📅 Published on July 26, 2022


Written by Lucretia Vastea
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Chapter 1. Ronny

*ring ring ring*

BILLIE: Welcome to ‘shopNshare’, this is Billie speaking, how may I be of assistance?

RONNY: Yeah, uh, the microwave I got from you guys is broken. I want a refund.

BILLIE: Alright sir, can I please have your customer ID?

RONNY: Nah. Forgot what it was.

BILLIE: That’s okay. Name & birth–

RONNY: Ronny Romano, June 1st 1978.

BILLIE: Thank you, Mr. Romano. Now. I see your last contact with us has been in 2016, so I’m going to need to update your customer information first. Do you still live in Saint Johns Florida, at 8053 Bridge Drive?

RONNY: Look, lady, I don’t got all night. The goose ain’t cookin’ itself, you know. I bought this piece of shit from you guys, now it’s broken, and I want to send it back. I need my refund and pronto! Christmas has left a hole in my pocket that ain’t getting stitched before January, you feel me?

BILLIE: Oh, I do, I completely understand, sir, but first I’m going to need to update your–

RONNY: Is there somebody else I could speak to? I don’t think you understand my problem.

BILLIE: Alright, we’ll update your information later. Let’s see, now, your microwave is broken. Is it the “Sharp R-204S” you purchased last year?

RONNY: It hasn’t been a year yet!

BILLIE: Actually, I see the purchase has been made by… Ms. Isabella Lee, however, the invoice is in your name?

RONNY: Yeah, that’s my cousin, this was her Christmas present to me. I have the invoice and everything in case I need to call it in and this is what I’m doing. I’m calling it in.

BILLIE: Sir, are you familiar with our returns & refunds policy? Have you read the bit about the warranty claim?

RONNY: [exhasperated sigh] I have and I told you, it’s broken and I’m sending it in because it hasn’t been a full year yet!

BILLIE: Actually, it’s been 1 year and 2 days since the original purchase. The warranty–

RONNY: Bullshit!

BILLIE: Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to lower–

RONNY: This is bullshit! I received this piece of shit on the 28th of December 2017! My cousin told me, she got it on the 24th, so if it breaks down, I have one year starting the 24th of December to call it in, and guess what, bitch! It’s the 20 fuckin’ 4th of December one year later and this piece of crap is bro-ken! Like your dreams! Broken!

BILLIE: I’m sorry to hear that, sir.

RONNY: You better be! I want a 2-day extension to my 1-year warranty for my trouble. There! Can you do that, lady?

BILLIE: I’m sorry, sir, but–

RONNY: If not, I need to speak to your manager. No backtalk! What’s your name again?

BILLIE: [sighs] You don’t want to be doing this, Mr. Romano… trust me, you don’t.

RONNY: Your manager, woman! Now!

BILLIE: Alright. You asked for it. Please hold.

[cut to “on hold” Christmas carol]

[Ronny breathes heavily. Faint barks can be heard in the background. Ronny wheeses]

QUENTIN: [rather fast] Quentin Gates speaking, also known as the Ghost of Christmas Past, how may I help you today, Ronald?

RONNY: Err… who is this?!

QUENTIN: Mr. Gates. Billie’s manager. Did you not ask for me?

RONNY: Yeah! Yeah, the manager, alright. Listen! The microwave I got from you guys is broken.

QUENTIN: What is wrong with it?

RONNY: What do you mean, what’s wrong with it, it’s broken! It doesn’t work anymore!

QUENTIN: I am fairly acquainted with the term “broken”, Ronald, however, we will have to go into a little bit of detail if I’m going to help you here. What exactly is broken about it?

RONNY: It doesn’t work anymore.

QUENTIN: I got that the first time, but what exactly ceased to work throughout this past year of perfect functionality, Ronald? Is it the emanating heat? The buttons, the commands, the spinning plate?

RONNY: Yeah, all of that.

QUENTIN: All of that?

RONNY: It’s what I said, ain’t it?

QUENTIN: [chuckles] The deadline for a warranty claim on your microwave is up. You know that, don’t you, Ronald?

RONNY: Oh, come on! Give me a break, ain’t it convenient that it broke right after the one year was up! I’m calling fraud!

QUENTIN: Are you, now? What if I told you, your microwave is working just fine?

RONNY: …What?

QUENTIN: It’s not broken in the least. It’s working just fine. It’s working right now. Go in the kitchen and see for yourself. I think your hot pockets have turned extra crispy because of just how well your microwave is working.

RONNY: I’m not going anywhere! It’s broken, I tell you!

QUENTIN: It’s not broken, Ronald. You know it. I know it. The machine is fine.

RONNY: The machine is not fine! It’s not doing what it’s supposed to do, so I want a refund because there’s no way in fucking hell I’m getting another microwave from you guys!

QUENTIN: Or ever.


QUENTIN: Admit it, Ronald. You can’t handle seeing the blood dripping on the other side of the glass every year on the 24th of December, but I’m telling you, it’s not there. It hasn’t been there for 31 years.

RONNY: I’m not seeing any blood! Are you seeing blood, I’m not seeing blood, is anybody there seeing blood, I have no idea what you are on about!

