'Twas the Night Before Solstice
by James Finn Garner


'Twas the night before solstice and all through the co-op
Not a creature was messing the calm status quo up.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Dreaming of lentils and warm whole-grain breads.

We'd welcomed the winter that day after school
By dancing and drumming and burning the Yule,

A more meaningful gesture to honor the planet
Than buying more trinkets for Mom or Aunt Janet,

Or choosing a tree just to murder and stump it
And dress it all up like a seasonal strumpet.

My lifemate and I, having turned down the heat,
Slipped under the covers for a well-deserved sleep,

When from out on the lawn there came such a roar
I fell from my futon and rolled to the floor.

I crawled to the window and pulled back the latch,
And muttered, "Aw, where is that Neighborhood Watch?"

I saw there below through the murk of the night
A sleigh and eight reindeer of nonstandard height.

At the reins of that sleigh sat a mean-hearted knave
Who treated each deer like his personal slave.

I'd seen him before in some ads for car loans,
Plus fast food and soft drinks and cellular phones.

He must have cashed in from his mercantile chores,
Since self-satisfaction just oozed from his pores.

He called each by name, as if he were right
To treat them like humans, entrenching his might:

"Now Donder, now Blitzen," and other such aliases,
Showing his true Eurocentrical biases.

With a snap of his fingers away they all flew,
Like lumberjacks served up a plate of tofu.

Up to the rooftop they carried the sleigh
(The holes in the shingles are there to this day).

Out bounded the man, who sent straight to the flue.
I knew in an instant just what I should do.

After donning my slippers, downstairs did I dash
to see this trespasser emerge from the ash.

His clothes were all covered with soot, but of course,
From our wood-fueled alternative energy source.

Through the grime I distinguished the make of his duds--
He was dressed all in fur, fairly dripping with blood.

"We're a cruelty-free house!" I proclaimed with such heat
He was startled and tripped on the logs at his feet.

He stood back up dazed, but with mirth in his eyes.
It was then that I noticed his unhealthy size.

He was almost as wide as when standing erect,
A lover of fatty fried foods, I suspect.

But that wasn't all to make sane persons choke:
In his teeth sat a pipe that was belching out smoke!

I could scarcely believe what invaded our house.
This carcinogenic and overweight louse

Was so red in the face from his energy spent,
I expected a heart attack right there and then.

Behind him he toted a red velvet bag
Full to exploding with sinister swag.

He asked, "Where is your tree?" with a face somewhat long.
I said, "Out in the yard, which is where it belongs."

"But where will I put all the presents I've brought?"
I looked at him squarely and said, "Take the lot

"To some frivolous people who think that they need
to succumb to the sickness of commerce and greed,

"Whose only joy comes from the act of consuming,
Thus sending the stock of the retailers booming."

He blinked and said, "Ho, ho, ho! But you're kidding."
I gave him a stare that was stern and forbidding.

"Surely children need something with which to have fun?
It's like childhood's over before it's begun."

He looked in my eyes for some sign of assent,
But I strengthened my will and refused to relent.

"They have plenty of fun," I cut to the gist,
"And your mindless distractions have never been missed.

"They take CPR so that they can save lives,
And go door-to-door for the used clothing drives.

"They recycle, renew, reuse -- and reveal
For saving the planet a laudable zeal.

"When they padlock themselves to a fence to protest
Against nuclear power, we think they're the best."

He said, "But they're children -- lo, when do they play?"
I countered, "Is that why you've driven your sleigh,

"To bring joy to the hearts of each child and tot?
All right, open your bag; let's see what you've got."

He sheepishly did as I'd asked and behold!
A Malibu Barbie in a skirt made of gold.

"You think that my girls will like playing with this,
An icon of sexist, consumerist kitsch?

"With it's unnatural figure and airheaded grin,
This trollop makes every girl yearn to be thin,

"And take up fad diets and bingeing and purging
Instead of respecting her own body's urging

"To welcome the shape that her body has found
And rejoice to be lanky, short, skinny, or round."

Deep in his satchel he searched for a toy,
Saying, "This is a hit with most little boys."

And what did he put in my trembling hand
But a gun from the BrainBlaster Power Command!

"It's a 'hit,' to be sure," I sneered in his face,
"And a plague to infect the whole human race!

"How 'bout grenades or some working bazookas
To turn all of our kids into half-wit palookas?"

I seized on his bag just to see for myself
The filth being spread by this odious elf.

An Easy-Bake Oven -- ah, goddess, what perfidy!
To hoodwink young girls into household captivity!

Plus an archer play set with shafts that fly out,
The very thing needed to put your eye out.

And toy metal tractors, steam shovels, and cranes
For tearing down woodlands and scarring the plains,

Plus "games" like Monopoly, Pay Day, Tycoon,
As if lessons in greed can't start up too soon.

And even more weapons from BrainBlastersCo.,
Like cannons and nunchucks and ray guns that glow.

That's all I could find in his red velvet sack --
Perverseness and mayhem to set us all back.

(But I did find one book that caused me to ponder --
Some fine bedtime tales by a fellow named Garner.)

"We need none of this," I announced in a huff,
"No 'business-as-usual' holiday stuff.

"We sow in our offspring more virtue than this.
Your 'toys' offer some things they never will miss."

The big man's expression was a trifle bereaved
As he shouldered his pack and got ready to leave.

"I pity the kids who grow up around here,
Who're never permitted to be of good cheer,

"Who aren't allowed leisure for leisure's own sake,
But must fret every minute -- it makes my heart break!"

"Enough histrionics! Don't pity our kids
If they don't do as Macy's or Toys 'R' Us bids.

"They live by their principles first and foremost
And know what's important," to him did I boast.

"Pray, could I meet them" "Oh no, they're not here.
They're up on the roof, liberating your deer!"

Then Santa Claus sputtered and pointed his finger
But, mad as he was, he had no time to linger.

He flew up the chimney like smoke from a fire,
And up on the roof I heard voices get higher.

I ran outside the co-op to see him react
To my children's responsible, kindhearted act.

He chased them away, and disheartened, dismayed,
He rehitched his reindeer (who'd docilely stayed).

I watched with delight as he scooted off then.
He'd be too embarrassed to come back again.

But with parting disdain, do you know what he said,
When this overweight huckster took off in his sled?

This reindeer enslaver, this exploiter of elves?
"Happy Christmas to all, but get over yourselves!!"


 

 
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