And then it was Christmas and planning for the annual office party.
Unlike most companies, she worked for a very cheap bunch that never acknowledged the holiday season in any way than to pay them for Christmas Day and January 1st. They all accepted the stinginess of the company owner and since he and his wife wintered in the South of France, they never had to worry about him strolling in to see how his employees were faring.
They had a sign-up sheet for their party and people brought in their best creations or their favorite store-bought items to share. It was a nonstop eating festival from the time they came in until the time they went home. A co-worker made a ham every year and she gave him half the money and that was their contribution. One year there was ham, Puerto Rican pork, fried chicken, with sides like marinated green beans, guacamole, goat cheese crostini, and tater tot casserole (which was a pound of bacon, a pound of breakfast sausage, cream of celery soup, cream of mushroom soup, cream, and tater tots and tons of tastiness). Breakfast offered up neighborhood danishes and coffee cakes and mid-afternoon desserts were from supermarket bakeries and home kitchens. Coffee was kept freshly brewed all day.
The most exciting event of the day was the white elephant. Everyone brought in something from home that they thought was ghastly, ugly, useless, or just no longer wanted, wrapped it up like it was Christmas (which it was), and it was a valuable gift. There were people who brought in extra gifts for those who couldn't get it together to find something in their closets or were just too lazy. She started advising people that they didn't need to bring something in but they would be taking something home. When someone suggested that sounded like a threat, she replied, "Tee hee."
Some years almost everything was horrible garbage and people were in bad moods. Some years almost everything was great and no one could believe someone would give up what they did. There was behind the scenes trading (in case someone got the heart-shaped drinking glasses and really wanted the pink glitter styrofoam skull) and even white elephant remorse like when guy who brought in glass candleholders had to do a six-way trade to get them back. Whenever someone opened their gift -- you had to sit in a particular chair and unwrap it in front of everyone -- the group applauded and everyone smiled and laughed.
Their manager made candles which she sold at craft fairs on the weekends. Candles were her passion. There were crazy shapes and fantastic scents and she packaged up candles with gift cards and client-donated offerings and they all picked those right after the white elephant. Last year she had gotten a raccoon skull candle; this year she got a set of six navy blue tapers and a Target gift card worth $10. She held the box of tapers above her head and turned so everyone could see them. The gift card would fill a prescription the next week. Everyone always seemed to like what they got.
Right before she was due to leave, her coworker transferred a call to her from her cousin's husband. She'd almost forgotten she'd asked him for his help.
"Hey, hi," she said. "Happy holidays."
"Oh, yeah, you, too," he said. "Listen I have that information you wanted."
"What can you tell me?" she asked, her stomach having flipped.
"His name, his address, his weight, height, age," he said. "I excavated his drivers license."
She paused. She thought. She thought some more.
"Hello?" said her cousin's husband. "You still there?"
"Once I hear this I can't unhear it," she said.
"Correct," he replied.
"Will you still have the information?" she asked.
"I will," he said.
"Tell me his first name," she said. "Just his first name."
"Kevin," he advised.
She paused again.
"Hello," said her cousin's husband.
"Yes, I'm here. He didn't look like a Kevin."
"Yeah," said her cousin. "You expect giants to have different names altogether."
"Like George," she said.
"Or Marcus," he said.
They both paused.
"Andre," they both said, adding, "Jinx!"
"So now you have some information. Think about how much more you want," he told her.
"Thanks very much for what you did. It was very nice of you," she said.
"You're welcome," he said. "So if you see Kevin on the street say, 'Hello, Kevin,' and watch him shit himself."
She smiled and giggled.
"That's probably very good advice," she said.
"Glad you think so," he said. "Take it."
"Thanks again. My love to the family," she said.
"I am not telling the family I talked to you today. This is between us," he told her.
"You are the best," she said.
"Damn right. Good night," he said and hung up.
Kevin. Never in a million years would she have thought Kevin.