11-27-2011, 12:09 AM
Once upon a time...
Well, actually, it was about three weeks ago, but anyway, Criss Angel, magician extraordinaire, was making arrangements to celebrate his birthday not by receiving gifts, but by giving them. Being the man with everything, so to speak, he had decided the best birthday present would be to give toys to children who would otherwise face a very bleak Christmas. He knew what it was like to have nothing in the way of material goods or even money when he first started out as a magician; now that he had made it to the big time, he felt it was his duty to share his good fortune to those who were less fortunate than he.
While his intentions were entirely honorable, the actual purchasing and delivery of the toys proved to be a work of time. Just ordering several hundred of his new magic kits to be shipped to their designated destinations took several days, even with the help of his assistants, Tom and Eliza. On top of that, there were also the personal appearances: The KLUC toy drive, the Make-A-Wish holiday party, the Nevada Cancer fundraiser, among others. It would be a whirlwind of activity for a man with an already tight performance schedule.
Meanwhile, in a large converted strip-mall store somewhere in the outskirts of Las Vegas, a sunny-faced girl of about twenty or so was making her own preparations for the holidays. Her name was Joy Reese, and a joy she was to her friends and co-workers. She always had a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone. She had just started working the evening shift at Uncle Bernie's Discount Toys to earn money for Christmas and to pay for next semester's expenses at UNLV. The store didn't have much in the way of amenities; it was more like a warehouse, with exposed steel girders supporting the roof, and industrial steel shelving holding the merchandise, but it made up for it in lower prices. And in these economically troubled times, that was the key to Uncle Bernie's success.
Joy was busy setting up the artificial Christmas tree with a pair of co-workers near the entrance of the store while listening to the radio news broadcast over the public address system. The news was troubling: there had been a rash of thefts from various toy donation boxes all around the metropolitan area. Despite the presence of surveillance cameras, security guards and passersby who could have witnessed the thefts, no one had been caught.
"That totally blows!" Jamal, a tall, lanky stock clerk, spat in anger as he adjusted the top of the tree to make it plumb. "Stealing from poor little kids like that--guy should be taken out and shot!"
"They'll find him," Joy said. "Guys like him usually trip up or make a mistake, and that's how they get caught."
Jamal finished adjusting the tree top. "I hope so," he grumbled. "(Bleeper's) ruining the whole holiday for everyone like that."
"Let's let the cops handle him," Sondra, a stout, squat brownette with a pair of wire-rimmed glasses perched on her pudgy nose, said as she rose from her knees after fitting the trunk of the tree in its holder. "We gotta get this tree trimmed by the end of the shift. Boss's orders." She turned to Joy. "Hey, Joy-to-the-world! Did we get the decorations yet?"
"They're in the back," Joy replied. "I'll go get them."
Joy walked back to the storage area to fetch the tree decorations. She felt the same thrill of anticipation she did when she helped decorate the family Christmas tree when she was a little girl. It meant Santa was coming with presents and all sorts of goodies to fill her personalized red quilted Christmas stocking her Grannie made. True, she was too old for Santa Claus, but it was still fun to think about it. She was still a little girl at heart despite the fact that she was a business major in college.
She pushed the heavy swinging door separating the store from the storage area and stepped inside. A new shipment of toys had just arrived; the large boxes made it difficult to move around, let alone find the carton of tree trimmings. In her search for the decorations, she stumbled upon a large carton with the invoice still sealed in its clear plastic envelope. This concerned her; she knew that all invoices went directly to the manager, Bernie Brockton, the "Uncle Bernie" of the store's name. As she studied the invoice closer, she noticed that the address was not for Discount Toys, but for the Toys-R-Us store in North Las Vegas. They had delivered the wrong shipment!
Alarmed, Joy stumbled out of the storage area and went straight to Mr. Bernie's office. Fortunately, Mr. Bernie was just wrapping up a phone call when she arrived at his door. He smiled broadly at her as he hung up the phone. "Joy!" he bellowed jovially. "What can I do for you?"
"I just got back from the storage room," Joy began, "and I noticed the invoice on one of the boxes from the recent shipment. They're supposed to go to the Toys-R-Us store, not here."
A look of concern creased Mr. Bernie's face. "Hmmm, this is serious," he murmured. "Let's go have a look, shall we?"
Joy and Mr. Bernie walked to the storage area, where Joy pointed out the invoice in question. Mr. Bernie studied it for a moment and grunted. "Well, Joy, you did right to point this out to me," he said. "Someone screwed up big time, that's for sure."
"What're you going to do?" Joy asked.
Mr. Bernie rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully. "Well, I'll have to make a phone call or two to the shipping company who delivered it, and find out what happened to ours." He smiled at Joy. "You really did me a favor pointing this out to me before we unpacked all this," he said with a note of pride in his voice. "It's not only gonna save me a ton of money, but the store this shipment belongs to. Little mistakes like this can cost a business thousands of dollars." He clapped her on the shoulder. "I'm glad you're on our team, Joy. Smart girl like you is an asset to any business."
Joy blushed. "Well, I do my best."
"Well, keep up the good work, and, who knows? You just might end up owning your own business someday." He jerked a calloused thumb toward the swinging utility doors. "Now, you'd best get back to work while I take care of this mess."
Joy smiled her brightest smile to date. "Yes, sir, Mr. Bernie!"
Mr. Bernie left the storage room while Joy located the tree decorations. The box was too heavy for her to carry back to the front of the store, so she used a hand truck to transport it. Still glowing over her boss' high praise, she wheeled the hand truck to where the tree waited for its trimmings. Such a wonderful man, Mr. Bernie! she thought to herself. I think I can learn a lot from this man if I stick to this job long enough! Who knows? Maybe I'll run a toy store just like this one someday! Wouldn't that be fun?