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A Phoenix Fiction Writer Rising From The Ashes of Nonfiction



How  The  Marines  Saved  Xmas 
by Michael T. Martin

Do you remember how cold it was last winter? Well, it was a little too cold. It caused a really big problem. Timmy, my little brother, noticed it first. "There's not going to be a Christmas!" he shrieked after running into my room.

I just rolled my eyes. "Timmy, you twit, of course there's going to be a Christmas."

"No there isn't."

"Timmy, there's a Christmas every year," I explained in my best big brother voice, "You go to the stores and tell Santa Claus what you want and the stores pay him to make deliveries."

"But what if they don't?"

"They do it every year. Everybody plans on Christmas and it's on all the calendars so ...."

"It's not there." said Timmy with a scared little voice, "It's not on the calendar where it's supposed to be."

He was starting to bug me. Sometimes I wish I didn't have a little brother. "Timmy, it's on the calendar, like Easter, only it stays in one place. Maybe you're thinking of Easter. Easter is hard to find sometimes. It jumps around on the calendar. Sometimes it's in one month, sometimes in a different month."

"It isn't there!" said Timmy, near tears, "I checked the calendar and it's not there."

"Oh good grief," I sighed. "I'll show you. Where's the calendar?"

I don't usually have a calendar hanging around. If I need to know what date it is, I just ask somebody. Somebody always knows the date. I went looking for Mom. "Mom" I yelled, "where's a calendar?"

Nobody answered, which was unusual because I almost always get answered by somebody. I was trying to decide whether to pay attention to nobody when Timmy grabbed my hand.

"Don't pay any attention to him," said Timmy, "I've got one in my room."

So we went to Timmy's room to look at the calendar. It was on the floor, with January showing and somebody in a bikini above it. I knew it was somebody because I had asked my Dad who it was and he had said, "Somebody." I guess because somebody can always tell you what the date is they put her picture on the calendar. My Dad said she had all the dates she wanted. But I needed to look at December, so I flipped up the pages.

"December!" I announced when I came to it, "Now, the twenty-fifth is Christmas." I pointed my finger at the big twenty-five on the page.

"It doesn't say it's Christmas."

He was right. "Well, maybe this calendar doesn't show all the holidays." I replied.

"It shows Easter, and Halloween. It should show Christmas."


"There's no Christmas this year." said Timmy sadly.

"We'll have to ask Mom." I replied.

"Maaaaahhhhhhhmmmmmmm," I yelled. I could hear her say she was busy down the hall. "Maaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhmmmmmmmm!"

Mom came into the room. "What do you want?"

"Timmy says there's no Christmas this year, and I can't find it on the calendar."

"Who's Timmy?" asked Mom.

"Timmy's my younger brother." I exclaimed.

"You don't have a younger brother." said Mom, looking at me over the top of her glasses.

"Well, you wouldn't get me a younger brother, so I made one up."

"Oh," said Mom, rolling her eyes.

"And he was right!" I exclaimed.

"Who was right?"

"Timmy was right!"

"He was right about what?" asked Mom, rolling her eyes.

"There's no Christmas on the calendar." I practically screamed.

"You sure? Christmas always happens the same date, not like Easter," she said, "Easter's always moving around so you can't find it."

"No, Mom, it's Christmas!"

I showed her the December page of the calendar with my finger pointing at the big twenty-five all by itself with no little writing next to it that said Christmas.

"Hmmmmm." she said, "Maybe this calendar doesn't show all the holidays."

"I already thought of that, but it shows Easter and Halloween, or at least Timmy says it does."


"Look for yourself!"

Mom took the calendar and turned to the calendar page marked "October", right next to the big thirty-one, it said "Halloween". She turned to "July" and right next to the four it said "Independence Day."

"Nobody told me there was no Christmas this year." Mom said.

"HE DID?" I jumped up yelling. "Nobody already told you there was no Christmas?"

