Evolving Tradition

by: SLWatson

Disclaimer: All characters herein belong to Best Brains, Inc. I'm not making any money off of this.

Notes: Written as a Christmas present to the MST3K prose writers. It's been a long time.

"'Twas the Night before Christmas, when all through the house-"

"How come they just don't say 'Christmas Eve'?"

Joel frowned a little, looking down at the gangly gold robot nestled against his left side. He should have known that there would be running commentary and questions about this classical poem; the 'bots still had so much to learn about things, and their exposure had been pretty limited. "Well, it sounds prettier like this."

"And how come we're reading this on New Years night?" Servo asked, cuddled against Joel's right side.

"We're reading it now because Crow was frozen and I wanted him to hear it too. So I had to wait until he was unfrozen."


"Guys, guys... let me read."

Both 'bots fell silent. Joel waited for another breath of a moment, just in case they changed their minds, but they didn't. So, he continued.

"Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse-"

"But aren't mice nocturnal?" Servo piped up. "And what about all of the bacteria in the air? And single-celled organisms? Something had to be stirring in the house!"

Joel sighed a little, then patiently answered the silver 'bot's question, "It's just a way of saying that it was really really quiet."

"So why didn't they just..." Crow trailed off, then answered himself, "Oh. Because this sounds prettier."



Another breath, and Joel went on, "The stockings were hung by the chimney with care-"

"Fire hazard!" Crow complained.

"-In the hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there."

"Because everyone knows Santa is into breaking and entering," Servo added, in a mutter.

"Do you guys want me to read this or not?" Joel asked, starting to feel exasperated. This was supposed to be a nice moment; given all of the Gamera, he needed as many of those that he could get.

They grudgingly agreed that he should continue.

"The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
"While visions of suger-plums danced in their heads-"

"And visions of children danced in dentists' heads," Crow quipped, unable to resist.

Joel just kept going, hoping the gentle rhyme and meter would settle both of them down enough to enjoy the classical poem for what it was.

"And Ma in her 'kerchief and I in my cap,
"Had just settled down for a long winter nap-"

Servo put on an announcer voice, "Hibernation... it's not just for bears anymore!"

"When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
"I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter-"

"And I saw a lynch mob and emptied my bladder!" Crow said, then giggled with Tom.

Joel set the book down with a tired sort of sigh, shaking his head. This was going to be impossible. "Okay, guys, I give up. No more poem."

There was a long pause from the 'bots, then Servo spoke up, "Okay, okay. Sheesh. We'll quit. It's just... well, it's too easy!"

He didn't really believe that they would quit, but he did wanna read this to them. So he gave them the benefit of the doubt and continued, "Away to the window I flew like a flash-"

"-Just to get sued by DC's lawyers for cash-" Crow quipped, but at least he did so at a whisper.

"Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash-"

Tom giggled, "Whoa! Flash is right!"

Joel set the book down. "Okay, okay. I'm done."

They had barely managed to limp through the poem the year before. This year, Joel was determined to get through it with the minimum of interruptions. He wanted this to be their holiday tradition, just for the three of them. He'd already spent time with the other two 'bots (mercifully much easier to deal with) and now it was his time with Tom and Crow.

They weren't making it easy.

"The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow-" Joel recited.

"Too easy." Crow shook his head.

"Gave the lustre of midday to the objects below,
"When what to my wondering eyes should appear-"

"-but an LSD trip in progress, or maybe too much beer," Servo continued, then snickered.

They had changed so much in only a year. Now, they both went into the theater with him. Crow had grown out of his baby-phase somewhat, Servo had gotten a new frame, and Joel had become happy this role of 'semi-fatherhood'. Most of all, they had all fallen into that comfortable state called 'family'.

"But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer-"

"Has this guy ever even seen a reindeer!" Crow asked, incredulously.

Joel just soldiered on. "With a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick."

"Until Santa gets shoved into an HMO. He sure won't be lively and quick then!" Tom said.

"More rapid than eagles his coarsers they came-"

"With a sentence structure befitting a bad grammar flame..."

"Crow, please," Joel said, his determination finally broken. "Remember what you learned last year?"

"Yeah yeah, prettier, got it."

"Good. So please just bear that in mind, okay?"


Joel waited a beat and continued, "And he whistled and shouted and called them by name: 'Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen! On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen!'"

"Hey, buddy, I'm callin' my union rep about this! We don't have to take this abuse!" Tom shouted, gleefully, on behalf of the reindeer.

"Luggin' around your lard in twenty below," Crow added, muttering. "I say strike!"

