Saturday 22 Oct 2016

The Anonymous Gift
David Simmonds

I received a Christmas gift this year from an unexpected source. It was from a certain, “X, a secret admirer.”

"How sweet," I thought.

My first reaction to receiving the gift was, “Oh, how sweet, I’ll soon figure out who is the secret admirer really. All I have to do is crack open the package and there’ll be a note of identification.”

There wasn’t one. Then I told myself, “Well, the nature of the gift will reveal the identity of the donor.” It didn’t.

It was a tall tin, containing quite highbrow looking liquorice allsorts. You may remember our pre-Christmas column. In that column, I offered up a reprise of a poem I had written several years ago, updated for current events, in which I pined for a box of liquorice allsorts.

The donor could be any close reader of this column. That served to narrow down the field to several thousand. That’s thinking the old days of print media, as this is an online column, potentially into the hundreds of millions, to take account of our offshore readership.

My first instinct was to accuse my wife of being the donor.

p> She absolved herself of any role in the controversy, claiming to have found the present by our front door. She maintained her composure despite some of my television lawyer attempts to break her down under withering cross-examination. I needed another angle to uncover the anonymous gift-giver.


I examined the package for clues. First clue, it was carefully wrapped. Obviously, it’s not anyone with a genetic connection to me. Second clue was the gift tag. The words, “a secret admirer,” were in blue ben, while the “X” before it purporting to name the admirer was in black pen. Perhaps two people were in on this scheme, which spoke of a high degree of organization. Third clue was the same blue-penned words came in a very neat copper plate, but slightly smudged. A person trained in the art of good handwriting, then, perhaps left-handed. Ah, yes, in Wellington, an older person: that narrows the field.

The black-inked “X,” itself, wasn’t an “X” at all. It was some weird amalgam of stretched out and compressed letters. Could it be these letters, C-L-U-P? Was it A-I-G-S? Was it in code? I even held it up to the mirror thinking it would somehow reveal itself. No such luck; thank goodness, they managed without me when they were cracking the Enigma code.

As Mr. Fagin put it, I spent some time “reviewing, the situation.” I concluded the donors expected exposure. Otherwise, he or she would have simply labelled the gift from “a secret admirer”, rather than from “X, a secret admirer.” That at least put paid to my rising concern that they might be too embarrassed to be associated with making a gift to me. Still, I was no further ahead.

My prime suspect on the list led me nowhere. Put yourself in my shoes. It would be bad form to pounce on someone I wasn’t dead certain was the culprit. “So, Mr. and Mrs. Farnsworthy, you are my secret admirers. Thank you so much for the gift.” “Well, actually, David, we don’t know what you are talking about and now that you confront us like this, we have so say we don’t admire you or your column; if that’s going a bit too far, then let’s just say we occasionally smile wanly, but not with enough enthusiasm to go out and buy you a present.”

The dilemma.

Now you see my dilemma squarely. Somewhere in the world sits a person or two persons, one of whom may be left handed and a little older than an infant, getting a little bit crabby, saying to herself or himself, or to one another, “Gee, it’s the middle of January, 2016, and we still haven’t heard from Simmonds. He can’t be dumb enough not to have figured this thing out; the only alternative is he’s too rude to bother thanking us. We should have made the gift to his editor, instead, for his extensive coverage of the sewage treatment issue. Our faith in humanity is shattered. No more gifts to anyone from us!”

Now, I have also considered the possibility that the donors have me where they want me, twisting slowly in the wind, to borrow a phrase from the Haldeman and Ehrlichman lexicon. After all, how can I consume and enjoy the gift, filled, as I am, with anxiety over my failure to identify them? But then again, who in their right mind would waste good money on a tin of liquorice allsorts just to take pleasure in my suffering?

So, if you have any suggestions as to how I can work myself out of this dilemma diplomatically and with a shred of dignity left to my name, please let me have them. If you are the donor, okay, you win. Please come forward: I promise not to reveal your identity. I’ll even go sharesies with you on the allsorts. Well, you can have two or three: after this ordeal, I’ll need my sustenance.


Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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