My Favorite Christmas Tree
Originally appeared in Ellipsis: An Anthology of Humorous Short Stories, August 2016
The names in this story are true.
Only the facts have been changed.
None are innocent.
We called ourselves the Scurvy Bastards. To us, drinking was science; the weekend our laboratory; our bodies, test tubes; and our minds, the experiment.
Every Friday and Saturday, each of us would absorb three to four times the lethal dose of alcohol, and have others report back on our actions. Needless to say, this was fascinating research.
One night, whilst sitting on the Scurvy Benches, as was our wont, the Electrician (a man permanently wired) had just dismissed the whole of Kant’s epistemology with the words, “That faggot didn’t even drink.”
The air was crisp as lettuce and miniature fogs arose whenever someone used the Pissing Tree. The Electrician’s irrefutable logic set Feeney thinking. Feeney did a great deal of thinking. He had to. No one could be that disturbed or disturbing without having put a great deal of thought into it. He was something of an enigma wrapped in legend. None knew from whence he came; he would appear like some mythical being, gym bag filled with books, Jameson, and Stout, dressed like Sherlock Holmes. He had a great red beard, and spoke in parables. One night he passed out and we found the only identification he bore was a membership card to the Dudley Do-Right fan club in the name of Little Bobby Feeney.
At present, Feeney was engaged in what he termed, “The Great Experiment.” The premise was as simple as it was ingenious: How long can a human being subsist on Guinness Stout and Cheese Doodles?
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Collection Reminiscent of the Greats
By Ashley Nestleron December 10, 2016
Joseph Ferguson is a master of the short story. I have read many short stories and short story collections, but none of them have stuck with me as much as Ferguson’s writing.
His new short story collection, Shillelagh Law: and other stories, is a mix of many different stories that reflect the human condition and the experiences that we go through as humans.
Something about Ferguson’s writing just has a way with connecting to the reader, and his insights and descriptions demonstrate how flawed we as humans are. When reading his short stories I felt as though I were reading poetry.
Ferguson’s writing is essential for vacation reading or for someone who likes to read in short bursts. He reveals his characters and situations in a way that is artistic and reveals insights that are unseen to the eye. It is clear to me that he is an artist, and I consider him an author who is essential to our current literary world. His writing is comparable to that of the great classics, such as The Great Gatsby, and I am positive that his works will outlast our time.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Joe Ferguson masterpiece
By D. Elliotton December 13, 2016
Highly recommended. I started laughing as soon as I read the first randomly selected short story. It is a colorful work with stories most of us (well at least some of us) can certainly identify with. If you like to be both entertained and intrigued, you will not be disappointed with this read. Buy it!
5.0 out of 5 stars Dawn and dusk of adolescence
By genevanyon January 16, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
A journey into the dawn and dusk of adolescence in all its forms. This collection of short stories is marvelous, amazing and reality in a good/bad way. Loved the symbolism behind them, especially the dragon/dinosaur story. Must read.
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read!!
By Bookwormon November 25, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love this book! The author did such an amazing job creating the dialect! Reading the book I felt a true adventure brought to life! I can see this book becoming a movie!
Other books in this genre:
From comedy writer, public speaker, and founding editor of The Onion Scott Dikkers comes this laugh-out-loud hilarious guide to surviving and thriving under Donald Trump’s presidency.
With satirical graphics, pictorials, news columns, and bulletins that are screamingly funny to everyone regardless of political persuasion, this is the ultimate handbook to the forty-fifth President of the United States.
Everything from a schematic of Trump’s presidential chariot (with missile launchers) to a handy pictorial that explains how Trump would have won every American war in three days or less is included in this sidesplitting anthology. Discover more about the new President with articles such as “Inside the Twitter War Room” and “If Einstein Was So Smart, Why Wasn’t He Rich?”
This work was previously published as Trump’s America: The Complete Loser’s Guide.
A grocery store can’t expect repeat business if its checkers unleash Armageddon. This truism governs Debbie Devil, dedicated supermarket checker and horny, estranged wife of Satan. Debbie sets her sights on Joe Thorvald, a God-fearing, Lutheran. If she can get him to eat a mushroom his soul and his hunky body will be hers.
Debbie tells her sidekick, Bertram, a British cook, to change Joe’s memory, body, circumstances, era, and life, until the Lutheran becomes a man who will eat mushrooms. But there will be only so many attempts on Joe’s soul before she unleashes Armageddon out of spite.
