of the 2018 Write Your Own Christmas Movie contest.
On Nov. 22 we kicked off our second annual fiction writing contest. This time we invited readers to finish our version of a made-for-TV Christmas movie featuring Bethany, the big-city workaholic.
Many thanks to all those who took the time to write and share their endings with us. We laughed and, occasionally, scratched our heads in confusion. There were tough decisions to be made so we copped out. Instead of choosing one winner, we chose two of the best. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
The beginning of the story
Christmas Eve begins as just another 12-hour work day for Bethany — one more chance to prove her dedication to the flashy Seattle firm where she has spent the best years of her life as a non-specific professional.
Little does she dream, this is her lucky day. Her boss calls her in and, after minimizing her success on her latest projects, asks her to take over “the big account.” The moment Bethany has been waiting for all her life has finally arrived. She can almost taste her promotion.
“I’m on it. I’ll have it done for you by the end of the day tomorrow,” she promises with enthusiasm.
“Tomorrow?” says the boss, who isn’t important enough to get his own name. “It’s Christmas! The office closes at noon. Go spend the day with your family.”
It is crushing news. Not only is the Big Account a dream career move, it was the perfect excuse to avoid her family and small Idaho hometown for the holidays. The thought of spending 1.5 days in a place with no goat yoga, cat cafes or organic-vegan-and-gluten-free menus makes her cringe. “There isn’t even a Target within 50 miles,” she grumbles as she listlessly packs up. At least there will be plenty of quiet time to work on my proposal, she thinks, shuffling files, snapping her Italian leather briefcase closed and flinging it into the car.
After an idyllic winter wonderland drive which she barely notices, Bethany pulls into her old neighborhood of outdated homes bedecked with equally outdated holiday spirit. Her mom and dad, who have kept up their health and appearance, greet her warmly as she pulls into the driveway. They fuss over her as they carry her bags to her room, left untouched since she moved out 15 years ago.
After a cozy Christmas Eve dinner of tuna noodle casserole, Bethany excuses herself to work in her room when she notices something horrifying. Her phone’s battery is at 7 percent. She rummages around for her charger and then realizes something even worse — in her hurry, she forgot to pack it.
Bethany asks her mom for an extra charger. “Oh sweetie,” Mom says, “We don’t have those fancy phones here, you know that.”
In a panic, Bethany flies out the door, ignoring mom’s advice to “for heaven’s sake put on some boots.” She drives recklessly, careening into a parking spot at the town’s hardware store, owned and operated by her old high school flame. Unknowingly, she parks beside a big patch of ice. As she gets out of the car, her expensive, big city-girl heels don’t have the proper traction, her foot slips and …
The winning endings
By Sherie Wright of Genesee
… she crashes into an odd little woman standing between the cars.
“Oopsy you, chickie. Going sideways now, you be.” The woman sets Bethany on her feet, with a particularly strong grip, for one so tiny.
“Uh,” Bethany says, rubbing her elbow where the woman had squeezed it. “I, uh…” Bethany’s head bobbles. “Uh…oof.” And she slides down to the pavement between the two cars, just as an odd little man steps up behind.
“Youse’a caught one then, Biddy?” He asks, peering down at the unconscious Bethany.
“Surely, Mackso. And we best be on it, now, yes?” She replies, searching the sky. “I think to hurry, before the man in red flies tonight.”
They huff and puff Bethany into an out-of-view garden-cart, covering her with an inflatable snowman that Mackso just purchased at deep discount. The shop-owner, Bethany’s former flame, sees them through the window. Biddy waves sweetly and he waves back, never noticing the extra bulk of their cargo.
They trundle across town to an arboretum, stopping at a large oak tree, bare of leaves and piled with snow. As they slink around back, snow from the branches sloughs off neatly covering their tracks.
“Home sweet home again,” Mackso sighs, as he magicks open an invisible door. Biddy wrangles the wagon across the threshold, waking Bethany in the process. Mackso peers into the night, making sure they weren’t followed. The door snicks shut, sealed and gone. Just like that.
Inside, it’s a veritable Santa’s sweatshop staffed by weary nonspecific professionals in uncomfortable shoes. Biddy pokes a sputtering Bethany over to a table. The others make room for her.
“Elves be tired. On strike.” Mackso says. He gestures at her shoes. “Tis, clear youse’a don’t loves the Christmas. So? Now you’n workings for the man in red, insteads of us.”
By Nancy Chaney of Moscow
Crack! Bethany’s head hits the pavement with a force that shakes the universe. Lying there, flat on her back, she marvels that the night sky holds so many more stars than she can see from the window of her studio apartment on Capitol Hill.
The next thing Bethany knows, her old beau is bundling her into a horse-drawn sleigh. (She is startled he has grown fat and gray and is wearing a wedding ring.) From her warm vantage under a painstakingly embroidered quilt that smells vaguely of lavender, Bethany feels like she’s floating over snow-covered farm fields, the promise of winter wheat tantalizingly beneath the surface. Skirting the forest, she catches the familiar perfume of cedar, and is reminded of family hiking adventures, delight in discovering the first trillium, and an exhilarating senior sneak (an innocent departure from an otherwise obedient high school experience).
Bethany’s peaceful journey comes to an abrupt halt under stark white light, the dusty-sweet smell of antiseptic, and incessantly beeping hospital monitors. Looking up, she is fascinated by the inverted appearance of the most beautiful eyes she has ever seen. An instant later, the soothing voice associated with those eyes introduces himself as a rural medical resident in the WWAMI program. He asks Bethany what she remembers. As she becomes aware of her surroundings and the growing lump on the back of her head, Bethany relates details of her injury, her foolhardiness in ignoring her mother’s practical advice to wear boots, and the folly of believing corporate ladders lead to happiness. Sensing the young doctor understands (and secretly hoping he’ll linger), she tells him about her imaginary journey to the emergency room, tender memories it evoked, and the realization there are things more important in life than self-imposed deadlines and phone chargers, especially on Christmas Eve.