Waiting for Gift Man (Again)

This flash-fiction story was published last year on Christmas Eve. Since there are new followers to my blog (and thank you!!), I’m posting the short story again. I hope you enjoy…


Waiting for Gift Man
by Dave Williams

As we waited for the Gift Man to rappel down the chimney (no fire in the place, thank you very much), we regaled each other with tales of adventure.

“That time I went hang gliding down in Rio was a blast,” Mitch said. “You get a good running start and just launch yourself off the cliff, and you’re like, ‘this doesn’t feel right at all, I’m not supposed to jump off a cliff,’ but you tell yourself to shut up, that you’re strapped to this glider and it’s gonna be alright, ’cause you’ve just seen a bunch of people do it, and then you’re doing it, you realize you’re hanging there in the air, soaring. And you see the beautiful city below you and the beautiful beach and the beautiful ocean. And you’re so caught up in all of it that you’re not worried or scared, you’re just awed. Fucking beautiful, man.”

“Sounds sweet,” Zeke said. “Reminds me of the time I went skydiving. That being scared you feel when you step outside of this little prop plane and the land is way, way below you and you’re like, ‘Why am I doing this? Jumping out of a plane that’s working just fine and can take me to the ground and why the hell am I jumping out of it?’ But you keep pressing forward, sliding outside so the instructor who’s on your back can get out too, and then you let go, just let go. And then the air rushes into your face, you’re not thinking at all, just taking it all in, the air and the feeling and the rush of it. And when you finally hit the ground, your heart’s pounding from all the adrenaline. Like you said, fucking beautiful, man.”

I don’t have any hang gliding or skydiving stories, so I searched my memory for something that could stack up to them. “One time when I went hiking with some buddies, the trail on the mountain got thinner and thinner, and there was a chain you could hold on to. It was bolted to the rock every few feet or so and hanging down between the bolts so you could hold it and not fall off. ‘Cause the mountain dropped off, just dropped off on the other side of the trail from the chain, and every now and then we’d send some small rocks to drop, and they’d bounce down the mountain, and you’d imagine your body doing the same thing as those rocks and how crazy bad that would hurt. So, of course, that just made us hold on the chain harder and keep on going.”

“Cool, that sounds really cool,” Mitch said. “That reminds me …” then he launched himself into a new story.

And on the stories went, swinging on vines around the living room as we lounged on the couch and easy chairs and laughed and sipped eggnog (which partied with bourbon inside our glasses).

Until, that is, we heard footsteps above us.

“Someone’s coming!” Zeke whispered in an alarmed whisper.

But these footsteps were not on the roof. They were closer, as in from the upstairs hallway. Then closer still, on the stairway that led down to us in the living room. I will be honest with you here: we were disappointed that the footsteps did not come from the chimneyway.

Grandpa’s striped pajama bottoms appeared, and then his pajama tops, and then his head. A disapproving expression was on his head.

“What are you fellas still doing up?” he asked. “Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

“We’re waiting for Gift Man,” Mitch said.

“Oh,” Grandpa said and thought for a couple of moments. “Sounds like that movie Waiting for Guffman. You know, the one directed by Christopher Guest. It came out in the late Nineties, I believe.”

We nodded our heads. Yes, it did sound like the title of that funny movie.

Grandpa scratched his beard. “Which, I’m sure you know, was a play off the play Waiting for Godot. Written by Samuel Beckett, a master of absurdism.”

We nodded our heads. Yes, on some level of knowledge, we knew that.

Grandpa continued. “What you may not know is that Beckett was possibly inspired by Balzac. You see, Balzac wrote a play many years before called Mercadet. It was also about waiting.” He paused to let that sink into our eggnog-soaked brains. “In turn, Balzac may have been inspired by a play before him. Possibly something from the Greeks, who were masters of the theater. As you well know.”

The three of us looked at each other. This was getting much deeper than our regaling of adventures. It was plainly (maybe painfully as well) obvious that we doubted our brains were ready for Grandpa’s lecture about the history of theater.

Grandpa looked at the fireless fireplace (which may simply be called “place”). I don’t know about the other guys, but I fervently hoped Gift Man would appear and bring a big, bold dash of color and excitement. If this was a TV show or movie, that would’ve certainly happened right then.

Then Grandpa added, “Actually, the same thing may be said about Santa Claus. You could hop, skip, and jump through history and folk tales to see the many figures who came before the man we think of now.”

“Germany, wasn’t it?” Zeke asked.

