Susie bent over the paper, pencil in hand, her bottom lip clamped between her teeth in concentration.
There. It was finished, and it was probably the best thing she had ever written in her short life.
The shakily drawn letters were a bit too large for the lines, but she thought Teacher wouldn’t mind because of the care she had taken to make it nice, adding some pretty illustrations at the bottom.
It was an important assignment, perhaps the most important of the entire school year. Tomorrow she would read it in front of the whole class.
* * *
My name is Susie and I am a very good girl. I wasn’t bad this year.
I only want one thing for Christmas. I want a puppy. Please can I have a puppy. If you send me a puppy for Christmas I will do anything you say and never want another thing.
Susie grinned up at Teacher, seeking her approval.
Miss Jenkins smiled. “That was very nice, Susie. Now take your seat and put your letter with the others. Tomorrow I will mail all of your letters to Santa for you.”
* * *
Christmas morning arrived and Susie couldn’t contain her excitement. She just knew Santa had read her letter and seen how badly she wanted a puppy. As she opened each gift, her enthusiasm waned. Each toy, game, and pretty dress eroded her faith in Santa Claus.
“What’s the matter, Honey?” her mom asked, “Don’t you like your gifts?”
Susie shook her head sadly. “It’s not that. They’re great, really. It’s just… I thought… Never mind.” Susie turned her head to hide her welling tears. And then she spied it – way in the back, behind the tree – a flash of red. Susie crawled under the tree and sure enough, there was a large box she hadn’t seen before. She dragged it out. It felt heavy, and it seemed like something moved inside. The fiery red box had a removable lid made from fine mesh.
“What’s this?” her mother asked, looking at her husband. “Dave, what did you do?”
Susie’s father shrugged. “It isn’t from me. I thought you wrapped all the gifts.”
Susie lifted the lid of the box. Inside, nestled in a soft red blanket was a tiny hairless creature with large ears.
Susie squealed with delight. “He read my letter! He gave me what I wanted! Oh, thank you! Thank you, Santa!”
Susie’s mother glared at her husband. “Dave, seriously? I am not ok with this! It is never, ever ok to gift wrap an animal! Not to mention doing this without discussing it with me! This is a living creature, not a stuffed animal! This is a decision we should have made as a family!”
“Whoa! Whoa!” Dave held up his hands in defense from his wife’s barrage. “Honey, I am in complete agreement with you here. I swear, I didn’t do this!” He leaned over the box to study the little creature. “Looks like one of those hairless Chihuahua puppies. Hey look, there’s a card.” Dave removed the card from the box and opened it to reveal a message, elegantly inscribed in red calligraphy.
I received your letter and agree to the terms of your offer. Here is the gift you requested. I will contact you in the future to discuss fulfillment of our contract.
Dave frowned at his wife. “Karen, I’m not upset that you did this without discussing it with me, but why would you blame me for it? I don’t get it. I would have loved to be in on the surprise.”
“But I didn’t, honestly. I don’t know anything about this.”
“Then who is it from? And the card is weird. Who writes a message like that on a gift to a little girl?”
“Well, your mother, for one,” Karen said.
“Your mother. Back atcha.”
“It’s from Santa!” Susie squealed, hugging the blanket-wrapped bundle to her chest. “I wrote him a letter and asked for a puppy! And he gave me one!”
“Careful, sweetie,” Karen cautioned “Don’t squeeze him too tight. He’s just a tiny little thing.”
“Let’s take a look,” Dave said, “Maybe it’s a her, not a him.”
Susie lifted the blanket and the three of them examined the tiny creature. It didn’t look like any dog they’d ever seen, but it most closely resembled a hairless Chihuahua. It was about the size of a squirrel, with ears larger than its head, a pointed snout, short legs, and a long, thin tail. And it appeared to be a male.
“It’s a boy, just like I told you,” Karen said. “This little guy needs a name.”
“I’m going to name him Cuddles!”
Dave rolled his eyes at Karen and they both suppressed a giggle.
“Whatever you say, Sweetheart. He’s your dog.”
“He’s going to need some little clothes to keep him warm,” Karen said. This kind of dog comes from a place where it’s very hot, and he isn’t used to our cold weather. We can make him some cute little jackets during Christmas vacation.”
