Myra and Her Not-So-Merry Sisters
On the eve before Christmas little Myra Matheson scurried in from the cold and plopped down squarely before her couch-ridden mother. She quietly moved the empty wine bottles from the stained carpet to the stinking corner of the linoleum kitchen. Then with great care aligned the green bottles in what minimal space was left. To little Myra Matheson, the bottles looked like an evergreen forest; waiting to be lit for innumerable days. Quietly waiting.
Myra opened her denim backpack and carefully removed a handful of pine needles. "Mom, look!" The eager girl gently tugged at her mother's soft sweater. She would not stir. Her only response was the constant, rhythmic, muted snores humming from the messy head of hair lying face down on the couch. "Sabina and Tabitha told me Santa only comes to houses with trees. I started thinking, 'why? Why do we need a silly tree?' So he knows where to put the presents! That's why! So we might not have a tree but if I put these needles in the corner he'll know! He's gotta!" Her mother shifted, but only slightly.
Little Myra Matheson walked confidently to the corner of their undecorated, empty apartment. She sat cross-legged and very carefully assembled the pine needles tee-pee style. She admired her work and smiled to herself. "This has to work," she whispered.
It suddenly became very cold.
"Sabina? Tabitha?" A sourceless wind seemed to stir the air. Then:
WHOOSH! Little Myra Matheson's sisters came shooting through the wall! The pine needles scattered in their swift arrival.
"Hey! I was trying to DO something there!" Myra screamed at them, now on her feet, with her fists balled at her sides.
"Awww, is lil' baby Myra gonna cwy?" the floating twins mocked in unison. Their limp legs hovered six inches above the dirty carpet. They wore nothing but their faded nightgowns and the tattered bandages wrapped 'round their young wrists. Myra could see her mother's body slowly rising and falling through her ghastly sisters; as if she were staring at her under water.
"I'm not gonna cry! I'm gonna make Santa come and you can't stop me. We don't need a tree, either! So buzz off, Sabina! Take a hike, Tabitha!"
"Oh silly little Myra. You DO need a tree and those measly pine needles aren't gonna cut it!" Sabina cackled.
"Santa's never gonna come for you, Myra. You can't even tie your shoes!" Tabitha taunted, bobbing gently in the musty air.
"AAAAGGHHHHH!!!!!!" Myra bellowed as she threw a wild haymaker aimed directly at Tabitha's chest. But alas, only a swish, and Myra's fist kept on hooking left until she toppled over.
"Hahahahaha! You idiot!" the twins laughed. Myra rose and dusted her leggings. She fumed. She seethed. She smiled and said:
"Oh yeah? Well at least one day I'll kiss a boy!"
"YOU LITTLE -- "
"UUUGHHHHHH!!!!" The two thin sisters shrieked like banshees and shot down the hall through the door to their dusty room.
"I'll show them," Myra whispered. She pulled an oversized winter jacket over her tiny frame and loosely slipped on her tennis shoes; the laces dangling on either side. Myra took the one and only butter knife in the kitchen and marched on into the night. The door closed quietly. Her mother breathed deeply.
"Stupid Tabitha. Stupid Sabina. Never have any fun. Why can't we have just one Christmas? Just one! Just one lousy Christmas for cripes' sake!" little Myra huffed as she stomped her way into the wood line between her apartment complex and the roaring highway. "There," she smiled, and headed directly to a baby fir tree matching little Myra in height. She knelt into the soft dirt and went to work at its trunk, about as thick as Myra's tiny thigh, sawing away with the dull butter knife.
For thirty minutes little Myra Matheson grit her teeth and sawed with all her might. She had barely made a scratch. "Heavens-to-Betsy!" she frustratingly shouted. "This is ridiculous! I just want one stinkin' Christmas!" She shook the baby tree by its soft branches. It swayed violently back and forth but the trunk stayed rooted and strong.
"Umph!" She hurled the useless knife with all her strength into the patch of trees ahead of her. She heard it hit something. That something was not hard. And it was not entirely soft.
"HEY," came an angered voice from the trees. Myra froze still. Her fingers were cold and red and they trembled cartoonishly. A large, dark shadow of a man appeared. He towered over little Myra Matheson. The hem of his trench coat swayed before her body. The tall, scary man leaned down into her face and pulled the brim of his hat up.
Litte Myra's lip quivered and she held her breath, waiting for the shadow-man to speak.
"You ought' watch where you're throwin' knives, little lady. Ain't you ever heard? Knives can kill people!" He cackled loudly and extended the knife toward her.
Myra bolted for the street. She ran, coughing like a chugging locomotive, as fast as she could. Cold tears stung her face; not strong enough to make it past the downslope of her ruby cheeks before drying. Her tiny feet slapped the pavement in rapid succession. Little Myra Matheson was completely out of breath by the time she got to the dumpsters outside of her building. She stopped and inhaled deeply three times while swiping at the icy streams stuck to her face. Then, she noticed the old bum.
