John Hinterreiter, our Fall Writing Contest Winner!
I always look forward to the weekend challenges and have used them to develop my writing voice over time. This, I believe, can be seen in my self published children’s books which I also illustrated; Hugs For Bugs (2014), The Misunderstood Mister Yeti (2015), and The North Pole Coal Company (2019).
Writing has become a healthy creative outlet as my normal job is in law enforcement. Writing, or documenting rather, is a large part of what I do. However, I rarely get the opportunity to inject humor, which is why I try to center my creative writing around things I find amusing. I find joy in connecting with others over things that can be made funny.
With 28 entries, choosing a winner was a challenge unto itself. The prompt was ‘a wish that comes true with unusual consequences‘, but with Christmas around the corner, the possibilities were endless.
Would the wish be silly or strange? Delightful or diabolical? And the contrast between emotion and conflict is the reason why John is our winner with his short story Hankery Hooligan’s Ho-Ho-Holiday Wish!
We see John’s distinctive narrative voice in every Weekend Challenge entry, but he stretched this even further with his Christmassy tale. While the overarching conflict taps into our emotions — with a desperate dad, hopeless Santa and shocking conclusion — the story’s light voice kept the heaviness at bay.
Dialogue is used to reveal character and conflict, and we can fully identify with Hankery’s desperation. But before things get too sweet, a burst of dark humour balances out the tone.
And now for the main event… our winning entry, Hankery Hooligan’s Ho-Ho-Holiday Wish!
Hankery Hooligan’s Ho-Ho-Holiday Wish
Hankery Hooligan checked his wristwatch as he raced across the parking lot, gliding over slush and snow covering the curtilage surrounding the Kool City Mall. Kool City, normally known for its sunshine; and universally recognized as the sunglasses capital of the world, is no stranger to the bitter cold, especially during the holiday season. And on this, the twenty-third day of December, the weather outside could be described like the classic song; frightful.
Hankery hurried past cars in gridlock, parents pleading with their screaming children, and angry shoppers hurling insults back and forth like snowballs as he arrived at the main door. Everyone’s frustration was evident, but contrary to the magical atmosphere of soft holiday music playing to the serene backdrop of falling snow.
Upon reaching the automatic door, it opened, but clearly didn’t respond appropriately to the swiftness in which Hankery moved, causing him to hit the glass with a thud.
“Sonuva!” Hankery screamed pushing the door open allowing room for his hurting body, wind, and ice to enter. Hankery checked his watch a second time knowing that this hangup would cost him for he was already running late. “I can make it,” Hankery said encouraging himself to hurry. It was five past nine o’clock when Hankery made it to Santa’s Station near the center of the mall, however, Santa was gone; already off duty.
“Shoppers, snow, nor security can keep me from seeing Santa,” Hankery seethed as he pushed past the curtain partisan making his way backstage.
“Ho-ho-holy-hell!” Santa screamed upon seeing Hankery, a stranger, enter his dressing room; red-velvet trousers and fake beard lying on the floor no less. “Just what do you think you’re doing!?” Demanded Santa.
“Santa, I need your help!” Hankery began.
“Sorry sonny, but I’m off the clock. Bring your kid and come see me tomorrow,” Santa said.
Hankery’s eyes began to tear up as he fell to his knees overcome with emotion. “That’s the problem, Santa,” Hankery said sniffling. “My sweet daughter, Holly, was taken from me this very day one year ago.”
“I’m so sorry…” Santa said sympathetically.
“She went long before her time,” Hankery said. “I miss her so much.” Hankery slowly stood to his feet wiping tears from his face. “That’s where you come in Santa.”
“Me? I’m not sure what you mean,” Santa stated, a bit confused. “You know I’m not the real Santa Claus, right?”
“Yeah,” confirmed Hankery. “The fake beard and pillow under your shirt sort of gave it away,” Hankery said, half smiling.
Santa smiled in return which changed the mood of the conversation. “What’s your name?”
“Dale,” The mall Santa said, introducing himself. “Now, what can I do for you, Hankery is it?”
“Dale, if you could please pass along my Christmas wish to the real Mister Kringle, I’d be grateful,” Hankery said.
Dale thought for a moment, knowing full well that his request was impossible. After all, this was Kringle’s crazy season. But what would it hurt to try and help? “Alright Hankery,” Dale said. “What’s your wish?”
“I wish to see Holly again,” Hankery stated. “To hold her hand… and tell her everything is alright.”
“That’s a tall order,” Dale said. “But, I’ll let Kringle know.”
“Thank you Santa,” Hankery said, winking at Dale who also had tears in his eyes. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you too,” Dale replied.
Hankery left Santa’s Station with hope in his heart, and for the first time in a long time, he was able to enjoy the sparkling lights and holiday spectacle around him. Hankery’s smile stayed with him outside, even as the bitter cold and freezing wind pummeled his face. Whether it was peace or the sting of ice, Hankery didn’t notice the mall transport approach, which had Kringle’s smiling face decaled on the side, as he stepped off the curb and into the ice-covered passenger pickup lane. The bus screeched to a halt, sliding several feet on the slick road, but not before hitting Hankery head-on, throwing him to the ground. Hankery’s head throbbed in pain, but only momentarily as someone reached over to help him up. Upon opening his eyes Hankery could only see a bright light. The light felt warm, comfortable even, and melted the snow around him.
“Are you okay?” Asked a soft sweet voice.
Hankery’s vision returned and looking to his aid his eyes filled with tears of joy. Hankery knew her anywhere, his precious daughter, Holly.
“It is now,” Hankery said holding his daughter’s hand. “Everything is alright.”