QUENTIN: Oh, I think you do, Ronald. Let’s face it. The puppy is gone – and I’m sure, 100% sure, that, in her little puppy heart, she forgave you for what you did. But you must forgive yourself now.

RONNY: [weeping] I don’t know what you’re talking about…

QUENTIN: I’m talking about Chippie, silly! She was so cute, with her little ears and her little snout and her little excited barks every time you shone the ball pen laser on the wall.

RONNY: [screaming] I don’t know what you’re talking about!

QUENTIN: If you don’t know what I’m talking about, explain this: how come you dread Christmas?

RONNY: I don’t dread Christmas.

QUENTIN: How come you’re afraid of microwaves?

RONNY: I’m not afraid of microwaves!

QUENTIN: I mean, I know Isabella’s gift last year was… insensible, considering, you know… but you got to get over it, man. Microwaves are great. Besides, Chippie is in a much better place. Huh… I mean, she’s away from the child version of you, so she must be in a better place, am I right?

RONNY: Stop!

QUENTIN: But, who can blame you, really? We all were kids once, everybody is curious if the rumors are true, if a living thing can really explode at 500 degrees, but [chuckles] thank goodness, not all of us are stupid enough to actually try it out.

RONNY: Stop!

QUENTIN: Oh, I will. But, first, you need to answer me one question, Ronald.

RONNY: Anything…

QUENTIN: Is your microwave broken?

RONNY: [whimpers] It’s not broken…

QUENTIN: Sorry? I didn’t catch that–

RONNY: It’s not broken!

QUENTIN: Oh, splendid! That’s wonderful news, I’m so happy we’ve worked this out!

RONNY: [weeping]

QUENTIN: Don’t worry about it, Ronald. It will go away in the morning, you’ll see… the microwave will be as good as new and clean as a whistle!

RONNY: Okay…

QUENTIN: It’s just on Christmas eve, just one night out of 365 nights. Just, go to your mother’s next year, okay? She doesn’t own a microwave and she’ll be really happy to see you!

RONNY: Okay…

QUENTIN: You’ll be alright. You know that, right?

RONNY: Yeah… okay…

QUENTIN: Have a great evening, Mr. Romano.

RONNY: You too, sir.

QUENTIN: Oh, and another thing! Merry Christmas!

[Hangs up]


Chapter 2. Stephanie

*ring ring ring*

BILLIE: Welcome to ‘shopNshare’, this is Billie speaking, how may I be of–?

STEPHANIE: 41880! I need an update on my latest order! Right now!

BILLIE: Oh, err… I’m sorry? Name and date of birth, please?

STEPHANIE: I just gave you my customer ID! 41880! You deaf?

BILLIE: Right. I’m still going to need your name and date of birth for–.

STEPHANIE: Stephanie Matthews, 27th January 1997.

BILLIE: Thank you, Miss Matthews. Before resuming, I see you’re calling us from a number that isn’t listed in our database. Do I have your permission to update your customer information?

STEPHANIE: [chuckling] I can’t believe you right now… are you fucking kidding me?

BILLIE: Okay, we can do that later if you like.

STEPHANIE: Nononono, I just asked you a question. Are you. Fucking. Kidding me?

BILLIE: No, Miss, I am not. I am merely following the procedure.

STEPHANIE: Screw your procedure! Do you have any idea what tonight is?

BILLIE: [slow inhale & exhale].

STEPHANIE: I swear to God, this online shop hires the most incompetent people ever…

BILLIE: I am checking the status of your order right now.

STEPHANIE: Yes, do that! And you better give me good news, or you’ll lose a very faithful customer!

Bille [mumbling to herself]: You signed up in September…

STEPHANIE: What’s that?

BILLIE: Your order is processing.

STEPHANIE: Processing? What does ‘processing’ mean?! Does it mean ‘out for delivery in the next hour’, because I’m not taking any other answer!

BILLIE: No, Miss, it means, it’s in the works in our warehouse.

STEPHANIE: Well, tell your warehouse to work fucking faster!!

BILLIE: I am sorry, Miss, but that won’t be possible. It’s the night before Christmas, and–

STEPHANIE: Exactly! It’s the night before Christmas! Do you have any idea how ruined my Christmas is going to be if these presents don’t show up today?!

BILLIE: Miss, you placed your order yesterday. On the 23rd of December. At 7 p.m.


BILLIE: [remains silent].

STEPHANIE: Don’t you go insinuating shit, okay?! I paid $10 for Express delivery! You guys guarantee Express delivery in under 12 hours!

BILLIE: Express delivery is $7,99 and we published a disclaimer last week, right next to the delivery times, which says ‘no delivery guarantees before Christmas’.

STEPHANIE: I read no such thing! Where the hell did you publish this? In the privacy policy which nobody reads?!

BILLIE: No, it’s right by the delivery pricing. In bulk, red letters. The disclaimer shows up again at the checkout.

STEPHANIE: You’re rude as fuck, you know that?

BILLIE: I’m sorry, Miss, I’m just doing my–.

STEPHANIE: What’s your name?

BILLIE: Billie.

STEPHANIE: Don’t try to be cute, I need your full name!

BILLIE: Billie Cross.

