And So This Is Christmas

December 11, 2020

I wrote this piece of short fiction as an entry in this year’s Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest. While it wasn’t selected for a prize, I’m still proud of it and hope it sparks something in you.

And So This Is Christmas

At dusk I turned onto West 72nd Street and dodged icy patches on the sidewalk until I reached the federal communications office.

Everyone tries to make cross-border calls on Christmas Eve, and it was forty minutes before my number came up. The agent said to be quick because other people might be trying to call my target, too, and had me acknowledge the risk that the masking process might not hide the call’s origin.

I gave her my target’s number and told her he was in Bradenton, Florida. Before pulling on her headphones, she asked if he knew the codes, and I admitted I didn’t know. She frowned. She’d probably have a quick hook if she suspected Justin was a hostile.

It rang twice, and then I heard my brother’s voice, “Hello?”

“Hey. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas. Good to hear from you.”

He didn’t say my name. He understands.

“How is everyone?” I said.

“We’re good. Older one had a great football season, and now the younger one wants to play, too.”

Great news.

“At work, my wife’s plenty busy. She loves using her hands, and everything’s going fine.”

I breathed. They’re safe. The kids are safe. He coughed.

“I — I got a promotion.”

My stomach dropped.

“When did you find out?”

“A few days ago. I’m —” He coughed again. “I’m excited to dig in to the new challenges.”

Oh my God. He was trying to stay collected. You never know if they’re recording, too.

“I did this all on my own, you know. I worked hard to get to where I am. I’ve never felt better about my job, and I’m glad I live in a country where lazy bums get what’s coming to them.”

The room was shaking — no, I was shaking.

“That’s wonderful,” I said.

“Yeah. We’re gonna make the new year great.”

“Merry Christmas,” I said.

He hung up. The agent was completing a form.

“Take this to Room 37 down that hall,” she said. “They’ll prepare you for the next steps. I hope he makes it across the border.”

I took the paper and wondered if I should tell Mom.

(Photo: “2nd avenue snowstorm” by jseliger2. Used under CC BY 2.0 license.)