And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
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the absolute strangest christmas story ever told
(Part 8)
by: Wes

So, after having enjoyed the customary hospitality of his hosts, which, in this case, as it often does in this nation, consisted of a plate of chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk, and having thanked his hosts for this generous offering with a note written and signed in his own Christmas spirited blood, Santa Claus raised himself from the plush blue chair farthest to the left and, lifting his heavy magic brown sack out of the central chair and swinging it over his right shoulder, made his way out of the family room and into the living room. By the way, if you think about it even a little bit, you'll come to realize that the "living room" is really a silly name for a particular room in a singular residence, given that, assuming that one spends any time at all in a room and performs any activity in that room with the exception of keeling over and dying on the spot, any room in a residence can be appropriately referred to as the "living room".

And for that matter, what does one actually do in the living room that is any different from what one would do while spending time in the family room? For some would argue that, when they are spending time with their families and delighting in the joys of togetherness and other such nonsense, those are the moments in which they feel most alive -- the moments in which they feel that they are truly living. Where these particular persons are concerned, then, the naming of these rooms is even more confusing -- for, in their case, at least as far as the naming of the rooms goes, the living room is the family room, and vice versa, such that to have two rooms designated for the same activities -- activities, I might add, that extend over and above merely living in the rooms -- is a bit redundant. This is why, of course, in most sizeable homes with both a living room and a family room, one of these rooms is almost wholly neglected and is only used for special occasions, spending the rest of its time showcasing various possessions that the inhabitants of the house wish to show off to whatever guests might happen to come calling at one time or another. (And it must be noted that this is usually a rare occurrence, for, in the cases in which it is not, that room actually gets quite a bit of use -- even if only as a showroom -- and so our objection here does not hold water, as if any complaint has ever truly held water. What a silly saying! Objections are not buckets.)

Usually, as the term "living room" is, apparently, interchangeable with the term "front room", and as a room that is solely used to showcase fancy material possessions and collections would best be located in the front of a house (so that guests could pretend to marvel and be interested in these shallow trinkets upon first entering the home of the Joneses), the living room usually fulfils the role of the trophy room. Isn't it ironic, then, that the room known as the living room is chiefly inhabited by inanimate objects that, by definition, are not living at all? (That is, of course, unless these trinkets come to life under cover of night and, stealing through the mail slot in the front doorway -- assuming that the home in which they are located still has one of said mail slots -- or slipping through the pet door located on the bottom of the back door to the home -- assuming that the home in which the showcase items are located still has one of said pet doors -- take up tiny replicas of various bladed weapons and murder poor, innocent wanderers who have the misfortune to cross their tiny paths beneath the glow of lonely street lamps.)

And is it not also ironic that, owing to the dysfunctional times in which we live and the truth that most persons do not spend very much time -- at least not quality time -- with the members of their family anymore, there should be a room called the family room at all, let alone one in which one rarely spends time with one's family? Of course, since people do often spend time in this room, it would probably be more appropriate to call this room the living room, and the unused room the family room, as that would make more sense, seeing as how the neglect of that room and its use as a showcase would symbolize our treatment of the family in this contemporary era -- we neglect our families shamefully, but, when at work, we gleefully show photographs from our "family" vacations to our coworkers and brag excessively about the accomplishments of our children. But lest this discussion carry us too far from our present task, let us return to the story and rejoin Santa in the living room of that house with the three plush blue sofas in its family room and atop which the nine flying reindeer stood, waiting patiently for Santa in the absolute best possible landing spot on that red stippled rooftop.

"Now!" said Santa Claus aloud to the empty living room -- which again brings us back to the point that not only does it seem very odd to call this place the living room even when it is in use, given that such rooms are generally used as trophy rooms for showing off various material possessions to one's infrequent visitors, but that we continue to call it the living room even when everyone is sleeping -- in which case, clearly, there is nothing lively taking place in said room whatsoever.

''...unless one has a family of mice or rodents or opossums living in one's walls...''

(That is, of course, unless one has a family of mice or rodents or opossums living in one's walls or kitchen cupboards, in which case, at night, when everyone is sleeping, they undoubtedly emerge from their hovels and run about the living room in the course of their frenzied sessions of enthusiastic play, such that, when the infesting rodents use the room, it actually does make sense to refer to this room as the living room. Of course, given that most people do not actually enjoy having wild rodents nesting in their homes, the inhabitants of the house would most likely set traps to catch and kill these spirited -- though unwanted -- houseguests, such that the living room would likely -- and rightfully so, though rather depressingly -- come to be known as the death room. Or at least that name would be appropriate for it, if people were in the habit of changing the names of rooms to better describe what actually takes place in those rooms -- or what articles of furniture are kept in those rooms, as with, for example, the bedroom.

