This snap fiction story (what’s that?) was illumi­nated by some decorative gift boxes in a Christmas display.

Here’s the photo I snapped and the short holiday-themed story that it knitted for your stocking. Enjoy!

The Very Best Gift

Ella pulled her arm in tighter around her husband’s elbow, drawing him closer to her. No, drawing herself closer to him. He was and has always been immovable—her rock, her true north. He changed only by erosion and attrition; Ella, by leaning in.

How much she loved this man! He had wooed and exasperated her with his uncom­pro­mising candor, chastised and emboldened her with his headstrong lack of imagi­nation, and caught her every time life left her windstruck.

Gerald, look,” Ella pulled in again.

You do know we were expected sixteen minutes ago.”

Oh, the eggnog won’t curdle without us—and it’s always the best people who are unfash­ionably late. Look!”

Gerald looked at the department-store window. After some consid­er­ation, he said, “Darling, it’s a Christmas tree. I think we’ve seen one or two before.”

Look at the boxed gifts. They’ve got lights inside.”

So they do.” Gerald mused, “It does defeat the purpose, though.”

No it does not. It’s a lovely, cheerful display.”

To see the lovely cheerful lights, the gift box itself has to be translucent. And the whole point of gift-wrapping is that one not see what’s inside.”

Ella chuckled, “No, you horrible man. This isn’t an actual gift. It is a symbol of the pleasure of gift-giving. The antic­i­pation, the sparkle of it.”

I see,” Gerald dug in. “It illumi­nates the expectancy of gift-giving by defeating its very purpose. That’s rather ingenious, in a nihilist sort of way.”

Don’t you get all ersatz philo­sophical on me, Mister.” She play-punched him in his unapolo­get­i­cally middle-aged abdomen. “You know full well whom I’ll have to pluck out from under the tree in a few hours, rollicking among the rest of the children.”

Speaking of, my lovely…” He kissed her hair, resting there for a moment to take in the familiar comfort of its smell. This woman was his hearth, his polestar. “We really should move along.”

Ella knew that look, the unhurried urgency. She shrugged, “Aren’t we already at risk of becoming the best people?”

Well, it’s always the same people who are unfash­ionably late. Whether they are also the best, I dare not say.”

Ella looked up, touched his cheek and tiptoed to kiss him a little too long. 

I do, my dear,” she said. “I do.”

• • •SaveSaveSaveSave

Father, son, husband, friend and writer by day; asleep by night. Happily pondering the immortality of the crab wherever words are shared.

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