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.”

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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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