As the sun sets, a teenage boy gathers coal from the side of a railway track. He’d climbed onto one of the trucks of a slow-moving freight train and opened its side door, spilling its precious payload.
He might get caught, but he doesn’t care; he will be warm tonight.
Coal theft is not uncommon among the poor areas of Poland’s Upper Silesia region, where Daniel teaches English as a foreign language.
Although his disheveled appearance causes many to avert their gaze, the slightest inkling of a past life emanates, weakly, for those that dare to look.
Sitting on the concrete ground, with back against the wall and hat in hand, his cardboard sign simply reads: WE FALL, KINGS AND COMMON ALIKE.
Eldar is in awe of how incredibly thin the line really is.
“Santa favors the wealthy,” his father told him.
So when spoiled brats got all twenty things on their wish lists, poor Timothy wasn’t surprised.
Tim knew the superstition: if you are bad, Santa gives you a lump of coal.
He shivered next to the dying fire, wishing for some coal.
Three months until Christmas seems too long for Jason, whose only wish is to have less homework.
Two souls waited to be born.
I will be a beautiful girl, said the first, born into wealth.
I will be a lonely boy, said the second, abused and abandoned.
But why? asked first.
Because I’ll learn more in my few years of hardship than in your lifetime of privilege.
Daniel Wilson lives in the foothills of North Carolina with his wife and children.
I turned back to get my notebook; I did not want another wasted day.
Yesterday, I’d seen an old woman licking catsup and mustard splotches off discarded McDonald’s wrappers on the Embarcadero, and I had not written any of it up; I did not have my notebook.
Well, never again.
Charles D. Tarlton is a retired politics professor now trying to write stories and poems.
On Christmas Eve, a young lad wandered the streets of New York. He was well dressed, only because he knew how to care for what few possessions he had.
People asked for money and he refused politely but still earned glares.
Instead, he used his pennies for a birthday candle.
Jeremy Quinn hopes to write more in the future, but for now resigns himself to doing the occasional Pokémon fanfiction.