“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the old man standing at the head of the table said after clearing his throat. “Now that we are all gathered here, it’s time for my annual Christmas message.”
A slight murmur ran through the group of about thirty people crowded into the largest of the three meeting rooms at the company’s modest facility.
The speaker once again cleared his throat. “Our small firm has had an outstanding year. In fact, it was the best year in our twenty-four year history, and that’s saying a lot in these tough economic times.” He looked around the room, a smug, self-satisfied expression appearing on his rather long, horse-like face.
“I know that each and every one of you has worked extraordinarily hard, especially in the second half of the year, to contribute to our success. Please give yourselves a round of applause.”
A somewhat less than enthusiastic clapping ensued. Mark looked at Steven and gave an eye roll.
The owner continued, “Monday is Christmas Day and our offices will be closed that day and on Tuesday as well, so that you can all have a four day weekend with your families to celebrate Christmas.”
After a slight cough, he continued. “And, as small token of my appreciation for the hard work all of you have done this year, I’d like to present each of you with a gift.”
“Yeah, like the Christmas tree ornament he gave us last year with a picture of himself, his wife, and his daughter on it,” Steven whispered to Mark.
“Nah,” replied Mark. “It’s got to be better than that. We did have a banner year.”
“Monica,” the owner said to his wife, “Will you and Jessica please hand out the presents?” Wife and daughter went around the room handing each employee a small, meticulously wrapped box.
Once all of the boxes had been distributed, Monica and Jessica joined the owner at the head of the conference room table.
“Settle down, people,” the owner said. “My family and I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. May 2018 be as successful for all of us as was 2017.”
Steven opened the box Monica had handed to him and looked inside. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he said loud enough to attract the attention of about half a dozen others sitting near him. Mark opened his box, shook his head, and did yet another eye roll when he saw its contents.
Inside the box was a small red and white striped candy cane, four Hershey’s kisses, a Christmas decorated sugar cookie wrapped in clear plastic wrap with a Santa sticker on top, a $5 Starbucks gift card, and a cardboard framed photograph of the owner with his wife and daughter.
“Hey fellas,” the guy from accounting sitting on Mark’s opposite side said. “It’s a little better than last year’s family portrait Christmas tree ornament.”
“Bah humbug,” groused Steven, who stood up and stormed out of the room, leaving his Christmas present sitting on the meeting room table.