STEPHANIE: If my boyfriend breaks up with me this Christmas, I’ll make damn sure you lose your job, William Cross!

BILLIE: O-kay?

STEPHANIE: I need to speak to your manager!

BILLIE: … are you sure?

STEPHANIE: Am I sure?! Did you fall on your head or something? Your manager! Now!

BILLIE: Okay… you asked for it.

STEPHANIE: What is that supposed to–

[cut to “on hold” Christmas carol]

STEPHANIE: “Am I sure?”, what kind of customer service is this?!

[elevator music ceases]

CYNTHIA: [posh accent] This is Cynthia G. Kane, also known as the Ghost of Christmas Present, how may I assist you on this fine evening?

STEPHANIE: Yeah, first things first! I want to report an employee of yours. His name is William, was it? Yeah, he was very rude to me!

CYNTHIA: No William is working for us, darling, but if you mean Billie, I’ll make sure to forward your apology for mistaking her for a man.

STEPHANIE: What?! That is not what I–!

CYNTHIA: Now. From what I could gather, you are waiting for an order which has been placed yesterday, is that correct?

STEPHANIE: Y-yes, that is correct.

CYNTHIA: Oh, honey, what world are you living in? [laughs] What were you even thinking? Everything that has been ordered after the 17th of December is still to be delivered, and you are expecting an order you placed yesterday? It’s Christmas Eve, darling. There is no way you’re receiving the delivery before January 8th! [laughs some more]

STEPHANIE: How dare you speak to me like this?! I’m a faithful customer, I trusted you and your services!

CYNTHIA: Ugh, spare me, honey. If you order your partner’s Christmas present less than 24 hours before the giving is due, it’s not love. Am I right or am I right?

STEPHANIE: You don’t understand!

CYNTHIA: Of course I don’t. My job is to judge, not to understand. And I am judging you right now. I am judging you greatly.

STEPHANIE: Ma’am, with all due respect, I don’t owe you an explanation, but the gift wasn’t planned, okay? I need to go see my boyfriend tonight, and since it is Christmas Eve, I can’t just show up empty-handed!

CYNTHIA: ‘Course you can! If it’s love, the gift of seeing you will be more than enough. But, remember what he said, he’s spending Christmas at the cabin with his parents and he’s not quite ready to introduce you to them yet.

STEPHANIE: Yes, I know that, but this is important and I need to go see him tonight! Wait, how…

CYNTHIA: [sighs heavily] Stephanie, Stephanie, why can’t you just take a hint…

STEPHANIE: What hint? Wh-what are you saying, you don’t know me! You don’t me or Dylan, okay, so just back off! Alright? Back off and do your job and tell me where–

CYNTHIA: He’s not at his parents’ cabin, sweetie.

STEPHANIE: [pause] You don’t know that.

CYNTHIA: Oh, but I do. He’s not there. The last Christmas he spent with his parents, was, what, ten years ago?

STEPHANIE: [starts crying] Dylan. Is at the cabin. With his loving parents.

CYNTHIA: Dylan. Is at the Blue Lagoon Hotel. Taking a hot bath with Diane.

STEPHANIE: Diane who?

CYNTHIA: Diane, silly. Diane Cole-Chainsaw from PR.

STEPHANIE: Fat Diane?!

CYNTHIA: Curvy, funny, fabulous Diane.

STEPHANIE: You’re lying!

CYNTHIA: Wish I were, kid. Whoop, they just popped the second bottle of champagne. Do you want to know at what point Dylan thought about you today?


CYNTHIA: Uhm, not at all? He isn’t thinking about you at all. From what I can tell, he’s having the time of his life. Both him and Diane are.

STEPHANIE: You lying bitch!

CYNTHIA: Ha! Haven’t heard that one before! Why do you people always go off on the messenger?

STEPHANIE: This isn’t happening… this isn’t happening…

CYNTHIA: Don’t go on a wild killing spree, now. [chuckles] We wouldn’t want to see you storming into room 412 and spill the guts of those two on the walls, now, would we?

STEPHANIE: Why would I do something as fucked up like that?!

CYNTHIA: Well, I don’t know, probably because that catastrophe of a costume you bought for your “sexy nurse” look on Halloween, could just as well pass for a housekeeping outfit. The ones they wear at the Blue Lagoon look quite similar to it.


CYNTHIA: Stephanie?

STEPHANIE: [breathing heavily] Tell me again what room they are in.

CYNTHIA: 412, the honeymoon suite.

STEPHANIE: [chuckles] The honeymoon suite…

CYNTHIA: Oh, come on, honey… you’re not upset, are you? I mean… it’s not like you’re 2 and a half months pregnant and were waiting for New Year’s Eve to tell him or anything.

STEPHANIE: [sarcastic tone] No, of course not. It’s not like that at all.

CYNTHIA: Good. Because the last thing that would tie that man down is a child. You know that, right?

STEPHANIE: [sniffles]


STEPHANIE: This conversation never happened.

CYNTHIA: Alright. I can keep a secret. Should we cancel your order or was all of this just a severe case of ‘your hormones speaking’?

STEPHANIE: Cancel my order.

CYNTHIA: Okay, as you wish. Have a Merry Christmas, darling!

