Not everyone has big plans. Not everyone feels merry. Take the lean man with headphones striding down the street wearing sunglasses even though silver skies whisper ‘snow is coming’.
“Smile,” says a blue-haired bag lady.
Of course he cannot hear her. He doesn’t smile.
The walk continues.
A light snow begins to fall.
He passes a darkened tavern with a life-size inflatable Santa Claus by its entrance. Grey gaunt men stare out the windows, serenaded by Jingle Bells.
Despite the mechanical banality of the song, it fills the walking man with joy. The feeling catches him by surprise.
Sprawled on an ugly ocher comforter on a motel bed in Des Moines, she laps up lukewarm IKEA glögg and fingers his Polaroids. A cluster of family holiday clichés testify with the zeal of a sweaty faith healer to a closeness that is closed to her. She studies the saccharine images, knowing that, like Santa in his sleigh, she swoops in at night, filling gaps as if they were Yuletide stockings. As the next link in the relentless chain of rendezvous draws near, she mounts the mistletoe over a Gideon Bible, welcoming the work of a cryptic Matchmaker.
As a little girl, she believed in him. That he was watching over her. That all she needed to do is be good and he would bring her gifts.
As she grew older, she learned the truth. That he did not exist. That it was all a fairy tale. That good or bad, she would receive gifts.
But as she grew up, she discovered a deeper truth. That he does exist after all. Not as one man but as all the people who have touched her life. That she is the one watching over them and that this is her gift.
A busty woman with red highlights walked into a casino, her cleavage full of dollar bills. The sound of her stilettos caught the attention of the scrawny man alone at the bar. She sat two seats to his left, and he swirled his stool in her direction.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“I am serious.”
“You got a number?”
“Nah, come on.”
“Do you need me to repeat myself?”
The man walked away, completely unaware that the devil himself could shapeshift.
Bob and Jane won their home at a foreclosure auction. The owner had abandoned it.
The day after they moved in, a knock pounded in the attic.
“Must be the A.C.,” Bob said. He traced the pounding to a room. It grew louder, giving him a headache.
His flashlight shone upon a beam with a name painted on it. Bob looked up. Each joist bore a name. The booming sound made Bob dizzy. On the last joist, he saw his name, then only darkness.
Hearing a crash, Jane ran upstairs.
Months later, a couple bought a house in a foreclosure.
The first song that refused to dance around them was ignored. If it was meant to be, the T.V. would stop working first. A glance isn’t enough to say fresh towels are a gift or watch your language. It requires a whole meal going to waste because it was tomdickandharry’s birthday. Weekends and babysitters zip past. Neither has the time to live from moment to moment. She sits on her haunches and reaches for a toy car. His fingers tap the back of the couch. Each have a corner they retreat to called zen. Their parents have taught them well.
After the dragon has been slain and the princess rescued from the trenches of doom, the knights hasten to quench their thirst. Over goblets of candied drinks, they spin tales of past battles, gypsies and mischief mongered. The tyrant’s rule shall unleash by summer’s end but their spirits remain buoyant as they scheme victorious. When the sun becomes unbearable and their stomachs rumble for wholesome fare, they return home. They discard their armor, feast and pay homage to their queen. At her feet, their dreams turn vulnerable and guileless as she whispers a lullaby – you are loved, you are safe.