Pass The Parcel

Entry by: Sirona

22nd December 2015
He found the parcel on the doorstep. His journey to the corner shop was immediately derailed by the presence of a lumpy package in colourful paper. It bore a label that gave his name, Dave Rampton, and his address.
Dave was bemused. It wasn’t his birthday, it was nowhere near Christmas, so why had someone left him a wrapped gift? Looking out from his doorway he checked all directions, but there was no trace of who might have delivered the parcel.
It was all rather suspicious, Dave thought. Gift wrapped parcels generally had good associations in Dave’s memory but there was something sinister about this one. A parcel out of time and out of place.
Hunkering down, Dave engaged his powers of deduction as he looked the parcel over, but lacking even a fraction of the skill of Sherlock Holmes he deduced very little. The parcel was neatly wrapped for all its lumpy shape, the tape pieces were all of equal length as though they had come out of a dispenser. The address label was hand written, in biro if Dave was any judge, but he didn’t recognise the script. Mind you, he reasoned, who writes anything by hand these days?
He gave the parcel a tentative poke, and found that there was a certain amount of squishiness over something solid in the centre. Dave hmmmed, looked up and down the street once more and then carried the parcel carefully inside to put it on his kitchen table.
It was quite heavy, he noted, as he lowered it down and sat at the chair to stare at it.
Loneliness rose up from his core like bile, he wanted to discuss this oddity with someone but he lived alone. Cheryl had left three years ago and he hadn’t found anyone else, hadn’t really tried. He went to work, came home and watched TV and it wasn’t the most exciting life but it was better than walking in on your best mate shagging your Mrs on Christmas Eve.
Dave’s hands had curled into fists, and he consciously relaxed them. Taking a deep breath, he reached for the nearest piece of tape and carefully tugged it off.
The breath left him in a huff when he found underneath the paper was another layer. His brow became etched with his confusion as he pulled off the wrapping to discover two things; a comb and a label. The label had the instruction to ‘Pass the Parcel’ and an address for Siobhan Murphy. Consulting a street map, Dave learned this was a cul-de-sac just a few streets over from his own.
Cheryl’s recriminating words echoed in his head as he stared at the parcel ‘You’re boring, Dave. You never do anything out of the ordinary!’
Well, he’d show Cheryl! He stood up, used the comb to scrape his unruly hair into line, then grabbed the parcel and with great strength of purpose set out to find Siobhan Murphy.
It didn’t take long to get to the address, Dave was soon standing outside Siobhan’s door having second thoughts. He had been planning on knocking, explaining, but now the moment was upon him Dave felt that perhaps leaving the parcel on the doorstep was a better move. It was how it had been left with him, after all, and saved him an uncomfortable social interaction into the bargain.
He was saved from making a decision by the front door opening to reveal a woman of about his age, dark hair scraped back into a pony tail and wearing exercise gear. The gym bag she carried completed the picture.
‘Oh! Hello?’ the woman’s face was a picture of confusion as she viewed the gift bearing stranger on her doorstep.
‘Siobhan Murphy?’ Dave asked.
‘This is for you. Erm. I think. I found it on my doorstep. Well, it was addressed to me then but…’ Words failed him.
Fortunately for Dave, Siobhan was good at asking questions. It only took a few before she understood what had happened. Right there on the doorstep, she took off a layer of paper to reveal a small silver brooch and another address label. ‘Ron Hamilton,’ she read, ‘Go together.’
The sparkle in her eye told Dave that Siobhan was more adept at going with the flow than he was, and any resistance he had to the idea melted in the face of her certainty. Once she’d affixed the silver shamrock to her top and put the parcel back in Dave’s arms she declared ‘Let’s go and find Ron!’
Ron lived in a bungalow just a few streets away from Siobhan’s. Siobhan pressed the doorbell and they waited. And waited.
Dave was overcome with reluctance to give up, which surprised him. This whole incident wasn’t his sort of thing at all, but now he’d started it, he wanted to see it through. The seconds dragged on though, and just as he’d turned to Siobhan and their eyes had met with mirrored disappointment they heard a shuffling and clanking noise from inside.
Through the glass door a figure was getting closer, painfully slowly, shuffle by shuffle, clank by clank. As the door swung back, it revealed a frail old man with walking frame, who blinked like a pit pony led outdoors for the first time.
‘Are you Ron Hamilton?’
Siobhan did the talking, Dave was happy to let her. Ron invited them in, made them a cup of tea and they all sat around talking about the puzzling parcel.
‘Do you live alone?’ Siobhan asked Ron, who said he did.
‘Me too,’ said Dave and Siobhan together.
The three looked at each other in bemusement, and then Ron removed a layer of paper. Inside were three AAA batteries and another address label; Amit Patel and again ‘Go together.’
‘Batteries!’ Ron exclaimed, ‘Needed them, for me scooter!’
All became clear when, with some help from Dave, Ron was on board his motability scooter and putting the batteries into the horn.
‘Didn’t like to go out without ‘em,’ Ron explained, ‘and couldn’t get any without going out. Catch 22!’
The group of three became four when Amit Patel, a middle aged gentleman who lived alone in a bungalow three doors down from Ron joined them. The two elderly gents had never met, but soon discovered a shared passion for gardening when Amit’s layer contained a packet of seeds.
As they walked to their next destination, Maureen Ryan, Dave felt a sense of camaraderie that he hadn’t even realised he had missed in his years of isolation. Like a snow man, melting from the inside, the warmth increasing significantly when he looked at Siobhan.
Maureen Ryan lived in a big house on the main road. Dave noticed how everyone was unconsciously pulling their clothes straight or adjusting their hair as they stood before the intimidating front door. Whoever Maureen was, she was a cut above everyone else, Ron noted.
The door swung open to reveal a middle aged woman in a quilted house coat. She blinked myopically at the gathering, snapping, ‘I don’t accept cold callers, didn’t you see the sign?’
Dave admired the smooth way in which Siobhan responded, giving Maureen her assurance that they weren’t cold callers but were just on an adventure of sorts. Maureen peered suspiciously at the label, made them all repeat their part of the story and then shrugged as if admitting defeat.
Her layer was the final one. Inside was a large tin of biscuits, chocolate as Ron noted gleefully and a note that read ‘Invite them in.’
You could see it, Dave thought, not just a reluctance from Maureen which would have been natural but a resentment at being told what to do. A desire to rebel. Then she noticed the silver brooch on Siobhan’s top and asked ‘You’re Irish?’
‘My parents were. From County Clare.’
The two had family in the same town, it transpired and that was enough to persuade Maureen to invite them all in.
Dave peered around the big house, looking for signs of occupation. Somehow it didn’t seem sensible to arrive mob handed and ask the refined Maureen if she lived alone. Dave worried she’d think they were distraction burglars or something.
There were only two coats on the pegs in the hallway, one umbrella in the stand. The house was empty, most of the doors closed. Not a family home any more, Dave thought as he looked at graduation and wedding pictures of Maureen and what must be her children: Not a trace of a husband in any of them.
‘I’ll put the kettle on,’ Maureen said, gesturing to the kitchen table.
Amit made himself at home finding side plates under Maureen’s direction, and soon the group was sat around the table drinking tea, eating biscuits and discussing the things they had in common.
It all started with the parcel of course, but, like taking off layers of wrapping, they soon discovered more and more things that they had in common.
Dave looked over the table to Siobhan, she felt him watching and looked up and smiled. Dave’s lips twitched up into an unfamiliar grin in response.
He didn’t know who had sent the parcel. He didn’t want to know. Dave was ready to accept a little chaos into his life.