Teaser Tuesday—A FANTASTIC HOLIDAY SEASON: THE GIFT OF STORIES

With Thanksgiving coming right up, it seemed appropriate to feature the new FANTASTIC HOLIDAY SEASON volume for Teaser Tuesday. This book is a wonderful collection of heartwarming (or bone-chilling) holiday stories for your good reading cheer. Includes tales by Patricia Briggs, Jonathan Maberry, Mercedes Lackey, Heather Graham, Kevin J. Anderson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Brad R. Torgersen, Quincy J. Allen, Ken Scholes, Sam Knight, Mike Resnick, David Boop, and Eric James Stone.

And we just got a starred review in Publishers Weekly! “This often amusing and frequently compelling collection features Christmas-themed short stories from some of fantasy and science fiction’s brightest stars. This is the perfect escape for weary holiday shoppers.”

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This teaser is from Ken Scholes’s hilarious story—which happens to be set on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, about a zombie apocalypse, a trailer park, Thanksgiving dinner, and a pig:

A World Done In by Great Granny’s Grateful Pie

Ken Scholes

I

t was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and everything was going to shit all at once, the way things usually like to. Of course it was a different kind of going to shit compared to, say, last year’s Thanksgiving in Iraq. That one started with flares and shots ricocheting off stone and ended with me slowly heading home on a medical discharge. This Thanksgiving started with the goddamn underpinning going missing and ended with burning Great Granny’s Grateful Pie. And somewhere in the middle was the matter of Mama’s plus one.

“You know, Kay Ann,” Mama insisted in her most saccharine voice, “my plus one.”

I put the pie in the oven. “Your plus one?” I pushed buttons that I assumed were the timer. It was my new stove. In my new kitchen. In my new trailer back home in Reynolds, Kentucky.

“Yes, like them fancy folks do at their parties. A plus one.”

“So you’re bringing a date to Thanksgiving dinner?” The oven beeped at me and I pushed more buttons.

She gave one of her patented sighs of exasperation. “No, no, not a date.”

I offered my own approximation of the same sigh. “Okay, what’s his name?”

“Reverend Franklin T. Seymour. I’m sure you’ve met him.”

Yes. I’d met him. The new youth pastor at her church. This wasn’t the first time he’d come up. “Christ, Mama, you’re bringing the boy preacher to Thanksgiving?”

“Language, Kay Ann,” she said in her best somber tone. “And I thought it would be real Christianly with all his people in Oklahoma and him all alone out here.”

“He’s not alone. He’s got the Lord, Mama. He’ll be fine.”

“You know what I mean, Kay Ann.” I waited for her to say the rest. He had a steady job that wasn’t illegal, had a sense of purpose and decent personal hygiene. These moved most gentleman callers to the top of Mama’s list. Not for herself, mind you, but for her oldest daughter. I heard gravel crunching in the trailer park’s driveway and looked up to see August Cooper’s big Ford pulling up. When she didn’t say the rest, I saw my opportunity and took it. “Okay. Franklin Seymour is your plus one. Uncle Auggie’s here, Mama. Hopefully to see about my underpinning. I’ll see you Thursday.”

I was off the phone and on the double-wide’s narrow porch before my uncle had grunted his way out of the truck, hiking up his torn Levis to help out his stretched red suspenders. “Sumbitch,” he said, pushing back his Cooper Construction ball-cap to scratch his head. “Where’s the goddam underpinning?”

“In the back of your truck, Uncle Auggie, I hope.”

His face registered surprise and he actually checked the bed, bless his heart, before answering. “Nope. I thought Ernie put them up Sunday.”

Ernie was my cousin, his youngest and about as shiftless as you could get. “It appears,” I said, “that he was waylaid.”

Way baked was more likely, I suspected.

“It does appear so,” he said. He leaned over and looked under the trailer. “How’s the rest of it seem?”

“Sturdy,” I said.

Uncle Auggie nodded. “Good.”

“So any chance I’ll have my skirting up before Thanksgiving?

He scowled. “I sure can try. Have to find it first.”

