The Brightest Lights
Copyright 2015, Linda Rigsbee
HOMEDEAR TALESShort StoriesFlash FictionSeasonal

A Christmas light contest sounded like a good idea three weeks ago. At first the competition was fun. Someone would put up an unusual string of lights and everyone would admire them. Then someone would come up with something different and all the attention would shift to that person’s house. That’s what started the trouble.
Noah had more money than anyone on the block, so it was no surprise when the contest started to swing in his favor. He not only had more lights, but he also had a bigger house to cover. Everyone started complaining that it wasn’t fair. Unfortunately, they were all complaining to Abigail because she was his friend. For that reason, they thought she should talk to him.
Abigail had the least money and the smallest house. She had concentrated on making her light display unique. She had purchased most of her lights at the second hand store, where there was a large assortment of lights that were no longer in style. She had set a budget for herself in the beginning and the second hand lights were inexpensive. Since her house was small, she had made use of the picket fence and a small tree. No one felt threatened by her puny display.
Noah was a kind old man and she had no complaints about his place. In fact, she loved to sit on her porch at night all wrapped up in a blanket and admire his lights.
In the beginning, they had each put money in an envelope for the prize and decided that they would vote at the end of the fourth week and the one with the most points would win the prize. She was pleased with her display and never expected to win anyway. The block was beautiful with all its lights. That was the real prize.
When Abigail refused to talk to Noah about his lights, the others were upset with her. They even accused her of being his friend because he had money. By the end of the fourth week, they were no longer talking to her. She tried to ignore their childishness and simply enjoy the lights, but their feud had dimmed the beauty.
On the night of the vote, she made cookies and laid out snacks she had purchased at the dollar store. She hoped everyone would come to the party at her house as they had planned from the beginning.
Her spirits lifted when the first person arrived. Gradually others drifted in. The atmosphere was tense, especially when Noah arrived. They went through the process of voting and counted the votes. Not surprisingly, neither Abigail nor Noah won. She was actually surprised to learn that she had received one vote. So did Noah, because she voted for him.
One of the other neighbors won. She had a beautiful and creative display. She earned the prize. The mood in the room lightened and the party became fun. Finally Noah spoke.
“I voted for Abigail, for several reasons. I enjoyed watching her put all those lights up. It was nostalgic for me. I know she had less money than anyone, yet she made the most of what she had.” He paused and looked at Abigail. “But mostly I voted for her because she portrayed the true spirit of Christmas. She wasn’t competing. She was contributing for the sake of the entire block.” Again he paused, but this time he looked at the others. “I’m sorry if I have offended anyone. That wasn’t my intent. I guess I got carried away. Every time I put more lights up, Abigail would admire them with the innocence and appreciation of a child. Then I was inspired to get something even brighter. I enjoyed the lovely lights along the block and I hope you do this next year – but not in a contest.”
The others looked at each other, shamed by their behavior. They all agreed to no more competition. More important was the fact that they all spent a delightful evening together, each complimenting the other on their lights – especially Noah’s.
This story available in the collection of flash fiction Christmas stories "Christmas In A Flash." Also available as a miniature book Christmas tree ornament.
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