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Long Story Short · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Christmas Bells Are Ringing
I smile, looking at the profile of the person calling me on my phone. Setting the knife aside and swiping, I put the phone up to my ear.

“Hey, sweetie, how’s it going!” I say, eagerly waiting to hear my daughters squeaky voice.

“Hi, Papa!” the voice on the other end crackled. “How are you doing?”

I put on a grin that could outshine the moon and sigh. “Just fantastic, sweetie.” Glancing to the box beside me, I pat it. “And guess what? Santa’s given me your present early so I can put it under the tree! How awesome is that?”

“Really?!” Caroline shouted, her energy showing through my phone’s feeble speakers. “How did you get it? Why did he give it to you so early?? It’s not even Christmas for one more day!”

“Now now, calm down Carol,” I said, chuckling softly. “One question at a time.”

“How did you get the present? Was it through a chimney? Was he bigger and jollier than you thought? Does Rudolph really have the shiniest nose?”

I sigh, shaking my head. “Alright alright, so Santa didn’t really give it to me in person. He just left it on the… the…” Thinking of something believable off the bat, I widen my eyes. “On the counter! After finishing work, he had left something on my desk, and when I went to go check it, it was your present.

“It even has a note on it that says-” I struggle to reach her present with my current position and am somehow able to snag the card I had written, shakily reading it in the passing lights above “-Hi, Caroline! This is Santa, saying that you’ve been so very good this year. How about that? So good that you get to have this under the tree early and guess what’s inside! Remember, stay good and you’ll get even more presents next year. Many wishes, Santa Claus.”

Hearing nothing but the rumbling of cars and heaters, I fear she might’ve accidentally hung up until I hear ecstatic breathing on the other end. “Wow, really? That’s the superest most super thing ever!”

“It really is, isn’t it?” I sigh, watching my weakening breaths escape into the air. “I think it’s magical. Don’t you, sweetie?”

“The magicalest!” Carol shouted. “Heehee! This is so much fun! Did you write Santa a letter saying thanks for the early present yet?”

“Of course!” I say, “With extra jollyness!”

“And candy canes?”

“And candy canes, yeah,” I chuckle. Flexing my ears as Carol goes silent for a second more, I hear the distant voice of my wife Elaine and breathing in the phone again.

“Papa, when are you coming home?” Carol asks.

My smile falters and I wince. “Well, now that’s a long story. It might not be for a while, sweetie. You might not be seeing me for the next little bit. Is that okay?”

“I’ve got time,” Carol says. “I know you can drive while the car speaks for you! So can you tell me when, please please please?”

I smile. Her enthusiasm is infectious. “Well, I have your present, that’s all that really matters. Safe and sound! But when I was coming home, stopping at the store to get food, you know, like Hersheys and Nestles. You like cookies n’ cream, right?”


“Noo,” I say, feeling a grin forming. “I should just go back and return this.”

“No!” Carol shouts, panicking. “I like chocolate! I love chocolate! Chocolate is the bestest food there is!”

Having proven her point, I concede. “Don’t worry, don’t worry, you’ll have your chocolate.”

“Yay!” she shouts, and I laugh.

“Hehe, alright, so long story short, huh?” I say with a small laugh.. Coughing, I say it once again, a low whisper, glancing at the knife I had so stupidly set aside. “Long story short…”

“Well, sweetie,” I murmur into the phone. “Short as the rabbit hole and sweet as your smile, I won’t be home tonight.”

“Papa?” I hear Carol say, and I feel my lips begin to tremble. “Papa, what do you mean?”

“Be good, Carol,” I say. “Saint Nick’ll come this year with lot’s of presents, so you better be good, okay?”

“Papa, I’m scared!”

“Tell Mommy I love her okay?” I say.

“Papa? Papa-!?”

I hang up.

Blinking the blurriness away from my eyes, I feel a sob begin to rack my body.

Clutching my phone tightly, I smile looking at the profile of the person calling me on my phone.
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#1 ·
· · >>Monokeras
Nothing says Christmas spirit like getting shanked and left for dead in an alley. At least, that's what I think happened. The story is light on details about that, and I wish it painted a more vivid image of what happened prior to the phone call. I liked the voices, though, they really gripped me.
#2 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
So I'm operating off the idea that Zaid is correct. Suicide might be a possibility too. It is awkwardly unclear.