“Among others, yes,” Grandpa answered and gazed over at the beautifully lit and decorated Christmas tree. “Many countries were involved in that progression.” He sighed, and you could read a bone-tiredness in that sigh. “I’m sure we could have a long conversation about this. But, as for me, that’ll have to wait for another day. I need my sleep. Goodnight, fellas. You should turn in soon. Tomorrow is a big day.”

We said we would and bade him goodnight, and then we listened to his footsteps ascend the stairs, proceed down the hall, and enter his bedroom.

“Absurdism,” Mitch said. Just offered the word out there, like a sugar cookie on a tray. “What the hell isn’t absurd?”

Zeke and I pondered that word on the invisible tray, and I beat out Zeke in my reply: “Nothing. Not a damn thing.”

“Here, here,” said Zeke and raised his glass.

We all raised our glasses of nog and took a drink.


copyright © 2020 Dave Williams

Free Ebook for the Spooky Season

Front cover of Don't Lose Your Head. A suit and tie without a head above it, and a background of black drips on a gray wall.

With Halloween around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to offer my ghost-story novella for free. The ebook of Don’t Lose Your Head won’t cost you a dime — or a trade of some candy that you’ve bought to hand out to trick-or-treaters. (Although I wouldn’t say no to a Kit Kat or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.)

The ebook is available at Amazon. It’ll be free through Tuesday, November 2.

Here’s a little about the book:

When you leave for a trip, who knows you’re gone from your house? Family and friends, sure. Neighbors, perhaps.

So does the chauffeur who drove you to the airport. Alan Burris takes advantage of working for a car service to know when clients will be away from their houses for several nights. Some houses are easier, since they don’t have a security system — and these houses are on his list for a night visit to steal valuables.

The Resnick house has been on Alan’s list for a while, and now it will be empty for a few nights, since Mr. and Mrs. Resnick are spending a long weekend in Chicago.

But is the house really empty? Alan’s about to find out what it’s like to not be alone in the house, his car, his apartment, and his head. And with another person hanging around, to what length will Alan go to get rid of them?


If you’d like to tip-toe into the metaphorical tulips of this story, an excerpt of the first chapter is here.

Pool Story

Photo of water ripples in a pool. The text on top of the water is also rippled, and the text is Pool Story by Dave Williams

One saying is “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” That’s kind of the gist of how this story and video were created.

My mom and I were on a trip when my minivan broke down on the highway. We were towed to a mechanic’s garage in a nearby town. We spent the night in a hotel and waited the next day for the minivan to be fixed. It was an opportunity to spend more time with my mom and chat about the old days, and I enjoyed listening to stories of when she was growing up.

During our wait, I filmed a four minute video of the hotel’s pool. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the video, just that I thought the water’s ripples made for interesting visuals.

Later, I had the idea to write a story. Not about hotel guests splashing about the pool, but of the water in the pool, about what could be going on with it.

So I narrated the story and paired that with the video of the water, and here it is. If you’d rather watch the video on YouTube, click here.

Audio Story: ‘Away from the Orchard’

Introductory screen image for the video, with the title Away from the Orchard and a drawing of a smiling apple.

Now that we’re into autumn, it’s time for eating everything that’s been covered with pumpkin spice. (Isn’t that the same spice mixture for apple pies? Why not “apple pie spice” everything then? But I digress.)

Also it’s time for visiting your friendly neighborhood farm for enjoying a bumpy hay ride, choosing just the right pumpkin, trying not to get woefully lost in a corn maze, and apple picking.

That last activity occurs in the beginning of my short story “Away from the Orchard.” A boy is picking apples with his family and he drops an apple with the excuse that it’s too small.

The apple decides it would rather not stay on the ground in the orchard, so it moves along. A short, sweet story about that decision and the journey afterward.

If you’d rather listen to the audio on YouTube, click here.

Album Cover

“Are you sure it’s your band?” she asked.

“C’mon, Mom, it’s really us.”

“But you can’t see any of your faces on the album cover!”

“That was an… um… artistic choice,” Brandon said. “Our music is atmospheric, so we thought the cover art should be like that, too. Kinda blurry.”

“OK, honey,” she said. “That’s nice. I’m glad you moved on from that ruckus you boys used to play in the garage. That stuff gave me headaches.”

“We played punk rock, Mom. Headaches go with the territory.”


copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

This Story

Photograph of an octopus swimming just above the ocean floor.
by Pia/Pexels

This story walks a delicate line. Perhaps we will find an easier approach of starting with what the story does not want.

It does not want to be seen as pretentious. This story would never go to a chic restaurant and, upon hearing the sommelier say the restaurant has no more bottles of 1984 Fancypants Chablis, throw a fit and storm out of the restaurant. This is not one of those kinds of stories. Also, when wearing a polo shirt, this story does not “pop the collar.”

