Krismas is a time of celebration in Corsair, very similar to our Christmas. I was not going to use the wreath prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com this week. I started on one of my favourite Christmas pieces, an interview with some of my characters. More specifically, one of the times when I go visiting them. So despite the wreath prompt from the photo, I’m off to the Viridian System, to the planet Sunset Strip, to visit my former asteroid miners, Lars and Pete. This is set after Zanzibar’s Rings, of course. It’s a long piece – 2,250 words. And there’s an end-of-year sale at Smashwords starting on Thursday. Just saying…

a stone building with two large wooden doors, hung upon which is an impressive wreath

The Krismas Wreath

Sunset Strip

Despite the galactic disaster when the orichalcum comms network failed, meaning no spaceflight or comms, and total isolation for the outer systems, I have arrived at Sunset Strip for Krismas with Lars and Pete. Or Lard and Pete, as I managed to leave in the paperback version of the book.

“That’s very perceptive,” Maggie says, ladling an aromatic soup into a bowl for me. “He’s not getting much exercise these days, apart from walking around town.”

“No surfing?” I ask before I tuck in. The soup is delicious, the bread roll wafts its aroma around as I break it, and the spread is buttery and light. 

“He could, but he sort of doesn’t any more. He’s says he’s going surfing, but he rarely goes over the hill to the surfing beach. Only when Jason’s around. Strange really. Jason never struck me as the surfing type.”

I consider this as I eat my soup. It’s been a long journey, and I missed the main meal of the day. I also missed Lars. “Thanks for the meal, Maggie. It’s delicious.”

“Well, it is standard fare these days. A soup or something similar at one meal, and a collage of dishes at the other. It used to be the boys’ favourite way of eating, but now, well, it’s as much as they are going to get.”

“I bet Pete says it’s better than space rations and just eats it up.”

Maggie laughs. “Yes, he does. He’s incredibly accepting of everything life throws at him. I suppose it’s the way he grew up.”

It’s the way they all grew up, I muse, but then wonder. Don’t we all just cope with what life throws at us, but some rail against it and others make the best of what they have? “And now Pete has family again.” I say it out loud, but Maggie seems to be on my thread.

“Yes, and he’s keen for you to meet them.You’ll probably eat better down there, anyway. They were already on the way to self-sufficiency before the green lightning hit.”

The green lightning is one of the terms for the galactic disaster.

A humming, hissing sound that I’ve been hearing for a few minutes reaches the sort of noise level worth commenting on. 

“Oh, that’s Pete’s shuttle. He’ll only be about five minutes now.”

Travelling

“So, are you ready to come and meet the family, then?” We have hugged, gossiped, and Pete has delivered some fresh fruit, sweet and savoury, into Maggie’s care. 

It’s ripening season in the south, where the Corsairs are. In the north, at Sunset Strip city itself, it’s harvest and root vegetable time, although it’s such a good climate they are already growing new fruiting plants.

“How do you keep track of when Krismas is?” I ask as we lift off from the levelled area on the other side of the hill. The sea is dark green below us, with gentle rollers breaking on the shore. “And where is Lars? Maggie didn’t exactly say.”

“He’s working on a secret project. He’s got several at present. I think today’s is to do with the old secure leisure facility.”

“Where you used to send any vacationers from the Federation and the Imperium? “

He nods. His glance shows crinkled edges to his eyes and wicked glint. 

“What so funny about that?”

“Well, there weren’t many of either there, and it was always a mystery to us how they were getting on when they were on vacation. It turns out there were two completely separate parts of every building, so if they had to share, like the restaurants and shopping mall, they did so without encountering the other parties. And the few that survived when they discovered each other after the lightning event, decided to set up separate camps. So with us, that is the Elders, having taken over the whole shebang, we told them they had to work together with the groups who wanted to break away, and set up a productive operation that would be useful to the whole planet.”

“Why would they do that?” There were some characters I couldn’t imagine co-operating with anyone, let alone the opposing faction.

