Alan Lastufka

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“Another Small Gift”

Another Small Gift: A Short Story

Emma Brooks loves the Christmas cards she receives every year from her Mom, her younger sister Charlotte, and of course, her very much alive, as far as she knows, Uncle Mike. But when Emma stumbles onto one of her family’s biggest secrets, her holidays will be changed forever.

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An Excerpt from "Another Small Gift"

Preparation for this year’s big present took me back down to Granville in the middle of summer. Christmas in July, as the department stores say.

I was there to visit the bakery we used to live above. Mom owned it for fifteen years before we moved up to Cellar. I wanted to interview some of her old customers, the folks who lived in town and bought from her every week. I planned on framing a retrospective photo collage surrounded by kind quotes from all her regulars.

I knew Mom was proud of the years she invested in the bakery. She still brought it up from time to time, but didn’t have any mementos around to remind her of it. I thought that was sad. I’ve covered my walls in my own mementos: framed ticket stubs from concerts, my diploma from Ohio State University, and, of course, so many of Charlotte’s Polaroids. A photo collage for Mom would be perfect—the right amount of sappy, nostalgic, and thoughtful. Like I said, I don’t do small gifts. I’d definitely cry; she’d maybe cry. What more could you want from Christmas morning?

And since I had already made the long drive down, I thought it’d be fun to surprise Uncle Mike, who, as far as I knew, still lived in our old apartment above the bakery. The new bakery owners had painted over Mom’s sign and taken down the floral awning I’d helped her hang when I was just ten years old. I wished I could have gotten a scrap of that to frame. But for all that had changed, the air outside still smelled of warm, baked bread, the best smell in the whole world.

I was so excited to see Uncle Mike again and maybe even drag him out to a showing of Lady Bird, or really anything that didn’t costar an orc. Only, when I rang the bell for the upstairs apartment, Uncle Mike didn’t answer the door. A “Mr. Chen” did.

Mr. Chen informed me he had lived there for years. Mr. Chen, who was at least a foot shorter than my uncle and who had a lot more hair than him, said he had a bag full of Michael Brooks’s mail if I wanted it. Mr. Chen was pretty sure the apartment freed up after Michael Brooks died.

And before I could process anything Mr. Chen had said, he disappeared back into the hallway.

Wait. Uncle Mike died? Years ago? No. No, no, no. That was wrong. Uncle Mike had won an archery competition just last year. And the year before that, he’d scored a mint Pete Rose rookie card. He wrote in his Christmas letter that he’d been chasing that card for more years than he could count. As far as I knew, dead men didn’t bid up rookie baseball cards.

But Mr. Chen returned and handed me a plastic grocery bag full of mail. There were a few issues of Bowhunter magazine and a few Christmas cards, still sealed in cheap red and green Hallmark envelopes, fat with unread letters.

"Another Small Gift" Audiovisual Book

Watch, Read, and Listen to the Unabridged Audiovisual Book
Directed by Alan Lastufka. Read by Beka Gurney.

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Technical Details

GENRE Psychological, Holiday
PUBLISHER Shortwave Media
ISBN 978-1-7336919-1-8 (ebook)