The House Without a Christmas Tree

The House Without a Christmas Tree by Gail Rock

Book: The House Without a Christmas Tree by Gail Rock Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gail Rock
Chapter One
    Carla Mae and I were sitting in our little kitchen at the old wooden table, with our spoons poised in mid-air. In front of each of us was a hard-boiled egg perched in an egg cup. We both stared intently at the faces we had drawn on our eggs. The longer the stare, the better the hex.
    â€œWho’s yours today?” she asked.
    â€œBilly Wild,” I said, making a face. “Who’s yours?”
    â€œMine’s Delmer Doakes,” she answered, still staring at her egg.
    â€œReady?” I whispered.
    â€œReady!” said Carla Mae, and we both smashed our spoons down in unison on the poor eggheads. I crunched Billy a good one, but at the last second Carla Mae hesitated, and only gave Delmer’s pointy head a firm tap.
    â€œYou chickened out!” I said. “You’re supposed to smack him!”
    Carla Mae blushed. “Well, I just like to do it all over in little bitty cracks, like he has wrinkles,” and she daintily tapped all around the sides of her egg until Delmer looked 107 years old.
    â€œOh, you just don’t want to smash Delmer because you like him,” I said disgustedly, and gave my egg another smash, knocking the top right off.
    â€œYeah, well, you like Billy Wild too,” Carla Mae said in her ickiest voice. “You’re always looking at him in class.”
    â€œI am not! I just look at him to stick out my tongue. I think he’s a rotten creep!”
    â€œAdelaide!” said my Grandmother from across the kitchen. “Such talk!”
    Carla Mae and I giggled, and dug into our eggs. Carla Mae was ten years old too, and my best friend in the fifth grade. Her family had moved in next door to us two years ago, in 1944, and now we were inseparable. We always walked to and from school together, and often ate lunch with each other.
    Carla Mae’s family had opened up a whole new world to me. I was an only child, but she had five younger brothers and sisters and another on the way. I learned about diapers and bottles, and that mothers shouldn’t climb ladders when they are pregnant, and about eating horrible things for lunch like ketchup and mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread, and how to fight off five other people if you wanted to play with the electric train set, and that if you had a big family, someone always walked in on you when you were in the bathroom and that it didn’t matter.
    I loved the uproar, and I always felt lonely when I went home to our quiet house. Carla Mae already liked boys, and I pretended to share her enthusiasm, though I really thought it was kind of dumb. She taught me to swear, and I helped her with arithmetic.
    She liked coming to my house because it was the opposite of hers. It was small, only a four-room bungalow, and almost threadbare, but it was quiet and orderly, and my grandmother always fixed a hot lunch for us. She was especially fond of feeding us eggs, which she thought were good for what ailed you, and which we didn’t much like. The face-drawing was intended to make egg-eating more interesting, and like a lot of Grandma’s eccentric ideas, it worked very well.
    When we were at Carla Mae’s house we made our own lunch from whatever we could find in the refrigerator. We would fix Dagwood sandwiches dripping with sardines and peanut butter and cheese and brown sugar and pickled shrimp and every other thing we could find—horrible, delicious combinations. Her mother was too busy changing diapers and warming bottles to notice.
    But this particular December day we were having lunch at my house because we needed to have a serious discussion about Christmas shopping. It was only a week before Christmas, and Friday would be our last day of school before vacation. That was the big day when we exchanged presents in our class, and we each had to buy a present for the person whose name we had drawn.
    The names were to be kept secret, but Carla Mae and I always told each other everything,

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