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Not a Creature Was Stirring

by Dan Dillard

Tiny footsteps and giggles filled the hallways of the small suburban house. Dad was snoring somewhere in a back bedroom.

“Shh,” one voice said. The other snickered and more footsteps were heard as the pair moved into the kitchen and through the wooden door that led to the basement.

“Where are they?” Emily asked.

Her blond pigtails hung in long, thick ringlets against the bright pink footie-pajamas.

“I don’t know. Look over there, dork,” said David. “I think they’re in daddy’s toolbox.”

She stuck out her tongue and carefully opened the lid to the Craftsman case. She saw screwdrivers and wrenches and various other things inside the tool chest. Then, her eyes grew round and her lips parted, spreading into a wide grin.

“Found ‘em,” she said to her brother, holding up her prize.

“Good. Now help me find the big one.”

She pulled out her list and checked it twice.

“The big one?” she asked as if to say, are you sure?


David, eight years old, pushed a lock of chestnut brown hair out of his eyes and grabbed a coil of rope from a hook on the pegboard wall while Ironman looked on from the front of his t-shirt. The coil of rope slipped over his shoulder as the pair hunted the big one.

She spotted it first.

“There it is, David.”

David looked where she pointed and leaning against the wall next to the water heater, was a bundle of long handled tools. He grabbed the ten pound sledge hammer and hiked it up onto his shoulder before starting back up the stairs. Emily was looking at a pair of large garden shears, almost as tall as she was.

“Emmy, come on. We don’t need those.”

“You sure? They look sharp and pointy.”

“I’m sure. Everything’s set up already.”

She shrugged, tucked the nails she’d grabbed from the toolbox under her arm and bounded up the steps behind her brother.

“Daddy’s going to be so surprised!” she said in an excited whisper.

“Shh,” David said.

They snuck into the living room and placed the items in the middle of the floor with some earlier gatherings. David grabbed a chair from the dining room and carried it into the living room. He placed it under the exposed beam that ran the length of the ceiling. Emily turned on the Christmas tree lights and hummed Jingle Bells.

David removed a cluster of mistletoe from the beam revealing a metal bracket and with some struggle, connected the handle of the sledge to it with a single bolt. Giving it a nudge, he was happy to see the hammer swing freely side to side. He slid the chair a couple feet to his left and climbed back up, pulling the sledge by its head and connecting it to a loop of twine that was already prepared. The other end of the slipknot dangled over the back of their father’s recliner.

“Like this?” Emily asked.

David turned and looked. Emily had propped up a two-foot-square piece of plywood that was full of holes he had drilled that afternoon and she was busy pushing nails through them. He nodded.

“Just like that.”

When she was finished, it made a triangular pattern much like a Christmas tree. She put duct tape on the back, holding the spikes in place until she could lay it on the plastic sheeting they had placed the floor. There were a few more holes in the board that David had drilled so he could screw it into the subflooring through the thin carpeting. He picked up a battery powered screwdriver.

“Go check on Dad,” he said.

She padded down the hallway and peeked into her father’s room. He snored peacefully and she pulled the door shut behind her with a minimal snick of the latch. Back in the living room, she gave her brother a quick smile and a thumbs up.

“Still asleep. Visions of sugar plums,” she said.


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