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Go to Previous message | Go to Next message | Back to MessagesMark as Unread | Print ReplyReply AllMove... Flag this messagestory!Wednesday, December 23, 2009 3:09 AMFrom: This sender is DomainKeys verified"CK" contact detailsTo: "kathy kulesza" Reaper Carol Author: kathyk Disclaimer:
Rating: G Sam walked into the DMV on the morning of Christmas Eve, trying not to sneeze on the vessel box. He was suffering from the worst cold he'd ever had. "Hi Gladys," he wheezed blearily. "Sam, what did you do? Sneeze on the soul?" Gladys smirked. Sam smiled. "No, the soul was a germaphobe, so I convinced him that the vessel was a sterile environment and he jumped right in. Do you have any extra Kleenex?" He pushed the vessel box across the counter. "I can't make you sick, can I? You are the first person I've talked to in two days." Gladys handed him a full box of tissues from her co-worker's desk. "No, you won't make me sick. Demons are immune to human illness." She made a face but was actually pleased that Sam had referred to her as a person rather than a demon. Sam took the tissues, shaking his head. "I wanted to finish my Christmas shopping today, but I feel so lousy I'm going to have Sock go to the mall for me instead. I'll leave him my list and enough money to buy gifts for Andi and Ben"
"You trust that guy with your money?" Gladys was skeptical. "Of course! I've known Sock since I was seven years old. He is like an older brother to me. Anyway, I can't wait to see them open their presents this year. After the year we've had, I went all out." Gladys seemed to look curious, so Sam went on. "I bought Sock a new video game system. Ben is getting an iPod and I got Andi that diamond necklace that has been on all the TV commercials." He blew his nose. "I owe them so much. I-I couldn't be a reaper without their help"
Gladys gave him a look that was almost kindly. "How can you pay for all of that? Did you rob a bank?" Sam smiled again while blowing his nose. "I worked as much overtime as I could get and I sold my old action figures and video games on eBay. I hope some kids have as much fun playing with them as I did." His voice drifted for a moment, then he shook himself. "Sorry I'm taking up so much of your time. Where is everybody else here?" He looked around the drab office. "Are you the only person working today?" "No, they all went out to breakfast, and I wasn't invited." Gladys tried to pretend that the snub didn't bother her but Sam could see that she was hurt. "Gladys, that stinks! I'll take you out for breakfast as soon as I get my appetite back." Gladys looked at him. "I don't want your pity Sam." "This isn't pity! I didn't have time to get you anything, so it will be your gift," Sam said eagerly. "For the others, we aren't exchanging gifts until the 26th." Yeah? Why not?" Gladys asked. "Ben and Nina went to Puerto Rico for Christmas, and they won't be back until then"
"Oh yeah? Why'd they do that?" Gladys played it cool, but she was thrilled with this information. Nina had taken an unauthorized vacation? That would be trouble with the Devil. Sam looked rueful. "Ben's grandmother disowned him because he was dating Nina. Nina felt horrible about it, so she offered to take him wherever he wanted to go and he chose to go there. Argh. I feel terrible; I'd better go. Here this is for you." Sam handed Gladys a red envelope, which she put into her purse. "Merry Christmas, Gladys!" "I hope you feel better, Sam," Gladys said, not adding that demons weren't allowed to celebrate the holiday.

