And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
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the absolute strangest christmas story ever told
(Part 7)
by: Wes

While the flying reindeer (though, having landed, they were not flying at this very moment), having agreed that this place on the stippled rooftop with the red tiles was, in fact, the absolute best possible landing spot on the entire roof, stood gently pawing the stippled tiles with their hooves and looking up at the night sky with shining brown eyes, Santa Claus dismounted from the sleigh and hefted his heavy, magic brown sack filled with all sorts of toys and goodies for the well behaved little children all over this great wide world we call the earth. With careful steps, so as not to wake the inhabitants of the house beneath his feet, Kris Kringle made his way from the absolute best possible landing spot on this particular stippled roof to the red brick chimney which, thankfully, was not smoking, for the fire that had at one time, five or six hours earlier, had sat glowing in the hearth and warming the family as they sat around the fireplace reading Christmas stories and enjoying the joys of family and togetherness. On occasion, families forgot to put out the fire, such that Santa Claus would not be able to get down the chimney without encountering severe discomfort -- as we have noted already (haven't we?), and as his continued presence in the hearts and homes of the good little children of the world over an incredibly lengthy span of years confirms, Santa Claus is immortal and, as such, cannot die, but to be licked by flaming tongues is still a decidedly unpleasant sensation for him, as he once discovered when he attempted to descend the chimney of a residential home which the fire was still burning on the bed of logs in the fireplace at the bottom.

Now, when Santa Claus encounters a chimney with smoke coming from it, one would think that he would simply ignore this house or come through the windows or the front door, but that is not what he does. After all, it is not the fault of the children that the fire remains blazing in the hearth, but the fault of their neglectful parents, and Saint Nick, being the good samaritan that he is, would hate to penalize good and deserving children for the mistakes and stupidity of their mothers and fathers and legal guardians. That would not be fair! And while it is true that Santa could simply choose another way to enter the house -- shattering the windows and entering via that route, jumping inside and landing on the shards of broken glass with a loud crunch, kicking down the front door with his heavy black boots and stomping into the house as if he were a soldier in the army of an invading foreign power, come to shoot the men of the household and rape the women -- to do so would be to go against tradition, and in the process rob the members of the household of the pleasure of having a traditional visit from Saint Nicholas himself. Besides, fibers of his coat have been known to catch in the brick fireplaces, and those who have found them have sold them on various Internet auction sites for quite sizeable and impressive sums of money -- usually, unbeknownst to these opportunistic sellers, back to Santa Claus himself, for not only is it true that, if the wrong person got a hold of the fibers of Santa's red coat, that person could harness its power and use the resultant "gifts" to aid in carrying out and committing horrible crimes, but also because any person who would stoop so low as to desperately plumb the soot and grime in one's own chimney for the express purpose of discovering some stray fibers of Santa's red coat in the filth and then sell them for large amounts of money on eBay must really be in need of the cash, and Santa is always happy to help out a starving family or a poor laborer who can't even afford to buy chocolate bars packed with peanuts and caramel. It sure sounds like it's really in everyone's best interest for Santa to come sliding down the chimney, doesn't it?

Santa Claus agrees, so that is why, when Santa comes upon a smoking chimney, rather than turning away or devising an alternate means of entering that particular household, the great red-suited immortal samaritan simply unfastens the buckle of his great black leather belt, opens his coat, drops his suede trousers down to the white cuffs of his shining black boots, reaches underneath his massive belly that, as the popular rhyming children's tale says, shakes -- BOING! -- like a bowl full of jelly, and places a red suede glove around the little Saint Dick that resides in the center of his crotch. And then, taking aim, Santa Claus lets loose with a gushing golden shower that courses down the grimy chimney, cleaning it as it goes and leaving the clean scent of pine in its wake, and finally douses the flame burning brightly atop the bed of logs in the hearth at the bottom. This task complete, Saint Nick replaces his nether member beneath his heaving gut, pulls his red suede pants up from around the white cuffs of his heavy, polished black boots, closes his trademark red coat (redcoat? The British are coming!) with the white trim and once again draws the thick black leather belt taut around the area of the waistband, thus securing the position of both his pants and his jacket, and, stepping forward and placing a-gloved finger aside of his nose and giving a nod, bounds into the air and, balancing his heavy magic brown sack atop his red capped head, disappears down the chimney into the home below.

On the red rooftop with the stippled shingles, the nine grounded reindeer stand in the absolute best possible landing spot on that particular roof and wait, staring up at the stars in the night sky and eagerly awaiting the moment at which Santa will reemerge from the chimney, take his seat in the great red sleigh with the golden designs about its exterior, take up the red reins in his red mittened hands (the winter holiday season sure yields a lot of red, doesn't it? Perhaps one year Santa Claus should wear green to add a bit of balance to the representation of the festive colors) and give them a jostle. A jingling sound will ring out in the chill of the night air and then, with a two-step and a leap, the nine flying reindeer -- Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and their young leader with the red light bulb for a schnozz, the famed Rudolph -- would once again resume their flight across the darkened heavens, delighting in the sensation of the wind soaring about their antlers and making the tips of their ears flap slightly in the wind as they ventured to heights that few animals ever reach even among the class of those with wings, but to which they, owing to their peculiar birth and the magical power of Christmastime, ascend as if it were as simple as skipping down the empty lane of a strip mall on a quiet, sunny morning in the middle of July, looking about and smiling at the closed shops and waiting patiently for the signs to flip and the doors to open.

