1. "If Santa Claus did not exist, it would be necessary for us to invent him."
They should have seen it coming. It wasn't like it was subtle. The forces of The Klaus crept closer and closer to the border for years. There had always been talk about the encroachment of his holiday forces, but a line had been drawn in the sand across the beaches of Thanksgiving. "Your domain begins the day AFTER," he was told, as if that somehow settled the matter.
But if they'd just bothered to look around a little, they would have seen the signs-- a few lights up on homes and trees in mid-Novemeber, set up by eager beaver neighbors... the shopkeepers pulling out the garlands and dusting them off... the occasional tune popping up on the radio....
The Klaus already had people on the far side of the line and they were eager to serve his never-ending consumerist hunger. Saboteurs. Moles. Some had spent their whole lives secretly in his employ, listening to Bing Crosby, fingering the 25% Off Holiday Sale tags in their dark stock rooms.
In the bitterly cold winter of '03-'04, the forces of Christmas made their move.
2. "They're coming out of the goddamn walls!"
Chunk was telling us about some news article he saw years ago, about how tryptophan is good for your prostate or some bullshit like that, as we packed away the last of the bird. "I'm fucking serious!" he insisted around a full mouth's load of candied yams and cranberry. We were pelting him with muffins when the sound began... that sound that we only heard once in a very rare while.
Battle stations. Combat alert.
Doobie was the first to react, spitting up green beans as he shouted, "What the fuck do they think they're doing, calling a drill during dinner?" A general noise of rebellious agreement was just going up when Sarge busted into the mess hall. "GET THE FUCK UP, YOU TURKEY-GOBBLING SACKS OF SHIT! THIS IS NOT A FUCKING DRILL!"
Everyone was stunned for a few seconds as the wail of the alert rolled over the base... and then there was a deep, heavy BOOM in the distance. Impact. Explosion. Jesus, it really was combat. Needing to feel somehow safer, I reached down to get my pistol from its storage locker, and that's probably what saved my life.
Behind me, there was a "tink" and a "thump" and a rolling sound, and everyone else must have turned to look directly at what I only caught in the corner of my eye-- Rollins, the little weasely guy. Rollins, who never said much about himself. Rollins, who had just pulled the pin on a grenade and tossed it into the middle of the mess hall.
Rollins, that little fuck, who once mentioned (when pushed on it) that was from "way up north". Chunk had thought he meant he was Canadian, but Chunk was a dipshit-- didn't know they don't have Thanksgiving in Canada, at least not like we do. The Monk thought Rollins was probably ex-Montana militia or something.
Rollins. "Way up north." Fucker. We'd always heard intelligence reports about how the elves had moles and deep-cover operatives and shit. Already half leaned over, I toppled forward instinctively, putting the heavy oak table between me and the explosive.
There was a hard, fast, wet smacking sound and suddenly I was tumbling in a cloud of shattered wall fragments, covered in turkey and cranberry.
No... as I crumpled in a heap, my legs a ruined mess, I realized what I was covered in: Sarge. Chunk. Team mates. My squad. Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck.
Outside, the air was heavy with the first falling snow and the clashing, ringing cry of jingle bells.
The sky was filled with reindeer.
3. "First we reunite with Belgium... then France... then Austria...."
The Klaus smiled grimly as he looked over the latest reports. The defensive forces being brought to bear against his Thanksgiving assault were truly unbelievable. Despite his superior technology, and the fanatical devotion of his consumer army, it was clear that Thanksgiving had been so heavily reinforced by holiday warriors from around the year, and around the world, he would not be able to survive a protracted engagement. The line would hold for some time.
His Boxing Day ally spoke up: "We can't hope to maintain this level of conflict for very long-- the casualties we're suffering are already high, My Lord, and now that they're reinforcing, it will go very badly for all of us!"
The Klaus looked over slyly, then turned to the ambassador from New Years. "I trust our new alliance is acceptable to you?" he asked. The ambassador nodded. "Oh, yes! We are eager to be a part of your consumer holiday spirit!" he said. It was clear he was nursing a hangover again-- the negotiations had been a pushover.
The Klaus turned back to his Boxing Day ally. "New Years will no longer impede you, my friend. I think you'll find the defenses in the early part of the year to be minimal at this point... and the resources to be gained quite substantial."
The other man's eyes went wide. "You mean... they...." He could contain his elation no longer. "You are brilliant, mein Führer! Genius!"
Then, dismissed by The Klaus, he hastened from the room, eager to communicate new battle instructions to his forces.
4. "Film at 11."
FROM: WASHINGTON, GEORGE TO: INDEPENDENCE HQ CHRISTMAS FORCES HAVE OVERRUN FEBRUARY STOP VALENTINES DAY MASSACRE STOP PRESIDENT LINCOLN MYSELF AND SELECT PERSONNEL PULLING BACK STOP WILL WAGE GUERILLA DELAY TACTICS WHILE INDEPENDENCE DAY IS FORTIFIED STOP WE MUST NOT LET THE UNGODLY REGIME OF HOLIDAY CONSUMERISM WIN STOP GOD BE WITH YOU STOP
5. "Tear down the Wall!"
Unfortunately for the defenders, Thanksgiving was not as sound and secure a defensive line as was hoped; saboteurs operating behind the lines were continually harrassing reinforcements and impeding supply lines. As it became harder and harder to keep the massive defense force adequately fed with turkey, cranberry, yams, biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing, morale plummeted. The defenders, not the invaders, were waging the losing battle.
