Flash Fiction Challenge: Howard the Holiday Bear

Holiday bear
Bear in Shop Window
Photo by K.S. Brooks

Bears are thought to hibernate all winter. While this is true for most bears, Howard was of a more industrial temperament. He never could see spending all that time simply sleeping when he could be doing something.

When he was old enough, he went to the North Pole and got a job in Santa’s village. Of course, he had wanted to pull the sleigh – that’s the glamor job.

As it turned out, there was a long list of animals that wanted to pull the sleigh. No, Howard ended up making tinsel. His long sharp claws made him a natural for shredding the sheets of aluminum. Still, he dreamed…

In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and/or the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. No political or religious entries, please.

On Wednesday afternoon, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday afternoon, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Then, at year end, the winners will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

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12 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Howard the Holiday Bear”

  1. “Too slow.” “Too heavy.” That’s what Santa said when I applied for the job that Rudolph vacated after being called all those names. Maybe it wasn’t really the other reindeer, but Santa, who was responsible for a hostile work environment.
    “You make tinsel. Just shred the aluminum into thin strips. With your nails, it’ll be a cinch.”
    My name is Howard. This is how I taught Santa and the bloody elves a lesson. Unless you’re an agrizoophobiac, it shouldn’t matter that I’m a bear. Shouldn’t have mattered to Santa, either.
    Times being tough, I took the tinsel job, but I schemed and plotted as I shredded.
    At last I had a plan. I would sabotage the Christmas delivery! Never mind how I could hurt them; imagine how billions of parents and children would eat Santa and the reindeer alive if no gifts arrived on Christmas Eve.
    I shredded most of the harness that hooked the reindeer to the sled. Santa never imagined such a thing could happen, so he had no spare. Oh how I laughed as the fat man went into his house all weepy. The reindeer cried, too.
    Finally, I couldn’t stand it. I found Rudolph—whose nose was not NEARLY as bright as everyone said—and we pushed Santa into the sleigh with the gifts. We were a little late in Latvia, but everybody got their presents, thanks to a different kind of reindeer and an overweight bear. But FOX news will never report that.

  2. Yup, those reindeer pranced around here with their noses up in the air like they could walk on water. They made snide remarks as they passed by my tinsel-making operation. They were hurtful.

    Normally, I’d just take my lumps and keep on working. What would Christmas be without tinsel, right? My job was important, too. But a bear can stand only so much.

    I went and talked to my woodland friends, then headed to Santa’s workshop. The jolly old man had a big scowl on his face. He was tossing lists about and stomping his feet. The elves were running scared.

    I lumbered right on in and asked, “Hey Santa, what’s wrong?”

    He wheeled about. His eyes were bloodshot and bulging and his nostrils were flaring. “What’s wrong, you ask? Just look at these!”

    Santa pointed to a table covered in broken bamboo backscratchers.

    “How come they’re all broke like that, Santa?”

    “Because they’re crap! Every time I try to use one, it snaps!”

    I blinked. “You got a bad itch, Santa?”

    “So bad I can’t sleep,” he nearly cried.

    “Don’t worry, Santa, I can scratch that for you!” He took off his coat and I scratched his back until he fell asleep.

    On Christmas Eve, the reindeer went on strike. With no time to waste, Santa assembled me and a bunch of other woodland creatures to pull his sleigh. It was the best night of our lives. It turns out that someone had seen Santa wearing a coat with “Reindeer, the other red meat” on the back. I can’t imagine how that happened!

  3. From birth, Howard knew that he was different. He was not destined to be just an ordinary bear- napping half his life away. He had been born to do great things! It was in his stars.

    He remembered his grandfather had spoken those words over him often. “My stars, Howard. What on earth have you done!?” From then on, Howard knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt- there was greatness in his future!
    The local glamour jobs for all the animals at The Pole were obvious; but soon, it was just as obvious, Howard was not suited for them. Way too big to be an elf; far too clumsy to be a toymaker’s assistant; Howard dreamed of pulling Santa’s sleigh. But his size (and his scent) did not work in his favor.

