Sara Hilliard and Cheyenne Thrift, both of Macclenny, and Sheila Coren of St. George, GA were this year’s winners of The Press’ Christmas short story contest and are now $50 richer.
Ms. Coren won first place the 19 and up division, Ms. Hilliard won top honors in the 14-18 division and Ms. Thrift won in the 13 and under division. The authors and their winning stories are featured below.
Ms. Thrift’s “A Miracle to Remember”
This story is about a boy that is seventeen and his name is Matt Stocks. His life was wonderful until he was five. This was the year that his dad and six month old sister disappeared. He does not remember that much about them. He has asked about them but his mom keeps avoiding it. All he wants to know is where his sister and dad are!
Chapter 1 The Bad Start
“Matt clean out the attic it’s been a month!” his mom yelled. “And don’t forget your jacket!” “Mom do you see the snow out there?” he yelled. His mom didn’t answer and he didn’t see the point of yelling any longer. He grabbed his jacket, snow shoes and a duster. He went outside and to the attic door then opened it. He walked inside with dust all over him. So he cleaned from box to box and corner to corner. Then when he reached the second to last box and he saw many pictures, but only two caught his eye. It was a picture of him, his mom (who looked like she was going to have a baby soon) and his dad. The other picture was just of him and his mom. A tear came to his eye. He ran out the door and into the house. The snow was super deep. It was almost to the window, so he had a lot on his shoes.
Chapter 2 The Short Talk Before Christmas
After he came back in the house his mom said, “It didn’t take you long to clean our the attic.” “Well,” Matt started, “I found these pictures, do you remember them?” His mom almost fell when she sat down. “Yes ... yes I do,” she whispered. “Well can you tell me my sister’s name?” he asked. “Martha. Martha May Stocks,” she said still staring at the two pictures. Matt was amazed, he did not think his mom would tell him. “What did she like to do?” he asked. “She liked her rattle and ... and did you really finish the attic?” she asked. “Yes, I really did,” he said fast. He walked away, to the stairs, looked out the window and saw about three feet of snow. Matt kept on walking to his room and slammed the door. His mom heard the slam and dropped the pictures. She felt bad, but she knew that she couldn’t bare the truth.
Chapter 3 The Delivering Santa
Matt heard the doorbell, but he did not think much about it. Then his mom yelled, “Matt, I need you to come here now!” He wondered what she wanted. He came down the stairs and heard his mom talking to someone. He started running down the stairs hoping it was his dad or sister. But when he got to the bottom of the staircase, it wasn’t his dad, his sister or even Santa. It was the UPS man sitting inside with a cup of coffee on the couch. He look out the window again, and saw the neighbors and their kids having snowball fights. He smiled and kept walking to the couch. “Yes?” he said. “This man has a package for you ... and thank you for my Christmas tree,” she said very fast. The man handed him the package and kept on talking to his mom. Matt signed for the package and sat down on the firs step of the stairs. He tore the tape off, just as the UPS man got up and went to the door. His mom told him goodbye and thank you and then shut the door. “Matt put that package down and help your mother with this tree!” she yelled.
Chapter 4 The Surprise
All Matt aw was the ornaments, a tree and an angel. So they got the tree out of the package and set it up. In three minutes they had fifteen ornaments on the tree. He picked up this paper on the floor with snow on it. It read, “Free Cruise to Hawaii on 12/24/13.” That’s tomorrow, he thought. “Mom we should go on this cruise,” Matt said. She turned around and said, “That is your Christmas present.” Matt really liked it. “Thank you,” he said as he hugged his mom. She smiled and said, “I have our bags packed and everything” Matt said, as he looked at his package, “What about my package?” She looked at him and left.
Chapter 5 The Christmas Cruise
Matt’s mom got everything in the SUV and yelled, “Come on Matt hurry up!” Matt looked at his package, locked the door, and walked to the SUV. He looked around, now the kids at the houses next door were making snow angels. He sat in the passenger seat and shut the door. His mom started the SUV and pulled out of the driveway. In three hours they were at the cruise ship. People were everywhere. It took Matt and his mom 30 minutes just to get on the ship! “Now Matt,” mom said, “I don’t want you swimming on this cruise, you will get sick!” Matt knew better but said, “Yes mom, can I explore while you find our room/” Matt’s mom nodded her head yes and walked to the desk.
