So, I think that rap I did kinda got me back into the writing spirit, if just for Christmas. Anyway, not sure how I feel bout this one, but please let me know what you think. Thanks


I spent one too many Christmases exposed to my parents' ceaseless arguing over the subject of Santa Claus; my mom, of course, felt the need to defend physics and outright logic, while my dad, a lovable guy who really was a child at heart, took the guy in the red suit with a long white beard to the grave. In their need to defend what they believed to be right—protect the sanctity of their childhood or that of science—my mom and dad seemed to forget their two children, my sister Jazz and I, and we found ourselves amidst something that felt uncannily like a war, and in many ways it was. Of course, we did not celebrate Christmas—we might have a present or two beneath the tree, but it usually consisted of a wad of money or a gift card, because lord knew my parents were too preoccupied to waste time selecting presents—but our normal lives seemed to stop as well. Not only did their ghost inventions quickly come to a halt, but my mom stopped cooking meals for us as December twenty-fifth approached, and my dad never lectured us, even if we came home with news of a failed test.

Instead, my parents spent the days harassing the poor guy who'd donned the Santa costume and scarring the small children who'd gone to have their wishes granted. Of course, this was incredibly humiliating, as I often found myself being dragged to the mall by Tucker and Sam, and I would've sworn they were purposely choosing times when they knew my parents would be there, shrieking over one another the laws of physics and the prospect of childhood and tradition. When I saw them, not only did I feel the need to curl up in the darkest corner, but did I feel my sanity begin to slip, and experience brief moments of thought in which I would recognize that there was something very wrong with the way I lived—after all, my biggest issue with my parents was not a partner, as like is with most other kids my age. As I watched them thrust their opinions at one another, I would wonder what a normal Christmas would be like; sometimes, I tried to envision myself nestled against someone before a fire, eating turkey and clutching one of the hand-selected things I'd received to my heart.

During one of these degrading performances my parents put on, the town's mayor, a man who doubled as my arch nemesis, Vlad Masters, walked up to me and laid a hand on my shoulder. I can remember tensing—his presence was not only unexpected, but it was unwanted, of course, because I recognized that I had probably never looked weaker. When I looked at him, however, I saw he was smiling, and not in that disgusting way he does, seeming to be forever plotting, calculating your demise behind a mask of false kindness and gentility which allows him to play the role of this town's leader. In fact—and call me crazy, because even I still can't believe it—I saw that his smile was soft and that his eyes were sympathetic, and I did a double take, blinking; when I opened them again I saw that this expression—whatever it was or what it truly consisted of—was still present, and my mouth must have been hanging open a bit, because he gripped my chin (very gently, mind you) and carefully pushed my jaw back into place.

"Bugs will fly in there and lay eggs, you know," he said, and paused briefly to chuckle at my nothing-less-than-stunned expression, but resumed quickly, choppily, with no transition present, "I thought I'd just make it known to you, Daniel, that I'm going to be home on Christmas Eve, and I will have an abundance of food. That is, if you've had your share of…that," he gestured to my parents with the hand that was not holding my chin. My mother was saying something about the speed of light and the effects this would have on Santa's face.

There was a small moment in which time seemed to stop as I stared into his sparkling blue eyes; normally, if Vlad Masters had dared to touch me, I would have gone ghost and attacked him, even if it meant morphing in front of all these people, but on this day I found myself almost tranquillized by those thick, crystalline pools, which had drawn me to them and invited me in to swim in their sincerity as an oasis in a desert will a weary and sun-beaten traveler. When I looked into those eyes I felt my body relax and my mind melt—no more did I sense danger in Vlad Masters/Plasmius, but something which was beginning to emerge in this fog of ugliness which had encompassed his spirit, like a beacon in the night, one which was bringing me nearer and nearer, for safety and warmth. This hateful nature was where my struggle lie, but beyond it, these eyes were paradise, and seemed to testify that there was some treasure in this deadly sea.

However, it was only a moment, and my world seemed to shatter around me as I came out of this hazy state, for everything I'd come to know and take comfort in knowing was being turned on its head, and although these things that were embedded in my brain were anything but pleasant—things that testified to Vlad's evil nature which would never change—they were familiar and safe, and I'd always believed they'd remain constant. Frankly, I felt violated, but I found myself too stunned to even consider formulating a reply, and after a brief pause he pulled away, removing his hand but pausing to ruffle my hair before he walked off, glancing amusedly at the stage on which my parents were feuding as he passed. I watched him leave the mall in astounded silence, unmoving; my parents' little argument no longer seemed to matter.

