All I Want for Christmas

Dear Santa,

Mama says I can have a puppy if I am a good girl and brush my teeth after dinner, keep my room clean, and stop talking back. She says I have a feisty disposition. I think that means I’m sassy like Nana.

Nana is like a hundred years old with loose skin and white hair that looks like bird feathers glued to a bathing cap. She leaves her teeth everywhere but in her month. I’m sure she does this to make Mama crazy. Nana howls when the sun goes down. She doesn’t like the dark. She says that’s when the death angels come for old people. I tried telling her she is wrong about the angels, but she tells me I’m just a kid and don’t know a damn thing. (Sorry Santa. She cusses a lot.)

The thing is, I need my sleep, and when Nana howls, I don’t get any.  Mama talked to the doctor about Nana’s howling, so he gave us some pills to make her sleep. They worked for a while, but Nana caught on. Now, she spits at us when we try to give her medicine. It’s not very pleasant. Mama tells people Nana’s spitting is why her ugly boyfriend, Bob, went away. It isn’t. Nana really liked spitting at Bob. Nana called him . . . well, I can’t tell you what she said because you won’t bring me a puppy. He wasn’t very nice to Nana or me, and sometimes when he had too many Pabst Blue Ribbon beers, he wasn’t nice to Mama.

I tried talking to her about it like a grown up. I know how because I watch Dr. Phil with Nana. He helps people with their problems. I watched what he did and tried it out on Mama. I asked her big questions about what it was she wanted out of life. What did she need to make her life feel complete? It’s what Dr. Phil always gets around to asking.  You’d think people would know these things and not have to talk about them on television. Can’t people get smart without Dr. Phil? Anyway, after listening to him, I figured out what to do. I learned how to talk, and used the money Aunt Millie sent me for my birthday to buy Mama a journal to keep her secret thoughts in. She started crying when I gave it to her. I felt bad. She promised me they were happy tears and said that I was a not a kid anymore. I could’ve told her that. Santa, when you live as I do, without a dad, with a crazy nana, and with a mom who sometimes picks bad boyfriends, you grow up fast.

Mama started writing in her journal, but she had to wait until Bob was out of the house. When he caught her writing, he accused her of bad stuff and tried to grab it. He flew across the room with his king-sized body. The coffee table broke their fall. Bob was fine. Nana and me had to peel the shirt off Mama’s back and pick out the shards of glass with tweezers. Nana held the magnifying glass for me. That wasn’t the worst of it either. Later than night, when Bob’s ugly friends came over to drink beer and watch television, he read her private thoughts to them during the commercials. They laughed.

Petey, the meanest one, pinched me. Nana spit on him. He laughed and kept pinching me. Santa, in Nana’s defense, she only spits wadded up pieces of paper through a straw. She’s not all that bad, just loopy. For her Christmas present, maybe you can bring her some sense. Mama told me old people lose it all the time. Do you have any extra lying around? You’re kind of old, and as far as I know, you don’t spit at people, so maybe you have extra.

Anyway, after talking to Mama like Dr. Phil, she was smarter, but it wasn’t until Petey pinched me that she got angry—not drinking-angry but strong-angry. She told Nana to keep spitting on Bob until she could help him find a fast train to hell. I can’t tell you what they did to us or what Mama did later. She made me pinky swear I’d take the secret to my grave. I gave her my word.

Mama is crankier now that he is gone, but I think it has to do with the money. When Bob drank, she’d take money out of his pockets for food. Now that he’s gone, she works two jobs. Even though she’s tired sometimes she smiles all the time. Mama reported Bob to the police. She told them he hurt us and then took off with our money. I don’t know why she told them Bob was missing.

Back to my present: I want a dog because it will protect Nana from the death angles she is afraid of, and maybe she will stop howling in the dark so I can get some sleep. Mostly I want a dog so Mama has something to warm the bed. Ever since she told our neighbor, Angie Ortega, she doesn’t miss Bob but she misses having someone warm in her bed, I’ve been trying to help. She didn’t like my idea about the heating pad. I think talking to her like Dr. Phil is helping, but not enough. She’s having dinner with a policeman next week. I told her I didn’t think that was a good idea since Bob is pushing up daisies in the garden. She laughed.

Santa, having a puppy solves my family’s problems. I’ll be more like an American Girl doll collector because I won’t be sassy. Nana will stop howling, and Mama will be warm at night. The Bob thing shouldn’t count against me on the naughty or nice list now that you know the facts.



PS: God—if Santa decides we’re on the naughty list, maybe you can help.