Jimmy opened his eyes and stared at the drop ceiling tiles overhead. Last year he couldn’t stay in bed from excitement as Christmas approached, today he just wanted it to be over and done. He squeezed his eyes shut and rolled over before opening them quickly, hoping it was all a dream. It wasn’t. Ed, his brother, was still deep asleep where they said goodnight, his leg and arm dangling from the cot.
Reaching quietly under his pillow, Jimmy retrieved a neatly folded scrap of paper and a pencil. The pencil’s red foil, covered in waving Santas, made his stomach drop. He slowly smoothed out the paper and marked his 7th “X”, and let out a sigh; it was Christmas Eve.
Eight days ago a massive earthquake ripped through Jimmy’s home town. Buildings were flattened, trees collapsed to the ground; thousands of people were hurt, or missing, including his parents. He knew from the hushed tones when he entered a room, that some people even died.
When the ground started shaking Jimmy and Ed were at school. His class had just started art and were making decorations for the Christmas pageant. Ms. Smith herded them under tables and chairs as children around him screamed. The shaking stopped after a rollercoaster ride that seemed to last for hours. Dust filled the room as the earth’s growls were replaced by children crying. Jimmy’s aunt picked him and Ed up from school and brought them to the shelter. Every night since, they waited for word on his parents.
No one talked about Christmas. In his heart he knew Christmas wasn’t coming. How could Santa bring presents when no one had a chimney? How would he even know where they were? That’s when Jimmy had the idea: “If Santa can’t come for Ed; I’ll make sure Ed still gets a present.”
Jimmy quietly rolled out of his cot and put on his pants and shirt from last night. He needed an early start if his plan was going to work. His aunt lay sleeping next to Ed, her arm wrapped around his waist, pulling him in tight. Her cheeks were streaked with running mascara and he knew she’d cried herself to sleep again.
When the bell rang for lunch he made his way out of the gymnasium as people came in for their meager meal, and headed down the hall. As he approached the outside doors he could see Sal leaning back on his chair reading a newspaper, like…