On Fundamentarlia the snow is sifting down like pigeon’s feathers after the Christmas hawk has swooped down and in midair captured that unsuspecting bird, bidding it to a midwinter feast. There was an old woman who hobbled through Christmas in a coat that can only vaguely be described as salmon in color. She destroyed Christmas actually, or at least was keenly instrumental in the havoc wreaked by Pastor Felonious Assault, youth pastor at Doc’s theme park, and . . . but I better get on with this story.
By this time, Doc had been turned into a cheese, a thing he rather enjoyed, and was not so much involved in the ministry as he was in writing reviews of Mexican restaurants. Pastor Felonious Assault therefore had none of the free rein of former times and rather resented it, but being a resourceful alien, he still had several projects going including the brainwashing center for the conversion of the lost disguised as the oncology ward of the Doc Hospital.
No, the real person in charge in these times was that remarkably repulsive public relations genius Dull Sodder, the fat kid who had pretty much got the whole empire under his thumb and, were it not for his few years, no doubt would have Felonious Assault well in hand also. We return to him with reluctance, as one spooning last week’s tuna noodle casserole onto a plate destined for the microwave in the certain knowledge that there is nothing else to eat and all the fast food restaurants have closed because, say, it is Christmas. Dull Sodder did not, as I have said, have Pastor Fell under his thumbs because as most of us know, aliens can be tricky. Compounding this was the problem that Dull Sodder had a failing: he was not good with old people, and poor Mrs. Whishtablount was not entirely herself due to some unanticipated side effects of the new Plovalis machine in the oncology ward that had been variously tampered with by both Dull Sodder and Pastor Fell for reasons of ministry. And Mrs. Whishtablount, who had seen many pastors come and go before Doc had finally arrived and become indefinite, had wanted to talk to Dull Sodder . . . for reasons of ministry.
She didn’t like his piggy eyes, but she didn’t say that since she was from a politer age, though that had seldom restrained her when the age had been present. She was also going blind, and Dull Sodder was relatively new on staff, so she wasn’t sure if perhaps it wasn’t just her.
“Look, we can’t take down the sleigh because it’s making us a lot of m—that is, it’s really helping people see their need.” He could not help thinking that most decent people of Mrs. Whishtablount’s age were respectably lying in their graves.
“Well,” said Mrs. Whishtablount, raising her cane and shaking it a little, “you could at least put Jesus in it.”
Which idea gripped Dull Sodder with such force it was almost as if he had suddenly developed a conviction. He smiled on Mrs. Whishtablount and poured on the oil. He gave her a Christmas basket full of oranges, gingerbread, prophetic CDs and recordings of the tin-cowbell choir singing poetically meager Christmas carols that gave one the impression of containing doctrine seen through a glass darkly, if at all.
Next day it was done, with baby Jesus smiling happily and waving from the sleigh. By the following Sunday, they had Doc working it into a prophetic conference, and in a board meeting the following month, Pastor Fell had indicated that he had a friend quite willing to appear from outer space in a sleigh or any other conveyance drawn by sheep, reindeer, goats, cats, stag beetles, or porpologulous rhygmachomps providing he was subsequently proclaimed king.
At this point Dull Sodder though sarcastically that most people he knew would be willing to appear in a sleigh drawn by matching porpologulous rhygmachomps of the most tenacious breeds and in the most grossly exaggerated quantities if only they were proclaimed king. Not himself, of course, but many others including probably most of the deacons. A friend of Felonious Assault—Sodder thought, cynically but much more honestly—was bound to be an alien, and that gave decent persons the creeps.
“Who’s this pal of your, Fell?” Doc asked.
“A human?” Dull Sodder asked, gaining interest.
“Yeah, the guy who used to sing around here. I think he wants to come back and is just looking for an excuse.”
“I always had a soft spot for Elvis,” Doc said. “Well, I mean, before. Do you think anybody will notice the switch? I mean, I haven’t been saying it was Elvis would return, after all and there’s the light display.”
“But who would object to getting Elvis instead?” Pastor Fell asked. And for once, logic was on his side.
The adjustments were not very hard to make, and so Elvis Presley come back in a sleigh during a Christmas concert that included the largest marimba orchestra ever assembled outside of Guanajuato, Mexico. No porpologulous rhygmachomps were necessary, which Sodder had been anxious to avoid for tax reasons, and though Mrs. Whishtablount found the prancing Chihuahua’s anticlimactic, and complained, everybody was generally pleased to have Elvis back, specially the deacons. He was proclaimed king in Doc’s theme park on a Thursday and there were free rides given on all three major roller coasters: the Beast from the Sea, the False Prophet, and the Three Lying Spirits—all of them state of the art but about to be superceded by next year’s model: to be called The Antichrist.
