It’s almost Christmas. Just three more shopping days (counting today). No words of advice this time, but I have written a short holiday story exclusively for today’s post. This is something new for me. I haven’t tried my hand at the short story format before (and this one’s very short—just 1,300 words). This is also the first time I have experimented with a first person point of view, so you all are my beta readers for this story. Anyway, this is my gift to you. And if you are in the reciprocating mood of the season, I welcome any feedback. Merry Christmas!
© 2011, Andrew H. Black
Katie’s still screaming. Momma’s jiggling the baby on her shoulder and walking back and forth. Katie is crawlic. Momma says that’s the reason why she keeps crying all the time. Katie don’t even know how to crawl so I don’t see what that has to do with all her bawling.
“Momma,” I ask, “what’s crawlic? Is Katie sad cuz she can’t crawl?” Momma laughs at my question.
“It’s colic, Trevor. Not crawlic. Has nothing to do with crawling.”
“Why does she fuss so much, then?”
“That’s the thing about colicky babies, there’s no reason for their fits.”
“Will Katie always be a crybaby?”
“I don’t think so,” Momma says. The house is dark and cold because its the middle of the night, but I can see the wetness of Momma’s eyes. She’s not crying, but her eyes are shiny like peeled grapes. I don’t like the skin on grapes. Momma tells me not to play with my food and just eat ‘em but I usually peel ‘em anyways. Katie’s the one doing all the crying.
Momma says, “Crybaby’s not a very nice word to use, now go back to bed, Buddy. It’s late.” But it’s tough to sleep through all the racket. Cyrus, my little brother, can sleep through anything and Missy’s the oldest so she’s used to noise. It’s just me and Momma and Katie who’re awake. I step further into the main room instead of going back into the bedroom with the others.
The air looks brownish-black to me when the lights are all off. Everything looks softer. I can see stuff, but it all just looks like lumps in the dark, kinda like how snow covers all the bushes and turns ‘em into soft white bumps in the yard. Everything sounds louder in the dark too. Between cries, I can hear the little bits of dirt under Momma’s slippers as she walks. It sounds scratchy against the wood floor.
“Momma? Was Baby Jesus crawlicky?”
“Mighta been—and the word’s colicky—anyway it’s hard to know. There’s nothing in the Bible that says he was.”
“Well, I bet Jesus weren’t colicky.”
“Wasn’t,” Momma corrects me.
“Right, I bet he wasn’t colicky… bein’ God’s baby and all that.” I have to speak kinda loud so Momma can hear me over Katie’s yelling.
“Did Santa bring any—” Katie lets out a howl and I wait for her to take a breath, “Did Santa bring any Christmas presents to Jesus?” Momma laughs at me again.
“Santa wasn’t around at the first Christmas. The three Wise Men brought gifts though.”
“Oh yeah. A gold Frankenstein, and a mirror.”
“Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. You know what gold is, right?” I nod my head and Momma keeps talking, “I think that frankincense is a kind of incense, it’s something that smells good. I don’t have a clue what myrrh is, but I think all three gifts were valuable—expensive.”
“What about Round John,” I ask. “Did he bring anything too?”
“Round John?” Momma asks me. “Who’s Round John?”
“You know, in the song Silent Night. It goes: Round John Virgin, Mother and Child,” I sing. Momma throws her head back and laughs a good one, which startles Katie who cries even harder. Momma waits a minute to let Katie settle down some and finally answers my question.
“No, Round John didn’t bring anything.” Katie was really hollerin’ up a storm. “Oh baby girl, give it a rest,” Momma said and plopped down on the couch, but all the time kept up the jiggling and rubbed her eyes with her free hand. I came over and sat down next to my momma and sister.
“You tired Momma?”
She let breath blow long and slow out of her mouth like a balloon losing air. “Yup. I‘m real tired, Little Man.” Momma likes to call me that. I like it too. It makes me feel ‘portant. It makes me feel like man of the house. Cyrus is younger. He’s not ready to be man of the house. Missy’s a girl, so she can’t never be man of the house even though she’s oldest.
“I don’t know, Trev. He might not be comin’ back.” Momma’s voice was real shaky and sounded kinda funny like. A tear drop ran down Momma’s cheek, sort of like how I seen a piece of ice slide down the window once.
“Are you crying, Momma?”
“Oh Buddy, I’m just so tired and I’m a little sad. I miss your daddy. Things are tough.” Another tear followed the same path as the first one. Katie took little squeaking gulps of air and then started wailin’ again. Momma started jiggling her a little harder.
“So how come Daddy went away?”
Momma shrugged and wiped away another tear. “Not sure, Bud. I think the family got too big for him, too much to handle.”
“Maybe he went Christmas shopping. Maybe Santa will give him a ride home. Is Santa comin’ tonight?” Momma looked around the main room. Momma hadn’t bothered to put any decorations up. Missy had dug out some lights and taped ‘em up around the bedroom door but we couldn’t find a ‘stension cord to plug ‘em in with.
“Don’t get your hopes up, Trevor.” Momma yawned. “Looks like Christmas is passing us by this year. If anything it’ll show up late. Your Daddy’s been gone for a couple of weeks now. I don’t think he went Christmas shopping.” Momma put her head back and closed her eyes. Even with Katie crying, Momma fell asleep after a few minutes.
Momma’s hold on Katie loosened and I carefully took Katie from her. I put my hand under my baby sister’s head just like Momma had taught me and moved her to my lap. I bounced her gentle like on my legs. She still cried and squirmed but she turned in towards my tummy so the howls were kinda quieter. I held her nice and tight so she wouldn’t roll off my lap and sang to her:
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round John Virgin, Mother, and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and wild,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…
My eyes were stinging and felt dusty. I wanted to close em for a second but still hold on tight to Katie. She wasn’t crying so hard anymore.
“Trevor!” It was Momma’s voice, loud and sharp. My eyes flew open. I must of been asleep for a while. Morning had crept up to the window and was peeking in. It was still pretty dark inside, but it was real quiet. “Trevor!” Momma said again, “where’s Katie?”
“I have her Momma. I made her stop crying.”
“Oh my God, Trevor what did you do?” Momma reached for the lamp and knocked it over. I heard the lightbulb break. Momma didn’t even seem to notice.
“Nothin’ Momma. I held her tight and she stopped crying. I sang Silent Night to her.” Momma stumbled over to the kitchen and flicked on the light switch. A block of yellow-orange light reached over towards me. Momma came running back to me and looked down in my lap. Katie was still and quiet. Tears gathered in Momma’s eye’s and I watched one drop through the air and land on Katie’s cheek. The little girl turned her head, opened her eyes, looked up at Momma and cooed like a pigeon. She gave her tiny little legs a frog kick and smiled.
“Merry Christmas Momma. See? I got Katie to stop crying. That’s my Christmas present to you.” Momma gathered the baby up in her arms, leaned over and kissed my forehead.
“That is the best Christmas present ever. I wish I had one to give you.”
“It’s OK Momma, I have you.” I got up, hugged her and walked over to the window. “Look Momma, it snowing.”
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