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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Day 12 - Jennifer Chambers

“Twelfth Night,” refers of course to both the play by Shakespeare and to the last of the Twelve Days Of Christmas. This last night is also the Catholic holiday of the Feast of Epiphany. In different cultures, this twelfth night after Christmas day is the day that the three Magi arrived in Bethlehem ( the“We Three Kings” of the song) or the day of Christ’s baptism.

I’ve always been fascinated by the pre-Christian traditions that the Twelfth Night festivities co-opted. Much like Christmas itself, Twelfth Night was one of the holidays celebrated in Germanic Paganism, a midwinter celebration. The Yule Log was left to burn until Twelfth Night, which brings to mind enormous logs in immense fireplaces, doesn’t it? Similarly, the traditional Yule Boar as part of a feast can now be seen in the Ham many eat throughout the holidays. The prevalent theory is that the Twelfth Night feasting and revelry was originally based on a Roman holiday at the same time of year called Saturnalia. It was a time when people let loose, partied, switched roles socially and sexually, and had fun. People sang a lot, ran around naked, and played games like women being chased by men and dwarves chasing cranes. There was also what sounded like a very un-fun game where people got dunked in ice water naked.

One of the most interesting parts of how Twelfth Night came to be celebrated is exemplified by the Shakespeare play. If you’re not familiar with it, it involves a lot of gender-switching, mistaken identities, and class disparity jokes. The theory is that Shakespeare wrote it, as he did many of his plays, to reflect the society in which he lived. The gender- switching, aka cross-dressing, was common for men of the day. To a lesser extent the same could be said of women. I would guess that was probably true of the women who could afford to be seen as eccentric.

It is interesting that sexuality was much more fluid in a sense at the time Twelfth Night was written. Especially when you consider that most often all roles were played by men. In this play, a man played a woman, who was disguised as a man, who fell in love with a woman, who was in actuality played by a man. Science of the day held that women were “imperfect versions of men,” to add another layer of confusion. The funny thing is that given the play’s popularity through the ages, the notion of gender fluidity is neither uncommon or particularly a modern idea.

My favorite part of Twelfth Night is the Saturnalia aspect; I imagine a night of bonfires and roasting spits of meat, dancing with linked hands and vats of spiced wine. (Never mind the fact that the wine in the 1600’s was probably spiced because it was borderline awful!) So I guess I’m saying it’s all about the food, drink, and people, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s nice to have a big party to send off the season before it descends into the dark, cold, snowy throes of winter, and that was the point. And use lots of candles- those were traditional gifts to symbolize the light that would eventually return to the world.
This is a good use for that decent bottle of “Two-Buck-Chuck” or decent, but not great, wine you might have left over from the holidays. This recipe is Ina Garten’s, and I don’t like Star Anise, so I don’t add it. You can cut the orange peel into crescent moons or stars just for fun.
In Jane Austen’s time, Twelfth Night was cause for a special cake recipe here. It was tradition for a bean to be baked into the cake, with good luck to the person who got the bean in his or her slice.
Have a lovely Twelfth Night feast, whatever your tradition, and a lucky New Year!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Day 11 - Natalie Nicole Bates

