“Baby! I ain’t gon’ tell you again. Hurry up and get your narrow behind in the bed!”
Dion silently walked into the kitchen after his mother yelled loud enough to where the neighbors could hear, but not loud enough to embarrass Dion. Dion’s mother turned around from the counter where Christmas dinner was being prepared.
“Dion, what did I just say?”
Dion had a small piece of paper ripped out from a magazine folded neatly between his fingertips.
“What is it,” she asked with a softer voice.
Dion silently pushed his hand towards her. She took it and unfolded, revealing an image of a drone. A big one. Black with lights and high definition cameras and four rotary blades and apps coupled with games and…
“I want this,” Dion said finally, standing upright. “For Christmas.”
Dion thought he was clever. He folded the paper. Four times. The mother unknowingly frowned as she inspected the image and specifications.
“Dion, you know you sent out your Christmas list a week ago,” she said.
Dion nodded. “I know. I didn’t ask for anything of real value.”
“Real value,” she asked while offended. She dropped her arms at her sides and dipping her head as if she were staring over the brim of her glasses she wasn’t wearing. “You are nine years old, Dion. What do you know of real value?”
“I know that when I ask for a lot of things from Santa, I don’t get them all,” Dion started.
“Baby,” she started carefully, “you do get them eventually…”
“I also know that Santa isn’t real,” Dion blurted out.
“Excuse me,” she asked, twisting her head.
“Momma, I’m nine. You can’t expect me to believe Santa is real. Right?”
Mom pursed her lips together with a ‘hmph’ shot under her breath.
“I just want the Zoom Elite Drone XP with the Ghost Pilot Kit! Please,” he said quickly with a big smile.
“Baby, I don’t know. This price… it’s high,” she said, studying the image.
“Oh…” Dion said, stepping forward to his mother’s hands. “That’s not the price. No, it’s actually on the back.”
She flipped it over.
“Oh no. No, baby. No,” she said, shaking her head.
“What,” Dion asked with a blink.
“But, I’ve been good this year. I’ve done everything you asked. And more.”
“Dion, I don’t care how good any child has been. That price?” Dion’s mom studied the price again with both of her eyes. “Absolutely not.”
“This is a down payment on a car,” she said, pointing at the price.
“But, I really want to film! All I want is this!”
“I don’t care what you want to do. The answer is no! And I’m not going to say it again!”
Dion crossed his arms and scowled as his younger sister, Kia, entered the kitchen.
“Not gonna say what again, momma,” Kia asked, stepping in front of her.
“Nothing baby,” Mom replied smoothly as if she hadn’t raised her voice a moment ago. She caressed Kia’s cheeks with her hands.
“You know, you should enjoy Christmas while it last, Kia,” Dion said forcefully. “When you’re my age, it gets real and goes away.”
“Christmas goes away,” Kia asked Mom.
“No, baby. Christmas never goes away. Dion is just playing,” she said as she turned Kia around to face Dion and covered her ears. Then she bared he teeth and whispered to Dion, “boy, if you ruin Christmas for Kia, I swear you’ll head over to gramma’s house, I’ll sell your toys and you’ll never see your friends again. You hear me?”
“What’s going on,” Tre, Dion’s older brother asked.
“Tre, get Kia ready for bed,” Mom asked Tre.
“Come on, Kia,” Tre said, motioning Kia to follow him. Kia hopped like a bunny towards him.
“Don’t you ever do that again,” Mom said as soon as Kia was out of earshot.
“Ruin Santa? He’s not real,” Dion said.
“Dion, It is too late for you to be acting like this,” Mom said, rubbing her eye socket softly. “Santa is real for Kia. Do not spoil that for her.”
“Santa can’t be real for one person and not real for me,” Dion reasoned.
“Then Santa is real for you too,” she said with a sigh.
“Then I want the Zoom Elite Drone XP.”
“Santa… hears you, Dion,” Mom started slowly. “But, Santa is trying to get to the kids that really need it.”
“But, Kia and I are in the same house.”
“I’m talking about the kids that have nothing,” Mom said with her back facing him. She tried to resume making food for the week. “No roofs. No food. No clothes. I know you know what I’m talking about.”
“Kia has all that stuff,” Dion said, trying to get the frog out of his throat.
“Dion,” she warned.
“What about me? I’ve left things off my Christmas list for two years! Santa should be able to do this. He’s got enough elves.”
