Make The Yuletide Pay

"Pardon me. Pardon me." Fran pushed her way through the bookshop. "Oops. Sorry – ow!" She'd never seen it this crowded, customers squeezed in so tightly they could barely browse. "Pardon. Pa... MOOOOVE!" She finally made it up to the till, where Manny was ringing up sales with an enthusiastic smile.

"Thank you, happy Christmas! Thank you, happy Christmas! Ooooh, let's say five quid... thank you, happy Christmas! Oh, hello, Fran. Thank you, happy Christmas!"

"Where's Bernard?"

"In the back. Thank you..."

She found Bernard in the kitchen, wild-eyed, chainsmoking nervously, swigging from a wine bottle and glaring into the shop. At least something was normal.

"Who are all those people?" Bernard demanded. "Why have they invaded my bookshop for the last three weeks? And what's that... noise?"

"They're Christmas shoppers, they want books, and that noise is 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day' on repeat." Fran shuddered. "Three weeks? When was the last time you slept?"

"Sleep, HAH!" Bernard took a drink, ran a shaking hand through his hair and stared out at Manny, who kept selling books with unconscionable merriness. "They all trust him," he hissed. "They come in, they give him money, take my books... But I see right through him, oh yes. He's just lulling them into security and then POW!" He illustrated said pow with his whole body. "He'll snap and kill them all! He'll be known as Satan's Claws, the bearded Christmas butcher!"

"What, Manny? He's a sweetheart, he couldn't hurt a fly." Fran killed one of the many flies who by now arguably had more legal right to the kitchen than Bernard.

"That's exactly what he wants you to think!" Bernard's eyes kept boring holes in Manny's back until Manny turned around and waved cheerfully at him before selling another five books. "See? The man's obsessed with me! He's just sick enough to sacrifice them all to me, his god!"

"Really don't think so," Fran said.



Just then Manny had a 30-second lull in business and popped his head into the kitchen. "Oh, Bernard, you haven't told me what you want for Christmas yet."

Bernard stared at him for several seconds, then yelled: "You're supposed to just KNOW!"