Heart Full of Unwashed Socks by Christopher Shawbell
TODAY’S BREW: Mediocre Mint. Because when I drink Carlsberg I post up the wrong story.
So, read THIS story by our kind friend Chris Shawbell who isn’t at all upset that I put up the wrong story today. Visit Chris @CopiousCorpses on Twitter to tell him how kick ass it is. Mention that I’m not the Brains of this operation, but I am lots of fun!
Heart Full of Unwashed Socks
by Christopher Shawbell
They still have the calendar up.
Every December I ask, and every December I’m ignored. They leave it hanging and just give me more meds. I really wish they’d take it down. It’s not my fault I’m scared of Christmas.
I had a big family. Most lived in Springfield, which I thought was a nice name for a hometown. We’d have reunions at this huge park and all the family would come. I can’t remember what the place was called, and that’s okay; it’s always been Happy Park to me.
Then one day, Mommy and Daddy told me that Daddy got a new job. He was an engineer. Not the choo-choo train kind; he built stuff. This job he’d be making a coal mine safer. We’d be back in Springfield in about a year, he said.
We moved to a little town called Hooville. It was hidden in a valley beneath this jagged mountain. We were still in Massachusetts, but way west.
Mommy called it quaint. Daddy called it boring. I called it weird. I didn’t like the kids, Mommy didn’t like our neighbors, and Daddy didn’t like his boss.
“They’re just not friendly people,” Daddy would say.
“Spying!” That’s what Mommy said they did; spy and gossip.
There was one really neat-o thing about the place though.
Me and Mommy were at the “Five-and-Dime.” An Old Man sitting near the counter asked me, “You know who Dr. Seuss is, boy?”
“Yes, sir, I do. He’s from my hometown, Springfield.”
“Yuppers, but didja know he lived here once when he was a boy?”
“No, sir. Did he really?”
“Yuppers, he sure did. Wrote a book here too. It was…”
The Mean Lady behind the counter yelled at the Old Man to shut up, and me not to listen. They argued, and Mommy and I left.
Mommy didn’t believe the story. I asked Daddy. He said the Old Man was just “..polishing a turd.” I pretended I knew what he meant.
I believed the Old Man, and thought it was really neat-o that Dr. Seuss had lived where I was living now. It made it a little bit better.
We didn’t have family there, but Mommy and Daddy made holidays extra special anyway, and that Christmas we hung more lights on the house than ever.
One of the neighbors, Dale, came by and told Daddy he shouldn’t put lights up. “It don’t agree with the town.” He said.
Daddy ignored him.
Later, we went to get a tree, but there wasn’t one anywhere. There was no Christmas stuff of any kind in the whole town!
“To Hell with them.” Daddy cursed. Mommy made him put a dollar in the Swearing Words Jar, even though Daddy said it didn’t count because it was in the Bible. He still paid. Mommy always made him pay.
We drove two hours the next day to find a Christmas Tree, and it was the biggest you’ve ever seen. Daddy said “…just to spite.” I didn’t know what he meant, but we sure had a fun time decorating it. Then we did the rest of the house.
Next morning the Sheriff made Daddy take all the Christmas lights down outside; the town had an ordinance against it. He said Daddy should take down all the stuff inside too.
Daddy said, “Make me.” I’d never seen Daddy mad before, not real kind of mad like he was then.
A few weeks later, on Christmas Eve morning, Dale came by again. Mommy wouldn’t talk to him, so Daddy did.
“You have to lock the chimney hatch today, Robert.”
Our house had a heavy metal hatch on the top of the chimney, like all the houses around. Daddy showed us when we moved in. He’d never seen one before.
“You people around here have a bad habit of telling others what they should or shouldn’t be doing.”
“We’re not bad folks, Robert, it just … well, you’re not from here; you don’t know…” The crazy old coot (that’s what Daddy called him) looked over both shoulders like he thought someone was sneaking up to kick his bee-hind. “I shouldn’t even be here, but I saw your hatch is open. You’ve got to close it … today!”
“Or you’ll send the Sheriff again?”
“It’s for your own good, Robert! Please, just lock the damned hatch!” Then he ran away.
Daddy watched him go. “Crazy old coot.”
Mommy seemed worried. “What do you think that was about?”
“Who knows, Kristen? We really don’t know anything about these neighbors of ours.”
Mommy looked out the window. “He sure seemed upset…”
“Yeah? Well not as upset as Santa’s going to be if he gets here and there’re no cookies for him!” Daddy was good at changing the subject. Usually Mommy didn’t like it, but this time she did. So did I.
“Santa’s cookies, Mommy!”
She gave Daddy her You changed the subject again! look, then smiled at me. I loved my Mommy’s smile. “Santa’s cookies it is, Sweetie. Let’s get to it.”
“Yay!” You had to wait a whole year to bake Santa’s cookies, so it was a big deal. Best part was that Santa only ate three with his milk. So the rest of the batch we ate on Christmas Eve.
