This is in response to a Wordsmith Studio challenge to write a short story based on this picture of an elf. Please share your thoughts.
“What a cute ornament,” I said as I approached the Christmas tree. An elf sat on a branch, grinning at me. I was hoping to steer my younger sister’s attention away from the burglary, but she would not have it.
“Those bastards took Grandma’s diamond necklace! Mom is going to kill me!”
I felt like saying, “Well, that necklace was supposed to be mine, but you claimed it for yourself.” But I bit my tongue. As usual.
Photo by Gerry Wilson
Trish went into the kitchen, still complaining about the mess the thieves made and that was she was never going to get everything back in order before tomorrow’s Christmas gala. Her word. I’d call it just a silly party for her silly friends. I heard the clink of a bottle meeting glass. The third serving of some Napa Valley winery she mentioned but I ignored. I continued to examine her tree.
The display was so Trish – dramatic and bold. It had to be more than six feet tall because the treetop angel’s halo nearly touched the ceiling. Glittery magenta orbs and stars hung from the branches while silver fabric garland encircled the perfectly cone-shaped tree. I touched one of the branches to see if the tree was a fake, but it wasn’t. New porcelain Lenox ornaments put the price of the tree way over my Christmas budget. Heck, maybe next year’s budget, too.
The only thing was … that elf. It looked so out-of-place. I carefully picked it up to get a closer look.
“Hey, Trish. Where’d you get this elf?”
“Elf? What are you talking about? I don’t …. ” The doorbell rang, cutting her off. She jumped up to answer it. “I hope it’s the cops!”
I sat down at the kitchen counter, looking over one of Santa’s minions. Trish came back accompanied by a police officer. We exchanged greetings and he got right to business, asking Trish questions about the burglary.
I heard the story already. Trish came back from her daily jog to find the house was ransacked. Her word. I would say rummaged.
At the officer’s request, Trish showed him the upstairs, leaving me alone. I sighed and rolled my head, feeling my bones crack. The holidays were stressful enough, now I have to help Trish. All I wanted to do was go back home, crawl under the covers with a cup of cocoa and a book.
The little elf felt heavy in my hand, especially given the fact that it was made of plastic. It was almost as big as my hand. Maybe it’s one of those toys that hold a gift. Maybe one of Trish’s suitors left it for her.
Suitors. Her word. I had other words, none of them nice.
I turned the elf over and unbuttoned his green shirt to find that there was an opening. But a tiny screw locked away his secret. I doubted Trish had a matching screwdriver handy. As I tried to loosen the screw with my thumbnail, I had a “No duh” moment. I grabbed my purse and pulled out my makeup bag to look for a nail clipper. I made a mental note to clean out my purse once I got home. Why am I keeping all these receipts and takeout menus in here?
I finally found it. Luckily this one had a handy file attachment which I used to turn the screw. It wouldn’t quite catch, so it took several fractional turns to finally get the sucker out.
The back popped open to reveal some wiring and mini components. Was this elf supposed to move or sing or what? I looked for an “on” switch, but couldn’t find one.
I looked at the face again, moving my thumb across it. Something wasn’t right. I looked even more closely.
The left eye was painted onto the plastic, blue iris encircling a black pupil. But the right eye pupil was different. Using the file again, I scraped off a little bit of the paint off the left eye. When I tried it on the right side, nothing happened. The surfaces were different. The right eye was glass.
Bells were ringing off in my head, and they weren’t holiday bells. I held the head in one hand, the body in the other and yanked hard. As the head popped off, Trish and the officer were walking back into the kitchen. He was saying that burglaries always increase during the holidays.
“Ummm … officer?” I said, interrupting.
They stopped and looked at me, faces questioning.
“I think you need to look at this.” I gestured to my friend, now sprawled on the table — head off to the side, insides exposed. “I found him in the tree.”
“What is that?” Trish asked as they both moved toward the table.
The officer leaned down for a closer look.
“Is that what I think it is?” I asked him.
He nodded. “It looks like a wireless camcorder.”
I looked at my shocked baby sister.
“What the fuck is going on?!”