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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Countdown to Christmas/Advent (10/23/08)

TITLE: Miguel's Christmas Tree
By Lyn Ruth
10/29/08


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It was another day in Payatas, a dumpsite in Quezon City, Philippines. Ten-year-old Miguel woke up very early. He looked outside the window of his shanty. The piles of garbage were like mountains blocking the rays of the sun from his sight. He could smell the stench of rotten food, human waste and decaying dead animals. But Miguel is used to all of these odors. He was born in this place. He knew no other home except Payatas. He had no ambition nor did he understand anything about what comfortable living was. He saw children from another community walking across the street on their way to school. School? Miguel had never been to school.

A typical day for him was to rise before daybreak and to scavenge for food in the wasteyard. He felt it was his responsibility to feed his six younger siblings.

Miguel learned the art of pickpocketing when he was six years old. He would go to the crowded market place uptown to snatch some buyers' purses.

His father was unemployed and spent each day drinking or gambling with the other men in the neighborhood. Miguel was terrified of his father. He oftentimes beat Miguel when he was unable to bring home food. He also expected Miguel to give him money at the end of each day.

His mother sometimes worked as a laundrywoman, but only when someone hired her. Otherwise, she joined in her husband's gambling activities.

As Miguel started to look for something to eat, he heared the faint sound of a Christmas carol from a nearby restaurant. He always longed to enjoy Christmas just like the other kids. He dreamed of having a Christmas tree, a Christmas dinner, and some Christmas presents. While seeing visions of Christmas before him, he spoted a mound of faded green leaves. These must have been raked from the fallen leaves of a tree from someone's garden, he thought. He gathered a few pieces in his hand and breathed in the grassy aroma of the leaves. He imagined again the Christmas tree.

And then, Miguel felt something sharp go through his foot. It was a rusty nail. He attempted to remove it. The pain was excruciating.

Suddenly, the world seemed to turn before him as he collapsed. Miguel was convulsing but he was still clasping tightly the pieces of leaves. He was thinking of his Christmas tree and the smiling faces of his siblings. The Christmas carol from the restaurant was getting louder. In a vision, he saw his father's angry face. He shivered with fear. He tried to get up. But the light of the day turned pale until it was darkness.


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