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News and Events

By Brian Weilert

I woke to the sound of nothing, knowing something important was at hand. My blurred mind fought for clarity in the early morning hours. My encrusted little eyes quickly darted to the left as I noticed an interruption to the darkness. Flashing lights. The doorway to my room blinked at me triggering the memory that it was Christmas morning. I was alone in my cold room. My scrawny eight year old body pulled the electric blanket up around my burgundy nose. The blanket itself had been bought at a garage sale minus the plug-in and as a result had never been introduced to an outlet. The thick cord serpentining through the interior teased me as to what it was capable. I listened as the wind whistled through the hole of my single-paned window. Grey duct tape struggled to hold the cardboard in place. I could feel the whistle moving across my blanket and I started to shiver. I thought back to last summer when I had made the hole. Stacia, my ten year old sister, had held me down and tickled my ribs to the point where it was no longer funny, though I continued to laugh. When I was finally freed, I picked up the broken head of my blue Rock'em-Sock'em Robot and flung it with all my might; missing my sister, but not the window. Five months later and it still hadn't been fixed.

I reached up and rubbed the Sandman's last delivery from the corners of my eyes and looked across the room to gauge the distance to my clothes. I tried to psyche myself up to make the Arctic run. The heat in our trailer had been off for the past two weeks when the propane had ran out. Dad didn't work much lately, which was cool. He and Mom spent all day at home with us. I was the only kid I knew that had not only one, but both parents around. All my friends had to go to a babysitter after school, I got to go home. On weekends, Dad and I would hang out in our underwear until noon watching cartoons. Sometimes he would even go down and play men at the creek with me. I knew for certain that I had the best Dad in the world. I cupped my hands over my mouth and nose and blew out hot air. It felt good so I did it three more times.
"Taylor? Taylor?" Stacia's voice meandered into the room.
During the flashes from the tree lights in the living room, I could see little puffs of smoke escaping from her lips as she spoke.
"What?" I whispered back. As if that was a formal invitation, she erupted into my room and scurried under my blanket. "Hey! Keep your cold feet off of me! You're freezing."
"So, you're warm."
We laid there together, quiet, enjoying each others body warmth.
Finally, I broke the silence. "You think Mom and Dad are up yet?"
"No stupid, they always wait. They want us to wake them up."
With that said I leapt from the bed and attacked a pair of sweats that had been hiding in the corner of my room. My thin, pale body clad in Spiderman Underoos set a new world record for the snatch and return. I quickly put on my clothes while under the blanket. I earned an extra bonus as I discovered my socks from yesterday had taken refuge in the legs of the sweats.

As always, I would be sent down the hallway as a spy. My objective was to observe the living room and then report back to central headquarters, my sister. I slid from the bed and maneuvered the obstacles of wayward toys during the flashes of light. Stop, go, stop, go. My hiccupped movements slowly progressed me towards the target. After an eternal five minutes of army crawling I reached my destination. I lay flat on my belly, just at the end of the hall, staring towards the tree. Flash, one single box. Flash, the same box as last year. Flash, the Santa paper with the gold bow. I felt a collision of feelings inside me that I really didn't understand. I was filled with the excitement of Christmas morning, the nerves twisting my empty stomach, but at the same time this year I felt something different. I put my head down on the thick, hominy-colored shag carpet to think. A single strand of the carpet wriggled into the corner of my mouth and I bit down tasting the dirt, feeling the grit in my teeth. I was cold, hungry and confused. The feeling I couldn't place had consumed me.