Tonight—Christmas Eve, perhaps my least favorite night of the year—my parents were arguing more fiercely than ever; my mom's sarcasm and mimicking of my father's beliefs heightened, and my dad was becoming more violent, his teeth ground together and fists clenched, as if trying to keep himself under control, and it really hurt me, because I could see that he wanted nothing more than to hit her. I was glad, at least, that Jazz had retreated to her bedroom, pausing however to pluck her present from beneath the tree, a box that was not wrapped and on which her name was messily scribbled in permanent marker, so she did not have to witness my father's undiluted rage (one, I should mention, that is rarely ever seen on such a face as his). However, her headphones must have been stronger than mine, and I did not think I would be able to simply block out the noise of my parents' heated discussion, and so I left, at first believing this action had no purpose but knowing in the back of my mind that I intended to go to Vlad's. My parents were too distracted to care.

Whether my course was planned, my actions intentional, I found myself wandering to city hall on this cold night, and although I might have liked to, because it would have been easier, although so ungodly painful, to sit down on the bench in the park and sleep this night away, I did not stop myself, for when I thought of turning back, I saw his eyes, those beautiful blue eyes that had drawn me in and only let me go when they'd let me taste and made me yearn for more. At some point in time, I would wonder exactly what I was yearning for, but where truth lay in this mind of mine, I knew that too—I was yearning for affection on this painful night, and those eyes seemed to testify that in Vlad, affection I could find. Because if there was any reality this night, it was that no one wanted to be alone, and I certainly didn't, but it began to dawn on me swiftly that neither did Vlad, and that—although it certainly did hurt to admit—if anyone was to deserve my presence, it wasn't my feuding parents, who didn't give me the time of day, even on Christmas Eve, but someone who really needed it. And while my lower brain may label this as a terrible idea, my memory did not cease to function, and I saw those eyes. Those eyes said it was okay.

"Hello, dear boy," he said when he opened the door, and I don't think he'd actually taken a look at who stood before him before the words left his thin lips. Questionable this may have been, I could see his face light up immediately, and I knew that no matter how uncomfortable I may be initially, no matter how I might twist my foot in the snow or scratch the back of my neck and avoid eye contact, I was giving him something, and suddenly, almost unreasonably, that was enough for me. "I knew you'd come."

"Did you?" I said, although I think I had the minute he'd smiled at me at the mall.

"Oh, yes," he said, and there it was again—an expression which was light and excited, void of all maliciousness and ill-intent, the scheming forgotten. Simply, he seemed to be happy to be living in this moment at this time; it was as if he was just beginning to learn to be thankful for what he had and to be appreciative for the bones God threw to him every so often, and maybe he was. "Come in."

I did, very slowly, but I came in. He led of me out of the area of the place where business was conducted, or so I guessed, and into the little place for which he'd renounced his castle—one, I will admit, that is pretty freaking amazing—and now called home. The main area of his new home was very dark, dimly lit by a fire and a few lamps emitting faint glows. There were some Christmas decorations scattered about the place, but they were relatively interchangeable, looking as if you could leave them up all year and get away with it—a few woven-wire deer, a couple of religious statues, some red and green candles, and a pot containing red flowers. These things sat on bookshelves—sporting his favorites (one shelf was consumed by several volumes of "Romance for Rich Creepy Dummies", and the black and yellow streaks of the spines of the book along its length gave it the appearance of a bumble-bee) and cluttered the tops of darkly-colored furniture. In all honesty, I hoped he did not put too much thought into these so-called decorations because in them I found no cheer…but that was not what seemed to suck any Christmas spirit from my veins.

In the center of the room, there was a small coffee table. On it, there was one present—silver with a sleek black ribbon. But there was no tree.

I was left to stare at this barren sight, but he was already making himself comfortable on the maroon-colored couch. He patted one of its cushions gently. "Come here, Daniel."

I did not move from where I stood; simply, I gazed at the place where this celebrated icon should have gone, feeling a tired sense of a familiarity—after all, if I'd come to learn anything about Christmas, even if I did not readily celebrate it, it was that all families had a tree, and I began question why I'd come here, because I had of course been striving for celebration of the season, and Vlad seemed to have misplaced his ax or lost the keys to his car when it'd come time to chop one of them down. I began to theorize that I could have stayed home, wasting much less time and effort, and had just as much a disappointing Christmas as I would here, and without so much unneeded awkwardness. I thought how nice it might have been to have known that before I walked all the way over here in the freezing cold.

"Danny, come here," he repeated, and patted the couch again. "I have a present for you."

Ignoring his command, I said softly, my eyes unmoving from this empty void, "Where is your tree?"

Smiling, he picked up the silver box and set it in his lap, seemingly unfazed by my question, which felt so dreadfully important to me, as if it were a matter of life and death. "Why would I need a tree, Daniel?"

I paused to consider this a moment, but soon responded with the quip that can easily fool my own mind but has no real relevance to anything outside the sanctity of my head, "Well, it's Christmas. If you're going to celebrate Christmas you need a tree."

"A tree is simply one part of Christmas, Daniel, and it is not for me," he said offhandedly, staring down at his gift almost absentmindedly, but his gaze soon shifted to me and he motioned for me to come to him. "Come here, Danny. Have a seat."