Chapter 6 The Best Present Ever
Matt looked around and there were people everywhere on the ship. But there were two people in the crowd that really caught his eye. A man, who looked somewhat familiar, and a little girl who looked to be about three or four years old. Matt saw his mom run up and hug the man. He walked towards the three of them. “Is he an old friend?” Matt asked when he reached them. His mom was crying really hard and said, “No, Matt. This is your father. Sean Wyatt Stocks and your sister Martha May.” “Hi son,” Matt’s dad said and gave Matt the biggest hug he had ever had. Matt could not believe his eyes. “Hi, dad,” he said through all the tears. “Bubba” Martha said. Matt’s dad said, “I will never leave you again.” Matt believed his dad. Matt asked his mom, “What was in my package?” He dad replied ... “That was a letter from me and your sister letting you know we would be on this cruise.” A huge smile came across Matt’s face. “This is the greatest Christmas I have ever had.” Then they walked towards the dinner room hand in hand as a real family.
Untitled by Sara Hilliard
It was December 15, and Cara had no idea what to do for Christmas. They were living at the homeless shelter ever since her husband, Tom, had been laid off. Tom had luckily found employment at the gas station in town, while Cara worked part-time at the local dollar tree. Their son, Joshua, and daughter, Felicity, were too young to understand the situation they were in.
Joshua was in the second grade and Felicity in the first. Tom and Cara made barely enough to clothe themselves and their children, and fortunately food was provided by the shelter. Cara really wanted her children to have good Christmas since they both strongly believed in Santa. Tom worked 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Cara worked from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., just enough time to drop off and pick up her children from school in their ratty old station wagon from 1995, which was barely running. Tom didn’t see the children much except on the weekends, and he was more stressed each and every day trying to find a better job so they could find a home. His boss knew his situation and did his best to give Tom his children’s old clothes and days off to spend with his family. Cara was the main caretaker of the children and she was becoming tired of having to discipline them without their father hardly around. Not to mention the tiny room with two beds they all had to share, and a public rest room to bath and use the toilet that was shared with 196 other people. The stress and space was wearing them all down.
Cara had picked up some stockings from her work and brought them home to hang up, including glitter glue to write their names on, so the children could have a fun activity to keep them busy.
“Why don’t we have a fireplace and a couch?” asked Felicity.
“Well honey, God has blessed us with this room and it’s what we have for now,” replied Cara.
“Well I don’t like it.”
Felicity was always the child to question and complain, os Joshua tried to shush her.
“I want a big tree and a lot of presents underneath, like they show in the pictures as school.”
“We will soon honey.” All Cara could do was reassure her child that they will have it all someday. Cara brought this incident up to Tom at dinner that night. “Well I have some extra tips we could use to go get a tree,” suggested Tom.
“We need that money for presents,” Cara argued.
“We have enough money saved up in the bank to get them some presents, but you can’t have presents without a tree. Felicity is right, we all want one.”
“Alright.” Cara gave in. The next day, Cara and Tom took off work to take their children to the tree farm. A worker there had noticed how excited their children were for a tree, when for most children it’s something so usual and ritual-like.
He also overheard Cara and Tom arguing as Cara exclaimed, “These trees are too expensive. $60? That’s at least two presents for each of them!”
“Well Cara, I don’t know what you want me to do. We can get them some presents on sale, even if just one, but these children want a Christmas tree, and that will lighten the room up.” Really all Tom wanted too was a Christmas tree.
“Sir, miss, we have some discount trees over here?” the worker said, trying to offer some help.
“Oh. Thank you very much. C’mon kids.” Cara was embarrassed to have to look at the discount trees and have the worker overhear her argument with Tom, but at least it will save them some money for presents. They found the perfect sized tree at $20 and took it to the shelter. The worker noticed how excited Joshua and Felicity were just to get a simple tree. He took their situation into consideration.
“I’m so happy, a tree!” Felicity exclaimed.
“I know! A real one!” Joshua added.
