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From The Ashes

We'd never had a Christmas tree before. At least, not a real one. Dad always refused to spend money on anything he couldn't piss up a wall on his way back from the bar. So Mum would make us one out of cardboard.

When I close my eyes I can still see her: lips slightly parted, tip of her tongue touching what my younger sister refers to as her Bugs Bunny Teeth, while she drew the tree's shape on the side of a box. Occasionally she'd stick out her bottom lip to puff an errant strand of hair from her eyes.

When one tree shape was ready, she'd cut it out and use it to trace out another. Then she'd cut a small slit down the middle of each - one middle to top, the other middle to bottom - and slot the two together.

And that was our tree. We'd decorate it with paper-chains, and baubles made from milk-bottle tops. But the real prize was the angel. It was the only thing that wasn't homemade; a real store-bought angel with a lace dress and gossamer wings.

When Mum died, Dad threw it away. He threw all her stuff into a pile in the back yard and burned it. I watched from the kitchen while he knelt in front of the bonfire, his shoulders shaking.

The next day he emptied his whisky down the sink. Then he made us breakfast.

He bought a tree this year. When Jenny asked where the angel was, Dad told her that Mum had taken it back up to heaven, that we didn't need it anymore because Mum was our angel now.

On Christmas morning it was sitting on top of the tree.

But I know he burned it.

I know it.

Story by:

Gary Walker

submitted at 5:59pm

5 March 2012