Thanks, Amber, for letting me visit! I have a couple of holiday stories out this year, but I especially wanted to tell folks about The Festivus Miracle. That’s because I donate all my royalties from this story to Doctors Without Borders, and I’d dearly love to send them a big fat check.
It’s finals week during Tony McNeil’s second year in law school, and he’s struggling to keep up. Frankly, he’d rather be cooking. Then he meets first-year student Eddie Cohen-Fernandez, who’s heartsick over missing his family’s annual Festivus celebration. Tony can use his culinary skills to lift Eddie’s spirits, but finding long-term happiness? That just might require a Festivus miracle.
Snow had begun to fall while they were inside. Big, fat flakes twirled prettily under the streetlights and frosted front lawns like confectioner’s sugar on a cake. Eddie peered out the window. “It’s sticking. Do you think they’ll cancel exams?”
“They wouldn’t cancel exams for the apocalypse. They’ll sand the sidewalks really well so no aspiring lawyers slip and sue the university, but there will be exams. Besides, don’t you want to get them over with so you can be on vacation?”
“I guess I’m not really doing vacation this year,” Eddie said in a small voice. “I was going to fly home for Festivus, but—”
“Yeah, you know. The holiday for the rest of us.”
They were stopped at a red light, so Tony gave him a look. “You mean from Seinfeld?”
“Yep. My mom’s a lapsed Catholic with Unitarian leanings. Dad’s an agnostic Jew. My older sister’s Wiccan, my brother and his husband are Buddhists, and my younger sister converted to Mormonism, believe it or not. She and her crew like to spend Christmas with her husband’s family, but we all show up for Festivus every year, no matter what. Attendance is nonnegotiable, according to Mom. It’s a thing. Only… this year I really can’t go.” He seemed on the verge of tears again.
“Why not?” Tony asked gently.
“I can’t survive here for long without a car. I have to spend money on a new transmission instead of plane fare.”
Tony couldn’t even imagine not having a vehicle. “Why not drive home instead?”
“The car won’t be fixed in time. And anyway, I wouldn’t trust it that far, new tranny or not. I’d end up stuck in the middle of Utah, or my engine would fall out when I was crossing Donner Pass.” He sighed, long and loud. “So what about you? Heading to Chicago?”
“Nope. My parents spend the holidays in Cabo. I’ll just hang out here. Catch up on my sleep.” That was his normal holiday routine. He cooked a lot too, trying out new recipes, filling his empty house with good smells. Even back in Chicago during college, when he’d had a lot more friends, everyone else was busy with family at Christmastime. He’d lived in a condo then—another of his parents’ investments—and the kitchen hadn’t been nearly as well equipped as the one here in Lincoln.
He drove slowly. Traffic was very light, just occasional headlights shining through the whirling flakes. It was like driving in a snow globe. The windshield wipers squeaked a bit as they pushed the light accumulation to the side.
Eddie lived in a crappy three-story apartment building between the law school and downtown, the sort of place that was inhabited by either desperate students or drug addicts. Tony pulled as close as he could to the front door, feeling slightly embarrassed about his own rather upscale house. But Eddie grinned. “Home sweet home. Every three weeks we call about the roaches, and someone comes and sprays, and the roaches move next door. After a few weeks, the neighbors call, and the roaches migrate back to our place. It’s a comfortingly predictable ritual.”
“We?” Tony said, the first-person plural having made a greater impression on his stupid brain than the bug migrations.
“I share my palatial accommodations with a pair of philosophy grad students. Who really should get used to living in squalor because, really, philosophy? Might as well call it Pre-Barista Studies.”
They snickered, then sat and watched snowflakes spiral onto the windshield. Eddie didn’t seem in any hurry to leave, and Tony wasn’t eager to be rid of him. But when Eddie placed his hand on Tony’s leg, just above the knee, and squeezed gently, Tony had to bite back a groan. How long had it been since someone had touched him?
“We’ll both be in town over break, then,” Eddie said.
“So we could maybe… hang out? If you want to, I mean.”
The perpetually tense muscles in Tony’s shoulders relaxed a fraction. It felt good. “I want to,” he said.
He was still smiling as he pulled away.
The Festivus Miracle is available at Amazon.
I’m really hoping all of you will slap down $1.99 of your hard-earned cash to buy this one. (If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free!) But I’d also like to do a contest. So… on January 1 at noon Pacific time, I’ll randomly choose one person who comments here (please include your email!), and that lucky person can choose a free copy of one of my other holiday stories: Saint Martin’s Day, Alaska, A Great Miracle Happened There, or Joys R Us.