A Tale of Two Tampons: A Christmas Story

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December 2021 Christmas Holidays Story Contest Entry

A Tale of Two Tampons

[A Snow-Filled Anecdote For The Christmas Season]
By Iolanthe Portmanteaux

 

"Walter? Walter? If I fit into the costume, can I come and be your helper tomorrow?"
My mouth went dry as I asked it, and my heart pounded in my chest as though it would break through my rib cage.
 
He coughed and laughed. "If you fit in the costume, and if you grow a pair of tits by morning,
then yes, you can be Santa's Helper tomorrow. Good night."

 


 
“Before I go," he said, and paused — "I may kiss her?"
— Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities

 


 

My heart was pounding. I needed to calm down. I needed to calm myself way down. My grip on the steering wheel was tight; too tight. I spread my fingers and flexed them open and shut several times. My shoulders were hunched up around my ears. I shook myself and rolled my shoulders to unbunch them. My face was tight with anxiety. There wasn't a whole lot I could do about that, though: I needed to strain to see the road ahead. The windshield wipers slapped back and forth at top speed, pushing away the snowflakes, but at the same time smearing the salt or whatever they throw on the road to melt the ice into white streaks across the glass. I pulled the wiper control to spray some window cleaner, just as I had a minute or so ago.

Beyond the windshield, all the world was either snow or darkness. Darkness because it was early morning; we were still an hour away from sunrise. The visibility was terrible, but not so much from the darkness, but from the snow reflecting the glow from my headlights back at me. I was tempted to try driving with the lights off, since all they were doing was illuminating each snowflake, creating a curtain ahead that I couldn't see through. I didn't, of course: it would be dangerous, driving in the dark.

Thank goodness for the miniature GPS on my phone: right now it was telling me that the road ahead curved gradually to the right. If it weren't for that tiny map, I wouldn't have a clue as to where we were or which way to go or when we'd arrive.

Driving with such limited visibility was frightening, but there was nothing to do but press on. Stopping or turning back would be just as bad. Actually, they'd be worse. There was nowhere to stop, and returning home would accomplish exactly nothing. We had to drive on: even though there was an hour and a quarter of driving ahead, we couldn't be late. Santa couldn't be late.

Santa, yes, Santa Claus. I turned to look at the sleeping figure in the passenger seat: my neighbor Walter, all gigged up in a really impressive Santa suit: From the fur-trimmed hat to the shiny (real) boots, he truly looked the part. The entire red ensemble practically sparkled. It was in perfect repair: clean, bright, and new. The outfit looked like real clothes, as comfortable and well-fitting as if Walter wore them on a daily basis.

Walter even had hair like Santa: a full head of white hair along with a pure-white beard and moustache. There was never any fear that some bold child would give a tug and reveal a fake: Walter routinely invited children to give it a pull, not too hard, and the kids were always impressed: the real Santa had a real beard, and Walter had a real beard. Ergo, Walter was the real Santa.

Walter was a great Santa. His ho-ho-ho was deep and sonorous. When he laughed, it reached your heart. And he shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

And he did agree to this, I told myself. He did agree.

As if he knew I was thinking about him, Walter's head lolled back and let out a full-throated, powerful, growling snore. He followed it up with a huge heaving sigh, rendolent and reeking of the beer and whiskey he'd poured down his throat last night. The miasma he exhaled wasn't just alcohol: there was a strong assist from onions, garlic, and anchovies that must have fermented in his gullet. I gasped and gagged. My eyes stung. I had to crack the window a little. The stink of alcohol was so strong I seriously wondered whether I could get drunk just sitting here in his pickup, breathing his toxic emanations.

Yes, Walter had a drinking problem. He drank to console himself for his wife leaving him. He drank to celebrate his freedom. He drank to help him fall asleep at night. He drank to clear his head in the morning. Honestly, Walter didn't need a reason to drink. He drank even when he had no reason to drink. He drank from habit. He drank from compulsion. He drank because he couldn't stop himself. I've seen him more often drunk than sober.