"Well, nobody said there wasn't going to be a Christmas." Mom replied.

"Did he tell you why not?"

"I don't remember."

"Well, let's ask him!" I ran across the hall to dive onto the floor next to my bed. I pulled away the ruffles so I could see underneath.

"What are you doing?" asked Mom, looking in from the hallway.

"I was going to ask nobody, but he isn't there." I replied.

"Why are you looking under your bed?"

"Last night when I was afraid a monster was under my bed, you told me that nobody was under my bed," I replied, "but now there's only dustballs."

"Hmmmmm, I thought for sure he was there," said Mom, "We'll call your father and ask him."

My Mom picked up the telephone in the hall, called Dad, and told him that Christmas was not on the calendar. I only heard half the conversation:

"No, I said Christmas, I know Easter moves all over the calendar," said Mom into the phone, "but Christmas is supposed to be December 25 every year."

Mom paused, "Well, look at your calendar then," another pause, "no, we thought of that, look at Halloween and Independence Day."

There was a long pause.

"I don't care how much money we will save," said Mom, "there's supposed to be a Christmas every year. Nobody told me there was not going to be a Christmas this year, but I thought he was mistaken. You'd think it would be in the newspaper or on television or something. This is terrible, maybe you should get out of the phone and help us."

So my Dad climbed out of the phone, kissed Mom, and put his work stuff away. "What made you start thinking about Christmas now?" Dad asked me.

"It was Timmy." I said, "He found out about it and told me."

"Timmy?" asked Dad, looking over the top of his glasses.

"Timmy's my younger brother." I exclaimed.

"You don't have a younger brother." said Dad, rolling his eyes as he looked at Mom.

"Don't ask," said Mom.

"Timmy found out it was missing and told me and I told Mom." I continued.

"Timmy found out what was missing." asked Dad.

"Christmas!" I shouted. "Christmas is missing from the calendar. There's not going to be a Christmas this year!"

"Not so fast," replied Dad. "There must be some explanation. Did you check to see if maybe they combined it with Chanukah and called it Christukah or Chanukmas?"

My mother glared at my father. Dad jumped back, "Oh, I guess you're right, they wouldn't do that." He shook his head looking puzzled. "Well, we'll call the government and complain!"

Dad grabbed the phonebook off of the table and flipped through some pages. Mom looked over his shoulder and asked "Well, who should we call?"

"I don't know," replied Dad, "Some poobah in charge of holidays I suppose." Dad ran his finger down a column of phone numbers in the book. "Aha, here it is!" he announced. "Poobah in charge of holidays." He grabbed the phone and started dialing.

Dad stood with the phone to his ear for a few moments and then looked puzzled again. He looked at his phone, then listened again, then hung up. "It said if you are calling about Easter press the star key; if you are calling about the Fourth of July press the octothorpe; if you are calling about Christmas press the ampersand."

"Octothorpe?" asked Mom.

"The pound sign," said Dad.

"So why did you hang up?" I asked. "Press the amber sand!"

"There," said Dad slowly, "is no ampersand on the phone."

We all looked at each other for a minute without talking. I took a closer look at the phone. There were only numbers with a star key and pound sign, no amber sand or whatever.

"That's government for you." said Dad. "Nobody can get help when you really need it."

"He can?" I exclaimed. Dad looked at me funny. I shouted at Timmy, "Quick, Timmy, Mom said nobody was under my bed last night so maybe we can find him there tonight." Timmy nodded and we went running for my bedroom. "Dad said nobody'll help us."

It was a little early to go to bed, but if we went to bed early maybe we could wake up early enough to be sure nobody was under my bed. Timmy decided to sleep in his room so I went to sleep by myself.

It wasn't even light outside when I awoke.

"Who's under my bed?" I called out. Nobody answered.

"Oh good, Dad said you can get help from the government when you really need it. We really need it because if we don't get help, there won't be any Christmas."

