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A Thousand Dreadful Things: Winter

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“Aksel got a package,” said Tonny, plopping a pile of snowy wet mail on the island for Will to sift through.

Will wiped his hands on his pants before approaching the curious box. “Who’s it from?” Tonny shrugged and continued on his way to the coffee pot. The package had no return address, though it had international stamps and tape, and it was addressed specifically to Aksel alone. Will scratched his face, perplexed. “Should we open it before we give it to him?”

“What are you expecting, a severed head?” scoffed Tonny, “Just fucking give it to him. Who cares what it is?” He was pouring copious amounts of sugar in his coffee and shaking his head at Will who constantly feared the worst of everything.

“Okay, I guess we can do that. Can you go get him?” asked Will, picking up the box.

Tonny leaned out the kitchen doorway. “AKSEL!”

The name echoed through the house and Will cringed as he cradled his eyes. “Fucking hell, Tonny,” he snapped. “I could have done that, Jesus fucking Christ.”

Moments later, their four-year-old son wandered down the steps and into the kitchen, still holding his corn snake. “What, Daddy?”

“You got some mail, kid,” said Tonny. “You want help opening it?”

“Yes!” he exclaimed jumping up and down. He ran to the sink and dropped in the snake before grabbing the package from Will and bounding into the living room.

“Aks!” yelled Will, but he received no response, “Damn it, Tonny, tell him to stop leaving Kevin in the kitchen.” Will fished the snake out of the sink, but Tonny blatantly ignored him as he grabbed his coffee and followed his son instead.

The boy was patiently waiting on the floor in front of the fireplace, bouncing around in excitement. It was December 1st, and this was the first gift the boy had received.

Tonny pulled out his pocket knife and sliced open the top of the box, letting Aksel open the rest. He shooed away a few dogs off the couch and flopped down with his coffee to watch. “Oh, fuck, Will,” he sarcastically yelled into the kitchen, “You should call the techs! It is a severed head.”

Will rushed it and stopped, scoffing at the red and green crinkled paper filling the box. “Clever, Tonny,” he snapped. He shook his head and joined them.

Aksel pulled out handfuls of shredded confetti and piled it on the floor. At the bottom of the box was a large muslin bag that clinked and rattled when he set it on the floor. He curiously inspected it, attempting to open the tied top. Tonny knelt down to undo the tie and after peeking in the box, pulled out and handed Will a cream-colored envelope.

Will huffed to himself, recognizing the calligraphy on the front. Aksel Graham, it read. He slowly opened it, his heart racing, and pulled out a matching cream-colored note card, reading it silently to himself,

Dear Aksel,

These come to you all the way from France! I hope you get a lot of use out of them as you explore the culinary arts. Happy Holidays.

Your friend,

Hannibal

Will held the note as a wave of emotions swept over him and he looked down to see Aksel dump the contents of the muslin bag onto the floor. An avalanche of metal cookie cutters tumbled out into a pile onto the floor.

“Wow!” said Aksel, excited by all the shapes and noise. He picked up each one and asked his father what they were.

“A pig, I think,” said Tonny, “and that’s a bell. Oh, and a star, snowflake ...”

“What’s this?” asked Aksel, holding up a cookie cutter.

“Papa, you want to answer this one?” said Tonny.

“It’s a fleur de lis, a lily flower. Represents French royalty,” he said, smiling at Aksel.

“And this one?” asked Aksel, holding one upside down.

“Looks like an … elk,” said Will, “Or more likely a reindeer.” 

“A fish and a dog!” exclaimed the child, and Will grinned, glancing down at the floor in thought.

“Can we make cookies?” asked Aksel.

“Why the hell not?” said Tonny, and he stood. “Will, you going to help or should I just burn the house down by myself?"

“Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute,” he said, watching Tonny and Aksel gather up the cutters still talking about the shapes and meandering into the kitchen.

Will held the note card in his hands feeling the paper, inspecting the envelope, rereading the text, running his fingers along Aksel’s name on the front. He felt the weight of it in his hand and remembered dinner invitations, holiday cards, and personalized notes all written on this same stationary. He peered over his shoulder, and when certain he was alone, he closed his eyes, brought it to his nose, and smelled the familiar earthy aroma of the paper, and he sighed.