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    12 Days of Christmas Gone Wrong

    Categories: Creative Writing Prompts Tags: creative writing exercises, creative writing prompts, writing prompt.

    An anonymous friend has been leaving you gifts at work to celebrate each of the 12 days of Christmas. All was fine and good for the first 11 gifts, which were thoughtful. But the 12th gift isn’t actually a gift at all—it’s a photograph of someone you love doing something they shouldn’t be doing and an extortion note demanding $10,000 in cash or that photo goes live on the Internet. What do you do? Write this scene.

    Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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    166 Responses to 12 Days of Christmas Gone Wrong

    1. Clairon_bk says:

      Jax and I had always been close; too close, some said. But we’d been through it all. Most people found it odd that two step-brothers were so close, but I was only a year older than Jax and when we met, we both needed a friend. Our family could have been a good Dickens novel – one used-to-be-rich father struggling to retain what little he did have, one beautiful mother from the wrong side of the tracks who thought she was climbing the ladder, and two mangy boys who didn’t fit in either world and who refused to accept the hand that Life dealt them, together.
      Don’t get me wrong; we had had our fights. Mostly when we were young, like when I went to college and Jax didn’t. Or when he lost his virginity before me. But last Christmas was the worst. He quit his job and walked out on his family and no one really knew why. We weren’t young anymore and my heart broke like a mirror – seeing the reflection of broken families, broken people.
      We hadn’t talked since then so I was in shock when I got the first gift 11 days ago. It was cheesy and cheeky at the same time, and so utterly Jax. It was one of those big cookies you can buy at the mall with “Sorry” written on it, but the tail of the “y” had a big bite taken out of it. Still, I was unsure because it had been a year and sorry wasn’t going to cut it. Nor was a cookie.
      The next gifts followed a similar theme – the ball glove I gave him when he turned 13; old bottle rockets that looked too dangerous to shoot but reminded me of the holidays and parades from our youth. One gift was even a $10 bill. I remembered lending him the money years ago, but for the life of me, I can’t remember for what.
      As each day passed and brought gifts of memories, at first I was bitter, then deeply saddened, but now just confused. So many of the gifts would mean nothing to someone else, but here they are, reminding me of my childhood and all the parts of Jax that I loved. But I still couldn’t forgive him. He didn’t just leave Molly and Nora and Jack. He left me.
      I knew I would get the last gift today. I wanted the gift to be something that would tell me where Jax was or how to reach him. I wanted the gift to be the catalyst that would make me forgive him.
      It was with some dread that I opened this box – old and ugly, but not from nostalgia. I opened the box and all that was there was a photo of Jax and a note demanding $10,000 or it would be posted online. I looked at the photo again and again.
      And then turned to find my checkbook.

    2. PromptPrincess13 says:

      I know this isn’t exactly how the prompt was supposed to go, but I had a taste for the ridiculous when I started this one. Please sing along, whether in your heads or out loud. I did it enough times to know that even if this answer doesn’t make the most sense and could have been done better by someone else, its pretty fun. I’d also love to see some other takes on it so please respond! If only to tell me that you got my silly song stuck in your head…

      The 12 Days of Christmas Horrors (Dun, dun, dunnn)

      On the first day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      A perfectly planted pear tree. (Too bad I hate pears)

      On the second day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (Two words: Lactose Intolerant)

      On the third day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (Calories. Yum.)

      On the fourth day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Four screaming birds, three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (Screaming birds? Sure. Great present.)

      On the fifth day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Five teething rings… Four screaming birds, three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (Teething rings? Really?)

      On the sixth day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Six ducks a-quacking, five teething rings, four screaming birds, three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (More noise. Yay.)

      On the seventh day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Seven gnomes a staring, six ducks a-quacking, five teething rings, four screaming birds, three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (Gnomes. Freak. Me. Out)

      On the eight day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Eight cows a mooing, seven gnomes a staring, six ducks a-quacking, five teething rings, four screaming birds, three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (Again – Lactose Intolerant! And now, strictly vegetarian)

      On the ninth day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Nine creepy contortionists, eight cows a mooing, seven gnomes a staring, six ducks a-quacking, five teething rings, four screaming birds, three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (Seriously. They were really creepy.)

      On the tenth day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Ten snakes a slithering, nine creepy contortionists, eight cows a mooing, seven gnomes a staring, six ducks a-quacking, five teething rings, four screaming birds, three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (Ever heard of Ophidiophobia? Well, then add my hysterical screaming to the mix)

      On the eleventh day of Christmas my blackmailer gave to me,
      Eleven perfidious pictures, ten snakes a slithering, nine creepy contortionists, eight cows a mooing, seven gnomes a staring, six ducks a-quacking, five teething rings, four screaming birds, three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (No comment)

      On the twelfth day of Christmas I gave to my blackmailer,
      Twelve bumps on the head, eleven perfidious pictures, ten snakes a slithering, nine creepy contortionists, eight cows a mooing, seven gnomes a staring, six ducks a-quacking, five teething rings, four screaming birds, three bags of fries, two ice cream cones, and a perfectly planted pear tree. (And the blackmailee becomes the blackmailer. Who said I don’t know how to use Photoshop?)

    3. Critique says:

      It was nearing the end of lunchtime at Market Street Elementary School.

      “Special delivery for Amos Lockhart.” The receptionist’s voice rang out as she poked her head

      around the staff room door and dropped the parcel on a the table where he was sitting.

      His fellow teachers started laughing and singing ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.

      For eleven working days he had been the only recipient of anonymous presents. A female admirer?

      Amos thought about it a lot. Dreamed about it.

      Each gift came marked consecutively with the numbers one to eleven.

      Some of the gifts were his favourites – like the fly fishing lures, peppermint candies and rum


      Three of the gifts were strange: a lottery ticket – he never bought lottery tickets, a free pass to a kids

      indoor playground, and the peanut brittle – he was allergic to peanuts.

      The twelfth gift was a red legal sized envelope tied with a bright ribbon.

      “Ooh la-la, this looks interesting.” Someone teased.

      Grinning Amos held up the package.

      “Open it. Open it. Open it.” A chant started in the room.

      Slitting the envelope open he drew out two sheets of paper. He frowned as he read the note and when

      his eyes registered on the photo underneath he turned white. Clutching the papers to his chest he stood

      knocking over his chair.

      Before the stunned group could react Amos had dashed from the room.

      The photo showed two nude people locked in a vulgar pose. One looked like his teenage sister. The

      other was the deputy mayor.

      The note asked for $10,000 or it would go viral.

      He was broke trying to pay off student loans. This would kill his parents. His sister wouldn’t

      do something like that. He just knew it.

      A teacher Martha Carson, came up behind him in the hall. “What’s wrong?”

      “I think I’ve caught that flu bug.” Amos lied. Many students and two teachers were home sick.

      “You should go home.” Martha peered at him through stringy bangs and gumshoed away.

      The minute his classroom emptied at the end of the day he raced out to his car.

      His first stop was the convenience store where his sister worked part time after school.

      When she saw the note and photo, her mouth dropped open in shock.

      “Amos she’s in my English class. Everyone says we look alike.” She handed him the envelope. “Mrs.

      Carson works at your school right? She was married to him once. She’s weird.”

      His second stop was the police station. “You might want to keep Martha Carson in mind.” He


      Walking out to his car he reached into his jean pocket for the key and pulled out gift number eight. A

      crumpled lottery ticket.

      He checked the winning numbers at his third stop when he filled the car with gas.

      Amos whooped pumping his fists in the air. He walked out a richer man. $10,000 richer.

    4. rainiemills says:

      “What did you get today?” Sean sneered as I walked in the house. “You just can’t stand the fact that I have a secret admirer.” I teased. I know I shouldn’t have, but really I haven’t received this kind of attention from him in months. It may not be the kind of attention I wanted, but at least it was something. His eyes blazed with jealousy, “What are you smiling about? It’s just a damned basket of cookies that’s gonna go straight to your ass anyway. You gonna be smiling then?”

      Ignoring his comment, I carried the basket of gourmet cookies in the kitchen carefully removing the enclosed note. I couldn’t help but smile thinking of the message from today’s gift, a basket full of sweets for a woman that deserves nothing but the best. I slid the notecard in my pocket. This was gift number eleven, I had one more coming to fulfill the 12 days of Christmas. A pang of guilt hit as I thought of all the sentiments received with the previous gifts. Should I keep them a secret? Sean would never approve. I could see it now, him screaming and belittling me in front of all my colleagues, to make his point clear that he owns me. The gifts alone were close to pushing him off the edge. That was my rationale for not saying anything. In reality, I liked the way the notes made me feel, special, something I rarely felt. They gave me hope, they were mine, something he couldn’t take away.

      So I said nothing. I didn’t tell him how the messages made me feel like a whole person, or how they were lighting a spark I thought was long gone. I didn’t let on how I felt they were giving me a sign that better things were in store. He never saw the tear of joy that rolled down my cheek when I got the message that said I was a beautiful person inside and out. And with every note, he never saw how much I wanted them to be from him.

