Hidden gift

  Karen just said something blasphemous, and she said it so unabashedly. Simply heresy, disrespectful words.
  Her brother did not know what blasphemy, heresy or disrespect was. But he still understands nasty words like ” “. For Ronny, the words of her sister are a huge ” ,” and the world’s largest ” .”
  ”It’s not true!” he yelled, dropping the pillow in his hand and crawling over the knitted blanket that divided the “territory” between the siblings on the sofa. “You lied!”
  Karen looked at the TV without moving her eyes.
  ”Oh, don’t be childish. Everyone knows this.”
  She repeated the words just now, the blasphemous words, the ” “, the truth that destroys naivety.
  ”There is no Santa Claus in this world.” (Santa is a religious symbol based on the Roman Catholic saint St. Nicholas, and telling children the truth about Santa is often seen as blasphemous. – Annotation)
  ”Impossible, no No no no!”
  Ronny clenched his fists and thumped Karen. But he was only six years old, and he was shorter than the children of the same age. He wanted to knock his sister unconscious. His soft fists were not as good as two plush earmuffs.
  ”Don’t be noisy. I can’t hear you clearly.”
  She raised her slender arms and swept her brother off the sofa. She didn’t mean anything, she just waved it like she was pulling open a curtain. There was something in front of her that she wanted to see and feel.
  ”Cousin Rick” wasn’t in the apartment when she and Ronnie came back from school. Before their skinny “cousin” in their thirties (they didn’t want to call him “Uncle Rick” as their mother wanted him) to come back and take over the TV, flick cigarettes in their heads , or Bow before sitting in front of the phone and whispering to his creepy friends, Karen wanted to have a good time.
  Today, “enjoying” refers to enjoying the joyous atmosphere of Christmas.
  It was December 23, 1979, and the afternoon TV rerun of the Christmas episode. ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ ‘Beverly Hills,’ and ‘The Addams’ — where the main characters are busy wrapping presents, drinking eggnog, and taking some ‘holiday-only’ lessons . The plots are fake and blunt, but even the Christmas cheer faked by the laughing soundtrack and the soap flakes is better than none at all.
  Karen and Ronnie didn’t even have a Christmas tree that year. They and their mom were going to decorate a Christmas tree, and together they pulled out a tall fake fir tree, the “happy holly hulk” that dad used to call it. But Cousin Rick stopped them.
  ”God, what are you doing? The room is packed like a can of sardines and you can’t turn around, and you’re putting this hapless tree in the middle of the room? Don’t even think about it. You want a Christmas tree, don’t you? Go to the parking lot and dress up as a bush. Now keep your mouth shut, okay? I have to stay calm, there’s an ‘important call’ coming in at any time, not just to play with you.” The
  two children turned to look at mother.
  Cousin Rick has been waiting for this “important call” for a week, and something is always going to irritate him. If he wasn’t “busy” outside—he said he was “busy” in everything he did all day—he was pacing the apartment, like a rooster in a hayfield, nervous, stopping and going, Those wide, anxious eyes glanced between the TV and the phone. He turned off the TV with Christmas carols (he couldn’t stand the “Trucks” show) and didn’t let the lights up (the bright colors reminded him of a “bad trip” and didn’t know that What means). Not even a Christmas tree is allowed now?
  Mom will definitely rebel against him this time. Mum would definitely support them in celebrating Christmas instead of letting her boyfriend get winded every now and then. It must be so.
  Without a word, Mom repackaged the tree and tucked it back into the closet. The next day, Karen saw fake fir trees sticking out of a large trash can near the other side of the building.
  Christmas just pops up here and there—in schools, in stores, on billboards. Also in memory.
  or on TV.
  There’s “The Bradys” on TV right now, and little Cindy is begging Santa at the department store to cure her mother’s laryngitis so she can perform solo at the Christmas service at church. That’s where the sibling rivalry about Santa started.
  ”What a fool.” Karen snorted, and then uttered that blasphemous sentence – driving Ronnie mad.
  ”There’s Santa!” Ronnie yelled from the floor.
  His voice trembled, like he was about to cry. Karen knew he wasn’t hurt by falling off the couch. Their apartment was small, but the floor was covered with a mustard-colored mustard-colored plush carpet, thick and fluffy like a dirty, old sponge.
