• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 11
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But I Was Happy

I was eight years old in 2073 and, like every year since I was able to understand the concept (as it was explained to me), I had been praying for a White Christmas. But Calgary hadn’t seen one of those in two decades and that wasn’t about to change. Nonetheless, as that was the one act of faith we still allowed ourselves, I resurrected it each December. In the olden times however, children used to believe that Christmas presents were delivered by a white-bearded old man in a red suit who flew in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. In reality, the presents were acquired by their parents from places called shops, or arrived in a van from the Amazon. I had seen some of these presents in the museum; mostly models of people or babies or animals, some of which moved or spoke. I’m not sure exactly what the children did with them but I suppose they afforded some sort of company to those without siblings or friends.

Of course, when I was a child, everything we had was provided by the Central Resource Allocation Scheme. Apocryphally, the Department of Product Placement had originally gone for Program rather than Scheme and that had led pretty swiftly to the Minister falling on his sword. True or not, outside of official circles, people only ever used one acronym. With real trees being fully protected, I had to help my parents concoct a facsimile out of wire coat hangers, on which we hung decorations fashioned from the labels of the tins that arrived as part of the weekly food box.

On Christmas Eve, I lay one a knee-length sock over the end of the bed and drifted off to sleep with no buzz of expectation to delay me. It was already light when I woke and I could hear the downstairs radio playing Mariah Carey on repeat. I reached down and seized the sock and was


But I Was Happy

relieved to feel the weight of it and see disfiguring shapes within, even though I knew it couldn’t contain anything other than a couple of the random items from the Program’s festive bonus allotment.

I upended the sock and let its contents fall on the bed. There was a mandarin orange, locally-grown and freely allocated for special occasions and a fist-sized piece of gray plasticine, routinely doled out as part of the Creative Inspiration Initiative. And, a third thing? How was that possible? A misshapen black lump, hard to the touch but it also left a mark on the sheets. I held it up and gazed at it in wonder. Just then my father appeared in the doorway. “What do you reckon?” he said. I simply nodded and smiled, holding back the tears. “I smuggled it out of the Carbon Capture plant the day before yesterday, so just make sure you keep it hidden.” I don’t think I ever loved him more.