And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
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the absolute strangest christmas story ever told
(Part 13)
by: Wes

Wonrat grinned widely, displaying every last one of his jagged, yellow teeth, and stepped forward, trailing his heavy pink tail behind him. "I thank you, Brother Rattoo, for allowing me the opportunity to speak, and I thank you, Mister Santa Claus, for taking time out of your no doubt busy and hectic schedule to hear my words on this Christmas morning. My brother Rattoo has argued -- well, not so much argued as stated, but perhaps that is argument enough in instances such as this, and perhaps his examples do constitute a legitimate argument, so never mind my saying so -- that Christmas and, indeed, the entire winter holiday season, is primarily concerned with consumption, and not pulmonary tuberculosis, but the drive to consume, whether we are talking about commerce -- as evinced by the rush to buy gifts and decorations and the like -- or food, as evinced by the numerous purchases of foodstuffs and the excessive baking of mass quantities of Christmas cookies and the great number of fruitcakes being transported by the postal service at any given time.

"I might add that my brother did not mention the fruitcakes, but that example also serves his point well, so long as we are talking about those cakes filled with hard fruit candy bits that people send to one another during the winter holiday season as tokens of friendship, though I must admit that I find this quite odd because there are, apparently, very few people who actually enjoy eating fruitcakes. But then, I suppose it's tradition. If we were talking about those other fruitcakes -- by which we mean crazy persons -- it would all make perfect sense, for it does seem quite daft to send a gift that you know will be despised as a token of friendship. However, if my brother's argument is right, given the excessive emphasis that people place on consumption, perhaps it would be right to say that people turn into fruitcakes during the holiday season -- in which case it only makes sense that they should send and consume fruitcakes in large numbers, for if one is what one eats, it also makes sense to say that one will eat what one is! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Did you enjoy my little joke? I hope so.

'' is my belief that the holiday season is concerned with nothing.''

"I do hope that, however, after that rousing introduction, the content of my views on the matter will not disappoint you, at least with respect to their length. You see, unlike my brother, who believes that the winter holiday season is primarily concerned with something -- namely, consumption -- it is my belief that the holiday season is concerned with nothing. Yes, nothing. Nothing at all! Or at least no one thing with such great concern and focus that we can say that the winter holiday season is concerned with it above all other things. For example, while people may be concerned with making sure that they've purchased Christmas presents for everyone on their list (while at the same time making certain that their wish list is known to all of their friends, so that they will be certain to get the things that they desire most as well), they are also concerned with a number of other things at the same time -- making sure that the tree has been purchased (or dug up and assembled, as the case may be), making sure that they have the requisite ingredients for baking Christmas cookies, making sure that the Christmas cards have all been addressed, signed, and mailed out according to plan, making sure that their children have practiced their lines for the various winter programs and plays taking place at the school, making sure that the old folks at the home don't freeze to death and that they've made enough time to go around there and sing to the elderly bastards, and making sure that they don't lose their bloody heads in the midst of all of this holiday chaos.

"So while my brother's answer was probably as close an answer as one could get as far as alleging that the winter holiday season is, indeed, about something, there are a number of activities that don't fit into the larger category of consumption, such as singing Christmas carols and practicing for Christmas pageants and the like -- namely, the few noble and artistic deeds that actually do occur during the winter holiday rush. And while one might argue that all of these things do, in fact, have a common thread -- the holiday season itself! -- I submit that, drawing upon the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein with respect to meaningful propositions, it is quite tautological, and therefore meaningless, to say that the winter holiday season is primarily concerned with the winter holiday season (and all that it entails). And as a result, given the utter lack of significant meaning in that statement, and noting that that statement probably best expresses the ultimate concern of the winter holiday season, I submit that, by and large, the winter holiday season is concerned with nothing." And having finished presenting his argument, Wonrat smiled again and, stepping back, whipped his fleshy pink tail up into his furry, clawed hands, and began to gently twist it about in anticipation of Saint Nicholas's reply.

Here, Santa Claus began to pace to and fro in the sludge that coated the floors of that dank network of waste-filled tunnels deep within the bowels of the city. As he lifted and replaced his boots in the mire, each successive step caused a squishing noise to issue forth, which would easily have broken the concentration of a normal being -- for it really was a disgusting sound, and even the giant wharf rats, whose fur was thick and matted with the goo, cringed as Saint Nicholas brought his boots down into the muck -- but, as we have noted time and time before, Santa Claus was anything but a normal being. At the risk of repeating all that we have said before on the subject -- that Santa Claus was immortal, possessed amazing speed and agility, not to mention heightened powers of focus, and so forth -- we will simply remind the reader that he is, after all, Santa Claus, the great and powerful personified spirit and dominant representative image of the winter holiday season.

