A Christmas Story by Robert John Miller

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The tree was the last of it, left up into March until right before her birthday because neither of us could bear to see it go, as if it wasn’t real as long as the tree stood proudly in the corner, its boughs aching and what few needles were left stiff and piercing, as if that tree could still bring everything back to us okay, the living memory of taking the day off and talking to the tree lot guy about when the others might come in and would it be worth the wait, sizing them all up and down and letting it choose us as much as we chose it, then walking it home one of is in front of the other, she in her mind playing something out like the lobster scene in Annie Hall and me like Chevy Chase in bed with too much sap trying to read a magazine and enjoy the memory while it was being made, and the children were pointing at us eyes wide as we passed (a true mark of the season), and the burly high-wire installer guy in the van stopping us giddy to ask where we got it and how much was it and was that a Douglas or a pine, and we finally brought it in and up the stairs so the three of us could get drunk on Nat King Cole and spiked cocoa until we couldn’t stand it, like our hearts were spilling out onto the floor, like it hurt so much I wanted to die right there in that moment, and so we left it up into March until right before her birthday because it had to be out by her birthday, it wasn’t fair to leave it up past her birthday, so we dragged it out to the deck and hoisted it over the edge like we were at sea, and we finally let it drop, and we observed a moment of silence to hear the thud and mark the occasion and finally wept for the end of the year and all we had lost and were losing and squeezed our eyes shut tight, hoping to better see whatever pinpoints of light might come through.

 

Robert John Miller’s work has appeared in Hobart, Necessary Fiction, MoonPark Review, X-R-A-Y, Peregrine and others. You can find more stories at robertjohnmiller.com. He lives in Chicago and is polishing his first novel.

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