   Natalie Nicole Bates

The only thing keeping her in the café was the warm fire and the fact it was snowy and freezing outside.
Ryanna drummed her fingers on the table before once again looking at her watch. It was the morning of January 5, five minutes past midnight. It was official: She’d been stood up.
Now sitting alone and staring into the dredges of leftover cold cappuccino, she contemplated the reality of her situation. From the very beginning, when she first met Bobby Pearson, something felt—off.
The first time she saw him was a week before Christmas, through a window at the long closed antique shop. She was admiring an antique Frozen Charlotte doll, similar to one her grandmother once gave her as a child. Ryanna loved the doll, and was fascinated by the tale of the young woman who didn’t listen to her parents and went out in a blizzard for a ride with friends without a coat, and perished in the storm.
Bobby was inside the shop cleaning glass counters. He looked up from his work and raised a hand with a small hello.
The day following Christmas, she was once again in front of the shop admiring the doll and wishing the shop would open soon so she could at least ask the price, but knowing it was likely well out of her budget.
Lost in that thought, she startled when a hand touched her shoulder. It was him. Tall, with long way hair and dark eyes she knew she could lose herself in.
“What’s caught your fancy?” He asked.
    “The Frozen Charlotte. I love looking at it.”
    He only nodded in response.
    “Are you reopening the antique shop?”
“Perhaps. I inherited this building recently from a relative. Right now, I’m just cleaning up, taking inventory, and…” he shrugged his shoulders beneath his heavy winter coat. “We’ll see, I guess.”
    They met for coffee a day later, and another coffee a day after that. Things seemed to be going well, at least for Ryanna. Then it happened.
New Year’s Eve she went to the café to celebrate the new year with a glass of wine and enjoy the atmosphere. She was delighted when Bobby appeared. They danced close, and at the stroke of midnight, she waited for a magical kiss to usher in the new year. A kiss which never happened.
He was just shy, she assured herself. So she took matters into her own hands…or actually, her lips. On tip-toes, she attempted to place a friendly closed mouth kiss against his lips, only for Bobby to move his face, and her kiss landed awkwardly on his chin.
Talk about an embarrassing moment. He averted his eyes and mumbled an apology, while Ryanna wanted nothing more at that moment to vanish. Which she did, moments later when he offered to get her another glass of wine.
Then out of the blue, he sent a text asking to meet her at the café that night. She was skeptic, but wanted to give him one more chance. The truth was, she liked him, but maybe any interest on his part was just her imagination.
Yet, sadly she’d been right. Here is was, now the first minutes of Twelfth Night, and she was alone.
The signs were all there. He spoke little about himself beyond scratching the surface of his life. She sensed he wasn’t a cold or cruel man, just lonely and…stuck.
   Sometimes she could see it in his eyes. That he had things to tell her, so much to reveal. But in his dark eyes lurked a world of sorrow and hurt. A man who lost his magic and happiness and didn’t know how to reclaim it.
She dabbed her lips with a linen napkin and slid back her chair. Enough humiliation for one night. It was time to trudge back to her home and forget all about this night, and about that man.
Climbing into her coat, she tossed a few bills onto the table to take care of her tab, and made her way to the exit.
As soon as she stepped outside the warmth of the café, the cutting wind whipped her hair furiously around her face. She made her way along the sidewalk and tried to step on the snow that had already been smushed down by others before her. The sky above was dark and clear, the snow clouds pushed out. It was colder than ever.
Almost no one was on the street, just a man filling the newspaper box with the morning edition, and a couple walking hand in hand and laughing across the street. Most likely everyone was home in bed, or snuggling with a loved one in front of the television.
