Crimson stalactites of frosted what-the-twisted-fuck-is-happening-right-now chillingly maturated from the corners of the truck-bed’s gate like demonic slushie fingers bent on being noticeably villainous. One tail light busted, the two thoroughly baked teens in the truck’s cab were lucky to be navigating Winterset, Iowa’s version of the river Styx on a dreadfully snowy night that harbored the dreary and barren air of the planetoid Pluto in a K hole. Not a creature was stirring…other than these two hungover hamburglers, carting around several near-frozen carcasses five hours before midnight.
The delicate flakes of a white Christmas swirled in their pickup’s wake. They’d coursed this path before. Maneuvering the bumpy backroad with close to pitch-black looming at their periphery was becoming old hat. Hardly a word was exchanged between them on the drive.
Four boots crunched against the frozen, wet annoyance at their feet before two heavy doors slammed shut, both sets of galoshes aiming their clumsy paths toward the truck’s gate. One screeching of angry old hinges later – like the howling of a sickly, injured beast – and two hands reached to heave while one mouth hooted—
Marvin, the taller of the two youths, angling for the bit of the tarp that burritoed a sizeable head, paused, discernibly numb to the moment. He was the darker of the two teens. Where Shawn could compare the shade of his melanin to that of Ice Cube’s, Marvin would more closely blend in to a scene with Chris Tucker. Either, consequently, could match bowls in a bong-off with Smokey and Craig despite being just short of legal age. In their senior year at Benjamin Bakem High, at this point in the semester they both wondered if they’d ever get the chance to throw up the “deuces” at their graduation and doobie the fuck on out; blunts tucked under beanies, boastfully rebellious stroll carrying them off the podium…
“What?” Slightly sticky with stupor from the hold up, Marvin’s bloodshot eyes told the tale of a young man who’d been heavily over-medicated.
“You get the legs, man. I got the legs the last time.” Shawn, just as spent in the tanked-bank as his best dude, hung slothfully in the moment, waiting for their mutual agreement. Facial hair like lint on his chin, if the town were to put it to a vote it’s likely they’d motion for him to just shave it all off and stop pretending his scruff was dignified.
“The fuck difference does it make?” The afore-described “sticky with stupor” escalated to a gooey, mystified squint.
“The legs is heavier. Dude’s got big ass feet – fucking boots on an’ shit.”
“You seen this fucker’s belly? All the weight’s in the middle, bruh.” Marvin found the strength to fail at a gesture toward the cadaver-burrito’s bottom half. “Dude’s short, anyways – legs are like…I dunno… Fuckin’ corndogs or some shit.”
“Fuck, man… Just get the legs, a’ight? Damn… We in this shit together.”
A sigh moved Marvin’s light green, alien-beanied forehead to meet the tarped torso before he discovered more of that strength he waisted gesturing and used it to lift his chin and nod. “A’ight, man, chill… Here, get on this side.”
Boots depressed snow, positions exchanged, and Shawn grabbed just enough head to lose his half the minute the weight slid over other two tarped bodies and off the pickup.
A thump preceded Marvin’s drowsy concern.
Shawn attempted to recover his fumble but found his ass in the snow sooner than he found redemption.
Marvin’s shoulders slumped; beanied, alien antennae appropriately lackluster over his skullie. It was one of those uber hip, pop-culture snow caps that looked like no male over the age of four should own but somehow found their way into men’s sizes. Reflective, elliptical alien eyes adorning his forehead with two moveable antennae, green-balled tips, braided green rope dangling shoulder-length from the earflaps…
“Hurry, man, shit…”
Battling gravity and his weather-weary gear, Shawn made his way to his feet and found a stable grip under the twine that kept the tarp closed. He lifted at the neck – six inches shorter than Marvin in eight inches of snow – just barely getting the cadaver’s caboose up high enough to lug it toward its unlikely place of final respite, several miles into the woods and an hour north of the mall where the trio had first been acquainted. The path they tromped was another familiar one, blood and what was likely a small intestine dripping from the center of the tarp. By the time they made it to their destination – a quarry they figured would soon fill with snow – seventeen feet of some sad sap’s colon lazily laid behind.
Shawn nodded, and the sendoff proceeded as planned. Three counts and a release sent a two hundred and thirty-five-pound body over a steep ravine with serpent-like sinew whipping behind. Shawn’s fingers had loosened the twine around the tarp so that it unraveled in its fall, unveiling the barely-hanging-together carcass under it in jolly red velvet with white trim. The bloody and matted flag of a once proud, long white beard waved in the gully’s wind…until the elastic keeping it attached slipped from his head along with his Christmas hat and fluttered the rest of the way down. The body splattered into several pieces when it landed and joined the unthinkable carnival of gore that presided there before it.
Seven other jolly dead sons of the Happiest Time of Year already decorated the snowy floor, spread in fragments over a hundred feet; bits of red and green fabric and pink flesh scattered about like yuletide sprinkles over vanilla frosting.
Marvin led the way back for the next two flavors to add to their very troubled snowy desert while Shawn dragged behind. Santa’s little helpers were easily half the big man’s size, so they grabbed a tarped-elf apiece and proceeded to top off their evening’s burdens after both stumbling to their rumps three or four times, trails left behind as glairing as neon signs reading, “Murder Depository in 100ft”. The two elves’ tarps came apart like Santa’s before them, and if there was ever a greater waste of a sexier pair of candy cane thighs under holiday green skirts, it was not only a crime against Christmas, but against all of mankind.
Afterward, Shawn – brow and ears hidden under his red, black and white Star-Wars-themed Christmas beanie – shuffled back over their path, kicking up snow to hide the trail of death they left behind. But Marvin stayed fixed, manifesting a moment of clarity (or a resemblance of something thereabouts). His eyes cut through the icy winter breeze into the vicinity of an unspoken decree, and there, for the first time in his near-adult life he discovered something most weed-heads thought to be a myth:
His plod back to the passenger side of the truck and into the cab was an assiduous one.
“Wha?” Shawn was exhausted when he got in the truck: a lump of snot stuck on the seat. Not in any kind of condition for purposive conversation.
“That’s who’s next. That’s where we gotta go.”
“Fuck you mean, man? We can’t—”
“This shit ain’t over, man.” He looked to his one and only true friend, eyes never more unfaltering than now. “Not until it’s over.”
“What… You mean like right now?”
Shawn knew what he meant. An answer wasn’t required. Truth be told, as exhausted as he was, he was just as ready as Marvin was for this to be over… He’d just prefer to handle it after a few bong loads and a month-long nap.
The key in the engine turned, the emergency break went the way of the killer whales, wet boot met pedal, warm grill sucked cold snow…
The “day of” was nearly here…and only one man was left in town who was down on his luck enough this season to have agreed to take the velvet reins – and all for a beggarly wage of ten-eighty-five an hour…
But for the sorry son of a bitch known as Grandad Santa, it may be too much to hope for a happy New Year.