All I Want for Christmas
By: Dawn DeBraal

I thought about the best Christmas present for Jimmy, my little brother. We didn't have a lot of money, so I knew my gift had to be inexpensive yet meaningful. Ma died last year. She had pneumonia. We didn't have the money to get her to a doctor in time. She died in her sleep. We discovered her when she didn't get out of bed the next morning.

Jimmy and I took it hard. Pa seemed to take it all in stride. This Christmas had to be special. It had to be great. Jimmy and I cut pine boughs from around the farm fields, and we made our own Christmas tree in a milk can. We made ornaments out of popsicle sticks, glue, and glitter. They were lovely.

Aunt Claire, my mother's sister, who was visiting, was so happy when she saw what we'd done. She told us how proud she was of us. Jimmy beamed. Pa got home and told us to take that crap outside. The milk can, had leaked spilling water all over the floor. It took both Jimmy and me to carry the can out.

Pa came outside and kicked the can over, then sent me in to clean up the mess.

Christmas Eve day, I still didn't know what to give my brother. I walked out to the barn to help with the chores. Pa was throwing feed in front of the cows. He went into the hayloft, throwing down some bales of hay.

"Cut them open, give the horses a flake," Pa told me. I took the sharp knife and cut the first bale open. Taking a flake of hay, I tossed it into the horse's stall. They were our only source of transportation other than the tractor, so they the horses were well taken care of.

I heard a scream and a thump. Running to the opening of the haymow, I saw Pa had fallen out of the door onto the bale of hay. He had impaled himself on the knife I'd left in the bale. He looked up at me, blood coming from his mouth. He had a look of shock on his face.

"Get help, Angela," he choked as I ran out of the barn. The nearest farm was a mile down the road. What was I going to do? I ran to the house. Jimmy was working on his schoolwork by the light of the kerosene lamp. He was only seven. I couldn't leave him home alone. It was all so overwhelming.

And then it occurred to me—the thing I could give my brother for Christmas. I started to make supper.

"Where's Pa?" Jimmy asked me.

"Out in the barn. He said to have supper without him." Jimmy ate his beans and sausage. I put him to bed and told him I was going to check on Pa.

I went back out to the barn. I turned the cows out into the pasture. I walked past Pa; he was still lying over the bale of hay, his eyes fluttered. It looked like he was expecting me to help him. Imagine that.

"Help is on the way, Pa. Hang on." I blew out all the lamps around the barn, locking the barn door behind me. I stoked up the wood stove for the night and dragged that milk can back into the house. I didn't put water in the can. I found a jar of peaches in the cellar, which mom made last year. I wrapped them up for my brother and put it under the make-believe tree.

In my room, dressed for bed, I said my prayers and thought about the best Christmas present I could give my brother. A mother and a decent father. Aunt Claire and Uncle Ralph. They never had children, and they treated us so well. I just hoped Pa was dead tomorrow morning.

The End


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