[Stephanie hangs up.]


Chapter 3. Edward

*ring ring ring*

BILLIE: Welcome to ‘shopNshare’, this is Billie speaking, how may I be of assistance?

EDWARD: Hello, Billie. My name is Edward Downright. My customer ID is 20053.

BILLIE: Thank you, Mr. Downright, this will only take a second…

EDWARD: Take all the time you need. I’m in no hurry whatsoever. [laughs] I’m sorry to be calling at a time like this.

BILLIE: Oh, you don’t have to be sorry, Mr. Downright. The line is open either way.

EDWARD: Yes, surely, but I still don’t think it’s fair for you to be working on a day like today while I’m relaxing in front of the TV. So, I’m sorry you have to work because of pesky customers such as myself.

BILLIE: [laughs] That’s quite alright, Mr. Downright. We are almost at the end of our shift anyway, so there’s hope for us still.

EDWARD: Ah, that’s nice to hear! I’m feeling less guilty now!

[Both of them laugh]

BILLIE: So, Mr. Downright, I’m going to need your date of birth for identity confirmation before going any further.

EDWARD: That would be the 13th of October, 1955.

BILLIE: Perfect, thank you. And do you still live in Greenwood, 7742 Sugar Street?

EDWARD: Yes, ma’am. Been living here all my life and I don’t plan on moving anytime soon. [laughs]

BILLIE: There’s no place like home, am I right?

EDWARD: You said it! There’s no place like home. Especially this time of year.

BILLIE: Indeed… Okay, so, what can I do for you today?

EDWARD: I have a question regarding a certain leather jacket. The product number is 5589-B. I want to purchase this jacket in the color ‘army green’, size L, but I see it’s not available right now. Do you happen to know when it’ll be back in stock?

BILLIE: Unfortunately, no, I don’t. However, if you press the yellow button at the top of the page which says “Follow”, you will be notified every time changes are made to this offer. That means, if there’s a sale, or if size “L” is back in stock, you’ll be the first to know.

EDWARD: Oh, that’s perfect! That’s exactly what I needed. Thank you, Billie!

BILLIE: No problem, sir, it’s my pleasure. Is there anything else I can do for you?

EDWARD: Oh no, I have taken enough of your time as it is. The one thing you could still do for me at this point is to go home and have the best Christmas possible.

BILLIE: That is very sweet of you, Mr. Downright, thank you. Before you hang up, however, there’s this one thing I need to ask of you…

EDWARD: Don’t worry, Billie, I’m staying on the line if you want me to rate your service.

BILLIE: I appreciate that, but it won’t be necessary. My manager would like to have a little chat with you if that’s alright.

EDWARD: Oh. Okay? Did I do something wrong? [laughs]

BILLIE: Well, I certainly hope not. [giggles] He just… does this sometimes. It will only take a minute, okay?

EDWARD: Okey dokey. If it’s so important, go ahead and put your manager on.

[BILLIE hangs up without another word]

EDWARD: Erm… bye, Miss [chuckles]… busy bee, busy bee…

[sound of a Church bell ringing once]

EDWARD: Hello?

[sound of a Church bell ringing once more]

EDWARD: [laughing awkwardly] Is this a telephone Christmas game show or something?

[sound of a Church bell ringing once more]

EDWARD: Am I supposed to say stop?

SEVERUS: [in a deep, breathy, goose-bumps-inducing voice]: Delete. Your hard drive.

EDWARD: Excuse me? My name is Edward Downright. Are you the manager of the young lady from before?

SEVERUS: Delete. Your hard drive. Before 9 p.m.

EDWARD: Sir, if we are playing a game here, you’ll have to tell me the rules first.

SEVERUS: Delete. Your hard drive. Before 9 p.m. When Allison and Caitlyn arrive.

EDWARD: [pause] If this is a game, I don’t like it one bit!

SEVERUS: Delete. Your hard drive. Before 9 p.m. When Allison and Caitlyn arrive. And Caitlyn opens those files.

EDWARD: Sir, you might have my personal information, but I am pretty sure I gave you neither that of my daughter nor granddaughter!

SEVERUS: Delete. Your hard drive. Before 9 p.m. When Allison and Caitlyn arrive. And Caitlyn opens those files. To see what kind of monster you truly are.

EDWARD: That’s it, I’m calling the police.

SEVERUS: The police will show up on their own. If you don’t delete your hard drive. Before 9 p.m. When Allison and Caitlyn arrive. And Caitlyn will open those files. To see your true feelings towards children her age. And younger.

EDWARD: You don’t know anything! This is an outrage, you have no idea what you’re talking about! I’m a respectable senior citizen and the things you are saying are absolutely outrageous!

SEVERUS: You will die merely weeks after the iron bars close in on you. You will be locked away to die a horrible death at the hands of lesser monsters. You will die by the hand of great punished and meet even greater punishment in the life beyond.

EDWARD: [crying] Not true… this is not true… You are making up stories!

SEVERUS: You are broken. There is a seed of purity in your heart, but your flesh is putrid. You don’t deserve your blessed life. And your offspring don’t deserve the trauma.

