Advice from Siblings

Below is my flash fiction that won first place in the 2014 contest sponsored by the Short Story Writing Guild (SFWG). The theme was evil Christmas. After the end of the story is the link to the review and an interview I did for SFWG. Enjoy!


Advice from Siblings

By Jennifer Vandenberg


I hung up the phone and glanced at my brother perusing the menu across the table from me. He had agreed to meet me for lunch at Chili’s to discuss my problem. We hadn’t been seated five minutes when my phone rang.

“Shirley?” Matt asked, pointing at the phone I had set down next to my fork. The server came over, but I was so befuddled that I couldn’t decide what I wanted to drink, so Matt ordered iced tea for both of us.

I picked up my menu only to set it down again, unread. “She wants us to have dinner with her sister’s family tomorrow.”

Matt smiled when the server set down our drinks and then frowned at me. “You saw her family at Thanksgiving. I thought you agreed to have dinner with Mom and Dad Christmas night.”

“We did. But apparently she wants to be with her nieces and nephews because Christmas is for children.”

Matt shrugged. “So let her go by herself and you come to Mom’s house.”

I shook my head and glanced at the menu again. Giving up I pointed at a random picture when the server asked what I wanted. Matt also ordered, using actual words.

“I suggested that. She went ballistic. She said that Christmas is for being together as a couple. I am really annoyed by how demanding she is.”

Matt drank his tea. “I get annoyed by how she controls your free time. I’m surprised she allowed you come to lunch with me.”

“She thinks I’m at work.”

Matt glanced around the restaurant which made me nervous so I also looked around. No beautiful, self-absorbed girlfriend in sight.

“You’ve got to end it,” Matt said.

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking that for a while.” I picked up my phone, wondering why I hadn’t just done so when she changed our Christmas plans. “No time like the present.”

Matt grabbed the phone from me. “Slow down, Jon, and let’s think about this.”

I started to get out of my seat to grab the phone back, but the hostess walked by with an older woman and I sat down so I didn’t bump them. Once the hostess had seated the woman at a nearby table I put my hand out. Matt ignored me and tucked the phone in his coat pocket.

“Give me back my phone. You just told me I have to do this. I’ve put it off too long. The only reason I’ve hesitated is because of what she might do.”

Matt nodded but didn’t produce my phone. “Exactly. And you want her to do it on Christmas Day?”

I shrugged. “I figured she’d go over to her sister’s and have a pity party.”

“Or she and her sister will plot against you and ruin your life.”

I took a sip of my drink. The tart tea bit my tongue. I had forgotten sweetener. “She wouldn’t.” It was my biggest fear. The one I didn’t want to face. “Would she?”

Matt leaned forward. “What did she do when you got bad seats at the concert?”

“Those were great seats. We had an unobstructed view of the stage. It’s not my fault she wanted seats at orchestra level. Like I could afford that.”

“And what did she do?”

“She called my boss and made accusations that almost got me fired.”

Matt nodded, leaning back as our meals arrived. “Imagine what sort of calls she could make on Christmas Day.”

Looking up from my plate of chicken flatbread I imagined the police at my door with an arrest warrant. Suddenly I had no appetite. “She wouldn’t do that.”

“I’d say take whatever you think she would do and multiply it by ten.” Matt’s appetite didn’t seem to be affected by my predicament as he scarfed down his turkey club. “Remember what she did when you forgot her birthday?”

I drank more unsweetened tea to drown the memory. “I didn’t forget her birthday. I was out of town and sent her flowers and a necklace.”

“Okay. But what did she do?”

“She sent me a Skunk ‘O Gram on my birthday.”

Matt nodded sagely. “What sort of gift could she give you on Christmas?”

I cringed as I pictured myself opening a box filled with poisonous snakes. “She wouldn’t do that.”

“You are delusional. I mean really, besides the obvious, why do you stick with her?” He pointed at my plate. “Are you going to eat that?”

I held up a slice and put out my other hand. Matt took out my phone and started to hand it to me, but the old woman seated near us got up and bumped our table as she stumbled off somewhere. Matt dropped my phone and it thunked on the table. He then grabbed the flatbread before I could drop it. I picked up the phone and made sure it still worked. “I stay with her because it is too much work to find someone new.”

Matt laughed. “Well, you break up with her on Christmas Day and you won’t have to worry about that. She’ll probably castrate you.”

I sunk in my chair. “You’re right. I’ll wait until the new year.”

Matt sucked up the last of his tea. “Auld Lang Syne.”


The old woman rushed into the bathroom, removed her gray wig, and shook out her shoulder-length blonde hair. “This thing itches.”

“Is he going to break up with you?” The blonde looked over at an older version of herself who had asked the sixty-four dollar question.

“I couldn’t tell. It sounded like he was having second thoughts.” She dumped the wig on the counter. “You told me that being mean to him would work. What do I have to do to get him to break up with me?”

The other woman passed her some lipstick. “Perhaps you should just break up with him.”

“On Christmas?!” Shirley looked at her sister. “I’m not that evil.”


Here is the link to the SFWG webpage and the review of this award-winning story. Perhaps you’ll discover other stories to read while you are there.

SFWG sent me some questions to answer and my responses can be found here on the SFWG webpage.


I'd love to know your thoughts. Especially positive ones. I can't get too many of those.