As Winklebottom Jr closed the hardcover book, the children clapped, rose from the warm carpeted floor & were retrieved by their smiling parents.
“Oh what a nice thing you’re doing here, taking time off your scheduled business to read to children. What a very unique thing.” said a young woman wearing a yellow lacy dress. “So you must be Mr.Winklebottom.”
“Uh, Winklebottom Jr. I’m just following in my father’s footsteps.” he replied with a smile.
“And you aren’t failing I see. The last toy I bought from you, for little Jae on his 4th birthday still hasn’t broken, unlike those brand toys. You are just hitting it out the ballpark with these wooden toys.”
“Well like my father said, the handcrafted will always withstand the damage done by destructive hands, while the mechanically assembled damage easily.”
“Hey, Christmas is around the corner, me & all the other housewives in the neighborhood wondered if you are willing to do this for us.”
The smiling woman handed Winklebottom Jr a napkin with a design & photos of children.
“So can you do it, if not I understand….”
“Oh this would be a task, one that I’m willing to partake in. You say you need them by Christmas Eve?”
“Yes. Oh this will be such a great gift, the kids will love it. I’ll go tell the other wives that you’re in, make sure to keep it secret.”
“I’ll take the Winklebottom oath.”
“Winklebottom oath? Oh how cute.” she replied as she was tugged by her son. “Alright Xavier. My contact info is on the napkin if you need anything.”
Winklebottom Jr turned the napkin to see the number & the name ‘Beatrice Zander (234)-444-1222’ written in a blue ballpoint pen.
The sun began to set quickly into the horizon & out came the moon to take her place. Winklebottom Jr took his break for the day & walked the snowy sidewalks, exhaling the soft cold steam & whistling his father’s favorite tune, until.
“Hey, it’s the toy man!!” Shouted a voice from behind.
Confused, Winklebottom Jr turned to see a grizzled man in his parka, standing beside the door to a bar. He turned his head back to the guys inside. “Hey everyone! It’s the toy man!! Leave us some room & open ready a tap!”
“Oh no, I’m sorry. I’m headed to the…”
“Ahh come now. It’s me, ya good friend ‘Keith’, Beatrice’s husband, Xavier’s son! I’m paying. Don’t be so modest, you’re amongst friends. A friend of my wife’s a friend for life!”
Keith placed an arm over Winklebottom Jr’s shoulder & lured him into the warm & loud bar. Winklebottom Jr adjusted his thin spectacles to see a room full of men without their inhibitions as they yelled, cried or danced without an drop of embarrassment.
“Another ‘McHannon’ bub. What’ll ya have, friend?” asked Keith with a big smile on his face.
Winklebottom Jr hesitated to answer, “Uh..I..uh…hmm…well….Can I have a glass of ginger ale?”
The bar’s inhabitants halted whatever they did at the moment to stare at him with a look of confusion. The silence was enough for the roaches below & the termites within to be audible.
“Bahahahahaha!!!” laughed the first man in the corner seat. This lead the other bar inhabitants to follow suit, now Winklebottom Jr felt confused.
“Ah, toy man! You’re funny!!! This guy’s alright! Two McHannons!”
Two hours pass by, Winklebottom Jr still hasn’t taken a sip of his McHannon, but Keith was already drunk off his sixth bottle.
“Nownowwow….I don know butttt……my vlife, Beatrice is an angggel……andgoodinthesack!”
Winklebottom Jr’s eyes widened. Despite the slobbering of his words, he understood that last part.
“You make toys’s, zon’t you?” he asked.
“Yes.” replied Winklebottom Jr as carefully as he could.
“So, have yeh made a toy for zuh ladies. Yeh know, to warm ’em up if yeh know what I mean. HAHAHAHAHH!!!! Meveh one shaped lakk a airline jet. Hahaah!!!!”
Winklebottom’s head began to shake in fury as the man continued to laugh.
“Well I never!!! I MAKE CHILDREN’S TOYS!!!”
“Hehhhhh wazza, S’matter kid?” asked Keith curiously.
Winklebottom Jr rose off the stool. “I make toys for children. I began to devote my life to children’s toys after my grateful father, lord rest his soul, moved on & I took over the helm to give different kids the same smile! Your insinuations are disgusting & utterly inappropriate! I don’t ever want to hear any more disgusting things about my profession or about me! Thank you for the beer, I best be on my way.”
Winklebottom Jr marched through bar door in anger while the bar dwellers watched on. As the door closed behind him he poured out the rest of the beer onto the snow & left, feeling not only a personal satisfaction for standing up for himself, but also regret since the news of his defensive burst might make the neighborhood gossip.
“Whazza…Is he gay or something?” asked Keith as he went back to his beer, questioning what just transpired, until he noticed eight Polaroid prints scattered on the floor. He grabbed all eight & examined them to find pictures of children as they stood in blanketed backgrounds in their summer swimsuits.
“Whazzah bleeding hell?”
“Keith, why did you bring us out here? I’m freezing my nads up in here.” asked one of his bar mates.
