66 comments

Dec 05, 2020

Christmas Sad Fiction

Dear Mom, 

Hi. 

It’s hard to start a letter like this. 

You’ve been gone for a long time now. After I finish writing this, I’m going to burn it. I’ve been reading this book, and writing letters to dead people and burning them is supposed to be a good thing for your soul, or something dumb like that. 

You probably have no sense of time wherever you are, but I’ll spare you the boredom of listing what’s happened. I’m sure you know this, but Warren’s dead. 

Car crash. 

He was twenty-two. Just about to visit us for Christmas. 

Hurts a bit, you know? Still. It’s been three or so years now. Still smarts. 

Anyway. This year I’m hosting Christmas. Chelsea’s trying to make your old sand cookies again. I’ve got a lot of fond memories from those. I’m glad she’s taking them up. You were always so mean, but those cookies seemed to sweet you a bit.  

And neither of us have that recipe anymore. I’m going to try and remember it, but my memory’s shot these days. I’m glad you were still sharp as a knife until the bitter end. 

Well, I’ll talk to you later I guess. I’ll write these until I get tired of it. 

Bye,

Carla





Dear Carla, 

So nice to hear from you again. I’m glad to see you’re not a total failure after all. 

I hated those sand cookies but it made me laugh to see you all stuffing yourselves. 

I’ll tell you one ingredient each time. 

Here’s my question: Did you and Ron divorce after all?

Always yours, 

Mom





i’m writing this in the metro. mom, is that you? i’m weirded out by this. i bet this is just a sick joke. i got your letter sitting in the ashes of my first letter. how are you communicating with me?? here’s a test: what did you eat while you were in taos all by yourself?

carla 





Dear Carla, 

I assure you this is no joke. You think that poorly of me?

I lived on brown rice and cocaine in Taos. I was a dancer then. I was lean and pretty. My father always said I had a strong face, and that helped. Dance is some kind of pristine transparency. It’s lovely. Your dad was too sweet. Just like dance. I left dance because it was too sweet, but your dad... It was seduction, no two ways about it. He had a job at a grocery store and wooed me with free brown rice and cheap milk bottles. 

So I married him and regretted it only when you came along. 

And fix your penmanship, Carla, it’s disgusting. 

Always yours, 

Mom. 





Dear Mom, 

Very well then. Are you still alive, Mom? How are you communicating with me? I saw you die. You’re gone.

Brown rice and cocaine. I didn’t know the brown rice part. 

You’re cruel. I never told you that in real life, but you are. You’re mean. You’re heartless. And I just had you as my role model. You don’t like me? You have no one to blame but yourself. 

Anyway, I know the sand cookie recipe calls for butter. Chelsea will probably want to use coconut oil instead. She has some odd ideas sometimes. She’s vegetarian, I think. 

I can only imagine what you’d say if you were still alive and saw her picking out lactose-free milk and gluten-free granola. You’d have a conniption fit. 

No, Ron and I never divorced. We never even discussed it. We never even separated. 

Yours, 

Carla





Dear Carla, 

Rats. I never liked that Ron guy. He was a bastard in my book. Slick hair and a fat nose. And he was too rich. You marry a rich man, you start taking everything for granted. 

Until he wants a divorce and you’re on your own since you never got a job. Just married for money. 

Women these days…

In my day we had to get a job, no matter how menial, because the men would only want wives who gave them everything. Kids, chicken n’ dumplings, fake smiles after a hard day. And we didn’t want to marry men like that.

Your dad was a jerk too but at least he had self-respect, and he never made me cook dinner. I did it anyway for a while but I burned everything, so he started making it. Any other man would’ve stuck through the burned food just out of pure laziness. 

He was a decent cook, but then you came along (typical). 

You made better meals, though I hate to admit it, so we just had you do it. Then when your dad died I just ate at diners.

I’m ranting. 

Of course I’m dead. 

Three-quarters of a cup of sugar is the next one. You all liked that sugar, didn’t you? Pigs. 

The penmanship’s better this time but still ugly. Improve. 

Always yours, 

Mom





Dear Grandma,

Mom said she couldn’t take it anymore, so I picked up writing instead. It’s Chelsea. You never met me. Mom wouldn’t give me what you’ve already told her re the recipe -- she said I had to ask you. “See how difficult she is,” she said. But I won’t ask. I’m going to try and remember it. Here’s my question: Why do you hate Mom so much?