"What do you mean, 'it's not for me'?" I asked, still unmoving, and significantly confused. Mechanically, I assumed that he was referring to Christmas itself, which was of course unfitting; this room was littered with symbols of God and so he must believe in Christianity, after all. I wondered vaguely if he'd simply picked and chose things he'd liked from Christianity to believe in and made up his own wacky religion, in which trees were the devil, and chose to profess this rather than the version they teach you at church.

His gaze had begun to harden, and I realized that he'd begun to understand that I did not take this tree lightly, nor was willing to let it go so I could see whatever he'd wrapped up in a pretty box to give me at the last minute. "Well, Daniel, as you might have noticed, I have no family."

My face twisted in bewilderment, and I lifted my hands up in a "what?" gesture, and I think he realized he would need to elaborate further, because I was thoroughly confused, and I knew I advertised this clearly on my face. I think the moment he seemed to grasp my unfamiliarity with what he was talking about, he was all-knowing, and had a newly cultured hold of a problem, as a student does in math class after having finally corrected a mistake they've made—he had a eureka! moment, one in which he breathed a sigh of relief and self-effacing amusement. The smile returned then, and he stood, placing my present back down on the cherry-colored coffee table, and took a step toward me.

"You don't know what a Christmas tree really is about, do you, Danny?"

I bet I was looking at him like he was crazy, but how couldn't I, really? "It's about Christmas…Christ…Jesus...right?"

He approached me easily and placed his hands on my shoulders, gripping firmly, reassuringly, but gently, and shook his head. Softly, he asked, "Do you have a tree in your house Danny?"

I nodded, shifting in his grip in discomfort, because his eyes were not enticing me as they had at the mall and lord knew that I associated those hands of his with destruction and evil. However, I was not expecting to escape him any time soon, because I was instilled with the knowledge that he could have squeezed my shoulders until the bones were dust, and I was looking to make it out of this with all my limbs intact, although in the back of my mind I could not ignore the truth thoughts as they shrieked my safety—that is, I knew he would not hurt me, and though I was uncomfortable, I felt no need to go ghost and propose a fight. If I'd had the notion to, I'd remember those eyes and be calmed once again.

"Do you like it?"

"No," I said honestly, and shifted again, unable to make my gaze meet his, staring distractedly at the bumble-bee line of manuals for romance.

"Did you enjoy decorating the tree?"

"No," I answered again, remembering how my mom quote unquote accidentally broke my dad's favorite ornament—a Santa Claus in his sleigh traveling around a deep blue globe. As you can imagine, a fight ensued—the worst yet, one that ended with my mom's favorite vase lying in pieces on the floor. "My parents…they fought the entire time."

"Daniel, my family was very poor when I was a boy," Vlad said after a small pause of consideration, and smiled reminiscently, the way my dad does often when recalling the glory days. "When Christmas rolled around, my father had to work extra hours to buy a turkey for us to have for dinner. My sister and I would go and chop down a tiny tree in the woods out back, because we weren't strong enough to carry a big one inside. And when we decorated it, we used paper snowflakes and strings of popcorn. We didn't have any lights to put on it, or fancy glass ornaments, but we did what we could, and we loved it. And when it was done, of course it looked like garbage, but we thought it was beautiful, because we made it together."

It was then that I had my eureka moment, and I was removed from my haze of stupidity—but it was one that I think my parents' ceaseless fighting induced, for how could I have seen that a tree was anything other than a symbol of religion when my parents made the process of decorating it anything but cheerful? Again, I felt that my world had been shaken and rearranged, like a sliding puzzle, and the pieces were just beginning to form a cohesive picture. It was, without a doubt, very empowering knowledge, one which opened up a book of new possibilities of emotions and feelings that season could evoke, gave me something that resembled control, but with it came something that removed any sense of enlightenment I'd been given and replaced it with undiluted sadness—the reason Vlad did not have a tree was because he had no one to enjoy it with.

I think it was then that I stopped feeling sorry for myself for once on Christmas Eve—I did not care that my parents had ruined my experience with our trees in the past, or, for that matter, anything that concerned Christmas, because I knew that there was no changing that and never would be. But I was suddenly instilled with the knowledge that if I could not have the Christmas I'd always dreamed of, I could at least try to give someone else the holiday of their dreams. And it looked like Vlad was my guy; while we might have a rivalry, it's easy to see how this guy can be so disturbed, and if just this once, I thought he deserved some sympathy.

So I said, "You got an ax lying around? I saw a tree a little ways from the park that'd fit perfect."

I don't think I'd ever seen him smile more widely.

"Of course, little badger. But open your present first."

Inside there was a ticket to one of the shows the planetarium in another town was putting on. It was something I'd been asking my parents to take me to see for a good portion of the year but had been since denied. And I was smiling—something that did not happen very often on Christmas Eve…and widely.

"Thank you," I said.

He smiled and reached out a hand and ran it through my hair for a moment before pulling it back and groping at the inside pocket of his suit coat and removing an identical ticket to the show. He waved it in front of my face and winked.

"So you don't get lonely."