Joel was thinking pretty hard about a strike right about now, but he managed to keep going anyway. "'To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!'"

Tom shook his head. "We're just gonna assume Santa doesn't know anything about architecture."

"You do that," Joel replied, with a sigh, and kept reading.

Every year, Joel tried to just get through this poem without much interruption, and every year the 'bots had all new quips for it. In this third reading, he pretty much gave up on trying to get them to settle down and read it anyway.

"As dry leaves that before the hurricane fly-"

"Bertha!" Tom shouted, referring to one of that summer's storms.

"-when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
"So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
"With a sleigh full of toys and Saint Nicholas too."

"The toys weighing considerably less than ole Saint Nick," Crow said, snarkily.

"Then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
"The prancing and pawing of each little hoof."

"And after I sued Santa for the damages, from then on Christmas was canceled." Servo ad libbed.

Joel had to smile a little. It was becoming as much a tradition to riff it as to read it. "As I drew in my head and was turning around-"

Crow laughed, "I saw that old burglar stealing my surround sound!"

"-down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound."

"Seismic activity registered at 5.2 on the Richter scale," Tom announced.

"He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot-"

"The other one being lost in the war," Crow said, at the same time Tom added, "PETA promptly released a press statement condemning him."

Joel chewed down a laugh and kept going, "-and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot."

"Chim-chim-chimney, chim-chim-charee...!" Servo sang.

"A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
"And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack."

"What'd I tell ya! No soliciting!" Crow yelled, griping.

"His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
"His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!"

"This guy's lusting over Santa," Crow said, then shuddered. "Ohhhh, the humanity!"

"Metaphorical elf love," Tom added.

Joel cracked up. Normally, he woulda tried to admonish them for that, but it was really hard to do it when it was that funny. In all three previous readings, they had some variations on those comments; in this fourth reading, he had a hard time not laughing at the build up. He had to admit that in the modern day, it could be considered a little creepy.

Amidst giggles, he managed to keep reading, "His droll little mouth was... was..." And then he started laughing all over again.

"He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf-"

"Who's Jenny Craig program failed his image of self," Tom said, still giggling a little over the previous stanzas.

"-and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself," Joel continued. He was still on the edge of a laugh himself, and it took a lot of composure not to give in. "A wink of his eye and a twist of his head-"

"Made me think of the Exorcist, I mused with some dread," Crow added.

"-soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread."

"If Santa was winkin' at me like that, I'd be getting worried."

"He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
"And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk."

Servo gasped, in mock horror, "Who's he callin' jerk! Jerk!"

"And laying his finger aside of his nose,
"And giving a nod, up the chimney he goes."

"Guess that nasal spray didn't work. Does anyone else find it deeply disturbing that Santa uses snot propulsion?" Crow asked, turning to the next page with his little gold claw.

Joel drew the two little 'bots closer. For five years now, they had gone through this routine. And even though it didn't turn into the sweet, sincere moment he had hoped for so long ago, it had become something unique to them. He didn't wish they would just be quiet while he read now... if anything, he treasured them chattering away.

Feeling warm, he went on to the finish, "He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle-"

Servo did a wolf-whistle, jokingly, and Crow giggled.

"And away they all flew like the down of a thistle-"

"Leaving behind the spiny bits for anyone to step on."

"But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight," Joel said softly, "'Happy Christmas to all... and to all a good night."

The two 'bots sat in silence for a long moment, as they had in the past, then both snuggled a little closer to their creator. And each, in turn, said what they felt.

"Merry Christmas, Joel."

He was a little surprised when they showed up at his door. It was kind of late; everyone was tired and ready for bed. Besides that, they only ever showed up when they wanted to do something mean to him, and that usually necessitated waiting until he was asleep.

So, Mike wasn't entirely sure what to say, as he stood in the doorway of his room and looked down at the two little robots there.

Apparently, they weren't sure what to say either.

After a long pause, Mike finally asked, "Something I can do for you guys?"

Crow looked at Servo, muttering, "I think we should scrap this idea."

"Just ask him!" the red 'bot all but shouted.

Crow looked down at the dog-eared book in his hands. If a 'bot could pout, he would be pouting. But finally he looked up at Mike and held out the book. "...will you read to us?"

Mike took the book and gave 'em a half-smile. "Yeah, sure."

So he read to them. And even though he had no way of knowing it, this was the first time they ever listened to the poem in silence. They just sat quietly, snuggled up on either side of him, looking at the pictures as he turned the pages, listening to the rhyme and meter. No giggling, no riffing, no joking.

He did know one thing, though...

It wasn't his voice they heard.