Sam drove to the drugstore for some more Nyquil and tissues. He was determined to beat this cold once and feel better for the holidays. He left a note for Sock describing in detail the gifts he wanted to purchase for Ben and Andi. He'd decided not to buy a gift for Nina because he wasn't sure she was his friend, and besides he didn't want to offend Ben. He bought a small present for Gladys because he knew she would be lonely at Christmas and she had helped him in the past. Sam wrapped Sock's new video game before going to bed. He was pleased that Sock hadn't found his gift. Sam had hidden it in a box marked cleaning supplies, which he knew Sock would avoid like the plague.
Sock arrived home after his shift at the Bench where he succeeded in doing no work as usual. He saw Sam's note on the kitchen table along with a bank envelope filled with the money Sam had saved for Christmas shopping. "Sam, I'll do anything for you: I'll hunt escaped souls, fight demons, no problem, but I'm not going near the mall on Christmas Eve. I think I'll use this money to spread some holiday cheer instead." Sock drove to the Brick where he bought a round for everyone in the bar. The other patrons were so surprised by Sock's generosity that he had free beer for the rest of the afternoon. It was a rollicking good time.
Sock was already drunk when a mysterious stranger entered the bar and sat down next to him. The Devil had entered the bar looking for Sam. He wanted to surprise him with a trip to Mexico, using the ruse of reaping another soul in order to get Sam to travel with him. As he took a seat, looking around him—"Merry Christmas! Lemme buy you a drink!" Sock accosted the new arrival. "Why thank you, young man. I'll have a martini," the Devil answered. "My name is Jerry Belvedere and I'm in Real Estate. And you are?" Sock grinned drunkenly. "Les Nesman! and I'm the youngest executive vice president in Work Bench corporate history!" Sock boasted. "Do you know Sam Oliver? He works there, I believe. His parents are old friends of mine." "Nope! I never heard of him," Sock replied. The Devil was amused by Sock's ability to make a fool of himself, and idly wondered what he might be up to. But he had a task to accomplish, so after downing his martini, he was about to leave when Gladys entered the bar.
Gladys was not a happy demon. Her colleagues at the DMV had gone to breakfast without her. Then en masse they had left work early, and she had been the only employee to work until five. She figured that the only way to make the day tolerable was a drink. Sock spotted her across the bar. "Hey Gladbags! Lemme buy you a drink!" Gladys stared, then strode over to him, angered by what she observed. "You idiot, Wysocki, what are you doing here? You smell like a brewery! I 'll bet you never went to mall like Sam asked you to." The Devil glared at both of them. He didn't tolerate anyone lying to him, especially a stupid drunk. Standing up, he motioned for Gladys to follow him outside. "How do you know this 'Les Nessman'? Does he really work at the Bench?" "His name is Bert Wysocki, and he's the Bench's lowest paid employee," she said tartly. "I don't know why Sam is friends with him." "He's Sam's friend? I asked if he knew Sam and he denied it." Gladys grimaced. "He told you that? Sam said that he's known Sock since he was seven, and he thinks of Sock as an older brother. Sam's a terrible liar so I believe him." The Devil scowled again. "Can you prove this?" Gladys shrugged. "Send us to the DMV and you will know who's telling the truth"
Gladys turned on the lights at the DMV. "Stand here and don't say anything." Sock, stunned to find himself there, and surprised by the anger in her voice, remained uncharacteristically silent. Gladys rewound the securitytapes to Sam's admission about Sock's place in his life. "Sam thinks of you as his brother, and you don't acknowledge knowing him? That's cruel, very cruel"
"H-How did you know that?" Sock could feel his face turning red. "That man, Jerry, told me. He wants me to protect Sam and I plan to follow his orders. How will you explain spending his money on beer when he wanted to express his gratitude to his friends?" She fixed him with a stern gaze. Sock's eyes widened. "I've got it covered, Gladys, I swear." Sock was used to thinking on his feet. "I'll go to the mall on the 26th and spend my own cash on Ben and Andi's gifts. Sam won't suspect anything. It'll work, I promise." Gladys looked skeptical. "So where is this great gift exchange happening?" "We are meeting at the Brick after work on that day, the 26th." "Okay. I'll be there too. If you disappoint Sam I'll make your life miserable. That's a promise, not a threat." With one last glare, Gladys disappeared into the night.

"Whaaaa? I can't stay here!" Sock yelled. "Oh, Sock. Shut up." Sock turned around at the sound of a familiar, lilting voice. It was Nina clad in a bikini. "What, what, what are you doing here, Nina"
Nina looked annoyed. "I don't know! One minute I was walking along the beach with Ben and now I'm here with you. This sucks! I'd much rather be on vacation. But let's go." "Where are we going?" Sock babbled. Nina shrugged. "I have no idea," she admitted. "Take my hand, anyway." Sock didn't really want to go with her but he somehow knew he had no choice. The lights blinked, and Sock and Nina found themselves inside a home decorated for Christmas. They listened as two young boys were talking about Christmas gifts. One boy was obviously older than the other. "I hope Santa brings me the new bike I asked for!" the younger one said. "Come on, Sam! There is no such thing as Santa!" the bigger boy scoffed. "Your parents are the ones buying the gifts. There are probably hidden in their closet like my mom does." "You're lying Sock!" Little Sam was becoming upset. "Mommy won't let me go to the toy store, she says we don't have money for them. Santa is real and you are going to get coal because you don't believe in him!" A very young, worried-looking Mrs. Oliver came into the living room. "Boys, quiet down! Kyle is sick and I don't want you waking him up." "Sorry, Mommy!" Sam gave her a hug. "Sock says you and Daddy are really Santa but I know he's wrong. Can we look for the new bike I asked for?" Linda Oliver smiled. She knew her son's gifts were hidden at her husband's office. "Of course you can look, but you won't find anything here. After you boys have worked up an appetite you can have some cookies!" "Thank you, Mommy!" Sam grinned. "Come on, Sock, I can't wait to see my bike!" The boys disappeared upstairs to begin the search.

