Our daughter, Xyclops 4, had been missing for over six weeks when the doorbell rang.
It was Christmas morning and we were doing our best to put the past behind us and have a happy holiday.
We always spent the two weeks leading up to New Year’s at our family cabin in upstate New York. My grandfather had hand-crafted it with such meticulous care, that my father said it still looked as good as it did the day he laid the final log, nearly sixty years prior.
My eldest, Lucy, even joked that if it had been the cabin that had gone missing, instead of Xyclops 4, I’d still be out there searching!
Seriously though, the cabin was great and was proving to be just the thing to get us over the earlier difficulties dealing with our loss.
We were about 20 miles from the nearest town, so you can imagine our surprise upon hearing the doorbell ring, that Christmas morning. Who could it be? The cabin didn’t even have a doorbell!
As I opened the door, I saw no one. There were no fresh tracks in the snow, just a large box.
“It must be from Santa!” I jested.
Lucy’s husband, Tommy, bent over the box and read the attached card. “No, it’s from Eric Filipkowski.”
“Oh,” I said, trying to hide my disappointment that it wasn’t from Santa.
Everyone else seemed pretty excited, because Eric was Xyclops 4’s boyfriend. He had been named by the police as the lone suspect in our daughter’s disappearance, but they had to drop the charges due to a lack of evidence. She had vanished without a trace under mysterious circumstances.
“What does it say, Tommy?” asked my no-good brother-in-law, Pete.
Tommy read the card aloud to the family which had gathered around him:
“Dear Anderson Family,
I confess that it was I, Eric Filipkowski, who murdered your beloved daughter, Xyclops 4. When I was done, I took her bones and made this sled for you. I know it doesn’t make up for the loss of a loved one, but I hope it comes close. Please forgive me.
We stood there, in shock, as Pete’s son, Elroy, tore into the box.
“Holy shit!” exclaimed Elroy.
“Elroy, language!” scolded his mother, before laying eyes on the sled herself. “Holy shit! That’s a hell of a sled!”
And she was right. It was magnificent. It was probably the best sled any of us had seen. It practically begged to be taken up a big snowy hill.
“Oh, but… we can’t… I mean… it’s our daughter… right?” sputtered my wife.
She raised an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, the sled was made from the bones of our murdered daughter. On the other hand, we had just gotten 2 feet of fresh powder overnight.
Everybody chimed in with their suggestions of what we should do. As the patriarch of the family, I felt it was my duty to hear them out and then weigh in with my decision.
Some people wanted to get to sledding right away, a few thought we should bring the sled into the cops as evidence, along with the note. I guess they harbored some ill will towards Eric and wanted to see him rot in jail.
“Look,” I said, “nobody likes Eric and we’re certainly not glad he murdered Xyclops 4, but the last thing we’re doing is taking this sled to the cops. They’ll destroy it when they run tests on it. We won’t get to go sledding at all. I think we should hold on to the sled. It’s what Xyclops 4 would want.”
Most of the family was satisfied with this answer, but over the protests of the dissenting minority, I continued: “Now look, we all hate that stupid son of a bitch, Eric Filipkowski, we’d all love to see him get raped in some jail cell, but we have to stop being so selfish,” even as I said this, I was imagining speeding down the big hill out back on my new sled, “We need to think about what’s best for Xyclops 4. Being examined and taken apart in some dark police crime lab? Or spending the holidays with a family that loves and appreciates her fine craftmanship?”
They hung their heads.
“I thought so.”
I had silenced my detractors. They knew my decision was not only final, it was just.
“Ted is right,” my wife spoke up, “Christmas is about family. It’s what Xyclops 4 would want. And she would also want her mother to get the first ride! Yoink!”
My wife made a grab for the sled, but I was too quick for her. “Oh no you don’t!” I said, pulling it just out of her reach, I ran for the door, followed eagerly by the rest of my family.
We stayed up on that hill the rest of the morning. The sled rode even better than it looked. It was the best Christmas ever!