The Name of the Game IS the Twist!

Submitted into Contest #178 in response to: Write a story about an unconventional holiday tradition.... view prompt


Holiday Coming of Age Drama

*Disclaimer-There is some hints of romantic involvement toward the end, but I kept it "clean"*

The Name of the Game IS the Twist!

A harshly whispered “Shhhhh” and the accompanying index finger to duck lips was all Harold got for this Christmas Eve night. For now. Harold wanted to be excited. This was, after all, his first outing with his uncle and father this year. They were excited as were his sister, his cousins too. They were jealous and proud both. Just his mother, some of the aunts held onto the antiquated belief that they should celebrate Christmas like the normies. Pretending that everything was all shiny and wonderful and joyous like the wrapping paper, bows and oh-so-popular musics from the more or less original artists played over and over and over again. Harold continued to quietly trudge through the unseasonable snowfall behind his uncle Quinton. “At least it’s powder, not that noisy, nasty sludge that gives us away.”, he said to Harold and his father, Marlon in the car before getting out. Last minute checklist before taking out “the newbie” on his first run. 

Marlon revived his habit of chewing his mustache from nerves. Last time he did this was when he heard on the local news that the police were going to step up patrols over the holidays. Quinton nudged him in the shoulder to make him stop. Both of their wives hated when he did that to his mustache, so he was assigned to attempt to stop him. That nudge failed, of course, but they continued their careful trek.

Harold checked himself, too. Wearing all black, including gloves, no matter how warm or cold it got here. Black mascara on his cheeks and under his eyes like a deranged football player. Broad and slow steps when there’s snow on the ground around their target. No “crunching” noises, that way. Tools packed at their hips tightly so no jingle bell sounds. True, it was Christmas, but they couldn’t afford the kind that could give them jail time.

Marlon gave Harold and Quinton the “we’re here” signal as he brought up the rear, brushing away their footprints and adding others in the snow. The poorly framed white screen door stood in front of them like it was a blockage in a video game, daring them to break in and get to the prize or prizes inside. No lock, but no taking any chances. Quinton motioned Harold to the knob. Skills field testing has begun. They both watched their son and nephew as he firmly gripped the knob and turned it according to the instructions drilled into him since he went to his first Holi-bon-fire that he was told was the true meaning of Christmas that the normies were ignorant of. 

Father and uncle proudly grinned, seeing Harold turn the knob and open the screen door noiselessly and wide with no squeaking from it. Now, the real door test. The heavy, solid locked door. Quinton had already opened his pack of tools and waited for Harold to use the family sign language that he was taught to ask for the correct tools. Harold did them proud. Not only asking for the correct tools, he picked the lock effortlessly and quietly. Hearing the tumblers quietly “click”, he paused. As per instructions again. Then, he began the task of opening the door slowly and holding the knob and bracing his 16 year-old shoulders against it. Pushing slowly, his father handed him the spray can of white grease to spray on the hinges, both listening for the telltale creak that could wake any sleeping householders or pets. The three of them checked for dogs or even cats that could stir their people awake. No such animals.

They had checked for an alarm and found none. This family was among others that couldn’t afford an alarm system, but used signs to try and thwart the criminal element. 

The door swung open slowly, their bodies used to block any incoming light from the streetlamps outside. Harold was taught how to see in the dark without those fancy-shmancy ultraviolet goggles, how to use what moonlight was available and if none, to stand still in a darkened room, waiting for their pupils to adjust and then move in. Quinton, after brushing their prints off the snow, took the topmost plastic wrapping off of their boots and the boots themselves, so that there was no water spots on the floor and set them outside. They missed seeing that the family in this house had a cat after all, but it was uninterested in activities that didn’t involve disturbing the animal, so it went back to sleep. They crept in, socked feet dry, treading softly, slowly, checking for floor creaks. Then making a side step if they heard the unwelcome floor music chime in.

At last, their goal. The pile of capitalist merchandise tied up in shining artificial coverings to match the fake cut up piece of natural beauty, covered in glaring hot lights and metal shavings. Harold could swear he heard his father and uncle drooling behind him when they were supposed to be keeping watch. No time to admonish, just grab one box, slip it into the burlap bag and leave as slowly and carefully as they came in. He was taught burlap made less noise when they took one of the boxes for the celebration instead of the wasteful plastic trash bags these commercial-loving pigs used to occupy the landfills every year.

Since this was Harold’s coming-of-age right of passage, he picked out the box. It was a large one, but not so large that it wouldn’t fit in the bag. He didn’t see Quinton and Marlon beaming with pride behind him as he carefully stuffed the spoiled brat’s gift into the burlap.

