Saturday, December 14, 2013
Ten Extremely Short and Sometimes Surprising Xmas Stories (Infinite Monkeys)
On Christmas Eve, we went to the zoo. It's just a small zoo and it's free and we didn't expect it to be open, but it was. That Christmas was foggy, and not that cold, although the fog made it feel colder even as it helped melt the snow, and there was nobody else at the zoo at all except some workers. We felt awkward, like we were making them work that day even though we hadn't planned on going there.
"They would have had to work, anyway, even if we didn't come here," we told each other, standing outside the penguin area, where the penguins were not really doing much of anything. We wondered if they ever got fog down at the South Pole, and we supposed they must.
The most active of the animals were the camels. "Well, they were at the first Christmas," we joked with each other, before going home to watch It's A Wonderful Life, and later on we couldn't remember if the polar bears had been out or not.
* * * * *
A little boy sits, watching Sesame Street on a videotape. It is near the end, and when the tape ends, he gets up off the floor, carefully walking around his half-full milk glass, and presses REW on the video recorder. He stands there, swaying from foot to foot, a little, unconsciously in time with the sound of the whirring recorder. When the rewinding is done, the tape pops out automatically, and he sees the title: Sesame Street Super Grover. A sticker that says Public Library blocks part of the Grover.
He pushes it back in and sits down to watch it again. He has only this one videotape. Later on, his mother will come home from work and he will hug her. They will sit down and eat the leftovers she has brought home, and then they will use the back of a big piece of wrapping paper to draw a Christmas tree on. They will run out of green crayons halfway through and the tree will be half-green, half-brown, two feet tall and decorated with crayon drawings of candy canes and Santas and trains and baseball gloves, which he hopes he will get for a present the next morning.
His mother will tape the Christmas tree to the wall near the refrigerator. "That way, Santa will see it when he gets his cookies and milk," she tells the boy.
When he gets up the next morning, his mother is at work already. He is alone in the two-room apartment with his Grover videotape, two half-eaten cookies on a plate, and a baseball glove that he doesn't know isn't new.
* * * * *
"But I was visited by three ghosts last year. I learned my lesson!"
"There are other lessons to be learnt, Ebeneezer."
"Very well, then, on with it! Time may not be money, but time is sleep and I am an old man. Which of you will go first?"
"I will! Ebeneezer, heed my words! As the Ghost Of Pleistocene Christmas, I..."
"-- the ghost of what?"
"Pleistocene Christmas. It's an era..."
"Move aside, you reptilian-crazed dotty old fool. What can he learn from you? EBENEEZER, cringe before my fearsome sight: I am the Ghost Of Christmas Music, and my endless repetitions of..."
"Oh, for Pete's sake! This is ridiculous. If he is truly to learn, he must learn from ME. Ebeneezer! Ebeneezer! Well you might moan before my visage, for I am the Ghost Of Christmas From A World Where Hitler Won World War II..."
"Who? Which war? A world war?"
"Well, it's in the future, for you, so--"
"So you are the Ghost of Christmas Future? But I have changed my fate already. Those things will not come of aught."
"Not your future, per se, unless perhaps the Allies fail to heed Churchill's..."
"This is ridiculous. All of you, back up! Let me get my chains untangled. Some organ music please, if you don't mind, thanks, and here I go: Eeeeeebeeneeezer! Eeeeeeeeeeebeneeeeeeezer! I am the Ghost of Chr... oof. Hey, watch it! Who are you?"
"I am the Ghost of New Year's Eves Past. I'm a little early. But ol' Ebeneezer here has been making Cratchit work late every December 31. It's okay. I can wait. Go on with what you were doing."
* * * * *
On the planet Zixion 51, on December 25, two of the Zixionians put three of each of their heads together in a conspiring huddle while their fourth heads stood lookout. Muzmuing between them as quickly as they nerged, they agreed upon the plan and before a single tyump, they had each slithered a component of the reactor core out into the hind section of the nest territory, away from the 53 watchful eyes of the MomDroid.
In less than 114 zondrils, they had it assembled and with much slapping of tentacles they pulsed the ignition and delighted as a globe of pure energy formed above the little box. Lurpleling with delight they watched it as it rose higher and higher and higher, growing larger and larger and more wzeenish with each passing cropforg, until it passed out of the atmosphere and exploded with the gleam of a million, billion poits.
When MomDroid saw what they had done it alerted their progenitors, who sternly rubagaoned them: "A light like that is not only dangerous but will be confusing. Why, it would look like a brand new star just appearing in the sky to any primitive culture that happens to glance skyward tonight!"
* * * * *
"It's... a weed whacker," she says.
"It is!" he says brightly.
"A weed... whacker," she repeats slowly.
The room is quiet. The kids look up at them, trying to figure out the significance of this moment.
"It's perfect!" she says finally, cheerily, and later on, when the weeds attack, again, she is able to save them all, even Timmy who had stupidly asked for a model train.
* * * * * *
In this Christmas story, Santa is taking a quick break before Christmas Eve, and he is in Las Vegas. He's doing well at the blackjack tables -- playing the $200-per-hand tables and winning, a lot. He's been comped the high roller suite for the past two days and Mrs. Claus got treated to a complimentary massage, which she loved. But his luck changes, just two hours before he needs to meet the sleigh up on the rooftop of Caesar's Palace casino, and he is down, and down big, when Rudolph guides the sleigh in. As the reindeer wait expectantly, two tough guys with broken noses come out, flanking a young-ish man dressed in a very nice suit.
"Santa ain't comin' this year," one of the gruff men says. Behind them, the reindeer see Santa, a black eye, his beard half-torn off, his red suit in shambles, being held by the arms by two more mobsters.