Chelsea





Dear Chelsea, 

Pleasure I’m sure. Hopefully none of my grandchildren are failures. I’ve met Warren up here but he’s not that impressive. I like you already. You’re blunt and remind me of myself. Here’s my question: Who is your mother?

I do not hate her. She’s never lived up to the expectations our family has given her. She’s a strong woman; she has to be, growing up my daughter. Yet she married poorly, never got a good job, never really used her head. She could’ve done better. 

Your mother is bland. That’s her problem. Another run-of-the-mill 1970s housewife who insists she’s “liberated.” She doesn’t know what it’s like to yank your family through the Depression all alone with half a job between you and your husband. I had to use my head. Every day. 

You have no idea what it was like. 

I was a free woman. We didn’t have kids until the forties, luckily. God pity the women who had them throughout. They say the 70s were the women’s decade, but it wasn’t. The 30s were. We learned that we had grit. We were strong and brave and determined. We brought ourselves and our people through. 

I don’t hate. 

Your mother is just disappointing. Bland. 

Always yours, 

Grandmother





Dear Grandma, 

I pity you. You’ve had a hard life. Mom’s not bland. I assure you that. Nor am I. 

I don’t really believe in heaven, but I hope you’re resting. Christmas is coming. I want those sand cookies. 

I remember Mom making them. She’d always cry when she made them. She said it reminded her of you, and that made her cry, because you disliked her. 

She would put in a cup of sugar, two sticks of butter, and a teaspoon of baking soda. That’s what I remember right now. I’ll try to think of more later. Am I right?

Chelsea





Dear Chelsea, 

Not a full cup of sugar, but everything else is right. Well done. You’re not useless after all. Good memory I suppose -- good genes. 

I’m resting, don’t worry. Writing to my descendents is entertaining. 

Your mother disliked me. Ever asked her that? I thought not. She was weak, hurt and crying if she got a hint of anything but god-worship from me. I was never a mother to worship her children. 

Always yours,

Grandmother





Dear Grandma, 

Some vinegar. I’m guessing a teaspoon or half a teaspoon. Bitter, like you. That’s it -- I’ve discovered your problem. You’re bitter. 

Some vanilla, because every cookie recipe calls for it. And some flour. Two cups, I’d guess. 

The house is getting gussied up. Mom has me turn the furnace on almost every day when she makes the Christmas dinner food. She slaves over the stove sometimes. I think it’s because you never made a decent meal in your life.

The tree’s set up and the nice silverware’s out. The sky is streaked with grey these days, sort of depressing except everything inside is so bright and vivid and warm. I think Mom misses you a little bit when Christmas rolls around, just a little. She doesn’t like to miss you but she can’t help it. 

Chelsea





Dear Chelsea, 

A cup and a half of flour, and no, I’m not bitter. Just tired and old. At least on earth I was. You’re not even going to ask where I am? That’s a clique dodge.

And Chelsea, I have to go. 

A pinch of cinnamon is all that’s left, and let them cook a little longer than you normally would. Cinnamon, for remembering things. 

I like you, Chelsea, and that’s an “I love you” in my book. Tell your mother to buck up and she might turn out okay after all. 

Always yours, 

Grandmother





Dear Mom, 

Thanks. 

I’ll burn this like I did the others as soon as I finish writing, but: I miss you. She’s making the cookies right now and it’s making me cry.

Love,

Carla





Dear Carla, 

I miss you too. 

Mom

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66 comments

B. W.
21:06 Dec 05, 2020

How in the world do you get your stories out so fast?

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Zilla Babbitt
21:44 Dec 05, 2020

I spend too much time on the computer :)

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B. W.
22:20 Dec 05, 2020

Are ya maybe gonna make another one then soon?

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Zilla Babbitt
23:39 Dec 05, 2020

I'm actually working on Monday's story already. I had an idea and wanted to get it out. I'm doing the big cookie prompt. What about you? Will you be writing a story this week?

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B. W.
23:54 Dec 05, 2020

Not really, i was wanting to write one of my series but with these prompts i really cant do any of them :/ I AM however writing a new novel.

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Zilla Babbitt
23:58 Dec 05, 2020

True. They are a little hard. What's this one about? How many novels are you writing?? :) I heard it was seven or something.

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Splinter Magus
21:53 Dec 05, 2020

+1 to this

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Zilla Babbitt
20:38 Dec 05, 2020

I don't like the title, but there you have it. Any alternate ideas? I was thinking "Sand Cookies" though that's cheesy, or "Dear Mom," though also cheesy and less prompt-accurate.