It was so magical being a little kid with the Christmas Tree all lit up, and no other lights on, listening to holiday music, and eating Santa’s cookies. Nobody said anything for a long while, we just enjoyed it.
Mommy all of a sudden asked Daddy if he was going to close the chimney hatch.
“Hell no,” he answered, and that was that. The hatch stayed open, and another dollar went in the Swearing Words Jar.
I could tell something was bothering Mommy. Daddy could too, so he changed the subject again. “Besides, someone I know has to get up super-duper early because I heard a rumor…” Daddy hinted to me.
“What, Daddy, what?”
“I have information from a very reliable source that told me exactly when Santa would be here tonight, and that if you got up, and were very, very quiet, you could watch him put the presents under the tree with his favorite elf, Goofy.” Mommy playfully punched him in the arm for some reason. “Would you like that, kiddo?”
“I sure would!”
He and Mommy couldn’t because Santa knows when grown-ups are watching.
So we left Santa’s milk and cookies out and went to bed. Daddy set the alarm. I promised I would be a big boy and get up so I could tell them all about it. Mommy tucked me in, and kissed my cheek. I still feel it, like she’s still kissing me.
They stood in the doorway, arms around each other, and smiled at me—that’s how I remember them, just like that.
I never saw them again.
The alarm woke me, and I got up just like a big boy. Then I heard something.
Oh gosh! It’s Santa and Goofy! They’re really here!
I tipped-toed down the stairs, barefoot in my Ninja Turtle PJs. I couldn’t believe it … I was about to see Santa! I peeked around the corner.
Only one string of tree lights glowed. The carpet looked wet … stained somehow. I could see that someone, or something, was sitting in Daddy’s reading chair in the dark.
Whatever it was, it grinned at me. I could see it had a really wide mouth and big teeth.
“Why, no, I’m afraid. I am most certainly not Santa; I’m very real, you see, whereas, St. Nick is not. Sorry to disappoint.”
It’s voice didn’t fit the big shadowy figure with that mouth. I was really scared, but for some reason I got angry.
“He is too real! Mommy and Daddy said…”
“Yes, yes, Mommy and Daddy said he was real so surely he must be. Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t lie to a sweet little incy wincy boy like you, now would they?”
“Of course not. Why in the wonderfully wicked world would they do that?”
It took a bite from something that looked in the dark like a giant turkey leg, then put it behind the chair, and slowly stood. It was really tall … way taller than Daddy.
“Let me guess … you have risen early on this fine—but otherwise no different from any other—morning in hopes of spying on the Fat Man hard at work. Is that it?”
It took a half-step towards me.
I took a half-step back. “Yes … Santa and Goofy.”
“Goofy? Pray tell..?”
It took a step forward.
I took a step back.
“Oh yes, of course … the delicious one in green.”
It took a step forward.
“Where’s Santa? Where’s Goofy?”
I took a step back.
“You poor, poor child … the things they fill your little heads with. You must be terribly, ter-ri-bly disappointed.”
Another step closer…
It was near the tree lights now.
Its red eyes were shiny and huge. It had thick green hair all over. A hairy hand with three long fingers popped a Santa cookie into it enormous mouth. It was wearing Santa’s hat and suit, but Santa’s clothes were torn and bloody, and too small; green hairy shins and feet stuck out the pant legs.
“Please, tell me where Santa is.” The stairs were on my left. I wondered how fast it could run.
“Down the hatch, I’m afraid.”
It stopped, straightened, and made a face. It looked at the fireplace, then threw its head back and laughed. Oh what a horrible sound! It left me utterly frozen with terror.
It finally stopped.
“How very funny … you thought I meant the conspicuously open chimney hatch I slithered down. No. I meant, ‘down the hatch.’” It pointed a taloned finger down its throat then rubbed its belly. “Come, have a look for yourself…”
It leaned forward, its purplish lips pulled back, and it opened its mouth wider than I thought possible—it could get my whole head in there! A awful smell came out, like road kill. There was fresh blood in the fur around its mouth and down its neck. Its arms reached out…
Then there was a deafening BOOM Behind me, and the Thing fell back.
My ears were ringing. I turned. It was Dale holding a smoking shotgun.
“Run, boy, run!”
I did. I heard two more shots, a roar, then Dale screaming.
I got away. Dale didn’t.
The whole town denied it, but they all knew what had come on Christmas—what always came down on Christmas! They never found Mommy and Daddy … just Santa and Goofy; they’d been eaten; Dale too.
Everyone back in Springfield thought I was totally bonkers, and they put me in here; the Cuckoo House … been twenty-something years now, I guess. Was about the tenth I finally realized what that Thing actually was.
I’ve told anyone who will listen but they don’t. Everybody loves Christmas, and they don’t want it ruined.
They wouldn’t love it though—no sir-ree, not one incy wincy bit!—if they knew what me and Dr. Seuss know; that lurking on a crooked mountain overlooking Hooville, there really is a terrifying Grinch who stole Christmas.