The man with the golden hair heard a pencil scratching across a pad of lined paper. His eyes had just fluttered shut when he looked up with a start. He brushed a single strand of tinsel from shirt, a remnant from the day’s activities. After a quick scan for more tinsel, he glanced at his wife, checking to see if she noticed.
“What are you writing? You aren’t writing that letter, are you?”
She stared intently at the paper as she wrote fast and furiously. He wondered if she had noticed anything that he had done that night: the twinkling lights, the tree, the presents or the snowflake cut-outs taped to the ceiling. He was most proud of the snowflakes, each one was different. His hand ached from the careful cutting.
He watched her purse her red lips and continue with her task.
There were only a few people left on earth who still communicated by letter and his wife was one. Instinctively, he knew for whom the letter was intended and what it would likely say.
“Come on, now, what are you writing? I have a right to know, don’t I?”
He continued to wheedle the unrelenting writer for confirmation of what he suspected, perhaps in hopes of stopping her or changing the contents of the letter. Surely, he had done enough to make up for whatever wrong she had imagined. He pulled his body the rest of the way up from his resting spot on the couch and felt his heart pounding.
Of course he was nervous; he had a lot riding on this exchange of information. Yet still, the pencil continued to scrawl out letters and words without stopping.
He glanced towards the corner at the tiny tree with twinkling lights and lumpy presents at its base. Its cheery glow reminded him of the reason for the season, the joy of giving, and then of the thing that he never forgot, the bribe.
In a few days, he would make a batch of his famous cookies. From the baker’s dozen, he would pick the most perfect cookie, with chocolate chips evenly spaced and plentiful, not too chewy or crunchy and leave it out on a plate with a cup of milk. Perhaps this year, he would leave out a few more cookies and a bigger glass of milk.
A greater investment should yield a greater return, he reasoned. That is, unless that letter gets to him first. He began to worry again.
“You promised you wouldn’t write,” he said.
The scratching suddenly stopped and the writer looked up. Her pencil remained suspended in midair, filled with endless graphite potential. She pushed a pair of heavy glasses higher on the bridge of her nose and prepared to speak.
“He has to know,” she said. As though he doesn’t already, she snickered. He knows everything, including who is naughty and nice.
She stared out the window as white flakes of snow fell from the grey sky and as paper flakes hung from the ceiling, only thinking of what to write next.