secret (n.) late 14c., from Latin secretus “set apart, withdrawn; hidden, concealed, private,” past participle of secernere “to set apart, part, divide; exclude,” from se-“without, apart,” properly “on one’s own” (see se-) + cernere “separate” (see crisis).
As an adjective from late 14c., from French secret, adjective use of noun. Open secret is from 1828. Secret agent first recorded 1715; secret service is from 1737; secret weapon is from 1936.
Dear Reader, I’m given to understand that sales of The Underdog Anthology have been ‘brisk’, which is very heartening – it’s an ideal stocking filler or Secret Santa gift…
*/sharp intake of breath… That’s a good idea, Clicky! I could definitely do that… /pats snout…*
I have a Christmas tale that I wrote for the ‘Christmas Underdog Anthology’, but that won’t now happen until next year. So here, Dear Reader, for your entertainment is the first installment of ‘Secret Santa’ by Roo B. Doo…
I’d been watching her do the rounds all afternoon. She was shirking again, moving from desk to desk as slowly as she possibly could, irritating the hell out of everyone with her silly bloody ritual. Eventually, she got round to me. It was inevitable really. I gritted my teeth and braced myself for the explosion of seasonal bonhomie.
“Hi Harry! How’s it going?” Shazza gaily chirped from behind a stack of reports I’d neatly stacked along the edge of my desk. She was gripping some red velvet tat between nervous fat fingers.
“Shaz. What do you want?” I replied. For once my curtness was justified; I was actually quite busy formatting and pivoting tables on my computer screen.
Shazza briefly frowned but quickly recovered. “It’s Christmas in two weeks,” she smiled brightly, holding up her hands to reveal the tatty Santa hat she’d been holding.
“Really? Who’d have thought? Why don’t you come back in two weeks then?”
I really was very busy and not in the mood for another of the ‘bonding’ activities that the Fat Kontroller dreamed up to keep our airhead receptionist entertained. If you’re in need of a raffle, bake-off, dress up, dress down or sweepstake, especially if it’s for charity, then Shazza’s your man.
“Ooh, looks like we’ve found our Scrooge!” she squealed for the benefit of the entire office. “We all have to play our part, Harry,” she continued in that irritatingly positive sing-song voice of hers, “and I’ve been chosen to organise Secret Santa this year.”
I sat back in my chair and swivelled round to face her. “Sharon, you’re chosen to organise Secret Santa every year. Look, I’m up to my arse in it at the moment, I don’t have time for this shit.”
I must have hurt her feelings, because she suddenly came over all professional. “You are required to select a name from the hat to buy a gift for. Minimum £10 spend. Wrap and label it with your recipient’s name, and place in under the office tree, no later than 23rd December as they will distributed at the Christmas party at The Exchange that night.”
She thrust the Santa hat toward me. It was the same cheap hat she used last year. A threadbare velour Poundland job that was probably past its ‘sell by’ date on the day she bought it. Its fur trim was meant to be white but was tinged grey from the entry and exit of dozens of grimy wrists. I really didn’t want to put my hand in there, but the sooner I got it over with the sooner I’d get Shazza out of my face. I winced and took the plunge.
“You do know my great-grandfather was half Jewish, don’t you? Next year, Shaz, I’d appreciate it if you used a yamaka, so my cultural sensibilities aren’t infringed.”
The hat felt empty. I rummaged around until I felt a slip of folded paper that had worked its way down into the pointy end. I pulled it out, looked at it, and held it up for Shazza to see. “It says ‘Harry’,” I sighed.
“No! You have to buy for somebody else!” she cried, snatching back the hat and peering inside. Her dismay quickly diminished as she spied another slip of folded paper wedged in its grubby depths. She took it out and handed it to me.
I opened it out, read it, put it in my pocket and turned my attention back to my PC screen.
“Who did you get?” Shazza asked excitedly.
“It’s secret,” I replied, focusing on the numbers on my screen.
She looked crestfallen. “Don’t you want to know who’ll get you?”
I slid the slip of paper with my name on across the desk toward her. “No. Now piss off. We must be missing tons of important phone calls because you’re fannying about over here. We’re a very busy company. Chop, chop.”
Shazza scowled, turned on her heels and left. A few heads from neighbouring workstations bobbed up and quickly lowered. People walking away from my desk in a huff is not an uncommon event.
I thought about the name in my pocket. I hate the Secret Santa ritual – in the two years I’d been at the company I’d selected the Fat Kontroller from the hat on both occasions. The score so far was two bottles of malt whiskey for him and two £10 gift vouchers for me. They were from Boots and had all the hallmarks of an afterthought purchased whilst out buying haemorrhoid cream or a sandwich.
I hadn’t gotten my boss this year though. No, I’d picked out Josie’s name instead. Lithe limbed Josie in HR, with an elfin face, raven hair and legs up to her armpits. She was new to the company and the only honey in the office I’d even consider getting my fingers sticky with. Unfortunately, she came with baggage in the form of a muscle-bound boyfriend called Alfie, who chauffeured her to and from the office. With the visage of an Easter Island statue and phyisque large enough to affect gravity, Alfie would have no problem effecting profound change on the features of any love-struck suitor.
Still, an anonymous gift given legitimately might just open some doors, maybe some legs too. My mind began to whirl as I considered the possibilities. I checked the time: just 45 minutes until close of business. There was no point continuing with what I was doing now that Shazza had so inconsiderately shattered my concentration. A little Christmas gift web browsing might help me wind down and would, in all honesty and with hand on heart, be completely work-related…
The second installment of ‘Secret Santa’ will follow in a couple of days. In the meantime, Dear Reader, have a Song…