    His paws were his one asset. He found could shred. He was really good at shredding. The local Animal Assistance Service found Howard employment at Tinseltown making Christmas Tinsel. The pay wasn’t great, but it was a job.

    One night, lumbering home from work, Howard spied a direwolf stalking the nesting enclosure for the infant reindeer. Quick as a wink, that creature was mincemeat.

    It all turned out just like Grandfather had said it would. “The stars, Howard.” Howard became Polar Protectorate, the lone sentinel under the stars… keeping the young reindeer safe.

    Howard kept his day job- tinsel paid the bills, but here at night, with the reindeer, was where he belonged.

    “It was in his stars.”

  4. Growing up alone as a cub wasn’t easy, neither was living with haunting memories .
    It was the day after the close of hunting season and most animals as usual were moving out of the wildlife reserve into the forest.
    We usually waited two to three days just to ensure there weren’t any hunters in the area,a precaution which I’ve always thought unnecessary.
    So imagine my excitement when dad told me and mum we were going to move out before the other bears.
    He wanted to secure the bank on top of the cliff as its the most bountiful hunting spot ; “perks to being territorial creatures.We will have plenty fishes to ourselves” i thought.
    Upon reaching, i heard two loud “bangs!” behind me and instinctively hid behind the bush closest . A tall sender camouflaged hunter then climbed down a tree behind us and pulled both my parents’ bodies away. He had a claw scar across his cheeks.A face forever embedded in my memory.

    i had ever since been out on the search for companionship and revenge.i then came by a generous elf who took me into Santa’s village.
    It happened that Santa was in need of a stuffed bear and that he had ran out. I boldly offered to be magically turned into one,under the condition of transforming back every night. Santa out of desperation agreed.
    Days passed and i laid on the kid’s bed planning to run away when tall slender man suddenly walked in.

  5. Tinsel making was a dangerous job. The implements were sharp, and pieces of tinsel were constantly flying around the room. They blocked Howard’s view of the precise work and occasionally flew into an eye or up a nose. After work, he spent an hour picking tinsel out of his fur. It was a hard job, but Howard enjoyed the work. After some time in the tinsel shop, Howard had won awards for his precise work. But it was getting harder and harder to stay awake while working. His work deteriorated, and one day he was sent home after cutting off an elf’s finger. He was told to take a nap and come back refreshed.
    When he woke up, a pile of mail on the floor lay by his mail slot. There were cards from his closest friends, along with a letter stating he had been fired for absenteeism. And an eviction notice. He looked outside, and the snow had melted.
    Howard packed up his meager belongings and went home to Idaho, disappointed that he had missed Christmas. When a freak snowstorm came in July, he put on a Santa hat and decorated a tree (sans tinsel, of course). He looked out his window to admire the scene just as Santa was driving his sled down Main street. He ran outside to meet his old boss and ask why he was in Idaho that time of year.
    “Haven’t you ever heard of Christmas in July?” Santa asked.

  6. Santa Claus inhaled his cigar, his eyes closed, and puffed a toxic cloud of nicotine on Howard the Bear. It irritated Howard’s eyes, but Santa was the boss. Complaining wasn’t an option.
    “Rudolf’s dead,” said Santa.
    Howard stared, eyes wide open. “You mean dead dead?”
    “Deader than dead. We found his bloody head lying on the snow this morning.”
    “What happened?” said Howard in a weak and shy voice.
    Santa leaned back and sighed. “I dunno. Wolves probably. I guess a fat deer like him was too much of a temptation for hungry carnivores.”
    Howard the Bear, adjusted his Christmas hat that was about to fall off. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”
    “Bah!” said Santa, looking away. “He was gonna retire anyways. This is good for you, good for your career.”
    Howard’s heart raced in his chest. “My…career?”
    “We need a new sleigh leader and Christmas’ approaching fast. The new game consoles are shipping this year. I expect the sleigh to be damn heavy.”
    “Sleigh leader?”
    Santa held his hand forward. “Congratulations. You’re promoted.”
    Howard could barely contain himself for the rest of the day. It felt as though he was dreaming. The elves felicitated him and sang his name. They loved him already.
    So happy.
    So happy, it made Howard quite tired when he came back home.
    He put his Christmas hat on his coat hanger and sat on the dinner table.
    The carcass of a reindeer lay in a large plate.
    A promotion and great dinner too.

