This Christmas my gift to you is the 12 Dashing Galoot articles of Christmas – one every day until the big day itself. Check the site every morning to be the first to read these semi-Christmas-themed pieces of nonsense!
This one is a piece I wrote for one of my classes last semester.
Greedy goblins, that’s what they were. I glared at everyone. How dare that thief grab my movie night set! I wanted it! Fair is fair in a white elephant gift exchange, but it still felt good to envision a white elephant using them as a cushion and their insides exploding out almost as chaotically as the gifts strewn around this room. The pickings were slim at this point, and I had no choice but to take the porcelain doll sitting in the middle of the room.
No one wanted it. I sure didn’t. Not that the Martin Luther bobblehead I had brought for the exchange was a great improvement, but at least it didn’t shoot daggers from its beady glass eyes and smirk at you with pasty banana lips. Martin Luther didn’t wear a paisley gown that could just as well have been a shroud. Martin Luther didn’t look like the devil tried to make a child and forgot to flip the on switch. Martin Luther just nodded at you.
But I couldn’t look ungrateful. This was a reunion, after all, full of summer camp friends I hadn’t seen in months. A happy occasion. I wrenched back the corners of my mouth to smile and started begging people to take the doll from me.
“You know you want it, man. You’ve always wanted to be a father, I can tell. C’mon… have a heart!” He shook his head at me.
“Look at its eyes! It’s lonely! It wants a hug.” I offered the baby’s outstretched limbs to her, but she shrank away in… terror?
Hug? Hug? Pease?
I wuv you! I wuv you!
The tree is up, the lights are flashing, and the floor underneath it looks kinda empty. A purple-wrapped package here, some pink paper hiding something there, but nothing that I put there. Some tinny-sounding bells I regret hanging up mechanically ring out Jingle Bells.
I have a week. One week to procure presents for my swarm of siblings and my parents. I’m not a procrastinator, really, I just don’t like spending money. It’s good to save, right? I’ll team up with brothers for some gifts and make some of the others. It’s easy, for the most part. Younger brothers will look at you like you’re Santa Claus himself if you give them a half-wrapped Nut Roll.
Elisha is the hard one. Harvard student, Boston dweller, oldest child. Two years older than me, but the brother I’ve played the most games with, thrown the most balls at, and tackled on the ground the most.
I think I called him twice during that first semester for him, pretty good for a high school junior. I knew he was taking Chinese and that he got to scout out all his classes for a week before he chose them. Most importantly, I knew he had no roommate.
I don’t WANNA go to bed! no, No, NO, NOOOO!
Stop! It’s dark! Open it! Open it!
I rubbed my hands together and grinned as Elisha picked up the package. He shook it a bit and took a guess at what it was. “A board game?”
I chuckled. Not a bad guess in our family, but far from the truth. The Christmas tree was the only light in the room. The rest of my family leaned in to see, cookies filling their guts, some on the carpet, some on couches. Elisha peeled back the wrapping paper.
He didn’t even try to look enthused. “What is this?” he said. He lifted out the doll and held it up for inspection. The bald, porcelain head looked him in the eye with its sassy smirk. If Baby Jesus came on Christmas, the demon child came on Christmas Eve.
“It’s a roommate for you!” I replied, beaming. My mom snorted, my dad chuckled, and my little brothers burst out laughing. Elisha was not nearly so amused. He tossed the boxed baby to the side and leaned back, crossing his arms.
“I hope you got me something else, too.”
When I opened his gift for me, I could feel the accusation in his eyes: See what I got for you? And you gave me this?
Humor is a gift, but he didn’t laugh. I medicated my guilt with a sugar cookie shaped like baby Jesus in a manger.
Let me out, let me out! Oh, hey there, Dad. Wait no. You look different. Uncle? Hi! Nice to meet you! Hello everybody! Family and friends and all! It’s so nice to meeeeeeeeeeeeee-
What? Why? I’m not a football, I’m a baby! Help! Pick me up!
Please? Somebody? It’s the season of love, isn’t it?
I hate you
“Don’t you want to take your roommate with you?” I teased.
Still no smile. “No way,” Elisha said, “I don’t have space on my flight for that thing.”
I was stuck with it again. It sat on my dresser, eyes boring holes exposing my lack of fraternal generosity. Scrooge, it whispered. Grinch. Abominable Snowmonster of the North.
It was you, I wanted to yell. Your stupid ugly rotten toilet bowl of a face got me here. There’s a reason you’re both made of porcelain, poophead. If I had never gotten you at the gift exchange, I would have bought Elisha a real present. Look what you did.
I picked it up. I could smash its head into the ground. I raised it in the air, then realized: it’s probably worth something online. I tossed it back onto the dresser and left it.
You think you can ignore me, trash heap? Think again. You can throw me in a dumpster, but I will still be there with you. I will be with you when you dream, poking my face through every foggy window. I will be there when you daydream, the clouds molding themselves into my smirks. I will be there when you check your wallet, remembering that I was the best gift you could give your brother, something you hated yourself. You thought you could give your disgust away, but it just let me live inside you deeper. You can crush my porcelain skull, but there’s nothing inside there. It’s already in you.
My mom threw the doll away.
When I noticed, I stopped and stared at the empty corner of the dresser. No more stares into my soul before bed? No more disfigured lounging of its pale limbs? No more baby?
Elisha came back for spring break. Since we were beyond tackling each other by then, we channeled our competitiveness into board games. He was moving a piece when I said, “So, it’s gotta be kinda lonely without your roommate up in Boston?”
He glared at me. Then he laughed. “Yeah, but you’d better do better next time.”