May Tale

May Tale by Neil Gaiman
From A Calendar of Tales

In May I received an anonymous Mother’s Day card. This puzzled me. I would have noticed if I had ever had children, surely?

In June I found a notice saying “Normal Service will be Resumed as Soon as Possible” taped to my bathroom mirror, along with several small tarnished copper coins of uncertain denomination and origin.

In July I received three postcards, at weekly intervals, all postmarked from the Emerald City of Oz, telling me the person who sent them was having a wonderful time, and asking to remind Doreen about changing the locks on the back door and to make certain that she had cancelled the milk. I do not know anyone named Doreen.

In August someone left a box of chocolates on my doorstep. It had a sticker attached saying it was evidence in an important legal case, and under no circumstances were the chocolates inside to be eaten before they had been dusted for fingerprints. All the chocolates had melted in the August heat into a squidgy brown mass, and I threw the whole box away.

In September I received a package containing Action Comics #1, a First Folio of Shakespeare’s Plays, and a privately published copy of a novel by Jane Austen I was unfamiliar with, called Wit and Wilderness. I have little interest in comics, Shakespeare or Jane Austen, and I left the books in the back bedroom. They were gone a week later, when I needed something to read in the bath, and went looking.

In October, I found a notice saying “Normal Service will be Resumed as Soon as Possible. Honest.” taped to the side of the goldfish tank. Two of the goldfish appeared to have been taken and replaced by identical substitutes.

In November I received a ransom note telling me exactly what to do if ever I wished to see my Uncle Theobald alive again. I do not have an Uncle Theobald, but I wore a pink carnation in my button hole, and ate nothing but salads for the entire month anyway.

In December I received a Christmas Card postmarked THE NORTH POLE, letting me know that, this year, due to a clerical error, I was on neither the Naughty nor the Nice list. It was signed with a name that began with an S. It might have been Santa but it seemed more like Steve.

In January I woke to find someone had painted SECURE YOUR OWN MASK

BEFORE HELPING OTHERS on the ceiling of my tiny kitchen, in vermilion paint. Some of the paint had dripped onto the floor.

In February a man came over to me at the bus-stop and showed me the black statue of a falcon in his shopping bag. He asked for my help keeping it safe from the Fat Man, and then he saw someone behind me and he ran away.

In March I received three pieces of junk mail, the first telling me I might have already won a million dollars, the second telling me that I might already have been elected to the Academie Francaise, and the last telling me I might already have been installed as the titular head of the Holy Roman Empire.

In April I found a note on my bedside table apologising for the problems in service, and assuring me that henceforward all faults in the universe had now been remedied forever. WE APOLOGIZE OF THE INCONVENIENTS, it concluded.

In May I received another Mother’s Day Card. Not anonymous, this time. It was signed, but I could not read the signature. It started with an S but it almost definitely wasn’t Steve.


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