"Oh, my God, Sam was so cute when he was little," Nina squealed. "How old is he? Was Ben cute too? I'll bet he was better looking than both of you." Despite the odd circumstances, Nina looked happy. Sock, stunned, nevertheless responded. "I've known Sam since I was seven years old. His mom used to watch me after school while my mom worked. We didn't meet Ben until we worked at the Bench." He rubbed his hand through his hair. "But Sam was wrong and I was right! There is no Santa Claus!" Not that this was the point, but still. Nina looked wise. "Actually, there is a Santa--or Saint Nicholas to be exact. He was really nice! I knew him, and I miss him. He doesn't look like those soda cans--he's really skinny." She seemed sad as they went outside. "Well, I'm going back to the beach now!" Nina waved as she disappeared into the night. Suddenly, Sock found himself inside a jail cell. What the hell? "Somebody get me out of here!" he yelled. "I haven't done anything wrong!" "Oh really, Mr. Wysocki? The Devil appeared on the other side of the bars. "I beg to differ." He held up a manicured hand. "One. You embezzled money from the Bench, Two, accused Andi of sexual harassment when you knew she was innocent. And three, worst of all stole from Sam. I think you need to need to make yourself comfortable here in your new home." He gestured around the cell. "Please! Please let me go! I'll turn over a new leaf, I promise!" The Devil smiled. He loved watching people beg for mercy. "Okay, okay. I'll let you go since it's Christmas, But I'll be watching you very closely from now on." The Devil snapped his fingers, and with a yell, Sock was transported back to his bedroom.

Sock woke up the next morning with a huge hangover. "Damn! I have to stop drinking so much. I'm having nightmares now." He shook his head. It was Christmas morning and he didn't know what he was going to tell Sam. He checked his bank balance online, though he already knew that he didn't have enough money to pay Sam back and replace the gifts. His mind raced. "I know! I'll tell Sam I was the victim of a pickpocket, he never questions anything I tell him." Relieved, Sock went to spend the holiday with his mother and stepfather. The next day Sam found Sock in the morning, getting ready for work. "Where are Andi and Ben's gifts? I need to wrap them before tonight," Sam asked. "Don't worry, buddy, I had the Mall gift-wrap them," Sock lied easily. "They're in the trunk of my car." Sam grinned, feeling much better. "Thanks, man, you are the best." Sam put Sock's present on the passenger seat of his car and drove to work. After their shift, the gang arrived at the Brick around 4:30. Gladys had reserved a table, and was waiting for them. Sam arrived first, and he put Sock's present on the table. "Hi Gladys! Did you have a nice day off?" "Yes, I did. Thank you for your card, Sam, it was very sweet." Gladys made a point of buying Sam a beer. Ben, Nina, and Andi came in together, talking and laughing. Sock was late, as usual, and as he came in, Sam was upset to see that he was empty handed. When he sat down, Sam grabbed his arm and muttered, "Where are Ben's and Andi's gifts?" "I'm so sorry Sam I went to my car at lunch and I opened my trunk and the presents were gone. I filed a report with the police--that's why I was late." Sam looked shocked. "Oh, that sucks! Well, it happens. Damn. Ben can share what I got for you." He turned to his girlfriend. "Andi, I'm sorry, something happened, and your gift will be late." Andi grinned reassuringly. "That's fine, Sam, I'll wait." There was a lull in the conversation. "Sock, open your gift," Gladys said, loudly. Sock suddenly felt uncomfortable. "No thanks, I'll wait until I get home." Gladys looked piercingly at him. "Sock, open it or I'll do it for you," she snapped. "Okay, okay, I'll do it!" Sock said, reaching for the package. He tore off the paper, and instead of a video game system, the box was filled with coal and a single sheet of paper. "What kind of joke is this?" Sam exclaimed. "I bought you a PS3!" He looked at the paper and was shocked to read his own handwriting—the Christmas gift shopping list. He looked at his friend. "Sock! What did you do with all that money!?" Sock looked at the ceiling, then the floor. "Answer me!" Sam demanded. Socks lips moved, but no words came out. Gladys leaned across the table. "I'll tell you what he did, honey. He took your money and bought drinks at the Brick rather than go to the mall for you. I'm sorry to have to break the news to you." Sam couldn't speak, he felt like crying. He felt as disappointed as when he was a kid and learned there was no Santa. He jumped up and left the bar as fast as he could. The others watched him go, then turned back to Sock. "Sock, that was horrible! How could you hurt Sam that way?" Andi glared in Sock's face. "You are worse than Judas," Nina pronounced. "I don't want to know you." Ben looked upset and disappointed. "You don't deserves any friends right now, Sock, and I don't think I can live with you any longer. Sam, Nina and I are getting our own place. You suck, Sock, you really do." Aghast, Sock got up and walked out of the bar. He knew they were right.

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