There are no presents under the tree. But there are cloves of garlic hanging in a cluster behind it. Mistletoe for the monsters.
The tree is black and charred and bare, its pine needles like splinters from a spent heap of week-old firewood. The foyer floor is lined with possum traps and balls of barbed wire are the only thing all bundled up.
There’s a dewy mist on the windows, but it ain’t jack frost nipping, it’s a smoked look that shares the same concern as the cumulus fog that shrouds our courtyard, the same ominous sight as the dead shrubbery that surrounds our property, standing guard like skeleton soldiers all around the Gothic manse that’s set back in these woods.
No, there’re no presents under the tree. Just animal traps. And outside the snow is melting, in the streets it’s turned to ice and sludge. Black slush. Always black, just like the hounds that nipped at his ankles. Old Saint Nick. Scumbag prick.
Some call him a god, but he’s really a dick. That’s what we’ve taught all the kids. Every satchel, every saint, every reindeer, anything quaint, it’s all just another trick, a dirty ruse up the sleeve of that fat piece of shit.
There are five locks on the front door. No ribbons or wreaths. Except the wreath you’re bound to meet if you try and knock when we’re up the street. That wreath is forged from human flesh and filled to the brim with subhuman hate, the egregious, ungodly coiled meat that we fashioned from the remains of St. Nick’s pit.
It curses him and it’ll curse you too. Get close enough and it’ll take your fingers. Nothing like a bloody nip on the eve of the anniversary of Old St. Prick.
Nope. No gifts. No garland hung. Just a bear trap in the fire place and a flask of arsenic and a pair of new galoshes filled ankle-high with razors. In case…well…just in case. You can never be too cautious.
A stainless steel cap screwed down tight on the chimney. If you’re in the fireplace, where They’d like to take you, you’ll hear the echo of its black, black void and if you peer up, with your balls in your mitts, you’ll see a small shaft of light through that chimney tip. The cap. Screwed into place to screw up his path.
If you see it shift you’ll know you’re fucked and when that happens you jingle the bells and we’ll come with our sawed-offs. If you don’t …pitch blackness.
Margot Kidder wuddn’t kiddin. It’s always a Black Christmas.
In our secondary bedroom you might chance upon a frail young woman, her long nape covered in goose flesh as she sits down bringing a broth or a foamy cup of mint tea, slinging it to the mouth of something she cradles in her tiny arms. This’d be my wife. As common as Common Law gets. We talk a lotta shit, but we’ll never quit. Not each other. Not as long as there’re Christmases left.
Voluptuous despite her drab black gown, my wife might sit there wearing a frown and she might look sullen and way far gone, but if you creep up behind her she’ll always have a weapon drawn. That’s how come she’ll still be there if you ever come and why she’ll still be sitting there long after you’re gone.
Are those my children nestled in her arms? And to think, the doc said my vas deferens were as useful as tits on a bull. That’s what we call bison excrement. Fuckin’ medical hogwash.
There you’ll find my wife, rockin’ in her chair, a bun of fine silk in place of her hair. The doc’d call it alopecia, but it’s really burnt to a crisp. Bloody, warmed-over boils where her scalp had bleached blonde tips. Gone now. Just like complacent security. Just like our false idols. Just like Bob Hope and his caravan of cretinous carolers.
My children. Cold faces clutched tightly to mama’s bosom. Rock hard nipples, four for each lip, painted purple and pink, lactating mother’s milk. Ambrosia. That’s what I’d say it tastes like. If I still had a tongue to lap at ’em with.
But all I got is my sawed-off. Ho! Ho! Ho!
The holidays have changed, as I guess you would suspect. No more religious ceremonies or ersatz family respect. No more families at all except those that kept their wits or those that shut the fuck up and packed all extra clips. Full metal jackets taken out of where the Mayor hid them. And jalapeno peppers swallowed sevenfold to spice up all men’s jizzom. Squirted ’em in the eyes and broke out of his makeshift prison or by-passed the whole fucking thing by killing their own televisions.
Survival. No more goddamn March of the Wooden Soldiers marathons. Only a very real march, made by every man, woman and child, with boots upon the ground from homestead to battlefields warmed-o’er in bile. And wooden armaments were used, but metal alloys were preferred, and the smartest of all the half-wits among us knew to read aloud the Word.
