A Christmas Tale
Date: Wed, 3 Jan 96 04:18:09 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: A Christmas Tale
Forwarded-by: Doug Rudoff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
RUDOLPH'S LAST GOODNIGHT
For Gene Autry,
With all due respect.
The anger swelling in Rudolph's heart was the most dangerous kind of
anger, born of disappointment in people he had once looked up to,
people he wanted to be. He watched the elitism and disdain that had
kept him on the outside turn to sycophantic appreciation. He'd
suffered so much at their hands, but now that he could be of use, now
that they could use the very thing they had so mercilessly ridiculed,
now he could join their exclusive little club, their inner sanctum.
They were practically begging him. And the old man, the jolly old elf,
that gin-reeking tub of guts was the worst of all. The great giver,
the kind benevolent saint of charity was an alcoholic, adulterous lout
who, nine months out of the year was the living manifestation of
torpor, inert as an iceberg and twice as cold, and the other three
months a ruthless, fascist slave-driver with no concern for anything
but his inflated reputation. And what of next year? If the weather
were clear would they let him ride with them? Would they give him the
place of honor at the head of the team? Somehow he doubted it.
The phone rang. He lay motionless on the couch and let the machine get it.
"Rudy, buddy, howyadoin? It's Dash. Look, I'm having a little
get-together. Mostly just the guys but I think some babes may be
there. Stop by if you get a chance. And hey, great work last night.
You're the greatest man, I mean that. Okay, hope to see ya there.
Bye..... Did I say this was Dash? Okay buddy, bye."
He didn't move, pressed into the couch beneath a blanket of hatred and
Dash was one of the worst offenders. When it became obvious that
Rudolph was going to be accepted by the team Dash, without missing a
beat, had turned his vicious attention on another young buck with a
harelip named Otto. During their smoking breaks on some of the
rooftops Dash had done impressions of Otto that had caused both lines
to laugh so hard the big man had threatened to whip the whole team.
Rudolph remained facing front, unable to speak and hating himself for
it. It was this same self-loathing that was fueling his present rage,
and the knowledge that he would go to the party and try to belong to
this group he was quickly coming to hate.
He lay on the couch and wept.
Rudolph arrived at the party high as a kite with his nose a brilliant
red. It was an open secret that the whole team frequently used
cocaine, but Rudolph was new to the team and new to the drug. They had
finished late last night and were stopped over in Iceland for what
Donner called, "the old man's once-a-year thing," when Vic had passed
Rudolph the small envelope.
"There's plenty where that came from, just don't let the old man see
you with it."
As he was leaving for Dash's party he saw the envelope on the coffee
table. He picked it up and, thrusting his nose into the white powder
inhaled the whole amount. He had never felt so powerful, so limitless,
so ready to take on those eight smug, self- important, glorified pack-mules.
Blitzen answered the door of Dash's apartment as high as Rudolph was.
"Whoa, Rudy, turn down the beak man, you're blinding me."
Rudolph's hoof went instinctively to his nose before he realized
Blitzen was making a joke. Too often in the past he had heard the same
kind of joke thrown at him like a knife, looking for blood.. Now
Blitzen was trying to break the ice by admitting, in his own indirect
way, that he had taunted Rudolph before as an outsider but would now
tease him as a friend. Given time he would come to discover that
Blitzen jabbed at everybody as a sign of affection, lacking the tools
or the courage to express his feelings in any other way, but for now it
only served to remind him of the humiliation he had been forced to
endure. Rudolph lowered his hoof as Blitzen shifted his weight nervously.
"Sorry buddy, just a joke. No hard feelings right? Look, you really
came through for us last night and that was cool. You are super-cool,"
he said as he put his arm around Rudolph and gave him a brotherly
squeeze. Rudolph broke from the embrace silently and moved into the party.
Throughout the evening wherever he went, whatever cluster he
approached, the circle was immediately enlarged to include him. They
listened when he spoke and laughed at his jokes. Women looked into his
eyes and held his gaze, some even declining their head and staring at
him in a way he was unaccustomed to. In short, he was a celebrity. He
had finally gained access to this social circle and done so in such a
resounding way he felt as though he was not only lighter that air, he
was air, the stuff of life and inspiration. He was in their lungs, in
their blood and brains. He had become them.
He was off in the dark corner of a dark room with a young Doe named
Dondi when he heard laughter coming from somewhere in the apartment.
He thought at first the laughter was directed at him, having so often
been the victim of it, but it soon became obvious that a group had
formed in one of the front rooms and was laughing at something out
there. Dondi tried to pull him back into her embrace. He looked at
her, her eyes large and soft in the dull red glow of his nose, her eyes
an invitation to the dance, and yet the laughter drew him away from the
warmth of her breath. He stumbled through the dark hallway and out
into the larger room where most of the group had gathered to watch
Dash, standing in the center of the room doing a cruel imitation of
Otto, the harelip reindeer. When Rudolph entered the room Dash glanced
in his direction and winked but didn't stop the show. To Rudolph it
was the clearest signal yet that he had become a member of the group.
He had a sudden impulse to vomit. Here was Dash mocking poor Otto in
the same way he must have mocked Rudolph at countless parties before.
And Rudolph was expected to join in, to laugh along with the group as
though he hadn't once been victim to its derision, as though a lifetime
of scorn could be forgiven with a nose full of fine Blue Flake and the
warm and willing arms of Dondi . There came a howling Rudolph thought
was the frozen Arctic wind, but when the room became silent and shifted
its attention away from Dash, Rudolph realized the howling was coming
from himself. The silence stretched tight across the room like the
head of a drum while Rudolph looked from face to face searching for a
ounce of shame, embarrassment even, but finding none. Then the
laughter started, slowly at first, like a dribbling faucet, nervous and
unsure. Building in intensity and confidence, the room was soon
stuffed and overflowing with it, pressing on Rudolph like the jaws of a
vice. He made a move for the door but was stopped by a hoof on his shoulder.
"Where ya' going Rudy," Prancer said.
Rudolph shook his hoof loose.
"Fuck off Prancer," he said, and shot out into the black-ice Arctic night.
Rudolph wandered with no destination for the better part of an hour,
his tears falling in frozen shards and crushed beneath his hooves while
his mind tried to free itself from the effects of the alcohol and
cocaine. The cocaine made his synapses fire at a much faster rate but
the alcohol served to cloud and misdirect them. By the time he arrived
at Santa's a course of action had cemented itself in his mind he was
powerless to redirect. He slipped silently into the workshop and moved
to the large mahogany case on the far wall. He opened it quietly and
pulled down the Remington 20 gauge, single barrel pump-action shotgun.
With great care he loaded the six shells into the magazine and put six
more in the pouch around his neck. He would start with the jolly old
elf and then, when they were sure to have partied themselves out, he
would go back to Dash's place and visit the herd. He pumped the gun to
load the first shell.
He'd go down in history all right. Yeah, he would.
© 1996 Peter Langston