Last Christmas I made a deal with Jesus
while my toddler son wheezed in fevered sleep
“Look,” I said to Jesus, “If you’ll help me unravel this enormous knotted
ball of twinkle lights, which will be no small miracle in itself –
and if they all light up, and if I don’t have to fight my way
through the mall or Wal-Mart for new ones tonight,
I’ll take you at your word, go to church, and believe.”
Jesus didn’t answer;
all I heard were labored gasps and the dehumidifier’s hum –
but that didn’t mean he wasn’t listening.
So I sat on the couch and began untangling through a Law and Order rerun
in which some sick freak has locked a little girl inside a wire dog crate
in an abandoned warehouse. No one but the freak knows her whereabouts
except the other victims leashed and collared in neighboring cages,
and they aren’t talking, since they’re already dead from dehydration.
I mindlessly weave colored lights in reverse
and pray to the Jesus I don’t yet believe in
that Mariska Hargitay can use signals between her cell phone and the tower
to triangulate the location of the cage and the killer before it’s too late.
She has a baby of her own now, according to People
which explains her she-bear mothering instinct.
The tiny glass bulbs click together as I unravel,
numbly threading cords over and under.
I yell to Mariska, “Go downstairs! Check the basement!”
She doesn’t look up, but I know she hears me.
I finger the green vinyled cables unconciously.
With an adrenaline charge Mariska kicks her
shiny black Ferragamo through the locked door,
sprints to the cage, and tries, through the steel, to revive the unmoving child.
Her silent partner chops at the lock with giant bolt cutters.
Other cops, looking on, inquire bravely, “Is she dead?”
The child, looking stringy and stiff and ragged
opens her eyes and smiles weakly, “I knew you’d come,”
As the EMT plucks the child, now wrapped in her rescuer’s coat,
from an officer’s arms, Mariska whispers,
“She’s not dead. She was only asleep.”
By this time my son’s wheezing has steadied to a gentle snore,
and my long string of lights is looped neatly
across the coffee table like ribbon candy.
Nothing’s left to do but cross my fingers and plug it in.