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R. K.
03:41 Dec 06, 2020

Bittersweet (like this one), Golden-Brown ("she'll turn out okay", like the cookies), Crumbling, Cinnamon Tears/Memories, Memory Crumbs/Crumbs of Memory, Generations, Gingerbread Letters, Written in Dough, I Remember. Sorry these are horrible, but keep in mind I was in the car, so hey I tried. Not sure they'll be to your liking though, haha.

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Zilla Babbitt
22:27 Dec 06, 2020

Oh those are good. I like the Cinnamon one, or a mix of Remember and Cinnamon. I don't want to get too baked-goods-ery in the title because I guarantee the majority of the titles under that prompt will be baked-goods-ery and I'd like to stand out. Thanks for the ideas! I'll mix and match with them :)

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Amaya Macaulay
02:34 Dec 06, 2020

nooo I like "Sand Cookies"

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Orenda ♤
11:39 Dec 06, 2020

aye, I like the idea of writing letters to the dead :-D grreat job, Zil! you say you spend a lot of time on your pc, I do too, but it takes so long to get a story out. I have a tab open for reedsy, the other for music and another for pinterest lmao. What is time management? I need to learn from you haha

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Zilla Babbitt
21:50 Dec 06, 2020

Reedsy, music, Google docs, and email for me. I'm not on Pinterest or anything. Reedsy's the main sap of my time. I'm currently procrastinating on writing tomorrow's story :)

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Orenda ♤
02:37 Dec 07, 2020

yeah, I use pinterest for references since I spend most of my time drawing. Oh right, same here :-D

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Splinter Magus
22:22 Dec 05, 2020

I like the concept and the format. Talking to a dead person through letters and telling the story through those letters are out-of-the-box enough they make me go "geez, that's good" so I'm hooked from the beginning. The message from the metro was a great idea as well, as it gives an opportunity for the mother to show a bit of character when she complains about the penmanship. And the best line for me: "I didn't know the brow rice part." So creative, all around. Well done! I have to ask, though, how did they get the mother's letters? lol. Sh...

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Zilla Babbitt
01:46 Dec 08, 2020

Haha! I have no idea. I'll work on that. Thanks :)

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F. A.
13:48 Dec 06, 2020

Hi Zilla! This story was great. I did feel heart-wrenched when Carla burned that letter. I don't understand why she didn't like her mom, though. I see Chelsea inherited that too. But I like it! Heart-breaking stories are actually my type, but I assure you, I am not a bloody writer. I might as well join this week's competition, but I am trying to find some names for my characters. Is it okay if I include you in my story? I hope you have a great day :)

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Zilla Babbitt
19:48 Dec 06, 2020

Of course you may. Thanks for reading :)

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07:57 Dec 06, 2020

So heart-tugging!! It's my new favorite!! I like the end the best. Well done, as always... Perhaps you could read my latest submission and give a feedback? It's on the same prompt as this one. I know it's too much to ask...but yeah...it's the Christmas month after all. (shrugging) All the best :)

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Zilla Babbitt
21:50 Dec 06, 2020

You got me at Christmas :) Thanks for reading!

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20:53 Dec 07, 2020

What do I say about this? This is hard one to review and critique. For all of our sakes, I’ll distill everything into a few keys sentences. The grandmother struck me as ‘that mean old tough guy’. Do I like this? Yes. Neat character. Carla struck me as a very different sort of person, who never quite received what she really needed from her mother—who never gave it to her. They’re both wrong, which makes for great conflict and tension in a difficult format. The granddaughter, Chelsea. I like her. What’s up with the dead/alive g...

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20:56 Dec 07, 2020

Oh, and one more thing—this story made me feel, which is very rare. On Reedsy, the authors who can make me feel, are you, Rhonda, Kaylee Tinsley, Eden Variss, and that’s about it. —I feel like I went way longer than I said I would. 👻

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Zilla Babbitt
20:15 Dec 10, 2020

Wow! What a compliment :)

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Zilla Babbitt
20:15 Dec 10, 2020

I guess I forgot to respond. Thanks for commenting! The grandmother's based on my very own great-grandmother, who was smart and stubborn and gone before I was born. I'm actually not sure how I like Chelsea. I like her more than Carla, though. Yes, the grandmother's dead. I added in a few lines per Splinter Magus's suggestion to explain how she's communicating. I think it is a real thing, for Boomers mostly, who've had good lives and whose parents had hard ones. I imagine it would be difficult to have a parent who yanked the family throug...