And it was at this point, in a fit of enthusiasm not uncommon to persons in his line of work, that Pastor Fell yelled: “Death to Santa!”—we think, though he might have said something else. Anyway, the chant that was taken up by the whole congregation of those assembled at the theme park for the festivities. The mood of the crowd turned from fun to ugly like a switch.
Mrs. Whishtablount, who was living in the same retirement center in which Mr. Santa Claus was kept by his own family, turned pale, but did not panic. Always a resourceful woman, she gathered her wits and quietly slipped away to warn Santa.
“Religious people are saying that kind of thing all the time, Mrs. Whishtablount. If I’d ever worried about it, I would never have gotten any work done. I really think you’re just overreacting.”
But Mrs. Whishtablount knew a thing or two about religious people, especially the dangerous crowds that milled around in prophetic theme parks, and she alone realized the danger in which Santa now found himself.
“You’re going to wait till the mob with pitchforks surrounds the Winds of Senescence Retirement Center . . .” she paused because Santa had winced and she was not sure why he’d winced.
Santa had winced because he’d been reading Samuel Pepys and the word ‘mob’ brought him pain.
“My dear woman, do not call them a ‘mob’.”
“What am I supposed to call them, The congregation of the righteous?”
“Heavens, no! But the word ‘mob’ is too painful.”
“What then, Zion’s chosen few? The Lord’s peculiar people?” (It may not indicate anything, but then again it may, and it seems worth observing at this point in the story that Mrs. Whishtablount was decidedly averse to Calvinism, and thought she understood it. That Santa Claus is a supralapsarian nobody, I’m sure, needs to be reminded, but I will point out that from time to time, when he felt he had more energy than usual, Santa liked to engage Mrs. Whishtablount in a debate about these matters.)
“Please Mrs. Whishtablount! Call them the mobile vulgus.”
“That ain’t English.”
“Here I’m telling you they’re going to stick your head on a pitchfork and you want me to start talking to you in another language? Where’s the sense in that?”
“Oh dear,” Santa said weakly. And one’s heart goes out to him. He was getting very old and what with the renal troubles, the cholesterol, the dizzy spells, the arthritis and the failing memory—which had been a terrible blow, especially in his line of work—well . . . no wonder he was in a retirement center mostly against his will. And now this.
“Now Mr. Claus, you listen to me,” Mrs. Whishtablount said, and she thrust out her jaw. “I’m going to get you away from that mob, or mobile fungus or whatever it is you want to call them if its the last thing I do.” She had to stop at this point, and wheeze for a little, and she wondered if perhaps it wouldn’t be the last thing she did. Then she started to wonder how she would do it.
“How will you do it?” Santa asked weakly.
The Great Interruption
At first Mrs. Whishtablount thought she would call Unk. But she didn’t have his number, and besides, he was not at that point on the planet earth and had, in fact, ceased to exist independently, having been assimilated into the compound being of the Criten: an intergalactic sleuth and the nemesis of Clamm, not to mention the raven McRune. Besides, Unk had no telephone and hence, no number.
It reminded her, for some reason, of Elvis Presley. “No,” she said, smiling to herself, for she had a wonderful sense of humor. “He had postal troubles. Oh . . . maybe that’s why he couldn’t find the inn at which he’d made reservations!” But when her mind had looped around, she found herself still facing the trouble of rescuing Santa from the fungus. “I got some powder,” she said, peering at the jolly old elf rather dubiously, but he had not been following her train of thought and only stared at her, growing increasingly apprehensive. He tried to look hostile, but it didn’t work because of the unfortunate and deteriorated condition of Mrs. Whishtablount’s eyes.
Fortunately for her and for Santa, the problem was obviated by one of the most extraordinary events in the record of this admittedly extraordinary chronicle: The Invasion of the Hard-boiled Eggs.
