Short Stories 366:344 — “The Christmas Grump,” by Jae

Found in a trio of short stories, Love Beneath the Christmas Tree, “The Christmas Grump” is the first of the three and starts in a place I always love reading during the season: Christmas retail. I say this because having done Christmas retail for a couple of decades, I one-hundred percent side with the characters who work in that environment and are therefore so very done with the holidays. Lived it, breathed it, got the T-shirt. So when mall security-guard Rachel’s work partner decides she’s a Christmas Grump, I wanted to point at everything happening around them in the mall and be all, “Of course she is!”

As the story progresses, Rachel goes from seeing a kid staring longingly at some LEGO and wondering if he’s going to purloin it to realizing said kid is just staring longingly because times are tough, to deciding to make a difference in a small way to the kid—and then nearly getting the kid in real trouble with his mother for doing so. As meet-cutes go, it’s really more of a meet-disaster, but when Rachel and the kid’s mother talk out what happened, there’s a kind of nervous moment between the Grump and the Mom where they both realize they’ve gotten a bit lost in their grief and sadness maybe.

Ultimately, the story ends just before delivering a conclusively hopeful note, and is instead more of a set-up or an idea that things could be on the upswing. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this—I did—but I was very glad to be able to jump right into the next story with the Rachel, and catch up on her further on in time. I think maybe if I’d not had all three at my fingertips, it might have left me feeling like I missed a page at the end. I’m glad the trio are bundled, rather than out there separately, is what I’m saying, so make sure you’ve got time to keep reading right after the first story finishes.

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