  No, it was Karen who hurt him, and she didn’t even know why. Ronnie’s belief in Santa irritated her, rubbing her nerves like sandpaper for weeks. She’s a big kid already—almost ten years old—and she knows she should let Ronny have childish fantasies. But the other side of her wanted him to recognize the truth.
  She continued watching “The Bradys” on TV.
  ”Santa is fake,” she said.
  ”He’s real!”
  ”No, he’s fake.”
  ”How did you know that?”
  ”I just knew.”
  ”I asked how did you know?”
  ”I just knew.”
  ”Prove it to me! ‘
  Karen finally looked away from the screen.
  ”You want me to prove it to you? Are you sure?” The
  younger brother looked at her and blinked. Now it’s up to him.
  If he insists on wanting to know, she has to make it clear, right? That’s what sisters are supposed to do – teach children something. Even if these truths make Ronnie miserable, it’s not her fault, is it?
  Ronnie nodded reluctantly.
  ”Okay,” Karen said.
  She walked over and turned off the TV. Replays always have replays, which is why they’re called replays. But the moment of confessing the truth with my brother – it only happens once.
  ”Let’s go.”
  She went to the bedroom where Mom and Cousin Rick had been sharing the past few months. The bedroom door was closed. The door is always closed.
  ”Where are you going?”
  Karen looked back at her brother. “Where did you say I was going?”
  ”But…we can’t get in there.”
  ”Why not? Mom is at the Tigers tonight—she won’t be back for a few hours. You know how Cousin Rick is, too. Looking after us, he’ll show up about five minutes before Mom comes back and pretend he’s been here all day.”

  ”But if he catches us…you remember what he said.”
  Of course Karen remembered—at least the tone of Rick’s words. If he finds out that the siblings mess up his stuff, he’s going to do something… horrific. Karen certainly knew this, even though Rick used some new words she had never heard before.
  ”He won’t catch us,” she said. “We’ll just stay in there for a while.”
  She turned and opened the bedroom door. The bedroom was messy and dark. It’s an adult world.
  She went in.
  Beds – should start here. Karen got down on her knees and pushed her rumpled clothes and cigarette case aside so she could see under the bed. Roller blinds covered the window, but the edge of the window was silvery-gray, just enough to be seen.
  Nothing to see though, just more clutter.
  a shoe. A dad’s aluminum softball racket, mom keeps the “self-defense” one. A People magazine. A torn wrapping paper with “Troy” printed on it.
  A thought popped into Karen’s mind, that she might not be able to find what she was looking for. The thought startled her.
  ”What’s down there?”
  Karen looked back. The younger brother is standing at the door, half in the room and half outside the room.
  She got up and walked towards the closet. To get there, she had to step over a waist-deep pile of dirty laundry.
  Apartments were never like this when Dad was alive. But ever since Mom had to work two jobs — working at the Lawn Devils weeder factory during the day and bartending at the Doll Tiger Bar at night — the home has been a mess.
  Then, Uncle Rick (aka Cousin Rick) shows up, and things don’t just get worse, everything falls apart.
  He showed up to the home out of the blue, like a Christmas present or an Easter egg. He was suddenly there when Karen and Ronnie stumbled sleepily out of their little bedroom one morning. A complete stranger is sitting at the kitchen table, eating their Blueberry Ghost breakfast cereal.
  ”Hey,” Rick said, filling his mouth with cereal, “your mom’s still sleeping.”
  He chewed again absentmindedly – followed by an embarrassing silence for a full minute – as he put down his spoon and stood up.
  ”I don’t even understand how you guys can eat all this rubbish,” he muttered, then stomped his way through the siblings who stayed where they were, into their mother’s bedroom—and closed it. door.
  The bowls left on the table still contained milk and soggy blue muesli. This is his “Rick method” for eating and washing dishes: used bowls, plates, cups, and silver cutlery are dirty, stained with leftovers, and thrown away until all cutlery is used until light. At this point, you can only go to KFC and White Castle burger joints to buy food and eat it straight out of the box.
  Cleaning (never), sleeping (very late), bathing (if someone can smell him stinks)—it didn’t take long for these to be added to the “Rick Method”. Mom also started to adopt the “Rick method”, which made her less and less like her mother day by day.
