Maggie's Christmas List
by Pam McNew


This is what Maggie remembers:

How tightly she held her brother’s hand.

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 County courthouse.

Santa’s house had been painted red with white trim. Evergreen garlands hung over the frosted windows.

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 she remembers:

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 own.

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.

Inside 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 remember:

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 coloring book.

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 ear.

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:

Pam McNew 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.