“Yes! Thank you, Mommy!” Susie kissed Cuddles on the top of his head. “Cuddles is going to have the cutest clothes of any dog!”
Karen and Susie soon discovered that making clothing for Cuddles wasn’t as easy as they thought. He grew so quickly that he was in constant need of something new. In the beginning, they made several cute outfits for him, but by the end of January he changed jackets once a week; each time he outgrew the previous one. Cuddles also didn’t appear to mind the cold, in spite of having no fur to protect him from the weather. Unlike most Chihuahuas, he loved to play in the snow, and would even lie in it. Whenever he lay, the snow quickly melted from his body heat. He never shivered or appeared to be chilled.
By Easter time, Cuddles had outgrown all of his Chihuahua-sized clothing and fit a medium-sized dog jacket purchased from the store. They began to wonder exactly what breed he was. After some research, they concluded that he most closely resembled a large Xoloitzcuintli, also known as the Mexican Hairless. By summer time, Cuddles weighed a hundred pounds and from what they could tell, was still growing. A Mexican Hairless generally grew no larger than 60 pounds. Cuddles had to be mixed with a larger breed, which explained his unique appearance.
* * *
When Susan graduated high school, Cuddles weighed nearly 400 pounds and was taller than a Great Dane. His still-hairless skin rippled with muscle and his impossibly long tail had developed a sharp spine at the tip. His extra-long canine teeth protruded outside of his mouth like the tusks of a wild boar. He was still Susan’s best friend and protector, and she took him with her when she moved away to college. Living in the dormitory with Cuddles was out of the question, so Susan rented a small house near the campus. She tried inviting a roommate to share the place, but Cuddles scared the shit out of everyone who answered the ad. Susan’s social life was nonexistent, as was any chance of romance; Cuddles didn’t like any of her suitors and none returned for a second date.
* * *
Unencumbered by personal relationships or parenthood, Susan rose to success in the business world, and was CEO of a finance company by age 37. She sometimes wondered what her life would have been like without Cuddles; would she have married, had children? She felt a yearning at times for what might have been, but it passed when she imagined life without her best friend, Cuddles. The fact that he was at least thirty years old was a topic she avoided thinking about, and never discussed with her parents or anyone else.
* * *
By age 50, Susan lived a life of luxury. Her mansion was lonely with just her and Cuddles, so she invited her parents to come and live with them. They agreed to help take care of the house, given that servants always quit during the first week. Her parents aged, as parents do, and eventually Susan found herself alone once again, except for Cuddles.
* * *
Susan lay in bed, weak from age. Cuddles curled up beside her, as always warming her with his scorching body heat. She had left provisions for Cuddles in her will, and she prayed he would be cared for and loved as she loved him. She knew her time was coming soon, but it had been a good life and she was ready to reunite with her parents. She closed her eyes, searching for the white light to take her home to them. Darkness enveloped her.
“Are you ready, Susie?” A deep voice said.
Susan opened her eyes to find a stranger standing beside her bed. He was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome, impeccably dressed in a dark maroon suit and black tie.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“You don’t remember me?” he chuckled. “Well, I suppose it has been a while since you last heard from me. It’s time to fulfill our contract.”
“Contract?” I don’t understand.”
The stranger reached into his breast pocket and withdrew a folded piece of paper. “It’s all here, in writing.”
Susan focused her eyes on the paper. She recognized the shaky letters, so carefully drawn by her six-year old hand. The illustration at the bottom of the page clearly depicted a little girl with a disproportionately large, oddly shaped creature. Susan read the words she had written so many years ago:
My nam is Susie and I am a very good girl. I wasnt bad this year.
I only want one thing for Chrismas. I want a pupy. Pleas can I have a pupy. If you send me a pupy for Chrismas I will do anything you say and never want a other thing.
“As you can see,” the stranger indicated Cuddles with a wave of his hand, “I have upheld my end of the agreement. It is time to collect the debt. You will do as I command for eternity. Don’t worry, Cuddles can come along. He will be happy with the other Hellhounds.”
Flames rose around the stranger’s feet, and then a fiery cavern opened beneath the bed, swallowing the room and its occupants.
Copyright © 2022 Mandy White
2 thoughts on “A Puppy for Christmas”
Reblogged this on Vampire Maman.