      Day 12. I awoke, both excited and saddened, today it would end. I would get no more gifts with inspiring quotes, life would go back to normal, well what was normal for me anyway. I approached the last gift with reverence. Not ready for this to end. It sat on my desk waiting, a small box wrapped in gold with a big red bow. The trademark notecard hung delicately on ribbon stating only two words, Life Changing. I slowly unwrap the gift as I ponder the meaning. I get it now. As I stare at the photo lying in the bottom of the box. My fingers tremble as I pick the picture up, flipping it over to find an extortion note demanding $10,000 or the photo goes live on the internet. Tears freely flow as I stare at my husband in the arms of another woman. I can’t believe he would do this to me, after everything I have done for him. Everything I have put up with. Life Changing. I get it now. Life changing for me and life changing for him and the little whore he is holding as soon as this goes live.

    5. QuietArtsyType says:

      Eleven days of anonymous gifts never prepared me for the 12th day. I still don’t know if I believe it or not. It just seems too fabricated to be true. So uncharacteristic of my mom, although I would definitely believe it of my mother in law, Cynthia.
      The picture clipped to a note demanding $10,000 showed two women kicking a homeless man. The second photo was of them running away from the camera, with the man’s shopping cart of belongings. It wasn’t unbelievable simply because it was my mother, but also because both women are in their 60‘s. Two older women shouldn’t be able to overpower a young man––even if he was malnourished from years of living in the streets.
      My mother has been a minister’s wife since before I was born. Growing up, I watched her sing and pray in church every Wednesday, and twice on Sunday. She’s worn out more Bibles than most people wear out shoes. If she is truly involved in something nefarious, it must be the influence of Cynthia.
      My father died five years ago, and my mom has been living with my husband and I since then. She immediately became best friends with my mother in law and they’ve been inseparable every since. Cynthia and I have never gotten along––mostly due to the way that she babies my husband as though he were still five years old. Our relationship is just a stereotypical power struggle between two women for the heart of a man.
      I’m sitting at the table, staring in silence when my husband, Billy, walks in. Billy takes one look at me and knows that I need his attention. Always the one to shirk responsibility, he chooses to pretend he didn’t notice.
      “Billy. Seriously. I’m sitting right here, and I know you noticed me.” I try not to sound too angry.
      “Long day. Wasn’t ready for whatever this is.” He says, as he pops open a soda and begins taking off his police gear.
      I shove the photo in his face, and watch confusion flit across his porcelain skin. That man is just as beautiful as the day I first saw him, and it’s his beauty that enables me to forgive his otherwise neanderthal ways.
      “What the hell?” He mumbles in his thick Southern accent.
      I explain the situation, and Billy slams his fist into the wall.
      “This is the fifth time I’ve had to pay for my mother’s obsession!” He yells. “This time, she’s on her own!”
      All I could hear is that I would finally be rid of my mother in law. This was turning out to be the best Christmas, ever.

    6. Althea says:

      “Am I being Punk’d?” Michelle thought to herself. Sitting at her desk, she looked at the photo again. Her 17-year-old daughter, Kamani, naked as the day she was born, was smiling, clearly happy to be showing off her beautiful body to whomever took the picture. The photo had been wrapped in plain red paper with a gold bow. Michelle had thought it was an envelope, as the past eleven gifts had been. All of them had contained gift certificates to her favorite stores. Someone knew her tastes in food, music, and clothes well.

      The typed note had fallen out first. Ten thousand dollars or else the world will know your daughter is a whore.

      Michelle got up to close the door to her office. Her twentysomething employees were feeling the Christmas spirit. Santa hats, ugly sweaters, mistletoe, and cookie exchanges had been going on since the first of December. Computer programmers and engineers really did know how to party. They also specialized in logic. Michelle had been a computer geek since the Apple I went on sale in 1976. Fast-forward thirty-seven years later she was vice-president of Hass Computing, a company dedicated to cloud computing. She had not clawed her way through a male-dominated, rapidly evolving landscape to now be a victim of extortion.

      Kamani had to be posing for Steven, her most recent ex-boyfriend. Michelle had warned all her daughters about ‘sexting.’ She loved technology. But she acknowledged the dark side of it as well. Obviously her middle child had not listened to her. Revenge porn was not a pretty sight. Neither were the withering African Violets directly behind Kamani in the photo. Michelle recognized those damned spotted purple leaves left constantly in too much sunlight in Steven’s parents’ living room.

      Nothing ever dies on the Internet. This photo would live in perpetuity following Kamani everywhere. Later Michelle would curse, cry, scream, and lie. Today, she called Steven’s mother.

      “Happy Holidays, Barbara! This is Michelle, Kamani’s mom…Are you free for lunch today?”

      (end. 333 words.)

    7. Althea says:

      “Am I being Punk’d?” Michelle thought to herself. Sitting at her desk, she looked at the photo again. Her 17-year-old daughter, Kamani, naked as the day she was born, was smiling, clearly happy to be showing off her beautiful body to whomever took the picture. The photo had been wrapped in plain red paper with a gold bow. Michelle had thought it was an envelope, as the past eleven gifts had been. All of them had contained gift certificates to her favorite stores. Someone knew her tastes in food, music, and clothes well.

      The typed note had fallen out first. Ten thousand dollars or else the world will know your daughter is a whore.

      Michelle got up to close the door to her office. Her twentysomething employees were feeling the Christmas spirit. Santa hats, ugly sweaters, mistletoe, and cookie exchanges had been going on since the first of December. Computer programmers and engineers really did know how to party. They also specialized in logic. Michelle had been a computer geek since the Apple I went on sale in 1976. Fast-forward thirty-seven years later she was vice-president of Hass Computing, a company dedicated to cloud computing. She had not clawed her way through a male-dominated, rapidly evolving landscape to now be a victim of extortion.

      Kamani had to be posing for Steven, her most recent ex-boyfriend. Michelle had warned all her daughters about ‘sexting.’ She loved technology. But she acknowledged the dark side of it as well. Obviously her middle child had not listened to her. Revenge porn was not a pretty sight. Neither were the withering African Violets directly behind Kamani in the photo. Michelle recognized those damned spotted purple leaves left constantly in too much sunlight in Steven’s parents’ living room.

      Nothing ever dies on the Internet. This photo would live in perpetuity following Kamani everywhere. Later Michelle would curse, cry, scream, and lie. Today, she called Steven’s mother.

      “Happy Holidays, Barbara! This is Michelle, Kamani’s mom…Are you free for lunch today?”

      (end. 333 words.)

    8. Althea says:

      Nothing ever dies on the Internet. This photo would live in perpetuity following Kamani everywhere. Later Michelle would curse, cry, scream, and lie. Today, she called Steven’s mother.

      “Happy Holidays, Barbara! This is Michelle, Kamani’s mom…Are you free for lunch today?”

      (end. 333 words)

    9. Althea says:

      “Am I being Punk’d?” Michelle thought to herself. Sitting at her desk, she looked at the photo again. Her 17-year-old daughter, Kamani, naked as the day she was born, was smiling, clearly happy to be showing off her beautiful body to whomever took the picture. The photo had been wrapped in plain red paper with a gold bow. Michelle had thought it was an envelope, as the past eleven gifts had been. All of them had contained gift certificates to her favorite stores. Someone knew her tastes in food, music, and clothes well.

      The typed note had fallen out first. Ten thousand dollars or else the world will know your daughter is a whore.

      Michelle got up to close the door to her office. Her twentysomething employees were feeling the Christmas spirit. Santa hats, ugly sweaters, mistletoe, and cookie exchanges had been going on since the first of December. Computer programmers and engineers really did know how to party. They also specialized in logic. Michelle had been a computer geek since the Apple I went on sale in 1976. Fast-forward thirty-seven years later she was vice-president of Hass Computing, a company dedicated to cloud computing. She had not clawed her way through a male-dominated, rapidly evolving landscape to now be a victim of extortion.

      Kamani had to be posing for Steven, her most recent ex-boyfriend. Michelle had warned all her daughters about ‘sexting.’ She loved technology. But she acknowledged the dark side of it as well. Obviously her middle child had not listened to her. Revenge porn was not a pretty sight. Neither were the withering African Violets directly behind Kamani in the photo. Michelle recognized those damned spotted purple leaves left constantly in too much sunlight in Steven’s parents’ living room

      Nothing ever dies on the Internet. This photo would live in perpetuity following Kamani everywhere. Later Michelle would curse, cry, scream, and lie. Today, she called Steven’s mother.

      “Happy Holidays, Barbara! This is Michelle, Kamani’s mom…Are you free for lunch today?”

      (end. 333 words)

    10. Crifra7 says:

      (Not the most exciting scene in the world, but good practice anyway, right?)
      If I had come in early, like I normally do, I would have seen who left the package on my chair. The eleven other mornings, someone from the mail room dropped it off. Different paper and ribbon every time. Nice paper. Expensive. Whoever drew my name this year had a real collection of it. Maybe they’re married to a clerk at the Papyrus store. That might be one way to find out who did it, but only if they are the same person. Which is to say, whoever left that twelfth package on my chair might be a different person from the one who left the first eleven. Maybe they switched out my real package with their own evilness.

      The evilness came in an Altoids tin. I ripped off the ribbon and paper, and there it was. I still thought it would be just like the rest: a new stack of rainbow Post-Its, colored paper clips shaped like cats, a fat plastic pen with buttons for pushing down different ink colors, to name a few. But when I popped the tin, inside there was a blank piece of paper. I pulled it out and looked on the other side. The print job wasn’t the best. I looked closer. It was a picture of my sister Staci herself, doing what I have no intention of repeating here. And written underneath in pencil was a threat that if I didn’t pay up $10,000 in one week’s time, the pic was going on Facebook.