EDWARD: Please leave them out of this… they have nothing to do with this…

SEVERUS: You will get to live the rest of your life. You will get to enjoy your retirement and die as a cherished and beloved father and grandfather – If. You delete. Your hard drive. Before 9 p.m.

EDWARD: I understand. [sniffles] Okay, I understand, I’m doing it, I’ll do it… thank you.

SEVERUS: Do not thank me. Do not confuse this for salvation. You will still receive your rightful punishment in the life beyond.

EDWARD: Yes. I understand. Thank you anyway.

SEVERUS: It’s 8:57 p.m. Tik Tok.

EDWARD: Yes, I’m… I’m doing it right now, I’m deleting everything! But, please, tell me … who are you?

[Ghost of Christmas Future hangs up]


Chapter 4. Spencer

*ring ring ring*

BILLIE: Welcome to ‘shopNshare’, this is Billie speaking, how may I be of assistance?

SPENCER: Yeah, ehm… I’m very angry right now, but I’m trying hard not to take it out on you, because I know you are just a call center agent and that this is not your fault. I, uhm… yeah. I really need to vent and I really, really hope you can manage a miracle. What do you need from me? Name, ID?

BILLIE: The customer ID, your full name, and date of birth, please.

SPENCER: Alright, it’s 55198, Spencer Carmichael, March 4th, 1981.

BILLIE: Thank you, Mr. Carmichael. Now, what seems to be the problem?

SPENCER: The problem seems to be you mixing up your customers’ orders! I ordered a remote-controlled monster truck for my son on November 28th and not only did my package arrive just now, nearly a month later mind you, but it’s not even my order at all!

BILLIE: Okay? What exactly did you receive?

SPENCER: [Puffs] Damn if I know. This thing looks sketchy, which is why I wanted to talk to you guys before opening it. I mean, this can’t possibly be my order!

BILLIE: What makes you say that, sir?

SPENCER: Well, for starters, I paid an extra 15 bucks for gift wrapping, and there’s no wrapping in sight! It’s not even a cardboard box like the ones you usually use, it’s just a heavy, wooden box. Pretty big, too.

BILLIE: Okay. Is there an address label on the box?

SPENCER: Hm… not that I noticed… hold on, let me check.


SPENCER: Oh yeah, found something. No wonder I haven’t noticed it before, it’s hella small. The label is black and the writing is in red and grey.

BILLIE: [alarmed] Oh, Lord!

SPENCER: [chuckles] Yeah, can you believe it? There is a number in red on this thing, and right underneath, a name and an address in grey. Very… noir looking, I don’t know. Do you need this info? It’s not mine, I assure you.

BILLIE: [hectic] Just the red number, please!

SPENCER: Oh… kay? Well, there’s a hashtag, and then comes 66G-0005.

BILLIE: [out of breath]: Oh God… Oh, Lord. Sir, please step away from that box.

SPENCER: Huh? I’m not doing anything.

BILLIE: Sir, listen to me! You need to step away from that box. Now! There has been a huge mixup and I’m going to need to forward this call to my superior! Please stay on the line and, if possible, lock yourself in another room.

SPENCER: Woah, lady, you’re scaring me. What the hell, did you send me some radioactive shit or someth–

[cut to Christmas carol]

SPENCER: Ha! You and your shop are about to receive a very bad review, lady!

[Santa picks up]

SANTA: Ho, ho, ho, Spencer, my boy! It’s so good to hear from you!

SPENCER: Erm… right. Who is this, again?

SANTA: Spencey! [playfully] Spenceeey. [laughs] You’re a kidder, kiddo, you’ve always been a kidder! But you’re still a good boy, Spence. Always a good boy, always on the nice list. Even in your teens, and we all know how difficult it is to stay on the nice list when you’re in your teens, ho, ho, ho. [laughs]

SPENCER: If you’re trying to lighten up my mood, it’s not working.

SANTA: I never got a chance to thank you for those Reese’s cups and that glass of chocolate milk! It just warmed my heart to see you taking care of good ‘ol me, even though your mother said it was a silly thing to do.

SPENCER: What the hell are you on about?

SANTA: Why, Christmas, of course! [laughs] Christmas of 1990. I usually don’t like it when children don’t listen to their parents, but you, my boy, you made me happy!

SPENCER: [aggravated] Look, sir, can we please get to the part where you either refund my order or send me my son’s Christmas present – tonight?!

SANTA: Don’t you worry about a thing, Spencer, my boy. Sidney will get his monster truck. He too is on the nice list, you know. You’ll just have to make sure the fireplace is out by midnight.

SPENCER: Wh– we don’t have a fireplace, man!

SANTA: [laughs wholeheartedly] You don’t think I meant– [laughs some more] It’s a figure of speech, Spencer. Don’t be silly, I couldn’t fit through a chimney since 1876! No. [whispered] You have to make sure that the lights are out and that Sidney, Caroline, and yourself are far, far away in dreamland before midnight tonight.

SPENCER: We are having guests over for Christmas! My wife and I just got home from work! We still need to decorate the house, wrap the gifts, cook the meals and bake the goods – what makes you think we’ll be in bed before midnight?! Wait, why am I even telling you all this, you don’t care. Just tell me if I’m getting my order later today. The shops are still open, I could run and still get something, but I need your word that I’m getting my money back first!

