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                   Short Stories

Melting Santa

There were tense times during the sixties, when the political and economic superpowers struggled over Cuba, known as the Cuban crisis, and some years later, when JFK was shot.  And later on, still rough times Ireland went through, where a thin and shy eight year old girl, named Cathy, lived with her poor catholic family. 
Cathy stood in front of her old brown wardrobe.  The door was open and she stared at a pile of twenty precious chocolate bars, biting her lips.  Christmas decorations were up everywhere and Cathy liked the smell of the traditional bakery.  She concentrated on the chocolates, all neatly wrapped in paper with a candle and a greeting card.  Every Christmas the church sent out these small gifts to elderly, lonesome people.  Volunteers would take their time and patience in order to make old eyes and wrinkled faces smile.
She shot a glance at the chocolate pile and her dark eyes became more shiny than they already were.  How she hated Christmas at that very moment.  Then she sighed, closed the wardrobe door and stepped into the living room.  Her mother was sitting on the couch, knitting as always.  All the time, she seems to disapprove of something.  Now she followed the movements on the TV-screen.  The old black and white TV was a surprise gift from a friend of the family, who worked for an electronic company.
The TV roared a jingle.  A commercial about Swiss chocolate came up.  Beautiful thin women with dark grey lips, which were supposed to be red, and with perfect teeth were happily licking thin chocolate sticks with a creamy yogurt filling, like there was nothing more important in the whole wide world.  The underlaying music changed into a dynamic rhythm, when two young and successful looking guys in a sports cabriolet showed up.  The girly women waved with their chocolate sticks, which they fed seconds later to these athletic men.  Then all four drove off.  The music ended in a romantic minor accord.
That’s unfair, Cathy thought and remembered immediately her mother’s voice, telling her that everything in the world was always unfair and that there was nothing to complain about.  She should pray and be happy for what she had.  Greed, envy and rebellion were evil.  How Cathy loved to have those Swiss chocolate sticks.  Instead she had to do dishes from lunch.  She hesitated at the kitchen door, then she asked her mom for permission to play with her friends.  Not after she had delivered some of those small chocolate gifts to the elders on the list that was also provided by the church, Cathy learned, of course.
After having done her chores, she had a silent supper with her parents in the evening.  With some excuse Cathy went to her room and locked the door.  For a while she sat on her bed.  Then the images came to her as she had revisited them in her mind over and over.
She played with her companions on the beach.  They had dug a hole in the sand, placed a tiny box and covered it up.  She felt the sun on her skin and the light breeze on her face and in her dark hair.  The waves washing on the beach, leaving patterns and pebbles as shiny as marbles in the sand.  Palm trees were nodding to the wind with a whistling sound.  They swam until they were cool and breathless.  After some more fun games the most important part would come.  She called it the melting ceremony.
When the sun would reach high into the sky and their feet were almost burned by the sand, they gathered in a circle.  They would choose one among them to get the small package out of the sand and one to collect a fresh palm leaf.  But it was always Cathy, who would open the small parcel, take Chocolate-Santa and unwrap his red aluminum foil.  Cathy would inhale the soft smell and cautiously hand Santa over to the next companion.  When everybody had inhaled the promising smell she would place the aluminum foil and Santa on the palm leaf.  The festive ceremony would continue with singing and humming of all Christmas songs they knew until Chocolate-Santa was melted. They would joyfully share the precious thick liquid, licking foil and leaf, and then dancing and talking until dusk.
When Cathy crawled under her bed sheets she felt warm and comfortable, on her lips still the sweet aromatic taste of Chocolate-Santa.
In the middle of the night, she woke up hungry.  She turned in her bed from one side to the other.  Finally, she murmured: “Nothing on earth is fair!”  Then she fell asleep.
The next day Cathy ignored her mother’s typical comments, but she fulfilled all her chores automatically.  She could bear to deliver seven more chocolates to the elderly, letting them do all their talking, all their cheek-touching without getting upset.
Two days before Christmas she stood in front of her wardrobe looking at three chocolate bars she had still to deliver.  With calmness she squeezed two of them in her bag to get them to their recipients right after school.  A day after that sleepless night she had told her friends about the melting ceremony.  Cheerfully they made plans, adapting and transforming details to the frosty circumstances in real life.
One day before Christmas, tomorrow, they all will meet nearby the old cabin in the woods.  They'll hide the chocolate in a snow pile while they're gathering fire wood.  Cathy’s friends will bring some candles and maybe a slice of cake.  Finally, her dream shall come true, at least a close variation.  On the other hand, she felt sorry for this old woman, who will miss her Christmas gift.  Life is not fair!
Next morning, on the very day before Christmas, she peeked into the wardrobe at the last chocolate bar and took off for school.
After lunch she washed the dishes and her mother took a nap on the couch.  Quietly she slipped into her room, dressed for her secret meeting and opened the wardrobe. The chocolate was gone.  She smashed the door shut and bit her lips, tears in her eyes.  In disbelief she looked again, then started to search the entire room.  She checked her schoolbag twice.  Disappointed, she sat on her bed.  Who had taken the chocolate?  What will she tell her friends?  She walked into the living room and glanced at the clock.  Time was running fast.  She stared at her snoring mother.  After some time of inner arguments Cathy woke her.
“Mom, mom!  What happened to the last chocolate bar in my wardrobe?” she found herself shouting.  “Someone must have taken it.  However, I am responsible and supposed to bring it to the elder ones.  It’s the last day before Christmas!”
Her mother, still sleepy, looked at her daughter.
“Since when do you care?  Since when are you so eager to deliver these packages?” she asked calmly.  “Do you think I don’t know?” she added in her firm voice.
Cathy blushed and looked away.
“So I wanted to make sure, that this last little chocolate has reached its true destination,” she continued.  Then Cathy’s mom got up, went to the kitchen and came back with something small in her hands.
“Cathy, you're my kid", she said gently.  "Off to your playmates now, hurry."


© Beate Conrad

                    
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