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Thursday, 27 December
They'll Be In Our Home For Christmas

It was our year to host. And so on Christmas Eve the wife's clan of gap-toothed hillbillies descended on our home like a swarm of fire ants. The father-in-law pulled up in his 1972 van with the rusted-out floor panels and importuned us to help unload the beast, which was filled to bursting with all manner of odd items. His pet armadillo snapped at me threateningly as I unloaded a case of Duraflames.

"Don't let Mocha bother you none," he grinned. "Git those upstairs so's we can git 'em goin' in you'rn fancy firing-place!"

He had also brought an old fake-wood-paneled fourteen inch television with a kicked-in screen. "Outsider art!" he hollered insanely as the wife's mom struggled to put a leash on the recalcitrant armadillo. She kicked it into a daze, and the creature hobbled unsteadily on the sidewalk before releasing a hot jet of urine onto my shoes. I started lugging the astounding welter of junk and nonsense upstairs to our apartment.

Eventually we got the shipwreck of a vehicle unloaded and the holiday festivities began in earnest. The wife had pulled out all the stops and prepared roast beef sandwiches and nothing else; her brother and his wife brought meatballs; the folks had brought a battered tin filled with cold chili. Ah, Christmas! I immediately poured everyone some wine, which was immediately rejected by the father-in-law: "Aw, git that frog juice away! I got my cough syrup."

Eventually it was time to exchange gifts. I had already put one of the Duraflames in the fireplace; I noticed that the case box had a large sticker on it that said "RECALL ITEM--DO NOT USE. DANGER OF NOXIOUS OR LETHAL FUMES." The apartment was filling with an odd grey smoke that seemed to cling to one's scalp, but the in-laws didn't notice. "It's real warm, that fire is," ventured the wife's brother. "Powerful hot!" I nodded wearily and pawed at my head, noticing a deep itch beginning to set in as the fumes intensified.

"So y'already got yore burny-logs," said Pa. I pondered the queasy double-entendre: For Christmas, you gave me wood. "But there's more a-comin'!" He then produced a plastic-wrapped package of 48 rolls of toilet paper. "It's single ply!" he cried. "So's you just wind it all around yore whole hand." Then with a flourish he brought out a gallon jar filled with dill pickles.

"It just ain't a proper shit without a pickle to munch on," he said sagely. I glanced at the wife, who was turning the package of toilet paper over in her hands in wonderment. I silently accepted the monstrous bottle and stared at its contents; the pickles looked like enormous gangrenous penises.

"But I ain't done even yet," said my father-in-law, leaning back to light a misshapen cigarello with a wooden match that he scratched on his grizzled beard; his wife paid him no attention as she greedily fished out a pickle from our jar. I was reeling slightly from the ever-increasing fug that was permeating the room.

"I got you all high-definition tellyvisions!" he howled, sweeping his one non-hook arm at two large, sagging packages. This got the wife's attention, and she looked at me with a glimmer of hope. We tore into the dubious-looking packages, which appeared to have been wrapped by juvenile delinquents with some sort of unspecified but dangerous grudge. In some places, the wrapping was held on with tenpenny nails.

In the end, what we discovered was . . . actual hi-def televisions, 32-inchers, one for the wife and I and the other for her brother and his latest wife, who honked appreciatively from within her oxygen tent and waved her edema-ravaged hands in a gruesome approximation of gratitude.

For our part, we couldn't believe what we were seeing--least of all the wife, who wasn't seeing anything at the moment, as the ever-gathering smoke had rendered her momentarily unable to open her eyes, and was busily applying a rather nasty-looking unguent to her face that had been supplied by her mother.

"Where did you get these?" I yelled at the father-in-law, who rocked happily as he witnessed my astonishment.

"Stole 'em from yore neighbors!" he cried happily. "Kilt 'em and stole their tellyvisions! Your'n gonna start smellin' 'em in about three days, I s'pose."

"That is fucking awesome," I told him sincerely. "Thank you."

"You are surely welcome," he replied, pleased. "Now hand me them pickles. I feel a powerful shit comin' on."

A short time later, it was time for everyone to go home. We walked people out to their cars; the in-laws climbed into their emphysematous van.

"You guys have a good Christmas Day, okay?" I told them warmly. I couldn't wait to get my hands on that television; I fairly twitched with anticipation of being able to not know how to hook it up properly.

"What are you guys doing for your proper Christmas dinner?" I asked as they prepared to make the eleven-point turn that would direct them on their way home.

The father-in-law grinned at me happily. "Why, what do you suppose, boy?" He used his hook to tap clinically on the gas gauge for a moment, noting with solemnity the lack of a needle indicator before turning back to me.

"It ain't Christmas if you ain't eatin' armadillo."