      Certain things are clear in my life. One, I do not have $10,000. Two, Staci is not Mother of the Year. She is working on correcting her problems. Until such time, I take care of her kids. I cannot take care of her kids forever. I have my own plans. I also have a one bedroom apartment, one bedroom of which is currently filled with two kids. I’m getting too old to sleep on the couch every night.

      I shoved that photo back inside the mint box and clicked it shut. So what if I can find this person who left it? Or even if they reveal themselves at the Secret Santa lunch? That will not take the photo back. I cannot chop off their hands to keep them from tapping a screen or typing on a keyboard. Staci can’t take it back, either. What I can do is write a note, and leave it in the box under the chunk of concrete in the parking lot, just like they asked on the paper. I can explain my situation, and ask them to let it go. Whatever Staci did to wrong them, just let it go. It is the Christmas season, so please let it go. And then I’ll put that box out of my mind. I’ll go pick those kids up from school every afternoon and teach them the right way to treat people. And I’ll survive sleeping on the couch a little while longer.

    11. Oliver says:

      I’ve never been in the Christmas spirit as much as I was my senior year in high school. Unlike most of my friends, I worked everyday as a host at IHOP and it didn’t help that I had to pick up shifts from other hosts that never failed to start calling in sick around the holiday season. So I started appreciating the small things. For instance, starting at Christmas, every time I returned from my lunch break each day, I found a gift waiting for me at the register.
      It was great cause it gave me something to look forward to each day. The best part was that the gifts got better and better with each day that went by.
      “So what’d your secret admirer get you this time, Ollie?” asked my manger, Donnie. He leaned on the counter and eyed me as I began unwrapping my gift. It was day nine. “Lord of the Rings DVD box set? Nice.”
      “These gifts have been awesome,” I told him, carefully inspecting the trilogy. I secretly hoped they were from my co-worker Megan, a really cute brunette server on the graveyard shift. We’d hang from time to time and I always had a thing for her. Maybe this was her way of making a move on me. Hey, a guy could dream.
      After three more days and three more corresponding presents, I found my twelfth day of Christmas gift in a green envelope left on my checkout counter by the phone.
      This is it, I thought. My final gift. Big money, big money. Come oooon love confession from Megan!
      I peeled open the envelope with a huge grin on my face. My smile shrunk and I turned to confusion. It was my sister. A photo of her and some friend keying some car. A damn good photo too. Also in the envelope was a note demanding ten-thousand bucks or else the picture would go up on Facebook.
      Not the gift I was expecting. Not gonna lie…kind of a buzz kill.
      My sister told me about that venture last month when she tried getting even with some chick her ex cheated with. When I got home from work that day, I showed her the picture and note. She flipped out.
      “So what do we do?” I asked.
      She didn’t speak at first. “I don’t know,” she said teary eyed. She was already on probation. She couldn’t afford another strike. Neither of us had that kind of money though. She was a year younger than me and terrible horribly irresponsible. The note had an email address to discuss payment. It didn’t necessarily give a deadline to pay.
      “You know, Donnie told me a serving position just opened up.” She looked at me hopefully. “If we pull our funds together, that kind of money isn’t impossible to pay off piece by piece.”
      She smiled and hugged me tightly. “Thanks, Ollie.”
      “Hey, consider it my Christmas gift to you for the next few years.”

      • don potter says:

        Ollie has a good heart, but I wonder how many more times his sister will need to be bailed out of trouble before he applies tough love to her. Keying a car to get even with a chick her ex cheated with? Time for her to grow up. I say let the photos hit the Internet.

      • agnesjack says:

        What a good brother. Hope the sister keeps up her part of the bargain. Sweet story, Oliver.

      • snuzcook says:

        I am very suspicious of Donnie–it could be the perfect dastardly set up for him to line his pockets at the expense of his staff.
        Good story. Brownie points for Ollie helping out his sister, and his sister for stepping up.
        Somehow I still don’t think it will end well for all concerned.

        • swatchcat says:

          Although a good story, it is the season of giving and there are a few things you should take another look at.
          First line in the first paragraph doesn’t quite make sense for the rest of the paragraph. “Appreciating small things” what the fact he is having a good senior year at Christmas?
          The next is maybe, just maybe “Freaking and Sweet” all by themselves seem redundant and the next line with “Great” may be good enough.
          Not finally but I’m sure enough to make a point for proofreading, “manger” probably should be “Manager” because I have never heard of a manger called Donnie much less anything else but a manger unless, Jesus stayed at “Donnie’s Manger” and they left the light on for him. Sorry, had to, it was there on the tip of my tongue.
          It was a good story.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            I have to agree with you swatchcat, it was a good story, but your wicked sense of humor is over the top in funny. My smile is a mile wide tonight. Happy holidays to you. KC

    12. swatchcat says:

      “It was sort of nice getting surprise gifts from a secret admirer, especially after Christmas. While everyone else was busy dealing with return lines at the mall, I was unwrapping new presents into the New Year, eleven to be exact. When the twelfth arrived in the form of a letter though, I was kind of disappointed,” I said then sipped my coffee.

      “What happened,” asked Rachel from accounting?

      “I opened an envelope that triggered the Twelve Days of Christmas sound chip and found a stack of photos,” I paused for dramatic effect and told her how I had flipped through each picture as the chorus annoyingly raced through each day of Christmas.

      Nothing was written on the backs but with each shot my stomach revolted. My husband Sean in each frame had taken some sickening part in reenacting each day of Christmas in some perverse way. I paused at twelve drummers drumming, but that was not what was happening in the picture as my hand shook in disbelief.

      Rachel shrieked, “Oh, my, God, what was in the picture? You have to tell me.”

      “Well, after I got over the initial shock, I started to laugh hysterically. I laughed till I damned near peed myself.”

      “Why,” she asked?

      “Because, some poor schmuck is trying to extort $10,000 not to post the pictures online. What he or she doesn’t know is that Sean and I split a while ago, because he is such a sick pervert.”

      “Yah, but what were the twelve drummers doing?” Rachel was like a kid dieing of curiosity.

      Smiling I said, “You’ll just have to go online and see. I posted them an hour ago.” I handed her my shortbread cookie tin (gift 6) and I showed her the other presents I had been enjoying.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I really liked this one swatchcat, warm and fuzzy. What a clever story and a great ending. The dialogue is so good, I felt like I was eaves dropping. My take on the drummers is a sex chain.

      • snuzcook says:

        That was a lot of fun! Love the turn-about ending.

      • don potter says:

        I enjoyed your holiday tale, especially how you tied it up at the end. Shortbread cookies. Yum.

      • agnesjack says:

        The tables turn on the blackmailer. I wonder who it was? Sean, perhaps? Nice job, swatchcat. Good dialogue and I can only imagine what the drummers were doing :-).
        (One little spellcheck nit: “dieing” should be “dying.”)

        • swatchcat says:

          Thank you so much everyone. As for the “dieing”, I had “dying” than second guessed myself. I was too lazy to look it up and just asked around the house and apparently everyone was wrong, sorry. Back to the dictionary. To Kerry, yes, I had a sex chain idea also but thought all your imaginations would be left to your own gnarly thoughts. And yes, I love those variety tins of shortbread cookies, hope I get one this year. Merry Christmas and all other varied seasons greeting to you all.

    13. agnesjack says:

      Vienna lived with her parents in a Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park. She was a stunningly beautiful young woman — nipped, tucked and molded to perfection.

      When she was not sending selfies to her vast web of acquaintances, Vienna was incessantly tweeting profound statements, such as: “Walking down Madison Avenue, now. #findvienna.”

      One day, while she was having her eyelashes tinted, her phone buzzed.

      “See who that is, Mimi,” she said, waving a hand at her maid.

      “It’s a text that says, ‘In 12 days you will receive a gift of love’,” Mimi said.

      “Who’s it from?”

      “It just says, ‘(do-not-reply)@TSoC’,” Mimi replied.

      “Really,” Vienna said.

      The next day, while Vienna was striking poses for the paparazzi outside her favorite salon, her phone buzzed again. This time the text message read, “In 11 days you will receive a gift of beauty.”

      “This is getting interesting,” she murmured to herself. Then she pursed her collagen-enhanced lips, winked at the cameras and sauntered into the salon.

      Each day another message came. The third message promised a gift of hope. The fourth, joy. The fifth, sixth and seventh promised peace, charity and compassion. Peace, she assumed, would mean some kind of vacation. Charity and compassion would probably mean a black tie charity gala at the Waldorf, where she could be seen as someone who cares.

      Each day Vienna waited anxiously for the next message. She was sure it was some secret admirer who followed her on Facebook or Twitter or MySpace, or maybe he had seen her in a club and was too hesitant to approach because of her usual throng of admirers. She hoped he was gorgeous and rich.

      The eighth, ninth and tenth messages were a little disappointing. They promised kindness, wisdom and faith, and she didn’t quite see how you could buy such things.

      The eleventh message said the gift would be courage, which she thought was a little odd. The last message, however, completely puzzled her. It simply said, “The final gift will be forgiveness.” There was a PDF attachment, so she opened it.

      On the first page, there was a single paragraph that read:

      “To receive your gifts, you must do the following: Write a check to “The Bowery Mission” in the amount of $10,000 and take it to 227 Bowery. You can have your chauffer drive you, but you must be alone when you go into the Mission. Ask for Barnie and hand him the check. Then ask him to tell you what the mission does. If you do not do this, the picture on the next page will be posted online. It is of someone you love dearly.”

