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
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YOU WILL BE “SECRET SANTA” FOR:
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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