by Perry Elisabeth Kirkpatrick
©2017 All Rights Reserved.
Indistinct Christmas tunes played over the store’s sound system, trying to make me feel happy. Keyword being trying.
I held back a sniffle as I counted out the woman’s change. I could tell my weepiness was making her uncomfortable, but she didn’t comment. Her little girl—who happened to be wearing a sweater with an embroidered dog on it—didn’t have any qualms.
“Why are you crying? It’s Christmas time! Nobody should cry at Christmas time!” she lisped.
Children and their candor!
“Well,” I said, indulging in just a tiny sniff, “your sweater is reminding me of my bulldog, Bob. He died couple days ago.”
The little girl’s face fell, and she said that was probably a good reason to be sad at Christmas time. Her mother whisked her away to regain some holiday cheer by visiting our in-store Santa who was set up just behind my register.
“Gloooooo-o-o-o-o-o-RIA!” sang Amber, my excessively cheerful manager who also happened to be my best friend. This singing of my name had been happening every Christmas since I could remember. Normally it was fun. This year, nothing was fun.
“What?” I said, frowning at her.
“Would Bob want you this sad at Christmas time? Bob LOVED Christmas!”
“Don’t remind me,” I sniffled. Bob had indeed loved Christmas. The rich food, the bows and ribbons and wrapping paper to shred, the mailman’s more frequent and highly-barkable visits to our front door to deliver packages.
With no more customers to ring up at the moment, I turned and leaned my elbows on the low wall dividing my register from the “North Pole.” Amber was straightening a huge cardboard candy cane that was threatening to fall over. Nearby, a small line of local children waited in line to see Santa and his two attending elves.
“I understand you miss your dog, but you’re gonna make all the kids and probably the adults cry if you keep it up,” Amber said. She tipped her head and giving me a searching look. “You know what you need?”
“Time? Grief counseling?”
She rolled her eyes. “What you need is a cat.”
I didn’t answer. A cat was decidedly not what I needed, but I had another customer to ring up, so I turned around and plastered a smile on my face.
* * *
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