Although, I have to say: his drinking didn't affect his performance as Santa, at least as far as I've heard or seen. He was always jovial, kind, and never inappropriate. He loved playing Santa, and he gave it his all.

Walter lets his Santa schedule make itself; as people call, he writes them into his calendar. He doesn't ask for money, and as long as he has free time on his calendar, he never says no. He only has one standing appointment, year after year, on Christmas Eve, when Santa and his helper spend the day at the Childrens Hospital in Ceylonia, which is where we were heading now, in the early-morning darkness.

Last night, the night before Christmas Eve, I saw him sitting on his front porch. Cold as it was, he was wearing nothing but a t-shirt and a pair of shorts.

When I got home and told my mother about the state I'd seen Walter in, she was astonished and taken aback. Not so much with Walter, but with me. "And you left him out there? What's wrong with you, Leo? That man will catch his death! You go marching back there, right now, and get him into his house. Make him drink something hot, and bundle him up with blankets. Don't come back until he's safe and warm!"

It wasn't hard to coax Walter back into his house. He wanted another drink. He offered me a glass, which I refused. "I'm just eighteen," I told him. "I've still got three years to go." He laughed and shrugged but didn't ask again.

Then the smile fell from his face and he groaned. "Leo, Leo, Leo," he bawled, "What am I going to do?"

"What are you going to do about what?" I asked.

"Mary Rose," he said laconically.

"Mary Rose Capriotto?" I asked. She was a girl in my class, a kind of friend; a girl I knew since kindergarten. Her name sent a thrill through me. (I'll explain why in a bit.)

"Yessss," he hissed.

"What about Mary Rose?"

"She threw me a bidone," he said with a huff.

"A bidone? What on earth is that?"

"She let me down! It means she stood me up! She said she was coming tomorrow, Santa's Helper! But at the last minute — well, not the last minute, she called at six o'clock — and said she isn't coming. No Santa's Helper! And tomorrow, of all days... Childrens Hospital... Ceylonia... I really need a helper. But she said... ski trip, last minute. Can you believe it? I mean, how can a ski trip be unexpected? Huh?"

"But isn't there another girl who can do it?"

"I tried. I called every girl who's worked with me in the past, but no. No one is free on Christmas Eve. Family, ski trips, far away... everyone."

"That's too bad," I said.

"It's worse than you know," he explained. "Tomorrow, so many kids, so many gifts. And I... I can't keep track. All the names... the presents and the names, and cart after cart, floor after floor. That place is like a factory full of sick kids. Have you ever been?"

"No."

"It's sad. It's beyond sad. It's tragic. But you know, a ski trip! I can't blame her, but... I do! I blame her. If you say you're going to do something, you do it. Am I right?"

"Of course," I said. "But listen, I'm free tomorrow. Can I do it? Can't I help you? Does your helper really have to be a girl?"

In spite of his depressed mood, Walter laughed. He looked at me, looked me over, and laughed. "You?" he wheezed, and fell into another wave of laughter.

"Why not me?" I asked, a little angrily, a little offended.

"Ach," he groaned. "You don't have the chest for it. You wouldn't fill out the costume. Oh, God, that laughing broke my head." He winced and put his fingers to his temples. With that, he stood up. He steadied himself, gave an experimental sniff, then declared. "I'm going to bed. Wake me up at four. I need to get all the gear on before I leave for Ceylonia."

"That's awful early," I observed.

"Gotta be there early!" he replied. "It's a big place. Lots of kids. Lots of floors. I told you."

"But Walter—" I protested. I hadn't intended to stay over. "Can't you just set an alarm? And seriously, I can come tomorrow. I can help you."

"You can help me by waking me at four," he replied in a stern tone.

"But wait — are you sure you've asked every girl who might go with you?"

"I've asked every girl who fills three requirements," he answered, holding up four fingers. "One: a nice smile. Two: be there when you say you'll be there. Three: fit into the costume."

