COLUMN: The Night Before Christmas, 2.0

This is my Sunday column for the Christmas edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. I’m posting early to catch the spirit of the source material. I performed a version of this piece on KAXE’s “Between You and Me” this morning. Merry Christmas, readers! I’ll be off for a few days.

The Night Before Christmas, 2.0
By Aaron J. Brown

Merry Christmas to all those celebrating! So many American Christmas traditions date back to the 1800s, an era quite different from our live-streaming times. I hope you’ll enjoy this classic holiday story retold in a fictional prose poem.

Twas an electronic ding on my smart phone one eve,
Like, the night before Christmas I do believe,
This dong was in earnest and bonging its stuff
It woke me to say someone was on my roof.

A security feature I installed with my apps,
Just like Facebook, Foursquare and Google Maps.
And, hold it.

We could do this, but it would cut into what happened that night. So I’m in the house and I get the buzz that there’s someone up on the roof. Now, that’s happened before. The neighbor, G-Bo, is on pills and this happens from time to time, usually don’t even have to call the cops unless his girlfriend is in the yard yelling at him. That never works. I don’t know why she does that. I don’t know why she stays.

But this was freaking Christmas Eve, nothing going on. I even turned off my white noise machine. Kids got their stockings hanging off the TV stand. Santa was supposed to come any minute but, man, we had a bad year and I had my doubts.

The kids were zonked in their room. My lady was there, sleeping in her headgear. She was out, man. I was pretty beat, too, but I had my phone volume set to high so my alarm would work. And, WHOOP WHOOP, there’s a dude on my roof. I ran over and opened up the window, which is lame because you’ve gotta open up this wood thing like from a Colin Firth movie or something – my lady loves that friggin’ guy. Anyway, old house, man.

Well, I’m looking up there for G-Bo on the pills but it’s a friggin’ sleigh and, yeah, you guessed it, eight reindeer. I seen deer before but these are way different. They got hair on their antlers and they’re big, like Jet-Skis with feet.

Now I’m used to mall Santas or the guys they bring in to the hardware stores, the Santas who just figure they’ve got to sit and smile for the pictures. The picture’s all the mom wants and the kids are scared because, come on, even the two-year-olds know this guy works at this store in the summer. They’ve seen him. White beard ain’t gonna cover it.

But this Santa up there with the reindeer is fast. The only way I can put this is that it’s like watching old zombie movies where the zombies are slow versus watching the new zombie movies where the zombies are running at you and climbing up walls and stuff. This guy is new-zombie fast and he’s wearing this red vest. I swear it looked like velvet. The pants were definitely velvet. Puffy white shirt underneath and this big furry Russian hat. He walks every step like he just scored a touchdown.

Dude’s like four and half feet tall, big hands, big belly, but just cut in the shoulders like the guys at the loading dock. He’s yelling some stuff at the reindeer, pretty sure it’s in Chinese but he mixed in some other languages too. He says, like, “Chong fow, Donder.” And Donder was like talking back in Russian or something. “Bleisnevidev.” I wasn’t expecting any of this but there’s no way this dude wasn’t Santa Claus.

Then like in oh-point-eight he’s all BOOM down the chimney like mad, which is amazing because we have natural gas. I’m watching from behind the flat screen. He’s got this sack and then all of a sudden these two other business casual kind of people, a dude and some lady, are like right there, like an entourage. They’re feeding Santa this info off of these iPads and he’s popping stuff out of the sack, just laughing. Happy dude, this one.

I was gonna play it cool but I just had to laugh when he put a box of Legos in my boy’s stocking with this fade-away shot. He looked over, pointed at me, did two fist-pounds on his chest and winked. Awesome.

And so I realize that this guy knows he’s Santa. He’s seen all the movies, heard all the songs. He knows that everyone’s arguing about the meaning of Christmas, whether he’s real or not. People are spending money and arguing but Santa’s just out there doggin’ it anyway. Giving, laughing, moving on. Non-stop. He doesn’t have to. He just does.

BOOM, he’s up the chimney and peeling hoof. And know what he said on his way out? Not Happy Holidays and not Merry Christmas, either. He says “Happy Christmas,” but in a warm, friendly way that doesn’t presume that people gotta agree to be decent.

There’s a message there. Think I’ll get one of those red velvet vests with the gift card Santa gave me.

Aaron J. Brown is a writer and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He is the author of the blog and host of the Great Northern Radio Show on 91.7 KAXE.

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