However, like the holiday season itself, which is -- as both Rattoo and Wonrat inadvertently pointed out in their respective glosses of the ultimate concern of the winter holiday season -- flawed, Saint Nicholas is likewise imperfect. For one, he had failed to recognize that these two wharf rats, despite their massive size and rough exterior, were really quite personable and intelligent, and, secondly -- and most relevant to the point in the story at which we have most recently arrived -- Santa Claus was tempted to declare both Wonrat and Rattoo to be wrong. Of course, it is certainly possible that, in reality, both were wrong, for their differing positions did not constitute, say, a statement and the negation of that statement, such that one of them had to be true, for, in fact, their statements provided for the possibility of a third statement that was more true than either of them -- though, owing to the thoroughness of their brief arguments, they probably would have had a response to this and would have been able to argue effectively that that third answer was either a mere example of more holiday consumption or constituted, ultimately, nothing at all.

But we mention Santa Claus's imperfections here because the third possibility that he was seriously considering presenting to the two wharf rats was a testament to his own vanity, for he was very close to answering that the season was not ultimately concerned with consumption or nothing, but with him -- that is, that the winter holiday season revolved around Santa Claus. Of course, to be sure, he might have made some convincing arguments to support his point -- some of which we have pointed out earlier in this novel, such as the fact that despite the holiday being named for our supposed Lord and Savior and taking place on the day of his purported birth, Santa Claus is more widely associated with Christmas than even Jesus Christ himself -- but, as we have noted, the answer would have arisen more from his own pride than from a sincere belief in the truth of the proposition that the winter holiday season was primarily concerned with the worship of Santa Claus. But though flawed, Santa Claus was not above recognizing his own pride, and so the moment he realized that he was entertaining this answer for the very reason we have noted above, he cast it out of his mind and began to seriously consider the respective points of the two giant wharf rats.

"Yes," Santa Claus said to himself, "as Rattoo has rightfully noted, this winter holiday season is greatly concerned with consumption, but, as Wonrat pointed out in his rejoinder and statement of his views, not everything about the holiday can be couched in terms of consumption, such as those noble and charitable efforts that, unfortunately, only take place during the winter holiday season, not to mention the numerous concerts and pageants and displays of artistic merit that do not take place for the purpose of selling tickets and making money, but for the purpose of spreading beauty and joy and good will to all those who see or hear the performances. Even there, however, Wonrat may have a point, for it is not truly the words or the meaning of such performances from which we derive such pleasure, but from the mere fact of their being performed -- and, as he has rightly noted in loosely referencing the writings of Wittgenstein, though the following idea is not directly analogous to the writings of that great philosopher, to say that we enjoy a performance simply because it is a performance does not seem to be good enough. We could enjoy it because it sounds or looks beautiful, but I can already imagine Wonrat pointing out loving a thing for the sound or the look of that thing, absent some deeper meaning to be found within, or some deeper meaning which can be inferred from these surface qualities, is ultimately superficial, such that these performances, and even the joy that we derive from them, can ultimately be included in the category of nothing.

"Ah, but it does seem to me that he has made a better case for his position than Rattoo, whom I really would rather side with in this discussion, for, despite the fact that his answer gives a rather depressing meaning or focus to the winter holiday season on the whole, he still alleges that the holiday season is ultimately concerned with something, which is, to my mind, better than insisting that it is about nothing at all. Why, I am a great part of the winter holiday season, and I would rather people describe me in terms of consumption than to say that I represent nothing at all -- though perhaps if they were describing me as being something even worse, like a child molester or an eater of babies or something along those lines, as they talk of Christopher Columbus every October twelfth, I would rather not have a holiday even remotely associated with my name altogether. But even this would be different -- for while I might prefer people to not mention my name at all, insofar as it is connected with something incredibly wicked and vicious, if they must mention my name I would rather it be connected with something -- anything -- rather than mentioning my name and then saying with no small amount of scorn, 'Meh! But Santa Claus is meaningless! Santa Claus is nothing.' That, to me, seems exceedingly undesirable.

