Contest #78 shortlist ⭐️


Fiction Holiday

Cora snipped a few branches of eucalyptus and smiled. She was pleased with the plant, which flourished under her care. Normally Cora would have placed the greenery in her basket, but she already had a large collection of assorted pine and fir branches next to her work table, and this wreath was a simple one.

“I’m really not sure why you won’t even try it.”

“I don’t want to, Mom,” sighed Charlette as she fussed with the end of her long blond braid.

Cora smiled, remembering her own similar nervous habit from so many years go. She turned back toward the house, and her daughter started off after her.

Charlette was a natural with plants, and she had an eye for design. She was also certain her daughter possessed the gift.

“It’s soothing,” Cora pointed out. “Come sit, you can keep me company. Maybe even try one.”

Charlette sighed and followed her back inside.

Cora heard the fireplace crackle merrily as they closed the back door of their small home.

The pair walked to the dining room, which had long since been converted to a workspace. Cora laid the eucalyptus on the table next to the boughs of pine and fir, and retrieved a wire frame from the closet. Then she surveyed the sight before her.

“Can you grab the floral wire from over there?” she asked as she pointed at the set of shelves laden with supplies.

Charlotte obeyed and Cora smiled in appreciation. Before she could even ask, Charlette turned on the music and the soothing sounds of fiddles and flutes washed over the pair of them.

Cora breathed in the fragrance of the greenery before her.

“Can you smell it?” she asked her daughter. “All the potential in front of us?”

“I smell pine,” Charlette said, but she took a seat on a nearby stool.

With a content sigh, Cora set to work attaching the boughs of greenery to the wire frame, and weaving the eucalyptus in.

“A little pine here, but then we add some fir. Just alternating back and forth. We trim to shape as needed,” Cora explained as she worked.

When the frame was completely covered, Cora took a step back from the desk and admired it.

It was simple, but effective.

“What do you think?”

“I think your wreaths always look beautiful,” Charlette admitted. “I just don’t know how you know where to start, or when you are finished.”

Cora turned and smiled.

“That’s the beauty of it, my love. You start where you want, and you finish when you are done.”

“But how do you know it’s done?” Charlette frowned.

“You get a feel for it,” Cora answered. She studied the wreath. “It still needs something.”

“Pine cones?” offered Charlette.

“Perhaps.” Cora stepped over to shelving and looked in one of the bins. She surveyed her selection of cones. “I think these might be even better though.”

She selected a handful of sequoia cones, and returned to her wreath where she began to fasten the wire to the cones, and expertly attached them to the frame.

“Those are nice,” Charlette agreed as she watched.

After only a few moments, the last of the cones was fastened to the frame.

“Aren’t you a pretty little thing?” Cora asked it as she picked the wreath up to admire it.

Cora had developed her love of wreath making nearly a decade ago, shortly after Charlette was born. At first it had just been for herself, but now she sold them. Christmas wreaths were the most popular, but she received requests throughout the year. Her hobby didn’t exactly pay the bills, but it was soothing work after being cooped up in the office all day.

Cora hung the wreath up on one of the wall hooks, then moved an order form from one clipboard to another.

“You still have several more to do,” noted Charlette.

“That I do,” said Cora looking at the papers clipped on one of the boards. One of them was a special order. Charlette could manage the other, if she wanted to.

“Why don’t you give this one a try?” Cora asked as she pulled a different order off the pile. “It’s a simple one, like the one I just made. I’ll bring you back some eucalyptus, okay?”

“Fine,” sighed Charlette.

Cora picked up her wicker basket and made her way back into the yard to gather fresh supplies. The sun was already beginning to set, and darkness was fast approaching. Despite the fading light, Cora could see her breath in the air.

Cora carefully picked a selection of holly, boxwood branches and fern for this wreath. Then she stopped and cut some sprigs of eucalyptus for Charlette. The mistletoe she already had inside.

The extra special wreaths were her favorite. They took a lot more out of her, as though she put a piece of herself into the crafting of them. Which she did, in a fashion.

Door after door was adorned with wreaths at this time of the year, but people often put them up without a second thought as to what they actually represent. Meaning changed over the years to be sure, and religions further confused the matter, but Cora loved making wreaths with a purpose. Assisting someone in commemorating their lost loved one, welcoming good health and fortune into the near year, and even trying to bless those behind the door with enhanced fertility. Some people of course used them as a sign of status – the bigger the wreath the more important they were. Regardless, each one had its purpose.

