Rain beat ferociously at the windows on that bleak and blustery mid-afternoon, Christmas Eve in 1999. The weather had sapped all the festive energy out of the two remaining physically exhausted and emotionally drained staff members at the Post Office. The other two staff had already left for last minute shopping, baking, or maybe a strong drink (or two) to recover their spirits somewhat before the onslaught of their relatives. Every year the small crew split early departure along arbitrary and often contentious lines, with two leaving early on Christmas Eve, and the other two on New Year’s Eve.
Carlos dragged his sorry butt into the office, soaked to the skin, and thoroughly ticked off that he was the contractor forced to stay late to collect the remaining outgoing mail throughout the small town of Petersburg. Not officially one of the staff, he was paid a pittance, and being in his late teens, was pretty much always stuck working the lousiest hours.
“Why the heck would anyone mail anything this late? Those dummies must know it won’t go anywhere over the Holiday. Fools,” he muttered loudly, “All of them,” his scowl adding emphasis to his words.
“Ah damn, Carlos! Did you have to dump that stupid, wet bag on the table? You know it’s supposed to stay on the floor,” snarled Bill. “Son of a…grrr! What a rotten day this is, and you’re not helping it any.” Bill, being a bit older, still toned down his language a bit in the presence of a woman, but his feelings that day almost got the better of him.
Wendy, always the mediator, had to intervene. “Bill, lighten up. It’s not that bad. A few more hours and we’ll all be out of here, eating dinner with our families, and looking forward to tomorrow morning.” Smiling at Carlos, she said, “Thanks for lifting up that bag Carlos. When it’s wet, it’s hard to get it there and get out that mail when it’s all stuck together. I think it’s way easier when you put it on the table.”
“You would think that, since it was Carrrrloooos. If I dropped it there you’d gripe at me for an hour.”
“Hey! Can it, you two. Just get that mail out of the way while I’m off for my last run. Be nice now. Tomorrow’s Christmas.” With that, Carlos was out the door, secretly pleased that Wendy had a thing for him.
“Damn, I hate this wet mail. Everything is soaked. We’ll have to separate it all carefully, making sure not to tear the wet letters, and let it dry out before we can sort it out. I hate that. I think I almost hate Christmas.”
“For God’s sake, Bill. Get a grip. It’s only water, not the end of the world.”
Bill shuddered, exclaiming, “Wanna bet Wendy? Some idiot’s dumped in a load of garbage and Carrrrloooos didn’t even take it out. He just dumped it right in the bag with all the mail. Well, at least it isn’t a dead chicken like at Halloween. That was too gross, with it dying of fright in there and its shit all over the mail.”
The two worked on opposite sides of the table for a while, taking apart the wet letters, placing them carefully on raised wooden slats, so that the warm office air could dry them out. The garbage was chucked in the garbage can, but one small brown paper bag caught Wendy’s attention. There was no advertising on it, which was strange, since most garbage was leftovers from one fast food outlet or another. She decided to take a look inside the bag.
There it was; a dirty, matted knot of dark, fuzzy material, reeking of something unmentionable, and sopping wet. Shaking it out onto the table, Wendy finally recognized it; a disgustingly soiled teddy bear. There was some kind of paper pinned to its front.
“Hey, Bill. Look at this!”
“Eww. Gross. Throw it away.”
“No, really, Bill. Come look.”
“Stop wasting time. It’s just garbage. Just chuck it out.”
Wendy gingerly picked it up, not wanting to get her hands filthy, and carried the teddy bear to Bill’s side of the table.
“Here. Look at it. I think this may be a note!” she said, pointing at a small piece of paper.
Reluctantly Bill stopped his work and unpinned the paper, which was obviously folded several times. After carefully unfolding it, they could see it was covered with childlike scrawls, done with a wax crayon.
“Dear Santa. This is my only friend, Timmy. Mommy says he is sick and will die just like my cat. Can you give Timmy new fur. I know that will make him better. That is all I want Santa. I do not want Timmy to die. Thank you. Julie Brown.”
“My God, Bill. That’s so sad. What are we going to do? We have to help her.”
“Damn. You’re right Wendy. We have to do something. I know I act like a creep when I’m mad, but this really gets to me.” Bill sniffled.
“You’re crying! Wow. I’m shocked. Happy to see you have feelings too, but shocked.”
“Wendy, I know you’re all going to have a great time tonight and tomorrow, with your family and friends, but I’m going to be alone. I know what it’s like to have no friend, so this really gets to me.”
“I’m sorry, Bill, but there’s nothing I can really do about that for you. I can’t invite you over. It’s not my place. You know I’m still living with my parents. And frankly, you haven’t ever been a bundle of fun either.”
“Yeah. I know. I’m sorry. It’s okay. I’ll live. But I do think we should try to do something for Julie.”
“What, though? We don’t even know her address. And what can we do anyway? We can’t get Timmy new fur.”
“It’s not that hard, Wendy. Think about it. All we have to do is check the phone book for ‘Brown’ and cross-reference any addresses against the pickup route Carlos uses. If there is a Brown along the route, that’ll be the correct address. Julie can’t have gone too far to put Timmy in the mailbox. Not at her age and in this rain.”
