Short Story: The Ideal Gift


Mr Pedro Sears was not happy. His manservant had just informed him that his chauffeur would be unable to take him to his friend Robert’s birthday party. Unfortunately, the car was still at the garage for repairs. This meant he would have to take what was euphemistically known as public transport. Pedro’s frail frame shivered involuntarily at the prospect.

As he proceeded down the wide-ish staircase to his front door, Pedro glowered at a rather dull painting of a bowl of supposedly “fresh” produce. In that instant, that painting had come to represent all his annoyances with his present predicament. The painting, quite out of character, glowered back at him with a ferocity that forced Pedro to look away. Pedro reached the front door. His manservant enveloped him in a thick black trench coat as he burst out into the almost equally thick, piercing rain.

Despite the downpour, Pedro was not the sole pedestrian that day en-route to the bus stop. A burly man in an attire that would have been more appropriate in the Bahamas, seem to be of the same purpose. Though he was a few blocks behind Pedro to start, he soon caught up with him and started walking in step. Pedro eyed the water dripping off the man’s khakhi trunk shorts suspiciously, before crossing over to the other side of the road.

Since he was on the wrong side of the road, Pedro only just caught the bus. After a mad sprint across the middle of the road he arrived just in time for the bus. He also arrived just in time for a muddy green tsunami that coincided with the bus’s traversal through the large puddle near the bus stop. “Eh…eh…eh!” Spluttered Pedro, as he felt the liquid seep through his formerly impenetrable coat and trickle down his spine. He staggered onto the bus, paid for his ticket, and headed for the sole vacant seat, that was covered by a greenish shawl. Pedro gave a large sigh of relief as he lowered his rear into it. The bus started move. At last he could relax.

And that was when he sat on the baby.

The amorphous green blob that Pedro had mistaken for a shawl proved to be particularly spongy. Yelping as if he had been stung, Pedro leapt to his feet. After regaining his senses and unfixing his clasp from his lower back, he looked around. He could not identify a likely mother, in what appeared to be bus load of rowdy university students. Feeling a sense of guilt at having concussed the unfortunate toddler, he decided to pick up the baby and take him to the bus driver, who could contact the relevant authorities.

Just then, the bus driver slammed on the brakes and Pedro lurched into the group students, who were now exiting the bus en masse. Still clutching the child, Pedro waved his unoccupied arm frantically, but it was no good. He was swept through the door and landed face first in the unforgivingly hard pavement. Pedro, or rather, his face, remained attached to the moist concrete for several minutes, as his body performed emergency repairs and the shawl carrying the baby started to roll down the nearby slope.

With excruciating pain, Pedro managed to unglue his face from the pavement orient it more favourably.  After affirming both his own and his unconscious companion’s continued existence in this realm, Pedro looked around in a daze, trying to simultaneously ascertain his location and recall the series of events that could have brought him here. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a neon sign in the familiar murky shade of green that seemed to be following him that day. Half in a trance, he proceeded towards the discount grocery store beneath the sign, half-dragging his new, blobby-green friend.

Pedro, at this point, wasn’t very sure why he was entering the store, but he vaguely recalled that he had intended to purchase a gift for some party he was attending. Upon entering, a giant snake of harried looking shoppers blocked his way. They all wore a hollow, scaly expression that Pedro was almost led to believe that they were in fact enacting a mime of a play featuring an anaconda. After slithering through the queue, he began to realize that this might not be the place for his purchase. However, upon noticing a huge display declaring “Our Gift to You!”, he decided to proceed further into the store.

Under the display, there was a barrel full of the greenest cabbages Pedro had ever seen.

Pedro cracked up. He lowered his free hand into the barrel and began to stroke the smooth flesh of the nearest cabbage. The cabbage seemed to absorb all Pedro’s woes in its succulent leaves. Pedro made a decision. He grabbed the cabbage and, still fondling it, joined the human snake, grinning from ear-to-ear.

After exiting the store, Pedro sped of down the street at top speed. He had asked the cashier for his location and was surprised to find that he was within two blocks of Robert’s residence. He didn’t even notice the mother who, after seeing Pedro in his swamped attire, had crossed to the opposite side of the road.

At long last, Pedro reached his destination. He heard the familiar voices of his friends as clambered up the cobbled stairway to the front-door. He rang the bell and after a few moments, Robert’s manservant opened the door.

“Hi…” Pedro said, his eyes shining.

The manservant eyes darted quickly from cabbage that Pedro was stroking nervously, to the baby swinging from his other hand. He took in the several layers of filth that coated Pedro’s skin and his soaking clothing. Finally, he stared right back into Pedro’s manic gleaming eyes and closed the door with a flourish.

Pedro stood at the door slightly dazed. He overheard the manservant explaining to Robert. “Just a tramp, sir. Trying his luck I suppose…”

He sat down on the stairway, placing the baby and the cabbage beside him. The baby had woken up and had started to gurgle. Pedro’s face broke into a relaxed smile. Resting either hands on the cabbage and the baby he slumped his back on a nearby banister. He had got the ideal gifts.

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