Matching Pair

The editors at Banana Pitch welcome this story by writer Graham Culbertson. His works provoke and intrigue. He leaves readers questioning, pondering, smiling. You can find more Culbertson on his website, www.therotor.net, where he critiques films we’ve never seen but now we must. Follow him on @the_rotor and stay tuned for more…..And now we present you with:

A Matching Pair

by

Graham Culbertson

Daphne had made it 26 years without buying gloves and still could not decide what was the most appropriate color for winter. She scanned rows of oranges, blues, reds, yellows, and greens hanging from the wall and then glanced at the wall-sized posters hanging around the store. How do you holiday? questioned photoshopped models, rappers, hockey players and actresses posed in snowstorms of perfect white, their bright clothing popping out of the flurry. Even the snow surrounding each face seemed to glow in a different tone, highlighting each model’s personal brand of cheer.

How do you holiday?

She thought of the plastic Christmas tree her parents planted in front of the window, where it stared out at palm trees that basked, not in blinking holiday lights, but in the warm glow of morning sun. The plastic tree didn’t even pretend to be natural – it was off-white with the occasional blackish lines where paint had been worn off over time. An overly jubilant celebrant might have been able to pretend it was a tree covered in heavy snowfall, although an overly jubilant celebrant would probably never have bought such a lackluster item.

How do you holiday?

She looked down at her hands. First, she looked to the right, with its five slender fingers and its cute freckle that punctuated the nice spot below her pinky and ring finger. Her favorite freckle, perfectly accenting the pale space between her lightly-creased knuckles and her delicate wrist. She looked to her left hand, with its five perfectly shaped, perfectly aligned fingers. Then its sixth finger, a bothersome growth that hung fat and limp from the side of her hand. That nauseating extra finger – though not much of a disability, or even a burden, was simply unsightly and strange. It did not even come with the benefit of a little social currency – not respect nor personality nor even pity! It only came with that brief alarm in someone’s eyes when they finally noticed it weeks, months, sometimes even years after first meeting her. A brief look of surprise at errant growth that immediately disappeared beneath a perfectly composed face – glassy eyes and perhaps even a faint hint of a smile.

How do you holiday?

The stunted pine tree in front of her apartment complex sprung into her mind. She remembered looking at it that morning as she got into her car and thinking that it was her first natural Christmas tree. And how fitting too – it was now bent over by a blast of blackened slush shot from another tenant’s truck tires. She wanted to saw it off and bring it inside – partly to protect it, partly to hide it, partly to show her Christmas spirit.

She looked back at the poster over her head-at the giant yellow hands poking out of pink knit sleeves- then looked back at her options – blue, orange, red, yellow, green. How do I holiday? She racked her brain, but could only think of the dumpy slush spackled tree in front of her complex. She looked closely at the green gloves. They weren’t pine green, but that was no surprise. Pine green was too serious, too old, too penitent. They were a lime green – playful, young, irreverent. Still, they were green, and she had decided that green was the way she holidayed.

She grabbed a pair with her right hand and looked at the label. Small. Sure, she looked from glove to hand. Small.

When she got to her complex, her tree was gone. On its stump sat a lit-up three-foot tall Santa with glassy eyes and a familiar faint hint of a smile peeking out of a large white beard. That, like the tree, had been spackled with dirty slush that had melted down its jovial red attire leaving behind dirty streaks.

She frowned and then hustled past it, bags in tow. Once she was in her apartment, she took out the pair of gloves. First, she tried on the right. Snug. And then she tried to pull on the left. Snag. She looked down at the glove straining against the point where the stubborn little growth met the side of her hand. She looked back up and stared at her apartment – the living room still cluttered with moving boxes. An open Christmas card from her uncle sat on top of one of them. She sighed and pushed the finger inside of her glove.

After successfully getting both on, she held her gloved hands out in front of her. The right one – exuberantly lime green, fit and snappy with all the unending spunk of a young teenager. The left one – nauseatingly lime green, chunky and silly with all the strained happiness of an expecting mother. She took the gloves off, threw them in the bag, and began to make dinner.

She laid out some carrots. Each one was even and perfectly cylindrical. She held them down with her left hand and began to chop with her right. Through the window, she could see the Santa sitting on its stump, silently greeting the other tenants as they came home. When she looked back down, the knife stood poised over the sixth finger.

She set down the knife and again stared out at the smiling Santa. Where had they put that tree? She scanned the yard, but couldn’t see it anywhere. She imagined the tree standing in a giant forest green dumpster and then imagined herself lying underneath it. She felt the bark over her breast, her hair in its needles, her face lost in its canopy. From where she was lying, she could see the Santa perched on the edge of the dumpster, looking down at her with its glassy stare. It smiled at her, but could not see her. Only her shining holiday beauty was left.

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