Monday, 17 December
All Yesterday's Parties

An uncharacteristically busy weekend for the wife and your humble correspondent! Two, count 'em, two holiday parties to attend! And we went! Believe me, nobody was more shocked than we were, with the exception of all of our friends. "Didn't you move to Prague?" "I heard you stopped shaving and started listening to the voices from your beard." "The ravages of time . . . have really taken their toll." Ho ho ho! All of our friends are assholes, at least the ones we recognized.

First up was our friends J. and S. They live in a snazzy new pad in Fremont with all kinds of nook-y goodness for. . . putting shit into nooks, I guess. Naturally, they're moving out in January, as their rent is being raised by $400. They've been there for eight months or so. FREMONT: Welcome to town! Now get the fuck out and make room for a bunch of shitheads with too much money.

It was a delightful party; not solely because J. is a pastry chef, but it didn't hurt. The entire place was nook-crammed with chocolate-covered whatsits, and he even had a bunch of those dinky little spoons that scream Top Chef all loaded up with foams, gelees, jellies, ices, gorf-blines, unkaboos and the like. The wife was particularly smitten with the unkaboos; I think it had zest in it.

J. and S. also appeared to have some sort of serious hard-on against our friend the pig. The spread consisted of--well, for one thing, a magnificent cheese spread (one of the cheeses looked like a tiny basketball!)--a salami plate, Li'l Smokies, pigs in many blankets, spiral cut ham, obliquely cut ham, suckling pig, chuckling pig, swashbuckling pig, Lynn Thigpen, and, inventively, an evening dress made entirely of bacon worn by the hostess. "Go for the armpit slabs," she murmured to me privately. "They're still warm." Not everybody got those helpful hints! We had been missed.

We spent a nice time devouring all the dead hog as well as the homemade eggnog (or, as far as I know, hognog). The hosts' dog, an adorable little terrier thing, fetched much love from everyone as well as a ridiculous amount of food that slid off of the plates of the hognog drinkers, as the nog was of course also loaded with the brown liquor of one's choice. The dog, Charlie, was in, if I may, hog heaven.

At least until C. and L. showed up. C. and L. are good friends of ours; it was also L.'s birthday that night, which explained why they were, as C. told me instantly, "fucking shitfaced." Yay! Then C. noticed Charlie nosing around his shoe, and immediately plopped down on the ground to dog level. C. began barking at the beast, who immediately backed away and howled. So C. began slithering after him, barking mercilessly. Charlie, clearly unequipped to deal with anything above the level of dead pig fragments (much less a stocky, red-faced man-serpent stinking of corn mash and ill intent) ran shrieking under the coffee table; C. lurched under the table with him, further terrorizing the unlucky beast as well as several people who suddenly found their drinks sliding swiftly to the table's edge--their shrieks joined the ongoing cacophony, adding a nice warbling soprano counterpoint to Charlie's tenor dog-rap and C.'s basso yawps.

Then J. announced that the homemade hognog had run out and he was breaking out the store-bought swill, so we left. The last thing we heard was S. wailing as C. mounted a noisily despairing Charlie.

After all, we had another party to go to! This one was much different: thrown by my friend J.'s girlfriend E., this party was made up of a younger demographic: E., for example, is preparing for her MCATs, which I assume is some sort of audition for a Saturday morning cartoon. I don't really know; I met J. some years ago on the Interplace in a "chatting room" filled with strange young men doing age and sexy checks--it's kind of a blur. Anyway, for reasons unclear to us, they had invited us to their youngster party, possibly out of anthropological interest. In time, our hansom bore us to their charming domicile.

"Skot!" cried J. as we cautiously entered the building; there was some sort of loud din emanating from the walls that sounded like a Sousaphone being violated by robots, and its foreign rhythms curdled my humors a bit. Around us, youths chattered and undulated; I draped a scarf discreetly over the wife's head, and she hooted softly, feeling immediately safer. I led her in the kitchen, where J. served us some mulled wine he had barbarically prepared in a primitive tin pot.

As we settled in to the kitchen, we were introduced to various others, such as L., who immediately inquired--this I am not making up--which version of "Ticket To Ride" I had played, and which version I preferred, and why. I stammered out a reasonable facsimile of a reply while I surveyed L.'s fascinating hairdo; he wore an astounding nimbus of curls that looked almost like an article of exploded clothing. If Mother Courage had been a Yippie, her skull would not have looked unlike L.'s.

There was also P. and his lovely girlfriend A. I had met P. before, but not A., and so I of course promptly made some horrifying joke about my ass and "Mexican pornography," whatever that could possibly mean. "I've just met these people!" I crowed; A. simply looked stricken while the wife continued hooting under her scarf-hood and sipped at the mulled wine. P. smiled at the proceedings and said, for some reason, "It's okay. She's a biologist." Having entirely lost my bearings by this point--I found out later that J.'s had doped the wine with large amounts of antimony--I merely polished my pince-nez with my cravat and blinked agreeably.