“Bill, that’s brilliant!” Wendy gushed. “You’re awesome. But how does that help? It’s only her address. We have to actually figure out what to do.”
The two stood in silence of a minute, and then Wendy shouted out, “Bill, what if I go out to find another teddy bear? Maybe I can find one just like this one. Then we can get Carlos to deliver it before he goes home. You know he’ll do anything I ask,” she said with a smile, “even if it means he’ll leave for home later than ever.”
“Great idea. I’ll call Carlos on his cell; find out his route, while you look up addresses for ‘Brown’.”
The mail was ignored as the two left, departing on their mission of mercy. It didn’t much matter anyway though, since the mail would just sit there for several days, regardless of whether or not they sorted it now.
A short while later, Carlos came back in, drenched, another large, wet bag of mail dragging on the floor, but no longer cursing. He seemed almost happy. After all, it was his last load for the day, and he could go home. Or could he?
“Carlos dear, guess what?” Wendy said, sickeningly sweetly. “I need your help. I know Bill already asked you about your pickup route earlier, but I’m sure he never mentioned why we wanted to know. Come next to me, and I’ll show you.” Carlos wasted no time.
Wendy showed Carlos the bedraggled teddy bear, and the heart-wrenching plea from Julie. Carlos didn’t seem overly affected though, and Wendy was a bit disappointed by his lack of compassion. “I guess there’s nothing like a teenage male to be heartless about a young girl’s teddy bear,” she thought, as she unconsciously moved a bit away from Carlos.
“You could be a bit more sympathetic, Carlos. It’s a little girl and her teddy bear.”
Not getting any sign from Carlos, Wendy went on, “but as a favour to me, I’d really, really appreciate it if you stayed here a bit longer. I want to run to the toy store on the corner to see if they have a teddy bear to match Timmy. Then I figure you can deliver this new teddy to Julie’s house before you head home. It won’t take very long. Okay? Will you do that for me, if not for that little girl?”
“Okay, okay,” Carlos grumbled reluctantly, “but only because it’s Christmas. It’s not because it’s you asking, okay?”
“Of course not. I know you love Christmas,” Wendy said, rolling her eyes at Bill from behind Carlos’ back. Bill grinned wickedly.
“Okay, I’m off then, and shouldn’t be more than a minute or two. Maybe you guys can scare up some of that brown repair paper and tape so it’ll look more like a present that may actually surprise Julie.”
As Wendy left, the two guys found the paper, tape, and even managed to create a note using a felt marker pen: “Julie, it was really late when I saw your note and your friend Timmy. I’m sorry sweetheart, but I hope that you can love Timmy’s cousin, Tommy. He’s really lonely too, and would love to have you as his friend. Santa”
Soon Wendy came back, a small bag clutched in her hands. It contained a beautifully beige Tommy, hopefully soon to be Julie’s new friend. Quickly they packaged him up, and Wendy was ecstatic with the note. “That’s really sweet, guys. Who says men can’t be caring? I love it.”
Moments later, Carlos was on his way, having gotten the address from Bill, to deliver Tommy to a lonely little girl; and it was time for Bill and Wendy to close up the office. As the lights were turned off, Bill said, “I really hope Julie likes her new bear. I feel really good about it.”
“Me too, Bill. It’s probably the best present I’ll be giving this Christmas. And Bill? I’m really sorry you’ll be alone.”
“Don’t sweat it, Wendy. I’ll be fine. I’m a big boy. Merry Christmas, Wendy, and to your whole family too.”
“Merry Christmas to you too, Bill. Good night.”
Two days later all the festivities were over, and all the staff were at the back door, trying to get in to start their shifts. Wendy was the first to notice, and comment, on Bill’s glowing face.
“What happened to you, Bill? You looked so down on Christmas Eve. You’re darned well glowing.”
“Wendy, you’ll never guess what I did. After you were gone, I sneaked back in here and took Timmy, that dirty little teddy bear. Then I drove all the way into Pineville and found a dry cleaner that was still open. I had them dry clean that little bear, and he came out beautiful and white, not beige like we thought. “
Wendy had a stunned look on her face, not quite understanding what Bill was telling them, but that was nothing compared to the puzzled looks of the other staff members. Between the two of them, they explained what had happened on Christmas Eve before Wendy left for home.
“After Timmy was cleaned up, I bought a nice bow for him, and wrapped him up really nicely in Christmas paper,” Bill said.
“Then, on Christmas morning, I drove to Julie’s house, knocked on the door, and after explaining things to Julie’s mother, handed Timmy to Julie. You cannot imagine the joy on that little girl’s face when she opened the wrapping and saw her lifelong friend again.”
“She was shouting and jumping and laughing and crying, all at the same time. ‘Mommy! Mommy! Santa gave Timmy new fur! Now I have my best friend in the whole world, and a new friend too!’ It was so awesome, I couldn’t stop crying happy tears all day long.”
The whole group stood in stunned silence for a moment, then, as one, they had a gigantic group hug. It was the best Christmas ever, and not just for Julie.
Although the names and fine details have been changed, this is actually a true story. –Trab