      She hit page down. It was a picture of her as a chubby, pimply teenager — before the nose job; before the liposuction and breast implants; before the teeth straightening and hair extensions. She was horrified. She had no choice but to do as she was asked.

      Whether the experience changed Vienna is hard to tell, but the Mission, and the people who rely on it for faith, hope, charity, compassion and love, had a very joyful Christmas.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        So who was behind it, Nancy? My take it wasn’t the mission but her father. He was tired of his materialistic daughter’s sense of values and wanted her to see the real side of life. A very entertaining and unusual take on the prompt.

      • snuzcook says:

        Flawless as your MC, agnesjack! Very entertaining and satisfying to both my judgmental alter ego and my compassionate one.

      • don potter says:

        An old-fashioned with a modern twist. O’Henry would have loved it. I don’t care who sent the messages, or whether Vienna changed her ways. The result is the poor souls at the Mission received some help. Hopefully, this practice will find its way to Hollywood where the rich and famous reside in abundance. Think about how much good could come from a dozen or so of these folks making meaningful contributions to many shelters that serve the needy.

        • agnesjack says:

          Thanks, don. You are right. I felt the message was more important than the messenger (although there is a hint in the sender’s name). It would be nice if all the über rich people gave, what to them would be a trifle, to these shelters.

      • jhowe says:

        This was good. I’d love to have some of those reality star/papratzi specialist women read this. Very well written.

    14. snuzcook says:

      Thank you, Cin, for that lovely story. Left me with wonderfully positive images to carry around.

    15. thejim says:

      Well did not want to go over 500 Exactly-

      “What the Fu..”, Eddie said remembering where he was and lowered his voice.
      “This can’t be right.” As he held up the black and white pictures. Slowly he set them down on his desk. A vacant stare took over his eyes. He lost all expression and the color left his face.

      Just then the door to his office opened, Allen Tervick stepped in and securely shut the door behind him.
      “Well hello there my good friend, I see you received my final present. Kind of cheeky I know, Christmas and the 12 days of Christmas and all but you know me always in for a good laugh.”

      Eddie’s mind raced. He thought, how did he get these shots? It was no secret there had been indiscretions but these made the so called indiscretions look like summer camp pictures. Sweat began to form on Eddie’s brow. “What do you intend to do with this?”

      Allen moved in close and pulled up an office chair directly in front of Eddie. “Forget about those pictures for a second, if those go public the director will just be a martyr that is not what is important here, you’re missing the bigger picture. If this evidence is somehow leaked to the press there will be a full out investigation. The director will deny any wrong doings and will of course proficiently deflect the accusations and do you know where it will land?”

      Eddie looked down, “back here to me.”

      “That is right, you think he cares about you? NO!” Allen realized he is with in ear shot of people and lowers his voice, “No he does not. What I am offering you here is a gesture of kindness, an olive branch let’s say. We have been friends for a long time. The truth is, I really don’t even want the money, what I would like more from you is a favor,”

      Eddies eyes focused again on the pictures. “You’re bluffing, Eddie said in a more confident voice, you would not go public with this.”

      “Bluffing, my dear friend, you may think you know me but there are recesses with in me that I even fear to go, dark places with in my soul that only Satin himself knows about. I assure you my resolve is something you should not test.”

      Oddly, Eddie felt a calmness over take his body, he took a deep breath, and his racing heart began to slow. Eddie glanced down at the pictures once again. “Humor me and tell me what this favor is that you desperately need from me that you would go to such great lengths to get.”

      Allen lifts himself up from the chair and moved it back to its spot in front of the desk, “In time, all within good time. I will be in touch, till then you probably should dispose of those pictures I wouldn’t think you would want anyone to see you with them, even though I think it’s a good picture of …

      • snuzcook says:

        Nicely set up for more story to come, thejim. I like the style and the images it paints very much. A quick couple of passes for spelling and punctuation would make it more polished, but you’ve got a great story here.

      • don potter says:

        You intrigued me with the story, particularly with “but there are recesses with in me that I even fear to go, dark places with in my soul that only Satin himself knows about.” That’s deep-down evil. So, please do I follow up. I want to know what the photos hold.

      • agnesjack says:

        O.K. You got me. Will there be a part 2? I liked the the twist in the blackmail – that he’s going after the possible scapegoat, rather than the target.

    16. don potter says:

      Someone was sending me these little anonymous gifts at the office. The first eleven depicted the corresponding verse of the old English carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Therefore, I was looking for the twelfth and final gift.

      When a package arrived on my desk just before leaving for lunch a few days before Christmas, I quickly opened it and found a picture frame face down in the box. I turned the frame over only to be taken aback by the photo in front of me.

      There was a montage of pictures, twelve different shots, showing my ex-wife in strange situations with the icons contained in the first seven verses from a partridge to turtle doves to geese and swans. The story became disgusting when she showed up in uncompromising positions with the maids, the lords, the ladies, the pipers and the drummers wearing nothing but five golden rings.

      A note instructed me to pay $10,000 or the video version of this would hit the Internet on Christmas Eve. Martha, my ex, was always wild and unpredictable. Her escapades led to the divorce and my getting custody of our daughters, age 10 and 12. I could not allow a sexually explicit video of their mother to go viral.

      Since I could find no clues in any of the “12 gifts,” the only thing I could think of was to call Martha. After all, she is the mother of the girls and would not want them to be embarrassed by the photos and the video. I had no idea how she got involved in this, but her drinking and partying were apparently at the core of it.

      Rather than address the issue over the phone, I suggested we meet for a drink. Martha had an obvious head start, because she was tipsy when I arrived at the bar right after work. I asked her to go someplace to talk. She selected a booth near the back rather than a coffee shop, which I championed.

      I took her through the whole gift and extortion story. She was not as shocked as I expected. Why? After a few more drinks, Martha blurted out that she was the one behind this entire caper, because she was flat broke and $10,000 would pay off most of her bills.

      Always handy with the computer, she had inserted her images into the montage with the help of Photoshop. There was no video, I learned; but she counted on me coming up with the money on the possibility that one existed. Wow, what a sick person. Martha had crossed the line into alcoholic insanity.

      This life-changing event took place two Christmases ago. It forced me to take action that resulted in Martha going in for treatment. Today she is sober. And the girls and I, along with my new wife, look forward spending Christmas with Martha and her new husband. There is only one rule at my house: no one is allowed to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

    17. Ica Iova says:

      12 Days Of Christmas Gone Wrong

      Hannah is tapping on the steering wheel as she is waiting for the mile long, backed-up traffic to move. She grinned and shook her head as she remembered Jason – her fiancée – joking that Winnipeg has two seasons: Winter, and constructions – none of which helps the traffic.

      She was going to be late for work, for the fourth day in a row. “My boss is gonna kill me.” she thought.
      Her mind wondered at a new secret admirer who kept sending her gifts celebrating the twelve days of Christmas. She’s already received eleven. “Who could it be? Didn’t he know that she was engaged to be married? Perhaps he was one of those people, like the ones in the movies, when they wait until wedding day, to tell her he loved her.” She smiled at the crazy thought, although she kind of enjoyed it.

      Twenty minutes later she arrived at work. Her boss was busy on the phone. She sneaked in, hoping he wouldn’t see her. He didn’t. He was too busy arguing with whomever he was talking on the phone.
      She quickly took off her coat, tossed it on a chair, and turned on her computer, when she noticed another nicely wrapped gift, waiting for her on her desk. She pitched a quick gaze around the office, looking for the sender. Everyone seemed preoccupied with their work.

      Anticipating another perfume, or some other cosmetic item, she opened the box. She froze. A photo of herself naked, stared back at her from inside the box. As her trembling fingers picked up the picture, Hannah realised that there were more pictures in the box – pictures of herself…naked…in bed with a man. At a closer look she recognised the man, as the “one night stand” from a drunken bachelorette party, a couple of months ago. Underneath the pictures there was a note.

      “Bring $10,000 to Best Western Motel on Ploughed Road by tomorrow at 6 PM, or the photos will be plastered all over the internet. Come to room 105. Door will be open.” The note said.

      For a second Hannah imagined herself all over Facebook. She imagined her fiancée’s reaction. He was running for mayor. He would for sure, break up their engagement. She had a lot to lose, including a name that could change her future, and her fancy apartment for which Jason was paying. No, she could not possibly allow that to happen. But, where was she going to get the $10000 from?

      The next day, she arrived at Best Western Motel carrying a box. She slowly opened the door of room 105, and walked in. There was no one in the room. She sat the box on the bed and left. Shortly after, a tall man approached the door, scrutinizing his surroundings as if wanting to find out if anyone was following him. He entered the room, taking one last glance behind him.

      He looked at the box on the bed, and smiled. He couldn’t believe that he actually got away with it so easily. He opened the box. Instantly, he felt sick.

