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Crap from the Magi

It was only a few days before Thanksgiving when Caroline tripped over the box on her front porch. She had just passed this way, only moments ago to drag the trash to the curb. With the pounding rain, she failed to notice the mailman’s delivery. Caroline swore under her breath as she picked herself up and gathered the damp package, bills and seasonal catalogues.

Once in the kitchen, Caroline set the box on the counter. There was no return address, but that was hardly needed. This box had been sent before; the old address, crossed out with a dull Sharpie, still visible: Roberta, of course.

Carline sighed. Her Mother-in-law seemed to delight in sending used gifts so it was no surprise she would send something in a used box. Flat-Rate box from the Post Office; if it fits, it ships. Surly Roberta knew she could have gotten a new one for exactly the same cost--nothing. But it’s the thought that counts, and it was clear how much the thought was worth.

Since the garbage would not be collected until tomorrow morning, there was plenty of time to inspect the contents and deal with them accordingly. Last year’s gift had been a chipped ceramic lotion dispenser, complete with hard, yellowed lotion. The year before had seen a plastic cookie jar in the shape of a cow—exactly what every woman wants. A cow to contain something which will make its owner look like a cow. The Kid’s use it to hold Lego’s.

There was enough packing tape on the box to wallpaper a small den. This was another of Roberta’s perverse joys. The only thing better than getting a lousy gift was the work it required to unwrap. Mother would have been disappointed; the damp cardboard allowed the tape to pull away with ease.

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