Paulo was unhappy. He left the house very early in the morning of Christmas day. He rode his bike and drove on top speed to the park. Once there, he drove slowly and aimlessly. There were very few people today. The residents of the subdivision were probably off to the mall to celebrate Christmas.
Suddenly, Paulo felt sad. Contrary to what he had been feeling earlier yesterday, he was in a sour mood. He was very disappointed with his father. Paulo got off and walked his bike while looking for something to sit on. He saw a pale boy sitting on a bench under a tree. The boy looked friendly enough, so Paulo approached him.
“Hi! May I sit with you?” Paulo asked.
“Sure..” the pale boy answered in a feeble voice.
Paulo sat but said nothing. The pale boy seemed to prefer to be quiet as well. Paulo started to get curious but he felt that the boy wasn’t going to say anything so he tried to start a conversation.
“My name is Paulo, what’s yours?”
“Dennis..” the boy answered and smiled.
Paulo was about to speak again when another boy approached. The new arrival wasn’t really dirty but he wasn’t really clean either. And of the three of them, he was the one wearing the boyish expression appropriate for his age.
“Happy New Year..” he greeted as he neared.
“Happy New Year..” Dennis replied.
The new boy circled the bench apparently looking for something.
“What are you looking for?” Paulo asked, naturally curious.
“Plastic cup, paper bag, tin can, soda bottle.. anything..” answered the boy without looking at them.
“You mean… trash?” asked Paulo.
The boy threw him a hurt look and spoke sharply.
“For you, maybe, because you are rich. But for us.. trash is lunch..” answered the boy defensively.
“You eat trash?!” Paulo asked horrified.
The boy’s expression changed from hurt to angry..
“We might be poor, but we don’t eat dirt..” he said with his fist clenched.
“But you just said…” started Paulo..
“What he means is.. he is looking for something, anything, he could sell, then, he would buy himself some lunch with the money..” explained Dennis with patience beyond his years.
“Not just for myself but for my sister…” added the boy, the trace of anger starting to disappear from his face.
“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to make you mad. I’m Paulo, by the way, and this is Dennis..”
“I’m Billy..” the boy answered..
“So, is it true? You sell trash.. I mean plastic and paper so you would have something to eat for lunch?” asked Paulo, who, again, could not contain his curiosity.
“Usually.. Too bad there’s not much today. Why are you up here so early, by the way? I come here everyday at this hour but this is the first time there’s someone here before me…” asked Billy.
“I don’t know about him.. “ Paulo pointed at Dennis.. “but I’m upset with my parents that’s why I came here..”
“I needed air..” Dennis explained briefly.
“You came all the way here to get some air?” Billy asked incredulously. ”Isn’t air everywhere? Why did you need to come here? And you?” Billy pointed his chin at Paulo without waiting for Dennis to reply.. “what were you upset about your parents for? Aren’t parents supposed to make everything alright for kids?”
“They didn’t get me my wish for Christmas. That’s what…”
Billy sat down beside Paulo…
“So, you have a Christmas wish? What was it?” Billy asked with sincere interest in his eyes.
“Yes.. what was it?” echoed Dennis just as interested as Billy.
“I wanted a new DS Nintendo for Christmas because my PSP has gone old but my parents got me an x-box. An x-box!! How am I supposed to take it anywhere I go?” exclaimed Paulo.
“A toy? You wanted a toy for Christmas? And you were upset with your parents because they got you something you couldn’t take anywhere?” Billy shook his head. “Do you want to know my Christmas wish?”
“What??” asked Paulo and Dennis in unison.
“I wish that my father would find a job and my mother would get well, she’s been sick for a long time now. So, it’s up to me and my sister to find ourselves some food. Every morning, I get up and look for something, anything I could sell so I could buy me and my sister some food and my mother some medicine…”
Paulo suddenly felt ashamed. He wanted a toy while Billy and his sister wanted some food..
“How about you? What was your Christmas wish?” Billy asked Dennis.
Dennis smiled and answered…
“Time for what?” asked Paulo.
“To live… “
Paulo stared at Dennis trying to fathom what the pale boy meant by his wish..
“You mean.. you’re dying?” said Billy. He couldn’t believe that such a young person would be dying anytime soon.
“Yes.” Dennis answered very briefly. “So, what games do you have in your x-box?”
Then, the three boys talked about games and toys until Dennis’ father came to take him home. Paulo, Dennis and Billy agreed to meet again on New Year’s Day. But Dennis didn’t make it. He was rushed to the hospital and he wasn’t expected to live much longer. His father explained as he handed each boy a bag on New Year’s day.
In Billy’s bag, he found a whole roasted chicken and two pairs of clothes, one for him and one for Nica and a calling card with a note at the back to call Dennis’ father if Billy’s father still needs a job.
In Paulo’s bag was Dennis’ slightly used DS Nintendo with a note ‘to remember me by’.
Dennis’ wish may not have come true but he made sure that his friends’ wishes have.
(Original story by the blog author. Any similarities with other stories, fiction or otherwise are purely incidental.)