      Inside the box, there was a picture of a bundle of one hundred dollars bills. $10000 was written on the bind. At the same time, the door flew open, and Hannah rushed in, pointing her gun at the man in front of her, and showing her badge with her free hand. “Sir, you are under arrest for attempted extortion, you have the right to remain silent…”

    18. novel says:

      The twelfth gift, the photograph that sat deep in the black box, revealed the anonymous sender, yet left unanswered questions. Chris was the only person who knew where I worked, and the only other person who knew about that eerie night, just weeks ago.
      I studied the picture and fumbled with the phone to call my father, Bruce. A lump formed in my throat. The moisture escaped from my mouth.
      “Daddy, we have a problem.”
      He yelled over drilling and loud voices. “What is it Charlotte? I’ve got five cars waiting for tree ties.”
      “Chris isn’t dead, daddy.”
      He paused and then stuttered, “No…I…uh…told him…that I’d kill him if he ever hit you again.”
      “Did you check the body bag before you threw it in the lake, daddy?” I whispered.
      “Chris sent a picture dad…of you and Al tossing the body bag into the lake. He’s threatening to go public with the photo unless we give him ten grand.”
      “No…that can’t be…he was in the bag. I zipped it myself!”

    19. PeterW says:

      11 Gifts
      (This one is rated PG13. So you may want to screen it, before you read it to your children. I tried to make it heart-warming and Christmassy, but I have a feeling I didn’t quite get it right.)

      George received eleven small Christmas gifts from an anonymous sender at his downtown office. Each and every gift was wrapped with tissue paper, dropped off at the front office, and had stuck-on bow. Each and every gift was a sex related. Each and every gift was from, “Santa Clause.”

      On December 14th, the day George received the first gift, a small jar of expensive lube (with aloe), George had given his wife the eyes and started to initiate contact in their king bed, the lube ready at hand. But his wife had ignored him. She had kept reading ‘Kitchen and Closet,’ brushed his hand away, and said, ‘Not tonight honey.’ He had tried again the next night after he had received a bottle of Goji-fruit pills: a herbal remedy for low stamina and flaccidity. But again his wife turned away and went on reading ‘Garden and Trees, the essential backyard–improvement Magazine.” It was then, George concluded that it wasn’t his wife sending the gifts.

      As the day when Christ was born neared, George grew more and more worried. He kept receiving gifts. The bottom cabinet on his desk was becoming full and rather scandalous. The gifts seemed to to be getting more sinister. The 16th, a cock-ring; the 17th, a Christmas-colored ball-gag; the 18th, a deflated transgender sex-doll; the 19th, a huge, pink and fluorescent dildo with a strap; the 20th, woman’s lingerie with a matching vibrator, both colored brown; the 21st, a small pornographic zine from the 1950s showing what appeared to be a gang-bang on a very large female; the 22nd, a leather mask; the 23rd, whip and a blade; the 24th, a leather bound book called the Kama Sutra of Sadomasochism, FemDomination , and Fetish-fucking.

      Every morning after the second day, the secretary would say, “Oh George, looks like you got another gift from Santa Clause,” and every morning George would shut his office door, open the tissue paper carefully, glimpse the item, gasp internally, and throw it into his bottom drawer. Then he would consider calling the police. Then he wouldn’t. On the 18th he asked the secretary, Mrs. Partree, if she knew who really dropped off the gifts. She had given him a stupid smile and said loudly, “I have no idea, George.”

      George racked his brains. Who? He was high up in the company meaning there were certain people who disliked him, but no one who he would call an enemy. The bosses in New York were definitely assholes, but more of the in-your-face kind. It was true that he had once cheated with a young-blonde intern, but that was 10 years ago, and George still felt incredibly guilty about it. In fact he would say it was the lowest point of his life. He had a son at Rutgers who wasn’t close and a bit of a bad egg and another son, the good one, who was getting a MBA at Princeton. But neither had a sick sense of humor, and neither was cruel.

      After he had slammed the leather Kama into his desk, George felt relieved that he didn’t work on Christmas. That night he and his wife, Jean, went to church, then lit candles, and eat salads (both were dieting), drank wine, and spoke softly about the snow falling outside. Their faces were tinted in the glow of lights on the fake tree in the room over. Both sons were spending Christmas with significant others and would visit later in the week. It was very peaceful, despite George still being worried.

      George said, “I been getting these gifts at work.”

      Jean said, “Oh, that’s nice.”

      George said, “See the gifts… they are strange.”

      Jean said, “How so?”

      George said, “Well, I don’t know.”

      That night they made love under several blankets.

      In the morning in bathrobes, George and Jean sat near the tree. Snow was against the windows. Sunlight passed through the snow. George had a pair of earring for Jean; Jean had a tie clip and a tie for George. But neither got unwrapped. Under the tree was a wrapped box with a stuck-on bow. Jean grabbed it and smiled: “It’s for you, honey. I think it’s from the boys.”

      Poor, naïve George. It wasn’t from the boys. It was from ‘Santa.’ As he opened the box, the photos spilled out. Hundreds of them. All blown up to 11 by 8.5. And in each one George was nude, unconscious, in some-sort of warehouse w/ a bed, and positioned in various ways with each one of his 11 gifts—pink dildo in certain orifices; ball-gag on his head like a pompom hat; chin proppedup with hands, lying with leg-crossed like a teenage girl, studying the sick Kama; each and every gift in the crack of his ass; putting the cock-ring on the transgender doll, both smeared with aloe lubricant.

      Jean started screaming her head off. George was silent, feeling sick and incredibly violated. He picked up the note. It was covered in reindeer stickers and written on a thick parchment in messy cursive scrawls. It said: “Deer Gorge [sic], if you don’t want ur wife to see these pics, give me 10,000 $. I will be at the mall in my chair from 12 to 1. Cum alone. Hohoho. Marry Xmas. From Santa Cluase.”

      [to be continued]

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I did my best to keep from laughing out loud in the office in order to keep someone from calling me a senile old geezer. I’ll read it again when I get home in my man den. Very creative, exceedingly funny and absolutely relevant to today’s world. Can’t wait for part two. Will you post it this week but gve me warning first?

      • snuzcook says:

        Oh, no. One of those Santa’s who show their butt crack when they bend over. Please tell me its just one of those temp Santas and not the real one! (eyes shut tight, fingers crossed) I’m not ready to grow up quite yet!

      • jhowe says:

        Your half-hearted attempt at heart-warming and Christmassy fell a little short, but on the clever side of slightly risque. I loved it.

    20. snuzcook says:


      The car fire was on the five o’clock news. It wasn’t the fire itself that drew media attention; it was the four mile traffic back up during rush hour. Like politicians rallying their constituents, the drive-time news anchors milked the irritation of their listeners stuck in their cars. But by eleven o’clock, a pending grocery strike had much higher priority than the fate of one beat up old Corolla exploding on the highway, and it was only mentioned in passing just before the weather.

      I clicked off the TV and drained my glass. The last sip of unfamiliar scotch burned just as much as the first one had–my grandfather’s favorite scotch, a remnant from a different era and a different place.

      On the coffee table before me, were eleven small gifts I had received, lined up like pieces on a chess board. They were part of the company Secret Santa tradition, and though I worked at home, I had been included. They turned out to be tokens that pulled me into a game not of my choosing.

      I had unwrapped the twelfth and final gift with amused anticipation. When I unfolded the contents my fingers had turned to ice: a newspaper clipping and a note. The photo in the clipping was my grandfather, twenty-five years younger, in manacles being led out of a courthouse. The headline declared, IRA Terrorist Escapes. The note demanded $10,000 or the photo, linked to my name, would be posted on the internet.

      For maybe sixty seconds, I had considered the implications. My job at the nonprofit would be forfeit. A charity supported by the Episcopal diocese could hardly afford to have someone linked to Catholic terrorists in such a responsible role. My life, so closely interwoven with my job, and my cozy and private home, would all be threatened. I could not let that happen. I knew there was only one possible course of action.

      It wasn’t hard track down the sender, an unpreposessing new man in advertising who fancied himself some kind of detective. It was all too easy to learn what I needed to know about him.

      I did everything just as I had learned as a little girl, silently watching my grandfather. I had been the fly on the wall back in those days. No one had noticed me, but I had noticed everything. As an adult, I was still able to be unnoticed, unremarkable as I located his car in the lot and did what I needed to do.

      And now the deed was done; the threat had been eliminated.

      I turned out the lights and went down the hall. I opened the bedroom door. The old man was asleep. The face that still glared out defiantly from wanted posters in ten nations, now thin and pale, slept the deep but troubled sleep of senility. In the morning, I would make him a nice breakfast before I took drove my trash, the last remnants of my activities, to a dumpster across town.

      • snuzcook says:

        Last paragraph, last line: …before I drove my trash….
        You’d think after reading five times I would have caught noticed that.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          No matter snuzcook on the last line. A very clever story, poignant and realistic. Who pays the piper, the piper pays and you illustrated this beautifully. For some reason and I don’t know why, as you wrote of her grandfather, my imagination took me to the image of Sean Connelly lying there in the bed sleeping the sleep of the unknown.

      • snuzcook says:

        Technical comments, please? I had a heck of a time with tenses in this one, as I more comfotable writing in 1st person present. Also, it seems to read very awkwardly–mouth-full-of-rocks awkwardly.
        Any suggestions?

      • don potter says:

        A Christmas tale indeed. Forgiveness of the past with peace on earth.

        • snuzcook says:

          Thanks for seeing the Christmas, Don. But remember, regardless her motivations, the MC did blow up the guy’s car, and, presumably, the guy. I think she may be getting coal this year.

      • jhowe says:

        You’re a good writer snuzcook. Would you be interested in revealing what snuzcook means or do you prefer to keep the mystique alive? Great story.