God sends the angels General Lee and Pedro Erickson, a Mexican-Swedish chef, to protect Joe. They fight back with Heaven’s culinary weapons, tacos and Swedish meatballs.
Along the way, Joe changes into a fun-loving dinosaur and a Greek warrior with an ass harder than bronze before being sent to Hell for nonpayment of his hospital bill. Can Lee and Pedro Erickson save the soul of a Lutheran hunk and prevent Armageddon? Ja caramba.
Roger is stuck in detention forever and the only way to escape is by uncovering a deep dark secret about himself and the people around him. From drawing his teacher naked on the blackboard to sabotaging the school’s science fair, Roger finds himself spending more time in the school’s detention closet than he does at home. Before he knows it, his once “Ivy League” world becomes relegated to a small dark space, where the only human interaction he has is with the voice of a mysterious woman who talks to him from behind the wall. Steeped in humor and suspense, this psychological thriller takes the reader on a journey through the mind of a disturbed teen genius who struggles to fit in at school and at home. Can Roger escape the shackles of his mind or will the lady behind the wall remain a mystery? This is Detention Land.
It’s Scandal meets Seinfeld. A political comedy set in Washington, D.C.
It’s a book for people who like TV. A serial novel structured like a television show, with individual complete episodes that each also contribute to the ongoing story.
In 2011, the Obama Administration embarrassed itself by mistaking Colorado for Wyoming on the map of a speaking tour in western states. Voila, the Fifty States Program!--fifty new federal patronage jobs, one for each state, all housed in cubicles at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House.
The millennials in these jobs call each other by the name of their states, and none of them are exactly what you’d call on the ball. Wyoming--that’s our man Elliot Vance-- could qualify for the slacker Olympics. He’s the grand-nephew of former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, but prior to being given a States job by his wealthy father he got kicked out of an English lit Ph.D. program for insisting on doing his dissertation on 1950s pulp author F. Bob Goddard. Elliot dates a WASP-American princess who’s pushing for marriage, and his two best friends are Delaware and Nebraska. His nemesis is Tara Travis, the slinky blonde Republican aide to Wyoming congressman Bull Wheeler.
In Episode 1 Elliot is blackmailed by Tara into flying to Laramie to do some actual work. It’s the first time he’s ever been to The State of Wyoming.
We’re French and You’re Not is a hilarious romp focusing on the clueless French millionaire, Robert, and the effects of his diary on the conventional Wisconsin farm boy, Frank.
While in America, Robert and his constant companion Jean meet Henrietta Montcalm, a meek and nervous redhead. Their influence turns her into a feisty woman wanted by the police.
Henrietta decides to marry Robert and guides them toward a wedding Reno. Jean can’t stand the thought of Robert giving up his bachelor lifestyle, so naturally he tries to kill him. Neither Jean, a burning hotel, nor fighter jets stop Henrietta from marrying Robert and taking off for her honeymoon.
Along their way, they incidentally: squash the Queen’s dog, fly a small plane inside an airport terminal, run McDonald’s in a very French way, rent exploding furniture, open childcare in Mammoth Caves, establish a gourmet hospital, and drive their Geo Metro the wrong way in the Indy 500.
Sacre bleu, what fun things the Wisconsin farm boy learns about the world.
Friday, November 23rd 1888
Doctor J. Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
Here, as requested, is the first of my journal entries made last evening, detailing the events and our involvement in what must surely be our most grisly case yet. I believe at least one of the dailies is running with the headline 'Jack the Ripper', which I think is mere sensationalism, however, history will demand the truth...
Having been brought up to date in the brougham by the effervescent Sherlock Holmes, he and I made our way to Whitechapel. I began to list some aspects of the crimes reported via our friend Lestrade, Mr Lungcutter the police surgeon and constables Armstrong & Miller (first on the scene at the most recent murder). There have so far been five murders - including the two last night - and various items were found at each murder scene. These items include:
A bucket and spade left near the corpse
A quantity of porridge in the victim's breast pocket
A lock of hair tied round the victim's ring finger
The words - yore neckst - written in porridge across the victim's chest.
Several incisions have been made to the bodies of all the victims, leading Lestrade to believe the murders may have been committed by a crazed doctor. In fact, Lestrade even questioned me, albeit briefly, as to my whereabouts on the dates in question and is satisfied (thank God) that I am not a suspect. He is currently questioning several hundred Doctors to ascertain their movements.
We arrived at Jones the Butchers Yard and were able to inspect the murder scene. Holmes spent several minutes lying prostrate on the ground, examining the cobbles for evidence. Though the police claimed to have been quite thorough, Holmes discovered a quantity of what he suspected might be French tobacco and two cigar stubs bearing a royal crest.
