I had a couple Christmas-themed projects in mind, the other being "Exotroopers' Christmas". A computer virus, the Blue Screen of Death and a family medical emergency have kept me from making much progress (though the exotroopers story might still get done by the time the Serbs celebrate Christmas). This story was mostly written by hand in the past day. If I have sufficient time, I will try to type and post the rest in the next day.

Week 20

Post-apocalyptic Vegas seemed like an unlikely place for holiday festivities. Yet, throughout the city, evidences of Christmas celebrations could be seen. Christmas trees shone behind boarded windows. Santas waved from rooftop snipers' nests. And in the main corridor of Circus Circus, beside a huge, live Christmas tree, Santa listened, and not just to boys and girls.

"What do I want for Christmas? I don't know," Columbus said to Santa. "Look, isn't this kind of silly? Civilization's gone. Anything that hasn't been destroyed is up for grabs."

"Careful," an "elf" in a decidedly short skirt whispered in his ear. "I'm the one who decides whether you go on the `naughty' list."

"Well, really, I've already got most anything I could want. I have a beautiful wife…"

"Good save," whispered Wichita, the "elf".

"…who puts out every night…"

"Oo. True, but you're going to pay for saying it."

"…A sweet sister-in-law…"

"Okay, that gets you a lighter sentence."

"…And a best friend who happens to be the best zombie killer on the continent. How much else do I really need?"

"Austin! I need to give you something, so just put something out there already!"

Tallahassee had no trouble getting into the spirit of things. "Well, Santa, I guess I'm a pretty simple man. Get me a few yards of ammo, maybe a few new guns to shoot it with, and I'll be happy."

"Anything else?" said a second, shorter elf. Tal smiled at Little Rock.

"Well… I hardly ever tell anybody about this… I've driven a lot of cars, most of them dem fine… But the best was one that I only ever got to ride along in: my cousin Nate's royal purple Mk. 3 Shelby Cobra. Most beautiful car I've ever seen, and powerful… I was only 14 when I rode along with him. By the time I was 16, it was either wrecked or sold off, depending on who was telling the story. I always hoped he'd sold it, to someone who could take good care of it. Anyway, for the longest time, what I wanted more than anything was a chance, just once, to drive a Cobra…"

Then it was Little Rock's turn. "Well, I always wanted an electric guitar," she said. "I know I'd prob'ly stink, but I'd still like to try…"

And finally, it was Wichita's turn. "Well, I'd love to see Breakfast At Tiffany's again. When I was young, I mean, really young, it was my favorite movie. My mom had a video that I must have watched a hundred times. I never understood the plot, I suppose not even most of the dialogue, but I thought Hep was beautiful. Even when we didn't have our own TV anymore, I held onto it, and when I couldn't get to a VCR, I would spend hours just looking at her picture on the box… Hell. What I really wanted then, was to be her, to have the jewelry, and that long slinky dress, and those gloves that went up past her elbows… Uhh…" Columbus was standing beside her, listening closely.

Week 22

"So, does everyone have their shopping done?" Little Rock said.

"Like I'd tell you," Columbus said.

"Like I wouldn't know," his sister-in-law retorted. They sat on their beds in their hotel room, where it was indeed difficult to keep anything secret. The only concession to the season was a transparent plastic Christmas tree sculpture that flashed different colors and played music when a button was pushed.

"Don't push that button," Columbus said without looking up from his reading.

"Try and stop me," Little Rock said, but withdrew her hand. Instead, she nettled, "I hope you came up with something better than that stupid old movie."

"Like I'd want to spend my evenings watching a movie where the dramatic climax is a rich brat getting out of a cab to look for her cat," Columbus said.

On the couch, Tallahassee stirred. "For cryin' out loud, the way you bicker, you two could be newlyweds." Columbus and Little Rock glared at each other, a look that became something more mutually disconcerting. Little Rock was first to look away, burying her nose in a music magazine.

"Hi, everyone," Wichita said as she entered. Her husband straightened up. "Well, despite a certain someone's complete lack of cooperation, I have my Christmas shopping done."

"Say, Krista," said Little Rock, "have you told them?" Her sister looked at her in surprise. Little Rock continued, "Her birthday is December 25. Krista's a Christmas baby."

"That's right," Krista said, hurriedly stowing a couple bags. Then she hopped onto the bed beside her husband. "My mom used to say, I was the only Christmas present she ever needed."

"So," Little Rock said, "you're shopping for Christmas and her birthday." Columbus shot out a hand, too late. His sister-in-law shot out her hand, and the tree flashed and blared tinny, taunting strains of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".

Week 23

And now, it was Christmas Eve. The crew were celebrating by singing carols, if frequently with major changes, like the present selection:

"In the city we'll beat to death a zombie

And pretend that he's a circus clown

They'll say, should he be buried?

We'll say, no way

Just leave him till the other zombies come around

Later on, we'll perspire

As we cremate them in a fire

And feast unafraid on reindeer remains

Walking in a winter zombieland..."

:"Well," Little Rock finally said, "I'm getting tired. Why don't we call it a night?"

Beside her, Krista said, "Okay. Sleep well."

"Hey, I was ready a while ago," Tal said, turning his hat down over his head.

Krista looked to her husband on the other bed. He nodded and smiled, and she returned the look with a wicked smirk. He turned out both lamps, leaving her to curl up beside her sister. Furtively, she clasped a tiny teddy bear with a Santa hat.