Nobody told me how to find the government building downtown. When you get there, he said, just ask somebody for the office of the Poobah in charge of holidays. He said to take the calendar with somebody's picture on it so I would recognize her. I woke Timmy and we left without eating breakfast.

The government building was just like nobody had said. I saw somebody in the lobby. I recognized her from the picture on the calendar. She took us up the elevator to meet the Poobah in charge of holidays. At a door with "Poobah" engraved in a gold plaque she motioned Timmy and I inside. Somebody said she had to go put more clothes on, so she left us alone in the office. The Poobah motioned for us to sit in these big chairs in front of his desk.

The desk was as big as my bed at home. It had a telephone and a computer at one end, and a potted palm plant at the other end. We climbed up into the large chairs and faced the Poobah. Timmy and I could barely see over the top of the big desk.

"What happened to Christmas?" I asked firmly. "We looked and it's not on the calendar this year."

The Poobah leaned forward on his elbows to speak to us. "Yes, well, we had to cancel it this year."

"You can't cancel Christmas!" I exclaimed. "It's my favorite holiday."

"Well, we didn't want to cancel it either, but it's because of the holly shortage." said the Poobah, spinning a pencil in his hands. "Christmas is such a big holiday you need lots of holly to celebrate it, but the cold snap last winter killed most of it, and there just wasn't enough for Christmas. You can't have a holiday without holly."

"You can't?" I asked.

"No, silly, there's a minimum requirement or it wouldn't be a holiday. If we don't have enough, we have to cancel the holidays," said the Poobah, "We've usually got enough but some years we can run short and have to plug in another whole growing day in February and call it a leap year. It all depends on the cold snap. We always have more than enough holly for the smaller holidays, but the bigger ones are hard to estimate."

"You mean this happens all the time?"

"Oh, well, usually we don't have as bad a cold snap as last year, so we only have to wait until we can grow enough holly to cover all of the holidays. Occasionally we might have to postpone Easter a little bit. That's why it moves around on the calendar, you know."

"I wondered about that," I replied.

"But, last year was a real doozy. So we decided that since Christmas was the biggest holiday, if we cancelled Christmas we would have enough holly for all of the other holidays. It was the easiest way to solve of the problem."

"But you can't cancel Christmas," Timmy yelled, "that's when I get all my toys!"

"Hmmmmmm," said the Poobah looking around the room, "now that you mention it, we forgot about that. We adults don't get many toys for Christmas you know."

"But if there's no Christmas," I pleaded, "I won't get any new toys this year."

"Well, uh," said the Poobah with concern on his face, "maybe I can get you some toys. That will take care of that."

"But what about Timmy," I cried out, "and all the other kids?"

"Who's Timmy?"

"And what about Santa Claus?" I continued, "What is he going to do?"

"Actually, we told him he could take a vacation this year," said the Poobah. "He kind of liked the idea. He's taking the elves to the beach."

"He can't take a vacation!" I screamed, standing up on my chair, "He has to deliver the toys!"

"Well, actually, because of the vacation, we told the elves not to make any toys this year."

"YOU WHAT?" I jumped onto the Poobah's desk.

"Now, now, settle down," said the Poobah, "maybe we can figure something out."

He furrowed his brow and thought for a minute.

"How about some candy?" he said suddenly, "We always have candy left over from Halloween. We could give you candy instead of toys."

"Candy?" I protested, "I want toys for Christmas, not candy."

"Hmmmmm," said the Poobah, frowning.

"Maybe if we used plastic holly," said Timmy.

"Don't be stupid, Timmy," I said rolling my eyes.

"What was that?" asked the Poobah.

"It was Timmy, he said we could use plastic holly."

"Timmy?" asked the Poobah looking around the room.

"He's my younger brother."

"Must be a little guy," said the Poobah looking across his desk, "I can't see him."

"Well," I started to explain.

"He may be on to something though," said the Poobah with a start.

