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The Mysterious Delivery

A Christmas Tale

By Natalie GrayPublished 4 months ago 11 min read
The Mysterious Delivery
Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

When the package dropped onto my doorstep, I was at the very least surprised. On second thought, "surprised" is a bit of an understatement The damn drone almost dropped the stupid thing right on top of my head as I was walking out the door. I was already incredibly late for work, and getting almost decapitated by a delivery drone did not do much to brighten my mood.

Why do these weird packages always show up during the holidays? Then again, I'm ordering so much shit this time of year, I often lose track of delivery dates and stuff. I didn't remember ordering anything the previous week though, which confused me a little. Anyway, I was in a hurry, so I took the parcel with me to stave off the porch pirates. It sat in the passenger seat unassumingly all the way to my workplace. As I drove, the same stupid Christmas song that plays twenty times a day was on the radio. Every station. I mean, who does that? Interrogation professionals could learn a thing or two from radio DJs around the Christmas season. Thumb screws and bamboo shoots under the fingernails are nothing compared to the horror that is Mariah Carey. Honestly. Play five seconds of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and you'd have the toughest international operatives begging for mercy.

I realize I sound like a total Scrooge here. Don't get me wrong; I like Christmas just as much as the next guy. Heck, I love Christmas. It's my absolute favorite holiday. What I don't like is the smarmy commericals selling some cut-rate shlock I don't need or want, and listening to the same songs fifty times a day on loop at work. That's enough to make anybody scream "Bah, Humbug" at the top of their lungs. Maybe I am being a little unnecessarily bitter. I blame it all on this job I took. Being the manager of a toy store sounded great on paper: benefits, dental, three vacation weeks a year... sign me up! It's like a dream come true. What I didn't sign up for was having to babysit a group of teenage seasonal workers who have no idea what they're doing and no motivation to actually care about their job. Some of them I've even caught playing with the toys they were supposed to be stocking on the shelves. I swear, my hairline has already started to recede in the two months I've been in this position.

Honestly, once I got to work, I forgot about the package. I carried it in with the rest of my work stuff, and set it down in the corner of the cubby hole that serves as my office. "Better than the cubicle at my last job," I reminded myself. It sat there, partially hidden under my coat until lunch, when my assistant manager, Judy, noticed it. "Hey, Irv," she smiled brightly, "I brought Mickey Dee's. Ooh, what's that? Someone send you a Christmas present? Who's the lucky girl?"

I took the greasy paper bag she offered with a tired grin, then looked over at the little box, "That? I dunno; it came this morning, via drone of all things. I haven't had the chance to look at it yet."

Judy took it upon herself to pick up the box and inspect it. "It's kinda heavy," she noted, then took a gander at the packing sticker on top, "Huh... that's funny."

I looked up from the fry box my face was shoved in with a curious frown, "What is? Hey, don't read my address! I can sue you for invasion of privacy, ya know!"

My tone was joking as usual, but Judy wore a strange look on her face. She seemed confused and intrigued, and even a little shocked. "Irv," she asked, "Did you even look at the return address?"

I stood and plucked the box from her hands to inspect the package myself, "Why would I do that? It probably came from Amazon, or-" The words died in my throat as I read the return address, and I honestly couldn't believe what I was seeing:

"S. Claus; P.O. Box #1, North Pole".

"No," I muttered, "This... This can't be real. Somebody must be playing a joke on me!"

Judy giggled and shook her head, making her blonde curls flounce, "If this is a joke, it's a hell of a good one!" Her tone became more serious then as she glanced at the return adress. Her tongue flicked out of her mouth to moisten her bubblegum pink lips, "You don't think... it could be the real deal, do you?"

I laughed out loud, "Yeah, sure; I hear Santa always delivers presents with drones these days, ever since the ASPCA got onto him about using reindeer! Judy, do you hear yourself?!" With that, I pitched the package into the garbage without a second look. It had to be a prank, probably from those snot nose little kids who live up the block. Every year they pull some shit with me as soon as the weather turns cold. Last year, they sprayed my car down with a garden hose the night of the first annual freeze, and the year before that they put a flaming bag of dog shit on my porch. Whatever they had cooked up this time, I wasn't going to have any part of it. They could find another sucker to glitter bomb, or whatever was in the package.

After surving yet another stressful day at work (where I, yet again, somehow "volunteered" for an extra hour of overtime), I came home to another surprise. There was another package on my doorstep. It looked exactly like the first one, same dimensions and everything. When I picked it up, I noticed there was even a little ketchup stain on the top of it. This couldn't be the very same package... could it?

No. That was absolutely impossible. I took out the trash myself before closing up shop, and the dumpsters behind the store have locks to keep the raccoons and vagrants out. There was no freaking way this could be the same package. Unless...

"Nuh-uh," I muttered, "Don't even think about it. Santa Claus isn't real. It's just those kids, screwing with me!" I set it back down on the porch and kicked it off into the bushes, nodding satisfactorily when I heard it splash into a puddle of muddy slush.

I tried not to think about the package as I microwaved some leftover takeout for dinner. When I sat down on the couch to eat though, it was sitting on my coffee table. Mud and ice dripped down the sides of the beat up little box, which had started going wrinkled from getting wet. I admit I started to panic a little at this point, and picked up the box to chuck it out the door.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Bud," a high-pitched little voice chirped from behind me. I jumped out of my skin and spun around, and my jaw hit the floor when I saw who had spoken. There was a tiny woman, perfectly proportioned but barely a foot tall, sitting on my couch. Her candycane-striped legs were crossed jauntily as she smoothed her green skirt over her knee delicately, ending in a matching pair of curly-toed shoes with bells on the ends. Her pretty little face smiled impishly at me, and her impossibly green eyes sparkled with joy.