She didn’t think much of the footsteps she heard thudding on the snow behind her until they were nearly on top of her. She glanced back to see Bobby. She picked up her pace.
“Ryanna! Wait!” He called out.
Should she stop, or just ignore him? Her conscience teetered.
   “Please, Ryanna, just stop!”
    Well, he did say please. She halted in her tracks, but did not turn back.
    Within a few seconds he was beside her.
   “Why didn’t you wait for me?” he asked.
   “Wait for you? I waited for two hours!” She blurted. Her tone was stronger than she intended, but damn, she was angry and freezing.
   “I left a message for you. Didn’t you get it?”
    She chuckled a little, but not pleasantly. “Come on Bobby, you’ve lived in this little town long enough to know that cell phone service is patchy at best.” She opened her clutch and rifled around the contents for her phone. She pressed a few commands, and handed him the phone. “See, no service? No service, means no message.”
   She began to walk again.
   “Ryanna, I’m sorry,” he said.
   There was such a sincerity on his voice, but she waved off his apology.       “Forget about it. It’s fine.” She said the words but she knew it wasn’t fine.
He caught up and fell into step alongside her. “Ryanna…”
He wasn’t going to give up, she realized, so she stopped. “Listen, Bobby…I’m cold and I’m tired. I just want to go home and call it a night.” She flexed her fingers before they could turn into icicles, and reached into the pocket of her coat in search of her wool mittens. Instead, she found the little New Year’s gift she had for Bobby, but left it in her pocket. Maybe she would give it to him, maybe not. He might think it was just a silly little tradition anyway.
He steadied her chin with his gloved hand, and locked his dark eyes to hers. “Please, just give me a minute of your time, and if you don’t want to talk to me anymore, I won’t bother you, I promise.”
Her resolve to leave slipped a little. “Be quick,” she said as she finally found her mittens in another pocket.
But as soon as she tried to slip one on, it fell from her hand and landed in the snow. They both bent down at the say time to retrieve the mitten, his hand landing on top of hers. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze, and she looked up to see him smile at her. For the first time in this brief, for lack of a better word, relationship, there was a breakthrough. Yet just as his lips descended upon hers, Ryanna heard the sound of a car engine, followed by a car barreling down the street, and then the ear-piercing screech of the brakes.  
   Before she could react, the car jumped the curb. The next thing Ryanna felt was a mighty shove, and Bobby’s body on top of hers, shielding her from the impact. As she lay in the snow, shock froze her body. For a moment she could do nothing but stare up into the black, night sky. In the distance she heard the car drive off at an alarming rate of speed.
   Slowly, she regained her senses. “Bobby, are you okay?” She said a swift prayer to God or whatever Fate might be listening.
   After an agonizing few seconds, he stirred above her. “I think so.”
   “Do you think we’re still alive?” she asked, only half-joking.
   “I believe so, but if we’re dead, we’re together and that’s pretty cool.”
   “Yeah, it is,” she agreed.
   Slowly he got up from her body, and to his knees. In the light of the streetlamp, she could see blood flow from his nose. She rolled over to where her clutch landed and dug out a few tissues. “I think I broke your nose.” She crawled her way to him, and pressed the tissues against his nose.
   “You didn’t break anything. That jerk who was speeding and jumped the curb and nearly killed us is the one who is at fault.”
  He slowly made his way to his feet and helped Ryanna up.  “Are you okay, anything hurt?”
She shook her head. “Just more shocked and scared than anything. There’s no one around. We could have been injured, and on the ground in the snow until it was too late,” she murmured, fighting back the tears the desperately wanted to flow.
  He wrapped a protective arm around her. “We’re fine, so don’t even think that. Let’s get to my flat and warm up. I’ll call the police, and then you and I can talk…if you want to.”
  She nodded. “I would like that…very much.” Maybe the little gift in her pocket just performed its first act of good luck and happiness.