“Hold on one sec.” Tom pulled up at the discount store and ran inside. He came out with a box of lights, tinsel, some plastic ball ornaments, plus plastic cups and hot chocolate. Cara eyed him. “10 dollars,” he said. Cara gave him a smile.
It was December 24 and Cara and Tom had managed to get each of their children two presents and some needed items for their stockings. Joshua would receive a nerf gun and a Spiderman suit. Felicity would get a pair of sparkled boots, the ones she’s been begging for, and a Barbie. Tom got his hands on a necklace for Cara, and Cara happened to have a new watch for Tom. They thought they did pretty good.
“Time for dinner, let’s head to the dining hall!” Tom called, even though there was barely 20 feet between him and his family. They all ran to the hall. Tom had hidden all the presents in the tiny closet, and Cara had hidden Tom’s watch in her pair of extra ratty shoes she kept just in case. They all ate merrily, ready for the morning. It was almost 8 p.m. when they got back to the room.
When they opened the door everyone gasped. “Oh ... my ... goodness ...” Cara was breathless. Tom stood there. Joshua ran in and Felicity had a smile a mile wide. There were presents everywhere. All under the tree, coming out of the closet, under the beds, and the stockings were stuffed to the rim, including Tom and Cara’s.
“Who did this?” questioned Tom.
“Santa!!” yelled Joshua. He was right. Cara pulled off a sign on the wall that said “From Santa, Merry Christmas.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Cara cried. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. They entered the room, and barely shut the door.
“Let’s all go to bed so we can open these in the morning,” Tom said quietly.
The children woke Tom and Cara at 6 a.m. that morning, but they didn’t mind. They were ready to see this too. They divided the presents into piles, and all tore them open. One by one they discovered the treasures. A Tonka truck, a G.I. Joe doll, a baby doll, clothes, shoes, headbands, socks, an electric keyboard, slippers, hair products, makeup, candy. Cara and Tom cried, and the kids were ecstatic.
“I think we all need to pray and thank God for Santa and his presents,” Cara said softly. So they did. Cara and Tom stepped outside, “I cannot believe this Tom.”
“Me either. I am so thankful, I don’t know who could’ve done this,” Tom pronounced.
“It doesn’t matter. Our children our happy and so are we,” Cara smiled. They embraced and exchanged presents, and all the while the Christmas tree worker was watching, smiling.
“A Christmas Wish List” by Ms. Coren
Twas the season of war on Christmas eve. No time for a little girl to play. Mary watched and wondered the night away. Would her father be home the nigh before or would she see him never more?
She wondered and wondered with all her might. “I don’t know why my daddy has to fight?” Mary’s eyes twinkled and sparkled with hope. She thought of the Christmas before; Their home was filled with love and more.
This season was different. Her daddy was gone. She watched through the snow paned window as if she was staring to some far off shore. Mary’s father was gone to bring peace once more. She hoped and prayed the peace would come. For this is Christmas ... you know. We will fight through their holy days. We will fight through ours.
I just wish Santa, that my daddy would come home. I hope, I pray you hear my wish. For I know this is the season of miracles, and him I truly miss.
Our tree stands with light aglow. Some gifts to give, and some to receive, “But the greatest gift of all Santa would be the gift of peace under the tree.”
I am told Santa, “that peace will come after the wars. Why not peace without wars?” The eve is almost night, Santa. I wish once more, that my daddy would walk through our door. My mother cries, she tries to hide her pain. For we are a family and hoping to be together again.
Santa, if your sled could be an airplane, an aircraft carrier or such, the greatest gift of all would be to cart my daddy home. For we truly miss him much.
Suddenly, Mary heard a pitter-patter on the roof top. Mary exclaimed, “Could it be you Santa and your reindeer from the north? Or could it be my wish come true, to see my daddy from that far off shore?”
I must not be seen, for the magic will depart. I will go upstairs and peep below to see what magic has been bestowed. I look, I look with huge eyes bright. I can’t believe what my eyes have seen. My Christmas wish has come true. Mary shouts with all her might, “It’s daddy. It’s daddy. He has come home. He has come home tonight!”
“Christmas is here! We do have peace for the night.”