A CHRISTMAS IN JULY TALE - On a Cold Winter's Night by Amanda Bergloff

She would sing songs in a language that made me think of ancient tangled woods that breathed like I did...
It's summer, and it's hot where EC is, so celebrate "Christmas in July" and cool off (at least in your mind) with this tale of cousins, snow, and a special aunt.
I’ve always loved my Auntie Kay. She was by far my favorite aunt out of all the aunts that came to visit when I was a little girl. When my least favorite cousin, Maria, teased me and told me I needed to be nicer to everyone, Auntie Kay took the dirty rag she was dusting with and rubbed it in Maria’s face.

“You better be good for goodness’ sake,” Auntie Kay scolded. Maria ran off crying while Auntie Kay and I laughed.

I never liked the side of the family that cousin Maria was from. They dressed alike, sounded alike, and all of them had the same annoying laugh. It was horrible, and cousin Maria was the worst. She had to sleep in my room when they stayed during the holidays. Maria snored, and when she wasn’t snoring, she bored me to tears with stories of how wonderful everything she had was. I asked my mother politely if cousin Maria could sleep on the living room sofa, but I was told to be a good girl and put up with her for a of couple weeks. I wasn’t happy about it, and only Auntie Kay understood how I felt.

“I had a cousin like Maria when I was growing up,” Auntie Kay told me. “She was the biggest nuisance, and I couldn’t wait until she went back home. She grew up and turned out to be Maria’s mother, so I guess it runs in the family.” We laughed at the thought that the same people bothered us and not everything about family gatherings was fun.

It was always the week before Christmas when all the aunts, uncles, and cousins descended on our house for the annual family reunion. My mother spent weeks in advance getting ready for the event. Even though she planned different activities for each day, every morning leading up to Christmas was the same. She had everyone go outside to sled in the deep snow that surrounded our house while she, along with some of the aunts from her side of the family, stayed inside with Auntie Kay and talked about her business. This was a busy time of year for Auntie Kay, and she needed some extra help from the aunts who had a special aptitude for the kind of work that Auntie Kay did.
   
I wanted to stay with them, but my mother made me go outside with the rest of the family.

“Your cousin Maria needs a girl her age to play with,” she always said. I gritted my teeth and reluctantly dragged my sled outside.
   
I rolled my eyes when cousin Maria told me how I made snowballs wrong or that the snowman I made was not perfect. When she took my sled because she thought it was faster than hers, I let her so I didn’t have to sled with her anymore. I waited patiently for the moment I could sneak away from the group. I wanted to peek into the dining room window where Auntie Kay talked to my mother and the other aunts. One time, I saw them going over what looked like long lists written on yellow paper. Another time, it looked like they were doing some craft project with wood. I watched until Auntie Kay saw me and motioned me to go back and play with the rest of the family.
   
I was glad when those morning meetings were over and my mother called us back inside to warm up with some hot cocoa. Once Auntie Kay’s business talk was done for the day, she was able to spend time with me and also be there when cousin Maria was around.
   
When Maria told me that my hair looked weird and lumpy, Auntie Kay pointed out that my hairstyle was just like her own and that our side of the family had a particular type of hair that was unique to us.
   
When cousin Maria said that my room was too messy for her and she would show me the correct way to clean it up, Auntie Kay told her how great geniuses didn’t have time to put things away neatly and that Maria should mind her own business.
   
When cousin Maria and I sang Christmas carols, Maria would stop to tell me I was singing off key because my mouth was too big. Auntie Kay said that my mouth was just the right size, and maybe if Maria sang a little quieter, she would be able to hear that I was singing on key.
   
Auntie Kay always made me feel special when she stood up for me like that. I felt like a part of her side of the family. My favorite times with her would be on a cold winter’s night before Christmas, when everyone else had gone to bed. The two of us would sit by the fire and Auntie Kay would brush my long black hair that was like hers and so unlike cousin Maria’s blond hair. She would sing songs in a language I didn’t understand while she brushed. The songs had old words in them which made me think of ancient tangled woods that breathed like I did. When she was done, we would make cards together by the firelight with some of the strange words she spoke on them for me to remember her by. She also taught me a woodworking craft with sticks that went back generations in our family while she told stories of the land where she grew up, so far away and so long ago. I could feel her words changing me on the inside in a way that made me stronger, and I became very different from cousin Maria which was a very good thing.
   
I’m a grown woman now and still travel back to my childhood home for our annual family reunions. Cousin Maria and her side of the family moved far away to some northern city and no longer attend, which is fine with me. I'm always happy to see Auntie Kay again. I think the responsibility of the family business is wearing on her, although I still see the same spark in her green eyes when we talk by the fire on a cold winter’s night after everyone has gone to bed.
   
I want to surprise her with a special card I made like the ones we used to make together so many years ago. A card that will let her know how much she has taught me through the years...something to leave in her room for her to find on Christmas morning.
   
I slip the card inside the envelope and lick it, careful not to cut my long tongue on the edge. Long tongues run on the female side of my family, as do the horns, but the horns can vary in length. I have the shorter ones which can be hidden under the right hairstyle as Auntie Kay has taught me.
   
I address the envelope in my finest calligraphy: To Auntie K. Rampus - and place it on her pillow.
  
I have to get ready now. Some aunts from the Rampus side of the family will be meeting soon to help Auntie Kay. It’s a busy time of the year for us. Only special Rampus women, born with the long tongue, can go out to work on a cold winter’s night when the wind whispers the secrets of the naughty ones and the stars light the way to their rooms.
   
Cousin Maria is always the first stop on my list.
   
It’s funny how everyone assumes Krampus works alone and is a man.
Amanda Bergloff writes modern fairy tales, folktales, and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in various anthologies, including Frozen Fairy Tales, After the Happily Ever After, and Uncommon Pet Tales.
Follow her on Twitter @AmandaBergloff
Check out her Amazon Author page HERE

Cover Layout: Amanda Bergloff
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Comments

  1. This is some Classic Amanda here! I remember my first reading this a couple years back, loving it right up to the clever reveal at the end. It was a brilliant idea told through whimsical first person, leading up to an unexpected (to me anyway) revelation that made me smile at such an inspired take on the Krampus legend. Bravo, Amanda! Bravo!

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    1. So happy you enjoyed it, Guy, and thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. Thank you! It really was a fun one to write for me.

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  2. Perfect ending. I love Cousin Maria getting her yearly come-uppance - hehehe...
    And the story did cool me off, which I needed today - thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Happy you felt cooler today, Angelika.
      Thanks for reading, and I think Auntie Kay would be happy you read her story, too! :)

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