It was my turn to host the charity ball. I went down to the personnel office to pick it up, being mindful not to step in the blood trail - a corporate memo from the previous week had warned of the mounting carpet-cleaning costs, and we were advised not to track precious bodily fluids all over the place. I went up to the personnel director's steel grating and inserted my badge in the slot. After a few seconds and some really vicious-sounding crunching noises, the disgorgement panel opened. I removed the package and headed for home.

After I unpacked the charity ball, I set it on the coffee table. It was a sort of mottled brown color, roughly spherical, but with some bad dings in the top that seemed to have developed some soft-looking yellowish filling. I had been expecting something a little more reputable-looking. The instruction sheet clearly stated to "let Charity Ball grow happy in place of rest. You're benevolents will accrue up to 12 hour. Careful to obstruct line of sight, such as with a locked door, or accruing will fail to develop." I followed the instructions as best I could, even to the extent of covering up the peephole in the apartment door.

I heard the shuffling of gift-givers outside my door all night. The next morning, I returned the charity ball to its box and opened the door, holding my breath. But sadly, I had only received a small bag of dried monkey feces and a jar of powdered lint. Ah, well.