Toad and Mole

This week’s 52 week writing challenge prompt is “a story set at Christmas,” and with this, I am officially caught up on my challenge! It’s a Christmas miracle! Merry Christmas, Noche Buena, and happy holidays all around to my readers. Next week will be the final prompt for the challenge. Enjoy!

Heel to toe, heel to toe, slow, slow, slow. I walked like a circus performer on a tightrope as I grasped the mug handle in my fingers, watching the top layer of marshmallows in hot cocoa ripple like the glass of water in Jurassic Park. Just one more step.

Mom came up behind me and grabbed the mug so I could settle in under the tree next to my brother. “Thanks, mama.”

“You’re welcome.” She beamed and handed me back the mug.

I took a slow sip, and even though it still burned the tip of my tongue and roof of my mouth, I let out a satisfied, “Mmmmmmm.”

Dad took a seat in front of the fake fireplace he’d made out of cardboard and colored in with my crayons. Above his head, on the fake mantle, hung our stockings, held in place with push pins. From left to right they read, “William. Sonia. Daryl. Meagan.” My name was in pink glitter.

“Okay, are we all ready?” Dad asked.

Daryl and I nodded. I laughed when I saw his hot chocolate mustache. “Shut up. You’ve got one too.”

“Alright, dad, you pick your character first,” Mom prompted.

“I’ll be Rat,” he answered.

My brother raised his hand high in the air like he was in school. “I’ll be Mr. Toad.”

“I’ll be Badger,” added Mom. “Meagan, that leaves you with Mole.”

“Aw, again?” I pouted. “I’m always the ugliest one.”

“That’s ’cause you are the ugly one in the family.” Daryl cackled and nearly spilled his hot chocolate all over his pajamas.

My mug was on the floor beside me now, and I crossed my arms and furrowed my brows. “Mommy! Make him stop.”

Mom gave my brother the glare. “Daryl, be nice.”

He rolled his eyes and shot me a dirty look. I stuck my tongue out at him.

“Hey, if you two keep at it we’ll call it a night and put you to bed.” Dad’s stern voice always made us stop bickering.

I picked up my mug and took a sip. We all nodded in silent agreement to proceed.

My dad cleared his throat and started reading in his lilted accent. “Chapter 1. The River Bank. The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home…”

He read slow and careful, stumbling a bit on the part with all the ings. When it was the character’s time to speak, he handed the book to me so I could read the dialogue. This was my favorite part. I put on a dramatic voice and enunciated everything in my best British accent, because in my mind, Mole was from England.

We continued like this for the next hour, each taking turns reading from the old, tattered book. The pages were yellowing and the cover had tape on the spine to keep the cracking paper from peeling off altogether. We’d read that book every year on Christmas eve for as long as I could remember.

Each of us made the characters our own. My mom always gave Badger a grumbly voice, lowering her head to read as deep as she could. It always made me laugh. My dad’s naturally higher voice gave Rat the perfect warmth necessary for the friendly creature. Daryl gave Toad a British accent too, but his was huffier and more manic than mine.

With ten minutes to spare until midnight, and my brother and I dozing off, Dad closed the book and called it a night. “Okay, time for sleep. You two have everything you need out here?”

Daryl and I nodded our sleepy heads. “Alright, good night then.” He bent over and kissed each of us on the forehead.

My mom helped us into our makeshift sleeping bags with pillows and double blankets. Even on a tile floor, it was still pretty comfortable. We barely felt or heard her as she said goodnight.

They went to bed and turned off the lights, leaving only the glow of the Christmas tree lights and decorations as illumination for us. The sweet smell of pine filled my nose as I turned over to face my brother. “Good night, Mr. Toad.” I yawned.

“Good night, Mr. Mole,” he yawned back.

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