Fit into the costume? A light went off in my head. "Walter, did Mary Rose fit into the costume?"

"Yes, and she has a nice smile. But she didn't meet the second requirement. She said she'd be here tomorrow, but now she will not." He turned to go, but I stopped him once again.

"Walter? Walter? If I fit into the costume, can I come and be your helper tomorrow?" My mouth went dry as I asked it, and my heart pounded in my chest as though it would break through my rib cage. Still, I saw a chance and on impulse I had to take it.

He coughed and laughed. "If you fit in the costume, and if you grow a pair of tits by morning, then yes, you can be my helper tomorrow. Good night."

 


 

But he agreed. He agreed, I told myself.

I was awake the entire night, arguing with myself. Sure, Ceylonia was far away. I wasn't likely to see anyone I knew. Even if I did, there was no way they'd recognize me. Or at least, it would be unlikely.

While I debated the wisdom of dressing up as Santa's (female) Helper, I got ready. I kept moving. I went through Walter's ex-wife's belongings, the things she'd left behind. I needed some supplies, and I found them: I found a control brief that held my male parts in, and a bra that basically fit. I found her old makeup, and with the help of YouTube and a few tries, I managed a look that wasn't too bad. For breasts, I divided the contents of a bottle of aloe vera gel between two plastic bags. They filled the bra cups, and and they moved like real breasts. After I'd worn them a while they warmed up to body temperature, and they felt pretty convincing.

As I expected, the costume fit me perfectly, so I took the time to paint my nails. Doing my right hand was tricky, but I slowed down and took care, and my hands came out well. Looking at myself in the mirror, I was pretty pleased. Pleased, electrified, frightened, and extremely happy. I looked like a cute girl, from every angle.

 


 

When I woke Walter at four, he growled, "So... no ski trip?"

"Uh, no," I replied.

"Hmmph," he grunted. "Then, wait for me downstairs. Don't stand around here! You don't want to see me changing."

My heart was pounding as I came down the stairs, and waited, sitting with my legs together, hands in my lap. He thinks I'm Mary Rose, I told myself. At least, so far.

He came down the stairs unsteadily, puffing and grunting, and stopping to put one hand on the wall and the other on the banister. He lurched forward slightly, but caught himself. I was afraid he might tumble down the stairs.

"Can you drive?" he asked. "I'm still a little, um... I think I ate something that disagreed with me last night."

"Sure," I said. "Just let me get my license." While he went outside to wait in the truck, I ran upstairs to grab a fanny pack I'd seen among his ex-wife's belongings. Into it went my drivers license, my money, the lipstick and mascara that I'd used, and then, on impulse, two tampons. I figured they might help me pass, if someone asked me for one. Stupid, I know, but as you'll see, they actually and unfortunately worked all too well.

 


 

Walter was asleep before I even set our destination in the GPS.

While I drove, I developed a litany that I recited to myself, over and over: No one I know will see me. If someone I know does see me, they won't recognize me. If they recognize me, I will say I did it for the children. Running through those affirmations helped to calm my nerves. I felt that they covered all the bases.

All the bases, that is, except for Walter. I struggled to create a second litany around him, but it didn't really gel. Walter is still drunk. He might be drunk all day. He thinks I'm Mary Rose. If he sees that I'm not, he won't care, because he needs a helper. If he does care, I'll explain that he agreed to let me come. At that point, discussion would stop: Walter doesn't like to admit to drinking too much, which means (as a corollary) that he tends to simply accept the things he's done while drunk, as if he'd done them on purpose.

My second litany, my Walter litany, didn't really flow as well as the first one. The logic behind it wasn't as tight. Also, I felt guilty about deceiving Walter. Sure, he shouldn't drink so much, but at the same time it was wrong of me to take advantage of him. Was I taking advantage though? In the end, I was helping him when he needed help. I woke him; I'm driving him; I'll help him distribute gifts to children who need a little kindness on Christmas Eve.

Working my mind around all that helped my jangled nerves.