But why, I ask, are the rooms in which people go to relieve themselves of bodily waste referred to as bathrooms or restrooms? It seems to me that "restroom" would be a more appropriate name for the bedroom -- given that one rests there. And, if we are speaking of "bed" as a verb -- as in, "to bed someone", meaning to have sex with that individual -- while it is true that this activity does often take place in the bedroom, it can also take place anywhere, such as the kitchen table -- dessert, anyone? -- the plush blue sofas in the family room -- in which case it actually would make sense to call that room the family room, given that, assuming that conception took place during these particular romps, this room would see the genesis of the family-to-be in question -- the wooden deck in the backyard, a park bench during a crowded summer day in New York's Central Park, or even the restroom of the reptile house at the nearest zoo, depending upon the various kinks and shared sense of adventure of the two lovers doing the horizontal waltz.

In any case, to call that room of a house or other facility in which the toilet is located a restroom definitely seems inappropriate, for one does not often discover persons intentionally napping while seated on the can. Furthermore, as all of us have found at one point or another, after consuming certain foods it can be very difficult to complete number two -- such that our use of this particular room is hardly very restful at all! And as for calling these rooms bathrooms, we need only point out that not all restrooms have baths -- and not all people who do have baths in their restrooms actually bathe in them, as showers seem to be the preferred method of washing oneself in these modern, fast-paced times -- so bathroom doesn't seem quite appropriate either. And to those who would point out that this digression has gone on too long -- and, moreover, comes so soon after the previous digression -- I, the author, respond that this, my dear readers, is why parentheses exist. Now back to our story.)

But despite the fact that, with the exception of Santa Claus's presence there, there was nothing lively taking place in this room whatsoever and there were no listeners present to hear his speech, Santa continued speaking to the empty room as if someone were there in the room with him. There wasn't, though. However, it must be noted that when we describe the room as being "empty", we do not mean that it was devoid of decorations -- only that, with the exception of the great and jolly old red-suited elf with a serious weight problem (though not that serious, for, while we would describe Santa as morbidly obese, or at least approaching that point, the truth of the matter is that he cannot die no matter what happens to him, such that the increased risk of heart disease and other such health risks that accompany obesity are not really an issue for him) that was not entirely his fault because his profession and manners required him to consume massive quantities of food, there were no living persons in the room at that particular moment, nor were there any livid, rotting corpses or shambling zombies in tattered midnight blue suits present in the living room in which Santa Claus stood inside that that house with the three plush blue sofas in its family room and atop which the nine flying reindeer stood, waiting patiently for Santa in the absolute best possible landing spot on that particular red stippled rooftop. For the living room, being the designated showroom for this house -- as is the case with many other households across the nation and, most likely, around the world, or at least in countries in which the people strive to emulate the culture of the United States, insofar as the nation can be said to have an overarching culture that includes the use of family rooms as, primarily, showrooms -- was, much like the showroom of a department store around this particular time of year, completely decked out in the appropriate trappings befitting the winter holiday season.

Atop the beige carpet was a thin matting of white cotton in a pitiful attempt to make the floor look as if it were covered with snow -- which, as we have said, was pitiful, but it begs the following question, "Does anyone ever really intend for this cotton to approximate the appearance of snow?" Of course, we realize that it is supposed to be snow, but cotton quite clearly does not look very much like snow at all, the only similarity being that they both happen to be the color white, though, in truth, white is not really a color at all, being, supposedly, the presence of all colors at once (or something like it). But perhaps, because we all realize that when we see a floor covered with a mat of white cotton it is meant to stand in for a blanket of fresh, white snow, it is unnecessary for this decoration to give the impression that it really is snow, such that we kneel down and touch it to see if it is cold or if it is just a really great decoration. After all, a decorator might reason, they know what this covering of cotton supposed to be -- it's supposed to be snow! And perhaps that is enough.

At any rate, the floor was covered with a thin mat of cotton, which, in accordance with the winter holiday theme, was obviously meant to be a covering of snow. In various places about the "snow", miniature plastic elves and reindeer -- each about four inches in height -- stood busying themselves with a number of different tasks, ranging from making toys to having snowball fights to building snowmen to lying on their backs and, by moving their arms and legs in a particular matter, forming snow angels to simply running about without rhyme or reason, because running about while stark naked save for a scarf -- because it was primarily the reindeer doing the aimless scampering about in the snow -- in zero degree weather is a very intelligent and useful thing to do. And to those who would make the argument that reindeer are, in fact, clothed -- for they have fur coverings that adequately protect them from the cold -- I submit that these particular reindeer must have had exceptionally thin brown coats of fur that failed to do the job, for otherwise the reindeer would not have needed to wear scarves. (Reindeer, after all, would not have chosen to wear the scarves merely for the purpose of making a trendy fashion statement, because reindeer could care less about clothing trends and adhering to them. Why, if they did, they arguably would also have been wearing chic reindeer snowshoes and stylish pink coats stuffed with goose feathers.)

