I imagine it’s tradition in a lot of families, but my dad always read us “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore on the night before Christmas. He read it from an edition with old illustrations, before Coca-Cola defined the Santa Claus we know now, before, when he was still Saint Nicholas, the tiny elf with a long beard.

But my dad also had the poem memorised, which I remember best when he played Santa Claus (with white shoe polish in his real beard) for a group of us when I was still in Girl Guides. Our Christmas party was outside that year, bundled up around a fire, drinking hot chocolate, when Santa Claus came out of the darkness, with presents in a sack on his back.

There’s still some magic in that moment, in the cold, in the dark, kids seeing something they’re still holding onto like a favourite teddy bear. I don’t have this poem memorised (turns out), but memories aren’t supposed to be perfect. They’re supposed to be magic.

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I’m a word person, so I had just assumed sudoku was about math. It’s actually a puzzle in the old fashioned sense of putting pieces where they fit. Those pieces could be anything. In sudoku, they’re numbers.

Right now, it’s the perfect game for my brain. A bit of mindless distraction between the words.

Just fill in the boxes, 1-9, in each column, in each row, in each third. Easy, right?

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Fall in love

One last gasp of autumn before the snow falls, and we all have to write stories about Christmas. (Except December’s story is about New Year’s Eve, instead.) What do you think about when the leaves start turning? Me, I think about sweaters, warm mugs of tea, curling up under the covers with a book, and school supplies. So this story is about a kindergarten teacher, Mr. Rose, who has invited Officer Cowan to talk with his kids for Safety Week.

But this is a love story, so of course, it doesn’t end there.

“Hello?” The door opened, and Officer Cowan stuck his head in. Jacob nearly jumped out of his chair. “Sorry to interrupt. I think I dropped my keys.”

“Hi,” Mia said, striding across the room to introduce herself. “I’m Mia Campion, first grade, right next door. I’m so hoping you can come in and talk to my kids next week.”

Officer Cowan looked struck as she put out her hand, and the other one landed high on his arm. Isaak saw her fingers squeeze around his biceps. It was his turn for a rescue.

“I’ll help you look, Officer Cowan. My colleagues were just leaving.”

It took a pointed push, but Mia and Jacob left them alone, giving him double thumbs-up and making inappropriate gestures through the window.

“I didn’t drop my keys,” Officer Cowan said.

Isaak turned, back against the door. “What?”

“I got all the way out to my car, and I thought, why not?”

Isaak scrabbled for something to hold him up. His hand found the doorknob as Officer Cowan stepped closer. “Why not what?” he asked. He didn’t know what was happening.

“Why not see if the hot teacher is interested?”

“Wait.” When Isaak put up his free hand, it landed flat on Officer Cowan’s chest. He flexed his fingers against the coarse fabric and the hard muscle underneath. “Am I the hot teacher?”

There wasn’t any need for an answer, not with Officer Cowan diving in for a kiss, pulling Isaak up to his mouth with a hand on his back and pressing their lips together until Isaak opened his mouth and their tongues met. It was all Officer Cowan, setting the pace, the pressure, the press of flesh.

“I’ve never been the hot teacher before.” He leaned back against the door to find his breath and his bearings again. “I didn’t know this was part of your job, Officer Cowan.”

“Fin,” he said. “You should call me Fin.”

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