"No!” I said as Angie, my coworker approached. She didn’t have to say a word. It was evident by the clear bowl in her hand what she wanted. She opened her mouth to speak but again I said, “No!” I raised one hand to let her know just how serious I was about the answer to the question which she hadn’t even asked.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” Angie said. “Everybody else is participating.”
“Not me,” I said and put as much distance between me and that wretched evil bowl in her hand as I could.
“All you have to do is pull one name,” she said as if I didn’t understand the process of placing my hand in a bowl, selecting a slip of paper and purchasing a gift for the person whose name was on the slip of paper. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I’d participated in Secret Santa before and they’d never worked out for me
“No,” I said once more. I moved to the chair behind my desk and took a seat.
The image of me at my second grade Christmas Party popped into my head. Everyone in the class was supposed to bring a gift for the person’s named they’d pulled. After all of the gifts had been exchanged, I was empty handed. “Billy pulled your name,” the teacher said softly “His mommy forgot to bring his gift.” Her words were little consolation as I watched everyone else with their gifts.
“The gifts don’t have to be expensive,” Angie said bringing me back to the present. She looked at me awhile then said, “Aw don’t be a Grinch.” She sat the bowl on the desk in front of me and waited.
“These things never work out for me,” I said. “Not in school. Not at work. Never.”
Once when I worked at a small community center, I participated in Secret Santa. On the day we were to present our gifts, the guy who pulled my name didn’t show up to the Christmas Party and there I sat again with no gift.
“Everybody else is participating,” my coworker said in a pitiful voice. I looked at her then I turned my attention to the bowl on my desk near my pencil holder. I reached inside and selected a folded sheet of paper.
On the day we were to exchange presents, the staff gathered in the conference room. We ate cake and drank punch then came the moment when we presented our gifts. Shocked, I stood in silence after all the gifts had been exchanged. Once again, I was empty handed. The person who pulled my name didn’t attend the party.
“Tara just didn’t have the money,” Angie said.
“If she couldn’t afford to buy a gift, she shouldn’t have pulled a name,” I said. I got to my feet as Angie set Tara’s gift aside. “I’ll give this to Tara tomorrow,” Angie said to the staff who sat around the table admiring each other’s gifts.
I knew better than to participate in the first place. I looked at the group who discussed how rude I was for not being happy about not receiving a gift.
“It’s better to give than to receive,” Angie said cutting a second piece of cake for herself. I rolled my eyes at her. I spun on my heels then rushed toward the door before I lost my temper and beat Angie within an inch of her life with the ice ring in the punch bowl. I couldn’t believe no one understood that I was angry because I was treated unfairly. When I reached my office, it occurred to me that maybe they did understand I was treated unfairly.
“People are something else,” I said to myself in the empty office. I shrugged it off then got back to work.
Katrina Byrd is a native of Jackson MS and a graduate of Millsaps College who is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. Katrina is the recipient of several MAC Artist Minigrants and is a writer and playwright. Several of Katrina’s short plays have been performed by Vicksburg Theatre Guild, Fondren Theatre Workshop, MOJOAA Performing Arts Company and Bay Saint Louis Little Theatre. Several of her short stories have appeared in Black Magnolias Literary Magazine, In flight Literary Magazine, and Monkeycycle.