My phone started vibrating and I checked it, expecting it to be my mother again. It was my sister. I gave my uncle an apologetic glance. “I have to take this.”

“I’ll take a quick walk about, see what’s what, then go see if I can scare up Ernie and your underpinning.”

“Thanks, Uncle Auggie.” I transitioned smoothly into the call. “Hey Sis.”

“Hey,” she said. “Where you been? I’ve been calling.”

“I’ve been moving,” I reminded her.

“Oh yeah. All done?”

“Nope. And Uncle Auggie’s lost my underpinning.”

She laughed. “Ernie sold it to buy weed, I’m sure.”

I laughed with her. “Probably so. Or traded it straight across.”

Then her voice changed and I should’ve known what was coming. “So … what time’s dinner Thursday?”

“I told Mama two but to come whenever.”

“Okay. I’ve got my plus one sorted out.”

I felt the front end of my exasperation sigh coming on. “You’re bringing a plus one, too?”

And how she answered it, her tone of voice and even the volume, told me everything I needed to know. I was being plotted against by my own family. “Oh, are Mama and Bobby bringing plus ones, too? I hadn’t heard.”

“Mama is.” Bobby was too but I wasn’t supposed to know that yet. He’d call next. She’d just given it away.

“Oh goodness,” she said, as if she hadn’t known all along.

“Yes,” I said. “So who are you bringing?”

“Johnny Alvin. Remember him?”

I did, vaguely. He was a few years ahead of us in high school. He drove a sky-blue 1973 Ford Maverick with a 351 Windsor engine and glass pack muffler and listened to a lot of Rush. “Is he still delivering pizzas for the Pizza Shack?”

I could hear the pride in her voice. “No, ma’am. He’s assistant manager now. Though he’s studying mortuary science at night and interning down at Drummond’s Funeral Parlor.”

“Mortuary science?”

My sister sometimes mistook surprise for ignorance and answered accordingly. “You know, dead people stuff. Embalming. Funeral directing.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. She’d gotten the first two in there. Steady work. Ambition. I decided to help her out. “I’m sure he cleans up well, too. Probably has himself a black suit.”

“Oh yes,” she said.

“Good. You’ll both be very happy together. And I just want you to know I’m fine with you bringing your new boyfriend to Thanksgiving dinner. I’m sure we’ll all love him.”

She was still sputtering when I told her I’d see them Thursday and hung up.

Uncle Auggie let himself out of the trailer as I slipped the phone back into my pocket. “Everything’s working,” he said. “Heat, water, electric.” He took a light jump on the porch. “Everything’s solid, too.”

He’d put half the trailers into the Shady Grove Mobile Home Park over the last thirty years. Mine was the newest, though it wasn’t brand new. Just new to me and new to the park. He’d helped me find it and then he’d moved it for me at a price we both could live with. “I sure do appreciate it, Uncle Auggie.”

He tipped his hat. “Thank you for your service to our great nation.”

I tipped my own ballcap back. “And yours.” He’d served in Vietnam. He’d not been excited to see a niece joining up, much less going overseas into that clusterfuck but now that I was home, he talked to me differently, looked at me differently. Respectfully.

“I’ll see to that underpinning,” he said as he climbed into his truck.

The phone vibrated in my pocket again. But I knew who it was. My brother. Calling about his plus one. Though I don’t think Mama or my sister had any idea just how different a direction my brother had taken things.

By the time we were off the phone, I was pretty sure Thursday was going to be both hysterically fun and maybe the worst Thanksgiving of my life all at the same time. I had no idea, truly.

When I got back into the trailer, it was already filling with smoke and a terrible stench that made my eyes water as I ran into the kitchen gagging.

Something had gone badly wrong with great Granny’s pie.

Of course, I saw that as the least of my problems and fed the burnt offering to the park’s community pig before locking up and heading back into town for another load of boxes.

And again, I had no idea, truly. But that damn pig sure was happy about his pie.

[sorry, you'll have to get the book to read the rest of the story!!!]

AND DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THE FIRST FANTASTIC HOLIDAY SEASON VOLUME

Kindle

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