Welcome to the fifth annual Holiday Digest, a collection of fiction and nonfiction stories published in the Indy by members of the Third Street Writers, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering literary arts in Laguna Beach.
The group hosts a weekly public writing workshop on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Laguna Beach Library. They will publish their second anthology, “Beach Reads 2: Lost and Found,” this spring.
By Amy Francis Dechary
The aroma of hot chocolate and cookies permeated the Laguna Beach Girl Scout House, making Kate wonder if its walls were made of sugar. When no one was looking, she leaned over and licked the faded wallpaper. It tasted of dust.
You’re losing it, Kate shook her head. It’s this diet.
She was one week into the Power Paleo 30, a month-long cleanse that forbade carbs and dairy. Her yoga instructor said she’d feel luminous, but instead she felt like diving face-first into the dessert table.
“Mom, it’s our turn!” Her daughter Lucy pulled her outside and up the steps of the tinsel-draped trolley.
“Merry Christmas!” greeted a driver sporting a Hawaiian shirt and Santa hat. Kate blinked. Tiny pinpricks of light floated around him.
Low blood sugar, she thought.
As they rolled down Poplar Street, Lucy sat with her friends in the back, belting out the same carols Kate’s troop had sung years before. Kate unwrapped her Paleo dessert: crushed walnuts, sweet potatoes and coconut pressed into a muffin wrapper. Her hand glowed orange in the Christmas lights.
Too many sweet potatoes.
She crammed it into her mouth and pulled out her phone to finish her to-do list. Lucy’s text—her Christmas list—popped up on the screen. At its top: a Jiffy-Bake Oven.
Kate received one from Santa when she was 9, the last Christmas before she was too old for toys. She had baked tooth-achingly sweet treats for her parents all day before the bulb burned out.
I’d kill for a lousy Jiffy-Bake brownie right now.
Kate opened her list.
Mail cards. Order organic turkey.
“No cookies tonight?” the driver called over the singing.
“I’m doing Paleo!” she shouted.
“The wife wants to put me on that,” the driver chuckled, “but I told her not until after Christmas.”
Bake cookies (grain-free). Wrap teachers’ gifts.
“Mom, look!” Lucy interrupted Kate’s list making. “The manger!”
The wind clouded Kate’s contacts, making it look like snow was dusting the steps of Laguna Presbyterian.
Buy sweet potatoes. “Yes, I see it, honey.”
“Only five more loops!” The driver headed toward Main Beach.
“That many, huh?” Kate muttered.
Suddenly, the trolley screeched to a halt, slamming her into the seatback.
“Are you crazy?” she screamed. “Lucy, are you alright?”
Kate turned to find all of Troop 487 frozen like ice sculptures, smiles spread across rosy cheeks, tongues stuck to candy canes, hands raised mid-wave.
“Hold on tight!” Two blue eyes twinkled in the rearview mirror.
Immediately, the trolley tilted upward and shot above the rooftops.
“Help!” Kate’s cries fell, unheard, on the unmoving pedestrians below.
“Do you remember when you got one?” the driver called.
“Got what?” Kate clutched the seat.
“A Jiffy-Bake Oven.”
Her stomach flip-flopped as they flew over the boardwalk and across the sand.
“How do you know about that?” It’s the muffin. The coconut’s fermented and I’m hallucinating.
“That was your best Christmas, wasn’t it?” Sleigh bells jingled as the driver made a U-turn over the water and landed on Forest Avenue.
Yes, it was. “Who are you?”
A loud ding broke the silence.
“Just in time!” The driver reached beneath his seat. “For you.”
Balanced in his hands was a Jiffy-Bake oven. Inside sat a steaming brownie.
“I don’t understand—” Kate stammered.
“Go ahead!” he winked. “Try it.”
As she swallowed the gooey chocolate, Christmas tunes poured out of the loudspeaker and the girls’ laughter rushed over Kate like a wave. A wisp of snow swirled across the sidewalk and disappeared into the night.
“Are you having fun, Mom?” Lucy bounced onto the seat next her.
“Yes, honey.” She smiled at the eyes in the rearview mirror and slipped her phone in her pocket. “I am.”
Amy Francis Dechary still wishes Santa would leave a light bulb-powered oven under the tree. She and her Daisy Scout loved their long-ago adventure on the Girl Scout Christmas Trolley.