And yes, it might be a mess. Walter might be upset. I might get caught. Any number of bad things might happen, but at the same time I was getting to spend a day dressed as a girl. Out and about! And, as far as I could figure, nothing bad should happen.

I think I have all the bases covered, I told myself (a little proudly), and in exactly that moment came one eventuality that I hadn't considered at all: the State Police.

I was so focused on the road ahead that I didn't pay attention while he rolled up behind me. I knew there was a car back there, and I knew it was getting nearer to me, but I didn't clock it as a police vehicle. Not until he lit up his white and red beacons, gave a chirp on his siren, and used his loudspeaker to tell me to pull over.

My hands fumbled as I groped for my license. I had trouble making my fingers work on the fanny pack's zipper, but I managed to get it open while the state trooper made his way from his car to Walter's truck. I leaned over to get the pickup's registration from the glove compartment, and while I was in that awkward position I saw (and swear, I nearly felt) the troopers flashlight beam play over my body and down my clad legs, which were clad in tights. He tapped on the glass.

"License and registration," he said as I lowered the window. I handed him the registration, then opened the fanny pack. His beam of light moved to my chest and lap, illuminating the contents of my little bag. "Do you know why I stopped you, miss?"

"I'm not a — um — no, I don't know why you stopped me."

"No idea?" He examined the registration, then turned his light back to my face, then down to my fanny pack. "Have you been drinking?" he asked.

"No, no," I protested. "I don't drink -- it's all him," and I gestured to the sleeping Walter. "He's had a lot. I haven't had any."

"I can smell him from here," the trooper informed me. He repeated, "License?"

I extracted my license from the fanny pack, and my heart sank. "Um, I'm not a — oh, God. I'm not a boy," I told him.

"I can see that," he said. "License?"

"No, no," I said. "I mean—" I sighed, and held out my license. My hand trembled, but I wasn't cold. I grabbed my hand with my other hand to steady it, but it didn't help.

"Nervous?" the trooper asked. He watched both my hands shaking for a few moments, then took my license.

"Oh," he groaned in a disappointed tone. "Is this your brother's license? Leo Passarollo?"

"No, that's me," I squeaked in a voice that couldn't have sounded more girly. "This is just a costume. I'm really a guy."

He scoffed in disbelief, and ran the beam of his flashlight over my chest and legs, then lit up my face.

"Miss, there is no way. Do you actually have a valid drivers license?"

"That is my license!" I protested. "I'm just dressed this way to help Santa."

He played his life over my sleeping companion. "And Santa is asleep," he observed.

"I can wake him," I offered.

"No, that's fine," he said. "I don't think he could tell me anything helpful. In any case, I want to give you a breathalizer, and check out a few things..." he looked at my license and the registration. "Wait here," he said, and walked back to his vehicle.

I rolled up my window and sighed. Then I looked at Walter, happily sleeping. I wanted to somehow blame him, but couldn't. I couldn't bame Mary Rose, either. It was all me. I got into this myself. It was really and truly all my own fault. What kind of trouble am I going to get into here? I wondered. I'm not really driving without a license, even if it seems that way. Can he arrest me? Will he call my mother? I wanted to jump out, run back to the trooper, and try to explain things, but I doubted it would help. In any case, the green suede slippers I was wearing (with their curly toes) wouldn't stand up to the wet snow and the anti-ice crystals on the ground. They'd be ruined.

I want to say that it seemed like I sat there for an eternity, but it didn't. It was five minutes by the clock, and though it was a long five minutes. For the whole of that time, my mind was racing desperately, as I tried to figure out what I could do; who I could call; what I could say to get out of this situation. And the question kept coming back, sounding like an alarm: How much trouble am I in?

Hopefully the trooper would just let me go, and leave it at that. No one would need to know that I'd dressed up like a girl. I wouldn't need to use the "I did it for the kids" excuse. It was Christmas Eve, after all! What about goodwill toward all?

At last the trooper returned. He handed back my license and registration. He asked, "How far are you going?"