It is clear, then, that these reindeer were cold -- and instead of going inside and drinking hot cocoa or raspberry tea flavored with several packets of salt instead of sugar, they decided to frolic in the snow with absolutely no regard for their own health. Merry Christmas, Mrs. Rudolph! Your husband was just found frozen to death atop a snow bank. But don't worry about you and your children starving to death because the primary wage earner of the family has passed away, ma'am, for that glowing red nose that so made Mr. Rudolph the talk of the North Pole and earned him so much fame and acclaim and contributed to his impressive financial gain in life can also feed his family members in death -- for it can be harvested from his lifeless body and sold for thousands... no, tens of thousands... no, millions... no, billions of dollars on an Internet auction site! Can you imagine how much wealthy tycoons obsessed with owning and showing off their numerous expensive material possessions would pay for the pleasure of owning the red nose of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer himself? I dare say that a number of persons would give the vast majority of their immense fortunes for it!

Sure, having purchased the glowing red nose of Rudolph at such a high cost, the highest bidder would probably have to move into a smaller home that lack the oh-so necessary comforts of heated floors and movie theaters in the basement and adjacent bowling alleys, but that lucky individual would own Rudolph's nose -- and the bragging rights alone that accompany one's ownership of such an artifact are worth more than any silly recreational addition to one's overly expensive home! So the new owner of Rudolph's most cherished feature would no longer be able to afford the expensive machine required to actually make the thing light up to the delight of all onlookers -- "So what?!" I say! Owning the red nose of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer is quite enough. That formerly ridiculously wealthy person would still probably have enough money to purchase a home in an upper middle class neighborhood and, moreover, would still be able to afford a nice throw pillow for the purpose of displaying Rudolph's nose front and center inside a glass case in his or her family room. But that family room would not have been the family room in which Santa Claus now stood, which was decorated with a mat of white cotton masquerading as a blanket of snow with figurines of reindeer and elves busying themselves with various different tasks strewn about it.

These, of course, were not the main draw of the room, for, this being the winter holiday season, and the most popular and widely celebrated holiday of the season being Christmas -- and given that this family did not, per the decorations, celebrate Hanukah or Kwanzaa or some other lesser known winter holiday -- that honor belonged to the great Christmas tree in the center of the room. Unlike many other trees that Santa Claus had seen that night, this one was actually a real pine tree, which pleased him to no end -- for to someone who actually takes Christmas and, moreover, Christmas decorations seriously (and ol' Saint Nick is indeed one of these people; keep in mind that the North Pole is decked out in the trappings befitting the winter holiday season all year round), a faux Christmas tree represents the ultimate blasphemy against all that that person holds dear, or is at least an offense approaching the height of such an affront. This is not to say, of course, that Santa Claus blamed the persons who put up Christmas trees created from wire mesh and colored plastic strips and decorated these as if they were deserving of such care and display -- or as if they were worthy of the winter holiday to which he devoted almost all of his waking hours in some form or another -- but it is to say that he was very disappointed every time he came across one.

''And sometimes these false Christmas trees aren't even green!''

And while this was not necessarily the concern of Santa Claus -- for he knew very well that any religious significance that Christmas might have had had all but been overshadowed and close to erased by the commerciality of the season and even his own exalted status as the prevailing symbol of the holiday -- it does seem very sad that persons who believe that Christmas is, or should be, primarily concerned with the birth of our supposed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, would be so lazy and cheap as to decorate their homes for this important day not with a real, living tree, but with something thrown together with wire and plastic strips and that could be assembled and dismantled with a modicum of effort each year at the appropriate time, spending the rest of the year in a dusty box somewhere in those persons' cellars. And sometimes these false Christmas trees aren't even green! How appropriate, indeed, it is to have a silver or a gold plastic tree centered in one's living room to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, or to celebrate the lofty spirit of charity and good will! Apparently, for some people, anything more would be too much. But that was not the case with the family who lived in this house with the three plush blue sofas in its family room and atop which the nine flying reindeer stood, waiting patiently for Santa in the absolute best possible landing spot on that red stippled rooftop. No, in this house, the living room was actually adorned with a real Christmas tree that left pine needles littered about the white cotton mat beneath its rusting red and green stand. Amidst the tiny plastic figurines of elves and reindeer and the pitiful approximation of a blanket of snow that the white cotton mat represented, at least something in this indoor winter wonderland was real.

