Rules, Rhythm and Rhyme…

A principal of a school made a very fair and humbling comment as he introduced me to a school group. He mentioned that both of us had entered the same short story writing competition which had a Christmas theme. I wrote a piece that was, I think he might have liked to call it eccentric, and I would have agreed with him. It was titled, A Christmas Mashup. He told the school group I beat him in the writing competition. The piece itself was very different from a standard creative writing piece. It was completely outside the rules of creative writing…  if you follow the rules. But here’s the thing, this was how the story came to me. There could be many different reasons why. For example, I’m a fan of the supernatural, poetry, horror, a little bit of crazy, a little bit of funny, and that’s a mashup in itself. But how I prefer to view it is like this; I followed my own creative instinct. Not everything I write takes this form, but when creative flow happens I often just run with it.

Here’s a snippet of how the story begins:

A Christmas Mashup

 On the scene …

It was the night before Christmas in a small town that no one really cared about. The day had been filled with the usual grey clouds and the chilly wind swept over the hills and into the township. The dreary winter weather had taken hold with a grip that wouldn’t let go. Only the very brave dared to come out, and only the very evil enjoyed such miserable weather. Gruesome had a reputation for having the most horrible weather, and attracting the odd evil traveller.

A detective arrived at the scene with a lit cigarette in his hand. He was forty-something, skinny and smoked far too much. His hair had been dyed dark brown to cover the grey, but it didn’t make him look any younger because he grimaced too much. He couldn’t do anything about his pale white skin, so he accepted what he had been given. He grumbled about the cold, reminding himself how much he also hated the snow. In fact he hated Christmas. Period. That’s why he worked on Christmas Eve, and he tried very hard to smoke his way through the night.

‘I’ve never seen anything like it, sir,’ said a junior officer. ‘They stripped him bare and left him for dead.’

The detective looked at the body. There on the street a naked, white haired, old man, with a beard that would give Santa Claus a run for his money, lay dead. The detective turned to look across the street at the shopping mall. He started to walk away.

‘Where are you going detective Valentine?’ called the junior officer.

‘To do a spot of shopping, and if I’m lucky have a chat to Santa.’

‘But what do I do with the body?’ the junior officer called out.

‘Tag it and bag it,’ Valentine called back. He sucked in a good amount of deadly vapour, happy to feel the burn down his throat. Then when he reached the shopping mall he dropped the cigarette to the sidewalk, thinking, if he wasn’t a detective he would take his half-smoked cigarette in with him, and happily break the smoking laws. Bloody do-gooders, passive bloody smoking ruined it for everyone.


Some more things happen and you begin to understand that Valentine is not a normal detective. And then comes the second scene.

 Meanwhile up on the seventh floor …

A witness to the rhyme.

The shop assistant felt a strange sense of lightness from her fingers to her toes. When she looked around time had grabbed hold of everyone, but she had not taken the stillness pose. The worst was yet to come as her head forgot the time. All manner of thought turned strange, and her mind heard things in rhyme.

‘Merry Christmas,’ he grumbled to her, as he hurried on by her store. She couldn’t stop herself from frowning, and then shivered right into her core. Even though he was dressed in the usual red and white, he just didn’t look like a normal Santa Claus. His nose was spotted with bubbling warts and his eyes were ringed with red lines. There was something really creepy in the way he frowned, as he continued to rush on by.

She felt compelled to stretch her head around the door to see.

‘Merry Christmas,’ said another Santa, catching her by surprise. This one was cheerful with rosy red cheeks and a warm, endearing smile.

‘Merry Christmas,’ she said right back. She watched them both disappear into a candy store four doors down. Then she thought about poor Mrs Wilson having to deal with that awful frown.

‘Merry Christmas,’ it said, as it marched on by.

‘Merry Christmas,’ she said right back. A toy soldier marched right by her. That’s odd, she thought to herself. Strangely, the mall went silent and Little Drummer Boy started right up. Oddly, her mind kept going back, thinking about that awful first chap.

‘Season’s Greetings,’ said a soft little voice. This time it was a sweet little angel, complete with silver star and feathery white wings. She too was in a big hurry, and apparently in need of sweet things.

By now she thought poor Mrs Wilson would have her hands quite full, two Santas, a toy soldier and an angel had triggered her entry bell.

She wasn’t exactly sure why she walked in that direction, but whatever the inclination, she was happy if she could help them. And as she walked towards the store she couldn’t stop the sigh. She was after all curious to know what everyone wanted to buy. When she reached the door, she gasped. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The two Santas were wrestling on the floor. The soldier was in several pieces. The angel was hanging from the ceiling and old Mrs Wilson was … very tall. Mrs Wilson was watching with chilling delight as the two Santas pulled and grappled.

