I wrote this little story in 1997 for our local electric co-op magazine. I shared it on here a couple of years ago, but here it is again. Hope you enjoy Joey’s letter to Santa.
Dear Santa Claus,
It’s the day after Christmas and I guess you’re wondering why I’m writing you now seeing as how I didn’t write you no letter before Christmas. I figured I was too old for that stuff. My name is Joey and I’m eight. My little brothers Sam and Bennie write you. I told them it wouldn’t do no good. That your map just had rich kids’ houses on it.
Me and my three brothers live with our mama in a house that the state gives us with low rent. It’s better than where we used to live even if we have to stuff papers in the crack around the front door in the wintertime and there’s a hole in the kitchen floor. Mama says they’ll say we done it, but the hole was there when we got here. Mama works when she can, but she says it’s hard to find a job that pays enough for daycare for Bennie and then one of us is always getting sick and she has to stay home and they fire her or something. She says maybe she shouldn’t have had so many kids, but she doesn’t know which one of us she could do without. Sometimes I think it might be me.
But I don’t reckon you care anything about all that. I was just telling you why I quit writing you. Like I said, I used to write and ask for stuff, but about all I ever got was some book and maybe a game some other kid had done played with and lost some of the pieces. One year, I got lucky and got a basketball at the party the county gives for kids like me. It didn’t hold air long, but it was good for a little while.
Mama says we should be grateful for whatever we get, but sometimes she gets that “you’d better shut up and hide” look when somebody brings us something they’re just trying to get rid of. And sometimes when she thinks we’re all asleep, she cries. So that’s why I don’t write you no more. It ain’t no fun hoping and then not getting nothing. That don’t mean I don’t want nothing. This year I wanted something so bad it like to ate a hole inside me. A dog. But Mama said dog food costs money and a dog has have shots and we were lucky to get to go to the doctor ourselves much less have to worry about paying for a dog doctor.
But I couldn’t forget about wanting a dog. I didn’t care what kind. Any dog would do as long as it wagged its tail and liked me better than everybody else. You know, since it was my dog. I told Mama I needed a dog. She said maybe we could get a fish. My big brother, Billy, laughed and said yeah, maybe a dog fish. Now, Santa, you and me both know a fish ain’t no dog. I wanted a dog. One that pants and chews on bones and licks my face. I told Mama I’d pick up cans or shovel snow to buy his food and that I’d let my brothers pet him, but he’d be my dog. I kept pestering her, so finally she said maybe there’d be a miracle and I’d get my dog. But it would take a miracle.
That’s when I went to wishing for a miracle. I still didn’t write you, Santa, cause you’ve let me down plenty before. But when I saw you on the fire engine in the Christmas parade, I did sort of throw a little wish your way just in case. I mean I wasn’t about to go sit on your lap or nothing, but some folks say you’re kind of magic so I thought it couldn’t hurt nothing. It was sort of like throwing a penny in a fountain. Mama says you can do that and make a wish. She gave us pennies last summer when we were at this park. I wished for my dog, but a penny don’t get you much. So I figured I’d better wish every way I could. Like when I blew out my birthday candles in September. And every time I saw a first star at night.
On Christmas Eve, we had hot chocolate and popcorn like always and watched the Christmas tree lights flash. I checked for a box under the tree that had air holes or whined, but none did. Mama finally told me I might as well quit wishing for a dog. That no miracles were about to happen at our house.
I tried to quit wishing. I really did. I went out on the front step and sat there in the cold and looked at Mr. Brown’s house all lit up across the street. Even his chimney has lights. Mama says it’s tacky, but if you squint your eyes, the reds and blues all smear together in a neat fuzzy glow. I figured you ought to be able to find Mr. Brown’s house for sure, Santa, and maybe if you did, a little something might spill out over here.
Behind me I heard the Grinch carrying on in that silly show Sam and Bennie like. I don’t know why. Ain’t nothing about it true. I went out in the yard to see how our tree looked through the window and to see if I could make it glow like Mr. Brown’s house. I was just squinting up my eyes when the whole house went dark. Mr. Brown’s house was still glowing, but inside ours the Grinch quit talking and Bennie started crying because he’s afraid of the dark. I felt like crying too, not because I’m afraid of the dark. I ain’t afraid of nothing, but I missed the Christmas tree lights, Santa.
Billy asked Mama if she’d paid the bill, and she said even the meanest Scrooge wouldn’t turn somebody’s lights off on Christmas Eve even if she hadn’t. So she gave Bennie a flashlight to stop him crying and went over to Mr. Brown’s to call the electric company. I tagged along just to keep from thinking about no dog and no Christmas tree lights.
On the way back to our house, Mama said it would be a miracle if anybody came out to fix anything on Christmas Eve and we’d better just light some candles and make the best of it. Mama says that a lot. Just make the best of it.
Mama lit every candle she could find and read us some Christmas stories and sang songs with us. I didn’t feel much like singing, but Mama’s eyes were all red and I figured if she started crying that might make me want to cry, what with no dog and no Christmas tree lights and all, and I’m way too big to cry. So I made the best of it and sang along.
The first miracle happened about ten o’clock. Mama had just put Sam and Bennie to bed when this guy from the electric company knocked on the door. He said it was a mistake turning the lights off on us and that he’d need to go out back and climb up the pole to turn something back on.
It was neat how he walked up the pole. Is that how you climb up chimneys, Santa? Anyway, he had the tree lights flashing again in nothing flat. When he climbed back down the pole and stepped on the ground, something yelped. He looked over at me and said that I’d better come get my puppy before it got lost.
It was my puppy. I knew he was mine the minute I picked him up and he licked my nose. His tail beat against the side of my arm as he wriggled close against me. I tried to hide him from Mama because I wasn’t sure she’d see he was mine right off like I did. But I ain’t never been able to hide anything from Mama, so I talked fast. I told her how she said it would be a miracle if the electric guy came and he did and that maybe miracles came in bunches like she was always saying trouble did.
She started shaking her head, but the electric guy was still here and he said his dog had just died sudden-like last month and he had all this leftover dog food, probably enough for about a year and he’d been trying to think of something to do with it and that his sister was a vet and she sometimes needed dogs to practice on. So what did my mother think?
Mama looked at him, then at me holding the puppy and said that it must be another miracle for sure.
And so, Santa, that’s how I got Jack, and I’m writing to say thanks just in case you might have dropped him out of your sleigh as you went over our house. Mama says we should be grateful and I am.
Your friend, Joey
P.S. Mama said to ask you if you ever dress up like an electric guy, but I told her the electric guy was way too skinny to really be you.
Hope you enjoyed my little Christmas story. Thanks for reading. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year.