“Food. They are dependent on us for their food. Those breakaway folks tried to stash stores and steal seeds when they realised what was going on, but they couldn’t hide for long, and decided it was just easier to take part in the general planning and sharing of food production.”

We went quiet for a bit, as you do on a long journey, even though it was only a few hours down to the southern hemisphere Corsair settlements.

“Do you miss… well, of course you do.” Silly me. Missing people are always missed. 

Pete smiled. “We’ll be landing in about five minutes or so. I know you know most of these people to write about, but will you need introductions?”

“Possibly. Some may not look like I originally imagined them. You are always shorter in real life than I imagine you. And everyone’s older.”

Corsair Central

Maya raced towards us as we disembarked from the shuttle.  Pete caught her up in a hug and swung her round. You’d think they were eight-year-olds, not mature adults.

She saw me smiling.

“Well, I can’t help it. I always think he’s going to disappear off into space and I’ll never see him again.”

“I don’t think he’s going anywhere these days,” I said, checking with Pete. He gave the briefest of shakes of his shaggy hair. 

“If I am, you’ll know about it before me.”

Maya linked arms with Pete, so I linked arms the other side, and we walked over to the town.

The scenery was not what I’d imagined. It wasn’t featureless, with sparse undergrowth, like an African plateau. Yes, there were broad tracts of fairly flat land, all growing crops, and looking very fertile, but there were also hills and dells and a river valley below the settlement.

What had once resembled a border outpost was now a thriving warren of streets, with gaily coloured merchandise hung about, or so it seemed. The spreading tree was still much in evidence at the heart of the colony, and the original buildings put up as hall and cookhouse served as community centre and covered market.

“We moved the cookhouse down to the sandy area above the river.” She pointed and I saw a community kitchen and stepped terraces with tables and benches covering the hillside. “It’s not a problem if people want to cook on their own, but the food is so good that most of us eat centrally, unless we want something more romantic.”

“And they can always have takeaways,” Pete added. “Hungry?”

“Um, depends when dinner is. I had something with Maggie.”

“It’s Krismas eve dinner, so it’s traditional, but fairly plain. We have to finish working on the Krismas decorations,” Pete explained.

Maya stopped him. “You did bring it?”

“What?” I could tell from his innocent expression Pete was teasing, but Maya didn’t seem to.

“Oh, you. I told you all the things we could find. I suppose we can substitute some things, but I was so hoping you’d find… Oh—you beast!” She broke off and pushed his arm as she realised. “Brothers!” she said to me.

“Oh, I know, believe me I know!” I replied. “So, what’s so important?”

“Come through here and I’ll show you.”

We made our way past the kitchen area, avoiding everyone working on pastries, kneading bread, or preparing vegetables. “That’s all for tomorrow’s feast,” Maya said, “today will be raclette, if Pete found the cheese.”

“Three. I could have rolled them down, but it would be better if about six people came back to get them with me.”

Maya nodded. “No problem. Although three won’t go far.”

“You should see the size of them. If we keep to small portions you’ll get a hundred from each one, I reckon.”

“Well, pick who you want and go get them. It’s only an hour or so till sunset now. I’ll show you the decorations.” Maya led through to a large barn that delved into the hillside, as Pete took a path up the hill. 

“I hadn’t realised this was here,” I said.

“It was an interesting project all right, but we felt it worthwhile to have a cooler storage area. And it’s ideal for getting all our greenery together. Look.”

I looked. Four rows of long benches were laid out with strands of foliage on ropes, or else they were creepers or climbing plants. Men and women, many old, some teenagers, were working together to fashion them into garlands and other shapes.

“We’re trying to make sure we keep our old traditions,” Maya explained. “Many of the oldsters only have memories of the part they played in them. But it’s still worth sharing, and hopefully we’ll make the whole out of the sum of the parts.”

“Maybe it will be more than that,” I commented. “Maybe you’ll invent some new traditions along the way.”

“Oh, that would be fun. What’s this box, Carver?” she asked a young man winding some of the creepers into a crate.

“Garlands for the hall. There’s a bit of a problem though. Mother Farwell keeps saying there should be a wreath.”