“All the past Christmases don’t matter if Santa ignores me on this one,” Dion said forcefully, fighting back tears. “Santa should know how much this drone means to me!”
Mom planted her hands on the counter and sighed silently as Dion stormed out of the kitchen.
“What’s going on in here,” Dion’s dad entered the kitchen, smoothing the top of hair down.
“Where have you been,” Mom asked him.
“I was in the shower,” Dad answered.
“Is Dion done,” Tre asked, eating a grape with his shoulders propped up on the island in the center of the kitchen. “What was he asking for?”
“And where were you,” Mom asked Tre.
“Putting Kia to bed. Like you asked me.” Tre picked up the paper and his jaw dropped. A smile crept around the corners of his while he covered it with his fist. “Kids these days. So spoiled.”
“Get ready for bed,” Mom said with her eyes closed.
“What’s wrong with Dion,” Dad asked.
“He wants this,” Mom said, grabbing the paper and putting it in his hand. “For Christmas.” Dad rubbed his rough chin and neck letting out a sparse whistle. “Not that one. This one,” she said before she flipped it over.
“What did you say,” Dad asked as his eyes adjusted to the price.
“What do you think I said? I told him no.”
Dad blinked at the paper some more. “This is new. He’s never asked for something like this before.”
“He’s been researching that drone for a year,” Tre said, reappearing in the kitchen again. his head was in the refrigerator. “He’s been obsessed with that thing. Sorry, just getting some water. I’ll leave you two alone.”
“You’re not seriously considering getting this, Alton.”
Alton stared up from the paper. “Why not?”
“We can’t afford it.”
“He’s been good, baby. He deserves it.”
“Well, I don’t like the way he asked.”
“How did he ask?”
“With his chest out.”
“You mean confidently? I taught him that. Ask boldly.”
Mom shook her head. “Where’s the money coming from?”
“Overtime. And a down payment on a car is exaggerating,” Alton said with a smirk.
“Oh so you heard,” she said, returning the smirk.
“Only a little,” Alton replied with a wink.
“Overtime is hard work.”
“For the right reasons,” Alton said, luring her with his hand around her waist. “Hard work is necessary and I got four compelling reasons to work hard.”
“I’ve made up my mind. Get the gift. Before it’s sold out.”
Alton pressed his thumbs into his palms and massaged his pained hands.
“Merry Christmas,” Kia said gleefully as she bounced on top of Dion. “Wake up! Santa came over!”
Dion yawned and shuffled out into the living room to see his family there.
“Go ahead. Open up your presents,” Mom said.
“Come on dork! Assume the position,” Tre reassured Dion to kneel next to him beside the tree.
“Where’s daddy,” Dion asked after a moment.
“Oh, daddy said he got held up. He should be here soon,” Mom said carefully. “But, he wants you to enjoy Christmas. Now go ‘head!” Kia ripped open her gifts promptly with infectious laughter. Dion thought Kia might have a part time job as a cartoon character. Wrapping paper flew in the air around her like large snowflakes and Tre peeled open his wrapping paper slowly, revealing his gifts. Kia shoved her hands in the air with her gift held triumphantly like she won an olympic trophy, but Christmas didn’t feel the same. The children opened their gifts, but there was a cap on their joy. It didn’t match last years. Mom smiled weakly.
“You’re going to open your gifts, right,” Mom asked Dion.
There was a big, blue box Dion saw near the tree. The largest one. He never felt such anxiety opening a gift. He approached it and opened it. He already knew what it was. It was the one thing he wanted. But something was missing.
Later, Dad trudged into the doorway and winced as he tried to take off his coat. The pain was unbearable and got stuck taking off his coat to put it on the rack. He felt tired but, something else; his coat hugged him. He turned around and could hear tiny feet shuffling around him. Dad pulled his hand out of one sleeve and was able to see Dion attached to his waist.
“Hey,” Dad said slowly. “How was Christmas?”
“It was terrible,” Dion said with his face buried in his dad’s stomach.
“Terrible? What happened? Didn’t Santa get you what you wanted?”
“Yeah. But, he was late daddy. You must’ve been the last delivery. Better late than never, right?” Dion was still closely attached to his dad.
“…right,” Dion’s dad said after a moment.
“Santa sure works hard on Christmas,” Dion’s muffled voice said.
“He sure does.”
“How do I get a thank you card to him?”
“I can let him know.”
“It’s okay. I can do it.”