I shook my head and slapped myself a little, trying to snap out of whatever waking dream I'd wandered into. "Wh-Who," I stammered, "What are you? How did you get in my house?!"

The tiny woman stood, then with the agility of a prima ballerina hopped up onto the back of the couch. "Name's Tinsel, Bud," she curtsied, "pleased to meet ya."

I took in her appearance again, still gobsmacked but losing my fear with every passing second. As I looked over her from her stocking cap and oversized pointed ears down to her green dress, stockings and curly-toed shoes, I was struck with a sudden, awe-filled epiphany. "You... You're an elf," I mumbled, "One of... S-Santa's elves...?"

A giddy little laugh just like the tinkling of a silver bell greeted me in response, "Can't fool you, eh, Bud?"

I blushed a little, suddenly feeling incredibly ridiculous. "My name's Irving," I mumbled.

Tinsel nodded, her lips still curled in a grin, "Yep, I know. I know lotsa things. Part of my job to know. Y'know?" Her glittering green eyes focused on the soggy box in my hands intensely, "So: you gonna open that or what? It's real important that ya do."

I looked down at the package again, then set it down on the coffee table with a sigh. Hey, if a magical being tells you to open a box, wouldn't you do it? Truth be told, I still wasn't sure if this was all really happening. Maybe I got in a wreck on my way home and slipped instantly into a coma, or maybe Judy laced my Big Mac earlier with LSD. Somehow, the second scenario seemed more likely to me. I cut the tape carefully with my pocket knife anyway, and carefully opened the flaps, afraid at what I might find inside.

To my confusion and intrigue, the object inside was a simple red stocking cap trimmed in white fur. It felt very soft in my hands, like it was made of real ermine fur and crushed velvet, and yet holding it made my fingers tingle. I could have sworn it sparkled a little too, when I held it up to the light. Whatever Judy slipped me must have been good stuff. "Uh..." I blinked, "What is it?"

Tinsel giggled that little silver bell laugh again, "Well, gee, I would'a thought you'd know a hat when ya saw one, Bud!" She hopped down from the back of the couch and alighted onto the table, making the bells on her shoes and cap jingle when she landed. "Every hundred years or so, the mantle of Ol' Saint Nick is passed around," she grinned, "Guess who's the lucky guy this century?"

The hat dropped from my hands and I shook my head, "Whoa, no! You... Y-You've got the wrong guy! Up until this minute, I didn't even think Santa Claus was real!"

Tinsel's little ruby lips pursed in thought, "Huh... no one's ever turned down the job before. That's a shame; I've read all your qualifications myself, Bud. You'd be a shoe-in for the job!" She snapped her fingers, and a scroll popped into existence in her hand. I thought for a moment I caught a waft of freshly-baked gingerbread, but quickly dismissed the notion. Tinsel hovered in mid-air with her legs crossed as she unfurled the scroll and read from it aloud, "Deep love of Christmas, charitable, a lifetime veteran of the Nice list, strong discernment of Naughty and Nice... yep, it's all here." She looked over the scroll at me again, her expression more serious than I had ever seen it in the short time since she arrived, "Look, Bud, this is a once in a lifetime offer. If you don't want the job, that's okay, but if you say 'no' now, you won't have a chance to reconsider later."

I crossed my arms over my chest and started to pace slowly, thinking it over. It's not like I hadn't played Santa before. I was always on the heavier side naturally, even as a kid. My very first job, in fact, was as a mall santa when I was eighteen, and I loved every minute of it. Playing santa and actually being Santa... that was a huge difference though, wasn't it? The pressure seemed intense. What if I screwed up? What if I couldn't deliver all the toys in a single night, or what if I mixed up the Naughty and Nice lists? How was I supposed to eat all those cookies left for me anyway?

Looking back, all these questions sound silly, and they were. In the moment though, those concerns were very real and quite serious. I thought next of my friends and family, about my job. What would happen to them if I just disappeared off the face of the earth for the next hundred years? Was that a risk I was willing to take?

Tinsel cleared her throat then, bringing me back into the moment. "You'll only need to be up North three months out of the year," she said, as if she could read my mind, "The other nine months are yours to do with as you wish. The Santa before you spent all his off time in Tahiti. Money won't be an issue either; the Powers That Be compensate all holiday figures very well. You won't get sick either, so healthcare won't be a concern to boot." She picked up the hat and held it out to me again with a smile, "So... whaddaya say, Irving?"

After another moment's hesitation, I slowly reached out, my fingers rubbing together, and took the hat again. "I can't promise I won't screw up," I muttered.

Tinsel grinned sweetly and hopped up onto my shoulder, "Not a problem, Bud! We'll show ya the ropes, and handle all the heavy lifting until you get the hang of things. You won't regret this, Irv; I guarantee it!"

Something about the way she said my name, "Irv", suddenly struck a chord with me, and I studied her face again. "Judy?" I asked. Tinsel only winked as she plopped the hat onto my head, laughing merrily as we disappeared in a shower of sparkles.


About the Creator

Natalie Gray

Welcome, Travelers! Allow me to introduce you to a compelling world of Magick and Mystery. My stories are not for the faint of heart, but should you deign to read them I hope you will find them entertaining and intriguing to say the least.

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  • Sherry Gray 4 months ago

    Good take on a whimsical theme!

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