Presently, the curtains began to flap ominously whisper faint evil-sounding suggestions at me; P. pretended not to notice while he chatted pleasantly about, of all things, ohms. I noticed L. off in a corner talking to an impossibly young woman; his hair waved like hungry anemones. The wife honked forlornly under her scarf, and her nerveless hands let her wineglass roll away.

It was time to go.

"J., we must away!" I screamed as I jammed my stove-pipe hat onto my head in an attempt to restore my dignity; the antimony fog was creeping in darkly. "Skot, that's an actual stovepipe," yammered J. "You've ruined our chimney." I ignored his nonsense, which was made easier by the blood unaccountably running down into my eyes. "I can't even see you, demon," I said. "You can't hurt me now."

Eventually, after a minor scuffle involving a rather obstreperous tapestry, we left. A short funicular ride down Capitol Hill, and we were home. I rolled the gently snoring figure of my wife on the floor next to the bed and then tumbled gratefully onto the mattress, poisoned with both sow and sulfide, and thought no more that night, except for one final thought before the darkness claimed me: Next Christmas, I'm going to poison the world.

Monday, 10 December
Perhaps I Should Call Them "Ratjamas"

Ah, to be back from vacation! Back to work!

Fuck work. Today's big achievement: deleting 1.5 GB of ancient, hoary emails, many of which bore subject lines such as "What's wrong, tiny penis?"

At least today at work was just about as productive as our entire vacation, in which we did basically nothing. Well, not entirely accurate; we did do one important thing: we wore pajamas. We wore the fuck out of our pajamas. Sometimes we wore our pajamas all damn day long; at least, that is, until our favorite bar opened. Then, of course, we put on our best muumuus.

(Now, listen, seriously, though. I don't wear pajamas to bed. I'm not a fucking freak. I sleep in a safe, secure bathysphere like any sensible person who is concerned about nocturnal gar attacks. I don't know how I'm gonna go out, but Skot Kurruk isn't about to get his junk eaten by ravenous Lepisosteidae is all I'm saying. You all are on your own, but I say: bathysphere.)

One fine day last week, I was enjoying hanging out in my damn pajamas right out on my deck, which for weird architectural reasons happens to directly overlook our building's front door. Normally, this isn't really a deal, but on this day, some dude was trying to gain entrance.

"HEY! HEY! CAN YOU HEAR ME!" He was screaming into our little crappy intercom at the front entrance below me. I scratched unconcernedly at my flannel-clad balls and serenely smoked.

"GUNT!" yelled the intercom at the guy, who was kind of beating on the little metal faceplate near our door. "DEAN!" continued the intercom.

"JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!" screamed the guy. "I'M DOWN HERE!" This killed me. Where else would he be? Suspended in midair? Traversing the luminiferous aether? "CAN YOU HEAR ME?" he screamed again.

"NITS," said the intercom, which caused the angry guy to sink his neck down into his collar and moan. Then I must have laughed or farted or audibly scratched myself again, because the poor bastard looked up at me, standing above him. Which must, I suppose, have caused him to lose his final grasp upon sanity, because he yelled up at me, "CAN YOU HEAR ME? Can you let me IN?"

Now, really. Leaving aside the wonderful query "CAN YOU HEAR ME," is this a solid gambit? Here I was, a hobo in heart-embossed pajama pants (oh, shut the fuck up) with hair that looked like crib death had occurred on top of my skull, smoking, and I'm going to dash down to help out some angry crank who's screaming into tin? Please. People who are wearing pajamas at two in the afternoon are not ready to help anybody, even themselves. I smiled at him and hooked my thumbs into my pajama elastic and rocked placidly on my heels; I'm sure I looked more or less like a disheveled, gay Jed Clampett.

Right at that moment, the front door opened, and the ostensible host peeked out at the screamer. Hilariously, he said, "Hey, was that you?" No, you've had several strangers all clamoring for entrance to your apartment in the past ten minutes. They finally glumly trod inside, commiserating about the lousy intercom system, and throwing me a few choice glances as I continued to smoke and insouciantly pajama around.

Is this all we did on our damn vacation? Pretty much. We had some plans to go down to the Oregon coast--because where better to travel in December?--but those were kind of scotched when all of our roadways were suddenly lightly coated with several feet of water and most of the Oregon coastline was blown into the sea anyway.

We also got to know our newest friend, who occasionally hangs out on the deck with me! He's a rat. And you know what? He's adorable. I like to call him "Rat." The wife has noticed me peering out the windows lately and plaintively hooting, "Where's my rat?" Or, when I'm feeling affectionate, I might coo, "Where's my ratter?"

"You're spending too much time in your pajamas," said my wife. "And he tried to eat our brined turkey." (This is true.) More on my rat later, that gorgeous little fucker. I'm kind of in love with him.

It's probably best that I had to go back to work.

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