Cora made her way back inside and set the eucalyptus on the table.

“That’s it,” she encouraged.

Charlette was making progress.

“I guess,” she said as she struggled to secure one of the branches.

“Easy, here like this,” said Cora as she gently took the piece of pine and nestled it next to the fir. “Give it a try.”

Cora watched at Charlette slowly filled with the wire frame with fragrant greenery.

“Show me how to do the next part?” Charlette asked.

“If you want,” Cora nodded. She reached over and picked up a piece of eucalyptus and weaved it into the greenery. “Now you try.”

Cora smiled as her daughter secured the silvery blue leaves into the wreath.

She watched as Charlette picked the wreath up and studied it.

And she waited while Charlette moved to the bins and selected the cones she wanted to embellish her creation with.

“What so you think?” Cora asked after the Western Hemlock cones were attached.

“I think it’s finished,” announced Charlette proudly.

“Then it’s finished,” Cora smiled.

Charlette hung the wreath up on the wall and Cora moved the order form to the other clipboard.

“Is it alright if I go watch TV?” Charlette asked.

“Of course, it is,” Cora nodded. “I’ve got a bit more work to get done here.”

Cora tidied up the table and then laid out the greenery for her next wreath. She fastened the boxwood to the frame, building up a beautiful foundation of little green leaves.

Janet Whitaket was desperate for a baby. She and her husband had been trying for over two years. The music played in the background. Cora hummed along quietly. As she weaved the ferns into the wreath, Cora pictured a growing family for Janet, a new beginning.

Cora swayed slightly to the music and, one by one, she picked up sprigs of holly and began to carefully add them to the wreath. As she did so, she imagined Janet with child. She pictured the wreath on the Whitaket front door and she imagined a healthy baby for the Whitakets.

At last, she held it up and smiled. She knew it would work. Her wreaths always did. She hoped one day her daughter would feel the same satisfaction from her own creations.

Cora was tired now, but she hung the wreath carefully on the wall, moved the order form to the other clipboard, and smiled.

Her wreath making didn’t pay the bills, but it was the most satisfying and rewarding hobby she’d ever had. 

January 26, 2021 03:26

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Michael Boquet
15:54 Feb 05, 2021

To borrow a quote from you, your story "was simple, but effective." The dialogue felt very natural. I like the point you make about most people not giving a second thought to the wreaths they hang. The Janet part is where you lose me a bit. She's introduced out of nowhere and then the wreath becomes a fertility symbol I guess? Veering into magical realism territory just didn't really seem to fit the contemporary vibe of the rest of the story. Still, well written. Congrats on getting shortlisted.


Kelly Pawlik
16:44 Feb 05, 2021

Thank for the feedback! I appreciate you taking the time to read the story.


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Mango Chutney
20:37 Feb 13, 2021

Enjoyed reading your story :) Very well written.. Worth the short list ..!


Kelly Pawlik
23:26 Feb 13, 2021

Thank you!


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D. Owen
11:06 Feb 11, 2021

Enjoyable read. I made my first wreath this past season rather than buying pre-made. It was satisfying to see it hung on the front door. Are you a wreath maker?


Kelly Pawlik
17:00 Feb 11, 2021

Thanks! I started making them a couple of years ago instead of buying them. I was intimidated at first, but it's pretty fun. I make three a year - two for me, and one for my mum's front door.


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Tom .
00:51 Feb 06, 2021

This story had such a beautiful simplicity. Congratulations on your shortlist.


Kelly Pawlik
00:55 Feb 06, 2021

Thanks, Tom!


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Amanda Fox
19:22 Feb 05, 2021

I love this sweet look into the wreath-making process, and I can smell the eucalyptus. Thank you for sharing!


Kelly Pawlik
20:27 Feb 05, 2021

Aww, thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to read it, and write a comment :)


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Chelsea Berry
02:34 Feb 04, 2021

I liked the imagery. I could really feel the setting and the juxtaposition of the outside vs inside. I want to know more about how the wreaths are constructed. I felt the lesson where she teaches Charlette could have been filled out a bit more. I was confused by the transition to Janet. There wasn’t much preamble.


Kelly Pawlik
03:41 Feb 04, 2021

Thanks for the feedback (and taking the time to read the story)! I appreciate it. I'll work on filling in that area a bit more.


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