Huddled below a streetlight, Keith showed his two friends the Polaroid prints. Their reactions were of disgust & confusion.
“Maybe this is all a coincidence, many people have pictures of kids with swimsuits on them. Parents, Photographers, swimsuit inventors, them art people.” said Alan
“He’s none of those things!” yelled Keith. “Toyman gets on the defensive by a small joke. A SMALL JOKE! And he’s around kids, our kids & our wives are clueless about it.”
Keith’s friends watched each other as they let what was heard sink in.
“We should call the cops then.”
“Haven’t you watched ‘Law & Order’?” said Keith, “The courts won’t convict him, he’s handsome & a toy man, for all we know the court system might get us because we look like child molestors. We need to take matters into our own hands.”
“You‘re an idiot, Keith.” replied Chester. “ I’m not going to stand here while you guys make asses of yourselves. I got a kid who I was supposed to take to the park 4 hours ago. I won’t take part in this.”
“Fine, we don’t need ya! More glory for us! Newspapers, news channels gonna put us up as headlines ‘n we’ll be the talk of tha’ town. Hometown heroes! This could be a chance for you to get full custody of your boy & get respect from the ex. But no, you decided to take no part in our heroic act.”
Chester grumbled & mumbled as he found himself walking back to the group.
“Alright, seems decent. Here’s what we’ll do…..”
Winklebottom Jr bared through the freezing breeze as he stood in front of his father’s gravestone.
“It’s been a tough week dad, but it was worth it just to see those kids smile. I can see why you like this job, but I don’t know how you deal with horrid people. I don’t know if you even dealt with horrid people. Drunk men, I don’t understand how they can have elegant wives. Oh here I go, I better stop before I start sounding like mom, eavesdropping & gossiping with envy. ‘Sigh’, I hope you have a good day in heaven, tell Jack Lemmon I said hi.”
He then traveled down the hills of the cemetery, making sure not to slip on the wet pebble stone trail.
In the peak hours of the night, Winklebottom Jr put some finishing touches on his special orders, put away all his working tools into his shelves. He rummaged through his pockets to find only his napkin & not the Polaroid photos of the kids. Tired & stressed, Winklebottom closed up for the night, hoping Beatrice can give him replacement photos. He locked the door to his shop & walked straight home.
In the dead of midnight the clouds lay dormant in the sky with no luck of blocking the bright blue full moon. Just as Winklebottom reached the empty crosswalk, three figures arrived & stood near Winklebottom Jr.
“Nice night out, init?” mumbled Keith as he stood close to his left.
“Yes.” he replied nervously.
Without a second thought, Alan lifted a plastic bag over Winklebottom’s head & tied it shut as he convulsed in revolt.
“I GOT HIM, I GOT HIM!!” cried Alan
Keith & the rest of his bar mates kicked Winklebottom Jr to the floor & pulled out long thick instruments ranging from Baseball bats to steel pipes. They begin to slam their weapons onto the struggling Winklebottom, the clear plastic bag on his head began to fill up with his own blood & mucus.
“You fuckin molestor!!!!!” cried Keith. “Stay away from our kids!!!!” He continued slamming his bat after his friends halted.
“Whoah, stop stop stop!!!” cried both Alan & Chester as they tried to contain Keith.
Winklebottom’s breathing & thrashing stopped, they took hold of Keith’s bat & restrained him by the sidewalk wall.
“He’s dead, stop!” shouted Alan.
Keith balled as his strength diminished, dropping his baseball bat & falling to his knees on the concrete floor. “He’s dead. What have we…”
From a distance, the three of them saw a strobing light of red & blue from the horizon.
“It’s the bacon! Let’s gun it!” called Chester as they lifted Keith from the ground & ran away from the murder they partook.
The next day Beatrice carried a box containing cupcakes as she walks up the strip mall stairs with a smile on her face, the smile shun brightly until they she was halted by the police. She watched investigators dusting for prints & shuffling though desks as they searched for incriminating evidence.
“What happened? Why…” Beatrice asked. “Where’s Winklebottom Jr?”
“Are you a friend of his?“
“Yes, why do you ask?“
“Ma’am, Mr.Winklebottom was found dead a few blocks from here.” responded the policeman as he pulled out a notepad & pen. “There are some questions I need for you to answer.”
Her smile lowered & her eyes cringed as she fell to her knees & cried..
Christmas Eve, Beatrice & all her housewife friends gathered around the window with their mugs of hot coffee, thinking about the tragic loss as their children watched ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on an plasma television.
“It felt like just yesterday I gave that kind man the Polaroids for that special surprise, & now he‘s gone. ” said Beatrice. “I don’t know how I’ll be able to tell the kids.”
“Give it some time Beatrice, things like this shouldn’t be rushed.” assured the other housewife.
“It was going to be nice, I even invited him to the party. He had this oath he called the ’Winklebottom Oath’, it sounds cute. What kind of monster would have killed someone so harmless?”
“Mom!” called Xavier. “Can I open a present?”
“One, only one.” responded Beatrice as she tried hard not to show her sadness.
