Jimmy Christmas Is Dead
Thomas Mundt

Today is a sad day at Carl Sandburg High School because Jimmy Christmas is dead. Some kids think he died of the swine flu because he missed a few days last week, but he didn't. He died because he had a part-time job.
Jimmy was one of those guys that hold the Slow Down sign for construction zones. He had a shift on Saturday afternoon and got clipped by a Passat trying to make a light on Route 45. He went face-first into a sinkhole full of jagged rocks, probably caught one in the eye. His folks are having a closed-casket wake tomorrow night.
Still, there are a bunch of kids wearing those stupid particle masks to school today. Just to be safe, they say. I want to make fun of them, ask them if they think they're Michael Jackson or something. Because I think that's something Jimmy would've done.
Ms. Nguyen says we can use our entire homeroom period to talk about Jimmy. She says it's important for us to establish an open and honest dialogue, so we can begin the healing process. She has us push our desks into a big circle. Then she grabs an eraser and holds it up so we can all see. She says the eraser is now the Talking Eraser, and whoever wants to say something about Jimmy has to wait until he or she has been passed the Talking Eraser. Think of it as a microphone, she says.
Dan Pascarella has the Talking Eraser first. He says he didn't know Jimmy at all but it sucks he's dead. Then he passes the Talking Eraser to Amit Patel. Amit says he liked Jimmy because he knew what was important in the world. He knew that kids should talk about the public option and Green Initiatives and LGBT issues instead of Facebook and Lil Wayne all the time. Then someone asks Amit what's wrong with Lil Wayne. Then someone else says Lil Wayne can't rap for shit and that The Killers are way better. Then someone says The Killers aren't a rapper and pretty soon everybody's yelling and Ms. Nguyen steps in and takes back the Talking Eraser. Then she asks us to remember that we're talking about Jimmy and that Lil Wayne and The Killers are irrelevant unless they in some way, shape, or form relate back to him. We tell her we understand and the Talking Eraser gets passed around again.
When it's my turn with the Talking Eraser, I tell everyone how I think it's cool that Jimmy's favorite restaurant was The Cheesecake Factory. I talk about how we used to go all the way to Woodfield Mall just to go there, even though Orland Mall's way closer. After the class agrees that Orland's food court sucks, I tell everyone that we'd always end our trip by splitting a piece of cheesecake because that's all we could afford after buying stuff. When I tell the class that we always got the same kind, the Chocolate Peanut Butter, my eyes start to sting a little bit and I feel like I'm about to cry. Then I remember that the whole class is looking and I control myself.   
When Civics lets out I run into Jimmy's sister Denise in the hallway. I notice that she's holding a hockey jersey with J. Christmas stitched on the back. I ask her what the jersey's for and she tells me the hockey team made it for Jimmy. They told Denise her family could hang it up at the wake and have kids sign it or something. When I tell Denise that I don't remember Jimmy ever being on the hockey team or watching the Blackhawks on TV or anything like that, she starts to cry. I can barely understand what she's saying because she's gurgling and she's got snot dripping from her nose but I think it's something about how people are fucking idiots. Then she leaves without saying goodbye. When she gets to the end of the hallway, I see her throw the jersey in the garbage. Then some kid drops half a Pizza Boat in there, right on top of it.
On the bus ride home, I think about Jimmy and what people will miss the most about him. I think it's his hair. He really did have terrific hair. It just looked so soft, like he had a black velvet pillow taped to his head. Natural, too. You could tell he didn't have to use a lot of product to make it stand up tall like that. The Christmases must have great hair genes. Denise had, has, great hair, too.
Weird. I said had, like Denise is also dead.

Thomas Mundt is an editor at the Chicago journal, Make. He's had stories in 3:AM, Nano Fiction, Dogzplot and others.

To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201004jc.htm

Detail of illustration on main page courtesy of Max Estes.

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