It desires to be seen as a “story among the people.” On weekends, after mowing the lawn, it sits on a patio chair and sips a common brand of beer — not a “this dude only drinks microbrews nobody’s heard of and listens to bands nobody’s heard of” type of beer.

This story wishes to entertain, in the hope that people will have a good time while experiencing it. Of course, “good time” is subjective to every reader. Some readers prefer action:

Viv dispatches the four members of Baron Lybo’s assault squad with throwing knives as she creeps around her house that they’ve entered in the night. Viv acts as a ninja using the familiar territory to her advantage. The last two assaulters fire their AK-47s before Viv’s knives plunge into their necks. The shots will cause neighbors to call the cops. Viv slings the four AKs on her shoulder and marches outside to her muscle car. Plenty of ammo is in the guns for her to attack one of Baron Lybo’s drug warehouses. But how did the baron discover Viv’s safe house? Is one of Viv’s few friends a snitch? Does her car have a tracking device?

Other readers prefer romantic comedy:

In the office’s break room, Jacqueline stands at the counter and has no way of knowing that Antonio is walking behind her when she turns around. Jacqueline bumps into Antonio. She was heading to the microwave to heat her leftover chicken curry. Both people watch in surprise as the green curry sloshes, then dollops of curry sauce leap from the container and land on Antonio’s shirt. He recovers from the surprise and says, “I better soak it before the stain becomes permanent.” As Antonio unbuttons his shirt and holds it under the sink’s faucet, Jacqueline is hit by lust/love’s gentle cheek slaps: Delicious six-pack of abs! Knowledge of good laundry practice! He chose to solve the problem instead of lashing out in anger!

But this story doesn’t want to be only entertaining. Going for thrills and laughs is a fine goal. Reaching beyond that, into the realm of admirable

(in the story’s estimation),

is to also aim for resonance. To weave a story with such emotional depth, readers will remember the story as more than “five or ten minutes I spent while avoiding my work at the office, or while I waited for the bus.” To resonate with readers, the story could show a character with weaknesses:

Parcy slumps on a kitchen chair as the dishwasher starts. Another difficult day of work. Tempting is the thought of pouring wine into one of the tall, retro-swirly decorated glasses (thrift store finds; to hell with “proper” wine glasses) and binging on a TV show. Yet, Parcy doesn’t want that tonight. There’s an urge for a meditative time. Parcy taps her phone’s screen to find the Quiet Nights album by Miles Davis. Interesting how the jazz mixes with the sound of water spraying inside the dishwasher. Parcy wonders when she’ll feel consistently confident at work. To get past the thoughts of being behind. Doubt weighs heavily. She closes her eyes and focuses on the trumpet’s music. She wishes she could ride the music, let it carry her around the apartment while rain falls outside the windows.

The story’s aim is for this kind of character, contrasted with a character representing a societal ideal that’s impossible to achieve. Such a character would breeze through life, everything coming easily to her/him/them.

This story would rather include a character facing struggles, while developing strength and lessons from struggles and failures:

The octopus swims away from the crowded sea floor, into a maze of rocks, gliding over and under, around them. Until the octopus finds the cave and enters its darkness. The sun’s rays diving into the water do not reach inside the cave. That’s preferable to the octopus. She needs a break from her parents nagging her to find a mate (“Please! We’d like grandchildren before we get too old and slow to play with them.”) and her friends, whose kidding around can sometimes get on her nerves. In the cave, the octopus dances. Her tentacles swirl and ripple in complicated patterns. Nobody can see her. She dances simply, for the joy of movement. A good way to let off steam and help ease her mind. However, she is wrong about nobody seeing her. Today, a lanternfish happens upon the cave. Seeing the octopus, the lanternfish turns off her green glow. The octopus is so involved in her dance that she doesn’t realize the presence of another creature. Until the octopus spins toward the cave’s opening. Immediately, she stops dancing. She says, “Why are you spying on me?” The lanternfish says, “I couldn’t help it. I came in here and saw you and I didn’t want to stop you. Please keep dancing.” The octopus says, “No. You’ll judge me.” The lanternfish says, “Too late. I already judged you. Your dancing is wonderful.” The octopus says, “You really mean that?” The lanternfish nods and says, “I’d like to see more.” The octopus says, “Promise you won’t make fun of me?” After the lanternfish promises that, the octopus says, “Will you tell the others?” The lanternfish says, “I won’t. Your secret is safe with me.” The octopus hesitates, weighs her options, then begins to dance again. The lanternfish turns on her green light, brightening the cave. The lanternfish joins in the dance, swimming over and under, around the swirling tentacles.