"I don't really have...," I continued.

"THAT'S IT!" exclaimed the Poobah, smacking himself on the forehead with his palm.

"That's what?" I asked.

"Plastic Holly!" said the Poobah. "Why didn't I think of that?" He began brushing off the dirt and palm leaves that went flying when he hit himself in the forehead with the palm.

"If we used plastic holly for some things here and there, you know, up high where people can't really tell," said the Poobah, "we might be able to save just enough holly for Christmas."

"Plastic holly?" I asked, brushing off the dirt that fell out of the pot on me. There was dirt all over my face, in my hair, and on my shirt. Timmy was brushing it out of his hair.

"Of course! We can have Christmas after all!" said the Poobah jumping to his feet, "It will be a close call, but fortunately you found out about this early enough. We can start a holly saving program and start using plastic holly immediately. By Christmas we will have saved enough for a regular holiday. It will take work, but we can handle it."

He was all excited and ignored the cut on his forehead and the dirt all over his suit. He picked up the telephone.

"What about the toys?" I asked, "You told Santa Claus to take a vacation."

"Well, we'll just cancel his vacation."

"Yeah, but," I started to point out.

"But, what?"

"But you told the elves not to make any toys this year." I kicked his stapler onto the floor.

"Well, I'll cancel that order too! We'll put the elves back to work immediately."

"There won't be time. Even if you cancel their vacation they won't have time to make enough toys."

The Poobah looked a little shocked. He put down the phone and started pacing back and forth.

"Well," said the Poobah turning to me suddenly, "don't you have enough toys already? We can rescue Christmas, but ...."

"I want NEW toys," I interrupted, jumping up and down. "I'm a year older now. I need new toys."

"Well," said the Poobah, scowling again, "that does make it difficult ... WAIT!"

"Weight? I never thought of it that way," I answered, "about forty or fifty pounds of toys I guess."

"Not weight. Wait," said the Poobah. "Oh, now you made me lose my train of thought, where was I?"

I pointed. "You were pacing back and forth over there,"

The Poohbah started pacing back and forth again.

"Why don't you send in the Marines!" Timmy suggested.

"The Marines?" I asked.

"Sure," Timmy said. "Dad always says whenever there's a government crisis they should just send in the Marines."

Dad did say that a lot, almost every night when he watched the television news.

The Poobah stopped pacing and stood wide-eyed with his finger pointing at the ceiling. "The Marines!" he exclaimed. "Of course, yes, they could do it. We'll call it Toys For Kids, or something. The Marines can collect unused toys for Santa to deliver!"

I looked at the Poobah, then back at Timmy, then at the Poobah again. "The Marines?"

The Poobah picked up his phone. "Of course! The Marines. We'll have them scour the country for extra toys lying around and collect them all for Christmas. The elves can work double shifts on new toys but the Marines can get there first by collecting toys all around the country for Santa Claus to deliver." The Poobah barked into the phone: "Get me the President."

Well, I was so happy about that, I jumped off of his desk. Timmy and I slapped high fives. Thanks to Timmy, the Marines were going to save Christmas. Maybe having a little brother isn't so bad after all. He had a big smile on his face. "Oh boy, I hope the Marines find a baseball mitt for me!"

"Well, Timmy," I replied. "It depends a lot on what they find around the country. They'll be rounding up everything they can. Maybe a baseball mitt will be lying around somewhere."

I knew it would be tough this year. We might not be able to get all the toys we wanted, but if everybody helps the Marines, maybe we'll get lucky. The Poobah was still on the phone telling the President to call out the Marines when Timmy and I walked out of the Poobah's office and headed for home.

You will probably hear about it on the news sometime around Christmas. The Marines will be collecting toys in your town. Maybe they will do it every year from now on so Santa Claus can take the elves to the beach for a vacation. But nobody will know it was Timmy and I who really saved Christmas. You can ask Timmy yourself.


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