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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)

TITLE: Part Of The Job
By Joanne Sher


"Is everything set?" A silver-haired balding gentleman slipped into the passenger seat of the van with a handful of helium-filled balloons.

"Sure is," his companion, a smart-looking blonde, gushed from the driver's seat. "Let's get going. It's only half an hour away."


"Okay, folks. Find your positions," she ordered. "Have you all had your potty break? No delaying the process with halts in production."

My mother had that drill sergeant look about her, so I knew it was time for business. I took my traditional spot at the end of the assembly line and waited for instructions.

Timmy was flitting back and forth, so I took his hand and reminded him of his spot. He shuffled into place between Dad and me. Beside him was Rebecca, with Mom's spot at the end.

"This shouldn't take very long, guys." Mom put her favorite Christmas CD in the boom box. "With all of us working together, these hundred cards should be addressed, stuffed, stamped, and sealed in an hour. A quick job."

Dad and Rebecca groaned. I stifled my moan to avoid Mom's evil eye, which almost sent Dad into convulsions.

"Let's review our roles." We all fixed our eyes, albeit reluctantly, on the woman of the house so she didn't feel the need to repeat what we'd heard repeatedly before.

"I'm in charge of the envelopes." She waved them above her head. "I will place the return address and the preprinted mailing address on each one in the proper place, and pass it on to Rebecca."

Rebecca nodded. "And I sign, fold, and stuff our Christmas letter in the envelope, then pass it to Dad. Right?"

"Exactly." Mom smiled at my younger sister. "Just be sure you fold it in fourths, so it will fit nicely in the envelope. And then your father will slide the Christmas card into the envelope."

Dad's eyes twinkled as he saluted. "Yes, ma'am. Open end first."

Mom giggled despite herself and nodded.

"And then I get to put the stamp on. Right, Mom?" Timmy actually sounded enthused about it, unlike the rest of us. Besides Mom, anyway.

I rubbed Timmy's back. "Yup. Then you pass the card to me and I pull aside the ones that need an extra note and seal the others."

"That's right, Angela." She looked over her troops. "Are we ready to get started?"

Nods traveled across the production line. Mom stepped into place.

"Okay then. Here we go."

It was actually pretty smooth going to start. I had to remind Timmy exactly where the stamp went, but he got into a pattern pretty quickly after that. We didn't really chatter much while we worked--we'd tried that last year, but the lady in charge hadn't thought much of it.

But then, when we were about halfway through, the unspeakable happened.

The doorbell rang.

Now, first of all, you need to know that nobody ever comes to our house without calling first. It couldn't possibly be a door-to-door salesman, as we live in the middle of the country and our front door is almost half a mile from the road. Friends and family always, always let us know they're coming.

Timmy screwed up his face. "What was that sound?" (I told you the doorbell doesn't ring much.)

Everyone stopped working and stared back and forth from person to person, mouth agape. Dad turned his body and began to leave his post, but Mom put her hand out.

"Don't answer it. We're almost done." She had that stare about her again.

Are you serious, Mom?" Rebecca's tween attitude was quite blatant.

My mother nodded. "Let's finish up."

We all sighed and got back to work, despite the doorbell ringing three more times. Mom, of course, gave us that same look after each ring.

According to Mom's stopwatch, we completed the task in one hour, twelve minutes and thirty-seven seconds, including our little interruption. Mom was thrilled. We were relieved.

"Now, aren't you glad we didn't allow that doorbell to distract us?" Mom poured a round of hot chocolate. "Who knows how long we would have been delayed? I'm sure, if it was important, they'll come back."

"Maybe we should go back," the blonde mumbled, biting her lip.

The gentleman sighed. "You know that's against the rules. If they don't come to the door, we draw another name."

"I know. It's just such a shame for that family, Mr. McMahon."

"It's part of the job, dear--just part of the job."

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Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 11/14/08
Oh my. I'm caught between feeling very, very sorry for the family, and chuckling over the mom's instance on getting the job done!

I was pretty sure I had figured it out, but had to look up the name McMahon to make sure. Maybe something about a check at the end. (Unless I missed something about a check. Which is entirely possible! :))
cindy yarger11/15/08
It took me a minute to figure it out, but once I got it you had me chuckling out loud! Great story, a lot of fun, and strangely fitting. Well done.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/16/08
I'd never thought of recruiting help with the cards before...good idea. I was wondering how this would end, and loved how it did :) Delightful.
Sharlyn Guthrie11/16/08
It really bothered me that they didn't answer the doorbell! The ending resolved that issue for me, however. How funny! I like your little aside (told you it doesn't ring much)!
Celeste Ammirata11/18/08
Very cute. You had me smiling at the neurotic mother, her reluctant family, and of course, who the people at the door were. Great job!
Diana Dart 11/18/08
Liked this story, mysterious opening, good characterizations and made me giggle. If I could suggest something (gulp, makes me nervous to be handing out advice to YOU!) tell me what the MC is thinking when the doorbell's ringing - is she imagining who it is, is she afraid of her mom, what's going on??? Build the suspense, then the ending will be even funnier. OK, nuff said. Good story.
Dianne Janak11/19/08
Wow... consequences to our actions.. and to think they will never know what they missed that day. Good idea for the story. The mom was lovable but needs a little therapy imho~!
Laury Hubrich 11/19/08
Oh man. What an ending. LOL. Too funny. Gotta love that drill sargent of a mom:) Funny... But of course, what they don't know can't possibly hurt them:)
Marlene Austin11/19/08
Unique take. :) I couldn't relate to your characters since getting cards out isn't that big of a chore at our house. lol
Dee Yoder 11/19/08
Oh my--that poor family! Wish I could form an assembly line with our cards--instead, I do them myself--over several weeks so I don't have to deal with it at once-lol!
Loren T. Lowery11/19/08
: ) Talk about getting one's priorities wrong. And I doubt there will ever be any second chances on this one.
Betty Castleberry11/19/08
Oh wow, that would probably happen to *me*. The ending made me chuckle out loud. Creative and well done.
Carole Robishaw 11/19/08
Nothing I can think of to add, this was really funny, and I totally enjoyed it.
Catrina Bradley 11/19/08
I love the twist at the end! Luckily for mom, they'll never know who was knocking. Your characters are fun and easy to get to know; I like that they all pitched in even tho they complained.
Leah Nichols 11/20/08
Hilarious! Great twist, there. :)
LauraLee Shaw11/20/08
LOL, NEVER would have thought of that twist...NEVER! Love it!
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/20/08
I was so mad at your obsessive mother by the time I finished, I was glad she missed the grand prize...almost. Great twist!