The preparations, she decided, were disappointing. The wilting tree, tired in the humid degrees, sat limp under the scarce weight of the few chipped baubles and strings of balding tinsel, lack lustre in the hard, high December sun.
Determined, despite her parent’s disinterest, she carefully creased and folded tinfoil over cardboard stars, cut sharp spirals from milk bottle tops (poorly rinsed, homogenised) and liberally scattered glitter and glue.
Still dissatisfied, she spent three dollars of hard-earned pocket money. Money earned by mowing half an acre of fast-growing lawn, ripe with dog shit. And on washing and wiping the dishes after tea, tying, and carrying the bleeding rubbish sacks down the long drive, past the bee buzzing bottle brushes and the flower beds she weeded of oxalis bulbs. And on walking the dog and vacuuming his hair, to stop the yellow nylon carpet from hopping with fleas.
She spent three dollars on a golden, concertinaed banner. ‘MERRY XMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR’ it shouted in brassy brilliance. She stabbed it to the wall with blue plastic-coated pins. It sagged, hung long like the tired summer afternoon, the macrocarpa resin, sticky on the air.
She yearned for snow and a buttoned-up coat. Ice and fires and toast and candles. The dawdling dusk emergence of twinkling lights, slow blooming, instead of the sudden death of sub-tropical nightfall, the needle pricking of sunburn, the persistent whine of mosquitoes.
Her family were indifferent to her efforts though her mother scolded her for wasting wrapping paper on empty boxes and cartons. Told her she was greedy to imagine piles of presents. Think of the poor children who go without, she said.
At the beach she made a snowman. Piling damp sand into a heap and shaping it round and round again with her hands. She used cockles for the eyes and a long pink turritella for the nose. She stood back to appraise it.
Her brother stood by her; arms folded across his broadening chest. He took off his sunnies and placed them over the cockle shell eyes. He wedged his jandals at the curving bottom base, arranging them for nonchalance, one foot stepping forward, the other turned to the side. He crowned the snow man with his sun hat, stuck a smoke in its mouth and stepped back alongside her.
“That’s better I reckon,” he said.
She looked for a while at her sandy snowman, squat against the blue incoming tide.
“Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. It’s a shit load better,” she said.
This story was chosen for our Christmas countdown and the author wins an email course of choice
About the author: Emily Macdonald was born in England but grew up in New Zealand. Fascinated by wine as a student, she has worked in the wine trade ever since. Now freelance, she writes short stories and flash. In writing and in wines she likes variety, persistence, and enough acidity to add bite.