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A Journal of Haibun & Tanka Prose
Bob Lucky, General Editor & Ray Rasmussen, Technical Editor
January 2020 Vol. 15 No. 4

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Alexander Jankiewicz

Inside a Christmas Tale

It’s a bitterly cold evening during the week of Christmas. We’re sitting together to enjoy the annual ritual of watching It’s a Wonderful Life. We find our cozy places and get all snuggled in. The apple cinnamon candle is burning and the tree is lit. The snacks and drinks are ready. The kids are scattered on the floor.

We start an innocent conversation about which version we like more – the original black and white or the colorized one. I listen as my very old aunt’s voice goes on and on. I begin to drift with my stomach about to explode after eating too much dinner. I unfasten my belt and let life take its course. My eyes begin to close on their own.

twilight dreams
under a blanket of snow
a tree log sleeps

I see myself walking around a strangely familiar town. I feel a sense of panic but don’t know why. I begin to recognize places from my youth. I stumble in and out of doorways. I hear a voice cry as it becomes my own.

“Mary! Mary!” I begin to yell as I find myself pounding on the doors of the library where my wife now works. No one answers from the darkness inside.

Turning around, I see my childhood home with our Christmas decorations lit up. I cross the empty street.

I walk into the kitchen through the back door. I smell my mother’s cooking in the air and expect to find her in the pantry. No one is there. I notice empty bags of assorted junk food and empty bottles of soda strewn on the counters and dirty floor.

“Mary! Mary!” I hear the name being called out from the living room.

I walk through the kitchen and find an extremely obese woman sitting in my mother’s chair. I could sense, somehow, that in her youth, she must have been a very beautiful woman. I see her throwing Twinkies at the television. I become aware that nothing in the room has color except for It’s a Wonderful Life playing on the television and the burgundy rose petals blanketing the floor. Children are hovering around scavenging food through the petals. I ask the strange lady why she’s sitting in my mother’s chair when no one but my mother sits in that chair. Even after her death, no one has sat in that chair.

My disorientation becomes overwhelming when the woman turns towards me.

“Mary! Mary!” she yells, “Run, Mary, Run! Don’t let him catch you! He doesn’t deserve you!” The woman looks directly at me with a face of scorn.

I know she’s talking about me. “She’s running away from George Bailey, not me!” I exclaim.

“But you are George! “You are him!” The woman snarls back.

“She’ll just break your heart in the end, my dear. But don’t worry, I’ll take care of you always,” she says this in the most gentle, most sincere voice imaginable, “Now give us a kiss,” she continues, then, suddenly, her voice changes to its snarl again, “and go clean my kitchen!”

“You’re crazy! That’s what you are! This is some sort of a funny dream! What...are you a hypnotist?” The words coming out of my mouth seem too familiar. I say them without any control.

I stand frozen as I watch the woman turn her attention back to the TV and yell at it.

I finally shout over the volume, asking who she is. But she doesn’t answer. The children hovering about immediately stop their scavenging and begin chanting in unison while skipping in a circle holding hands, “Aphrodite, Aphrodite, Aphrodite,” their chanting becomes louder and louder each time.

The picture on the television flickers and then is filled with snow. Out of nowhere, Kevin Sorbo dressed as Hercules, but speaking in Walter Cronkite’s voice, appears on the screen and addresses the woman:

“Aphrodite, is that you?
Junk-feeding your face while shouting orders at
mere, mortal servants to adjust the antenna on your TV set
for better reception as you sit in your favorite chair and nag nag nag?”

Kevin Sorbo then smiles and winks at me, stating, “And that’s the way it is.”

In another flicker, he’s gone and the movie starts playing again.

Bells begin to ring... growing louder and louder. The sound become deafening. Aphrodite begins to weep uncontrollably. The children have all huddled into a corner while covering their ears and weep as well. As the bells continue to ring, Aphrodite and all around begin to fade, except for one small child still weeping alone. I walk towards him to offer comfort. When I see his face, I realize he’s me.

I suddenly awake to my wife asking me if I’m alright. She tells me I was having a bad dream. I glance at our TV and notice every one singing “Auld Lang Syne.”

“Honey, I deserve you, don’t I?” I mumble without even thinking.

My wife just gives me a puzzled look.

a child's cry
in a corner
shadows wake


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