Not talkin’ no Ole Testicle, New Testicle, no reformation or born again abomination. Talkin’ ole-fangled torn-and-tangled angry fuckin’ spit plunked down like spunk using ink from razor-sharp ballpoint tips. Paper ripped and thrice folded into slips, tucked away in mason jars and buried in the pit. And the eunuchs that bled to forsaken death ferociously killed in their presence, nevertheless wrested those words out of the ground attached to dead peasants.
Around the neck each paper hung, like a knotted thong ’round the throat or schlong, the ancient proletariat buried alive with the words of their God on their chests or tattooed on their hides. And like I said, some brave corpses unearthed, excavating the words for their successors’ to intercept. And intercept we did, those who went to college, those hallowed libraries for the terminally spoiled.
My professor left his study one day, mid-semester, to scrape black ice from the windshield that was wet with this weather, and out came my pocket knife, dug into his leather, gouging out sections of his much-sought-after treasure. When I tried to sell the scrolls in an ad on Gregslist, no takers would take it ’cause my knife had done damage and they thought it was fake shit. So it stayed with me. Folded up in my wallet, tucked behind an expired condom in a loose change pocket.
The Word. It didn’t deliver us from sin. But it did work wonders to remove temptation. Like the occasion when berserkers were balls-deep into a fit of masturbation and our fellow human beings were rounded up for soul-gouging and ass-raping.
The Word didn’t keep us safe, but it did steel us proper, fortifying the forsaken who had felt like, “Why fucking bother?” And it made for a dandy torch when our branches had been spent and it kept us warm at night when we’d ball it up like lint.
Some words of the Word were lost, lost like all our Christmas tradition. But at least we had those words to restore ancient superstition. It’s why we’re here now, still breathing long since last ignition of the makeshift torches and the balled-up lint-like editions.
Flammable. Lotsa stuff in our house is. But all pale in comparison to my reserves of red hot jizz. A bottle of Winchell’s Hell Hot Hell Broth chased with chili peppers and peppered with lye, enough cum to fill an empty bottle of rum and just enough to make monsters cry.
Distraction. It’s a trade you’ve gotta learn. It keeps you warm and safe in a cold world that paradoxically continues to fucking burn.
Yea, the holidays have changed all right. Bedroom windows built over with black wrought-iron bars. It didn’t useta be this way. Just like Halloween, nowadays you gotta protect your kids from what they can’t possibly understand. Like why the corpulent jolly one is not one inch a man. Despite or, perhaps because of, the girth of his waist and hands. The paws wrapped in black leather gloves are claws under those rubber nubs. They’ll never understand.
Until they reach our age, Dog willing, and raise their own kids to start spilling…the kerosene, the gasoline, acetylene and Ultra-Clean, the wood varnish, hard liquor, anything that’ll tarnish, whatever sets fire quicker.
They’re afraid of fire if it be in others’ hands. Even those that exhale smoke will bow to those with cans. They. Yes, they. He always travels in packs. Despite the picture Rockwell painted, he’s not alone for the attack. Just like a school bully only brutish with his boys around, St. Prick is only powerful when he’s got all of his toys and fist-pounds. All his bitches, all his bitch-hounds, all his minions, demons every one.
Three-horned ugly monsters, two-backed beasts, creeply-crawlies and beasties cunt-deep with fangs and talons and dildos like hatchets, ax-wielding gods and birds of havoc, predators like porcupines, spiked and armed to the teeth, ’cause without at least one of them the fat fuck can’t even speak.
I don’t mean to diminish him. Don’t get the wrong idea. He’s every inch a villain, with or without all his tricks. But heed this small piece of advice…fear not if they’re all sick. Your chances of one-upping him will rise quite fucking quick.
He’s powerful. He’s something else. An otherwordly fuck. And if you see him coming, take your shoes off if necessary, anything not to get stuck.
But if you do, as you probably will, follow my instructions. Lay out the bear traps, load up on a case of the Clap, raise the cloves and strap on your gloves and wheel out the cannons and release the doves and arrange your guns and knives and hoods and boots and nails and gatlings and all other violent goods.
You’ll need them. Ho! Ho! Ho!
A protective symbol is scrawled on the inner door of our house, scrawled in fresh opaque blood. An incarnadine mandala. A sign of what’s left of our earth. And o’er its proscenium arch hang two samurai swords, so that we can restfully sleep. A protective symbol of earth with a halo that’s really a circle, with two horns coming off it. These represent the Taurus.
