Harry Osgood was among the cheapest men in the state. It was not money that he lacked so much as generosity and selflessness. He prided himself on spending less than $5 for everyone on his holiday shopping list: his parents and stepparents, two sisters, a stepbrother, a half-brother, a well-liked cousin and his three children, three nieces and four nephews. One might think that budgeting $5 for nineteen people would be almost impossible, but Harry managed just fine.
He would hover near Toys for Tots donation bins and wait for the moment when no one was looking so that he could swipe a nice, expensive toy for a kid on his list… and would do the same thing at nine other charity depots. For his stepmother, he would always recycle fruitcakes given to him the previous year by his mother. His stepfather also received secondhand gifts. Each of his parents would be given a snack pack of candies purchased at Dollar Tree. The parents of children on his list would get coupon books to be redeemed by their children for chores. The children were fine with this because, as far as they knew, the stolen gifts they’d received from Uncle Harry had cost him quite a bit of money. The adults, on the other hand, found the coupons an insult to their parenting skills.
It was Black Friday, and the family was stuck in cousin Bill’s house after a snowstorm the previous day. Harry’s sister, Liz, grumbled, “Do you think Harry’s already printed out those lousy coupons yet?”
Bill smirked. “Lousy, nothing. I use mine. The kids are happy to do it. Anything for cousin Harry.”
“That’s fine for you, Bill,” said Harry’s half-brother John, “but I don’t have any kids. He always gives me a souvenir from someplace he’s never been, which I’m sure he gets at Goodwill.”
“Or a yard sale,” commiserated Abby, the lesbian sister who, like John, had no children. “He gets something for his damn dog every time he goes to the store, so you’d think that when it comes to the holidays, he’d have a heart and give to his family a bit more compassionately.”
“Well, he does give good stuff to the kids.”
“According to a Walmart manager I know, it’s suspected that Harry swipes those toys from the bin in front of the store. I’d be surprised if he ever paid for any of them.”
“Don’t spread gossip, dear,” replied Harry’s mother. “I always look forward to my sweet tooth being satisfied every Christmas day.”
“Mom… you could get that same candy yourself for a dollar.”
“Not when you consider tax,” their mother corrected. “Anyway, he’s collecting disability. His funds are limited.”
“Yet he still spends extravagantly on himself every payday. I wonder what he’d do if Uncle Sam cut him off,” griped his stepfather, Bob.
“Now, Bob, let’s not jinx the boy.”
Just then, a scream came from the other end of the house. The crowd all arose from their seats to find out what was the matter.
They found Harry leaving the bathroom, a stench billowing from within. Holding a newspaper triumphantly over his head. Harry cried, “I won the lottery! This is going to be the best Christmas ever!”
And it was… for Harry and his dog. His parents still received their candies, his stepparents still received hand-me-downs, Bill and the siblings with kids still received homemade coupon books, and John and Abby received souvenirs from Planet Hollywood Las Vegas, which Harry had never visited. The kids also thought their Christmas gifts sucked, as they were toys purchased at Dollar Tree. Had they known that these were the only gifts they’d ever received from Harry that he had actually paid for, they perhaps would have appreciated his sudden change a bit more.
“Gosh, Uncle Harry,” his niece Debbie said, “when did you turn into such a cheapskate?”
“Birth,” replied Bob, as he tested the sharpness of his secondhand Swiss Army knife. It was dull, just like the mood in the Osgood family at this, yet another cheap Christmas.