The packages have been arriving in the mail almost everyday. There was one that came today from Grandpa and Grandma Harding that Mom whisked upstairs to her secret closet. We're not supposed to go anywhere near the secret closet starting the week of Thanksgiving. But it's not really a secret since my brother and sister and I know where it is. In the hallway between Mom and Dad's bedroom and my brother, Jerry's room is a closet with a special lock at the top of the door. I can't reach it and neither can Jerry or my sister, Darla. My hand can just brush the bottom of the deadbolt if I stand on tiptoes, but I'm not tall enough to pull it back. Not yet, but maybe next year.
I wish I could open that door to see what's really in there. Mom says peeking will ruin Christmas. What? How could knowing ahead of time ruin anything? If I don't get what I asked for...now that'll ruin Christmas morning for sure. There's this really great race car set that I've wanted forever. It wasn't under the tree last year, and I asked Dad for it again weeks ago. He got a funny look on his face and rubbed his whiskers like he was thinking it over. He gave me the same old answer. "We'll have to see what Santa brings you."
Santa? Do they think I'm dumb? The presents are already in the secret closet. Mom took some shopping bags upstairs last week. Nothing looked big enough for the box the race car set would be in though. I'm probably not getting it again. But, that's all I want. Why can't I have it? It isn't fair. Jerry and Darla got what they wanted last year. Jerry got a dumb dinosaur that roars and Darla got the Barbie Dream Castle--a hunk of ugly pink plastic. I got a robot. It was OK. Maybe it's time to come up with a plan to see if my Christmas is ruined or not.
Mom had Christmas music on and the house smelled like gingerbread--my favorite. There were already some frosted gingerbread men piled up on a her special cookie plate. She said "Donny, you can have two," so I grabbed them and sat in the big chair by our huge Christmas tree in the living room eating and thinking. Gingerbread cookies must be good for thinking because I came up with a plan to get into the closet right away. I'd have to keep Jerry and Darla from seeing me, otherwise they'd tell on me for sure. They were always following me around, except for right now. Where were they? I checked each room looking for them. Finally, I went back to the kitchen and asked Mom. She said they were at practice for the Christmas program at church. That's right--the Christmas play was next week. It was the first year I didn't have to go. The little kids Christmas program was for kids who were younger than nine. I was tired of being a shepherd anyway. I'd been one every year since I was three.
Then Mom said she was going outside to get the mail. She already had a jacket on. Here was my chance! Dashing up the stairs, I got the red wooden stool from the bathroom. Darla still stands on it to brush her teeth. It had to be tall enough. It was so easy! Why hadn't I thought of this before? I ran to my bedroom window to see if Mom was still outside. She was, and old Mrs. Gardener was talking to her. They'd be out there forever. Dad calls her Mrs. Gabby Gardener because she talks a lot. I can't ever understand what she's talking about. A lot of stuff about when she was a kid, I guess.
Well, anyway I shoved the stool in front of the secret closet door. The stool made me tall enough to slide the bolt back and then I was standing in front of piles of boxes and bags stuffed in between old coats hanging on a pole. There was a doll for Darla--it figured. I pulled a game out of a big bag. It looked kinda interesting. I pushed it back behind the coats. There was a bag with pajamas, and some candy. More girl stuff for Darla. Why did she get so much? Nothing--no race cars. Then I looked up. The two shelves above the rod where the coats hung had lots more boxes. There was the one that had come from Grandpa and Grandma. But that wasn't big enough. I put the stool inside the closet to get a better look. There was a bag--a really big bag with something really big in it on the top shelf. It could be the race car set. I stood on my tiptoes on the edge of the stool. If I could just reach the bag to look inside.
But then it happened. I tipped and grabbed the edge of the bag to catch my balance. The bag came crashing down on my head and I fell into the coats, knocking bags and boxes everywhere. I felt something trickle from my nose and when I swiped my finger under my nose, it was blood. My shirt sleeve took care of that problem. The bigger problem was the mess of packages that had tumbled into the hallway. The front door hadn't slammed, so I might still be OK. It's a good thing I'm nine and pretty strong because I got all those packages put back in the closet. I couldn't get the big bag on the top shelf though, so I shoved it behind the coats and shut the door...very quietly.
Then I pushed the bolt through those little hoops and locked the door. The bad part was that my nose was still bleeding and I had to wipe it on my shirt again. I sat on my bed wishing that it would stop. Some Kleenex from the bathroom helped when I stuffed it up my nose. The front door opened--Mom was back in the house.
She called for me, but I couldn't go downstairs with blood on my shirt. So I answered that I was busy doing homework. Then she asked if I was sick. I hollered "no" and pulled off my shirt. I took another one out of the dresser drawer and hid the bloody one under the bed. Carefully, I pulled out the Kleenex. No blood. Good! But then, I remembered. Oh no! The stool was still in the hall. If she didn't come upstairs, I could sneak it back to the bathroom. Tiptoeing like a Ninja, I picked it up and put it back---everything was OK.
Then I realized, I'd never looked in the bag. It had been for nothing. How dumb! But I hadn't gotten caught. Maybe doing my homework was a good idea after all. And waiting for Christmas might be OK. Maybe a really smart thing, even if there wasn't any race car set.
Merry Christmas Readers! Thank you for stopping by SimplyLife in 2013. Don't forget to watch for the release of the next Gracie Andersen mystery, By the Book in early 2014.