Cough cough.

December 18, 1998

Okay, I was going to write about the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having, and the kind of office insanity inspired by this weather, an insanity which caused me to blow up a surgical glove like a balloon and send it flying out of a seventh-storey window, but, as always happens with the weather, right when I was planning to comment on it, it became seasonably cold. In fact the change was so dramatic it’s caused me to write unbelievably long run-on sentences and use strange words like "seasonably". So, in keeping with the winter weather, here’s a little story from my childhood: I once had a really bad cold that kept me up most of the night coughing, so my mother made up a batch of what she called Aunt Chloe’s Cough and Congestion Curative. The recipe was simple: a cup of honey, a cup of lemon juice, and a shot of whisky. It wasn’t much whisky, but it was enough that I stopped wearing scarves and recklessly endangered my throat anytime there was cold weather. One day, for reasons I can’t remember, I was staying with my grandmother the teetotaller. Because I’d been without Aunt Chloe’s miracle elixir for several hours, I coughing as though my lungs were going to come out through my nose. My grandmother asked, "Are you taking anything for that?" I made the mistake of telling my grandmother about Aunt Chloe’s recipe, or, as she translated it, "Satan’s syrup." After throwing around several colorful antiquated expressions such as "ruination" and "seasonably", she ran to the phone. She then spent several hours on the phone with my father who averted a very ugly child custody battle by explaining to her that what I was taking had less alcohol than most cough medicines on the market at the time. This was true, too. When I was growing up, cough medicines had about the same alcohol content as tequila and had a few other pleasant ingredients like codeine and essence of wormwood. They didn’t cure coughs, but hey, with a cocktail like that, coughing would be the last of your worries. Home remedies, are, of course, always best, especially since most cough syrup companies have now changed their formulas to make them less tempting to people in twelve-step programs. Now they just taste like bubblegum and grape soda. There’s a moral in there somewhere, but you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. I feel a cold coming on.

Enjoy this week’s offerings, and, since you’ll all be spending time with your families rather than your computers next week (or at the very least using your computers to try out all those cool new programs Santa left under your tree) have a wonderful holiday. By the time you hear from me again, we’ll be partying like it’s 1999.


A LITTLE-KNOWN CHRISTMAS FACT

One particular Christmas season a long time ago, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip … but there were problems everywhere.

Four of his elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her mom was coming to visit.This stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where. More stress.

Then when he began to load the sleigh one of the boards cracked and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys.

So, frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of coffee and a shot of whiskey. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered that the elves had hid the liquor and there was nothing to drink. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the coffee pot and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw it was made from.

Just then the doorbell rang and Santa cussed on his way to the door. He opened the door and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said, very cheerfully, "Merry Christmas Santa. Isn’t it just a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Isn’t it just a lovely tree? Where would you like me to stick it?"

Thus began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.


Twas The Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual Yuletide celebration, and throughout our place of residence, kinetic activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential, including that species of domestic rodent known as Mus musculus. Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood burning caloric apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among whose folkloric appellations is the honorific title of St. Nicholas.

The prepubescent siblings, comfortably ensconced in their respective accommodations of repose, were experiencing subconscious visual hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically through their cerebrums. My conjugal partner and I, attired in our nocturnal head coverings, were about to take slumberous advantage of the hibernal darkness when upon the avenaceous exterior portion of the grounds there ascended such a cacophony of dissonance that I felt compelled to arise with alacrity from my place of repose for the purpose of ascertaining the precise source thereof.

Hastening to the casement, I forthwith opened the barriers sealing this fenestration, noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without, reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline precipitation, might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself – thus permitting my incredulous optical sensory organs to behold a miniature airborne runnered conveyance drawn by eight diminutive specimens of the genus Rangifer, piloted by a minuscule, aged chauffeur so ebullient and nimble that it became instantly apparent to me that he was indeed our anticipated caller. With his ungulate motive power travelling at what may possibly have been more vertiginous velocity than patriotic alar predators, he vociferated loudly, expelled breath musically through contracted labia, and addressed each of the octet by his or her respective cognomen – "Now Dasher, now Dancer…" et al. – guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode, through which structure I could readily distinguish the concatenations of each of the 32 cloven pedal extremities.

As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location, and was performing a 180-degree pivot, our distinguished visitant achieved – with utmost celerity and via a downward leap – entry by way of the smoke passage. He was clad entirely in animal pelts soiled by the ebony residue from oxidations of carboniferous fuels which had accumulated on the walls thereof. His resemblance to a street vendor I attributed largely to the plethora of assorted playthings which he bore dorsally in a commodious cloth receptacle.

His orbs were scintillant with reflected luminosity, while his submaxillary dermal indentations gave every evidence of engaging amiability. The capillaries of his malar regions and nasal appurtenance were engorged with blood which suffused the subcutaneous layers, the former approximating the coloration of Albion’s floral emblem, the latter that of the Prunus avium, or sweet cherry. His amusing sub- and supralabials resembled nothing so much as a common loop knot, and their ambient hirsute facial adornment appeared like small, tabular and columnar crystals of frozen water.

Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smoking piece whose grey fumes, forming a tenuous ellipse about his occiput, were suggestive of a decorative seasonal circlet of holly. His visage was wider than it was high, and when he waxed audibly mirthful, his corpulent abdominal region undulated in the manner of impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical container. He was, in short, neither more nor less than an obese, jocund, multigenarian gnome, the optical perception of whom rendered me visibly frolicsome despite every effort to refrain from so being. By rapidly lowering and then elevating one eyelid and rotating his head slightly to one side, he indicated that trepidation on my part was groundless.

Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the aforementioned appended hosiery with various of the aforementioned articles of merchandise extracted from his aforementioned previously dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he executed an abrupt about- face, placed a single manual digit in lateral juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith effected his egress by renegotiating (in reverse) the smoke passage. He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I overheard his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his vehiculation beyond the limits of visibility: "Ecstatic Yuletide to the planetary constituency, and to that self same assemblage, my sincerest wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn."

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