Honestly, this ends up being a little too emotionally manipulative for me, I think. Using the end reveal like you do makes this feel a bit more like a cheap shot than earned pathos, especially given I can;t quite follow the logic here. I mean, I get it. Guy wants to have last words with his daughter. But it kinda feels like he is actively contributing to his own death. Not gonna call anyone else? Talk to your wife? Anything given how much energy you seem to have early in this conversation?

I'm also not quite sure I buy the kid's last lines, as they seem to indicate a little too much sense and scene reading despite how relatively young she seems to be.

Play it straight from the start and don't be subtle. Positioning this as a reveal really doesn't add much to the story, The base emotional beat and nature of the story doesn't really emerge until you reach the end and have the opportunity to recontextualize. Which isn't how you should do twists. Twists should give you more, while I feel all this one does is get you to square one on the actual story since we lack a real sense of conflict or urgency without it.
#3 ·
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
>>Zaid Val'Roa
Nah, I don’t believe the guy is going to be mugged or commit suicide. To me, he’s just a two-timer with two different lovers and families, and he must choose which one to spend Xmas with. That explains the final line, which makes no sense otherwise.

The fic is marred by a really awkward and faulty prose. Time shifts, odd phrasing (“call me on the phone” why not “phone me”?, “I flex my ears”, I mean, really? Etc.), and I find the dialogue too cliched and contrived to be relatable. It’s very formulaic and I don’t feel any sort of real emotion dripping through.

So yeah, not really sure what to do with this one, except that it needs work to bring it up to par.
#4 · 3
· · >>Monokeras
“I flex my ears”, I mean, really?

Maybe the author forgot this wasn't a pony round.
#5 ·
>>Zaid Val'Roa
Fair enough! :)
#6 · 2
It has some nice dialog, but I found this piece quite confusing overall.

Mentioning a knife so early is definitely an attention grabber. The knife could be a butter knife, I suppose, but then we get to additional hints such as the 'weakening breath' and such, so it does seem like he is injured/dying, though we never get clarity as to what happened/how is the knife important. Without knowing how he would use it, It's not clear why setting it aside matters. If he's injured, was he not able to defend himself? Zaid's hypothesis is as good as any, though there's also some hint that he's traveling: "I know you can drive while the car speaks for you." Also, perhaps speak and drive got reversed? And if he has a phone, why not call 911?

His wife, Elaine is briefly mentioned once, then never again.

Also, the whole cookies and cream / chocolate train of thought. I know it's minor, but she agrees with what he's saying, so why does he pretend to be changing his mind?

The last line is confusing. We never hear the phone ringing, and it feels almost like a non-sequitur. Was it accidentally copied from the first?

So there's some good emotive interaction, but I was lost at many points.
#7 ·
This kid does not sound like a kid. She sounds like a character written to be a Kid.

Also, I totally understood what you meant by flexing ears. It's just not an action that conveys any sort of emotion, or relates to what's going on in the story.
#8 ·
The thing I most enjoyed about this story was the interaction between Carol and her father. You could tell that there was a warm relationship between them, and it definitely made the closing lines of the story have more power.

That being said, I have to say that there were a lot of things about this story that were confusing. For starters, what is the knife’s purpose in the story? Is it suicide, or the result of getting mugged? The former seems more likely (wouldn’t he just call 911 if he had been stabbed?), but it’s worded vaguely enough that I couldn’t figure out which it was. The rest of the prose is similarly sparse to the point that I can’t really pinpoint what’s happening, and that really kills a story that’s clearly trying to tell an emotionally involved story. And while I did like the relationship between the dad and Carol, the writing for Carol seems off. Nothing about her comes off like a little kid; it sounds more like an older person trying to write dialogue for a little girl. At times, she seems more like a teenager than the young child that she’s supposed to be.

A good effort, but one that needs a lot of ironing out to work. Work on the dialogue and give more descriptive details to get things on the right track.