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The FYA Advent Calendar: Day Nineteen

Erin comes to you as The Ghost of Christmas Past in order to relay a yarn of Yuletide yore.

The FYA Advent Calendar: Day Nineteen
"Awoo! What are you doing there, little people? With your saw and your big scissors, eh? You think to garden this late, you should come here! I have some plants you can trim, no?"

It was the night before Christmas break . . .

When I was at college, I lived in a housing co-op.  If you're unfamiliar with how a co-op works, people live there and share chores and work together for, like, the good of the community and shit.  Officially there's no sister wives situation going on, but since we were all drunk, horny and most of all, lazy, we did have a lot of inter-community dalliances.

Now, most housing co-ops are very small- maybe 8 to 20 people living in them - but mine?  Mine was huge.  Think 120 college students, all living in a just-this-side of derelict building that had once been, at turns, a burger joint and an old folks home, with absolutely no oversight.  I mean, technically there WERE adults living there, but since those adults were people who thought living with 18 year olds was an excellent proposition, one cannot exactly trust their judgement.

At any rate, every year for Christmas, we would deck our humble halls for the holiday season, using the most obnoxious and, in actual fact, offensive objects d' arte possible.  For instance, every year some of the lads would go out and purchase a Christmas tree, which we would all then dutifully decorate in our own handmade ornaments.  Sounds quaint and lovely, right?  Except we made our ornaments from porno mags.  Dutifully clipped out labia, nipples and cocks 'n balls decorated (or, as we came to call it, desecrated) our Ho-Ho-Ho tree.  One year, after I'd spent the year working for a hair salon as their receptionist, I proudly squirreled home one of the mannequin heads just in time for our holiday festivities.  With the addition of some vibrant red lipstick, she became our tree topper every year after.  Her name was Suck Me Off Sally.  She was very festive.

artist rendering of Suck Me Off Sally

But this?  This isn't the story of the year we decided to take shots of 151 or the year that my friend Mark* managed to make an entire tree garland out of an old Penthouse.  This?  This is a story about a Christmas time WAR.

Now, at the holidays, things are supposed to be peaceful and bright. Truces are called, old arguments are put to bed, and enemies shake hands over cups of mulled cider.  But not hippies, man.  Because the awful truth of the matter is that in a time when goodwill is afforded to all mankind, hippies turn on each other, feeding off the frenzied violence, Hunger Games-style.

Our rival co-op (and yes, of course we had a rival co-op.  Just as sororities or fraternities would have a rival, just as football teams and intermural softball teams have rivals, so too do co-ops) was another large co-operative located about ten blocks away, nicknamed Ewok Village 3000 for its treehouse-like architecture.  (FYA bonus!  Henri used to live there!  Though at the time we did not know each other.)  For even though inside the haunted, asbestos-ridden walls of my former abode we hosted a drunken bacchanal nightly, we were at least calm and ordered about it.  I mean, yeah, it's cool to tap a few kegs of High Life on a Tuesday, but for all things holy, at least vaccuum a few times a week, you know?  The merry little Ewoks, however, were more of a "come as you please" nature.  (To this day I'm still not sure how Henri ended up there.  Gold Hi Top Sneakers have no place in such a godless whimsyland.)  They were more interested in cultivating their hothouse cannibus varietals than making sure the kitchen was clean, and they couldn't throw a party but it'd be busted up by the police within the hour.  Naturally, we felt we were the better co-op, nay, humans in our little endless drama.  After all, only one of our members had infested the community with body lice.

But one historic Christmas, the Ewoks decided to take their grubby little revenge on us!  Our building had a lobby, locked to the popular mainfare, and Stealth Ewoks 1 and 2 came a-knockin'.  Now, it was our policy as a co-op to vote on every member - that meant that in order to live there, one must apply, and then one's application was read aloud to the members, usually mocked mercilessly, and then voted upon.  But sometimes no one bothered to show up to meetings except for the few sad people who had no friends and nothing better to do.  And those people liked to vote in total lame assholes.

One of these total lame assholes, a confoundingly stupid girl who we will call Ashley, was sitting near the main doors the night our tale begins.  Now Ashley was a special kind of stupid; the kind of stupid you rarely meet with in real life but, having once discovered, makes you weep for the innocence you once knew.  Ashley did not know her major.  I do not mean she had yet to decide.  I mean she couldn't remember what it was.  Ashley once told me a story about how she could not locate the shoe she was presently wearing on her left foot.  It lasted thirty minutes.  At the end of the story, I explained to Ashley where her shoe was and then she kindly thanked me, moved on, and repeated the story to another person.  Don't get me wrong: Ashley wasn't suffering from developmental difficulties, or anything of that nature.  Ashley could think just as well as you or I could.  She just felt that thinking took up an abundance of effort and produced results no better than she could receive by asking someone else the question, so she never bothered to do it.

So when Ewoks 1 and 2 came to the door and asked Ashley if they could come in and look at our tree, Ashley said yes.

And when those same Ewoks took the tree out of the stand and told Ashley that they thought it might have a spot on it; they'd just go take it and check; Ashley said, "no problem."