However, that is not to say that a thing must be real -- or perhaps natural would be a better word here, for the cotton mat of "snow" on the floor and even a Christmas tree constructed from twisting wires and colored plastic strips are real in that they actually do exist in reality, as opposed to not existing at all or being relegated solely to the realm of fantasy -- in order for it to be a thing of beauty, for the decorations on this particular Christmas tree (which, as we have said, was a real, natural pine tree), while they did not naturally grow out of the tree, nor had they grown on other trees or been harvested from stalks extending from the soil of a Christmas tree ornament farm somewhere in the Midwest, were still a sight to behold. While the tree itself did not contain any silver plastic strips, a bristling sash of reflective silver plastic bits was wound 'round the Christmas tree, such that it looked like the dark green tree was caught in the loving embrace of a very long and very large silver-furred caterpillar. Where the branches stuck through this yuletide hug, they were adorned with glistening bulbs of red and green and gold, and, on the uppermost branches, little clay figurines and shapes with various words written on them -- ornaments that had obviously been made during an elementary school crafts class, as they had that poor and imperfect quality to them that somehow makes an artistic work all the more charming when crafted by a child or a person who is somehow mentally handicapped.

(Such craftsmanship would be unacceptable from a professional artist or a major company -- or, perhaps, that is not the case at all. I wonder, would ornaments made to look as if they had been created by children sell well? Childless couples who did not particularly desire children but longed for some injection of their sloppy, youthful presence in their homes would, no doubt, purchase a few, and of course the grief and sorrow of couples that had experienced the loss of one or more of their children could be exploited by manufacturers of such products, as these ornaments that gave the appearance of having been made by children could help to fill that void left in their lives and decorative schemes by the absence of their beloved little babes. Perhaps this is an idea worthy of a marketing test run! Entrepreneurs, take note.)

There were crude depictions of Santa Claus and Rudolph -- again, reason for the other reindeer (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen) to be jealous, as there were no crudely made clay ornaments of their likenesses hanging from the uppermost branches of that particular silver caterpillar wrapped pine tree (though, it must be noted, that even if they had been represented, one would hardly be able to tell them apart, for they lacked that distinguishing characteristic that was Rudolph's glowing red nose) -- of cartoon characters that the children dearly loved (a certain yellow talking sponge was represented, not to mention several humanoid reptiles trained in the martial arts), and the white and green discs and ovals were adorned with thick red letters that read, "MERRY XMAS," and, "HAPPY XMAS," and, "LUV SANTA" -- that one in particular earned a smile from Kris Kringle -- and, "XMAS HURRAH!" Three of them were simply decorated in the center with large pink hearts, which, ultimately, were more meaningful than any of the lumpy clay words to be found on the other ornaments, for these most closely approximated the true meaning of the Christmas holiday. Or, at the very least, that is the belief of a number of persons, one of whom is the author of the strange and rambling novel -- The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told -- that you are reading at this very moment.

And then, of course, there was the crowning adornment of any respectable and worthy Christmas tree, or even any Christmas tree that has been decorated with any amount of effort at all (for even the false plastic and metal Christmas trees do not lack this important finishing touch) -- the star that the tree wears atop its zenith like a crown, signifying its status as the undisputed king (or queen) of the winter holiday season decorations. In this particular instance, the star had been crafted from what appeared to be red crystal -- though, most likely, the material from which it had actually been made was hardly so costly -- and, due to the number of shining metal flecks and imperfections contained within the material sparkled to its very core like a snow globe with a dome of opaque red glass or quivering gelatin, such that only the sparkling bits of snow in its interior were visible from the outside. In addition to the peculiar substance from which this star was made, it was also unlike other stars with respect to its shape -- where most stars have five or even six points, this sparkling red crystalline star was in possession of seven points, each of which was adorned with a tiny green bulb at the end that, owing to its dim glow, cast the prongs in a green light that made the star look almost like the head of a red dragon with a crown of seven green horns that each produced, at the tip, a tiny green flame. And in accordance with this visual comparison, two glittering green gems -- but of a lighter and brighter green than the dim light that emanated from the small bulbs on the ends of the star's seven points -- had been placed in the center of the star, such that they appeared to be the eyes of this dragon star. on to Part 9!
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