    Ryanna finally stopped shaking in the warmth of Bobby’s flat. She tenderly cleaned the blood from his nose, and in the light, it only looked bruised, not broken.
    She curled up on the sofa with him beneath a blanket. For a while they simply recovered in silence from the near miss tragedy.
 Finally, he spoke. “I want to try to explain to you why I have been so distant.”
 She nodded in agreement. If he couldn’t open up to her, then how could they ever move on as friends, or possibly even more?
    “First let me say, Ryanna, I like you. Even though we haven’t known each other very long, I like you…a lot. There was this…instant spark, at least on my part.”
He shifted a bit beneath the blanket.  Maybe he was embarrassed. “Of course I feel it, too,” she admitted, and hoped it would alleviate his discomfort. Now that he was talking, she didn’t want him to clam up again.
   “Some time ago, I lost my fiancée. She died shortly before our wedding. Since then, I’ve sort of distanced myself from everyone and everything that meant something to me.”
Shock rocked her body. She didn’t know what she expected he’d say, but it wasn’t this. “Bobby, I’m so sorry…”
He put a hand up to silence her. “Don’t be sorry, just listen, if that’s okay.”
“When the opportunity came about to move here and work on the antique shop, it gave me a lot of time to think, and the more I thought about things, the more my mind cleared. Maybe it was acceptance…I don’t know. Then I met you, and I went back into a tailspin. There was the part of me so happy to connect with someone again, and the other part…” He stopped and shock his head, “that felt guilt. I mean, I know Lauren is long gone, and never coming back, but still…”
   She absorbed his words, glad that he was able to unburden himself. Taking his hand, she said, “Thank you for telling me. All I ask of you is to be honest, and don’t hide what you’re feeling because it’s unfair to both of us. If you need to just be friends, that’s okay with me. If you think you’re ready to see where this might lead, I’d like that.”
His answer was to press his parted hips to hers.
“I have something for you.” He smiled.
“Really? I have something for you, too.”
He rose from the couch and retrieved a small wrapped gift from the mantle. “I’m sorry it’s late for both Christmas and New Year’s,” he sighed as he retook his seat beside her.
“It’s just in time for Twelfth Night,” she assured. She removed the tiny bow, the festive wrap, and removed the lid of the small pink box to reveal the Frozen Charlotte doll she’d admired so many times in the window of the antique shop. “Oh, Bobby!” She gasped. “It’s perfect! Thank you so much.” She pressed her cheek to his. “Now you,” she handed him the little pouch.
His dark brows drew together. “Thank you, but…”
    She laughed. “What is it, right?” Before he could answer she said, “It’s a Twelfth Night tradition. The remnants of my family’s Christmas tree from last season. You use the wood chips to start the fire to bring about happiness and good luck in the new year.”
“Wow, I love the sound of this tradition. We should start the fire together.”
   “I couldn’t agree more.”
When the fire was glowing bright, they shared cocoa and kisses to ensure a perfect dawn.
“Thank you for saving me from getting killed earlier,” she said.
“Thank you for giving me a second chance. Not only me, but for giving me a second chance at happiness,” he replied.
   She smiled. The magic of Yule was definitely working. “You’re very welcome. Happy dawn of Twelfth Night. Let’s spend it together.”
   He pressed his lips to hers, and mumbled, “And hopefully, this is just the beginning.”

