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

Figure Drawing at Community College

This flash piece was just published in Rusty Truck.  Thanks, Scot!

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I’m getting goosebumps from a draft, though the class doesn’t notice. Most are open-mouthed, charcoal scratching paper, concentrating on the weight of my breast, curve of hip, sag of buttock. I bite my lip, think of the rigidity of a villanelle, try to compose one in my head while the old guy in a beret for god’s sake, studies the cleft, the pubic mound, then meets my eyes.

I want to yell, “I just want to earn enough to get cable,” but I look away, try to show disgust without showing disgust because the woman who will pick up kids from school at 4 is drawing my face. My arm is falling asleep. The instructor said to tell her when I need a break, but the young man by the window is so intent, I hate to interrupt him. I start to tremble, try to shift but not throw off the line. The villanelle becomes a limerick.

There once was a nude on a table
Who couldn’t afford to get cable…

Trembling. Can’t feel my arm at all.

She posed for a class
Where an old man was crass,

Ah, the instructor is announcing a break. I raise my body off my arm and feel electric shocks as blood starts to flow. I reach for my kimono. The old guy sidles up to me.

“Coffee later if you are able?” he asks. Shit, he’s finished my limerick. I walk away rubbing my arm. “Maybe tomorrow?” he calls.

– Sarah Russell
Photo courtesy of Blot Magazine

D NER

Her mama said she was uppity.

IMG_1854A haibun for the dVerse prompt signs.

Wish it had been the R that fell, she thought. Then it would say DINE, like the food was good, like it was more than runny eggs and meatloaf. But it was the I, and everyone called it the DEE-ner, like some hillbilly joint. Jake said it gave the place character, didn’t even know where the I had blown to after all these years.

She hated waiting tables. Her mama said she was uppity. “Worst thing we did was name you Chelsea after that foreign place,” her mama said. “You get off your high horse and make peace with staying here.” But she never would. Never! She’d get a little money ahead and clear out. Go where Chelsea was an OK name, and DINE was what folks did, and tips were more than a quarter.

“You gonna stub that smoke and get back to work? I ain’t paying you to be on break all day.”

“When you gonna put the I back, Jake?”

“No time soon, Chelsea girl. No time soon.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

rocky soil, no rain
daisies distressed, withering
oak tree carries on.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Rusty Truck
Photo:  Etsy