Written for the game Snap Shot, Writing Prompt #11
Every Christmas Eve since I was five we did the same exact thing: put on our coats, scarves and hats, walked down to Murphy’s Cafe, and made a wish on the stupid plastic snowman. The one with the saluting hand and the checkered vest. He was so fat he looked like he swallowed whole children for breakfast.
Dad would order a coffee, black, and I’d have hot chocolate with exactly seven marshmallows, while the sappy sounds of holiday cheer would wash over us through the speakers above our booth.
We’d sit in exactly the same spot my parents used to sit in. Dad took Mom here every year when they were dating. He even proposed to her here, and if they could have, I bet they would have gotten married here and had the stupid snowman officiate the wedding like in that song.
Dad and I would sip our drinks in silence, and then he’d always ask what my wish was. He always wished for skis or a better president or to win the lottery. I’d answer that I wanted mom back. Every year. Because I knew he wanted to hear it. Dad would nod his head and smile until he had eye crinkles. Then he’d say, “Me too,” and reach over and tousle my hair. And we’d go home, like a couple of robots.
But I couldn’t tell him the truth. That I knew having mom back was the most impossible thing ever. Like she’d probably still have cancer and be vomiting all the time and angry, and I was glad she wasn’t sick anymore, even if it meant she wasn’t anything anymore.
Last year I added some other wishes in to see what would happen. I said, in addition to mom, I wanted to live at the North Pole with fifteen sled dogs and finally win the stupid spelling bee at school. Those were lies, too. I mean, I wouldn’t mind winning the spelling bee, except I’d have to stand on the stage in front of everybody, spelling the most useless words known to humankind, and I’d probably be so nervous I’d forget how to speak English and piss my pants. It’d run off the stage in rivulets and soak the judges, and everyone would laugh and call me a real pisser.
Given that possibility, it wasn’t a real wish. And Dad knows I hate dogs and snow, but it sounded manly, like the thing a boy of thirteen should wish for, and I was kind of testing him to see if he was actually listening.
But all he said was, “Me too.” Like always.
My hair was down to my shoulders this year. As I stood in front of the fat snowman, wishing my truest wish, I saw myself reflected in his button eyes.
“You ready for some hot chocolate, son?” Dad asked.
“Yeah, sure.” I mumbled, following him inside.
We sat in our booth, ordered the same drinks and listened to the grating music.
When Dad asked me my wish, I thought of mom. Her pale face contorted in pain. I couldn’t pretend anymore. Instead, I puffed up my courage and said, “To be a girl.”
But Dad was already lost in his own memories. He only crinkled his eyes and rubbed my hair, like always.
“Me too, son,” he said. “Me too.”