Finally, the order was given: Abandon stations and fall back to Halloween. A small brave band of old-timers took a stand on Veteran's Day and bought enough time-- paid for with their lives-- that the rest might safely evacuate.
The R&D team at Halloween HQ had come up with what they hoped would be an improved weapon for facing the forces of The Klaus: lust for candy. What better way to wage war against the greedy spirit of consumerism than with the greedy gluttony of trick or treaters?
As the elves slammed into the last day of October, they were suprised by the new and powerful tactic of the plucky defenders. The air filled with the smell of alpine fur all gummed up and sticky with caramel... with pixie stick sugar... with Red Vines.
And, for the first time, the defenders felt real hope.
6. "This will make a great movie someday."
Washington threw down the pistol. "This one's dry, compadre!" He grabbed another from his belt of spares and continued to lay fire into the December Horde. "You just about ready back there?"
Lincoln looked up for just a moment, vexation on his face. "Shut the hell up, will you? I'm already having a hard time concentrating on this thing with all the gunfire."
They were holed up in the remains of Memorial Day. Once the brave frontmost outpost on the borders of Summer, it was now a hollow wreck. A brave freedom fighter brigade from Cinco De Mayo had made excellent use of it while it lasted, but The Klaus knew how to take down a bunch of Mexicans. The forces of Christmas were arrayed on all sides; the two February Birthday presidents had taken refuge in a reinforced tower. It rang perpetually from the repeated impacts of candy cane projectiles. The Klaus was becoming angry at the nuisance these two rebels were proving to be.
For a moment, the incoming fire stopped, then an elvish voice cried out, "Ve haff new orders from the Klaus, ja? Your lives are to be spared if you surrender to us-- you are to be treated as guests. Wouldn't you like to see your lovely homeland of February again, instead of this miserable May hell?"
For a second, Washington's eyelids drooped wearily. February.... But he was caught up short by Lincoln's voice. "Snap out of it, amigo! You know they'll never let us live after the way we wired up Easter to blow like that."
Washington knew it was true. The poor bunny... he'd never wanted to be involved in any of this, but they had made him a pawn in a terrible game. And the resulting Sunday devastation had claimed many, many Christmas lives and halted their advance for over a month.
"Besides," the first American president agreed with a sigh, "when it comes down to it, Febraury is just my home away from home. Independence Day has always been my first love."
Lincoln shifted from his low crouch. "Okay, ready. Here's yours." He handed the portable rocket launcher to his fellow former president, then hefted his own. "Let's do it."
The rockets carried small nuclear warheads... smuggled all the way from sympathetic forces in August. Only one other existed, in late July.
Washington popped his head up in one window. "Okay!" he shouted. "We're coming down! Don't shoot! Which one of you are we negotiating with?"
There was a slight shift in the crowd... someone was coming forward. They couldn't see exactly who, but it did not matter-- the blast radii would be quite significant. He just wanted to pick the best possible ground zero.
"Count of three?" Lincoln asked breathlessly.
Washington nodded. "Just like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," he said. "One...."
They didn't wait to see if their aims were true-- as soon as the rockets left the tubes, the two former presidents leapt backwards from their high tower hideout. For a moment, time seemed to stop as they plummeted down, down, down-- then SPLASH, they struck the cool water of the ocean that spread across all those dozens of summer trips to the beach.
Moments later, the entire world above became bright and hot.
7. "It's an honor, Mister President."
I'll never forget meeting the Presidents. Washington had a way about him that made you know he was giving you the straight shit, no lies. And Lincoln shook my hand firmly, resolutely. I would have died for those two men, if it came to that. That's why I was there. That's why, despite my injuries from that first Thanksgiving attack, I had volunteered to be on the line at Independence Day.
If the Fourth fell, the year would belong to The Klaus, and I wouldn't want to live in a world like that, anyway. Death would be preferable to year-round gift wrapping.
There were a lot of us that felt that way. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki surprise on Memorial Day had crippled the Christmas charge across the year... It might almost be a fair fight now, even though rumor held that the Klaus himself was on the battlefield. They were six months away from home, badly hurt, in the heat of summer... and we were in the heart of Old Glory.
Outside, it began: The jingling bells. My new squad leader-- some old Revolutionary War hero or original member of the Continental Congress or something-- put a hand on my shoulder. "This is it, boys. Here we fight and here we die, by God."
I shouldered my musket, feeling more alive than I ever had.
8. "Boom City"
The crowd ooooooo's. Green and red, then changing to white and gold.
A string of firecrackers echoes across the Bay. Hunter slaps his hands over his ears but really, it's over so quick, he's too late. I should have maybe brought some earmuffs or something, despite the heat.
"Daddy," he asks, "why are there fireworks?"
"Well," I say, "The fourth of July celebrates how we won our freedom. See, a long time ago..." but Jade puts her hand on my arm and gives me that look that says, hon, he's three. The distinction between signing the Declaration of Independence, and actually winning the revolution months later, is going to be lost on him. I nod and smile.
"There was a big war a long time ago, and the good guys won. So we celebrate it now by making big explosions, just like the ones they had in the war. Sorta," I finally settle on. Good enough for Hunter, it would appear. He flops back on the grass and stares into the sky.
"Fireworks are neato," he decides. "Almost as good as Christmas!"
9. "...and to all a good night."
Happy holidays, you miserable bastards...
Dan Curtis Johnson
1 December 1999