The light is separate from the darkness. The light is good. Often we are dark dwellers and need the call of the light. When one person shines a light, steps into the light or lightens the burden for others, the darkness recedes some more for us all.
Writers explored light in many manifestations. Characters shined a light in dark corners or protected the light; settings glowed and stories lit up the page. This collection is like a dazzling string of multi-colored Christmas lights, each one adding to sparkle of the others.
The following stories are based on the December 16, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “spreading the light.” Some stories memorialize a loved one whose light remains in our hearts and memories.
This collection is dedicated to the kind and Contented Crafter, Pauline King, who flung her light across the world with sun-catchers. Thank you to all who respond and add light to Carrot Ranch!
Star of Wonder by Sherri Matthews
Maria gazed at the Christmas tree and smiled at the dazzling display.
Homemade ornaments created lovingly by her son, faded and worn and hung by a thread, reminders of Christmas past and of precious memories cherished.
Others shimmered brightly, telling of Christmas today and of new joy.
And then she realised she had forgotten something.
“My daddy always puts the star on top of the Christmas Tree” her little boy had written years before in Kindergarten.
“I’ll do it,” smiled James.
Her boy now a man, and still the light of Christmas burned with hope and promise.
Endurance by Jules Paige
When there was no light, Hope looked for the contrast of
ink on paper. Often writing in large letters by the light of
the moon, because her lamp was supposed to be out.
Sleep doesn’t come easy thinking of lives that mattered
to her. The mother she never knew or the grandparents
that moved away. Siblings and parents, that even though
they took breath, couldn’t share her deepest thoughts.
Light came from outside sources. It was her teachers;
they were the ones who fanned her creative flames.
Hope just had to believe. Someday, her words would see
Locked Away by Charli Mills
Gossipers. Chattering prairie-dogs. Mary steadied her hands and steeped tea in her only bone-China pot. Chipped. They’d notice that, too.
Straight-backed they sat on the hickory bench Cobb carved. She rocked. China clinked, heads bobbed. They all stared at the crayon drawing behind her.
“Mrs. McCanles, why hang such…a … violent…portrait?”
“Hard to profess his innocence…” They nodded to one another.
After they left she took it down and locked it away in her trunk. They’d never know the man she did, but she’d be damned if she let them judge his portrait, too. Miss, you Husband…
Foster Haven by Roger Shipp
“He has candles in his room again.”
“There aren’t candles anywhere else in the house. Why candles in his room?”
“That was all he asked for for Christmas.”
“Don’t you think that is a little strange?”
“Did you talk to him?”
“Come on, honey. How do you talk about candles? Did you?”
“Yes. It’s because of all the kids we allow to stay here. We seem to have a different child every weekend.”
“He says he can’t save children, like we do… So he lights a candle and prays for each of them every night.”
Slim Pickins’ by Cheryl-Lynn Roberts
SP pushes her cart past the shelter, and then stops to admire the trees for sale. The man selling Christmas trees, asks her, “How come most people call you SP?”
She chuckles, “Well now, that’d be due to my slim pickins’ all day.”
An older woman on her way to the shelter stops, “Hello, TJ! we’re counting on you to play piano at Christmas dinner.”
The man looks puzzled, “TJ?”
“Oh, Sister Mary Mona calls me that.”
She picks up fallen branches behind the trees and adds them to her pile, whispering, “ Yuppers, slim pickins’ turning to joy!”
Words by Irene Waters
I slept late, skulked the gangways by day and sat, staring out into the black abyss nursing my dark thoughts at night. The ship’s bar had taken advantage of my torment, leaving me broke.
After Durban, a priest comandeered my bench. He patted it in invitation. Angry at his intrusion I sat. Neither of us spoke. In silence, we stared out to sea. Each night we sat, my anger dissipating, being replaced by light. Our last night at sea, before docking in Freemantle, the priest touched my hand, looked me in the eye and said “Sometimes, words aren’t necessary.”
Making Light by Geoff Le Pard
‘You remember what you gave me last year?’ Mary adjusted her paper hat.
‘Dad’s diaries. Did you read them all?’ Rupert, her half-brother squashed a belch. ‘They were pretty mundane.’
‘He revealed more than he intended. Mostly daily minutiae but then he’d agonise about mum, or me. Knowing the background now you can see what he was thinking.’
‘But he hid the important things. What happened to our sister.’
‘It’s darkest before dawn.’
Rupert smiled. ‘So you still want to find her?’
‘We have to. It’s the only way to lighten the load I’ve been carrying this year.’
Lines Crease His Forehead by Hank
Lines crease his forehead
Bringing the shadows darker
Just as rays of the sunset slowly dims
Fear grips and worries flood his head
He cannot fathom the scheme of things
as darkness progresses with darkening light
Extreme provocation becomes vicious
As in a nocturnal environment
As tears stream down his face sweet memories
of yesteryears, the lure of the old
neighborhood tugs at his conscience
It is a fact his mind is in disarray
He has not been home for some decades
But being Santa fills the void.