Hopefully, the reader would connect on some level with the character, to feel less alone in the world.

Which springs a kind of magic. The little drawings that we’ve come to the collective understanding that they represent letters. When grouped together, they form words. Strings of these words can inspire pictures in readers’ minds and inspire emotions in their hearts.

Such is the wish of this story. With every reader who happens upon it, the story knows it walks the delicate line between failure and success.


copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

Book Review: ‘Voice of a Story Teller’

Cover of book, with an image of the night sky. Many stars are shown, along with a shooting star.

Voice of a Story Teller by Sara Kjeldsen 

Two story tellers are in this book, as the overall story is told by Barak, who has survived a war. He is haunted by watching his friends die in that war.

In his PTSD, Barak isolates himself in the small village and doesn’t spend much time with the other villagers. He prefers fishing on the river alone and creating wooden carvings alone in his hut. Barak weaves a bitter story in his opinion of the villagers, as he judges them for moving on from the war and putting the memory behind them.

The object of Barak’s harshest judgement is Almaz, the story teller who has come to the village. Stories can have the ability to draw us into their worlds, and Barak dislikes Almaz for doing that to the villagers. Yet Almaz offers to help Barak try to find peace from his war memories.

Sara Kjeldsen has crafted a powerful voice in Barak, and that makes for an interesting story. Because Barak is not a one-speed character. Along with his haunted memories, he enjoys looking at beauty in the natural world around him. And he’s conflicted about what decisions to make.

“All of us are little more than stories ourselves,” Almaz says. And the kind of stories we tell ourselves is important, shaping how we see ourselves and the world. This book is a great example of that.

This novella is available on Amazon.

Also, you can check out more of Sara Kjeldsen’s writing on her blog.

Free Ebook: ‘Red Tree’

Cover of The Red Tree. The background is white. An image of a leaf-less tree is in black, with red tips of the branches.

The next ebook that can be scooped up for free is much shorter than the previous novellas. The Red Tree is free today through Friday (July 23). If you’d like to scoop up the book, click here.

A description of this story…

While rain falls for weeks, the Engler family invites friends over for an evening of dealing with cabin fever together. And when the spring sun arrives, the Englers celebrate by walking in a wooded park, where they encounter a red tree away from the trail. Guesses abound as to why the tree is red when none of the other trees are.

Life returns to normal for most of the Englers. The father, Calvin, decides the red tree was a sign for him to make changes in his life and property. Changes the family and neighbors don’t quite understand. But some family members can be eccentric, and others learn to roll with it. 

A short story about family, experiencing the mysterious, and letting your imagination loose.

Even shorter than the story is its excerpt, which can be found here.

Free Ebook: ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’

Cover of Don't Lose Your Head. The background is dark gray, with black drips. In the foreground is a photo showing a business suit and tie -- but there is no head above the suit.

A ghost story is my next ebook to be free — starting today and lasting through Tuesday (July 20). This novella, Don’t Lose Your Head, can be found on Amazon.

A little more about this spooky book…

When you leave for a trip, who knows you’re gone from your house? Family and friends, sure. Neighbors, perhaps.

So does the chauffeur who drove you to the airport. Alan Burris takes advantage of working for a car service to know when clients will be away from their houses for several nights. Some houses are easier, since they don’t have a security system — and these houses are on his list for a night visit to steal valuables.

The Resnick house has been on Alan’s list for a while, and now it will be empty for a few nights, since Mr. and Mrs. Resnick are spending a long weekend in Chicago.

But is the house really empty? Alan’s about to find out what it’s like to not be alone in the house, his  car, his apartment, and his head. And with another person hanging around, to what length will Alan go to get rid of them?

You can discover how this story starts by reading an excerpt of the first chapter here.

Free Ebook: ‘Other Lives of the Boothbys’

Cover of Other Lives of the Boothbys. The background is light blue. The title is embedded in other lines of text that are softened by being gray, while the title is in black

Another of my ebooks is available for free: Other Lives of the Boothbys. The promotion starts today and will last through Wednesday (July 14). Download the ebook from here on Amazon.

What is this book about?

Bradley Boothby has no idea why he feels déjà vu when walking by the office building for Rayburn-Turley Publishing. 

Is he included in one of the publishing company’s books? If so, why? Did an author spy on Bradley to steal his life story, which isn’t all that dramatic? The thoughts are far-fetched, so he dismisses them.

But the strange sensation persists, and Bradley finally acts, needing to find if the déjà vu has a foundation. His search touches off consequences for an editor and writer, as they have an impact on each other’s lives. 

Still undecided whether to get a free ebook? Read an excerpt here.