And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
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the absolute strangest christmas story ever told
(Part 14)
by: Wes

"But wait," said Santa Claus, smiling down at the two giant wharf rats in their black leather jackets adorned with metal zippers and studs, and they lifted their slick heads gelled with sewer sludge and stared up into Saint Nicholas's twinkling blue eyes. "While it may be true that I lack the answer you seek," he said, "my magic sack is never wanting for a solution to any dispute, let alone one of such significance, and furthermore one so closely connected to its purpose and my annual task. This magic bag of gifts, you see, is really what does the hard work each holiday season -- I merely carry it down the chimneys (or some other means of entry) and into the homes of people -- for it is what chooses the gifts for children according to my knowledge about them. You see, it reads my mind -- I who know when children are sleeping and when they're awake; whether they've been bad or good; and who's made the list and checked it twice -- and determines that, say, little Billy Jack actually deserves the red fire truck with the realistic sounds and flashing lights that he'd been wanting for the past seven months, or that maybe little Betty Jo wasn't quite good enough to get the three foot tall motorized toy pony -- big enough for her to ride! -- but will have to settle for the six inch action figure version and, if she wishes to "ride" the pony, will have to pretend that she is the toy rider packaged with the figure. I have had many a child write me a nasty letter, chastising me for not giving him or her exactly what she wanted -- hell, I have even had several parents write me letters to that effect, which is why in many cases you can't really blame the children, given their poor role models -- but, in truth, it is not my fault, for I merely reach into the magic sack of toys and place the present that I withdraw underneath the tree. Oftentimes I don't even know what's inside the box."

Rattoo and Wonrat nodded eagerly, and Santa Claus continued. "I mention this, you see, because while I may not be equipped to resolve your current dispute, I believe that the magic sack, with its manifold and complex mathematical equations that have proven useful for dealing with similar situations in the past, has a gift for you both that can do just that! So here, then, let us see what the sack has for you both." And swinging the heavy brown magic sack off of his right shoulder and around to his front, Santa Claus held it up with his left hand by one end of its mouth, thus allowing the sack to gape open. A brilliant yellow light filled the sewer tunnel as the sack yawned to allow Santa Claus access to its glowing, mystical contents -- and after a moment of hesitation, for dramatic effect, Santa Claus raised his red suede-gloved right hand and plunged it into the depths of the magic sack.

''...and he lowered the sick army green box tied up with a horribly clashing neon blue ribbon...''

As his hand roamed about in the light within the sack, music began to play -- music so sweet and sad and yet lively and heartwarming at the same time, music so touching and moving, music so catchy that the giant rats could not help but sway back and forth in time with it and tap their furry, clawed feet against the muck-covered bricks of the subterranean walkway -- but just as soon as the music had started (or at least it seemed this way to the rats, for when beautiful things end it always seems as if they have ceased before they even really began) it stopped, signifying that Santa Claus had found the appropriate gift to resolve Rattoo and Wonrat's dispute. And in one single, continuous motion, he pulled it forth, drew the magic brown sack shut, and swung it back onto his right shoulder. "Here you are!" cried Santa Claus, and he lowered the sick army green box tied up with a horribly clashing neon blue ribbon into the pair of outstretched claws belonging to the two sewer-slicked giant wharf rats clad in black leather jackets adorned with metal zippers and studs.

"Aha!" cried Rattoo, turning his head to look his brother in the eye. "What did I tell you, brother Wonrat? Consumption! For clearly this gift, while it may not properly have been purchased -- owing to -- is still a good, and its being placed being placed before us offers it up for the purpose of consumption. You see!"

Wonrat merely smirked and replied, "Wait until we open the box, dear brother, for it may be the case that there is nothing inside."

By way of response, Rattoo twitched his nose angrily and bared his teeth, whereupon Wonrat replied with a bark, and the two of them dropped the army green box tied with neon blue ribbon to the muck-covered floor of the subterranean walkway and began hissing at each other quite viciously, their fat pink tails whipping about behind them like a sadist's lash, striking at the air in anticipation of meeting and bloodying patch upon patch of exposed, naked flesh.

"STOP!" bellowed Santa Claus in a loud voice that rose out of his belly and echoed throughout the grimy sewer tunnel, shaking everything such that the thick layer of green gook that covered the brick walls everywhere slid down about an inch on the sides and, on the ceiling, dripped down in some spots. Luckily, however, neither Santa Claus nor the two giant wharf rats were standing in the places where the goo fell from the ceiling and landed with a slick and nasty plish on the floor -- not that it would have mattered in the cases of the rodents, however, for their fur was already thick and slickly gelled with the nasty stuff. "Rattoo and Wonrat, why are you wasting time arguing about which of you is right? The solution to your dispute -- indeed, a gift that contains the very answer that you seek, a gift that promises to relate the ultimate meaning and concern of the winter holiday season -- lies just inside that army green box tied with neon blue ribbon that presently sits in the mire just beyond your feet! Cease your squabbling and open it! Open it, I say -- and discover the answer within!" At that, Santa Claus folded his arms and took a step back, staring down at the wharf rats with a stern look etched on his face.