He is grateful divine hand chose him
to spread the light
A Little Light Reading by Pat Cummings
They wear old-fashioned names: Hildegard, Charlotte, Winston, Arabella, and the light they spread is second-hand, but it is brilliant and up-to-date.
It pours in gentle beams from Sigrid Undset and Taylor Caldwell, or shines through harsh desert illuminations by Zane Grey and Tony Hillerman. Bob Shaw’s light of Other Days shields us Against the Fall of Night. The undersea twilight of H.G Wells gleams for 20,000 Leagues. They gave me Light Music on the Dark Side of the Moon. I had All the Light We Cannot See.
I can always count on a librarian to bring me to the light.
Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin
Locked in, was how they described her. “The lights out and no-one home.”
And so it seemed. She was unmoved by massage, music or aromatherapy, indifferent to extremes of heat and cold.
The storyteller hunkered down beside her. “Once upon a time, in a faraway land …”
She continued to sit, statuesque, her eyes glazed, like a doll’s.
“… a cruel king kept his daughter in a gilded cage.”
They all heard it. A sigh from the depths of her being. They all witnessed the light flicker in her eyes. “Go on,” they said. “What happened to the girl?”
The Christmas Tree Arrived by Bus by Ann Edall-Robson
“Shall we ride or walk today?”
She slipped her grown hand into his. “Let’s walk, Dad.”
They strolled past the barn out into the trees. This was so much better than their telephone visits.
“This one?” He pointed to a Fir tree about 10’ tall.
She nodded and he tied the plastic ribbon to its branches.
Snow was on the ground when she got the call to pick up the parcel. A 6’ tube encased the tree wrapped tight with binder twine. Through tears and laughter she unwrapped the precious memory gift. The start of a tradition was born.
How True? by Norah Colvin
“What shall we read tonight?” asked Dad.
Jimmy searched the shelf for something he hadn’t heard before. There weren’t many. Suddenly he found one, slid it off the shelf and nestled into Dad’s lap.
“Twas the night before Christmas …” began Dad.
“Who…, what…, where…, why…, how…,?” began Jim, marveling at flying reindeer and pondering possible destinations.
As Dad closed the book Jimmy was ready with his usual question, “Is it true?”
“What think you?”
“As true as a fire-breathing dragon, a flower-petal fairy, and a talking animal,” laughed Jim; then added, “But you know, parrots really can talk!”
Christmas Light by Jane Dougherty
Her hands trembled slightly as she peeled open the envelope. Even if she hadn’t recognized the handwriting, the foreign stamp gave it away.
Bloody plastic tree has no smell.
Christmas trees should be real. Living. They didn’t understand that in the home. Like they didn’t care that nobody was watching the TV. Her hands trembled.
“Here. Got your specs, Mrs. Fitz? Let’s give you a bit of light, shall we?”
We had candles at Christmas.
She cringed and blinked. Tears. She didn’t need to see to know what the message said.
“Sorry, Mam. Can’t make it this year.”
The Preacher’s Message by Larry LaForge
Ed returned from the store with two bags full of stuff. Edna watched curiously as he emptied a dozen flashlights out of one bag and several boxes of batteries out of the other.
Ed loaded the batteries into the flashlights and tested each unit. He had a battery inserted backwards in one, and quickly fixed it. “I shall return,” he said as he placed the working flashlights back into the larger bag.
“What’s going on?”
“Just doin’ what the preacher said,” Ed replied.
“His message really struck a chord, Edna.”
“Tis the season to spread the light.”
Spreading the Light by Marigold Deidre Dicer
Tensions were running high as was expected at this time of year. The first weekend of December must always be murderously hot, and so the whole household must work away in baking heat to cover the property in artistically arranged Christmas lights.
From previous experience we knew we must stock the freezer with zooper doopers. It didn’t matter how old we were, that stuff was more potent than Gatorade. But even though we prepared, by late afternoon we had dissolved into sweaty, frustrated shouting matches.
Until the sun went down and the lights came on.
And everything was okay.
Spreading Light by Kate Spencer
Jerry’s eyes light up when he recognizes the weather-worn man with a toothless grin walk into the centre.
“Don’t you look all spiffy in that new jacket Pete.”
“Got it from the clothing bank. Had to spruce up a bit for the holidays, ya know.”
“And I’ve got your food hamper all ready to go. I even threw in an extra box of cookies for you.”
“Thanks,” says Pete handing Jerry a package wrapped in tissue.
“Just something I made.”
Jerry tears away the paper, revealing a small wooden candle ornament.
“Always remember, you’re someone’s light Jer.”
The Source is Not Spent by Jeanne Lombardo
I saw her two days before Christmas. Ragged, shriveled, toothless. Gray hair whipping in a cold wind.
She stood where I had seen her before. On the northwest corner of a busy intersection. At rush hour.
The traffic light lingered on red. Already a line of cars purred behind me.
I fumbled for my bag. She saw me. Our eyes met. She stepped into the turn lane that separated us.
The light changed. A horn blared. She backed up. I shrugged—a sham of helplessness. She nodded and smiled.
Emitted a light that has blessed and haunted me since.