  Dad used to tell Karen to be wary of “bad influence” at school, and she didn’t understand what Dad meant until she saw the influence Cousin Rick had on Mom. If there was a Santa, she knew what she would wish for him. That fat old man won’t get her wish.
  Santa will deliver coal to the bad guys, but he won’t throw them in an abandoned mine.
  ”What are you looking for?” Ronnie asked, as Karen walked to the closet that Mom and Rick shared.
  ”I’ll show you.”
  But Karen wasn’t sure if her brother could see it. What if you can’t find anything here? Could cousin Rick really change mom so much?
  She pushed open a sliding door in the closet and found her answer.
  ”Come here,” she said.
  She turned to look at her brother and grinned.
  Ronny walked slowly and carefully into the room, as if the floor was not filled with dirty clothes but with scattered landmines. But soon he saw something that made his sister laugh. He squeezed through the piles of wrinkled clothes and ran to the closet.
  ”Death Star! Death Star! Death Star!”
  Ronnie’s hand reached for the box, he wanted to tear open the thick cardboard package with his bare hands, and have the treasure printed on the outer box: Star Wars Death Star Playset. Two weeks ago, he wrote a letter to Santa with the help of his mother, and it was exactly the gift he wanted.
  Ronnie stopped.
  This toy… is in Mom’s closet, along with a Nanfu toy football, a Sean Cassidy album, a Nancy Detective book and a bundle of plastic wraps Good socks and underwear.
  There were also two rolls of brightly colored wrapping paper standing in the corner.
  Karen paid attention to his brother’s expression as he pieced things together. First surprise, then confusion, then disappointment.
  The last is satisfaction.
  Indeed, there is no Santa Claus. But there’s still Christmas…because their mom still loves them.
  Ronnie knelt before the Death Star suit, reverent and reverent like a shepherd in a manger.
  ”Last year, Christmas presents were all under the bed.” Karen knelt beside her brother and picked up Sean Cassidy’s LP – apparently a gift for her, even though it was Rafe she really liked Garrett. “I found it by accident. Mom was cleaning Dad’s clothes and clutter, and I just saw if there was anything I could keep.”
  ”Why didn’t you tell me then?”
  Karen shrugged. “You were too young then, and you were still very sad about your father’s passing.”
  ”I am still very sad about my father’s passing.”
  Ronny leaned over the Death Star suit and began to tug on the sealing tape on the box.
  ”Hey!” his sister yelled, making him shrink back. “Can’t open it, idiot! We weren’t supposed to be here.”
  ”But I want to play,” Ronnie muttered.
  ”You can play after Christmas,” Karen said, not realizing that she was imitating the grown-up’s annoyed tone, the flat, crisp tone. “And don’t forget to look surprised when you unpack.”
  ”Do you want Rick to know we’ve been here?”
  ”He’ll find out.”
  ”But —”
  ”And then, he’ll do it, I promise, he’ll do what he says.”
  Ronny nodded sullenly…and reached for the box again.

  ”But I just want to play.”
  Karen sighed. Intimidation doesn’t always work for Ronnie, and reasoning doesn’t always work. All she needed to do now was to distract him.
  ”Hey, you know what?” she said, “I bet there’s some Christmas present in there too, maybe cooler than your Death Star.”
  Ronnie looked at her suspiciously, what could be better than a Death Star playset Still cool? But he asked, “Really?”
  ”Of course,” Karen said, pointing to the side of the wardrobe that wasn’t in the dark.
  ”It’s inside, don’t block it, we can take a look together.”
  ”Um…” Ronnie stood up from the toy with difficulty, “Okay.”
  Karen also stood up and pushed the sliding door towards her. Pulled here, the other half of the wardrobe is exposed-judging from the casual suits hanging inside, it’s Cousin Rick’s space. But Karen never saw Rick in a suit. He likes to wear a loose, wide-neck polyester shirt with tight white slacks. Mum once explained that he used to be a salesman of some sort, but now he’s a “freelancer” who wears whatever he wants. Later, when the kids asked him what he did, he just smiled and said, “Your Uncle Rick is a desperado.” He was telling a joke, but Karen and Ronnie didn’t catch it. . Seeing they weren’t smiling, Rick told them to go away and play his own way.
