Volume 24, Number 142,

Christmas Shopping
by Dennis Kiffiak

Alicia prepared for shopping,
she really wanted and would get
something special this year.
She had made that promise
to herself one night under the stars
well past midnight.
The sky had responded
with the appearance of a comet,
it was a sign to her,
she would succeed.

It had been some time
since she had last found
a gown to her liking.
Mostly, she accepted the fact
her wardrobe consisted of
dresses for which she had settled,
designer clothes were hard to find.

Maybe she would ask one of
her associates to help her search.
Then again, it was no secret
life had thrust upon them
their own searches
“Oh well,” she sighed
(Or did she say it out loud?
She had become so comfortable
with talking to herself recently,
she hardly knew anymore
if she was talking in her head
or speaking to herself out loud.)
“Today may be my lucky day,
the sweet Madonna may smile
favourably and grant my request.”

Alex (mother shortened her name)
checked her hair with her hands,
straightened her working outfit.
The sun had risen above the crest,
over an hour ago, wakened a seagull
who in turn woke Alex with its cries,
lord knows what for, probably
he was famished as well.
Well she would shove off now,
the city was coming alive,
she wished to be first in line.

It was getting close to Christmas,
one could see the signs. Yes,
Alex was feeling somewhat guilty.
If she was there first in line,
if she got the pick of the year,
the others would be jealous
Alex still cared - yet she didn’t,
this was pure survival,
the law of the jungle,
either the frock would be hers
or someone else’s prize.

It would be nice for a change,
to be at the top of the heap,
let others climb like her.
Where were they at dawn’s crack?
Were they too weak to put in
the long hours she toiled?
They could too, if they wanted to
achieve the same results.
True, some of her colleagues
had been plagued with illness.
She had come to expect, even
accept life’s ups and downs.

As luck would have it
Alex arrived with bag in hand
just as the first delivery was made.
Searching, sorting, she
shuffled the goods to and fro.
At twelve, she learned
Christmas could appear
in any load of garbage.
Discrimination was not in the
minds of those loading trucks.

Rotting produce, greasy soil
sole-less shoes, bones, sawdust
plastic bottles all mashed together;
smelly, gaseous, nauseous, putrefied
garbage heaped on this mountain,
a shopping center for orphans,
waifs, discarded bags of flesh
looking for a piece of hope
to carry back and nurture
in their home made from rags
cardboard, tin, and gunny sacks.

There was a purpose to her walk,
a haunting beauty marked her face,
her slight willowy body,
belied its young age.
Behind her eyes her soul hid,
fortified by her resolve,
her past experiences,
she learned best kept secrets
needed to be locked inside.
Yes, she would put in her time,
today her quest would be fulfilled.