The December exercise was to write a Christmas tale from the point of view of a six year old. We had several excellent contributions, so this may be the first to be published here.
Yucky salted cod tonight and I found three bones. I hid my fish under slimy peas and Uncle Carlo noticed. But he didn’t say – maybe ‘cos it’s Christmas Eve.
I’m in bed now and I can’t sleep. Roberto’s snuggled down, his feet all warm on my tummy and he’s making snuffling noises. I bet he’s dreaming what Babbo Natale will leave in his clogs by the fire. An apple …a toy car even. Mamma’s warned us both there can’t be much – not with Papa away, fighting.
I’ve tried squeezing my eyes tight and covering my face with the scratchy blanket but I’m not tired.
There are icy teeth hanging down from the window. And there are stars sticking to the black sky. I could see Babbo Natale ride across the sky if I stayed awake to watch if any gifts fall from his sleigh.
Roberto laughed at me when I said I didn’t want toys. I only want nonna back…so I can sit in grandma’s lap, listening to her stories.
The front door slams. Roberto’s eyes flicker but he sticks his thumb in his mouth and turns over. Then Mamma shouts in her cross voice and Zio Carlo shushes her.
I tip toe across the floor boards and peep through the hatch. They’re helping somebody into nonna’s comfy chair by the fire.
Mamma’s wrapping nonna’s thick red shawl around a man. Round his head there’s a white band with red patches. His hair is yellowy white and he’s holding his head. Maybe he has a migraine like Uncle Carlo gets when he’s drunk wine… Maybe that’s Babbo Natale sitting downstairs – halfway round his long sleigh-journey. He’s tired and needs a rest. Maybe his reindeer are in our stable. I hope there’s enough hay.
‘He cannot stay here,’ I hear mamma say, ‘it’s too risky.’
I can’t hear Zio’s reply and so I edge further towards the opening, knocking the candlestick over at the top of the ladder.
They all look up – even Babbo Natale. Six eyes, round and frightened like listening-to-ghost-story-eyes.
‘Assunta?’ mamma hisses, ‘get back to bed or Babbo Natale will not come tonight’.
And HE winks at me, so I climb back to my little brother, warm like a fluffy chick in his nest.
Next morning the icy teeth are dripping and there’s green on sugary fields.
Babbo Natale has left almond biscuits in our shoes, a tiny wooden boat for Roberto, a felt kitten for me. Wedged into the toe is the best gift – chocolate. I spell the letters on the blue packet : C – A – D – but before I finish, Zio Roberto pulls off the wrapping, scrunches it into a ball, pokes it into the ashes.
‘It tastes better unwrapped,’ he says and looks at mamma, in that way grown-ups do – when you know they don’t want to talk about it.
During Mass I say my prayers, hoping Babbo Natale’s migraine is better and that he’s resting.
Then we go home to eat scrummy chicken and roast potatoes.