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Day Ten Natasha Lane

What Was Missing
        By Natasha Lane

Darkness swarmed around the trees like mist from the swamp. The darkness swirled around the trunks of the bark giants and forced them down, so their branches hung right above my head. Branches that reached out for me and grabbed at the red scarf my mother had made me last Christmas.
The teased me. They poked and prodded at me from every direction and laughed as I turned from side to side trying to catch their violating hands. But every time I turned there was nothing behind me. I was alone.
I could have been swallowed up whole by the forest, my hand stretched out toward the last patch of blue sky I would ever see. I would disappear. I would be gone and no one would care about the missing girl. No one would care because I had failed. I had ruined my family’s reputation, so if I wandered forever in the maze of black mist and broken branches, it would be seen as a suitable punishment.
Maybe my parents would adopt. Maybe my replacement would be a better finder than. I couldn’t believe I was going to let my family down.
I tucked my scarf into my coat and pushed on to my end. The trail winded through the forest, guiding my exhausted legs when my mind was not sure which way to go. Occasionally I stopped to look under a rock or search through a ditch for the treasure. Each time I would climb back to the path with empty hands.
I knew if I could just find the Twelfth Night Treasure, it would guide me home. It would shine so brightly the black mist would disappear and the trees would shrink away in fear. Demons always ran away from the light. It was a fact. Father said so.
But that was my problem. I couldn’t find the treasure and so, I couldn’t find my way out of the forest. I wasn’t sure how I had gotten lost. I had followed my father’s instructions precisely. Twelve Bigfoot steps past the rotten tree with the face of an old man and twenty Hercules leaps to the caverns. What had I done wrong?
I felt a wet spot on my hand. Then, a second one, a third, and soon my hands were nothing but drops of wetness. My body, too. I breathed and my breath formed into smoke. Because of the rain, the mist had become a fog. The path soon disappeared in front of me. I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. It was like I was surrounded by a kind of scary nothing.
I closed my eyes in fear of the nothing and walked blindly through the forest. It got colder and colder. My teeth began to chatter loudly, only tuned out by the sound of rushing water. I continued to walk and the sound grew louder. If I was by the river bank, I would be close to home.
I continued to walk until my right foot felt nothing but air beneath it. I stepped back. I bent down and stretched out my hand. I had reached my end. I was not at the river bank. I was on a cliff.
   I tried to take a breath, but my chattering teeth would not let me. The coldness had grabbed hold of me and did not want to let go. I dropped to the ground and waited for the coldness to freeze me into a statue. I pictured how everyone would react when they found the statue of the missing girl. Maybe I would become a tourist attraction…
“Felene! Felene!”
The fog was broken.
“She’s here, everyone. Look.”
“Felene? Felene!”
Warm hands grabbed my shoulders and began to shake me. I opened my eyes and looked into the grey eyes of my father.
“Oh, my God. I found her!”
“I’m sorry, D-Dad,” I said through shaky breaths. “I-I didn’t f-find the treasure.”
“What?” he asked.
“It’s still missing,” I said. “The Twelfth Night Treasure…for the town. I know we win it every year. I’m sorry.”
“Shush, Felene,” he said. “You were the only thing missing and now I’ve found you.”
Then, the coldness disappeared. We found our way home and the treasure remained lost forever.

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Day 9 - Leia Weiss

Two Moose and a Tree
Leia Weiss

The snow fell languidly across the furrowed timberline.  It was not quiet; the flakes were tiny, but wet, landing with a rustle upon the dead leaves and hibernating branches of the state forest.  Birds twittered and flitted, and squirrels chased their tails through the sodden scrub.  And above all the bustle eight hairy stalks plod through the underbrush.

The stalks led to two separate torsos, which were commanded impressively by two large, shaggy heads.  Atop one of those crowns spread a rather unmajestic, quite pathetic-looking palmate antler.  Just a single wide antler, and a shabby one at that.  Its owner was yet again bemoaning the loss of the other, despite the time of year.

"Farley, look at it!  It's making my head ache.  And I look funny."

"I have no problem saying this; you always look funny."

"Farleeeey, that's not nice!"

"Your whining isn't particularly pleasant either, yet here we are."

The two herbivores carved their way through the new snow, their casual chatter uninterrupted as they scaled hillsides and traversed clearings, all the while keeping a concerned eye out for the careless yetis infesting the area.

Farley had never met a yeti up close and in person.  He'd seen evidence of their abominable presence from meters away, usually with clear barricades separating him from the creatures, and many times on the journey they had passed through territories with scores of them at once.  Their demon-armor was everywhere – he'd seen plenty of those up close, too close.  He'd even caught sight of their small lumpy bodies twisting frantically around their bizarrely-constructed dwellings.  Outside some of the domiciles, short pines, firs, and spruces lay upon their beaten paths in various states of decay, many with obnoxious designs of intricate frippery still clinging to them.  The abused evergreens lay there, abandoned, for no other purpose than to warm the ground!  Yet at the very start of their journey he'd seen other yetis from a distance, placing spruces, firs, and pines in their dens, adding their toys onto their newly-chopped greenery piece by piece.  So first they take the tree, cover its naturalness, and then suns and suns later they are done with it and discard it from their habitation?  Yeti were, as a whole, strange and bad news.  Moose, however, didn't have as much of a problem with them as Farley did.  He claimed that one of them was really his father (but naturally he "Got all my good looks from my mother's side.")  That's how he'd been named 'Moose', after all.

