Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas (04/25/05)
TITLE: A Jolly Old Elf, In Spite of Himself
By Lisa McMillion
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He was at the top of his game, getting into houses undetected. Stepping upon the frozen ground with barely a sound was his forte, though his weightiness, as well, was routinely underestimated by masses in their retellings of his art. His parcels were as expertly wrapped as the Bûche De Noël he’d spotted in the bakery window a few stops back. So many temptations! There was no trace of his arrival in the driveway; even if he’d been limited to entry via that route, they would’ve self-destructed instantly on the concrete heating unit. All of the residents here had wanted them, making their homes seem impervious, even to Nature. But not to him.
He entered the house, remembering it despite the unimaginable number he’d visited, picking his way through their Christmas Eve clutter, a plastic fork with a gelatin-stain here, a wayward bow there from an impatient recipient. He never ceased to be amused at the way they introduced ill-fitting things into one another’s lives and gave him all the credit. Oh the antics they attributed to him! The lumps of coal, the naughty children, the gluttony – not to mention his impish friends! They virtually ignored his finer talents. How confidently he’d stride into their homes without formal invitation. He’d just assume accommodations, and they usually were there for him… trinkets to marvel at, a whole platter of indulgences to feast upon, a desire stuck in their hearts, without language to express itself, bleating for fulfillment. He could detect them like sophisticated sonar.
A little known fact was that, although he could not be everywhere at once, he could enter any room and it would replay to him its story with digital clarity. Laying down his packages, he walked toward the piano room. Masculine sobbing interrupted by a woman’s approach to the entryway, and the man’s feet hurriedly, heavily walking away from her. He looked down at the chair the man had occupied perhaps months before to see a book now stored away: How to Survive Infidelity. The imaging he received to compliment and sharpen his auditory assessments changed from brilliant red to green and heated up again to yellow as he moved to the child’s door. He could see that she had two teeth tightly cupped beneath her hand and the pillow. She was still expecting them to be turned into cash or, at least, to be acknowledged by the same parents who had once spun the lively, incredible tale of a beneficent fairy, but had since resigned all normalcy and enchantment to their own heated debates. Her planetarium danced to the bass of their voices and beat above her at night like spherical fish on a setline.
He moved across the hall to the Master Bedroom, onto a swath of carpet beside the mother that had once been soaked in amniotic fluid. “In the next twenty-four hours, I’m going to be a father!” the room called out to him. This one was colder. Based upon the deteriorated quality, it was about six or seven, which would match up with the girl’s age. He placed his hand above the woman’s head as if he were going to bless her, tickled to catch her dreaming, not of sugarplums, but of great steeds in a cruel steeplechase, dragging their fences behind them and digging deep trenches to the sea they were about to plunge into. Her sins. He knew the symbolism well. Their drowning would do her no good, he thought, as long as she entertained their riders. Her contact points were corroded, like an old battery. Without an explanation from the source, she would dismiss the ethereal images as so much undigested ham. The man was asleep too, the aroma of coping on his breath. It was present to the point of being flammable and, despite its relaxing reputation, had him more tightly wound than the parcels. Upon coming to mind, they drew him back to them-- waiting before the bubble-lit tree thrown together with illusory intent.
Mission accomplished. He would allocate remaining resources elsewhere, perhaps to the next inhabitants; he had noticed a For Sale wreath attached to a driveway oak. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” his favorite part of John 10:10 and, suddenly, there it was in his thoughts, like their misery had been before it. Who were they expecting to come and walk among the rubble, after all? Santa Claus?
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