Dear Followers of the Inkpen Authoress,
I believe you need a good nickname but I am too lazy to think of one at present. Do you want to discuss it amongst yourselves? Too bad the term "inklings" is already taken. Lewis used all the good stuff, drat him. Anyway, what I meant to say is that Christmas is most definitely coming and, including Christmas Day, there are twelve days left until that beautiful holiday. I just returned from a trip to Washington D.C. which is always an inspiring experience...and because of several things that transpired there, I have decided to write you a Christmas short story in twelve parts. I'll post the continuing story each day and all you have to do is drop by and read the daily dose! This will not only be a treat for you, but a good method by which I intend to get some non-novel writing in for the holidays. Thus I give to you:
by Rachel Heffington
Letter the First:
December 14, 1948
It is twelve days before Christmas and my true love has given me nothing. I wish I had your cynicism and could stop checking the mailbox but I can’t. I have been down three times since four o’clock and it’s still as empty as ever. I keep hoping the next trip will bring a Christmas package from a secret admirer but apparently have no admirers, secret or otherwise. The P.O. closes at five. If I’m to have a True Love Gave To Me, he has but fifteen minutes to give me the post-war equivalent of the requisite partridge and pear tree. A cornish hen at the Ritz might not be scorned.
You said in your last letter that I should stop being romantic and chuckle-headed and Do Something with my life. I do admire people like you, Mavis, who have backbones and believe we women can do any of the jobs men can. But I have a confession that you probably won’t be overly surprised to hear: I am a lazy creature. I do not want the exertion of doing what it takes to be a feminist in this era. Rosie might have enjoyed riveting but I have no upper arm strength and I hate the smell of brass. I wish I was clever and could write like you but I’m good for nothing but helping femme fatales into and out of gowns at fittings and checking my mailbox four times an hour. Lazy, as I said.
Say. He has exactly three minutes to show his head. I’ll dash down at five after and try to convince Mrs. Simmons I was on my way out and not stalking my box for a partridge in a pear tree. This will obviously require my actually going out which means I’d better write like crazy now and finish up later. Should I go out for coffee or doughnuts? Both I should think, if old True Love Gave To Me disdains to leave a package.
I am sorry to ramble, Mavis, as I know it annoys you to no end. Let me try to practice pessimism. Ahem.
My mailbox will be empty.
I will not have a true love (What’s new?).
I will still have to go out so as to confuse that Amazon, Mrs. Olivia Meeks Simmons.
Lord help me. How dreary it all sounds. Five-o-five. Off I go with my warm mittens on and my overshoes and my new red coat. It is a very nice coat. Very Mavis-esque. Cheers!
Oh HEAVEN-CLOUDS. Oh Christmas. I don’t know where to begin except this: my mailbox was NOT EMPTY when I went down at five-o-six. The way I knew this is because Mrs. Simmons swirled around in her chair and offered the mail to me on a salver. Actually, Mavis, she chewed her wrinkled finger (are there any nails left to bite?) and snorted like a windy plow-horse.
“You kin stop playin’ relay-races with yourself, if you’d like. They shore as called the game and t’other team won.”
I believe Mrs. Simmons thought herself humorous.
I barely heard, for I saw a squatty, chubby, brown-paper package with a red ribbon snuggling in my inhospitable mailbox. I reached for it and Mrs. Simmons snatched it up. You will be able to understand why I did not laugh at Mrs. Simmons’ joke. I almost regret my negligence in not making humored noises, for it made her cross.
She would not give up my mail! I had a perfectly reasonable panic that I would never get the package at all.
I am afraid at this point that I said a number of cutting things about postal regulations and obstruction of justice. Perhaps mail does not have much to do with justice on a legal level, but personally, I believe it is one of life’s vital pleasures. Take away the post and you might as well cut off my legs at my ankles, which are rather nice.
I wrestled the package away, charged out the front door, and promptly ran into a huge man in a frosty overcoat. He could surely not be the sender of this package. He was immense! But the collision knocked said parcel to the corner of the sidewalk and quite flattened the dear little bow.
“Oh!” I squeaked. You will remember how: with a little angry jump at the end.
The man bowled forward and chucked the package back at me. I have always been awful at sports and even the most elementary games of catch. Tonight was no different. The package landed at my feet and sent snow down my ankles. I only pray there is nothing breakable in that ill-fated parcel.
Yes, do raise your perfect Left Eyebrow, Mavis my friend. I have not opened it. I stuffed the offended item into my coat pocket and blundered my way to the shop on G-street where they make terrifying coffee and angelic doughnuts.
I ate three. My figure is funeralized.
When I had blundered around a little more, I tramped home and shoved the package on top of the register where it ogles me now. Mavis, I’m scared into a state of rigor mortis. I have never been a brave person, as you know, but now I’m really and truly frightened. I never really thought there would be a package in my mailbox on this first day of the Christmas Twelve. That’s why I didn’t bother trying to be cynical about it. But now there is a box without an address in my possession and it belongs to me. I think. And it is at present goggling at me from the register.
I can’t bear to open it.
This letter is wretchedly long.
What if this gift is from someone I know? I hate the men I know.
Or what if it is from the enormous man in the frosty coat?
What if it turns out to be cordial cherries, which I despise? I shook the box just now. It sounds like cordial cherries.
You see the complexities of unwrapping the box, Mavis dear? But...oh goodness. I know it is time to be a logical girl and do what you would do: open it straight away.
Oh, it’s a perfectly lovely gift! A gold brooch shaped like an espalier-tree with a tiny pearl dove in the top, though I expect it’s meant to be the elusive partridge. Of all hateful human beings, I do think men are the worst. Mavis, it’s all wrong.
I opened the box and my stomach crinkled like wrapping paper and my face flamed, it was such a lovely pin. Then I notice the card inside:
They were out of live partridges and anyway, I’ve heard they scratch. Please take this gift as broad hint of my admiration. I remain yours,
My stomach flattened out. My cheeks cooled. It isn’t a gift for me after all. I am Toni, not Diana. And it’s no good trying to winkle an alternative meaning out of it. I’ve tried:
Is Diana the woman’s name?
Or does he reference Diana the Huntress?
Even if he is referencing the mythical Diana, how am I to be sure he means me, a girl who might more honestly appropriate Catherine of Russia as an adopted title. Besides. I know no John Out-the-Window.
I am taking myself to bed. Life is terrible. I knew I should never have opened that gift. I despise Mrs. Simmons and her non-fingernails. Tomorrow I will try to find the Diana for whom the gift was meant. Aren’t I heroic?