"The Childrens Hospital in Ceylonia," I answered.

"Ah," he reflected. "That's still quite a way. Could Santa drive? Does he have his license?"

"I don't know if he has his license," I said, "but anyway, I think he still has a lot of alcohol in him." //Why did I have to be so honest?///

"Right," the trooper said. "Speaking of which..." He held up the breathalizer. "Could you step out of the cab, please?"

I opened the door, and turned to face him. I don't think there was a moment when I looked more like a girl, feminine, vulnerable, nearly helpless, in my shiny red minidress and my tights with their red-and-white candy-cane stripes. I looked down at him, hestitating, and was somehow acutely aware of my startlingly red lipstick.

He swallowed hard, then said, with a catch in his voice, "Is there a problem?"

I looked behind him and spotted a bare patch of ground: a miraculously dry spot on a road full of snow. "Um, could you take a step back so that I can jump to that dry spot there? These slippers aren't made to get wet."

He glanced from me to the dry spot of ground, to my feet, and back again several times. "Are you serious?" he asked, but before I could respond he sighed and said, "Tell you what: I'll give you a lift."

The trooper reached down, bending his knees, put two strong hands on my waist. Then he lifted me bodily from the vehicle. With no seeming effort, he straightened up, turned, and held me for a moment in the air. Our eyes met. He caught his breath, then set me down, carefully settling my feet on the one dry bit of ground. Then he ran his light all over me once again.

What was there to see? On my feet, a pair of green suede curly-toed slippers. On my legs, a pair of tights, with thick red and white stripes. My body was covered by a shiny red minidress trimmed in white fur. (Fake fur, obviously.) The look was finished by a cropped jacket and a Santa-style hat of shiny green material, likewise trimmed in white fur.

My breasts were a discrete size. I used a measuring cup of gel to make each one. And my male bits were pressed out of view by a particularly unforgiving pair of Walter's ex-wife panties.

"You, uh, don't have a weapon, do you?" he asked. As he spoke, he stepped behind me and played his light over me, from my head down my back to my heels and back up again.

"A weapon?" I repeated. "No, of course not."

He stepped back in front of me, closer now. "Let's put that little bag of yours back in your truck." I undid the fanny pack. He took it clumsily with the hand that was holding the breathalizer. Then he dropped my fanny pack on the driver's seat of Walter's pickup and shut the door.

"Oh," I said, suddenly remembering. "You never said why you stopped me."

"Uh, yeah," he said. "I stopped you because you were swerving a little bit. Maybe it was the snow or maybe it was inattention, but you went off onto the shoulder twice."

"I did?"

"Yes. You were briefly on the shoulder, but you recovered. I just wanted to make sure you weren't drinking. So, uh, speaking of which -- blow into this for me. Uh, wait a sec." He hit the power button, then watched the device for a few seconds. "All right. So you blow into here, and it will beep. Keep blowing until it stops beeping." It only took a few seconds, and then he asked me to do it again.

"Okay," he said.

"Do I pass?"

"The breathalizer, yes. Unfortunately, I still don't know what to do with you. You don't look anything like the picture on your license, and you definitely don't look like a boy."

I started shivering from the cold. "But I am," I whined. My teeth actually chattered. "Can't you just let me go?"

"What if you get in an accident?" he asked. "And I let you go off, driving without a license?"

"It is my license!" I protested.

"Come with me," he said. "Let's talk. Let's see if we can figure this out."

"Where?"

"In my cruiser."

I looked at the wet ground and the distance. He sighed again, and said, "Let's go." At that, he scooped me up in his arms as if I weighed nothing at all, and carried me bodily to his vehicle. I could feel the muscles in his arms and chest, pressing against me while he bent to open the back door and deposited me inside. He shut me inside and sat in the driver's seat, directly in front of me. He looked me in the eyes, via the rear-view mirror.

The doors in the back, where I was seated, had no handles. I couldn't let myself out. And there was a metal grill in front of me, between me and him.