But Rudolph expected trouble, and before anyone can move Rudolph has a gun to the head of the nice-suited man, the one he knows is the beloved son of the mob boss. The standoff is tense and Rudolph has to break one of the man's fingers before his dad, by cell phone, tells the other goons to let Santa go, in exchange for the mob boss being permanently left off the 'Naughty' list even though everyone knows he belongs there.
* * * * *
Rajib worked at the little cart that sold radio-control helicopters. Tom worked two carts down, just past the one that would hand-engrave signs with your kids' names on them, at the cart where there were radio-control cars and trucks and motorcycles and for some reason a submarine. What fun would a radio-controlled submarine be? both of them had often wondered but neither had ever said it to the other one.
On Christmas Eve, with only ten minutes until the mall closed, they decided to race, Rajib's microhelicopter against Tom's Formula One racer. The guy at the Orange Julius said he would be the referee and they agreed even though they didn't know his name. There were only a few people in the mall at nearly 6 p.m., none of them very interested in radio-control toys, and both Rajib and Tom were out of a job as of ten minutes from now, left to go home and spend time with their families or girlfriends or whatever, so the race would be a fun way to distract themselves.
"Go!" said Orange Julius Guy, and the Formula One car shot off in a beeline for the edge of the food court where Santa's elves watched as it raced towards them. Rajib swore a bit to himself as his helicopter darted backwards and then raced forwards, following by agreement the same path rather than cutting across it.
The Formula One was already turning left, skidding on the tile and bouncing off the felt border of Santa's Playland. The helicopter almost caught up, swishing left and down in front of the cute elf, the one that Rajib liked even though her hair was cut boyishly short. He brought it higher to get past the cart full of hair supplies, shampoo bottles and conditioner bottles and combs and brushes piled high and not put away yet, and he could see that he was just above the Formula One racer as they got nearer and nearer to the Gap, where the first person past the pile of scarves on the table at the front would be the winner.
Rajib won, but it was so close that Rajib didn't dare ease up on the throttle and the helicopter flew into a group of jean jackets that were 55% off, falling to the ground with a clutter as the Formula One stopped.
"Nice race," Tom called over to him. And, a good sport, he paid off on his bet by buying Rajib a footlong corn dog from Orange Julius Guy.
* * * * *
In this story, Santa and his elves still handmake toys, dolls and wooden trains and sailboats with real cloth sails and those ponies that are a head on a stick that you could put between your legs and pretend to ride, cap guns and jacks-in-the-boxes, and all that kind of stuff, but none of the kids in America or Europe or the better countries in Asia wanted those kinds of toys, they wanted electronics, cell phones and Wiis and mp3 players and tablet computers, things the elves could not make. The elves didn't even bother to try. Instead, wishing that all the children of the world were like the kids of the olden days, happy with simple toys, Santa and his crew leave Christmas in the developed world to parents and corporations, while they go on making their old-fashioned toys delivering them on Christmas Eve to kids in third-world countries, little boys and girls who wear shirts that say "Buffalo Bills Super Bowl XXV Champions" as they eat rice and drive trucks around the dirt floors of their huts, not aware that they are alternate versions of history, the history nobody knows still exists anymore.
* * * * *
I am sitting and eating some toast, slightly burnt. It has butter on it. I was going to put jelly on it but we only had raspberry preserves and I don't like the seeds, they get caught in my teeth. I am reading Beetle Bailey. Sarge has just threatened to beat up Beetle. Beetle wanted to sleep in. It's not really that funny a comic. This story has nothing to do with Christmas except that it is Christmas Eve which I guess makes it a Christmas story, too.
* * * * *
There is a small village in the Andes mountains that has heard of Christmas but has never heard of Santa Claus, so they invented their own legend, and this is what they say happens:
Every year, they say, every year when it gets cold the snow falls. Each year when the snow first falls and covers the ground, on that night, the light from the stars falls down to Earth but cannot soak into the ground the way it does in spring and summer and fall. The light hits the snow and bounces off of it, falling all the way from Heaven to the snow and then stopping there.
Confused at first, this winter light tries to get back up to the sky, but cannot because the sky is too high, and so the light instead must wait -- wait for what, it does not know, but it must wait because it can do nothing.
The next night, and the next night, too, more light comes from the stars, which rise each night and pour their love down on the snow-covered sleeping Earth, and this new light joins its older friends, glowing brighter and brighter, and the light begins to enjoy the fact that it cannot go away and cannot go back.
All this light begins to play, to dance and spin and sparkle and flow around at night, while everyone sleeps, and each night there is more, more from the stars so high up above, falling gently down to the ground to bounce off the snow and join its happy family, the light of the universe spinning and whirling around on Earth.
Some of the light of course wanders around to the village, and looks at the people as they sleep, and some of the light roams into trees and bushes and across the fields where the animals slumber and graze: all night long these lights play across the world as it is: cold, silent, but magical and ablaze with Heaven-On-Earth.
The people do not consciously realize it but the way the lights flit in and around them, through their bedrooms and their dreams alike, makes them happier each day -- happy with the brilliance of the cosmos illuminating their subconscious. This happiness grows and grows as more and more light comes down, until the people are overwhelmed with good will and give each other presents to show how much they all love the others.
The lights, meanwhile, grow more and more abundant, each night adding to the glory until it is almost like a new star itself is ablaze in and around the village, a heavenly presence that would be visible across the world to anyone looking.
Eventually the lights tire of this game and settle down to sleep themselves for the rest of the winter, curling up into the tiny specks of energy that in the spring when the snows melt and nature opens again will become flowers and leaves and vines and fruits and vegetables, and so the world is born anew each spring from light that upon arriving here didn't set down to business right away but instead took the time to celebrate how wondrous things are.
It turns out that unlike Santa and all the variants everywhere else in the world, that story is absolutely 100% true.