He comes in November and stays until January, but I was born in May and the bull is something he hates. Even hell-hounds blanch at the sight of the two-horned dude with the handlebar ‘stache. Because I’m the bison, an earthbound buffalo, a beast too goddamn big to swallow their black lies and fear-baiting bullshit. And the bull is wise and also stubborn. They know I won’t give up and I will never give in to his sacramental bluff.
Not gonna say I’m tough, ’cause the rough is a term that’s relative. Subjectivity’s gone, so let’s not get superlative. The fact is much simpler than any or all of that. The bull scares Ole St. Prick because it’s fiercer than him and his fat. When he gets winded it’s curtains. ‘Cause when I get winded I’m hurtin. When I get winded I blow.
In the little ones’ bedroom, if they should awake to find the nightmares to be real, there are stockings stuffed with sawed-off Remington Model 870s. Pump-action. Light weight. Only 10 million or so made, but only twelve of ’em left and all of ’em fill our stockings and basement.
Remingtons and boxes of ammo, fading card stock containers of two-and-three-quarter inch shells stamped with the faces of the bath salts junkies the government insisted were zombie berserkers. A whole slough of # 4 buckshot from the height of the World War Z craze. Enough to bring ’em all to their gnarled and knobby knees.
Kids. I can see them running around the house, throwing latches instead of Nerf balls, ripping open the protective wrappers of pepper spray cans instead of wrapping paper. And I’d like to give them what they want, to share with them the myth that the moth-eaten picture books promised. But that would make me an irresponsible father and a bad husband and I’ve already been both of those things. Never again.
The stockings have gold trim around where blood stains have dried into black flakes, but otherwise there’re no decorations here, no popcorn hanging or glittery balls dangling.
No toys, only homemade shelves lined with Mace containers and crucifixes melted into wooden kintana. Ho! Ho…fuck it.
I’m in the kitchen, tying knots. Sheep shank. Slip knot. Monkey’s fist. Heaving line. Rolling bend. Clove hitch. Constrictor knot. Testing their tautness. Preparing. These are the last remnants of what you could call festivities. Really just regimen. Muscle memory. Setting them down. Picking up a crowbar and dragging the whole heap across the room, leaving a spare on the counter for the common room. Common family. Common survival. Common law wife. We’re common people and this has all become all too fucking common.
I bring the bar to a back door set in a wall at the rear of the kitchen and jam it in the slat beneath, then rattle the door knob. Locked. Okay.
So instead of sugar plums and fruitcake, like that mouldy rotting platter that still sits on the counter top from another time, as if from another world, home to a veritable farm of fire ants still feasting on its dried, expired green muff, instead of dreaming of a white Christmas or snuggling up in matching pajamas and cracking a Dickens classic, we’re huddled up in the common room on the Eve of Destruction, loading fully-automatics and feeling around for a draft that’ll tell us They’ve found another way in.
I drop my gun belt in its rightful place, run my fingers over each bullet to make sure none are missing or wedged in the wrungs, counting them in my head as my family—what’s left of it—eats cloves of garlic and swigs of belladonna straight from the bottle…building up a tolerance, just in case. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Instead of cap and gown we wear belts of ammo and welding goggles. You can never be too cautious. Motion detectors blink green. First glimpse of ’em going red like the eyes of a hell-hound and we’re ready. Round Two. Whatever we can’t hammer up we carry with us. That’s how it’s been and always will be.
We hold hands and, if frisky from chasing belladonna with the last bottles of Sweet Bitch’s candy redness, we caress softly the matching tattoos risen up over our carotid arteries—a wilting F, the theological sign of Woden. Odin. Ole Pseudo-Saint.
Song on the ham radio now on the marble kitchen counter top. O Sinnerman, where ya gonna run to?
O Odin, woe Odin! Absolutely the same sonovabitch your grandmammy and grandpappy useta exalt to Gandhi status. That gargantuan cocksucker wearing your nearest and dearest’s blood all over his furry white fat suit so it looks like the costume of a Crip.
Numbed with cold to the knee, he will return. Matter of fact, he just has. No time for nestling. Green to red. Yo! Ho! Ho! Yuletide alert! The fat is back! Tis the season…