[low growl]

SANTA: Spencer, where are you right now?

SPENCER: Huh? I’m… I’m in my living room. Did you hear that just now?

SANTA: Spencer, are you in the same room as the red numbered box?

SPENCER: Uh, yeah?

SANTA: Ugh, heavens! My boy, you need to either lower your voice, or leave the room.

SPENCER: Lover my– how dare you!

SANTA: Better yet, leave the house. Grab Sidney and Caroline and just go outside for 5 minutes. In the meantime, an emergency crew of mine will stop by and take the box out of your hair. [laughs]

SPENCER: Sir, you are not telling me what to do in my own damn house, okay?! I am telling you what to do! Refund! Now!

[louder growl & scratching noises]

SANTA: Listen to me, my boy. You’ll get your refund and you’ll get your present, but that is not what is important right now. What is important, is that you lower your voice and get your entire family out for some fresh air.

SPENCER: What is the meaning of this?!

[very loud growl and repeated poundings]

SANTA: That box was not meant for you, Spencer. [laughs] You don’t want to be opening up someone else’s present, do you? Be the good boy I know you are, and–

SPENCER: What the… there’s something in here!

[loud bark and more poundings]

SPENCER: ‘the hell? Are you guys shipping living, breathing pets? The box doesn’t even have holes in it! Little thing must be suffocating in there!

SANTA: Nooo nonono, get away from the box, Spencer!

SPENCER: Na-ah, you wish! You guys are into some shady business if you’re delivering living beings like they’re objects!

SANTA: You’re not listening to me, Spencer. I need you to listen to me. That is not a present for a child on the nice list, alright? Get out of the house, we’ll pick up the box in a minute, and then we’ll all have a jolly, jolly Christmas!

[Sound of a heavy wooden lid falling to the floor]

SPENCER: [in baby voice] Hey there, little fella’.

SANTA: [pause] Spencey? You didn’t open the box, did you?

SPENCER: I did. It’s very… exotic looking. What kind of dog is this? The eyes say Husky, snout says Great Dane, but I can’t place anything else… he’s pretty cute, though, I’ll give you that.

SANTA: Spencer… step away from the hound…

SPENCER: Oh, don’t be ridiculous, I’m great with dogs. Even scared ones. Come out of there, boy, I won’t hurt you, I promise. Who’s a good doggy? Who’s a good doggy?

SANTA: Spencer – step away from the hound.

SPENCER: Wait a minute. Sid has wanted a dog for ages. He’s going to be way more excited for a dog than for a stupid remote-controlled car.

SANTA: Then, I’ll get him a puppy! [laughs] I’ll get him a cute, lovable, lively puppy, you’ll see!

SPENCER: No, you are not! I am calling animal control services on you guys as soon as the holidays are over! We are keeping this dog. [at the dog] Aren’t we, buddy? Yes, we are!

SANTA: Spencer, do not touch the–

[Sounds of a dog going berserk]

SPENCER: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! [sound of glass breaking & dog going on a rampage inside the house] AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

SANTA: Spencer, try to–

SPENCER: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! The fuck is this thing?!

CAROLINE: [in the background] What’s the matter, honey?! What the hell is that?!

SPENCER: Get Sid! Lock the door! For heaven’s, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

[people screaming, demonic sounds of multiple dogs barking, sounds of dog biting and tearing, glass breaking]

SANTA: Okay, erm…

SPENCER: Nooo! Nooo! Sid! Stay in your room!

[Sound of a child screaming and crying as dog pounces on him]

SPENCER: [crying] Siiiiiiiiiiiid! Nooooooooooo!

SANTA: Okay, well, erm… about your refund–

SPENCER: Get off my son, you monster!

[Sound of dog eating & tearing while the child is gurgling]

SANTA: I, erm… I am sorry for the mixup. You will, of course, receive your money back, and–

[The dog is hit over the head with something heavy. It lets out a whine in the moment of impact, then starts growling again]

CAROLINE: Good… doggy… nice… doggy…

SPENCER: Run, Carol!

[The dog charging with a growl and Caroline is screaming. There’s a loud thump]

CAROLINE: Spenceeer!

SANTA: I am sorry to hear about the mess, I promise a team of my men will be right there to help clean up in time for your guests’ arrival–

SPENCER: [crying in hysterics] Call the police! Check on Sidney! He’s eating my leg, Caroline, hurry! Fuck, this hurts–

SANTA: I also want to point out that the remote-controlled monster truck is on its way and out to be delivered in the next 20 minutes!

[Dog is still chowing down]

CAROLINE: [crying] Sidney… Oh, Sidney, my baby… please honey… please wake up… oh god, there’s so much blood…

SPENCER: [whispered] Caroline… it’s getting dark, Caroline…

SANTA: We at shopNshare guarantee the perfect shopping experience, so we are throwing in a 10$ gift card for your troubles!

[Everybody is crying, the dog is still eating]

SANTA: Thank you for your call and have a Me-he-herry Christmas!


Chapter 5. Gertrude

*ring ring ring*

BILLIE: Welcome to ‘shopNshare’, this is Billie speaking, how may I be of assistance?

