Somewhat of a Christmas Miracle

Uncle Barney had Brillo-y hair he dyed a yellow that isn’t found in nature and a matching handlebar mustache he waxed and curled and kept touching with such fondness that people sometimes looked away. Aunt Myrtle said if he’d spent as much time touching her as he did that damn mustache, maybe they’d have had children. She said this out loud at family gatherings, which made everyone almost as uncomfortable as Uncle Barney’s mustache-fondling.

I was twelve the year Uncle Barney forgot his wax when he came to the farm for Christmas. It had never happened before, like if you forgot your false teeth or underwear. He didn’t notice until the next day when it was time to re-wax the five-inch protrusions to go to church on Christmas Eve. Then all hell broke loose — ranting and pacing and obsessive twirlings of the protrusions trying to will them into the mirror-image, C-shaped curves they would have assumed with wax. In the kitchen, Aunt Myrtle muttered, “Serves him right.” But no amount of twirling would make the sides match. The right side curved forward as if it was hitching a ride somewhere, while the left side wouldn’t hold much of a curl at all and looked as if it was trying to run away.

Uncle Barney didn’t want to go to church with us. We kids told him that God wouldn’t mind, and the Baby Jesus was too little to notice, but I don’t think he cared about heavenly judgments. He got dressed to go but then looked in the hall mirror, twirling and swearing and getting red and even adding spit, which only made the the ends droop more. Finally he gave up. “I can’t go,” he murmured to the mirror. “I just can’t go.”

And poor Aunt Myrtle, who had a new Christmas sweater she’d knitted herself with all three wise men and the gold parts in tinselly yarn that glittered a little too much, Mother said, for church-wearing, decided to stay home too. “I’ve lived with him for 50 years,” she said, “and I’ve never seen him this low,” which made us all raise our eyebrows a little, because we had been to their 45th anniversary party in October.

We didn’t see them after church. But it was nearly midnight when we got back because of a way-too-long sermon from Rev. Funkhouser who should have known better with all the extra carol singing and candle lighting and scripture reading that has to be done at Christmas, so we didn’t think anything of it.

Next morning, Mom and my other aunt, Lydia, and cousin, Rachel, whose kids are bratty and always get into my stuff, were in the kitchen making waffles and pouring orange juice and yelling to Rachel’s kids that they couldn’t open presents until after breakfast and wondering where Uncle Barney and Aunt Myrtle were because it was going on 8 o’clock, and usually they were early risers. Aunt Lydia called up the stairs twice that breakfast was ready, and once Aunt Myrtle called back that they’d be right down.

We finally sat down without them, and Dad said the special long grace that he keeps on tap for holidays, and then we heard a giggle, and there they were in the doorway. We probably wouldn’t have recognized Uncle Barney except for the Brillo-y yellow hair, because the mustache was gone. Completely gone! Nothing under his nose but a scraped-up-looking upper lip.

No one could think of anything to say, but finally Aunt Myrtle, who hadn’t smiled in her whole life, I think, looked up with this big-ass grin on her face, reached over and patted Uncle Barney, who was grinning back at her, and said, “What a lovely Christmas morning!”

 

Happy Holidays, everyone!

– Sarah Russell
First published in Everyday Fiction
Art source

Stevieslaw: Nominated for Pushcart Prize

My friend and fellow poetry workshop member Steve Deutsch just received a Pushcart Prize nomination for this incredible poem. Congratulations, Steve!

Stevie's Law

Many thanks to the editors at Word Fountain for nominating my poem, “The Year we all got Cancer,” for a Pushcart Prize.  Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library (Wilkes-Barre, PA) is available in both print and on-line versions.  Here is a link to my poems (including audio).

https://wordfountain.net/2017/12/02/steve-deutsch-three-poems/

The Year We All Got Cancer

Winter stayed.
The April rain so cold
it left blisters of ice
on an earth
as scarred and pockmarked
as a landscape mired in war.

We waited through the freeze and thaw
for some sign from the recalcitrant earth–
anxiety growing with each passing day.
The sun was of little use,                                                                                  …

View original post 66 more words

Return

They’re burning fields on the delta –
violent end of harvest.
Smoke billows above charred stubble,
chokes and blinds me as I drive.

Mom turns ninety on Sunday.
The whole town’s invited
at two for cake and to say
how good she looks.

In truth, she’s not good.
Fragile with diabetes, eyes failing,
fingers gnarled to claws;
no quilts for new babies.

Hard-willed as the life she’s led,
she stays alone with a cat and a walker.
Folks look in on her from time to time, say
they’ll let me know if something happens.

I’ve burned the fields too.
College-trained for work not at the whim
of subsidies and drought, I expect
no feast for this prodigal.

– Sarah Russell
First published in The Houseboat
Photo source
For Poets United

Colleague

When he calls from the conference
and says he met her, after months
of email discussing their research,
I see the first whiff of smoke
rising out of the forest,
the one you have to be close to notice,
and think you could put out yourself
if the garden hose reached that far,
the first seconds of wondering
where the important papers are,
the photographs, the cat.

– Sarah Russell
First published in One Sentence Poems
For Poets United
Photo source

 

Cat Nap

The cat invited me to fill my lap
with heavy, lithe contentment.
We curled together on the couch,
purring pressure as she arched her neck
against my hand, languid comfort,
her body nestling into mine.
I roused, my hand still stroking lightly
in my sleep, cat vanished to other ventures,
the niche indented by her form
still vibrant with her warmth,
my fingertips caressing air
in silken touch remembrance.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Purrfect Poetry Anthology
Painting by bdelpesco
For dVerse Poets Pub

Invitation

We found a stream that night
away from everywhere but us –
water voices whispering,
the honey of first times,
wind feathery on urgent skin.

Perhaps a folly, our rush
into together and tomorrow –
forever’s promissory note
before the debt of everyday.

Let’s go back
and lie beside the stream again,
listen for the water voices,
feel the wind’s breath

before we disappear.

– Sarah Russell
First published in The Houseboat
Photo Source
For Poets United

Driving without Radio

Ah, life without radio. Robert Okaji has captured long drives so well.

O at the Edges

trash-in-tree

Driving without Radio

One minute you’re sipping coffee at the stoplight,
and the next you find yourself six miles

down the road, wondering how you got there,
just two exits before the French bakery

and your favorite weekday breakfast taco stand.
Or while pondering the life of mud,

you almost stomp the brakes when a 40-year old
memory oozes in — two weeks before Thanksgiving,

the windshield icing over (inside), while most definitely
not watching the drive-in movie in Junction City, Kansas,

her warm sighs on your neck and ear, and the art
of opening cheap wine with a hairbrush. How many

construction barrels must one dodge to conjure these
delights, unsought and long misfiled? You turn right

on 29th Street and just for a moment think you’ve seen
an old friend, looking as he did before he died,

but better, and happier, and of course it’s just a trash…

View original post 35 more words