December 4, 1958 (J. Bradley)

Your parents bring you to a department store and in the heart of the first floor of the department store is a bearded fat man wearing a red suit and a red hat and a line of other children bigger waiting to talk to him and because you have to hold onto your parents or tables or couches to keep yourself upright your mother and father pass you back-n-forth as you get closer and closer to the fat, bearded man and you and your mother and father get to him and they balance you on his lap and he asks you what you want for Christmas and your mother says a new stuffed dog to sleep with in your crib before you get a chance to answer and you yowl at your mother for her rudeness and you yowl and yowl and yowl as your mother and father kneel down next to the fat, bearded man and then a light blinds you and you shake your head trying to get the stars out from beneath your eyelids and you keep yowling even when you’re in your mother’s arms and everyone stares at you, the yowling baby, and you don’t care that everyone stares because your mother was so rude and didn’t let you say what you wanted for Christmas (the memories you had before you inhabited this body, your mother and father not to hate each other as much as they do, especially when they make a beach out of a bottle of whisky, for you not to be a ruin to your parents) and your mother bounces you up and down and you spit up on her shoulder in protest and the three of you walk outside and it snows and stop yowling so you can try to catch snowflakes and taste them and you managed to catch one and put it on your tongue and you yowl because its cold and it freezes your tongue and your mother bounces you up and down again (when will he ever be quiet, your father hisses) and you yowl and yowl and yowl until you’re at home, in your crib, starting at the splotches of white paint on your ceiling and your teddy bear, Gene, stares with you and as you watch the ceiling Gene asks: how was your day and you tell him about the department store, the fat, bearded man, how your mother told him what you wanted instead of you telling him, how you yowled so hard, you made sure everyone looked at your parents because you wanted everyone in that department store to know how rude they were, and the snowflake that froze your tongue and Gene listens and doesn’t say anything because he’s a good good friend and once you stop, he lifts his paw and shows you the fish flopping in the splotch of white paint and asks: do you see and you giggle and you clap your hands in yes yes yes yes

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J. Bradley is the author of Teenage Wasteland: An American Love Story (Whiskey Tit Books, 2021). He once told a story for the RISK! Podcast. 

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image: “Winter in Bosnia, Dec 2017”: Andrea Damic lives in Sydney, Australia. She has been published in 50-Word Stories and Friday Flash Fiction. You can find her on Twitter @DamicAndrea. One day she hopes to finish and publish her novel. In spare time she takes photos and creates Art.