GERTRUDE: Yes, good evening, dear. My name is Gertrude Leanne Jackson. I am so, so sorry to be calling at a time like this, but… I’m desperate, you see [attempt at laughter which ends up in coughing].

BILLIE: Oh, that’s all right, Ms. Jackson. The line is still open after all. What can I do for you?

GERTRUDE: Well… I am waiting on an order. And, you see, I’m usually very patient, but tonight is… rather special and there’s an urgency factor.

BILLIE: I understand.

GERTRUDE: Could you please give me an update on my order if I give you my customer ID?

BILLIE: Of course, I would love to. I am also going to need your birthday for identity confirmation.

GERTRUDE: My ID is 00023.

BILLIE: Thank you, Ms. Jackson. And your birthday, please?

GERTRUDE: [laughs bitterly] I was hoping I wouldn’t have to say it. Because saying it means thinking about it. [deep inhale and exhale] It’s today, dear. I was born on this very day, in 1953.

BILLIE: Oh! Happy birthday, Ms. Jackson!

GERTRUDE: Thank you, dear.

BILLIE: Now… you want to know the status of your order from the 12th, correct?


BILLIE: Ma’am, I’m afraid you reached You placed your order with our pharmaceutical sister, I can’t see the current status of your order, so I’m going to have to forward this call.

GERTRUDE: Oh dear. But I… I chose direct dialing to shopNlive. I pressed 4.

BILLIE: No, ma’am, I am afraid you pressed 1.

GERTRUDE: Good Lord. [laughs nervously] Twitchy fingers… I am sorry, forgive me. [starts weeping]

BILLIE: No, no, don’t worry about it, ma’am, it’s perfectly fine! I can forward your call, it’s no trouble at all! Just… please hold, okay?

GERTRUDE: Yes, of course! I’ll hold. Thank you, young lady, you’re very kind.

BILLIE: It’s my pleasure, Ms. Jackson. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Birthday. Please stay on the line.

[cut to “on hold” Christmas carol]

GERTRUDE: Thank you, dear…

[Music ceases. A fireplace can be heard in the background throughout the following dialogue.]

LUKE: Gertrude Leanne Jackson. Welcome. You are speaking to shopNlive’s COO, Lucas Yfer.

GERTRUDE: O- Oh! The CEO? Didn’t think I would be reaching you on a night like this. [laughs nervously] Good evening, Mr. – Yfer, is it?

LUKE: Ah, don’t be silly, Gertie. How many times have I asked you to call me Luke?

[Gertrude laughs like a teenager with a crush]

LUKE: Your laugh is like a sunny spring morning, you know that?

GERTRUDE: Oh, stop it, you charmer, you.

LUKE: As you wish, milady. However, did I hear that right? Is somebody celebrating a birthday today?

GERTRUDE: Why, yes. The rumors are true.

LUKE: And, pardon my intrusion, but how young are we getting?

GERTRUDE: Uh. Not young enough, I’m afraid. Sixty-eight.

LUKE: Sixty-eight years young… wow. I would have never guessed, Gertie, you don’t sound a day over twenty-two!

[Gertrude laughs like a teenager with a crush again]

GERTRUDE: I bet you say that to all the antiques who call.

LUKE: Nonsense, I would never! Besides, antiques always choose my competition. My customers, however, are forever young.

GERTRUDE: Forever young… wouldn’t that be nice.

LUKE: How are you, my dear?

GERTRUDE: Well… to be quite honest with you, I’ve seen better days.

LUKE: And why is that?

GERTRUDE: Well… I think you’ll understand once you see the contents of my order.

LUKE: I have seen the contents of your order, and, since there’s no way of putting this mildly, I must inform you, that your order has been canceled.

GERTRUDE: Wh– what!?

LUKE: There is a mandatory field in the order application which your hospital or medical practice needs to fill in for you and, since it was empty, we had no choice but to cancel your order.

GERTRUDE: No. [begins to sob] No…

LUKE: Gertie, we cannot send morphine to end customers. You know that.

GERTRUDE: But– but I sent a letter explaining my situation…

LUKE: I know, dear, I know. I’ve read it, and I’m sorry, but what you’re asking of us is against the law.

GERTRUDE: No… [sniffling] There must be a way, please! It hurts so much…

LUKE: I’m sorry.

GERTRUDE: You don’t understand! It’s Christmas. It’s my birthday…

LUKE: You should have stayed at the medical center, darling.

GERTRUDE: But my daughter does not know I’m at the medical center. What if she decides to drop by for Christmas and I’m not here? What if she brings my grandkids along and I’m not here? I need to be here when they arrive! I have to see them… I need to see them! [sniffles]

LUKE: Oh, Gertie…

GERTRUDE: They’re twins, you see… two beautiful, perfect little baby boys. I haven’t even met them yet.

LUKE: I am so sorry to hear that, Gertie…

GERTRUDE: Michael and Daniel. They must be ten or eleven at this point…

LUKE: They’re thirteen, Gertie. They turned thirteen two months ago.

GERTRUDE: [devastated] Thirteen? They turned thirteen?

LUKE: Wish I could help you, dear. I know you’re hurting.

