Understand this, before you read any further: my brother often says very very mean things about the two cats who have been gracious enough to agree to live with us, mere humans. One has even condescended to climb into my lap right now and curl up, watching me type, just to offer his comfort and love. (I myself am certain this has nothing to do with me wearing velvet or the plunging temperatures.) That same cat happily follows my brother around squeaking and squeaking not, as suspicious minds might think, because my brother might be a source of chicken or tuna, but to make sure my brother never has to feel lonely in the kitchen. And yet, my brother has accused them of doing nothing but sleep around and has even - I shudder to tell you this, but it is the absolute truth, and I have witnesses - said they are lazy and useless. Just because the Grey One was demonstrating how efficiently she naps to make sure that she has the energy to position herself into the right napping position later. I call this very clever. And sometimes he has - I shudder to tell you this as well - refused to go over to a cat and scratch the cat or cuddle the cat even when the cat is in CLEAR AND OBVIOUS NEED of such affection. And each Christmas I get a wrapped can of tuna fish that's labelled, in his writing, "from the cats" and various gag gifts for the cats.
So it was with this knowledge that I ripped off the Peanuts Christmas wrapping paper today to see a gift called the PetPetter, a machine that pets your pets so that you, and I quote the box, can "Never touch your pets again!" It is, the box assured me, designed with both pets and human immune systems in mind.
I was indignant. "THIS IS THE MEANEST GIFT EVER! WHO WOULD EVEN THINK OF SOMETHING LIKE THIS?"fbhjr
had another objection: "Rechargable for hotel use?" (That was also on the box.) "Why exactly would you be taking your pets to a hotel if you don't want to pet them?"
My brother fell over laughing.
It's his sense of humor, and he'd already given me a real gift - a coffee grinder. So, although I couldn't exactly say "Thank you" because it was mean, I did keep reading the box. "DO YOU SEE WHAT THIS GUY SAYS? 'All pets have one thing in common: they are dirty disease-carrying friends.'"
"Yes, cats are filthy," said my father, unhelpfully.
"It'll be useful when you're gone for three weeks," someone said.
"That's true," I said, glaring. "Because SOMEONE DOESN'T HUG THE CATS WHEN I'M GONE. WAIT! WHAT IS THIS? 'SHOW YOUR LOVE FROM A DISTANCE WITH THESE OTHER GREAT PET PRODUCTS?' You don't deserve to live with cats!"
The Christmas peace was almost ruined. To restore the calm, my brother then handed my mother a gift in that Peanuts Christmas wrapping paper - a video game that keeps track of the household chores you do. Similar, I thought, to a game that tithenai
and others have been chatting about over on Twitter - some sort of quest game that unlocks things the more you walk or something like that. Because she is nice my mother said "Thank you," and put the box aside saying she would open it later. I followed her example, thinking kindly thoughts of Goodwill figuring someone might want to give someone else a gag gift like this until my brother handed me another box.
This one was worse: a Petsweep, or an "Animal-Powered Debris Removal System": little pads that can be put on the feet of cats so they can sweep the floors as they walk. "THIS IS EVEN WORSE. WHO IS THIS GUY?"
"This will make the cats useful," my brother said cheerfully, handing a very large gift over to my father. Which turned out to contain a box, which turned out to contain another wrapped present, which turned out to contain a box, which turned out to....seven boxes later, contain a silver Roman coin featuring the head of Julius Caesar, c. 46 BC, in a very
tightly sealed container. The entire thing was so small malterre
was terrified of losing it, though we all passed it around carefully enough.
And then a real gift from my brother for the cats: a little cat bed. (The Little One is now 15, and slowing down, and we have wood laminate floors, so this is good. I'm also going to get a step for the bed in a few more months; he can still jump up, but I can see him looking for alternative routes to the couch, and my bed is pretty high.) So all was mostly forgiven.
My original plan was to follow this with Settlers of Catan, but I'd been getting increasingly dizzy, and food right after this made things worse, so I went back to my room and crashed for a few hours while the rest of them hung out and chatted. That is, my parents and fbhjr
chatted; my brother went back to his usual quiet mode. And then I joined them for another hour before the four of them took off, leaving me with my brother.
"You know," he said. "You can't always trust the box."
In our family, unless the gifts come from my father, who has the store wrap them, this is true, since my mother has a notorious habit of reusing all of the boxes used for last year's Christmas gifts whether or not the box has anything to do with what's inside. My brother has occasionally followed her example - using the box that the squirrel baffle came in to wrap my birthday present just yesterday, for example.
The room was still spinning a bit. "What?"
"I think you should probably open
the box." He paused. "Mom probably should too."
I'd already put the PetSweep back in my room. I looked at the PetPetter suspiciously. I opened the box.
As most alert readers have undoubtedly already guessed, it contained, not a PetPetter, but a note on the box flap visible only once the box is open: "Don't get too excited, your real gift is inside." True: a solar charger for mobile devices.
(The other box - the PetSweep - contained Darth Vader coffee beans - to go with the coffee grinder.)
My brother was almost doubled over. "Five people! Five people fell for it!"
"Because YOU'RE MEAN TO THE CATS."
"The one box had a DOG WEARING SHOVELS. I thought for SURE you'd guess it THEN, but no!"
"Because it was a clearly MEAN GIFT! I can't believe you didn't say anything UNTIL EVERYONE LEFT!"
"THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!"
(Amazon has it here
, along with a few others. Also, Mom, if you are reading this, you should probably open your box.)