  Karen didn’t believe that there were gifts mixed in with his stuff. Still, she pretended to take a look. She put her suit aside, and ripped apart the tassel loafers and smelly sneakers that were piled up on the floor. In about a minute, she could make up a reason for them to leave. Maybe lie about “did you hear footsteps” or something, but get the younger brother out of here before he unpacks the Death Star – and get him out of it entirely.
  ”Hey,” Ronnie said, “what’s that?”
  He points to a dirty Purdue University sweatshirt in the back of the closet. This dress was different from other clothes that were scattered on the floor. It didn’t look like it was taken off and thrown on the ground, but it looked like it was carefully arranged and spread out there.
  Beneath the Purdue logo — a big-chested, fierce-eyed man with a giant hammer — the jersey was tucked in as if trying to cover a potbellied belly.
  There is something under the sweatshirt. Hiding something is perfunctory, like something Rick would do.
  ”Come on,” Ronnie said. “Look.”
  The ghastly figure on the sweatshirt glared at Karen. No doubt he’s stronger than Rick, but the cartoon’s unmistakable contempt looks exactly like Rick’s.
  It was supposed to be a warning that it was too late before they actually “messed up” anything with Rick. Karen knows.
  But she still lifted the clothes with the cartoon characters and threw them aside.
  Below is a box with the words “Fu Le Shen” printed on the lid.
  ”What’s this?”
  ”I think it’s a pair of shoes,” Karen replied.
  The disappointment in her voice startled herself. What was she hoping to find? A Malibu Beach Barbie? Or a pony toy?
  It’s Christmas and Rick bought a new pair of shoes…for himself. For himself, of course. Karen opened the lid.
  ”Wow!” Ronnie exclaimed, leaning behind Karen for a peek. “He really got us Christmas presents!”
  There were no shoes, just a long package the size and shape of a Large piece of fruit cake.
  Ronnie poked with a finger.
  ”It’s a little squishy,” he said. “The packaging is ugly.”
  Most of the Christmas gift packaging is red, green, silver or gold, and this package is wrapped in brown rough paper, which makes people suspect that it has been cut from a shopping bag. The jagged edges and crappy folds are held firmly by long strips of washi tape.
  Karen didn’t know what was in the package, but she was already starting to panic.
  That’s what Rick didn’t want them to mess with. A mushy secret wrapped in plain brown paper. It’s an adult object, full of taboos and shocking.
  Time to go.
  Ronny began to pull on the tape on the package.
  ”Stop!” Karen snapped. “It’s not for us!”
  Her brother was still digging at the tape on one corner with his fingernails. A piece of tape was peeled off.
  ”Hey! I said stop!”
  ”I just glanced, Rick won’t find out.”
  ”No, he will.”
  ”No, he won’t.”
  Karen grabbed the package and jerked . Pull it out of the box. She thought about pushing Ronnie away, securing the tape, and putting everything back in place.
  But the younger brother has torn a lot of tape and can hold it tightly with his hands. When Karen grabbed the package, he gripped the tape in his hand.
  The long tape was torn off and the package opened.
  Then it snowed.
  The slender white powder filled the air, as if still for a while, so dense that Karen and Ronnie couldn’t even see each other. The powder fell slowly, covering the carpet, covering the dirty clothes, covering Karen and Ronnie, covering everything.
  Ronnie was crying when the “blizzard” stopped.
  ”We’re in trouble, aren’t we?” Tears streamed down his white powdery cheeks. “We’re in a big disaster.”
  Karen knows what these powders stand for. She wasn’t sure which one it was – Cocaine? Conch cause? Or Damascus? (It’s cocaine, heroin, and marijuana leaf. – Annotation) – but she’s seen enough of The Rockford Files and Duo to know it’s something bad guys fight for each other .
  She and her brother weren’t just in trouble. They are in danger.
  She felt her lower lip start to tremble, her eyes filled with tears.
  Suddenly someone said, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” Karen was surprised and relieved to find that it was herself.
  Her legs were shaking when she stood up, and she tried not to fight.
  She and Ronnie took care of themselves for a while. Do your own laundry, get up and go to school, prepare your own lunch. What’s different now? Just make the to-do list a little longer:
  clean up the drugs,
  seal the package, and
  . “Don’t move,” she said as she walked toward the door, “and don’t get this white trash into your nose or mouth.”