      • calicocat88 says:

        This story went from “A Wonderful Life” to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I absolutely loved you comparisons and descriptions, especially in the beginning. I’d like to read more about this character and see where she goes with this natural detective ability.

      • agnesjack says:

        A very unique idea for the prompt, snuzcook. The Irish “troubles,” as they were called, gave the brutality of the attacks and counterattacks an oddly benign sensibility. Your MC works for a Protestant charity, and yet she is capable of blowing up another human being. She justifies this act in the same, off-handed way: to protect her grandfather (and her own job). It’s so hard to stop the cycle of retaliation.

        • snuzcook says:

          Yes, agnesjack, the MC’s moral compass is pulled many degrees off North by the need to provide for her notorius loved one. Her job, which makes it possible to work at home and care for her grandfather, and to afford the privacy of her cozy little house where he can remain undetected, must be protected as a means to that end. The implied backstory is that her adult life had been lived differently from her childhood, perhaps not even adhering to the culture or religion of her grandfather’s generation. She at some point made the choice to live a life of secrets out of love when she took in her grandfather. When threatened by this unsuspecting opportunist, she reverted completely to her grandfather’s legacy.

    21. Kerry Charlton says:


      As operating partner of Crowbar, Side-Step and Mendacity LLP, I accepted the anonymous gift that first day of a partridge in a pear tree. We set it in the main atrium of our office complex for all to see. The second morning, two turtle doves arrived. Agnes, my secretary readily accepted them.

      Three French hens darkened our door on the third day. We placed them next to the pear tree. Day four arrived along with four colly birds. Those damn black birds screeched twenty four seven and promptly landed in the atrium among the others.

      Next morning I received a terse note from the tenant committee, short and sweet,

      “What’s with the fucking birds?”

      Five gold rings showed the same day and I bribed the association to keep them quiet. Next day, six geese-a-laying were delivered. Guess what? Into the atrium. By the time we crammed seven swans-a-swimming in the reflection pool of the atrium, pounding noises eminated from our office door. Good thing it was solid oak.

      Good Lord, eight maids-a-milking arrived with their cows in tow on the eighth day. We released them in the atrium along with the maids. A small stampede ensued and crushed the pear tree along with the partridge. And the cows set to eating the flower beds and ferns.

      I received a summons from the tenant association to ‘cease and desist’ and appear in court for possible criminal mischief. Next morning we refused to open the door but nine ladies-a-dancing snuck in through our loading dock.

      We set the maids and ladies to cleaning up the river of shit floating in the reflection pool and removing the cow patties lacing the walkways. Things had settled down for the day until the maids and ladies threw a fit over their cleaning chores. When the ten lords-a-leaping showed up, they proceeded to mount the milkmaids and we were sited for a public disturbance and display of pornography.

      However the other tenants rather enjoyed the show, until the damn eleven pipers-a-piping arrived on the eleventh day. The noise was deafening, blending in with the cat fight between the maids and ladies over the charms of the lords.

      On the twelth day, the swat team along with the fire department arrived at the same time as the twelve drummers-a-drumming. Noise became unbearable.

      As if I didn’t have enough problems, I received a layout of Playboy magazine dated January 1996, with my wife on the cover. Also a note from the law firm of Screwed, Blued and Tattooed LLP with a demand letter for $10,000.00 or a threat to release it to the public. .

      I dialed my one allowed phone call from the police station and Stephanie answered. When I discussed the blackmail and Playboy issue, she said,

      “John, I’ve been looking for a copy for years now. Thank you.”

      And then she hung up.


      Screwed, Blued and Tattooed LLP, paid a fine of $112,687.23 to the tenant committee for real and punitive damages. Stephanie received a movie contract from Eros Productions in Hollywood and promptly left me. I was hired by the Miami Chamber Of Commerece at $450,000.00 a year to promote tourism and conventions.

      Who says good things can’t come from Christmas?

      Mery Christmas to all of you and as Tiny Tim said, “God Bless Everyone.”

    22. jhowe says:

      The first thing Gwen Marshall noticed when she got to the office on that Monday morning, a little under two weeks until Christmas, was the big pile of bird shit on her desk. What the hell?

      “I put it in that box,” said Ryan, her chief financial officer.

      “Put what in the box?”

      “It was a pheasant or a partridge or something. It was raising all kinds of hell.”

      “You’ve got to be kidding,” said Gwen.

      “No, have a look. I’ll take it if you don’t want it. These things are tasty as all get out.”

      “By all means,” she said shooing the box into Ryan’s hands.

      By Thursday the bird shit was accumulating as fast as Gwen could clean it up. Turtle doves, French hens and calling birds had arrived and were being somewhat collected to be sent home with Ryan for a veritable feast if he was really going to eat them.

      It was becoming apparent that this was some kind of Christmas prank. She sang the song to herself and all of a sudden she looked forward to Friday. ‘I guess I can put up with a little bird crap for the five golden rings,’ she thought.

      She arrived early on Friday and there they were. Five rings sitting there on her desk, all shiny and magnificent. She tried them on admiring the heft and the potential value. Who the hell was leaving her theses things? Now that she had the rings, she didn’t care as much.

      On Monday morning they found six strange women in maid uniforms running around, chasing geese and swans. The birds had apparently been there throughout the weekend as the office was in shambles with feathers and crap everywhere. Ryan was in the process of rounding the birds up. Gwen sat in the conference room while the melee slowly receded. At least the milk maids were helping with the clean-up.

      By Friday the office had to close. There were dancing women and prancing men clad in colorful garb pirouetting and leaping and stepping in swan shit all over the place. Flute players and drummers played relentlessly, fueling the antics of the revelers.

      Gwen had reached her limit. The strange characters wouldn’t listen to reason and continued with their frolicking and merrymaking. The music was shrill and annoying. Ryan was openly flirting with one of the dancing ladies. A messenger arrived with a medium size manila envelope and handed it to Gwen. She tore it open and read.

      ‘Dearest Gwen: By now you are more than likely ready to rid yourself of the gifts I have bestowed. I take no offense. Perhaps you will now think twice before you attempt another hostile accumulation of company stock. There is a service I can recommend that will take care of your little problem for the meager fee of $10,000. Please wire the money to the account number listed and consider it done. Your former partner, Phil. Oh, and please send the rings to the enclosed address if you don’t mind.’

      “Call the bank Ryan,” Gwen said as she dropped the golden rings into a padded envelope.

      “But this is extortion. He can’t get away with this.”

      “Call the goddamn bank Ryan.”

    23. Stacy McGee and I, the two most junior clerks at Spitz Onual CA’s, had been volunteered to work from Christmas to January 5 on a project. It was kind of a bummer because it totally cancelled my trip home for the holidays, but that’s the downside of working here. The work needed to get done.

      Christmas Day somebody left a dozen homemade peanut clusters on my desk; that’s way too much for one person to eat so I shared them with Stacy. I asked her if she’d done it, but she said no it must have been management or something.

      On Boxing Day I found another bag: eleven chocolate cookies. The next day was ten homemade biscuits, and the day after that nine oatmeal muffins. Every day I shared them with Stacy, ‘cause we’re in this together. We’ve become fast friends over shared workload and treats.

      On the 29th, it was eight frosted cupcakes, then seven tarts of mincemeat (it had a computer printed label saying so), and six beef samosas on New Year’s Eve. I took one of the samosas to Dave in HR and asked if he knew who was bringing them, but he pled ignorance. He did eat the samosa, though, and we agreed that they were incredibly tasty.

      On New Year’s day there were five small velvet cakes, each garnished with a sprig of plastic mistletoe. As a joke Stacy put the mistletoe in her hair. As a joke I kissed her, and we ended up spending the whole lunch break necking. I felt like a teenager again.

      The second, third and fourth of January continued the pattern: four shepherd’s pies, three roast squab (again with a note), and two casseroles.

      On the fifth there was no food, only an envelope containing a dozen naked photos of Stacy. On the back was written “Ten grand or these go viral” and an e-mail address to contact when I had the money.

      When I showed it to Stacy she burst into tears. “My ex-boyfriend got me drunk and took those! What can I do, Tom?”

      “What can we do, Stace? I’ll help any way I can.”

      Between the two of us we could only assemble about twelve hundred dollars; filing clerks are not rich. But we had to try. After work I sent an e-mail and got back an address, with instructions to come alone.

      It was a low-security building so I could just walk up to the door. I knocked and it swung open on its own. The apartment inside was small but cozy, and I could smell the most amazing food cooking. When Stacy walked in wearing a little black dress I knew I’d been had.

      “Tom, I’m glad you came. Sorry to set you up, but I hope you like my home cooking as much as you liked my baking. Now we can finish the song.”

      And a hot night with Stacy McGee.

    24. Reaper says:

      Two Dozen

      One dozen days led to one dozen of my peers. It led me to think of that as the Christmas of two dozen. My eyes flicked over the jury as my defense attorney and the judge spoke without directly acknowledging me. The judge, a severe woman with grey hair, droned out first.

      “Council for the defense may present closing arguments.”

      My attorney, no court appointed kid fresh out of college for me thankfully, stood to speak. I had been working at the bank my entire career. The last ten years as an assistant manager. My boss and I had never been thick as thieves but when I looked over my right shoulder at him I wanted to cry. I had never anticipated him being the star witness for the prosecution at my trial, nor the instrument of my devastation. The smug bastard smiled at me, nodding towards the jury. My eyes moved back to them as my attorney laid the case before them or at least our take on it.

