Maggie's Christmas List
by Pam McNew
This is what Maggie
How tightly she held her
That she wore her best dress,
but her tights were old and bagged around her knees and
ankles. That her winter coat had a hole beneath one arm.
A northern wind was blowing
brown leaves across the street and over frozen grass, and she
couldn't stop shivering.
The line to talk to Santa
stretched halfway down the sidewalk in front of the Decatur
Santa’s house had been painted
red with white trim. Evergreen garlands hung over the frosted
No one had asked for her name.
When she went inside, her
brother waited outdoors.
There had been no reindeer:
real; cardboard; or plastic.
This is what Maggie thinks
Fat golden bells on the door to
Santa’s house jingled hello and goodbye every time the door
opened and closed.
While they waited in line, her
brother smoked a cigarette. The mothers looked at him with
disapproval. The fathers in line smoked cigarettes of their
A little boy stood in front of
her. He’d peek at her from behind his mother’s coat. When he
came out of Santa’s house, he was crying.
Before she went in, her brother
warned her that it might not be the real Santa, but one of his
helpers dressed up like him.
Santa’s house there was a Christmas tree with colored lights,
ornaments and silver string icicles. Beneath the tree was an
assortment of brightly wrapped packages.
This is what Maggie doesn’t
The long walk to Santa’s house.
Whether it was the real Santa
or one of his helpers.
What Santa gave her from the
red velvet bag beside him; whether it was a candy cane or a
The long walk home.
Where her parents were and what
they had been doing that day.
This is what Maggie wishes
she didn’t remember:
The child-sized elf who greeted
her. His dwarfish face with heavy, oblique features. How he
wore reds and greens and a cap that drooped over one pointed
The elf looking at her and then
through a cream colored scroll of paper. His purple lips
turning into a sneer when he found what he was looking for.
The elf whispering to Santa
that she was Margaret Lynn Thompson and that she lived in the
cheap red and white trailer on Elephant Hill along with all
those other tired and cheap trailers.
Her brother’s laughter when she
told him that Santa’s elf had scared her. He said there hadn’t
been any elves. She said there had been. “Sure, Maggie,” he
teased, “maybe you saw reindeer too.”
Her mother saying there was no
Santa. Or elves. Or flying reindeer.
Her father saying to always
listen to her mother.
The fear that she was being
watched by someone or something all the time. Even when she was
alone. Even when she was asleep.
That there had been no present
for her from Santa under the Christmas tree.
How she had asked for a doll
that cried real tears.
About the Author:
had her first visit with Santa Claus many years ago. There were no reindeer or
elves, but she received a coloring book with pictures of elves and reindeer on
its pages. Pam has had
fiction and poetry published in Strange Horizons, The Fortean Bureau,
Chiaroscuro, Say..., and Lone Star Stories.
Story © 2005 Pam McNew.