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One Christmas I was unavoidably included in a “Secret Santa” group at work. The person coordinating the festivities was a little over-zealous. She decided that a single Christmas gift for your victim wasn’t enough. She devised a series of dated events that held opportunities for you to “bless” the person whose name you drew. After some research I found that I was not exempt from the event. Given that I was compelled to participate, I decided to make it memorable.

Before I tell you the tale of the “Secret Santa Extravaganza,” let me tell you a little bit about where I was in life during that particular holiday season. My wife and I had spent two and a half years designing a home to build. Now, before you get the wrong idea, we were not designing a dream home. We were designing a reality home. We were going to build it! We had sold our historic two-story, un-insulated money pit and moved into a rental to stop the financial bleeding. My parents still lived in the home in which I grew up. It was out in the country in the river valley. The property was five acres with a fresh spring-fed creek running through it. I had negotiated with the neighbor to buy five acres of his land that adjoined my parents’ land and included some of the same creek. We purchased a used mobile home and gave our notice with our landlord. When the mobile home was delivered we were notified that it could not be set up where we planned due to the terrain of the beautiful land we had purchased. So, we temporarily moved in with my parents. It turned out to be about six months (don’t ask).

So, this compulsory Secret Santa event took place while my wife, 2 kids, and I were living in the upstairs of my parents’ home. The diabolical plan for the Secret Santa event included a date where you were to perform a random act of kindness for your victim, give your victim a Christmas card, wrap and give your victim ‘something that was just laying around your house,’ and then give them a serious gift. These mini events were each given dates. We were to make every effort to conceal our identity from our victims.

For the first mini-event, random act of kindness, I cleaned my victim’s car windows and mirrors. It was an easy one. My schedule was different from most of the people with whom I worked. I grabbed Mom’s Windex and a few paper towels on my way out the door. It took all of two minutes (including asking Mom where she kept the Windex). Done.

The next big day was the Christmas card. This was another easy one. My wife used to work as a designer for a greeting card company. It had been several years, but we still had greeting cards coming out of our ears! Since I knew my victim’s car, and I knew that he never locked it, I left the card on his driver’s seat. I wrote in the card left-handed to disguise my handwriting. My wife said it wasn’t enough of a disguise.

I’m going to skip ahead a little and tell you what I gave this guy as a serious gift. His wife was great big pregnant. He was about to be a first-time dad. Since I was an experienced father of two, I knew exactly what he needed. With the help of my wife and mother I put together a first time dad’s gift pack. It included a nice baby-themed picture frame, an ear thermometer, and some funny stuff intended to be a diaper changing kit (mask, goggles, etc.).

On the day of the ‘give your victim something laying around your house,’ I gave him a chicken. So, a little about the chicken: We live in the heart of poultry country. The live haul chicken trucks are more commonplace here than taxicabs in NYC. Occasionally, some of the birds make a break for it. This is how this particular chicken made it into our lives. My dad found her along side the highway trying to plan the next step in her escape. Since he had a coup full of chickens anyway, he picked her up and brought her home.

These chickens are genetically engineered to grow fast, get fat, and die in a dark room hanging by their feet. None of the genetic engineers gave a single thought to the possibility that one might survive past its ideal kill date. As a result we found ourselves feeding a white-feathered blob. She rarely got up. When she did it was to eat. That gave her the distinct characteristic of “something laying around the house.”

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Sparky gets dressed for work.

I put a Christmas bow around her neck, tucked her into a small cage, and hauled her to work. I arrived while everyone else was gone to lunch and snuck her into my victim’s office. I considerately placed a piece of cardboard under the cage and set it in his chair. Fortunately for me, my victim’s office was right next to mine. After planting the chicken I retreated to my office and giggled quietly to myself until he came back from lunch. I reaped my reward when he returned. I strained my ears patiently for his response as he painstakingly removed his coat and hat. After what seemed an eternity I heard a long, drawn-out “Aaaaawwwwsome!” Success.

My victim came out of his office carrying the caged chicken like an Ethiopian kid’s first Christmas present. “Somebody gave me a chicken! A LIVE CHICKEN!” At this point, the cat was out of the bag. I was the only non-city slicker in the office. Everyone knew I was the only one with ready access to poultry. As they gathered around the victim & his bird they all stole knowing glances at me. Almost instantly the group felt the need to name the chicken. It was soon decided that his (actually her) name would be Sparky the Christmas Chicken.

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Photographic evidence of the whole ordeal.

Once the initial novelty wore off it didn’t take long for some bleeding heart (who also happened to be the over-zealous coordinator of the Secret Santa Extravaganza) to decide that Sparky’s cage was much too small and inhumane. She insisted that a portion of the office be cordoned off for Sparky to roam freely. I warned that chickens leave evidence of their presence. She assured me that she would take responsibility for the cleanup. I felt it was fitting punishment.

She also decided that Sparky needed food and water. I asked if she had some cracked corn in her desk drawer. After some confused looks she decided to feed Sparky the remains of her lunch salad. I once again took the high road and warned her that Sparky’s diet was normally a bit dryer than a dressed salad, but she insisted that the chicken couldn’t last the day without food. Fortunately for her, Sparky’s breast meat had long outgrown her leg meat so the cleanup was restricted to one very offensive area. I stayed late that day just to watch the cleaning.

The victim asked if I would be so kind as to take Sparky home so that she wouldn’t be lonely and bored at his house in the suburbs. I gladly obliged since I had plans to fulfill Sparky’s original destiny. So Sparky rode back home with me that day.

My family enjoyed the re-telling of the adventures of Sparky the Christmas Chicken and mutually decided that eating her was an option no longer on the table since someone at the office was sure to inquire of his (her) welfare.

Sparky was returned to the chicken coup with the other birds of her feather. Two weeks later she died of consumption. She had grown so fat that she could no longer make the long trek from the feed to the water, and so she chose to stay with the feed.

So, this holiday season as you are gorging yourselves on the abundance of Thanksgiving Turkey and Christmas Ham, take a few moments to reflect on Sparky the Christmas Chicken.

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