The ecstatic boy unwrapped the biggest gift he could find. “Wow!! An RC car. Radical!”
The young kid took out the toy car, eager to play with it. That was until the wheels & inner computer chips fell off.”
“’Don’t fret. I’ll get you another one.” Beatrice picked up the remaining pieces & dropped them onto the box. “Darn manufacturers!”
The housewives walked to the kitchen, following Beatrice, as the children huddled around the tree.
“Did you hear, Mr.Winklebottom’s dead.” said Xavier.
“Dead? Yeah, I heard. That’s not cool.” said Mimi as she adjuster her snow hat.
“I think that’s why your mom’s kinda sad, Xavier.” replied Jeb
“She’s not sad, Jeb.”
Just as Xavier was to continue with his reply, he heard his mom sobbing in the next room. “You’re right. We need to do something. Maybe if we combine our Christmas wishes & ask Santa to bring Mr.Winklebottom back. Christmas would be saved & she‘d be happy.”
“We can’t make another wish, remember when Mr.Winklebottom invited Santa to the shop? We already told him what we wanted!” replied Mimi.
“That wasn’t santa.” retorted Xavier. “That was just my dad in a Santa suit.”
“How did you know?” asked Jeb
“He smelled like beer & talks ‘Lakk dis’. We should all just ditch our original Christmas wishes & make a new one.” Xavier walked to the glistening pine tree, grabbed his envelope & tossed it into the crackling fireplace.”
“I’m with Xavier.” Mimi followed & tossed her envelope into the fireplace.
“You’re all nuts.” said Jeb. “I’m not giving up my Christmas wish. I really want Santa to bring me a pony for Christmas. I know he’ll bring it for me & I’ll laugh as I ride to school in my……. Alright. I’ll do it, but you all owe two ponies.”
The three kids rushed to Xavier’s room & collaborated on their new Christmas wish, writing it in cardboard paper with crayons.
“Danm!” grunted Keith as he chugged down his last mug of beer. “12am, gotta get back to the missus. Wonder what kinda ‘ristmas present I’ll be gettin’ or how I’m gonna get it. Hehehah!!!” Keith stumbles out of the bar in a drunken daze, yet manages to keep his balance as he walks through two inches of slippery snow. “Zuh dey John Kendy die, zuh dey John Kendy!”
Keith fell to the floor, laughing as his layers of clothing absorbed the wet snow. “Ahh, feels good. But need ta git goin now b’fore missus’ kept waitin. Can’t have that, please me is all she wants. Please her is wuh she gits.”
He continued to make good timming as he trudged home, that was until the five bottles of ‘McHannon’ began to get the better of him.
“Gotta ztake a leak. Damn McHannons, go right through me.”
Keith unzipped his pants & began to urinate on the brick wall, watching his stream drop down & color the snow around him.
Just as Keith was about to finish, a shadowy figure pokes his back. “Ey, wha duh?”
Keith turns around to see an unidentifiable person, he barely noticed the trail of his own piss trailing onto the person’s coat & pants. The streetlight began to flicker, the brightness gave light to the person to show a beautiful face similar to that of Beatrice.
Keith’s eyes opened wide.
“Beatrice. What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be…Where’s Xavier?”
The lights began to flicker once again, Keith watched as Beatrice then began to change her appearance between the flickering. Her face changed like a series of film cuts as she then changed to the living corpse of Winklebottom Jr. His face soaked in blood, his eyes oozing off his sockets & his jaw hanging from his excess skin.
“YOU DID THIS YOU NUTTERBINGER!!!!” gurgled the corpse of Winklebottom Jr.
“No, it wasn’t mae! It wasn’t me!!! It wuz mah frenz. Mah frenz!!!” cried Keith.
Winklebottom Jr opened up his muddy coat to show the bloody heads of Alan & Chester, taped to his chest with black duct tape.
“Nahh!! Ya didn’t!! Ohhgaad, why!!!”
“My dad said dead men tell no tales, but they can end them.” gurgled Winklebottom Jr as he leaned towards Keith & shoved his hand onto his open zipper.
Keith began to scream in agony as Winklebottom Jr began to dig into layer after layer of flesh & began to strip off his red flesh from Keith’s groin to the bottom of his jaw. Blood began to mix in the snow with his urine & gave itself an orange glow below.
Xavier woke up from his sleep, feeling much too eager about the morning to come. Without rhyme or reason he walked down the stairs & into the living room. The tree was still there, brightly lit & beautiful on the dark living room. He stood there admiring the sight until he saw a red box below. Strangely, all the gifts had the same green wrapping with a square pattern, all except for a box wrapped in a soggy newspaper. Xavier inched near the box & began to unwrap it. The box contained a wind up swimming toy designed & painted to look like him in his swimming trunks. The likeness was uncanny, almost as if he were holding a miniature version of himself.
“Wow, cool!” whispered Xavier as he tried to contain his surprise. Below the toy he noticed a note written on a leaf with a red sticky solution.
Thanks for the grand wish.