"Am I under arrest?" I squeaked.

"Not at the moment," he said. "I'm just assessing the situation." He picked up his microphone and said something incomprehensible. The radio barked its acknowledgement. He hung the microphone back on its clip and stopped for a moment to scratch his head. He picked the mike back up, held it near his mouth and pushed the button again.

"Uh, dispatch? Can you call the Childrens Hospital in, uh, Ceylonia and find out whether they're expecting a visit from Santa Claus?"

The radio was silent for a few beats, then, "Seriously?"

"Yes, dispatch. And can you see if they know Santa's real name? And the name of his helper?"

Again, silence for a few moments. Then, "You really want me to ask them that? Christmas Eve at the Childrens Hospital? If they say no, are you going to go and be Santa for them?"

I huffed in frustration. I couldn't help it.

"Cancel that, dispatch. Don't make the call."

"Good thinking. Dispatch out."

The trooper hung the microphone on its clip and sighed.

A thought struck me. "Hey, I could pop out one of my breasts and show you that it's—"

"No," he said in a firm tone. "I don't want you undressing in my vehicle."

I blushed, realizing that I'd have to take almost everything off to show him that my boobs were fake.

He took a deep breath and lifted his gaze to the mirror, so he could look into my eyes again.

"All right," he said. "Tell me the story."

"The story?"

"Tell me how this all came about. Begin at the beginning."

"Are you asking me to convince you that I'm a guy?"

He frowned. "I don't think there's any way you can do that. I feel like you're playing a game, but I'm confused by your... by your sincerity, let's call it. So... i want you to talk to me, and maybe while you talk I'll see the way forward. Talk to me now."

I took a deep breath and began the story. Once I got going, I couldn't stop. I told him about Walter being Santa, about Walter's drinking problem, about Christmas Eve at the Childrens Hospital. I told the trooper how I'd seen Walter in his shirtsleeves on his porch in the cold, and the way my mother scolded me. I told him about Mary Rose and how she'd let Walter down, and that I knew the costume would fit me.

"Hold on," the trooper said. "How did you know the costume would fit you? I mean, it looks like it was made for you, but how could you know?"

"Oh," I said, and blushed a deep beet red. "Okay, so last summer, Mary Rose's family got a pool, an above-ground pool, and a lot of us in the neighborhood would to go to her house and swim. It was fun. Then, when the summer turned really hot, most everybody started going to the beach, and most of the time it was just Mary Rose, her little brother, and me in the pool."

"How does this relate?" the trooper asked. "Try to stay focused."

"It does relate. You asked me — anyway, never mind. So, okay, so — this is embarrassing, but. well, anyway, one day we were done swimming. We went into the house to take showers, and I went first. While Mary Rose was in the shower, I walked by her room, and this skirt of hers was lying on her bed. So I tried it on."

"I see. And it fit you."

"Yes! And in the days ahead, while she was in the shower, I trying on other things of hers: her bathing suit, shorts, tops, and dresses." I felt my face burning. "She was kind of slow in the shower."

"So the point is, you knew you were her size."

"Right," I said.

I finished up by telling him how I prepared last night, scavenging Walter's ex-wife's things. Then I finished up with Walter falling asleep the minute he climbed into the pickup.

When I was done, the two of us sat in silence for a few seconds. The red and white beacons rotated overhead. Walter slept on in the warm truck parked ahead of us. The trooper eyes were down; he wasn't looking at me.

At last I broke the silence, asking, "Well?"

He remained in silence for a few beats longer, then he looked me in the eye through the rear-view mirror. "You tell a good story," the trooper said. "You've really got this sincerity thing down; you make me want to believe you, against the evidence of my eyes." He tapped the steering wheel lightly and took another deep breath.

"But there's one thing that doesn't fit. There's one thing I don't understand."

"What is it?" I asked, on the edge of my seat.

He shook his head. "You've got two tampons in that little fanny pack of yours. Not just one, but two. If you're a boy, why are they there?"



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