I lay head my oily head on the raggedy mattress of my old sturdy bed. In the darkness, as I drift off to a tenuous sleep, my three legged cat settles in its usual nighttime spot on the edge of the mattress. I toss and turn. I strain to calm my worries as I lay on my raggedy mattress that is ripped and torn. My love addled cat lays her head on my outstretched arm until morning. She shares my raggedy mattress, unaware I think of the rips and tears, getting bigger with the passing years.
In your home: tinsel displayed on tiny tree. Christmas cards, opened, dump glitter on laps. On elevator: neighbors, their kids, clutch gift-stuffed shopping bags. Wheelchair woman races across street amid silent DON’T WALK / DON’T WALK taunts. You buy strawberries, blueberries, blackberries from Broadway fruit guy instead of supermarket because fruit guy smiles at you and his berries look fresher. She addresses Harvey, Bouncer, and Latke when she sees them, but doesn’t remember owners’ names. You rush cards and money to super, mailman, though Disability check arrives fourth Thursday each month.
Christmas Competition 2017 Highly Commended
Robin sobbed as she watched her mother carrying the tray of cookies out from the kitchen. Daddy took one before the tray was even on the table, his grin as wide as Montana. Mother pretended to be angry and slapped his hand, then he pulled her down onto his lap and covered her face and neck in kisses.
The light faded and Robin wiped her eyes. She missed them so. Christmas was never the same after they had died in that terrible wreck.
She restarted the video once more, leaning in even closer to the monitor and memory this time.
“They are weak and fragile. Just destroy them.”
“We were once a young species as well, Jarnaak. Give them time. They haven’t even left their solar system yet.”
“Rugaal, you are such a romantic. These beings are nothing more than insects! The universe would never notice if they disappeared.”
“Jarnaak, think of what you say! What if we had never been given the chance to evolve? What if we were wiped out just because we were young and ignorant?”
“Any superior species would move on and forget the insects they had squashed.”
“But Jarnaak, it’s Christmas! Are we not Human?”
His footsteps echoed through the empty corridor. He was walking around in circles, biting his nails. He stopped. Suddenly, silence. Helplessness was overwhelming. Screams obliterated silence in a second; screams so terrifying, he could feel the colossal pain behind them. Through the window, he saw the snow falling quietly, as though it was in another dimension. Was it Christmas already? Screams stopped. The deafening silence ensued. He forgot to breathe; sterile air filled his lungs when he inhaled. Someone somewhere was laughing. “It’s a girl,” the voice yelled. The sense of relief flooded his soul. “What a Christmas present!” he cried.
Elizabeth died after Thanksgiving, despite her wish to live to see Christmas.
George had heard the terrible, wet sucking sound of her last breath. He had watched the light leave her eyes and he had felt her hand cool, as he held it in his own.
The doctor said there had been no pain, but George knew better.
Elizabeth would feel the pain of an eternity of guilt for having left him during the Holidays. He was sickened and saddened by the thought and vowed to never celebrate again. He kept his promise, dying himself on the twenty-third of December.
A warm wind blows off the ocean, bringing the smells of fresh bread, ham and pecan pie into my room, waking me. It is quiet and calm; Mom is finishing breakfast as we gather in the dining room … it’s Christmas Day on Sullivan’s Island outside of Charleston. The Christmas tree lit with candles, handmade decorations and presents for the family. It’s a day that will be ever etched in our minds. Christmas at home with the ones you love.
“Lieutenant … wake up. You’re dreaming.”
“Where am I?”
“You are at a Union hospital; your wound became infected. You’re in Gettysburg.”