Christmas scowled at the Holidays seated around the table in Groundhog Day’s burrow deep in the woods of Southern Illinois.

“Thank you, Hog,” Christmas said, “for hosting our annual family meeting.  I’m glad I could give you this opportunity to be useful.”

Christmas waved a hand over her nose and moved her chair to put more space between her and Groundhog Day. “You’re a bit, ah… earthier… this year, little guy. So brave, you rodents are. Letting your aromatic freak flags fly. I lack your courage to skip bathing.”

Groundhog Day forced a smile and looked at the freshly sharpened tools hanging over his workbench. He glanced at Hanukkah, who was blinking her round golden eyes at him. She nodded and mouthed the words, “Do It.”

“This better be quick,” New Year’s Eve snapped. “I’ve got a lot to do before my big day tomorrow.”

“Oh, please,” Christmas said. “See these dark circles under my eyes? I do more work than all you other Holidays combined. I’m tired. I want the rest of you to start helping me out.”

Halloween clicked his triangle teeth. “Well, it’s your own fault, my pretty. Every year you show up too early. You dump your stuff into stores before I do!”

Thanksgiving groaned. “Halloween’s right. You show up on MY DAY with your lights and jingles! Hardly anyone decorates for me anymore. You gotta leave my day alone, Christmas, or I’ll—”

“Or you’ll what?” Christmas burst from her chair. Snow fell from her curly white hair and landed on the head of Labor Day who was sitting to her right. Labor Day sneezed and shivered.

Mother’s Day reached across the table and handed Labor Day a tissue.

“Please,” Mother’s Day scolded. “Keep your snow to yourself, missy. Now say you’re sorry.”

“Sorry? Sorry? Sorry?” Christmas trilled. “Oh, I’m sorry all right. I’m sorry I have to work so hard and start so early because PEOPLE LIKE ME BEST! I need help, especially from you Holidays who don’t do much!”

Christmas flashed her red and green eyes at Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, who’d chosen seats at the other end of the table, as far away from Christmas as possible.

“Well, really,” Hanukkah said. “You’re not only rude, Christmas, you’re a bully. And if you’ve forgotten what can happen to bullies, I’d be happy to remind you.”

Groundhog Day clenched his paws so he wouldn’t clap. 

Kwanzaa pushed up from the table. “Dudes, I want no part of this.”

St. Patrick’s Day grabbed Kwanzaa’s hand. “Sit back down, lad.” He glared at Christmas. “We all work hard, lass, but you don’t find us crying for help. I think you’re getting a wee bit lazy.”

“Lazy?” Christmas laughed. “So says the old goat who does nothing but green up the beer and heat up the corny beef.”

“It’s Corned Beef!” St. Patrick’s Day roared. He reached into his robe and withdrew a fistful of shamrocks. He flung them at Christmas.

Christmas raised her arms. “Oh, little green weeds. I’m so scared!” She reached into her gown, withdrew a heavy gold ornament, and aimed it at St. Patrick’s head.

St. Patrick’s Day hefted his shillelagh and swung the thick walking stick over his head.

“Shamrocks!” he shouted. “Weeds? Shameful sacrilege, wicked wench!” He lunged toward Christmas.

“Stop! Stop fighting!” Valentine’s Day flew between Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day. Her satiny, heart-shaped face puckered into wrinkles. Tears brimmed her chocolate eyes. “Dear family,” she sobbed. “Love is all that matters. If Christmas feels she needs our help, I’m willing to try.”

Father’s Day stood. “Aw, don’t cry, sweetie.” He walked over to Valentine’s Day and patted her shoulder.

Veteran’s Day shot to his feet. The medals on his uniform sparkled in the lights blazing from the gown Christmas wore. “Valentine’s Day is right,” he said. “We have to help each other. That’s what families do. And we, the American branch of the Holidays, must never forget our mission, to help humans come together and commemorate all the important events and heroes in their lives. Christmas may be a little busier than the rest of us, and she does work hard. So I say, let’s help her!”

Mardi Gras belched and raised a plump purple arm. “I’d be happy to share my drinks with you, Christmas. It’d be an invigorating change from all that egg nog.”

“And I,” boomed Independence Day, “could help with the lights.”

Easter and Passover looked at each other and shrugged. “We’re springtime souls,” they said together. “We’re not sure what help we can offer. Christmas kinda scares us.”

“Have no fear, my fellow Holidays,” Martin Luther King’s Day said. “I’m sure we can all dream up ways to help Christmas, and any Holiday who needs help. Together, we can accomplish anything!”

The Holidays rose from their chairs, cheering and clapping and stamping their feet.

All but one. Groundhog Day remained seated and silent.

Christmas felt her legs go weak. She sat back down. An unfamiliar feeling of peace and goodwill brought tears to her eyes. “Well,” she murmured to herself. “I deserve no less. They’d be nothing without me.”

“This calls for a celebration nap,” Groundhog Day squeaked. His shadow glided over each Holiday, making them drowsy. Soon almost all the Holidays were fast asleep, snoring softly in their chairs.

All but Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day slumped in his chair. These end-of-the-year family gatherings that Christmas required wreaked havoc on his hibernation schedule. He yawned, scowled, and muttered, “This happens every year. Hanukkah’s right. It’s gotta stop. Christmas punches buttons. Stirs the pot. Bullies us all. Gets everyone riled up. She’s become too high maintenance. Too toxic. Someone’s gotta restore peace and harmony and uninterrupted hibernation in our Holiday family. Someone’s gotta stop Christmas!”

He lurched to his feet. Stumbled to his workbench. Grabbed a file from a hook on the wall. He sat back in his chair. Opened his mouth. And began filing his teeth into razor-sharp points.

Marie Anderson is a Chicago area married mother of three millennials with about 75 stories published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Saturday Evening Post, Mystery Magazine, Woman’s World, and Brilliant Flash Fiction.

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Every Day Fiction