quiet affair. Sam and Mom were mad at Jimbo. Jimbo was mad at Sam. The little man was eating them out of house and home, and he hadn’t said a word since the one word he’d spoken. He sat on a pile of phone books and ate, mainly not using the correct utensil for the particular food item he was devouring.
Sam didn’t like how much food was disappearing. The warm glow of his disgust gradually stopped burning holes in Jimbo and started heating the air around the little man. Sam glared without result for a while. He finally got proactive and tried to spear a slice of ham back from the little man’s plate. The little man immediately slammed the bowl of his spoon into the back of Sam’s hand.
“You little shit,” Sam howled, jerking back his spooned hand.
The little man hissed at Sam, slowly moving the spoon back and forth, menacing Sam with it like he had a knife instead of the least dangerous eating utensil. He climbed down from the phone books and out of his chair, never taking his eyes off of Sam until he got to the doorway. Then he turned and darted into the living room.
“Where is he going, Jimbo?” The visitor was starting to worry Mom. Christmas was Christmas, but this mysterious guest wasn’t turning out to be an angel in disguise. Jimbo shook his head at his mother and got up from the table to follow the little man.
Mom’s Christmas tree was a ratty old artificial affair, mainly decorated with ornaments that Jimbo had made when he was a kid. It looked terrible, and it embarrassed Jimbo. It embarrassed Jimbo when he saw other Christmas trees and just THOUGHT about his family’s tree. It must have inspired a similar feeling in the little man because he had his toothpick of a pecker out. He was peeing on the tree, swinging his hips left and then right like he was putting out a fire.
“My tree!” You’d think the White House Christmas tree was being pissed on, the way Mom wailed.
“The presents!” Sam knew what was important.
Jimbo stepped forward, not knowing what to do. How did you make someone stop pissing on your Christmas tree? But the little man stopped on his own. He’d noticed the smallest member of the family.
Boo Boo spent most of his time sleeping on the rug in front of the fireplace. The rat terrier was well into his twilight years. He’d never been good with strangers. He certainly wasn’t good when the little brown stranger leapt onto his back and started frantically humping. The family froze in horror as the dog screeched and tried to keep his nub of a tail capped over his little asshole.
“Beautiful daughter,” the little man grunted at Mom. “I marry her after.”
“That’s a dog. That’s a BOY dog,” Jimbo said, feeling as stupid as he’d ever felt.
“Here now, that’s enough.” Sam decided to take over as man of the house. He stepped forward and, after a moment’s hesitation, grabbed the little man by his shoulders.
The little man, already less a fan of Sam than Jimbo was, turned on Sam like a cat, clawing and biting and scrambling up Sam’s legs to get high enough to kick at Sam’s nuts. Mom wailed and rushed to save her husband. Jimbo sighed and rushed to save his mother. Boo Boo crawled under the sofa, only interested in saving his own virtue.
There was blood and something like sap all over everybody when the front door blew open. The battle stopped cold.
A new miniature man stood in the doorway. He was fat, though. Way fatter than the dog molesting, tree peeing little man. And he was all red.
“Hermie, damnit. Get out here.”
He turned to the family as the little brown man obediently slunk past him.
“Every year he does it. Every year jumping off the sleigh and ending up somewhere strange for Christmas.”