‘Gouge out his eyes!’ screamed old Mrs Wilson. The bad Santa gave her a wink. ‘That’s it, rip out his ho ho ho!’ Mrs Wilson encouraged from the counter.

If the shop assistant was in the Twilight Zone then possibly she would have understood. But this was a down town shopping mall, and this type of thing was just absurd. Right then she almost fainted when the Snowman appeared from out of thin air. Then two elves, a reindeer and a glorious bright light appeared next to the liquorish stand.

‘You’re coming back with me!’ thundered the bright light. ‘This is no place for evil to be!’

‘Like hell,’ scoffed old Mrs Wilson. Then, electricity flew out of the store bell.

The snowman turned into a reindeer and the elves suddenly had guns. ‘You’re coming back with us tonight!’ they yelled. ‘You should be still in hell!’

‘Never!’ screamed old Mrs Wilson. ‘You’ll never catch me tonight!’

And in that very second, the bright light changed to a lasso. It leaped around Mrs Wilson’s body almost cutting her in two. Mrs Wilson didn’t have a hope in hell to put up a decent fight. The elves shot poor Mrs Wilson at eleven o’clock that night. Mrs Wilson turned a dreadful colour, a horrible shade of grey. It was very clear poor Mrs Wilson would not see another day.

The elves jumped onto the reindeer, scooped up the fairy and leaped into flight. The pieces of soldier came back together and disappeared into the light. The good Santa handcuffed the bad Santa, and grinned as he walked towards the door.

‘Merry Christmas!’ he shouted, sounding jolly. And they disappeared just as they left the store.

And then comes the third scene… Here’s a little snippet of the beginning… of the end.

Meanwhile …

Back on the scene: The adjustment.

 Valentine had made several stops along the way. He was dealing with the constraints of an unfit forty something body, lungs filled with thick tar, and limited powers. All of which hampered his quick response time. As he reached the last step on the seventh floor he slanted his head towards the ceiling and mumbled a few nasty profanities at a higher power. His hands went to his hips, stretching up slightly, while taking in a few deep breathes to help him recover. Then he composed himself.

Valentine walked quietly up to the shop assistant and presented himself squarely in front of her. He looked at her carefully right up until she finally made eye contact. He decided to remain calm and talk politely, so not to frighten her any more than she looked right now. He had already noticed the slight tremor in her hands. This was completely understandable considering what she had just witnessed on Christmas Eve.

‘Sorry about that,’ said Valentine, smiling like everything was normal. ‘It’s always a nasty business when they come to town.’

He knew he looked like he only had about two weeks to live. Before he was taken up into the cotton ball clouds where he could sit and smoke his days away. But in actual fact he wasn’t going to die any time soon. This body was just a vessel, but he couldn’t tell her that. He couldn’t grumble about being thrown out of heaven, like a disobedient child, and made to do community service for his sin. So he just continued to smile.

‘You know there’s always one or two like you,’ he said, as he fumbled with something in his pocket. ‘I mean, who just stay awake.’

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer started to play. Valentine sighed. ‘That’s my queue,’ he said to the shop assistant. ‘There’s another incident three blocks away.’ He pulled from his pocket a blue Christmas bauble dusted with sparkling silver and held it in the palm of his hand. She stared at it.

‘Sorry, but the adjustment has to be quick,’ he said in the most comforting way. ‘We can’t allow you to remember anything. That would be against the big guy’s law.’ He pointed up. ‘You know, the BIG guy upstairs.’

The shop assistant blinked, twice.

 And it continues from there until the end of the story.

While I haven’t provided the whole story you get the idea that it’s not a typical writing piece. It’s not meant to be the best piece I’ve ever written, but if I remember correctly it came second in the Christmas creative writing competition. I wrote the story how it came, embracing the creative flow. The school principal I was talking about above was the first person to notice this particular writing rhythm that I often embrace… and people may call it an eccentric piece. That’s not a bad thing at all. You might not get paid for it but the creative exploration is worth it. He also mentioned that it was no surprise to him that my comic collecting background has no doubt had an impact on my creative style. He doesn’t know how thankful I am to him for acknowledging this both to me and the children in the room that day. I’m really proud that I embrace the things that make me who I am today. So I would say, yes the rules are there to help, but it’s like I say at the end of my blog posts.

 “Be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity. And never be afraid to explore new techniques.” 🙂




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