“Ho Ho Ho,” he sings, followed by “Merry Christmas”, and then the crash of wolfskin boots against our sheathing.
I’m filled to the brim with chestnuts. They pulse against my throat like a mass of plums that have collected in the bottom of a burlap sack. Outside, cocaine has begun to collect on the windowsill, doodling seashells and angelfish along the glass. I want to brew a mug of black-pepper tea, but Dad won’t let us into the kitchen past 8:00. There’s nothing to do except lay in bed, pulling the cabbage-patch quilt over my bloodshot eyes.
Mom buys her butter from the 99 Ranch Market two blocks away. It comes in a clear purple dish that chomps at whoever’s fingers are closest. She uses a Sephora lipstick container to divide the butter into heart-shaped buttons and sets them placidly on slices of sourdough. The loaf comes from this online bakery called Une Tranche de Pain, but I’m pretty sure the owners are from Texas. When I eat the bread, I have to pick razor blades out of the dough.
My presents are wrapped in gold aluminum foil and purple butterfly bows. Half of them are empty shoeboxes. The rest are filled with blacktop chunks and shards of broken glass. Mom catches me looking too closely for any hidden gifts, and throws a paperback erotica novel at my head. When she isn’t looking, though, I find a dead moth in one of the shoeboxes, and color the wings with a blue Crayola marker.
Santa comes later that day, but for some reason he’s skinny and dark-haired. His suit is the correct color, but the muffs at the wrists are missing. The reindeer wait outside, digging their snouts into the garbage bins tossed along the side of the road. I inspect his beard, reaching to pluck the ticks from the entanglement, but he shoves me aside and uses my glasses as a bottle opener. He forgets to take his beer with him when he leaves, and when I sneak a sip, I discover that it’s actually car lubricant.
For dinner, we eat paper cranes and gooseberry ice cream from black tubs. Mom tries to say grace, but Dad counters with the Pledge of Allegiance, hands planted on his hips. Soon they’re both shouting over each other, so I take my ice cream and return to my room. I hold it in my cupped hands, take a bite, and then toss it out the window, bowing modestly as the pigeons drop by to take a nibble.
I made my toothbrush myself, from a pair of bamboo chopsticks and a collection of belly fur an alley cat left in the backyard. It almost looks like what the pretty women advertise on television. Plus, it tastes good with the fireplace-ash toothpaste my family uses. After brushing my teeth, I wash my face with bar soap and cough up a couple of pennies in the process. It’s important to get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow will be Christmas.
Matt Hsu is a student from San Francisco, California. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and he’s published or forthcoming in The B’K, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Sine Theta Magazine, and Paddler Press. Currently he's querying his first novel: a twisty, thriller-mystery about a crafty assassin. You can find him on Twitter at @MattHsu19 or at his personal website matthsu156538437.wordpress.com.