Set up: Don’t mess with a girl’s Magic Rainbow Pony Giraffe dreams!
“Andrew! Carla! What on earth?” Dad stood in the living room, having just woken up. My sister and I sleepily stirred from our rooms. My hair was a mess, I’m sure. It always was.
Carla rubbed her eyes and carried her teddy bear. I fumbled with my glasses and almost dropped them twice. The sun wasn’t even up and I hated mornings.
It was the week before Christmas. Mom and dad had placed the first presents under the tree. They were supposed to keep us excited for the Big Day but they were also relentless temptations.
When I was five, I opened them early, even ones that weren’t mine. Dad threatened to return them to the store. Mom talked him out of it but he warned me if I ever did it again then I’d only get underwear. No kid wants underwear for Christmas let alone only underwear.
That year I was nine. I knew better than to mess with the presents but as I stumbled into the living room, Carla at my heels, my bare feet stepped on shreds of wrapping paper. My mouth hung open. I stared at dad. He crossed his arms and tapped his foot. He glared at us, as mad as I’d ever seen him.
“What did I tell you?” he roared. Carla started to cry; I wasn’t far behind.
“We didn’t do it, I swear!” I squeaked.
“Then, who did?”
“Maybe it was Bruticus!” I blamed our corgi.
Dad rolled his eyes. He was about to say something else when Carla shoved me out of the way and bolted toward the tree.
“A Magic Rainbow Pony Giraffe!” She swept the package off the floor and spun circles, her tears suddenly gone. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
Dad sighed and took the toy from her hands. “Remember what I’ve told you?”
“No!” Carla scrunched her face, crossed her arms, and stomped. “No! No! No!”
“Brent.” Mom stepped into the room carrying a cup of coffee and softly said dad’s name.
“Fine. We’ll rewrap them.” Dad scowled and pointed at me and Carla. “But if this happens again, they’re going back.”
I wish I could say that was the end of it. I wish I could say it didn’t happen again. I really thought it might have been Bruticus, though I didn’t rule out Carla. I was wrong. Mom and dad wrapped our presents and put them under the tree again. When we woke the next morning, the same thing had happened. Only that time, dad stumbled in and found me standing in the middle of the paper mess.
We begged. We pleaded. Carla cried, stomped, and shouted. I might have done the same as dad gathered all the presents in his arms. I don’t remember. Maybe. I didn’t even want to have Christmas if it was package after package of brand new undies.
I knew I hadn’t opened the presents. Carla insisted she hadn’t. Dad had locked Bruticus in the garage, so it couldn’t have been him.
Who was ruining Christmas, then? I had an idea to try.
That night after supper, I snuck into mom and dad’s room and grabbed wrapping paper and tape.
“What are you doing?” Carla asked when she found me wrapping my ball glove, some Legos, and a pair of pants. I just shook my head and told her to go away.
I did all I could to stay awake until I heard mom and dad go to bed. Then, I snuck the fake presents under the tree and hid behind the couch. I didn’t last long, though. My eyes grew heavy. I fought and fought but sleep won.
That was until I heard rustling and paper tearing. My eyes slowly opened. I rubbed them and again. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I saw. We had an Elf on the Shelf. Carla liked it but I thought it was dumb. I knew mom and dad moved it every night. At least I thought they did. The old elf we had for years had vanished so mom bought a new one.
And there it was, under the tree, ripping into the fake presents.
“Hey!” I whisper-shouted and jumped from behind the couch. “It was you!”
The elf narrowed its eyes and sneered. My baseball glove fell from its hands and it pushed its sleeves up its arms. The elf was no bigger than my foot but I suddenly wasn’t sure of myself.
It lunged. I shrieked.
“Ahhhhhhh!” Carla blew by me, snatched the elf, and before I could blink the doll was torn to pieces on the floor in a pile of stuffing. Carla had it’s head in her hands and smashed it repeatedly against the floor. “I wanted a Magic Rainbow Pony Giraffe!” she screamed each word as she pounded.
Mom and dad ran into the room.
“What on earth?” mom asked while dad said some words I shouldn’t repeat and scooped Carla into his arms.
I gawked at the dismembered elf. There was no way I could explain it. Mom and dad wouldn’t believe me. I’m still not sure I believed what I saw. In shock, I wandered to the pile of elf and bent down for it’s torso. I glanced at the tag and chuckled in disbelief.
“It’s a South Pole elf. That’s the problem.”
The elf body fell from my fingers and I lumbered away to my bedroom, shaking my head.
As for Christmas, it turned out not to be that bad. I still got a new package of underwear and honestly I kind of needed them, but mom hadn’t let dad return the rest of the presents. They waited until Christmas morning to pull them out of their closet.
As Carla sat on the floor happily playing with her Magic Rainbow Pony Giraffe and dad went for a second cup of coffee, I snuggled with mom.
She kissed my head. “Did you have a good Christmas, bud?”
“Yeah,” I said and then glanced up. “Let’s just never do Elf on the Shelf again.”
©2020 Michael Bergman
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