He was well into his forties and in no shape for all he had been through that day; leaning against the wall of the stairway was the temporary reprieve he had needed.

Behind Robert came an agitated chorus of moans and groans. It seemed as though the two zombies he had been following earlier attracted some friends. Letting out a yelp of surprise, Robert ran up the stairs to the roof. It appeared there was a construction project taking place on top of the dealership. Planks of wood and piles of bricks lay strewn about the gravel top. A small lunch, no doubt leftover from the same employee who forgot his set of keys, sat on the edge of the building. It consisted of a beer and a Happy Meal, and next to the leftovers was a mess of playing cards. It looks like my friend Mr. Responsible was playing poker with another worker. What a diligent member of the staff. Tears filled his eyes as he looked back at the Happy Meal. His visions of them were lucid. After all, it was just that morning they had run into his bedroom with their stockings, excited to open their Christmas gifts. Robert felt as though if he reached out he could touch his boy and girl as they excitedly ripped through colorful wrapping paper and tossed it aside haphazardly. He remembered his wife biting her lip, trying to suppress the prim side of her that itched to reprimand them for making such a mess. Robert recalled their eager faces as they each reached their last gift, positive it was the latest cell phone they had been dying to get. The gift wrap seemed to only be on the box for a few seconds before it disappeared into the abyss of trash, the intricately tied ribbons thrown under the tree and quickly forgotten about. Money had been tight that year, and new cell phones really didn’t seem like a priority since both Robert’s children already had fairly new ones. His children’s faces slowly slipped into doleful expressions as they lifted up their matching hand-knit sweaters.

“Wow, it’s great, Mama!” Robert’s twelve year old daughter Elizabeth said, slapping on a fake smile. It wasn’t that she didn’t like it; it’s just not what she had hoped for.

“Yeah! Thanks guys!” Robert remembered his son giving him a big bear hug before turning to take inventory of the Christmas presents with his sister. His wife flashed one of her brilliant smiles, happy that they at least seemed to like the presents, and Robert had felt as though nothing could ruin the day.

“They really are good kids aren’t they? Especially Eric! Look at how much he loves his sister,” Robert’s wife whispered to him while gesturing at their busy children. Eric was helping tear through the tough plastic on one of Elizabeth’s toys, cutting his finger in the process. Elizabeth fretted over it while he laughed it off and assured her he was fine. The two adults chuckled a little to themselves. “He’s fifteen, but nothing like those incorrigible teenagers I always seem to hear about.”

 “You know what, I think I’m going to sneak out quickly and get these kids the cell phones they wanted. I’m sure I have plenty of extra money in my savings account that I can do without,” Robert said with a smile. His wife smiled and assured him that she would distract them until he got back.

The End

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