"But what can I do? I am fairly convinced that neither of them is correct -- that the winter holiday season is no more solely, or even primarily concerned with consumption than it is concerned with nothing at all -- but while Wonrat has sufficiently argued against the truth of his brother's proposition, I cannot think of an argument that can defeat his own supposition that the holiday season is concerned with nothing. And even if I could launch a significant assault on that belief, I'm not sure that the somethings I could submit by way of argument would be good -- I could submit that the winter holiday season is about greed, about money, about giving, but as this emphasis on giving cannot be distanced nor divorced from the holiday season's inarguable concern with receiving as well, this hardly constitutes a worthy defense of the winter holiday season, which is really what I, being the figurehead for what has been described by more than a few as 'the most wonderful time of the year,' should really be offering to these two pleasant and intelligent, yet ultimately jaded wharf rats in this dank and disgusting sewer tunnel in which we now stand. For while it may be true that something is better than nothing -- or while, at the very least, I may believe that to be true -- I still find it very hard to argue that the winter holiday season is primarily concerned with ignoble and selfish somethings, and, as a result, would rather not choose either side of the debate which, woefully, I must now resolve in one way or the other." And turning these thoughts over in his mind, Santa Claus continued to pace around in the muck and grope about in the dark corners of his mind for an answer to this dilemma.

And then, in that darkness, Santa Claus sighted blinking lights in the distance, and, fixing his blue eyes on that distant flashing, blindly stumbled forward, his red suede gloves stretched out before him as he traversed that expanse within his mind in the hopes of reaching an acceptable conclusion and resolution to the argument that he would soon be required to resolve. The flashing lights grew brighter -- red and green and yellow and bright white, all blinking in unison, and irregularly, as if they were flashing in code -- and now a faint music reached Santa's ears, which seemed to be emanating from a small speaker box connected to the same cord that supported the lights, which were wrapped around what Santa Claus now recognized as an enormous Christmas tree. At its height, a glowing yellow five-pointed star flashed brightly and in time with the others, and it now became apparent that they were blinking in accordance with the notes from the music box -- and the entire daydream filled Santa Claus with joy, for, while he could not remember what it was he was looking for, he had a vague feeling that whatever was taking place now would offer a solution to something that was troubling him and that, very soon, he would have to face.

''...Santa Claus saw a present. The gift was wrapped in shimmering gold paper...''

Suddenly, the music stopped. The lights ceased their blinking, but remained on, shining brightly, twinkling before him, blurring his vision if he narrowed his eyes and focused on them too closely. Then, without warning, the star at the zenith of the immense pine tree shook loose from its lofty position and came falling down -- quickly at first, and then more slowly, slowly, until finally it was floating, floating, peacefully down past Santa Claus's shining blue eyes, past the protuberant bulge of his belly, past the white fur trim of his polished black boots, and down to the floor, where, at last, it came to rest. And next to it, Santa Claus saw a present. The gift was wrapped in shimmering gold paper and tied up with red ribbon and, to his surprise, Santa saw that it was addressed to him, though where the name of his mysterious benefactor might have been written, the line on the tag was left blank. Santa looked about for a bit, and then up, but he saw nothing but the tree and its lights, and the bare green point at the height of the tree. Shrugging, the great Saint Nicholas reached down and, tugging on the ribbon, pulled it loose, peeled away the golden wrapping paper, and opened the box.

"Santa? Santa?!" cried Rattoo, prompting Santa Claus to once again open his eyes and find himself back on that slick subterranean walkway deep below the surface world, where several early risers were already sitting downstairs in their living rooms and playing with the presents that he had left for them only hours earlier.

"I'm sorry," said Santa, smiling apologetically at Rattoo and Wonrat, who had been waiting patiently to hear his reply with respect to their disagreement. "I must admit, you two have presented me with quite a challenge in asking me to overhear your respective arguments and resolve your dispute, and despite being Santa Claus, the chief representative figure of the winter holiday season, I'm not sure I'm up to the task of deciding which of you is right about whether the holidays are primarily concerned with consumption or whether, in fact, they are ultimately concerned with nothing at all. But perhaps you'll forgive me for this lack of an answer -- I've been working hard all night and morning, and my mental faculties are not operating at their peak. I apologize to you both."

Here, the rodents blinked and turned to each other, their noses and whiskers twitching slowly as if to indicate disappointment. Without looking back at Santa Claus, Rattoo and Wonrat said in unison, "No, no -- it's quite alright, Saint Nicholas. In fact, it was quite rude of us to burden you with the task of resolving our dispute on this Christmas morning, when you obviously still have work to do. Why, some important task must have brought you down into our sewer -- we can think of no other reason for your being here -- and here we have kept you from it by imploring you to listen to our arguments and asking you to choose a side, when, admittedly, we were well aware that neither side would have been quite to your liking. After all, neither side is particularly enthusiastic about the goodness of this winter holiday season, and we know that whatever your feelings about what the people have done to sully this time of the year, you obviously still hold something about it in high regard -- otherwise you would not work so diligently each Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning, soaring around the world in your sleigh driven by nine flying reindeer and delivering presents to the good little children of the world in a hurry." And with this, the giant wharf rats turned back to the red-suited fat man who towered above them and bowed politely. As they did so, their thick pink tails pointed straight up into the air. on to the CONCLUSION in Part 14!
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