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20:46 Dec 10, 2020

:)

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Leya Newi
05:17 Dec 06, 2020

This was so good! I really enjoyed this, and the relationship between the mother and daughter and the granddaughter. I think I saw two typos. In the very first letter, you wrote, “You were always so mean, but those cookies seemed to sweet you a bit.” Did you mean sweeten? The second place was in Chelsea’s first letter. “ Mom wouldn’t give me what you’ve already told her re the recipe -- she said I had to ask you.” The re should be something else, like ‘was in’ or something along those lines. Other than that, I thought it was really well w...

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Zilla Babbitt
21:50 Dec 06, 2020

Thanks a ton, Leya! I'll fix the first and look at the second. I'm not sure about that one.

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Leya Newi
05:18 Dec 06, 2020

Edited because I posted too soon.

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Amaya Macaulay
04:16 Dec 06, 2020

"so an optimist who thinks the world's teetering on the edge of ruin" SAME THOOOOO even though im more liberal but anyway....

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Zilla Babbitt
21:52 Dec 06, 2020

Haha! To me an optimist is someone who says Look, the world's almost on fire, but it will get better when (not if) we work together. A pessimist -- you'll have to ask Vayd for a more accurate definition but to ME -- is someone who says Look the world's almost on fire, brace yourself.

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Amaya Macaulay
21:57 Dec 06, 2020

oh that's definitely me haha, although i'm starting to have doubts people are going to be able to work together......so maybe not me? Idk ah yes Vayd knows all about pessimism loll

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Zilla Babbitt
22:00 Dec 06, 2020

Maybe you're a realist! :)

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Awwww love this so much!! It’s a super thought-provoking story, exchanging letters with a dead mom, but the end wad really sweet! Enjoyed a lot, awesome job!

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Zilla Babbitt
21:52 Dec 06, 2020

Thanks :)

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Deidra Lovegren
23:39 Dec 05, 2020

There's a reason why ZB is #1 :) Loved this. Best (ouch) line: "Your mother is bland." What an indictment! Great epistolary style - a crowd favorite!

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Zilla Babbitt
21:49 Dec 06, 2020

The grandmother is based on my very fire-and-vinegar great-grandmother. My family says I'm like her in stubbornness, which I take as a compliment. I do love the epistolary style :) Thanks as always!

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06:10 Dec 07, 2020

The mother, at first, seemed to hate the child. The letters exchanged showed that to me. But in the end, I can see that there is hope and there's still love even if it's a little bit. I love your stories because they have a unique feel to it. The writing style, flow, etc. Brown rice, and cocaine? I think I love that. Good job.

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Zilla Babbitt
01:18 Feb 16, 2021

Reading through old comments... thanks so much. I loved that too :)

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Writer Maniac
15:04 Dec 06, 2020

This story was really beautiful! I love how the mother and daughter clearly despise each other, but there is a slight undertone of care for each other. I really enjoyed this story! I would love to hear your thoughts on one of my recent stories 'An Unfortunate Series of Events', and also I would appreciate if you filled out the form in my bio :)

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00:50 Dec 27, 2020

Aww. That ending made ME cry. I love it. Tragic stories are medicine for my cold black heart. :)

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Scout Tahoe
16:24 Dec 07, 2020

Letters to a dead person, interesting. It all seems very real and I like it. Too bad Carla can only love and her mother can only hate--but we can only blame it on the grandmother. I like how this was inspired by your great-grandmother. True and raw. My favorite type of story.

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17:01 Dec 08, 2020

I really enjoyed this story. High key. I had to leave it to continue my schoolwork half way through, but I returned. And may I say, it takes one hell of a story to make my scatterbrained self remember it. This was such a nice story. Much love :)

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Kate M
16:44 Dec 07, 2020

I really enjoyed this brilliant, creative story! It was written very well, crisp and clear. Well done, Zilla! Thanks for sharing!

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Zilla Babbitt
21:37 Dec 07, 2020

Thanks, Kathrin!

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<3 Reread this and loooovodd it

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Aiden Chu
05:43 Dec 21, 2020

This story was so sad! Thank you for writing these amazing stories. Keep up the great work, Zilla! :)

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03:12 Dec 16, 2020

Hi Zilla! I really enjoyed reading this, and my favourite part was the ending. I think the whole story was very sweet despite Carla having a bit of a strained relationship with her mother, but the ending tied it all together. (As all good endings, should.) Wonderful writing as always! ~ Jasey :D

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