The Forgotten Gift
The date was 24th December 2095. Captain Richard Merrymaker looked down at his little six-year-old daughter Nora and smiled at her glum face.
Nora said sullenly. ‘Why do you always have to miss Christmas?’
‘I will be back soon darling. I will not be gone for more than ten days.’ Richard winked at her. ‘Tomorrow Santa Claus will be bringing you gifts and as always you will find them by the side of your Christmas tree. You will enjoy your roast turkey and have a great time with Santa’s gifts.’
‘Oh wow, that would be wonderful. Isn’t it? Santa will bring me lots of gifts.’ Nora squealed cheering up.
Richard smiled at his little daughter’s innocence and remembered the times when he had also believed in Santa Claus. When he had been Nora’s age he too had ardently believed that Santa Claus really existed. It was only when he reached the age of ten, he realized Santa was just a tale.
Richard was about to set out on an interstellar expedition and it was indeed a pity that the date for take-off had been set for 24th December, just a day before Christmas. He would be missing Christmas yet again.
‘Promise me you will be there for my birthday,’ said Nora looking up at him again.
‘I promise.’ Richard said solemnly.
With that, he turned and hugged his wife Martha and after exchanging a few kisses he joined his crew. Take-off was set for 6.00 PM and the crew got into the spaceship. It was a smooth take-off, unlike the previous time when things had gone wrong. As the spaceship shifted into FTL (Faster Than Light) drive the earth disappeared with a swoosh within seconds of take-off. The spaceship cruised steadily for five hours past many galaxies.
At 11.00 PM Richard moved into his cabin and lay down on his bed after excusing himself from his crew. The past few days had been hectic, and the crew understood that the captain had worked the hardest of them all and needed a bit of rest. Richard lay down on his bed and drifted off into sleep. He woke up the next morning at 7.00 AM.
He stood up and opened the cupboard to get his toothpaste and brush and recoiled in disappointment at what he saw. He stared in dismay at a beautifully decorated package with a label on top. The label bore the legend, ‘To My Darling Daughter Nora, Wishing you a very happy and merry Christmas. Your loving Dad.’
With a start, Captain Merrymaker realized he had forgotten to place his gift to Nora by the side of the Christmas tree. Nora had asked for an inter-stellar doll house that he had obtained with great difficulty and now it was too late to give it to her. Nora would be so disappointed. Not only had he missed Christmas but he had also failed to give her a present.
He immediately rushed into the communications room and switched on the sonic boom computer directly wired to his house. He contacted his wife. Martha’s face appeared on the computer screen.
‘Hello Richard,’ came Martha’s voice booming across billions of light years.
‘Hi Martha, I had forgotten to leave my gift to Nora by the side of the Christmas tree. Can you just buy a dollhouse for her, wrap it up and give it to her? Also, say sorry from Daddy.’
‘But Richard, she found your gift by the Christmas tree. She is playing with the dollhouse right now!’
‘How can that be? The gift is still lying in my room in the spacecraft right now. I had left it there during training, the day before take-off. I had purchased it and meant to bring it home.’ Richard said.
‘Well, I tell you she is playing with it right now,’ repeated Martha. ‘Take a look yourself if you don’t believe me.’
In a second Martha shifted the focus of the computer and Nora appeared on the screen. Sure enough, he could see Nora delightedly playing with the dollhouse he had purchased for her.
Martha came back on focus in a few seconds, smiled and said, ‘Satisfied?’
‘Well, all right,’ said Richard puzzled and moved his hand forward to switch off the sonic boom computer.
But just before he could switch it off, Martha’s image disappeared, and he saw a man dressed like Santa Claus, riding a carriage full of gifts driven by reindeers appear on the screen. In the background was the starry horizon with numerous galaxies. The sound of a song sung in a melodious voice filled the communications room. The song continued
‘Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way!
O what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse sleigh
Some say I am real,
Some say I am a tale,
I am real for folks who have love in their heart,
And do not let their belief in me part,
I disappear when men and women grow old,
I am there only for young folk.
But I always do my job,
Of spreading my message of love,
And I make sure that when gifts are forgotten,
I am around to deliver them to the loved one.’
Captain Richard Merrymaker listened in stunned but happy silence.
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