  7. Howard just knew this was to be the best Christmas of his life thus far. Everything had come together as planned and at any moment the limo would arrive to whisk him and Mama Lama away to be, of all things, the Grand Marshalls in the Annual Christmas Parade!
    Being the Grand Marshall was an honor he had been nominated for year after year but when the voting was tabulated, Howard fell short and he was relegated to participating by riding one of those teeny, tiny tricycles along side of the Grand Marshall limo. This was NOT a fitting role for someone of his stature and breeding and most certainly NOT a comfortable way to be a part of the parade. Still Howard donned his fuzzy red hat, slipped a jingle collar around his soft, huggable neck and smiled graciously as he escorted the car with the dignitaries along the parade route. Perhaps it was not the most cherished of roles to play but Howard would bear up and do his duty.
    The excitement was palpable now for he could see townsfolk lining the streets in anticipation. Look, there was Mayor Moose and his family climbing the stairs to the podium where they would take their seats of honor. Off in the distance, the Badger Band was warming up and the Dog House Dancers were lining up in formation.
    Howard drew a hushed breath as the limo pulled up in front. The best Christmas of his life thus far, indeed!

  8. Howard dreamed that one Christmas he too would get his chance to pull Santa’s sleigh!

    Howard, being a very industrious bear, made the very best tinsel. In his spare time, Howard did not rest and play games like the other animals. He went out and trained with the reindeer. At first the reindeer were leery of letting Howard train with them. It was Rudolf, who was once an outcast himself, who talked the other reindeer into letting Howard train with them.
    Howard was overjoyed. He put everything he had into it. Soon he was in tiptop shape.

    “Now all I need to know is how to fly,” said Howard.

    “That is not our secret to tell. Santa will tell you that secret when the time is right,” said Rudolf. Try as he might that was all the information Howard could get about flying.

    Things at the North Pole continued to go smoothly until the morning of Christmas Eve. When Santa went to give his pep talk that morning all the reindeer had come down with deer flu! OH NO!

    Santa quickly gathered all the other animals who wanted to pull the sleigh. The mice, squirrels and all the smaller critters just weren’t big enough for Santa to use. Only Howard the bear was well trained and strong enough to pull the sleigh.

    “Get some rest today Howard, tonight is our big night.” said Santa.

    Howard was way too excited to rest! A lifelong dream was about to be fulfilled!

  9. Santa’s village was in trouble, big trouble. A massive force of ogres, goblins, and gremlins advanced. All the land escapes were blocked. The village was unarmed and outnumbered; in short, doomed. Elves and other animals ran in panicked circles through the village, unsure of what to do.

    “We’ll never get everyone off the ground before they overwhelm us,” said Santa. His big jolly belly sagged. “What are we going to do?”

    Howard Bear scanned the marching troops. Monsters, all of them, out to destroy Santa’s peaceful haven. He may not have gotten his dream job, pulling Santa’s sleigh, but this was his home. There was no way he was letting those awful people win.

    “I have an idea,” said Howard. “Continue evacuations.”

    He ran to his workshop at the tinsel factory and did what he did best. Using steel instead of aluminum, his sharp claws slashed and twisted the metal with rapid speed. Howard raced back to Santa with bails of barbed tinsel.

    “Spread this out around the village. It will keep them back long enough for you to escape.”

    Howard got his dream that day. He pulled Santa’s sleigh and the last of the villagers to safety. The barbed tinsel entangled the monsters until the gnome army arrived. Thanks to Howard everyone was saved. If you’re ever in Santa’s village, check out the statue Santa had built for Howard the Holiday Hero Bear. It’s right next to the one for Rudolf.

