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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Countdown to Christmas/Advent (10/23/08)

TITLE: How I Got A Present on the Twelfth Day of Christmas
By Jan Ackerson


MEMO TO ALL EMPLOYEES: In an effort to improve morale, we have decided to institute a “Secret Santa” program. ALL EMPLOYEES WILL PARTICIPATE. From now until Dec. 23, please think of some small way to daily brighten the day of your assigned co-worker. All “secrets” will be revealed on Dec. 23.


I cringed when I read the name that had been assigned to me—Margaret Abernathy, the 82-year-old receptionist who had seniority over everyone. No one had the nerve to tell her it was past time for her to retire, and her two moods were crabby and grouchy.

I had hoped for Tracey Wilder’s name. Tracey has bouncy red hair and a dazzling smile, complete with dimples. I’ve been trying to think of something to say to her other than “uhhhhhhh--”. And my buddy Dave, who did get Tracey’s name, wouldn’t trade. “No way, Howie”, he said. “I’m afraid of Margaret.”

Well, I decided I’d make the best of it, and at least try to wrest a smile out of Margaret. Here’s how I spent my time as her Secret Santa.

December 8—I gave her an ink jet cartridge and a pair of playing cards, both threes. Get it? A cartridge and a pair of threes. I watched Margaret from my cubicle as she opened the little parcels—she set them on her desk with a deep wrinkle between her eyebrows. I figured I’d better help her out, or the rest of the gifts would fall flat, so I ducked down and started to whistle “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” She “got” it, all right—I saw a brief flash of understanding behind her bifocals, and she swept the cartridge and the pair of threes into her desk drawer with a tsk.

December 9—I tapped into Margaret’s sweet tooth. The second day of Christmas was easy: two candy turtles, two Dove chocolates. She popped them into her mouth in rapid succession, and a crumb of chocolate stayed on her chin all morning.

December 10—Another present for Margaret’s sweet tooth. I bought a crème horn at the bakery and topped it with a little sign reading “Oooh-la-la”. A French horn. It only lasted five minutes. Note to self—when giving Margaret sweets, provide napkin.

December 11—This one was tricky. When Margaret got to her desk that morning, she found a fork, an awl, and a little rhinestone’d hummingbird. Fork, awl, and bird. Say it fast—or better yet, hum the song—you’ll get it. Margaret pinned the hummingbird to her lace collar.

December 12—Five golden rings—this one was easy. Dave helped me out by delivering the still-hot onion rings to Margaret’s desk just before lunch, whispering “from Secret Santa” in her ear--and eating the rest of the order himself.

December 15—Six keys. Just a-laying there, on her desk. I got a smirk for that one.

December 16—A note directing Margaret to the freezer in the lunchroom, where she found a Schwan’s ice cream sandwich, and a picture of David Schwimmer.

December 17—A calendar for the month of May, and a toy milk can pilfered from my nephew’s Fisher-Price farm. May, a milk can. Okay, it was lame. But Margaret left them on her desk all day…

December 18—Went to the dollar store and found one of those hula girl dashboard ornaments. Dangled a little handmade “9” from her lei. “Nine” lady--dancing.

December 19—I gave Margaret the first really Christmas-y gift today. A tiny baby Jesus, part of a nativity set, sleeping peacefully in His manger. Lord a-sleeping. Pretty close, huh? And…was that a smile? Not quite, but she’s getting closer…

December 22—Another festive gift—I had the bakery make a cupcake with fancy piping in Christmas colors—the number “11”, of course. Drat—forgot the napkin.

December 23—Secret Santas revealed themselves today. I had a dozen roses delivered to Margaret, and I made sure the florist included a note identifying the type: “distant drum” roses. Margaret’s face turned a shade of pink that matched the roses pretty well, and she inhaled so deep I thought she’d suck a rose right up her left nostril. But there it was—a smile—so I stepped forward and bravely gave her a shoulder hug. “Merry Christmas, Margaret”, I said, and planted a kiss on her crepe-y cheek.

“Nice one, Howie.” And that was my Christmas present—a dimpled grin from Tracey Wilder.

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This article has been read 1376 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sally Hanan10/30/08
Very cute and clever, although I don't know if I'd have got the analogies unless you'd explained them. Yup, a bit slow here...
Helen Paynter10/30/08
Brilliant word play. One or two I had to think about... how did you come up with them all? Good writing - as always (if I'm correct in my guess)
Seema Bagai 10/31/08
Wonderful piece here, filled with cleverness and creativity. Can't wait to find out who wrote this.
Carole Robishaw 11/01/08
I loved this, I'm not very good at word plays like this, but, with the clues, I got these. LOL
Chrissi Dunn11/01/08
You must have had quite a time thinking up all these gifts! Very clever.
Leah Nichols 11/01/08
LOL Hilarious. I loved it!
Joanne Sher 11/01/08
So clever. You definitely have a gift for "punnery." Bet this was fun to come up with :)
Folakemi Emem-Akpan11/01/08
Please please please
You must teach me how to use words like this. This is funny funny funny.
Did I say funny?
Melanie Kerr 11/01/08
Clever play on words.
Sheri Gordon11/01/08
This is so clever. I'm glad you helped with the explanations a bit--my brain wasn't getting to some of them. This was a lot of creative thinking.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/02/08
Very creative, but I needed the Cliff Notes. However, my husband is huge on word play so I know he'll love this. I can't imagine how long this took to write!!
Karlene Jacobsen11/02/08
THis was really creative. I loved it. It takes a creative brain to think of all those little 12-days subsitutes.
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/02/08
This is a fun read all the way through. Your creativity shines.
Kristen Hester11/02/08
Totally fun. If my husband recruits me to help him with Secret Santa stuff again, I'll have to remember this. Great job!
Sharon Kane11/03/08
Fantastically clever word play! I may be being very thick but I'm not quite sure what the last line is supposed to mean.
Celeste Ammirata11/03/08
This was fun to read, I smiled through it. Nice Job! Very creative with the gifts. I too, needed the cliff notes.
Catrina Bradley 11/03/08
Wonderfully creative. Some of the "hints" were a bit out there, but the MC himself admitted to as much. The voice is so natural and your writing is as smooth as silk. :)
Tim Pickl11/05/08
Absolutely wonderful piece!
Yvonne Blake 11/05/08
Very Creative...bet it took awhile to think these up!
Well done!
Marijo Phelps11/05/08
INVENTIVE and creative piece - loved all those gifts.
George Parler 11/05/08
Extremely clever and well done. Which is the norm in your gift of writing.
Dee Yoder 11/05/08
What fun! And how long did it take you to come up with all of these little gems? Very cool, Jan!
Norma-Anne Hough11/05/08
Creative and wonderful piece of writing.
Beckie Stewart11/05/08
This was creative and cute. How fun it would to actually do for someone.
LauraLee Shaw11/06/08
The kind of piece I'm drawn to...clever, creative and fun!
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/06/08
Congratulations, dear Jan. You are an example of creative writing for us all!
You're the top!
Diana Dart 11/06/08
Priceless! The ending was the best, tied the whole thing together. Beautiful, thanks for being so creative, it gives us all something to work towards ;-)