“Well, of course there should be a wreath. It’s the centrepiece of the Krismas display.”

“Well, nobody here knows what it is, or how to make it. I hope you do.”

Maya stood still. Very still. She cast her eyes up and down the rows, looking for someone and not finding them. “Mother Tredegar. Barbra. Surely she taught someone the skills before she passed.” It was more than a murmur, but not addressed to anyone.

Carver shifted on his feet, and turned back to his task.

Maya called out in a very loud voice, which hushed the entire building to listen to her. “Listen everyone. Is there anyone here who learned about the wreath from Barbra, Mother Tredegar. Or even watched her make it? Anyone? Anyone at all?”

“She always took the stuff away and did it herself, Maya. She said she had to put her spell on it.”

“I remember, Roisin. I just thought she would have passed her secret on, knowing…” Maya sighed. There was a long pause.

“Um,” I started. “I know how to make a wreath. I’m not much good at it though.”

a Krismas Wreath

So that was how I came to demonstrate making a Krismas wreath, which I had only done once, at a wreath-making workshop, in front of twenty eager pairs of eyes.

Several knew the skills of wiring small groups of fruits and cones and the like together, so I set them the task of making plenty of those while I got two others to be hands-on making a frame with me, then holding it while I wove the first layer of greenery into it.

After that it was a community effort, picking additions to fold into the structure, and helping me force unyielding branches into shape so they stayed put. Several of the early bits were bound tight by one of the lads who seemed particularly good at knots.

Slowly the wreath came together. More contributions came from odd sources. This was truly a community wreath. At last I stepped back, and asked: “Do we have a centrepiece, or does it have an open centre?”

A woman stepped forward with a huge lace bow. “I think this is what we need. I’m Jo Fitzgerald, by the way, I’ve got some cream for your hands. You’ll be sore in the morning if they aren’t now.” I thanked my stars I’d written a doctor into this community.

I was given the task of carrying the wreath up the path to the community centre, My escort seemed to be the entire workforce but it turned out that this was a ceremony everyone came to, as the wreath was hung on the door, the garlands were draped around it, and around the hall. Then there was food, followed by a Krismas Eve sing-song.

The raclette turned out to be melted cheese, eaten with fresh bread and pickles, olives, crispy-skinned potatoes, and other snacks. There were two helpings each, but it was really an appetiser for tomorrow’s feast. What my stomach didn’t get my ego did, for the speech of thanks for the wreath and for all that I’d done for the community warmed my heart. Reminding myself to accept praise graciously, I didn’t mutter ‘it was nothing’, or ‘it was lucky I’d been to a workshop’, but just ‘thank you.’

I knew many of the tunes, but not the words of the songs. Some seemed to recall an event a long time ago when a mother had a baby and the father had to find shepherds in the snow to look after them. Others told tales of another mythology entirely.

It was late by the time the party finished, but at midnight somebody sent a sparkling firework over the community and they all yelled ‘Happy Krismas!” and went around hugging and kissing each other. Including me.

I left Pete with his family, and came home the way I’d come. The only sign I had that it wasn’t a dream was when I found Jo Fitzgerald’s cream in my pocket, and I gratefully rubbed some more in. 

Then I put my own wreath, carefully stored for years, on my front door, and started my own Christmas preparations.

https://new2writing.files.wordpress.com/2023/01/arrowslit.jpg?w=576

Come back Thursday for all the details of my books in the Smashwords End-of-Year Sale

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Krismas Wreath | #writephoto Flash Fiction

3 thoughts on “Krismas Wreath | #writephoto Flash Fiction

  • 12 December, 2022 at 6:20 pm
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    I love it. You’re making me think about making a visit to some of my characters… it’s a great way to get more insight, isn’t it? And fun for the reader, too.

  • Pingback:#Writephoto Round-Up – Wreath – New2Writing

  • 17 December, 2022 at 4:02 pm
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    I have a Yuletide story at Castle Marsh ready for next week, but no internet access at home to load it up. Fingers crossed.

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