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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Day 152 - The Abominable Gift

It was the most awful gift he had ever received. That’s saying a lot because he’d received more awful gifts than he could count over the years. In fact, every birthday and Christmas seemed to produce an awful gift of some kind.

First of all, you need to understand what an awful gift meant to him. Useless doodads usually made the top of the list. Give him a power saw and he’d be happy for years. Give him a calendar and he’d yawn. Give him a picture frame and he’d throw it back at you.

A few years ago, one of his best friends went to India and he gave orders that if his friend brought back a gift, make it a good one. The friend nodded. Problem was this friend was a good friend but not a great friend, not the kind who knows you inside or out. This friend knew just enough about him to be dangerous.

That friend came back with a spectacular gift, a carving by one of India’s great artists, cast in beautiful white porcelain, standing three feet high and a foot or two around. A wonderful corner piece.

Except that he didn’t like corner pieces. What would he do with a corner piece? He didn’t even have any open corners. When his friend presented him with this wonderful carving, he stared at it for a long time and then politely thanked his friend.

Later, long after everyone had gone home, he sat in the living room on the couch and stared at the carving sitting in the middle of the carpet. Remember, no corners. It’s really white, he thought. He could think of no useful purpose for the carving except to take up space and catch dust, lots of dust.

How was he going to get rid of it without hurting his friend’s feelings?

Suddenly he had an idea. Invite a bunch of friends over and tell them to bring the most awful item they had. No matter how bad it was, someone in the crowd might have a use for it. The items had to be awful, really awful, for the scheme to work.

The party was a great success. Everyone exchanged the items they had brought for an item they wanted. His carving was among the first to be snapped up and at the end of the day, he smiled as the lucky winner hauled his loot away with a smile on his face.

Problem was, he had another item he didn’t want. Doesn’t matter what it was. He had gotten rid of the worst gift he’s ever received and now he had an even worse item. So he held another party, invited a different group of friends, and it worked just as well. The really awful item went away only to be replaced by another equally awful item.

However, the idea had caught on and he found himself invited to several of these parties put on by other friends. He went to a couple. One had a new idea, to wrap the items so nobody would know what was inside. You knew it was awful, just not what kind of awful. Some looked very tempting. There in the middle of the floor was a large box, heavy, about three feet tall, gaily wrapped with ribbon and colorful paper.

He stared at that box, so prominent and wonderful among a pile of puny looking items. About half way through, it was his turn to choose and he went for the box.

Gleefully he unwrapped it, anticipating the treasure to be found inside. Nothing that big could be that bad, he thought. He opened the box and looked inside. White gleamed back at him. Uh-oh, he thought. He looked closer. It couldn’t be but it was. That very same carving he’d given up months before and promptly forgotten about.

A gleaming white, polished, porcelain, white carving of a very big WHITE ELEPHANT.

He frowned and after moment began laughing. Of course, he thought, the ultimate irony. After he calmed down, he told the assembled crowd the story of the white elephant and how he’d invented these parties as a way of getting rid of it. If anyone wanted it, he told them, he was willing to trade. Nobody accepted. He was stuck with it.

And that’s how the party meant to get rid of the most awful gift ever by trading it for someone else’s most awful gift, became known as the White Elephant Party.

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