      “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you have heard the prosecution portray my client as a cold and calculating man. Let me disabuse you of this notion. Mr. Lonn, the manager of a large and successful investment bank had everything, but it was not enough. We admit that my client committed the crimes he is charged with but would you not have done the same?

      “Mr. Lonn started leaving gifts for the twelve days of Christmas on his employee’s desk. He was creative with his interpretations. The prosecution has presented these gifts into evidence. We know that it started with an airline bottle of whiskey and included a fifth of vodka, a six pack of cheap beer, a forty ounce beer and eleven alcohol filled chocolates. Those seemed odd enough.
      “Now I implore you, on the twelfth day when he received the photo of his wife in bed with his boss did he do anything that you would not? He consumed the alcohol, put on the two leather gloves and loaded the weapons into the three duffle bags with them, adding in seven boxes of ammunition, eight loaded clips, and nine stray bullets on top of the weaponry.

      “I contend that donning the gloves, consuming the alcohol and then carrying all of the ammunition and guns to the home he shared with the wife that made him a cuckold. Yes he was excessive in firing every last bullet into her sleeping form. That is the point. Would you have done the same? He reloaded multiple times, such was his rage. He did not stop to think he just acted.

      “I reiterate our one and only point. Driven by a cruel and overbearing boss, something I am sure every one of you can understand, my client was pushed beyond his ability to cope. I implore you to find him not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. Thank you.”

      I looked over the jury, pretty sure I was going to the chair.

    25. adlamach says:

      First post :)

      As I look down at the picture in my hands, I exhale loudly and slowly. What is it about the holidays that bring the worst out in people? I try as hard as I can to ignore my phone ringing on my desk and the commotion around me. The picture is of my younger brother with a young Blonde leaning drunkenly on him, in what looks like a Las Vegas Chapel. It is dated 2 weeks ago.

      “Damn it!” I mutter softly. I reread the extortion note just to make sure it said 10,000. Normally you would just think okay, he just got hitched in Vegas, he just needs to get an annulment. The only problem with that is he is set to be married to my best friend in 2 weeks. I am the maid of honor and have spent the last 6 months planning to the last detail.

      I stand up, gather all my things off my desk and sling my purse over my shoulders. I walk to my boss ‘s office.

      ” Hey Nick, I’m going to head out early. Got some family stuff to handle, ” I tell him quickly. I take a glance over at his computer screen and see Solitaire displayed.

      He looks up at me over the rim of his glasses. ” Sure thing Claire. It’s Christmas Eve. Got some last minute shopping to do? “he grins widely.

      “Yeah, I have to learn to stop procrastinating. Next year I’ll start early,” I reply back to him.

      I start my drive home and see small snowflakes starting to fall on my windshield. It really is a nice day outside. I love the sight of Christmas lights, smoke puffing out of chimneys, and kids playing in the snow. As I pull into my driveway the holiday spirit oozed out of me as quickly as it came. I see my parents car and my brother and his finance ‘s car. We have our annual Christmas dinner at my house, my husband loves to cook for everyone. Might as well get this over with. As I step inside, I see everyone is seated at the dining table. I walk towards them and lay down the picture and the note on the wooden table.

      I clear my throat and look nervously at everyone ‘s faces. They all look at me slightly puzzled.

      ” I have something to tell everyone….”

    26. Tnoelle says:

      Hoodwinked Santa Claus
      Written By: Therese MacAdam
      I had only been working this job for two weeks on a tech support line for a major computer manufacturer. I wanted to make a little extra Christmas cash. My co-workers were warm and welcoming right from the start. Little did I know I was being set up for a Christmas scandal. It started with small chocolates left on my desk and grew to a five dollar coffee store card and a gift certificate to get my nails done. No one knew who was responsible for the gifts. I thought nothing of it other than I may have a secret admirer or something. This was not the case however and boy was I seriously wrong. On the night before, the night before Christmas Eve, something was seriously up. I found a picture on my desk of my brother kicking what looked to be a homeless Santa in the butt. Now part of me wanted to giggle a little because I could only imagine the storyline that went along with the picture of my brother kicking Santa in the *#ss. However, the picture also contained a note which read, ” You may think this is funny now, however if I do not get $10,000 unmarked bills on my desk on Christmas Day, I will post this image to the internet news machines. If you want to know what desk, just look over your cubicle to the left.”
      Well, I did not look over my cubicle that day, to the right or left. Instead, I waited patiently until I was home that night. I emailed the picture to my brother with the whole scenario. Then, with my brother’s permission, posted my own story on the Internet with the picture. The headline read, Mysterious Stranger will donate $10,000 to homeless shelter if this picture can get 10,000 likes. The response was astounding! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good Like.

    27. LiviJ says:

      I sink down into the chair at my desk. Is this a joke? I keep staring. I can’t believe my eyes. This has to be a prank. There’s no way this can be what it looks like. Because if it is, everything I’ve built my life on is a lie. No, this must be someone’s twisted idea of a joke. There’s no other explanation.

      The phone on my desk rings.

      “Hi honey, just wanted to see how your day was going.”
      My throat is dry. “Hi-” I clear my throat, try again, “Hi babe. Just another day at the office.”
      “Are you okay? Your voice sounds different.”
      “I’m okay, just finished a presentation.”
      “Okay. Listen, I’m going to be late tonight. I have a patient coming in after work.”
      “That’s fine. Maybe I’ll catch up on paperwork before I head out.”
      “Great. I gotta go, but I’ll see you tonight.”
      “See you tonight.”
      “Love you.”
      “Love you too babe. Bye.”

      My head is swirling with thoughts. I look at the note again. If they don’t get an answer by 5:00, this picture goes online and life as I know it ends.

      Who could be doing this? It has to be someone who knows me. Knows that I love apple scented candles, that I needed a new pair of gloves. This isn’t some random secret Santa. Of that, I am sure. But is this real?

      I can’t concentrate on work. Every five minutes I’m looking at the picture again. This continues until 3:00. My phone rings. The voice is mechanical.

      “Just wondering if you’d decided yet.”
      “Who is this?”
      “If I wanted you to know that, I’d let you hear my voice. Have you decided yet?”
      “I don’t believe any of this real.”
      “Check your email.”

      The caller hung up and a new message arrived. More pictures. If the time stamps are to be believed, this has been happening for months. I don’t know what to believe. If this is a prank, it’s a very elaborate one. Why would anyone go through so much trouble? Again, who is doing this?

      The pictures infuriate me. I’m mad at whoever took them, and I’m mad at the person in them. Because if this is a joke, he’s in on it. And if it’s real, he’s a criminal.

      I start pacing my office. The view of the city usually calms me, but now it only frustrates me. I want to strangle them both. Because however this ends, nothing will ever be the same. Part of me wants to let the picture go public. It would serve him right. But my reputation could plummet right along with his, and I don’t want that.

      4:30. I do some of my best work under pressure, but this is nothing like a project. I still don’t know what to believe, and I have 30 minutes to act. My pulse rises with each passing minute. I wonder what a heart attack feels like.

    28. scribhneoir says:

      I apologize if this is unusual…I’m testing my ability to post comments. So far none have posted that I’ve entered.

    29. calicocat88 says:

      “Genesis 6:4″

      I should’ve set the holiday sweater on fire. Whoever this guy was—and it had to be a guy because only a man would think that a cheap, silver, wool sweater with raging red and green lights dangling from the hem was something you buy a woman—he was going down.

      Tracking him was the easy part. He left his mark all over the gift bags. Apparently, he didn’t know everything about me or he would’ve known that I could find him just from his scent…and that cinnamon candles are my favorite, not spicy fart. Maybe it was a joke, but I didn’t laugh and neither did the chick working in the cubicle next to me.

      He was waiting for me in a nondescript blue van that should’ve sent me running for my life. Considering that I couldn’t die, I had to tap into my empathy to make an effort to feel what a human girl felt towards this sort of thing. I slammed my hand against the cold, slippery side of the van. I could sense him and a couple of other men jump at my sudden presence.

      The van door slid open and a clean shaven man wearing a purple polo and khakis glared face to face at me. He jerked back in surprise when I smiled. Most men weren’t too thrilled that I was the same height as them. It made them nervous and I liked it.

      “What did you think you were going to get out of this?” I held up my twelfth gift of Christmas, nearly pressing the picture in his face before shoving it back into my purse—I didn’t shove too hard. It was Gucci.

      “I-I know what you are,” his fingers were clamped to the sides of the van. “We all do. And you need to

      I peered past the purple polo guy into the van where two more men in little rich guy get-ups were huddled grasping some serious looking Tasers aimed at my heart. Maybe they did know what I was. They both stared at me with dumb faces—they all started looking like sheep after a while.

      “So a picture of my sister with wings is what’s going to get me to leave?” I stepped closer to lean against the van and Purple Polo practically peed himself. “Have you heard of Photoshop? No one will believe you.”

      “They will if we can produce a body,” said one of the brave huddle twins. He wasn’t very smart, apparently. “Besides, it’s the human she’s with in the picture. He was found strangled a few days ago.”

      I raised an eyebrow. I bet it look good too because I just had them professionally done. “You must have done some research if you humans think you can take down an immortal.”

