Holiday Fiction Digest

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Atiku

By Kelsie Parker

The stretch of sand between Forest and Broadway is clean of footprints, wiped smooth by the steady breeze that washes over it nightly. Even on this beautiful clear night, even in this desert climate, it’s far too cold for mortals to walk the beach. I look out over the twilight-covered sea, the waves rolling one after another, one after another, onto the shores. Such is the passage of time, too.

Behind me there, multicolored lights still cling to some of the houses. It’s the quiet sort of excitement between Christmas and New Year’s. People are resting and cleaning up wrapping paper and finishing leftovers as they prepare for another celebration. I can feel it building behind the closed doors and in the streets.

I ignore it all and slip my shoes off, letting myself down lightly from where I sit on the boardwalk. My footprints catch the last little bit of winter light coming in through the clouds, creating little pools of shadow wherever I step. It’s not a long walk to reach the white foam which defines the edge between the land and the water.

I lift my dress up and off my body. It is like a skin belonging to someone else. Peeling it off and tossing it away, I feel like myself again. I raise my arms, closing my eyes for a moment as I stretch and breathe, filling my lungs along with the movement. Then, I walk into the water.

Tonight, I am no longer human. I am no longer hiding. I am once again Tiamat, goddess of the sea.

I descend beneath the waves, my long hair flowing out around me like a halo. The cold doesn’t touch me. My nerves tingle and warm in response to the water’s embrace and I let myself sink lower. At these depths, I can sense how this sea connects to the next and reaches out to every body of water covering the earth.

It was not here where it had happened, that dark night so many decades ago, but I can still hear that same sea calling me across the great distance. My ocean, in the world I had helped create. The people had cheered when hehad slain me, rent me two as though that alone could kill me. You can’t kill a goddess that way, but they thought he had. In reality, my spirit had gone into the water. Thousands of tiny bubbles sank to the ocean floor instead of rising to break at the surface. As people celebrated above—the defeat of the great sea monster—I was gathering together the parts of myself into a new form, one in which I could bide my time and wait to make my triumphant return.

My hands touch the ripples of sand on the floor first, then I lay my body out, thinking of the mortal souls in their homes preparing for the coming of a new year. Did they even know to whom they were truly paying homage? Of course not. But tomorrow, when I rise from the water in my full strength at last, they will. Oh, they will.

Kelsie Parker is currently pursuing a master’s degree in creative writing. She is greatly influenced by ancient Greek literature, folklore and the works of Philip Pullman and J.M. Barrie.

 

The Disappointment Bowl of Holiday Cheer

By Victoria Kertz

As this year stumbles into the end zone, the joy that we Americans are expected to revel in during the winter holidays will be overshadowed by a dastardly event that plagues us every year. No, it’s not some religious observation, nor is it some Laguna Beach tradition, like filing a complaint against your neighbor for an issue involving trees or water polo. It’s worse. It’s the NCAA College Bowl Game Season, a 23-day stretch of mediocre football games played by teams of varying relevance in half-empty professional stadiums. Not that it matters in Laguna, because neither UCLA nor USC qualified for a bowl game this year.

In decades past, it was genuinely exciting if your team got into one of about six bowl games, but now there are 40 bowl games and only two of them mean anything. The winners of the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl, both played on Dec. 29, will be dumped into the National Championship, which is technically not a bowl game and played on Jan. 7, when the holidays are long over and everyone is preparing for Ski Week.

Just weeks ago, my husband anticipated his University of Michigan Wolverines would play in one of those Meaningful Bowls, but he faced a daunting challenge. We needed to schedule our flight for a previously planned vacation on Dec. 29, the same day as the Meaningful Bowl games, such that he would not miss a millisecond of Michigan football. After hours of agonizing flight searches, we found nonrefundable tickets that allowed ample time for us to arrive, get the rental car, and settle ourselves in front of a television for one or both games. Done.

But no! It was too soon! The Wolverines lost in horrid fashion to their perennial rival Ohio State by an unspeakable number. They were no longer Meaningful Bowl-bound. College football squashed our holiday plans before they started. Before December even started!

And if you think Delta Air Lines will let you change your flight for bowl-game-related reasons, you would be wrong. We will land in Salt Lake City as scheduled and make our way to Park City for a week of skiing and cousin-filled chaos, hours and hours before we can check into our VRBO. Alas.

My alma mater Appalachian State (yes, the same Appalachian State that beat Michigan in 2007) played in the not-very-prestigious-sounding R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 15. I wished them well but was not surprised when only three people schlepped to the massive Superdome to watch them beat Middle Tennessee State.

The Wolverines, a team that finds a way to devastate my husband year after year, will be fine. They’re playing in the slightly-more-prestigious-sounding Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl against the University of Florida on Dec. 29.

As luck would have it, his game starts when we are literally flying in the air to Salt Lake City. We will miss almost all of the game.

Perhaps Laguna Beach High School could host a bowl game next year? Make it the first Thursday of December and call it the City of Laguna Beach Art Walk Bowl. Doesn’t it just roll off the tongue? It’ll bring in tourism dollars, fill up hotel rooms, and ruin someone else’s holiday plans.

 

Victoria Kertz lives in Aliso Viejo and is a writer for Sauté Magazine.

 

 

 

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