Each month I send out a newsletter (Dev's News Flash) that has some news about upcoming books and such, but is mostly an original, exclusive piece of flash fiction. You can sign up for it on my webpage or Facebook page.
I usually reserve the fiction for newsletter subscribers, but I thought I'd share the December piece because it's a holiday story and also because it reflects what I'm feeling these days. So here's a holiday flash with Avi and Pete from Fields of Gold.
This Little Light of Mine
Outside, a new snowfall made the farm glisten. I set my menorah on the window sill. It looked tiny and a little ridiculous in the same room with the cluttered Christmas tree. Especially on the first night, when we’d light two little candles, one of which didn’t count since its only purpose was to light the other. This year, first night fell on Christmas Eve. So the little candelabra on the window had to compete with the tree behind it, brightly lit, with gifts piled beneath. Maybe it wasn’t worth lighting.
The truth was, I wasn’t just in the mood. It was hard to feel festive this year.
Pete came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me close.
He whispered, “Hey my gorgeous Avi. It’s almost sundown. Do you want me to get Brynne and Logan to help light the candles?”
“In a sec.” I leaned against him. His warmth, his solidness, soothed me. I knew he was scared, too. We all were. But he never let fear stop him.
Gold and then red streaked the horizon as the sun drifted below the tree line. I couldn’t hold off any longer. No matter how far I drifted from the religious training of my youth, there were some things I couldn’t let go of, like lighting candles on time.
And so, we gathered, my funny little family that consisted of my amazing, goyish lover, his sister and her child. My father didn’t approve and my mother rarely visited, but this was the safest place I’d ever been.
Because it was the first night, I followed the candle blessing with the Shehecheyanu, thanking God for blessing, sustaining and bringing us to this time. This time. The familiar ache was back in my chest. I’d woken every morning for more than a month in the new reality. The beautiful lights, the little candles, the familiar rituals and the crackling fire couldn’t take away the pain, the anger and the fear.
Once I was done reciting the prayers, Brynne gave me a big hug before heading back to the kitchen to finish her baking. Logan fled upstairs to his videogames.
Pete took ahold of my hand. “You’re thinking about the election again, aren’t you?”
I tried to smile. “Sorry. Still obsessed. I can’t help it. I’d still be analyzing the results, even if this election didn’t feel like a personal attack. I’m a historian after all, and I used to work for a politician.”
“Work?” Pete raised an eyebrow. “Is that what they call what you did for him?”
“I did plenty of actual work…” I stopped. I didn’t need to get defensive with Pete. He knew the whole story.
“Come on.” Still holding my hand, he tugged me toward the back door.
“But the candles.” I waved at the little flickering lights.
“It’ll be okay. You’ll see. Now get your boots on.”
I shrugged. Whither thou goest… The mudroom smelled of damp wool, mixed with bite of cinnamon from the cookies Brynne was baking. And behind that the aroma of roast chicken. My stomach grumbled. But food would have to wait. I slid on my boots and shrugged into my coat and followed Pete out the door. Maybe we’d be moving livestock or building a fence. In the dark. It didn’t matter. In the past month, between winding down the semester and trying to make sense of the election, I’d been grateful for the farm and the possibility of good, hard, muscle-straining labor.
Outside, the air was crisp and cold. I blinked snowflakes from my eyelashes. Pete led me away from the house, through squeaking snow, until we were in front of the window.
“Look.” He pointed. From this angle, the Christmas tree was a small background element and the Hanukkah lights shone clearly.
“It’s beautiful.” My breath clouded the air and my cheeks stung from the cold, but the candles were heartwarming and I didn’t want to go in. Again Pete stood behind me, with his arms around my chest. He quietly held me, while we watched the candles burn.
After a moment, he said, “We have to be like those candles. Even though the world feels very dark, we can be two small lights that burn brightly.”
I twined my fingers with his and shoved both our hands into my pockets to keep them warm. His hands were calloused from hard work. All around us the farm hummed with life. As long as we had each other, we’d be okay.
I leaned back against him. “When I was a kid, I used to imagine all the candles burning in all the windows across the world. People lighting at sunset in a rolling blanket that revolved with the earth.” I squeezed Pete’s fingers. “It’s true, you know. Across the world, candles are burning, or will soon. It’s the same with kindness, with love—even in the darkest times, they shine out of windows across the world. It’s a hell of a metaphor.”
“You’re welcome.” Pete buried his chin in my shoulder.
We stood in the snow, in the dark, until the candles began to sputter. Then we went back inside to dinner and the warmth of our family. Because, in the end, love is the best antidote.