      “You’re not an immortal,” said Polo. “We’ve taken your kind before and we can do it again.”

      “Then you know I don’t have the ten grand,” I crossed my arms, my pink coat looking distinctly badass at the moment. “You can tase me if you like. But it won’t keep me down for long.”

      Polo jerked the taser from twin number one’s hand and pressed hard against my chest, firing. The electric shocks sent burning waves through my veins and I could smell burnt skin in my nostrils. But like always, I felt no pain. My body went limp and the twins dragged me into the van, twisting me onto my stomach. They were only after one thing. And they were never going to find them.

      “You can only get away with this for so long before Heaven intervenes,” my voice was muffled from my own hair sticking in my mouth. It didn’t taste as good as it smelled. “I can promise you that they’re not as forgiving as you want to believe.”

      • K Lee says:

        Great Story. I would love to read a book like this.

        • calicocat88 says:

          Thanks K Lee! I try to write stories that I’d like to read. If it doesn’t interest you as a writer while you’re writing it, odds are that it may not interest anyone else.

      • Reaper says:

        The twist on this is amazing. The social commentary I read into it about how people treat Christmas and all holidays touches deeply for me. People forgetting the meaning of the day then holding in scorn and contempt those that stay close to the origins on them. I know that often meaning is assigned by the reader and not part of the intention. Whether you meant it to be there or not this story has a lot of power for me because of it.

        • calicocat88 says:

          Reaper, wow! I’m blessed that this has touched you in such a powerful way. Honestly, no, I wasn’t going for this meaning, but I believe that writing has one original meaning set by the author and then infinitely more by the readers and how they are touched by the contents. Extremely happy that you found more than the original meaning in this story. Thank you!!

      • This is a very nice take on the prompt, Calicocat, with your usual flair for casually and seamlessly including the fantastic in everyday life. Also as usual, it leaves just enough unanswered questions to leave me hungry for more.

        Mmmm … mystery …

      • jhowe says:

        Another good one from calicocat. Lot’s of little cool tidbits in here that add to the enjoyment of reading it. I loved that her hair didn’t taste as good as it smelled.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Wonderful story Calico, so vivid, descriptive and powerful. How on earth can you write these, week after week? Your style is so good, I’ll like to latch onto for a while. It would be like an express train for me.

          • calicocat88 says:

            Kerry, thank you so much! I write them week after week because I can’t write anything else, lol! I’m super happy you actually notice style in my writing. I have a hard time telling since I’m the one writing it.

        • calicocat88 says:

          Thanks, jhowe :) Glad you liked it! I got started with this character and she sort of just took off.

      • don potter says:

        Your words touched my senses. I like the way you describe situations while pushing the story ahead.

      • snuzcook says:

        Wonderful creation a world we do not see. Very powerful characters, and a great ending line. Eager to read the rest!

      • agnesjack says:

        Interesting and unusual take on the prompt. Your descriptive ability is lovely. It was long for the prompt and I felt that you would have liked to have written a longer story, but cut it short because of the limit. There is much here to develop.

      • adlamach says:

        Great story! Enjoyed it!

    30. NoBlock says:

      Karen could not believe that someone had discovered the secret she and her husband, Paul Moulton had been carrying around for two years. See Paul was an aspiring politician with what seemed to be a promising career ahead of him, but he had a mistress and a love child with another woman.

      Karen knew that if this information was made public, the outcry from all the political bloggers and pundit talk shows would certainly ruin any future plans he had for high office.

      Karen was the daughter of and worked for a meat processing giant, she had no formal education and only worked as an account associate for her father until Paul made it big and she no longer needed to work to help support her and Paul. She desperately needed to solve this delimma, but cash was not an option, they simply did not have it.

      So Karen decided to do what needed to be done to protect Paul, it wasn’t going to be easy, but nothing worth doing was. She left a response note for whoever the blackmailer was right in the same spot that they had left the extortion letter, with instructions to meet her later tonight after everyone had left the building down in the processing plant where she was sure no cameras could catch their transaction.

      Johnny who was a poor custodian working at the plant came by later in the day when most folks were at lunch and found to his delight a response letter detailing how this transaction was to play out. He could not believe his good fortune, she was going to go along with it!

      So, that night Johny entered the plant with expectations of a big payoff, all the machines were running he noted, how odd he thought as he looked around. No one was working, why are the machines on. He walked over to one with the intentions of shutting it down, when from behind someone shoved him hard in the back. “Nooo!” Screamed Johny as Karen looked on in a mix of horror and relief, that’s a picture that will never be seen by anyone else she lamented.

      Under the guise of wanting the company Christmas party to be perfect Karen worked at the plant through the night, the next day at lunch everyone gathered around to eat some of the plant’s famous ground hamburgers and listen to a speech from the president of the company.

      “This has been a banner year for us, I want everyone to to pat yourselves on the back.” As the president looked at all the smiling faces enjoying the food, he noticed they were missing someone. “Who’s not hear?” He said.

      They all looked around and someone piped up, “Johny our custodian is missing, too bad he would love to be in on these burgers.”

      Karen could not contain herself, “Oh he’ll be in on these burgers. Don’t worry, if I know Johny he would not miss this for anything!”

    31. Cin5456 says:

      I hope you will indulge me. My story is a little long. I’m in the Christmas spirit, and wanted to write something special. There was more, but I cut it down.

      Money Well Spent

      The note said I had 24 hours to get $10,000 and leave it in the trash can in the lobby downstairs. The photo was of my husband. He was sitting on the sidewalk beside a building somewhere in downtown Chicago beside a group of homeless men with a bottle of booze in his hand. His hair was disheveled, his nose was red, and he looked drunk on his ass. My husband cavorting with trash. My husband drunk on his ass in broad daylight. My husband wearing dirty, baggy jeans and a filthy baseball cap. What would my children think of their father looking like that? What would my family say about him, about us? I knew what they would say and it was not nice.

      Not nice about the blackmailer, that is. We all knew about George’s past. He had been a friend in college, and the following year, I found him on the streets looking like he belonged among the trash and booze and drugs and all the rest that goes with being homeless. I had helped George get his life back together. We were the ones who later cleaned up the homeless man in the picture beside him. We gave that man a temporary home and helped him get on his feet.

      So what should I do about this blackmailer, this criminal? Who could it be? Why did he think this picture deserved covering up? That kind of money was not unreasonable considering my job as executive secretary to the president of a major corporation. I had the money, and it would be easy to take it out of my savings account. Why didn’t this blackmailer ask for more, something I couldn’t afford?

      Whatever this was about, it was not worth the ridicule we would face, nor the embarrassment George would suffer if this picture came out on social media. My boss also didn’t deserve the problems that could come from this either. I would do it, and be thankful it didn’t cost more.

      The next day I packed the money in an old book satchel. At work, I entered the lobby, ready to drop the satchel in the trash beside the elevator as the instructions said. As I approached the elevators a bearded man stood between two of them. He wore old baggy khaki pants and an old plaid shirt. He strummed a guitar while singing the tramp song by Roger Miller, “King of the Road.” He stood directly in front of the trash can I was supposed to use. I stopped ten feet away. and dug in my purse for a twenty dollar bill, thinking he would move toward me, enough so I could get to the trash can. Looking up, I started to wave at him. I was going to say, “Sir, I’m sorry for your troubles. Could I offer you some help?” I didn’t get the chance.

      He was no longer alone. A young girl who looked like she, too, belonged on the streets walked up and started singing along. Then another person leaning on the opposite wall joined in, and then another and another. In the space of a minute, ten people stood directly in front of that trash can, singing,

      “Trailers for sale or rent.
      Room to let, fifty cents.
      No phone, no pool no pets.
      I ain’t got no cigarettes.”

      I could only stare. Then, from the lobby, another group of people came over and they all started singing Christmas carols. It looked like a flash mob was forming. While I stood flabbergasted, frustrated, and somewhat annoyed, my husband walked up to me. I have no idea where he had been hiding. He took the beat up old satchel from me, though I tried to keep hold of it. He nodded toward the lobby and I saw a crowd forming. They all looked homeless, every single one of them.

      George leaned close and said, “My heart, I remembered something you once said to me not long after you rescued me. You said, ‘I wish I could help more people who are homeless. I wish I could just take a bunch of money from the bank and give it away to people who need it.’ We are going to make your wish come true.”

      George opened the satchel, took out a bundle of twenties and started passing them out, five at a time, to a bunch of people who stood in the lobby looking out of place. He took another bundle out, handed it to me, and said, “Go ahead. Share the wealth. Don’t worry. I already replaced this in your savings account this morning. It’s not really your savings.”

      Dazed, and bemused, I did. I have no idea how he got all those homeless people into the lobby, but it was wonderful. A few minutes later, I saw my boss on the other side of the lobby. He was handing out bills too, and other people I knew passed out cookies and coffee.Those people by the elevator kept singing. A man in a Santa suit strummed a banjo, and one in an elf suit held a ukulele. The eclectic mix sounded strange, but the results was toe-tapping music. I think they were people from the streets George used to know.

      In case you hadn’t figured it out, George set the whole thing up, sending that picture and the blackmail note; he set it up so a few hundred homeless people from surrounding shelters and soup kitchens would come, and he set up all the rest, too. He did it all, because he knows that giving to people who need it, and don’t expect it makes me very happy. It was the best twelfth day of Christmas ever.

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