''The culture of the reindeer is a strange one indeed.''

Indeed, the reindeer always viewed the starry night sky as being like a candy shop, closed to most creatures of the world but open to them, for here they could fly about to their heart's content and, though not going quite that high, soar among the twinkling stars and gaze upon them with shining, hungry eyes. The stars look to them like giant shining grains of salt, you see, and few things are more delectable to a reindeer than a heaping pile of glistening white salt. But ah! The stars are much too far away for consumption, and assuming that the reindeer actually could get close enough to them to lean forward and stick out their pink tongues to savor the taste of the glowing celestial bodies, they would likely singe their tongues. Or worse. And of course, the nine flying reindeer know that the stars are not really giant grains of salt hanging far away in the vacuum of outer space, so they do not particularly yearn to soar into the void for the purpose of tasting the stars -- it is merely an idea that they entertain from time to time. Reindeer are interesting creatures with very interesting thoughts, by the way. If you ever have the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with one, you should definitely do so. Did you not know? Reindeer can talk as well. On Christmas night, however, out of reverence for the sacred annual duty of ferrying around the gift-giving fat red man, they remain entirely silent. The culture of the reindeer is a strange one indeed.

But let us return to Santa Claus, who had just made his way down the chimney of this particular house and had just emerged approximately two stories or so beneath the absolute best landing spot where the reindeer stood lightly pawing the red, stippled rooftop and awaiting the return of their jolly old driver. The room of the house in which the fireplace was located -- the family room, as such rooms have been designated in the past and, no doubt, will be called again in the future -- was large and soft and warm, with three plush blue chairs of varying widths arranged in a semicircle and, in front of these, a number of purple body pillows strewn about a fluffy burgundy rug. To the left of the leftmost sofa was a small wooden table with a lamp in the left corner farthest from the fireplace -- what some would have referred to as being the upper-left corner -- and towards the center of the table, though slightly off-center, sat a heaping plate of chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk. The lamp was turned on -- the only source of light in the entire room -- and beneath the burning bright light bulb and the lampshade that covered it and thus effectively muted the full glow and intensity of the bulb, a small yellow post-it note had been stuck to the body of the lamp. In a haphazard scrawl of blue ink, the note read: 4 Santa Claus!!! Beneath this short message, the writer of the note had drawn a large smiley face with a black permanent marker. And upon seeing this site and sight -- as the small wooden table was both the site of the cookies and the glass of milk, and, having been seen by him, constituted a sight as well -- in accordance with the expected behavior and response that the rigid rules of inalterable tradition required of the jolly and fat old elf, Santa Claus swung his heavy magic brown sack into the chair in the middle, plopped down on the plush blue chair farthest to the left and, grasping several cookies at once in one-gloved hand, parted the great white beard, opened his mouth, and began to eat.

Several minutes and just over three thousand calories later, Santa Claus rubbed his red mittens together over the plate, brushed crumbs from his beard, and lifted the glass of milk from its resting place on the small wooden table to the thin pink lips just underneath his snow white moustache. With three quick convulsions of his throat, accompanied by a loud gulping sound, the milk was finished. He set the glass back down next to the lamp and took the yellow post-it note from the place where it stuck to the body of the lamp, turning it over onto its back, where nothing had been written. Then, removing the red suede glove from his right hand, he raised his index finger to his mouth and, placing it in between his right upper and lower eyeteeth, bit down hard, puncturing the finger with his lower tooth and sending the sweet, metallic taste of crimson blood dribbling down his tongue and into his gullet. "Just like pennies," he sighed to himself, remembering the time he had visited a home in which the children had been allowed to bake his cookies and, instead of baking them with chocolate chips, baked them with pennies inside. After all, they wanted to give Santa something worthy of him, and clearly cookies baked with money have more worth than cookies baked with mere chocolate chips.

After all, if you go to the store with a handful of chocolate chips and attempt to buy something, the clerk will, in all probability, look at you and laugh, unless of course the clerk has an unreasonable craving for chocolate chips and is willing to buy them out of the palm of your hand, in which case you will not really be paying for your purchase with chocolate chips but with the money that you received for them from the store clerk. And all of this is assuming, of course, that the chocolate chips do not melt in your warm hand, which is what will likely happen unless your hands happen to be particularly cold -- and during the winter holiday season, this is a distinct possibility. But the point here is that unless you find yourself in Candy Land or are playing a game of poker with third graders, chocolate chips are not generally valued as acceptable currency. On the contrary, if you walk into a store with a handful of pennies and attempt to buy something, the clerk would probably, rather than laugh at you, simply repeat the price of the item, because while you did attempt to pay with actual money, and therefore did not come across as quite so ridiculous, it is also highly unlikely that a handful of pennies would cover the cost of whatever it is that you wished to purchase, because there are very few things that a handful of pennies will get you in today's modern and expensive world.

