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The Last Present

The Last Present

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Published by Devon Pitlor
A poverty-stricken family finds happiness during a dismal Christmas
A poverty-stricken family finds happiness during a dismal Christmas

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Published by: Devon Pitlor on Jan 19, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/20/2013

 
THE LAST PRESENT 
 
by Devon Pitlor 
 
T
here had been great sorrow in the Milroy family thatyear. In October, Father had lost his job at the cannery.In November, Momsy had fallen in the supermarket near a huge piled display of canned crab trimmings, whichcascaded down on her and knocked her cold. She hadnot been the same since and had only drifted around thetiny, unheated house with a bottomless glass of vodkain her hand all the long days since. Brother Tom,perenniallly unemployed, had suffered a crushed leg ina motorcycle accident, and Sister Kylee was hugelypregnant from an unidentified black person of low meritand little promise. The dog, Needfull, had been rundown in front of the house by a speeding brown deliverytruck earlier that day and was therefore dead, thoughnot yet inhumed. Uncle Phizby had recently learned thathe was dying of cancer and would not see another Christmas. In fact, Phizby wouldn't see Easter or possibly not even the intrusively racist MLK Holiday inJanuary. Aunt Rosa had experienced a sudden andunexplained weight gain of over 200 pounds, learningonly the week before Christmas that it was a massive,inoperable tumor. The twins had gone on a rampageand broken all the lightbulbs and dishes in the house.The savage twins had also fought violently over the fewpresents left for them under the scraggly, undecoratedevergreen in the living room. Finally they needed to berestrained with masking tape and put into footlockersand pushed under their beds, where they would remainuntil the morrow or perhaps later.Only one unopened present still remained under the
 
tree. It was carelessly wrapped in soiled brown paper with a dirty red ribbon tied around its middle section andhad, for all the world to see, the shape of a bottle.Momsy and Father eyed one another. The gift had notag on it, so no one knew who it was for. Uncle Phizbyassumed it was his, as did Brother Tom, hobbling abouton a crutch. Kylee felt it was rightfully hers, since her only gifts had been a rosary of latecoming birth controlpills and a chipped mug marked "Buzzard's Roost,where dreams come true." Aunt Rosa was sure that theremaining gift was hers, but for reasons she could noteasily verbalize, given the size of her tumor.There wasn't much left to eat or drink. The boiled eggswere all that was left of the scanty meatloaf which hadbeen the centerpiece of Christmas dinner. A few sprigsof wilted celery were also on the floor by the table legs.Uncle Phizby had put the nozzle of the cheese spreadcan into his mouth and emptied it thusly of its finalcontents . However, there was some Wonder Bread andCrisco left, so Momsy spread the white excrescencepaper thin over slices of the remaining bread andgarnished it with salt and flinty sprinkles. In this way,they all would partake of a final snack before retiring for the night.But the gift remained unopened.Suddenly in a burst of yuletide generosity, Father exclaimed that the lone present should go to Momsy,who in turn asked meekly that it be given to Brother Tom, who refused and with great magnaminity offered itto the belly-bulging Kylee. Kylee said that it should begiven to Uncle Phizby because he was going to die
 
soon, but the latter dithered and said he was too sick for presents and that it should go to Aunt Rosa, who,completing the circuit, announced that it was Father's.And the cycle of unselfish refusal was launched again.And again. And again.The little impoverished family could not decide on whoshould get the last present.Outside in the street was a strolling band of carollers.They stopped under the dim streetlight before thefamily's house and began to sing O Little Town of Bethlehem. Their mascot, a little boy with a sever sinusblockage, waved a cardboard effigy of the BleedingLamb around in front of them.Father was abruptly overcome by a wave of the purestmagnaminity and took the gift, which was now definitelya bottle of something, and offered it, with a greatflourish of arm and hand, to the lead caroller.When the song was finished, the lead caroller held upthe poorly wrapped bottle and shouted "Christmasspirits, everyone!"The band of singers all producedeither plastic cups or real glasses and gathered around.They were prepared for drinks at each stop. Father,Momsy and the family watched in pride as the leadcaroller ripped the paper off the bottle.It was a bottle Bix Pine Essence Toilet Bowl Cleaner, 16ounces. The green liquid glowed in the lamplight.Thorough it, albeit distorted, one could see the snarlinglips and snot-blocked nose of the little mascot boy withhis cardboard Jesus on a stick.

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Inge Meldgaard added this note
What a world, eh? You certainly write well, without giving anything away in terms of the surprise ending. Now who, I wonder, put that bottle by the Christmas tree?

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