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You want what for Christmas?” Mrs. Murgatroyd says, bending to pick up the pieces of the plate she just dropped.

“A monster,” Jessica Atkins says, nibbling on her toast. “Not a big, mean monster. I want a friendly little one to play with when I come home from school, and maybe keep me company at night.”

“Don’t you wish for no monster, Miss Jessica,” Mrs. Murgatroyd says, her accent getting thicker with each word. “Not for Christmas! ’Specially not in this ’ouse!”

Jessica is sorry for upsetting the plump old housekeeper, but now she’s very curious. “What do you mean, Mrs. M.?”

“You just might get your wish!”

“Really?” Jessica claps her hands with glee. “Oh, I wish, I wish, I wish!”

“You’ll be very sorry, you will,” Mrs. Murgatroyd says in a grave tone. “Very sorry if the Christmas Thingy decides to pay you a visit.”

“‘Thingy?’” Jessica laughs. “‘Thingy?’ What a funny name!”

“You won’t be thinkin’ it’s so funny when you wake up Christmas morning and find out what’s ’appened to all your presents.”

Suddenly Jessica is no longer smiling. “Wh-what will happen?”

“The same thing that ’appened almost one ’undred—no, I do believe it was exactly one ’undred years ago.”

Jessica waits patiently as the housekeeper counts the years. Mrs. Murgatroyd sort of came with the house and has worked here forever.

“Yes. It was exactly one century ago this year that the Christmas Thingy visited this very ’ouse. The lit’le boy who lived ’ere then ’ad been wishin’ for a secret friend. Well, as Advent came, ’e got ’is wish: the Christmas Thingy arrived. It stayed right up until Christmas, it did, and then it left, because Thingies must always return to Thingyland before dawn on Christmas morning. But before it left this ’ouse a century ago, it stole some presents.”

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