In the old days, a handful of pennies would get you a stack of comic books, but today? A handful of pennies would only buy you three or four or five pages, and only then if they sold comic books by the page. But they don't. And since the price of trading cards has also gone up by quite a bit, your handful of pennies would probably be all but useless in a comic shop! You could probably buy a stick of gum somewhere, though, and if you happened to stumble across one of those cheap toy dispensers that used to be so widespread back when I was a youth, twenty-five pennies would get you a very crappy or a very neat little toy, depending on the particular machine and your luck when you turned the crank. That is, assuming the machine in question even accepted pennies, for there are such machines that only accept nickels, dimes, and quarters. If that were the case, your handful of pennies would be worthless there, too. Pity. But to a small child, a handful of pennies is worth quite a lot, since it will buy a gumdrop or a miniature gobstopper or a cheap stick of hard, pink bubblegum, and this is all a child needs to entertain him or herself for a while.

That is, of course, unless the child has friends who all own the hottest new toy on the market, in which case the kid who plays with bubblegum will be the laughing stock of the group. Poor child. A child so treated for not having the coolest and most expensive new toy will certainly be negatively affected by the experience, for such a child will grow up believing that wealth and material possessions are not only necessary for one to be well liked and to be popular in this world -- for this may very well be true -- but that these components are also necessary ingredients for one to have the possibility of living the good life, or even a good life, which is, of course, not the case. But we will not go into a discussion of the good life here, for now is not the time -- though if you are interested in exploring the matter further, the dialogues of Plato are a good place to start.

copper chip cookies...?

For our purposes, suffice it to say that the children who baked those copper chip cookies for Santa Claus on that Christmas Eve past had not yet learned that awful lesson that so many children learn and that results in them growing up to be greedy, selfish, shallow adults, and thought that even mere pennies were valuable treasures, and so they bakes them into the cookies that they made and subsequently set out for Santa. Also, they reasoned, Abraham Lincoln appears on the face of the penny, and he has a beard just like good ol' Kris Kringle! For this reason, to their young minds, pennies were even more appropriate than one might have thought at first. Santa had choked on a penny upon placing the first of these special cookies into his mouth -- of course, given that Saint Nicholas cannot die, there was no danger of him passing away for lack of oxygen -- but, once he realized the problem, he actually thought it kind of cute and, contrary to what a more vindictive soul might have done, did not fill their stockings with lumps of coal but gave them each, in addition to the other presents that he had brought, several bags filled with caramel covered dates. And of course he ate all of the penny cookies, because it would have been impolite of him to do so, and Santa Claus must always (or at least most of the time) set a good example for children to follow, just in case one should happen to rise late on the night of Christmas Eve or early on Christmas morning and glimpse him making his rounds. So that is how Santa knew what pennies taste like, but have you remembered what prompted Santa to make reference to the taste of pennies at all?

Admittedly, that was mentioned quite a while ago, so we'll remind you: Santa was reminded of the taste of pennies by the taste of his own red blood, which flowed from a puncture in his right index finger that he intentionally made by biting down on it. (It is worth noting, by the way, that when Santa Claus tasted his own blood, it tasted like pennies to him, just as your blood tastes like pennies to you and my blood tastes like pennies to me. However, if one of us were to taste Santa's blood, it would be absolutely delicious to us -- like Christmas tree shaped sugar cookies and peppermint candy canes and spiked Christmas punch and gingerbread and sugarplums and eggnog and a number of other delectable holiday treats all at once. That is not to say that they would taste like a concoction made by throwing all of these various holiday treats together in a pot and mashing them together, mind you -- that would be utterly disgusting -- but as if one were in possession of one thousand mouths and one thousand hands, and, with a singular Christmas treat held in each, raised each hand to one mouth and enjoyed these manifold treats all at the same time. Now you see why the blood-drinkers were so eager to attack the fat man and drain his blood!) Having done this, then, Santa Claus pressed the yellow post-it note face down on the plate such that the blank side was towards him and, on the paper, wrote,

THANKS!
Your pal, Santa Claus

in a rather plain handwriting style, though we cannot call the message itself plain -- for while the text of the message itself was nothing so exciting as to warrant an urgent phone call or even a priority mail letter to home, it was written in blood, and Santa Claus's blood at that. Moreover, as the blood seeped into the paper, the handwriting began to undergo a kind of transformation. Letters began to curl, lines began to twist, and that stray drop of blood to the right of the message began to spread about the border of the message and take on the appearance of a frame of holly. The letters went from the very dull style in which Santa had originally transcribed them into a beautiful script font that just screamed Christmas, and soon the little note appeared less like a message scrawled on the back of a post-it note with a bloody finger and more like a professional quality postcard one would find in a Hallmark store. Santa smiled, for watching this transformation was always pleasing to him. He was not surprised, though, and not just because he had done this on countless occasions before and was quite familiar with the site. No, he was not surprised because, given his position and occupation, it all made perfect sense that the letters should behave this way. After all, he is Santa Claus. Christmas is in his blood!

...read on to Part 8!
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