Cold and wet, but you do what you have to do for your little girl.
|"Are you sure that you're okay with me taking a couple of days off Bob?"
"Sure Mike, sure. It's not like we're rushed off our feet, most folk have already packed up for Christmas, it's always dead these last few days. I can handle it on my own."
"Thanks. You know I wouldn't have asked, but this is kind of important."
"Sure Mike, I know. You're really going to queue all night? I'd have never thought of you as someone who'd want to shop so bad."
I laughed, pulling on my coat and searching my pockets for my car key. I knew he was teasing, he knew full well why I was set on this.
"I'm not, but Abby has set her heart on that doll, and this is my only chance to get it for her."
"I hear you. Those darned toy companies limit supplies to drive up demand, same thing every year."
"Yep, but what can we do about it, little girls aren't as cynical as we are."
Bob laughed easily,
"Sure Mike. You go get that doll, I'll hold the fort here. Happy Christmas, and that goes for Helen and Abby too, Happy Christmas to all of you."
With that he shook my hand, and then shoved an envelope into it.
"Little bonus. Thanks for all your hard work this year buddy."
"Oh! Thanks Bob. Thank you, and a Happy Christmas to you too."
"Yeah, now I'm sick of the sight of you. I don't want to see you again this year, so off you go."
The words varied, but it was an annual joke around this time of year.
I shoved the envelope in my pocket, and jumped in my car to start it.
A mere 35 minutes later, and I was parked within walking distance of the Kinderdise store. It took me another three minutes to lock my car and run... to the back of the queue. I counted the people ahead of me, mentally grouping a couple stood close together in conversation as a husband and wife team. There were 19 people, 19 already. I groaned inwardly and took my place. I might be lucky.
I prayed that I was going to be lucky. Surely they didn't all want the Baby Beatrice dolly. Surely the store would have at least twenty of the things. No way to know, but I was prepared to wait all night in the hope that I'd get one of those precious, rarer than hens teeth, dolls.
It started to rain, lightly at first, but everyone queuing pressed back against the windows.
Someone from the store came out, and started working his way down the line of people. I heard him asking the woman in front of me her name, then he wrote it down, and turned to ask me my name.
"Michael Broome." I told him, then I asked,
"Say, do you happen to know how many Baby Beatrice's you have in?"
The man looked sympathetic, but his reply wasn't helpful.
"I'm sorry Sir. We will have some, our suppliers have guaranteed they will be delivered tonight, but they aren't here yet, and they wouldn't tell us how many they were sending. Demand is really high, so they are trying to make sure each store has some."
I listened morosely, but thanked him anyway. Then I told myself it made no difference how many there were, I was going to be here all night to get one. If they had one left. Looking up into the sky I saw that the thin cold rain was turning to sleet. It swirled damply down through the powerful lights that illuminated the car park.
Slowly the time passed. I watched more and more people joining the line of folk waiting. We exchanged pleasantries, or unpleasantries, given that much of the conversation was about how nasty the weather was. By now it was snowing, which was seasonal and all, but not welcome when you are spending an evening waiting for a shop to open for its big sale at seven o clock next day.
After a while we'd exhausted the weather, and most settled into a shivering silence. The couple ahead were still exchanging the odd quiet word, but mainly all I could hear was the wind moving the snow back and forth.
About eleven, my wife rang to ask how I was going on, and to wish me good luck and good night. She promised me a hot breakfast fit for a king when I got home. Abigail was already in bed of course, though Helen told me that she'd been so excited it had taken over an hour for her to get tired enough to sleep.
Around midnight, the same store guy came out again. He was accompanied by a couple of women from the shop, and they were wheeling out a trolley. Hot chocolate. Hot coffee. Heaven. The line was straggling out and disappeared around the corner now. I was very impressed. Those guys came out again about 4 am with more.
The car park was a white plain, disturbed only by an abundance of anonymous white lumps, where once were cars. The night dragged on and on. I stamped my feet. hugged myself with frozen arms. My teeth chattered. I held on to the vision of Abby, happy on Christmas morning.
The 'couple' were just friends, and not together at all. When I reached the counter, I was already too late. No more Baby Beatrices. With massive self control, I dragged my frozen self back to dig out my car.
Reaching into my pocket for the key, I pulled out Bob's envelope, which I then dropped in the snow. Picking it up, I found, wrapped around a neat stack of dollars, a note.
"These are for you and Helen. I've put Abigail's present in your trunk."
Struggling, I lifted the lid of the trunk. There, next to my snow shovel was a cellophane wrapped box. A Baby Beatrice Dolly.
Word Count 1,000 words.