I’m doing something a little scary: the following is a short piece of fiction, based on a prompt from Write on Edge. The prompt was to write a short “holiday” related piece, starting with the phrase “the doorbell rang” and ending with “the snow began to fall”. It was also supposed to be 300 words or less. I managed the first requirement, had to change the tense on the second, and completely blew the third: my story is about twice as long.
The doorbell rang. I had dozed off, cuddled on the couch with the two dogs and the cat, and it took a second ring before I woke enough to register the sound. My companions realized that we had visitors at the same time I did and the subsequent cacophony was impressive.
The bell continued to ring and as I opened the inside door, I understood why: standing on my porch were my neighbor’s boys. I struggled to open the screen-door, letting the dogs out, and snagging the cat just before he could sneak out behind them. The screen-door was barely open before Otto started in:
“Miss Bea! Can we rake your snow?” Four year old Otto was carrying a shovel twice his height.
Max, age 7, rolled his eyes, sighed, and said “Otto, not raking, shoveling.” He, too, was holding a shovel and shook it to emphasize his point.
He turned to me and said “Mommy told us we could come over and ask you. We’ll work really hard and you’d hardly have to pay us anything. See, we even brought our own shovels.” Again, he shook the shovel. Otto shook his at me, too.
I suspected that their mother hadn’t actually approved a shoveling business, but had just been happy to have them out of the house. They looked so earnest, I hated to disappoint them, so I played along.
“Hardly anything, you say? And how much would that be?”
“I thought $7 for me and $4 for Otto, since he’s only 4 and won’t do as much work as me. We’re trying to save up money to get Mommy something for Christmas.”
I expected Otto to object to this insult to his honor, but when he didn’t, I decided not to push it. Instead, I went with “I guess that seems pretty reasonable. And I’m sure your Mom would love to get something nice from you for Christmas. There’s just one problem!”
“Don’t you think we can work hard for you?” Max looked worried.
I chuckled. “Oh, it’s not that. I’m sure you’d do a fine job, but sweetheart — there’s no snow!”
Max turned his sigh on me and said “Well, of course we know that, but it’s almost Christmas and it has just gotta snow soon! We thought we would be ready and get the snow while it is still falling!”
By this time, the dogs had returned from their exploration of the yard and started to nose at the boys’ legs. I was starting to get cold, and the cat was squirming in my arms.
“Why don’t you boys come on in, and we’ll have some hot chocolate and cookies. You probably ought to go check with your Mom, first.”
Otto was clearly ready to follow me in immediately, but Max put a hand on his arm and said “OK, Miss Bea, but you just wait, it’s gonna snow. We’ll be right back.”
Both boys dropped their shovels with a clatter on my sidewalk and ran towards home. I let the dogs in, shut the screen-door and set the cat down. I started to walk towards the back of the house to get the hot chocolate started when I heard shouting. Otto was accident prone, so I hurried to make sure everyone was safe.
No one was hurt though — I ran out laughing to join the two small boys who were standing on my sidewalk. They had their arms outstretched and heads upturned, and were catching great big fat flakes on their tongues.
As Max had predicted, the snow had begun to fall.