"Saint Nicholas is right, brother," said Wonrat with a heavy sigh and in a tone of voice that indicated more than a little shame and embarrassment. "Let us do as the Saint says, and open this box to find the answer that lies within its neon blue ribbon-tied cardboard walls."

"On this we agree, brother," was Rattoo's response. Here, he slightly lowered his head and turned towards Santa Claus, who stood eying them at a short distance. "On behalf of my brother and I, Saint Nicholas, I offer our humble apologies for our poor behavior in the presence of the great personification and chief recognizable icon of Christmas and, indeed, the winter holiday season on the whole. Even though the winter holiday season is chiefly concerned with consumption, that is no excuse for us to act like greedy and bickering capitalists and consumers, fighting with one another for the deed to the last standing rain forest on the planet Earth or screeching at each other in an effort to damage the other's eardrums so that we can snag the last frozen turkey on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving morning. No, we must be civil towards one another, for even if the holiday season is not concerned with our treatment of each other at all, it is at least true that we should be concerned with the behavior that we exhibit towards our fellow intelligent and sentient beings." Rattoo bowed politely to Santa Claus and, once more, faced Wonrat.

"Well said!" chirped Wonrat, clapping his furry, clawed hands together as he quietly applauded his brother's speech.

And then, without another word, the two giant wharf rats that wore black leather jackets adorned with metal zippers and studs and whose fur was slick with the muck and mire that was endemic to the sewers in which they lived leapt forward and tore off the neon blue ribbon that bound the box that was colored with a sickening shade of army green and, flinging its top into the thick, murky waters of the adjacent sewer canal, reached into the box's darkened interior and withdrew...

"A book!" cried Rattoo. And, indeed, within that box was a small, hardcover book with a black cloth exterior and red letters stitched into its front.

"Yes," said the great and jolly red-suited elf, "and not just any book! For if you read the title aloud, you will see just why this particular book is more suited to your needs than any other book that I might possibly have withdrawn from the glowing yellow hollows of my magic brown sack."

"Aha! I see!" said Wonrat, reading the red letters of the title aloud. "The Ultimate Meaning and Concern of the Winter Holiday Season! Why, you weren't kidding, Saint Nicholas -- if the title of this book is any indication, the answer to our question -- the specific answer to our question -- lies written on the very pages of this book that I now hold in my small and furry clawed hands!" And upon exclaiming these words, Wonrat broke out in a little jig, his fat pink tail swishing about behind him as he happily hopped sideways, now to the left, now to the right, on his furry little feet.

"But enough dancing, dear brother!" shouted Rattoo with glee. "I am just as excited as you are, Brother Wonrat -- too excited to wait any longer to have this dispute resolved! So come now, let me have the book, and I will read aloud -- or at least begin to read aloud, for it would not be prudent to stand here reading the entire book in front of Saint Nicholas; after all, he must be on his way -- the answer to the question that has been the cause of our disagreement for the better part of this Christmas morning."

So it was that Wonrat handed the book to his brother -- and, after opening to the first page and, with an expression of surprise, flipping through the book at length, Rattoo exclaimed, "Why, this book is empty!"

"YOU SEE!" shouted Wonrat delightedly. "The book is entitled The Ultimate Meaning and Concern of the Winter Holiday Season, is it not? And it is empty, is it not -- which is to say that nothing is written on its pages? Why, brother, that strikes me as proof that my contention was correct, and that the winter holiday season is, in fact, ultimately concerned with nothing!" And again, Wonrat broke out in his happy little sidestepping jig, with his thick pink tail swishing gaily through the air as he joyfully hopped to and fro.

"Wait!" cried Rattoo, looking over the pages with a thoughtful eye. After a moment, he responded thusly, "It may be true that nothing is written on the pages of this book, brother dear, but that need not stay the case. Note that the pages are not laminated, such that it would be impossible to write on them -- in fact, they even have lines on them, which, to my mind, seems to encourage writing! And what might one write in this book, you ask? Why, one might use this page as a grocery list, that page to write down price comparisons, this section here to keep track of holiday purchases, and so forth -- you get my point. No, dear brother, it is clear that this book is intended to aid one in one's role as a consumer -- which just goes to support my point that the winter holiday season is ultimately concerned with consumption!" And here Rattoo leaned back, folded his arms, and grinned a triumphant grin.