The old bum dug through the dumpsters across the street wildly. Inspecting an item intensely but briefly and then chucking it over his shoulder; grumbling incoherently under his breath. His bristling grey beard shot out in every direction. The old bum tossed a large Hefty trash-bag over his shoulder and continued to the next dumpster.
Little Myra Matheson sniffled her last sniffle, wiped her blurry eyes, and quietly walked up to the bum. "Mister?" He grumbled and kept rummaging. "Hey, Mister?"
He looked over his shoulder and snortled, "what do you want? Can'tcha see I'm busy?"
Myra wrung her hands together and cleared her throat. "Um, I know it's silly to think you're Santa Claus, what with your chubby belly and your giant sack and your snowy beard and your red cap but-"
"Get on with it, kid."
"Uh, but, do you think there's maybe something in that bag for me? My name is Myra Christine Matheson and I've been a very, very good girl this year. Honest." The old bum pried through his bag of collectibles. He silently examined something deep in the bag with his cloudy eyes. "And, well, you see, we don't really celebrate Christmas at my house 'cause my sisters..."
"Hush it, kid." Carefully, he pulled out a dusty shoebox that barely held its shape. A group of somethings hard and scratchy rattled around inside. "Here." He thrust the box toward her chest. "And hey, what if I was Santa? I'm Jesus Christ, too." He flopped the bag over his shoulder and carried on down the alley toward screeching cats and distant sirens.
"Thanks, mister," she called after him. She slowly brought her eyes down to her gift. In the dusty, tattered shoebox she found: sidewalk chalk. Broken, craggy, crumbly shards of used sidewalk chalk.
Broken, crumbly, beautiful, colorful, still-useable, magnificent, heaven-sent, perfect, sidewalk chalk!
"Gasp!" she gasped and took off running toward her apartment complex with wanton disregard for traffic. The chalk rattled a rock-n-roll drumbeat inside the box which gave her the energy to bound three flights of stairs in two seconds flat. Honest! As she arrived at her door she took a deep breath, composed herself, and opened it slowly, so as not to wake her sleeping mother, then locked it softly and quietly rushed to the living room.
In the sealed room at the end of the hall, Sabina and Tabitha sat quietly staring at each other from their matching twin-beds. The posters on the wall, the comforters, the jackets draped over their desk chairs; all unchanged for many years. It was deadly silent until they heard the soft scrape of chalk coming from the living room. Then it grew louder, the drags grew longer, and each thrash of disposed chalk was punctuated by a muffled, joyful giggle. The sisters were curious. The sisters were furious!
SWOOSH! A wild wind went sweeping down the hall as Sabina and Tabitha appeared, ghastly and grave, in the entrance to the living room. But their silly anger quickly subsided and magically turned into surprise, into awe, into pure flabbergastedness.
"What's all this?" Sabina demanded.
"I'm making Christmas," little Myra Matheson replied. She cut the air with a horizontal arm and directed their attention to the truly transformed room. What was once the dismal, paint-peeling, grey-everything "living" room of the Matheson Household was now a beautifully outlandish winter wonderland. Mrs. Matheson no longer slumbered on a beaten plastic couch. No, you see, now Mrs. Matheson slept sweetly upon soft white hills of snow. A canopy of candy canes danced on the wall above her and a stupendous amount of gifts, all varying in size and shape, lined every inch of the baseboards. Unending tinsel zig-zagged the walls. The tiny white snowflakes that peppered the grey walls seemed to pop in three dimensions. Little Myra Matheson balanced atop three dining room chairs stacked ten feet high as she delicately crowned the most gorgeously drawn Christmas tree of all time with a perfect, yellow star.
"Can... can we play?" Tabitha stuttered.
"Sure" Myra exclaimed, "catch!" and tossed the piece of chalk she was holding right at Tabitha's hovering chest. Alas, the chalk sailed right through her and rolled across the linoleum in the kitchen. "Oops," she giggled.
The sisters, now enraged, wailed their ghoulish cries with all their might and hastily retreated to their dull and dead bedroom. They breathed heavily, through their nostrils, and Myra didn't mind. "Let them stew," she thought. "This Christmas is mine."
Little Myra Matheson hopped off her chair-ladder and dusted the chalk off of her hands. Her smile wrapped around her entire happy head. She grabbed the last tiny shard of red chalk and drew two bells on a single branch. "These ornaments are for you and me, Mom. Ya see? The bells. You can make your own when you wake up."
Myra put the chairs back in the kitchen and threw away the shoebox. She removed two ratty blankets from the linen closet. She placed one on her snow-angel mother and the other she curled up with, right by the tree. The light bulb in the ceiling hummed and Mrs. Matheson rhythmically sighed and snorted as thankful little Myra Matheson closed her tired eyes and waited for Santa Claus.