My old war wound is playing up, so I shall continue this narrative in due course.
This is a story about a woman named Kenzie.
A woman who knows what she wants and likes things just the way they are, thank you very much.
This is also a story about a man named Max. Max can be a real pain in the ass.
And finally, this is a story about Dash, ex-husband extraordinaire, who likes to get down to the Scissor Sisters and parties a little too much.
And Katie, the best friend who parties far too much and can expertly defend herself against sexual harassment accusations.
And Claudia, sister, mother and head of the school parent's association, long time tea drinker. The chalk to Kenzie's cheese.
And Michael, the one that got away.
Must Be Quacking Up
"I don't think so Kenz." he said, no grimace or frown, just a serious look on his face, parental almost. Condescending was another word that came to mind.
'Oh, ok, no worries." she laughed to cover her embarrassment but she knew her face looked as if she had just played the 50-minute game of soccer in the sun instead of her niece.
"Ok well see you round." she shook her arm from where he still grasped her and started for the car, pretty sure she was walking weird, knowing she was. There was something distinctly duck like about her walk, dear god she was waddling. Yep definitely a waddle. What the hell was wrong with her?
"Kenzie wait." he followed her.
Even if she ran she wouldn't be able to lose him, especially now that she had the speed and agility of Huey, Dewey and Louie combined, or maybe it was just Donald, who would be the most uncoordinated out of the four she pondered to herself idiotically.
She stopped, not sure what he was going to say but wishing the ground would swallow her up, grateful her family hadn't overheard her be shot down so brutally, when she didn't even want to hang out with this with this guy, well at least she didn't think she did 5 minutes ago.
Oh god, she thought, Dash witnessing this would be even worse, she could imagine how much he would torture her.
The next evening, Carissa stood outside and beat her flashlight against the palm of her hand. Really? Why did the batteries have to die now? She cursed under her breath and fished her phone out of her back pocket, second-guessing her aversion to smartphones. Her little flip phone didn’t have a flashlight, and the camera flash didn’t last long enough to get anything done. Frustrated, she straightened up and turned to Aden. He’d shown up a few minutes earlier, wondering what she was doing, and even offered to help. He said he could see everything as clear as day.
She looked back at her malfunctioning flashlight, and then back to the man on the sidewalk. She huffed out a breath.
“Okay, Mr. I-Can-See-Perfectly-In-The-Dark, come over here and find the darn thing for me,” Carissa said, rolling her eyes.
His grin wolfish, Aden sprinted up her walkway. “You have to admit it, first.”
Carissa snorted. “Admit what? That you’re a creeper who only comes out at night and likes to spy on me whenever you get the chance?”
He winced. “I haven’t been spying on you. I live across the street. Do you expect me to never look out my windows?”
Carissa laughed, wrinkling her nose at him. His sentiment was oddly close to hers. “Okay, I’ll give you that, but you’re still a creeper.”
Aden stepped closer, closing the distance until she had to look up to see his eyes. She sucked in a breath. He didn’t look socially awkward tonight. “That’s not what you really think. Admit it. You have a crush on me.”
“Pfft. That’s what you think. I’ve said no such thing,” Carissa said, pushing on his chest. “I barely know your stubborn ass.”
Aden didn’t budge. His mouth turned up. “For now.” He looked down at the ground. “How badly do you need that key?”
Carissa slapped her hands on her hips. “Very. I can’t get into work without it.”
Aden reached out and gently tugged on her ponytail. “So, just admit the truth, and I’ll get it for you.”
Carissa rolled her eyes, her mouth twitching. “I’ll just wait until morning.”
Aden chuckled. “Ah, yes, the enviable day. And just how many of those have you had since you lost it?”
Carissa narrowed her eyes. “Two,” she muttered.
He raised an eyebrow at her. Damn the man. He knew she couldn’t find it without his help. “Fine!” she grumbled, “You’re not the most unattractive man I’ve ever seen.”
He stared at her for a moment, blinking, then his deep laugh flooded out, wrapping her in the resonating warmth of his amusement. Aden touched his finger gently to her chin. “You are the most contrary woman I’ve ever met.”
Carissa crossed her arms over her chest and tried not to think about the spark that ignited at his lightest touch. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Aden chuckled again, and turned away, bending down to look on the ground underneath the vibrant orange flowers in her flowerbed. He stood up almost immediately, the tiny metal key in the palm of his hand.
“It looks like it was in your garden the whole time.”