"Now wait just a minute!" barked Wonrat, but no sooner had he spoken than he was interrupted by Santa Claus.

"I think both of you may be missing the point," said the jolly old elf with a smile and a twinkling of his blue eyes. "While it may be true that, with the exception of the lines on the pages, this book contains nothing, and while it may be true that one could use it as a tool to keep track of one's purchases and the like, the book need not necessarily be used for either of those tasks. Why, the only thing that is certain is that the book can be used for something -- and we hope that the owner of the book would choose to use it for something good. And now, my dear friends, I must take my leave."

And with that, Santa Claus bowed to the two sewer-slicked giant wharf rats clad in black leather jackets adorned with metal zippers and studs and, stepping past them, walked on through the muck that covered the floor of the sewer corridor, each depression of his no-longer polished black boots causing a squishing sound to issue forth from the sludge beneath his feet. As he walked on, Rattoo and Wonrat continued to debate the true purpose of the book -- each still insisting that his particular view was the correct one -- but it is worth noting that the tone of their discussion had changed. No longer were the two large rodents barking and snarling at one another, their tails lashing about angrily behind them -- no! Now they were discussing the purpose of the book rather civilly and, moreover, both were beginning to become open to the idea that this book might be used not only for something, but for something worthwhile. Eventually, the two of them would begin to discuss this, and they would do so together -- and, while not even being aware of the fact, would come to exemplify the ultimate concern and meaning of the winter holiday season, at least as Santa Claus (and, apparently, the magic brown sack as well) believed it to be. The title of the book, then -- The Ultimate Meaning and Concern of the Winter Holiday Season -- was quite appropriate.

Before that happened, though, Santa Claus had one more request to make of the wharf rats, which he had forgotten to make before he left them the first time. In the distance, then, he turned, and shouted back to Wonrat and Rattoo, "By the way, my friends, have you any idea where I might find a creature by the name of Pinkie?"

''Good luck, Saint, and thanks again for your assistance!''

"Of course, Saint Nicholas!" Rattoo called back. "If you keep going down that way for another half mile and then turn into the narrow tunnel on your right -- you can't miss it, but be careful; it will be a tight fit for you, unless you lay a finger aside of your nose and, giving a nod, slip through it with ease -- you'll be sure to find his lair on the other side. Good luck, Saint, and thanks again for your assistance!"

"Yes," cried Wonrat, "thank you, Saint Nicholas! You have truly made our Christmas morning a memorable one."

"Twas my pleasure," Santa Claus called back. Then he continued along the path and, following the instructions given to him by one half of that pair of large and intelligent wharf rats that wore black leather jackets adorned with metal zippers and studs and whose fur was slick with the muck and mire that was endemic to the sewers in which they lived, finally arrived at the entrance to that small sewer tunnel that supposedly led to the lair of Pinkie. Though Saint Nicholas was tempted to turn back right away -- the stink that emanated from the tunnel was not unlike the awful smell that one would expect from a flatulent, diarrhetic arse with a crumbling dinner mint forcefully lodged in its sphincter -- he steeled himself against the smell as he had done during the entirety of the time that he had spent wandering these sewer canals and called out into the darkness of the tunnel.

"Hello!" shouted Santa Claus. However, save the echo of his own voice, at first his greeting was met with naught but silence -- but, finally, a high-pitched voice from within responded.

"Santa?" it cried. "Santa???"

"Yes!" said Santa Claus. "I received your letter, and I've come to pay you a visit. Is that alright?"

"Hurrah!" shouted Pinkie from the other side of the tunnel. "Yes, please come in! Come in, Santa Claus!"

So it was that Saint Nicholas disappeared down the tunnel into the lair of Pinkie -- and that, dear reader, is where our story ends. Now, lest you think something awful happened to the jolly and plump red-suited elf, the author wishes to inform you that he was fine -- of course he was fine! after all, the man is immortal -- and, given that this happened several years ago, one need only observe that Christmas has proceeded according to plan in the last few years to convince oneself that Santa Claus survived his encounter with the mysterious Pinkie. However, true to the title of this particular novel that you hold in your hands and are reading at this very moment -- but not for much longer; the story is at its end! -- which is, as you recall, The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told, the author, rather than giving an account of the events that took place after Santa Claus met Pinkie on the other side of that narrow sewer tunnel, will simply leave it to the reader to ponder what might have happened during that strange and unusual meeting.

After all, as we have seen previously, the ideas that your mind is capable of generating are far stranger than anything that reality has to offer -- if it even makes sense to mention reality in the final sentence of The Absolute Strangest Christmas Story Ever Told!

Now give yourself a cookie. A Christmas cookie, even. ;)
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