A light beaming into the windows toward them stopped them cold. From their experience and Harold’s training, they crouched down behind whatever could hide them in that situation. The couch, for now. Quinton peeked up over the velveteen cushion with the holly patterned throw over the back of the couch. He watched as the driver pulled into a different driveway, got out, staggering. Late-night holiday partyers, each a little drunk. He shook his head. “And they say we’re criminals.” he whispered mainly to himself. He gave the “all clear” signal and they got up, resumed their escape. Backtracking, knowing exactly where they stepped, they rubbed their socked feet on the carpet to hide their tracks as best they could. It was so much easier with hardwood floors, but they dealt with each house as needed.

At the last test of Harold’s rite of passage night. Quinton and Marlon went outside first, slipping their boots and coverings back on quickly and quietly. They waited, hands under their armpits, waiting to see his performance. It was important to close the doors as quietly as they had entered, not letting anxiety overwhelm one's senses, knowing they were finishing up and ready to leave. They nudged each other, grinning wide, proud. 

Harold performed masterfully. Timing perfect. Motions carried out as taught. No need for worry. By any of them. Slowly and carefully, brushing their tracks again, they headed to the car, unloading the foiled box into the back with the others. They insisted Harold sit in the middle between the two of them as Marlon started the car and drove off, driving slowly with the main headlights off to avoid any attention. 

They stopped some blocks away and moved the stick shift into park. After a few moments of silence, guffaws started, snorts and they tickled their newly recognized member of their tribe, making him laugh out loud until he teared up. 

Later that night, when the rest of the tribe gathered at the annual bonfire location, Harold brought his shining symbol of capitalistic greed. The box he liberated from that rich, spoiled family to join the others. Marlon and his wife had their arms around each other, tearing up for a different reason, watching their son carry on a multi-generation tradition. He stopped before his Great-Uncle Toby. His long, white beard braided with love beads, smelling of patchouli, faded tie-dye shirt frayed at the edges of the sleeves and hem. He took the box from Harold and held it up, prepared to give the speech that he had given since this true tradition was revealed.

“My family! My Tribe!! Hear ye! Hear ye! Gather ‘round and hear!” He motioned with his wrinkled arms, waving all around him, standing before the pile of shining, bowed boxes or department store holiday bags. “In the time before you were born, my former Tribe, my Clan, my brothers in the Peace that should have permeated this wicked land sold OUT!” Pausing, making sure all heard him once again. Couples gathered embraced each other, their children or anyone that drew inspiration from his presence and the purpose of revealing the Truth. “We began our self-sufficient community in 1975 near the place of the great awakening, Woodstock! We had the materials, the labor, the plans and it was GOOD! We were one of Peace, Harmony, Balance and True Strength. But then, the consuming masses came by in their loud, steel, polluting horses and saw our peaceful, separatist Commune and asked if they could purchase the beads around our necks, the patterns of peace on our beautiful bodies, the tomes of the revolution!” He motioned to the love beads now woven into his long beard, the tie-dye shirt and Harold knew that he was referring to works by the beat poets and other revolutionary writers around the late 60’s. He heard from his parents that when the state highway opened near their Commune’s land, people heard about it and wanted to buy “trinkets” like the above, tourists or whatever the outside world called them. Most of the Commune resisted them, but they needed the money. 


Harold heft the glittering, colorful, distracting box of nothingness over his head and threw it into the fire. His uncle, his father, mother, cousins, all the rest of his True Family cheered. After seeing the hate-filled, narrow-minded causes of the world outside of this Land and its greedy daily motives, he knew this was True. 

“Their narcissistic holiday known as ‘Christmas’, a holy day of their god of the almighty dollar, is now reclaimed by us to show how shallow and meaningless it all is!! Welcome Harold Renault! Welcome to the Cause! First, a single trinket from each home each year on this calendar holy day….then….every day until they know that Peace and Harmony is all there is!!” With Great-Uncle Tobias’s last roar, the others gathered threw their liberated hoard into the fire, hearing crackles and pops of the trapped items either melting, or mechanics exploding. The dancing, shouting and leaps over the fire began with passion and joy. Far more joy than the greedy outside world shall ever know.

Harold’s mother embraced both Marlon and Great-Uncle Toby. Quinton rubbed his hand on cousin Keith’s back, and they looked at each other with loving smiles. The rest of his Family, his True Family of the soon-to-be Restored Peace shared each other. He glanced at Virginia, one of the young descendants of Great-Uncle Toby and she winked back at him as he looked her over. 

Merry Christmas indeed, you materialistic demons.

December 28, 2022 02:44

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Wendy Kaminski
03:16 Dec 29, 2022

Very interesting and unique take on a holiday tradition! It seems like this would have been a lot of fun to write, with the twist at the end - I enjoyed reading it!


David Drake
15:06 Dec 29, 2022

Thanks! This was one that I felt like I could have spent more time editing and/or adding to. Explaining more about their "cult" or whatever it could be called, better descriptions of the background characters like the uncles and cousins, etc, that seemed to take exception to this tradition and what happened to them. Things like that, but due to holiday commitments in life here, I didn't do that. Live and learn, I'm guessing. Too bad part of my holiday commitments didn't involve a bonfire. Lol.


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