She tilted her head to the side. He was hiding something. “You knew it was there, didn’t you?”
Aden dusted his fingers off and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He flashed her a wicked grin. “If I did, are you going to punish me?”
Carissa smacked his arm, eying his large muscles. “I doubt I would succeed if I tried. No, I think I might be better off running.”
His grin widened, showing a hint of teeth. “I could tackle you before you ever reached the driveway.”
Carissa gulped. The driveway was a fair distance away from where they stood. How could he be that fast? She shook her head, more confused over the fact that she wasn’t scared. Aden was mysterious, and as she noticed the first night she saw him, magnificent. And he also looked a little sheepish. Maybe he wasn’t as cocky as he was trying to seem. Carissa pulled the sunglasses off the top of her head – they’d been there since she started looking...during the day – and hooked them into the front of her shirt to give her hands something to do, something to keep from touching him again.
She wasn’t used to all this attraction bombarding her senses. He was obviously flirting, and she didn’t know how to handle it. He reached out and gently rubbed his thumb over her cheek.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Carissa. I couldn’t,” he said softly.
Her breath hitched, the mental plug in her heart shifting. Her eyes met his, the deep blue of his gaze more shocking than the zap she’d received from the cable box a few hours prior. His thumb left her cheek, slowly tracing the outline of her mouth. Her knees went weak, and she instinctively grabbed his biceps to keep from falling. His other arm encircled her waist, pulling her firmly against his hard chest. His fingers trailed her spine, ending with the lightest of touches to the back of her neck. She gulped again.
His face lowered toward her, his lips moving ever closer to her own. Her heartbeat sounded like jungle drums in her ears, buzzing with the fire of her intense attraction. He stopped, eyes on hers, a breath away from her mouth. His eyes grew brighter the longer she looked. Her tongue darted out to moisten her lips, and his eyes flashed, the light illuminating his face.
Carissa jumped back with a squeak, stumbling backward up her stairs while Aden stared, mouth wide in shock. She shook her head. “I-I’m sorry, Aden. I have to, uh, do laundry.” She turned and ran inside, locking the door behind her with a snap.
She leaned against the wall, her hand over her wildly beating heart. His eyes glowed. Glowing eyes. Carissa closed her own. That was not possible. She’d wanted to know more about him and who he was, but now she had a more important question:
What was Aden?
“Oh, honey, we're fine. Your dad is watching TV with Emily. I'm working on another blanket for Carol. Since my son isn't doing his part to give me more grandbabies.”
Less than a minute on the phone and already she’d managed to chastise him for not having kids. The woman was diabolical. “Mom—”
“Everett, the shower is all yours—oh! Sorry.” Corrine stopped when she noticed him on the phone.
But not before his mother heard her voice. “Oh, honey, did I hear a woman in the background?”
“Yeah, Mom, but—”
“Who is she? Are you dating? Do you have a girlfriend I don't know about?”
“She's…” He glanced up to her. She mouthed an apology. She glowed with freshly scrubbed pink skin while rubbing her hair with a towel. Her trim legs were showcased in short yoga shorts, a tank top, and no bra. He cleared his throat “…a friend.” He winked at her.
“What friend, honey? You didn't tell me about bringing a friend on your trip.”
“I wasn't aware at thirty-three I still had to clear my friends with you,” he said before he could think about how his words sounded.
Now, curled onto the love seat, Corrine choked on a sip of wine.
“Don't take that tone with me, young man.”
“Mom, I’m sorry. I didn't mean—”
“You've always been a good boy.”
“Well, other than the time you ordered three hundred dollars of porn on pay-per-view.”
He winced. Now he and Corrine were even with the embarrassing stories. When he dared to meet her eyes, he found her with her mouth agape, eyes wide. Could a hole just open up and swallow him now. “Mom! Listen!”
“You're on speaker. Say hello to Corrine Anderson. Corrine, meet my mother Barbara Harden.”
“Oh, hello, sweetheart! I'm Everett's proud mama.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Harden.”
“None of that Mrs. Harden business. Call me Barbara. I insist. I apologize for the porn talk. I hope you won't think any less of my son. He was fourteen, after all, and fourteen-year-old boys have one hand in the fridge and the other in their underwear. My son was no diff—”
Everett scrambled for the end button, and for the first time ever in his life, he hung up on his mother. He braced his elbows on his knees, holding his head in his hands, and heard Corrine try to suppress a giggle.
“It wasn't that bad.”
“How nice of you to lie to make me feel better, but we both know that was the equivalent of having your breasts out at the water park.”