The Origins of the DylanThomassist Insurrection
The invasion of the Hard Boiled Eggs, of course, was the result of a confusion. As everybody who has been reading up to this point knows, the notorious lilrabbi had got a feather out of the Transcendental Arrangement. It had belonged—and still did, I suppose—to the Janitor Angelicus: Lumpenproletariat. This janitor, of course, had the task of going into the furthest reaches of the TA in order to provide the Raven with fresh press clippings and to file the former clippings in the exact order in which the Raven had disposed them. It was during one such hair-raising scene of janitorial enterprise that Lumpenproletariat had come into possession of one of the midnight Raven’s feathers, and he had used it as a marker in his copy of the Journal for the Proceedings of the Society for Ulterior Motivation of the University of Golf [JPSUMUG] before he mislaid it. This, of course, had come into the possession of the Little Rabbi, who had used it to mark his place in one of the comic books he routinely devoured. The Little Rabbi, after he had roused the ire of the Hard-boiled Eggs of Alcantarillicon, had flourished the rolled comic book at them in a fit of rash bravado in order to save Pete the yak. At this point the feather had drifted out, paralyzing the superstitious eggs. It was a secret signal, and it meant war.
Long ages had the Raven kept his minions on Alcantarillicon prepared. “On the day you see a single, midnight feather floating upon the mephitic winds of this your training base, then you will know it is time to open the secret box and read the secret message, and understand everything . . . or mostly everything.”
When the feather fell the Hard-boiled Eggs were paralyzed. They watched the starship Pannitokis disappear, their weapon’s grade yo-yos idle in their main functionary appendages. They turned in a great mass and rolled back to their caves in search of the secret box and the secret message. And there they found casus belli: the order to invade the planet earth to prepare for the coming of the Raven. It contained some preposterous charges about human aggression and systematic exploitation of their kind, it said, moreover, that all humans believed them to be stupid. This really irritated them, and they worked themselves into a frenzy.
The second invasion of Doc’s compound caused considerably more damage than the first, but its effects were not everything that had been hoped for. For one thing, the invasion was premature, not having been ordered by the mysterious Raven but rather brought about by the concerted clumsiness of the Janitor Angelicus and the Little Rabbi’s daring, albeit foolish bravado. For another, the invasion spilled out toward the north where the mysterious warehouse in which all of Unk’s chickens for his own egg invasion were keeping. The machinery for injecting ketchup into the eggs had just been installed, and the formation of the Hard-boiled Eggs was such that they were all neatly treated. The neutralizing effects of ketchup are generally well known, but are not known to be sufficient to stop a determined and Hard-boiled Egg on the warpath. Mysteriously, it worked.
The upshot was that the warehouse was broken open and Unk’s ingenious plan to eradicate the SA devices during the Easter egg hunt was derailed, the Hard-boiled Eggs were pacified and wandered away into Canada where they were soon consumed, Doc’s, Sodders and even Pastor Fell’s plans were set back considerably, and the chickens, who had unfortunately suffered from the effects of the nearby Plovalis machine, wandered through a crack in the earth into the old Communist tunnels of Romania and began to organize themselves.
Mrs. Whishtablount, meanwhile, absconded with Santa to a retirement center in the Adriatic, from which she began, by epistolary means, to lobby the government to ban the celebration of Christmasin the interests of public safety. She was more successful at this endeavor than she had ever been at anything in her life; it worked, and she immediately ran for office and did so successfully. Unfortunately for her, she died the day before taking office, but she died in peace and very pleased, with a full set of plans to restructure the administration of retirement homes and a prototype for a non-human bill of rights for persons such as Santa, the Draculas, and several presuppositionalist thinkers.
Santa was greatly relieved at the death of his protector. Indeed, he started to feel very good after that and can be said to have rejuvenated.
“Nellie,” he told his nurse. “I feel like a million bucks.” Yes, he even went so far as to begin using slang and swearing occasionally.
Not being a human, it is medically possible for this to have happened to him—the rejuvenation—though there are various opinions. Nevertheless he waxed stronger and pinker of complexion, his beard flourished, white, curling and foaming like a cataract upon his bosom, his moustache stained with nicotine. He got new boots, a new broad belt with a bit more flare in the buckle than the former one, and trimmed his red suit in silver fur instead of the customary white.
And he took to reading Dylan Thomas with great approval, and to drinking rather heavily as well as drawing with pen and ink. A band of followers he formed, and while the world went peacefully on, while Doc and Sodder doggedly labored to recover their losses and Pastor Fell labored for his own mysterious motivations in their midst, while the chickens gathered underground, Santa formed a secret society to rage against the dying of the light and with a bang to bring back the hard-core celebration of Christmas.