GERTRUDE: They are thirteen years old? Does that mean, they can speak for themselves? I mean, thirteen years old… [chuckles] Just five more years and they’re adults! Surely they want to see granny on her birthday, no?

LUKE: Gertie…

GERTRUDE: And Karina. She would want to see her sick mother on her birthday… right?

LUKE: They’re not coming, Gertrude.

GERTRUDE: They’re coming. This year is the year. They’re coming home for Christmas… I feel it in my bones! [interjections of pain]

LUKE: They are not coming. You should have stayed at the medical center. You could have had a Sudoku marathon with Miss White and receive a morphine injection from nurse Laney right before bedtime.

GERTRUDE: I know, I know, but if I’m not home, they wouldn’t know where–

LUKE: They’re not coming, Gertrude.

GERTRUDE: But it’s been twenty years! Alfred has been dead for twenty years! He can’t hurt her anymore!

LUKE: She knows that, Gertie, and yet she’s still not coming. She will never come back. Not for your birthday, not for Christmas, not ever. Your daughter will never forgive you.

GERTRUDE: But why… why? I haven’t done anything…

LUKE: That’s right. You haven’t done anything. You haven’t done anything to stop the abuse.

[Gertrude breaks down in sobs]

LUKE: Oh, Gertie, you poor, poor dear…

GERTRUDE: I just want her to know that I am sorry… and that I love her so much. And that I’d do anything to see her, even if it’s for one last time.

LUKE: I know, honey.

GERTRUDE: I don’t want to spend another Christmas alone.

LUKE: I know.

GERTRUDE: God, this hurts…

LUKE: You want to make it stop?


LUKE: You want company for Christmas?


LUKE: Company and a merry song of Happy Birthday?

GERTRUDE: Yes. That would be nice.

LUKE: Singing, dancing, and a birthday cake?

GERTRUDE: Oh, that would be divine!

LUKE: Divine, you say. [chuckles]

GERTRUDE: Tonight is the first time in a decade somebody has wished me a happy Birthday…

LUKE: Oh, Gertrude, my home is packed with people just burning to wish you a happy birthday!

GERTRUDE: You’re too lovely.

LUKE: I’m serious. Join me, Gertie.


LUKE: Join me! Tonight! Right now!

GERTRUDE: Oh, I am too week to even go to the bathroom, Luke, let alone travel. [Laughs a laugh which turns into coughing] Besides, I don’t even know where you live.

LUKE: Yes, you do.


LUKE: Of course you do. Reaching me is easy. All you have to do is put an end to it.

GERTRUDE: Put… an end to it?

LUKE: Precisely.

GERTRUDE: An end to what?


GERTRUDE: You don’t mean…

LUKE: I do, Gertie.

GERTRUDE: I can’t.

LUKE: Don’t be afraid of me. I’d hate myself for it.

GERTRUDE: I am not afraid of you.

LUKE: Good. Join me, then.

GERTRUDE: I can’t.

LUKE: There’s always room at my table for you. There is always a party waiting for you. At my side, every day will be your birthday.

GERTRUDE: I can’t.

LUKE: The pain would go away. You’ll be free. You’ll enjoy freedom so pure, so unhinged, you wouldn’t want to go back even if it were an option.

GERTRUDE: As perfect as that sounds, I really can’t.

LUKE: And why not?

GERTRUDE: They’re coming… [sobs] I feel it in my soul. This year is the year they’ll come to see grandma. [interjection of pain]

LUKE: They are not coming, Gertrude. You know it. I know it. Nobody cares for you. Nobody but me. And I am offering my help. I am offering my companionship, my home, my friendship, and all of my love. All you need to do is accept my invitation.


LUKE: You never asked for a life like yours, did you? You never asked for a gruesome marriage, a stillbirth, and twenty years of silence from your only child. What do you have to lose? The disease is chewing on your insides as it is.

GERTRUDE: They’re… not coming?

LUKE: No, dear. They are not.

GERTRUDE: I don’t want to be alone on my birthday for another year…

LUKE: Neither do I, love.


GERTRUDE: What is the fastest way for me to get to you?

LUKE: The nail gun.

GERTRUDE: I… don’t know where it is.

LUKE: On the bottom step to the basement. In a green box.

GERTRUDE: All right.


LUKE: Did you get it?


LUKE: Excellent. Now, Gertie. Aim between the eyes. It’s the quickest.

GERTRUDE: I am scared… I am so scared…

LUKE: I know, Gertie. But I’ll stay with you. I’m staying on the line ‘till the very end. I’m staying on the line until you’re–.

[Sound of nail gun unloading. There’s a hard thump.]

LUKE: –gone.

[Fire in the fireplace is getting louder and louder]

LUKE: Goodbye, Gertrude Leanne Jackson. Or, should I say… welcome.

[Luke is laughing. The fireplace sounds like an entire village in flames at this point. Luke’s laughter reaches a peak and, out of the blue, it ceases.]

[Boys laughing and knocks at the door can be heard from the other end of the line]

Karina: Gertrude! Gertrude? […] Mom? Are you home?

[Luke Yfer hangs up.]

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Lucretia Vastea
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Lucretia Vastea

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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11 months ago

holy crap this was good!

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