The path was well worn, for they came in numbers.
To many, the journey had taken the form of almost religious homage. But for the majority, the subjugated, it was a feared and tortuous trek into the unknown.
Penance or penalty – who could tell? It mattered not.
Even those forced to accompany their masters on frequent trips were fearful of stumbling upon unexpected terrors. For this was an unforgiving land - a strange, soulless wood land, fraught with dread and trepidation around every turn. A land inhabited by a species of beings, shy by nature, who would gather in small groups but scamper into the darkened recesses when approached by outsiders. For it would seem they too were tormented by the unknown.
Colin had been here before, of course. Most of the village’s menfolk had.
But this particular command to saddle up the iron horse and prepare for a new venture into the living, breathing nightmare took him by surprise. Surely his master had laid sufficient sacrifices at the altar of Ingvar to last until the year end at least? Had their dues not been fully satisfied? What more could be required of them?
Colin’s hands were visibly shaking as he prepared for the journey. A survival pack was hastily replenished with revitalising fluids, spectacles, a mobile communicator and most importantly, cash. The god, Ingvar rewarded the offering of cash. This Colin knew only too well.
The short trip to the edge of the mysterious wood land passed quietly and the iron horse was securely stored in a place that would later become as difficult to find as the end of a rainbow.
Colin’s master led the way towards, and through the rotating gates to the place of nightmares. Colin took a deep breath and closed his eyes as, from somewhere deep within, he found the courage to follow.
Instantly, his heart sank. His knees trembled. His head felt as if it were being squeezed by a contracting band of steel. Experience, however, reassured him.
“Focus on the positive. Always the positive,” he told himself. If his master was in benevolent mood, there may be a reward at the end of the trek. Assuming he made it through unscathed, that was.
Trailing a discreet distance behind his master, Colin joined the sluggard masses. Eye contact with the other subjugates proved difficult, but when by chance glances were exchanged, he could see into the very souls of the others. They were neither dead, nor undead. They were caught in a twilight world where all emotion had been thwarted. Until they made it to the other side (if they made it to the other side) their minds belonged to their masters. Only the naïve or plain stupid would offer up opinions of negativity. Even those who opined what they considered a neutral indecisiveness would be ruthlessly smote down in a volley of retribution.
As they wandered deeper and deeper into the petrifying forest, their masters would casually pick up items for brief inspection, pat them, then cast them aside once again. Colin and the other subjugates, however, would become disorientated and nauseous. Their very existence lay in the hands of the masters. So long as they remained no more than a few steps behind, and didn’t let them slip out of sight, they knew it would all have to end. Eventually.
Focus. Envisage the end. How good will it feel when it’s all over?
And then it was.
Suddenly, the trail opened up. No longer was it a random path meandering throughout the heavily wooded area. It was now a straight, direct walkway through a deep valley, dwarfed on both sides by mountainous blocks erected in temple-like fashion – a place for final worship before leaving the kingdom of Ingvar.
The mood of Colin and the numerous other subjugates visibly brightened. Their pace increased. Their gait lightened. They were nearly home. All that remained was to wade through the wide, but traversable rapids.
It had been done before. This was do-able.
And there, in the near distance, the reward. Colin’s master gave that look. Simply translated, it meant: ‘Yes. Ok. You’ve been good. Go on.’
And Colin ran and Colin skipped over to the reward. Now – ice cream or hot dog? Or maybe some meatballs to take-away? Or some cinnamon rolls?
Weekend visits to Ikea were sometimes worth the grief.
Chat with Authors
I have a very active imagination and I always read a lot. I would always be looking around bookstores and libraries for stories similar to...
My inspiration came from a laboratory accident. My daytime job is as a chemist working for a small company. In November of 2012, I mishandled...
I have been writing since I was a young teenager. I have always enjoyed expressing myself through written words. The writing assignments in high school...
I was amazed at the experiences of T.E. Lawrence, more famously known as Lawrence of Arabia. I couldn't believe how someone was able to become...
I started writing on a dare from a friend. A NANOWRIMO supporter who challenged me to write a novel. When I went to the first...
Hop on Lenka's List Bandwagon
Nesie's Place Want to increase followers/traffic on your Facebook page? Authors and bloggers are bringing a spooky good time to Facebook for Halloween! JOIN US!
Relic Tech (Crax War Chronicles) by Terry W. Ervin II Narrator: James Conlan Series: Crax War Chronicles #1 Published by Gryphonwood Press on 03-03-14 Genres: