Although my story is fictional, it is based on plausible events inspired by two of the places we've lived--a city near the Sahara and Djibouti. And no I'm not trying to offend anyone, Djibouti is an actual city in the country of the same name.
|Map of Djibouti|
The French occupied Djibouti at one time and still maintain a foreign legion base there, and the U.S. military has its only military base in Africa there as well.
I googled Djibouti and was rather disturbed to find several sites that listed Djibouti's average temperature at 85°F. I suppose that number is possible if the reading was taken from the air-conditioned office of the Minister of Propaganda, but I don't remember a day that felt below 90 °F.
In fact, it was not uncommon to have temps in the 120s. A temperature reading at the U.S. military base even placed one summer day at 130°F with the humidity factored in.
Djibouti is hot, barren, and stinky. It's full of sand, feral dogs and goats that climb on cars or into the trees to reach the scruffy foliage that somehow survives in a place that smells and feels like a dryer full of towels washed in low tide. But it does have crystal-clear water (outside the city) and white-sand beaches.
I frequently heard of wild sandstorms in the Sahara. I never personally experienced any while living near there nor in Djibouti, but as the video at the beginning shows, it can happen. And in my 338-word story, it does:
A Djiboutian Christmas
by Johnell DeWitt
by Johnell DeWitt
On Christmas Eve the desert wind howled and growled. Beth growled back.
“I want to go to our old home and build a snowman with Nana.”
“Sweetheart,” said Mom. “We can have Christmas in Djibouti too.”
“I hate Djibouti! It’s too hot for snow and too hot for Santa.”
“Santa will find us,” said Mom.
“But what if Santa’s reindeers get hot and can't fly? The only animals here are scruffy goats who climb trees and stinky dogs who live by the ocean. Santa can’t use climbing goats or soggy dogs to fly his sleigh.”
“Santa won’t come at all if you’re not asleep.”
“I don’t care if Santa comes,” huffed Beth. “Even Santa can’t make it snow in the desert!”
Mom sighed and pulled one of two dangling strings. The light went out, but the fan stayed on.
“Maybe Santa will surprise you.”
Beth grumbled as Mom closed the door, but the whir of the fan and the chick-chick-tap of sand caroled a desert lullaby.
All night the wind howled. All night the sand blew and in the morning…
Beth’s mom shook her awake.
“I’m waking you up on Christmas Day,” she laughed. “I think Santa heard you. Look out the window.”
Beth pushed aside her curtains. She could barely see her scraggly yard. Drifts of creamy sand frosted the walls like gingerbread icing.
“It’s a desert snow!” Beth squealed.
Dad held up a box dotted with prancing reindeer. “I think you should open this present first.”
Beth tore the wrapping off a new pail and shovel. She hugged her dad, slipped on her sandals and pushed her way out the door.
All morning Beth packed pail-loads of sand. All morning she molded and adorned until finally...
“I’m done,” she shouted. “Santa didn’t bring me snow for a snowman, but he did bring me sand for a sandman.”
A baseball-cap-wearing, carrot-nosed sandman grinned at Beth, and the desert wind blew in to say, “Merry Christmas.”