  ”You want to Where are you going?” Ronnie cried, “Don’t leave me!”
  ”God, don’t be afraid,” Karen said as calmly and condescendingly as she could, “I know what to do.”

  In less than a minute, she was back – with the vacuum cleaner in her hand.
  Karen hooked up the troublesome, long tube, cleaning her brother first. He whimpered and wriggled as the vacuum cleaner picked up the white powder from his clothes and hair, but was soon clean enough to go out to the front window to watch the wind. Whenever he saw Cousin Rick’s dented Dodge Dart pull into the parking lot, he would come and tell his sister. If it really gets to this point, she will…
  she doesn’t know what to do. She just wished she didn’t have to face that situation.
  It took her ten minutes to clean up the white powder. She wanted to scoop it out and put it back in the bag, but one look at the vacuum cleaner bag and she knew it wouldn’t work. This unknown powder, originally pure white, was now mixed with the dust ball and a few strands of long black hair.
  So Karen went to the kitchen and pulled out the muffin mix.
  As she was putting on the last piece of tape, Ronnie exclaimed, “He’s back! He’s back!”
  Two minutes later, Cousin Rick came in through the front door, and he saw Karen and Ronnie on the sofa watching In “Family Off the Line”, Mrs. Brady is singing the Christmas song on the screen: “Come, Religious and Worship.” (“Come Worship” is a hymn written by John Francis Wade and is a Christmas classic It’s a Christmas
  miracle Mrs Brady’s laryngitis is gone.
  Rick shook his shoulders, shook his parka to the floor, and walked over to the TV to tune to the “Bowling Dollar Bounty Show.”
  ”Go outside and play,” he said, sitting down between them. “Important phone calls may come tonight, and I don’t want to see you two hanging around in front of me, making me go
  crazy.” “But it’s cold outside,” Karen said.
  ”And it’s pitch black.” Ronnie added.
  ”So what?” Rick glanced at Karen, who was sitting across the sofa. “Burn a fire or something, I don’t care—what’s that?”
  ”That. Under your eyes.”
  Karen ran her fingers over her face and found something dry on her left cheek , small pieces like chalk gray.
  ”Oh…it must be flour, we were making Christmas cookies at school today.”
  Then Cousin Rick did what he almost never did—he looked straight at her. “Did you bring some back?”
  ”Sorry, we’ve all eaten it up.”
  Rick turned to look at the TV, where a player had just thrown a ditch ball.
  ”Okay, let’s go outside,” he muttered, pulling out his Piccolo lighter and a pack of cigarettes. “Get out, I have something to do.”
  Karen and Ronnie jumped off the sofa to get their coats. This time they didn’t complain at all.
  ”Karen?” Ronnie called as they walked aimlessly in the parking lot.
  ”What’s next?”
  Karen shrugged. “I don’t know either.”
  ”Do you think he’ll find out?”
  Probably. No, it definitely will. Sooner or later. Karen thinks so.
  She looked up. Tonight the sky is cloudless and the stars are lit silently, not a single one shimmering or flickering like a few holes in the huge black curtain of the sky.
  In the past, when she was as young as Ronnie, she often made wishes to the stars. She also believes in Santa Claus. same. Equally futile.
  But it doesn’t hurt either, does it?
  She chose a star to make a wish.
  ”He won’t find out,” she said. “Everything will be fine.”
  The door was opened and closed, and the boys turned to see Rick walking toward them, fast and firm.
  He parked next to the car.
  ”Finally waited for the call – that important call,” he said, sounding nervous but excited. “I’m going out for a while. Tell your mom to wait for me, don’t sleep, and I’ll come back and celebrate outside with her.”
  He got into the car, and Karen noticed something tucked under his left arm.
  that shoe box.
  ”Goodbye, Cousin Rick!” Karen yelled. “Goodbye!”
  She and Ronnie walked to the sidewalk and waved him off as he drove away until the taillights slowly turned into tiny dots in the distance, then disappeared. Without a trace.
  Poor mom had a bad Christmas. Worried, she paced up and down, and ran to the city center to fill out a missing person registration form. But Karen knew that Mommy was going to get better soon, and it was going to get better and better. They would all be — Mom, Ronnie and herself.
  For the first time in a long time, Karen was no longer just silently wishing, she was beginning to believe that the wish would actually come true.