  10. “A Large Amount of Gratitude”

    As a child, Melody had loved Winnie-the Pooh, so when she grew up and opened a gift store, she named it “The Enchanted Place.” Now it was Christmas, the New England landscape was covered with snow and it was time to decorate the shoppe with some not-so-traditional decor: a tree, two giant teddy bears and a straw kangaroo. She’d printed off fliers announcing there’d be afternoon carolers and cocoa.

    Pooh, Winnie and Roo gazed out the storefront window, eager for the festivities to begin. Soon the store filled with shoppers, while carolers lined the sidewalk. After they’d sung such favorites as “Silent Night” and “The Little Drummer Boy,” Melody passed around steaming cups of hot chocolate. Then she handed out song sheets, announcing: “I’ve written some new lyrics for our store mascots!”

    The first song was a variation on the German classic “O Tannenbaum”:

    O Teddy Bears, O Teddy Bears,
    Your Christmas cheer delight us!
    Your brownish fur is cuddly warm,
    You offer comfort in a storm.
    O Teddy Bears, O Teddy Bears,
    Your Christmas cheer delight us!

    With a melodious lilt, she added, “We can’t forget Roo, so…”

    Joey to the world, the baby’s come!
    Let Roos receive their kin;
    Let every pouch prepare him room,
    And heaven and nature sing,
    And heaven and nature sing,
    And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

    On that note, she held a drawing for a baby Roo and a Beary Merry Christmas was had by all!

  11. Howard looked over the top of his newspaper. His reading glasses resting on the bridge of his nose. All of sudden he let out a spirited “Hallelujah. I’m going to work for Santa.”

    Almost hyperventilating, he read the advertisement aloud, “Sleigh-Bears Wanted At The North Pole.” His dream would finally come true. It would, however, mean that Howard would have to forego his annual hibernation period. A sacrifice he was willing to make.

    Upon arrival at the North Pole he was given a preliminary physical. Howard knew he was very strong. “This should be a breeze.”

    During the eye exam, one of the chief elves noted that Howard was in desperate need of corrective lenses. Unfortunately, this disqualified him for sleigh duty. Howard was devastated.

    He was ultimately assigned to tinsel duty. The lowliest of all jobs. Everyday he would use his claws to strip aluminum into long pieces. Despite this setback he hummed all the day long, because he was still working for Santa.

    At the end of each day he was always paid in fresh honey. It was his favorite.

    After three months his duties were completed, and it was time for Howard to return home.

    The elves loved Howard so much that they decided to pitch in and gave him a plaque.

    It read:

    To Howard

    Our Favorite Halleujah Shoutin’, HoHoHo Lovin’, Non-Hibernatin’, Hum Hum Hummin’, Honey-Eatin’, Holiday Bear of All Time.

    We will miss you.


    Santa’s Little Helpers…Merry Christmas

    See ya next year!

  12. Winter was approaching, and Howard, being much too skinny was starting to get very cold. “I can’t hibernate!” he said to his wife. “I’ll freeze to death!!” His wife rolled her eyes and told him that maybe he should travel to Santa Town and look for a job.
    When Howard arrived he was immediately sent to the tinsel shop to shred aluminum. The sound was excruciating, and one day he ran out the door and fell into the snow, “I can’t take it anymore!!” he shouted. Jack, the lead elf came by and inquired as to what was wrong. “Please don’t make me go back in!! There must be something else that I can do!”
    Soon, Howard was at the stables to help feed the reindeer, but he just couldn’t keep his paws out of the oats and was sent on his way. Next, the toy shop, but his immense paws kept breaking the small pieces of wood. Finally, Santa called Howard to his office. “Howard, I have a very special job for you!” You will travel with me on Christmas Eve and eat all of the cookies and milk. Mrs. Claus wants to go on a cruise and insists that I lose weight!”
    Howard was beside himself with joy!! “Finally, a job of which I can excel!!” he exclaimed. He worked all day Christmas Eve grooming his white fur and placing little red bows all over himself. “I think I look very Christmasy.” I’m sure to make Santa proud!

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