"Farley, is my head lopsided?  It is, isn't it?  It's lopsided!"

"No, Moose, it isn't."

"But you said-"

"I said you are lopsided...and you are.  Once you drop that right antler-"

"But I like my antlers!"

Farley did not correct Moose.  If he reminded the alces that one of his antlers had fallen it would set off a whole new slew of compl-

"Except I don't have antlers; I've got just one!  One!  I miss my other antler, Farley."

Farley snorted and his head bobbed low; this was nearing the end of a very looong trip, and he couldn't be more happy to see it coming to a close.  Farley was incredibly tired, he was hungry, they'd been walking for what seemed like ages, and they were both treading entirely too close to the habitats of the dangerous yetis for Farley to feel comfortable.  In fact, he wouldn't feel safe until he was miles and miles away from the whole business.  But...


A quiet part of Farley, deep down, was proud that he'd come so far.  He was fortunate and grateful for Moose's company during the whole excursion, without whom he would not have found his way and probably would have been injured a dozen times over by the yetis' demons.  Moose was...something else.  Resourceful and world-wise, his silly-ish personality sometimes grated on Farley's seriousness, but they were inseparable friends and Farley wouldn't change a thing.

Also, Farley didn't have to make this journey; he chose to.  He could have ignored the little one's pleading eyes and told his friend Moose 'no' a few dozen more times until the ungulate finally gave up.  He could have refused outright.  Instead, he and Moose were nearly there.

Well...if 'nearly there' meant 'several more miles of walking', at least.


Surprisingly it had taken several more days of intense traveling – of Moose's complaining and Farley's hooves aching and stopping nearly a whole day to fill their bellies as they'd been traveling on next to no food, and then more of Moose's complaining until finally Farley had 'helped' him rid himself of that lingering antler, and then more walking, walking, walking and sidestepping yeti encounters until Farley had really had enough – but Moose was there with him, encouraging him on even though Moose hadn't really bothered to ask why they were traveling to Hershey, PA, in the first place; he was happy to roam with Farley no matter where they went.  Moose had energy and bravery, while Farley did not.  He would rather graze the lands near where his mother had roamed that first year of his life, breathe the clean air and revel in the freedom of the unfettered forest.

Farley was on a mission, though.  His determination had wavered, but with Moose's help they would make it.  They were so close Farley could almost taste the filthy over-sweetened fat of it again.  Hershey, PA.  He wasn't terribly concerned with why this place of yeti indulgence trafficked skinny bricks of poo-colored sugar, all he wanted was to get in, grab the "harmonica" for his brother's calf, and go.

"So what's the plan, Farley?"

"Plan?  We approach one of the yetis and get this 'harmonica' thing, and then we go home."


"Yes, Moose."

"One: yeti only talk to themselves, and two: most yetis like to fight our kind.  How are we gonna get one to give us an harmonica?"

"Since you're descended from one, maybe they'll listen to you."

"I dunno Farley..."

"Well how about this, then.  They seem to like evergreens.  How about we find a nice one and bring it to them?  If they like it, maybe they'll help us anyway."


"Good evening, I'm Bill McClaggan standing in for Maureen tonight on Channel 16 news.  We're following breaking news right now: two bull moose have been spotted near northern Shellsville just east of the I-81 South Rest Stop, heading south and crossing local roads and highways to do so...but that's not what's most shocking about this story; it appears one of the moose is dragging a conifer tree along with it.  Yes, that's right – one of the moose is towing a tree behind it, and the other moose seems perfectly content to stick with his fellow as they make their way south along Shells Church Road.  They were first spotted lugging their precious cargo with them as they crossed the greens at Manada Golf Club, then surprised an elderly couple stopping for directions at the Therapeutic Riding Association.  Based on the sighting made just a few moments ago by eye-witnesses calling into the station, it looks like they'll be heading into the Hanover Elementary School area soon.  Fortunately, classes have not yet resumed due to the holiday break."

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