Donning my traditional Christmas shopping outfit (elf shoes with bells; tights; that’s it), I set out on the weekend to look for gifts at some of the holiday markets that pop up this time of year. I entered the first church basement and began to circulate, making sure to not make eye contact with the vendors who stared like rabid, bloodthirsty hounds – but in a good way.
I glanced at the first kiosk: soap. An assortment of colourful, handmade soaps. Packages in pyramids, balls in buckets, slabs in spittoons. You can’t go wrong with soap, I thought.
I moved along. Huh: another soap vendor. “Luxurious Lavender,” “Pampered Peppermint,” “Gentle Giblets.” A soap for every taste.
Then another soap vendor, then another. I stepped back. I apologized for stepping on that woman’s foot. I stepped back again. I looked around. The kiosks: they were all selling soap!
I made my way to the next market. The community centre reeked of oils and perfumes. I walked around the room, fearing the worst. Soaps, soaps, soaps, nothing but soaps. Aha! Fudge! Finally, a non-soap vendor. I picked up a rich slab of chocolate and took a generous bite.
“Ah, sir?” said the vendor. “That’s soap. Also, you’re supposed to pay first.”
“Don’t make eye contact!” I shouted frothingly and fled.
Every market I visited: exclusively soaps. Where were the doilies? The table runners? The wreaths made out of old plastic grocery bags? Where were the pieces of driftwood with googly eyes glued to them? Nowhere. Instead, a surfeit of soaps.
“I wish soap had never been invented!” I shouted overreactingly. And that’s when I was asked to leave the building. I returned home, dejected, smelling vaguely of patchouli.
The next morning, I went to take my shower. When I drew back the curtain, I saw a little man standing in a white robe. Nothing unusual, but I didn’t recognize this particular little man. “Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m Calgon,” said the man. “No suds today. You’re coming with me.” Then he grabbed my hand and pulled me down the drain.
“AAAHHH!” I woke up in my bed. “Whew,” I said narratively, “it was just a dream.”
I went to take my shower, déja-vu-like. Searching around, though, there was no soap. None there. None there. Definitely none there. I was completely latherless. No matter; I smell naturally delicious.
Realizing that, in my suds-induced frenzy yesterday, I had forgotten to pick up gifts for my child’s teachers, I set out again for the Christmas market.
When I opened the school gym door, there was only the whiff of wet boots and childhood fears. The hall was empty save for a sad author sitting at a table surrounded by piles of his latest humour collection that people “liked” on Facebook but never actually bought.
“Where is everyone?” I asked.
“Just me. Wanna buy a book?” he said.
“Who? What? Wallet’s broken. Allergic to vowels. I’ll get back to you,” and I left.
The next market was likewise void of vendors, soapy or otherwise. “But I need gifts for teachers!” I cried. “Teachers love soap. What’ll I do?”
A teacher happened to walk by, conveniently enough. “Wine?” she suggested.
“No, soap! Only soap!”
Back on the street, I saw the woman whose fudge-camouflaged soap I had nibbled the day prior. “You there, soap lady,” I said, gripping her arm accostingly. “Can you make me some homemade soap in assorted shapes and scents?”
“Don’t know no soap,” she slurred, coughing with a tubercular cadence. “I spend my sad days scouring these streets for discarded food bits to put in me artisanal sausages.”
“Sausages! No! Not that! Not you! You had such promise! You were so bubbly!”
“Get away from me, you delicious smelling man,” she yammered and stumbled off.
“But the teachers!” I called. “The mother-in-laws! The aunts! The office Secret Santas! What are we to do without soaps! I’m sorry I badmouthed soaps. Take me back, Calgon! Calgon, take me away!”
Just then, my nostrils were filled with a pungent stench. A group of teenage boys were walking by. They were unwashed – and coated in Axe Body Spray. “NOOOOOOOOO!”
And that was when I woke up. “Whew! Another dream. What are the chances?”
I rushed to the window, threw open the shutters and spied an urchin in Sunday clothes in the cobblestone lane below. “You boy,” I cried out, “what’s today?”
“Why, it’s Buyer Regret Thursday, sir,” called the lad. “But I think you’re in the wrong story.”
Then I’m not too late, I thought. I rushed out to the nearest market and saw soaps. So many soaps! Pink soaps, blue soaps, soaps with honey, soaps with sassafras. Soaps on ropes. Soaps on chains. And I bought them all! “God wash us, every one!” I announced Tiny Timmishly.
And that, honey, is why you’re getting soap for Christmas instead of the diamond you were hoping for. No lye.