Evil Editor's unpaid assistant had been reading slush sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, ever since college had let out for Christmas vacation. "I want to go home," she said. "It's Sunday, it's New Year's Eve, and it's freezing in here."
"I told you before," Evil Editor told her again, "if you get cold, shovel some manuscripts into the furnace. Heating fuel is expensive. Manuscripts are a dime a dozen. And not my dime."
"But I worked Christmas. And I have a date. Have a heart, Master.""All right, already," EE told her. "Anything's better than listening to your whining. Be back by five A.M., or you can forget about that job recommendation."
Five minutes passed. There came a knock on the door. "Now who could that be at eleven o'clock New Year's Eve?" Evil Editor grumbled.
He opened the door. A sudden blast of wind whirled a blizzard of snow at him. All he could make out were the red stilettos.
"Oh, it's you," EE said. "I see you're still standing despite the Happy Hooker Crap-0-Meter?"
"Happy New Year to you, too." A sudden snarl alerted EE to the presence of the canine on a leash.
"Brought the killer, I see," EE said.
"At least he kept me company. You did nothing. Not even a bottle of gin for Christmas."
"I'm sorry that I don't fawn over you the way your precious snarklings do. What do you want, anyway?" EE turned his back on her. He strode purposefully to the fireplace and stoked the embers. The rest of the office lay in darkness.
"I brought you a gift." She click-clacked across the floor and dropped a package at EE's feet, swirled her black cape and departed.
EE felt a momentary thrill. A gift. From her. He imagined himself as George Clooney, strutting down Fifth Avenue with the Snark on his arm. Heads snapped to watch them. Murmurs reached his ears, how lucky she was to have him. His heart warmed. He thought he might turn on the lights.
He bent down and fingered the package. It was wrapped in yesterday's newsprint. He picked it up and tentatively picked at the corner. It was soft, almost warm. EE imagined a sweater, lovingly knit by herself.
A faint pungent smell oozed from the package. EE imagined some old-fashioned sweet-cake, lovingly baked by herself.
The paper crinkled in his fingers. EE imagined a gift of song and holiday music, lovingly sung by herself.
Unable to wait another moment, he ripped open the package. There, in his hands, lay a dead squirrel, the Yap's teeth marks still visible in its little neck.
What did it mean?
Well, at least he'd have dinner.
Continuation by xiqay