THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
October 29, 2016
That’s what Alfred Hitchcock always said at the beginning of his television show, which aired from 1955 to 1965. It was enough to chill you to the edge of your seat. His brief introduction would be followed by a short drama presented and directed by the Master of Suspense himself.
This post appears on my blog only a few days before Halloween, 2016. It’s time to be frightened and entertained at the same time. So I humbly present a short story that I hope will give you a few shivers and/or chuckles.
In a word: BOO!
by John M. Daniel
We do this every year. It’s become a tradition in our family to get together on this special date and have a feast at midnight. When I say we’re a family, I don’t mean we’re related by blood. Well, actually we are related by blood, in a way, but it’s not a genetic thing. It’s a matter of life-style, you could say. We share a common faith, and we all have the same dietary restrictions that we must obey.
We used to call ourselves the Tiny Reindeer, when there were eight of us, but last year Vixen died of a stroke. Sun stroke. So we changed our names and now we call ourselves the Seven Dwarfs. I’m Doc.
This is the first year we’ve met at my house. I was nervous, as this was my first time to host the most important feast day in our calendar. But all has gone well so far. The Dwarfs all arrived on schedule, two nights ago, flying in from all over the country like six bats out of hell.
Last night we prepared the food for tonight’s dinner. Bashful and Sleepy went out into my garden and gathered weeds for the salad, while Grumpy cheerfully concocted her delicious dressing of vinegar, lemon juice, and Listerine, with a tablespoon of salt, a teaspoon of cayenne, and a dash of witch hazel. Dopey and Happy went out back and gathered acorns from under my old oak tree, which Sneezy boiled for three hours to brew tea. We were finished by dawn and were sleepy, as you can imagine. The main dish would arrive tonight, after dark. We had the oven pre-heating so we could serve the entrée piping hot at the stroke of midnight.
In the twilight hours, all the Dwarfs got dressed for dinner, after a good day’s sleep. I stepped out onto the front porch and lit the candle in the pumpkin. It was a fine night out: still warm from the sun, which had set; and the street was lit by a rising moon just two nights past full. I came back into the house, switched on the front porch light, and joined my six guests in the parlor. There we sat, waiting out the hours till dinnertime. We talked about what we had each been doing since we last met, and we talked some about politics and climate change, and then it occurred to Sneezy to mention that this night’s feast just wouldn’t be the same, now that Vixen was no longer with us.
“I can do without her,” Happy said. Happy and Vixen never did get along. Happy’s hard to please, if you know what I mean. He has a tendency to dislike even his best friends. And it’s true that Vixen could be a stubborn woman when her mind was made up. Still, I always say we should speak well of the dead, a line that gets a laugh whenever I use it among friends.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” Bashful remarked. “I’ll miss her desserts. Vixen always brought yummy desserts to the table. Remember that chocolate earthworm pie she prepared for us last year?”
“Oh, dear,” I said. “I forgot all about dessert! What are going to do about our closing grace, our prayer of thanks for dinner and for longevity? We’re supposed to say our thanks right after we’ve all finished dessert. ‘O Lord Below Us, we thank you with all our pumping hearts for every damned blessing you’ve given us, from our first bite to our last.’”
“It won’t be the same,” Sneezy repeated. “I’m a chocoholic.”
“Me too,” Sleepy said. “Damn.”
The doorbell rang. “Our dinner entrée,” I said. “I’ll get that.”
I stood up and walked to the front door and opened it wide.
“Trick or treat!”
There they stood, three of them: Spiderman, Harry Potter, and…and Snow White! How perfect was that? They all looked so well-fed and cheerful. They each carried a paper bag, which they held out and shook before me, as if to show me their haul so far.
“What do you have there?” I asked.
“Candy,” Spiderman answered.
“Candy bars, mostly,” Snow White added.
Harry Potter said, “Chocolate candy bars.”
“Come in, please!” I told them. “Treats are in the living room, and I want you to meet my family. They’re going to love your costumes.”
As the three children filed past me, I turned and locked the front door and switched off the porch light. Then I told the kids, “Follow me.” I led them into the parlor and said to my fellow Dwarfs, “Look! Our entrée has arrived. And guess what! They’ve brought dessert!”
So dinner was a great success, and when all the prayers were said, including the closing grace, Dopey stood, held his mug of acorn tea up, and said, “Hail Doc! A toast to the host with the most!”
They all cheered, and I confess I wept with gratitude. My heart was as full as my belly.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for November’s 99-word story submissions is November 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for November 12, and will stay posted for a week.
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Write a story inspired by the following sentence: I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.…
Calling all published authors—
I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at email@example.com.
Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week.