Yes.  They used the same method as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  And our own little Cindy Lou Who fell for it.

When some other people came down to see that our beloved Ho Ho Ho tree, with all of its carefully crafted pornaments, had gone missing, we immediately questioned our only witness.  What had Ashley seen?  Two boys, she says.  Were they about her age?  Yes, Ashley supposed they were.  Did they seem at all familiar to her?  A little, Ashley thought, as if perhaps she'd seen them before.  At a baseball game, maybe, or an inter co-op meeting?  That could be likely, Ashley reasoned, though just as easily they could be her friends from home.

We knew what had happened.  The Ewoks had come and stolen our Christmas.  Taken all that we reserved as holy and bright.  Taken our tree, our pornaments, even poor Suck Me Off Sally, the fate of whom we could only shudder to guess.  We knew what we had to do.  We had to go to war.

A small army of troops was immediately formed.  It was decided that we would go on the offensive that night, try to recover our Ho Ho Ho tree and have it back in our main room by morning.  We would be nice to the Ewoks, we decided magnanimously.  After all, it was Christmas.  We'd just steal our tree back, restore it to its former glory, and that would be that.  We dressed in black and headed to enemy territory!

Right away, I could tell something was wrong.  Was it the quiet stillness hovering over Ewok Village 3000?  Or was it the weird scent in the air?  The delicate and pleasant smell of crisp pine mixed with the noxious stench of burned plastic?  We split up to investigate, but secretly, in our heart of hearts, we knew what we would find.  And when Alpha Team came back with the message that our tree was in ashes and that Sally - dear, defenseless, tarted-up Sally! - was now but a mess of blackened and melted plastic, it was with heavy hearts we trooped back to our home.

What next?  Our side had been dealt a heavy and crushing blow to our morals.  Other than stringing Ashley up by her hair and torturing her with repeat Teletubbies viewings, we didn't know how we would go on.  But then, slowly, a plan began to form in the morning hours.  We would repeat our excursion over to Ewok Village 3000 that night!  Only this time, we wouldn't come back empty handed . . .

The plan was simple in execution and lovely in its revenge.  We returned that night to the Ewoks, waiting until the windows facing the French House were dark.  (No one facing the French House liked to stay up late if they could help it.  The French House was obnoxious at all hours but even worse at night.)  Quietly and, well, cooperatively, we used a hand saw to cut down one of the lovely large trees in the Ewok Village's front lawn.  We thought our mission would be blown by the French, who stood on the roof and shouted down at us ("Awoo!  What are you doing there, little people?  With your saw and your big scissors, eh?  You think to garden this late, you should come here! I have some plants you can trim, no?"), but we worked quickly and quietly and the tree was down in no time.  We rushed off as swift-footed as possible, juggling a large tree between four people and jogging ten blocks.  If anyone thought us odd that night . . . oh, wait, no, this happened in Austin.  So no one would have.

We worked all night, making newer and even shinier pornaments for our new tree.  Sure, it wasn't a traditional Christmas tree.  It was, like, an Oak tree.  But it was ours, and its lovely branches were made even lovlier by a garland composed of the best of Barely Legal's Young Sluts.

artist approximation of HO HO HO tree, part deux, pre-desecrating

It only took the Ewoks a day or two to notice that a tree had randomly gone missing from their yard, and shorter still to notice its new place of prominance in front of our large picture windows.  When we saw them staring we'd wave and point to the tree, giving them a cheery, Christmasy thumbs up.

We thought it was over. 

We couldn't begin to be more wrong.

Cheered over our victory, we all left for Christmas, promising we'd be back in time for New Year's - after all, who wanted to ring in the New Year at home with our families when we could do it so much more promisingly back in Austin?  And so, with light hearts, we bid adieu, and travelled to the homes of our youths to delight in the warm bosom of family.

We started gradually making our way back, most of us arriving around December 30th.  As each of us came home, we were greeted with an unfamiliar stench.  "God almighty!" we all cried.  "Is that how it smells around here all the time!  This semester we must triple our efforts in cleanliness!"  But a day or two later and it became clear that it wasn't mustiness, or the nostalgia for our parents' clean houses that had us thinking the place smelled off.  It really stunk.  And we couldn't figure out why.

Perhaps something had gone off in the fridges?  We cleaned and scoured them all, even the walk in, and yet the stench grew.  Could something have died, we wondered?  It was possible, hell, probable; we'd all come across a dead body more than once in our years there.  But we checked all the rooms, under the beds and in the drawers (don't ask) and none of them produced the body of an overdosed college student or a knived homeless man.  And still the stench grew.  Was it Argonaut, the bon temp roulez New Orleans native who'd given us all body lice two years prior and who never showered and yet always seemed to be getting laid?  We made a visual inspection of his body through the safety of windows and made him do the grease test (push his bare butt against the window for a few seconds and then time how long it took to fade away), but it seemed even the miracle of Christmas extended to Argonaut's personal toilette

We were at a loss.  We were also seriously in danger of passing out from the fumes.  We had to find the source.  But just then!  A clue!  A brownish little spot, like rusted water, was seen dripping next to the closet where we'd once caught Lance and Ernesto having sex amongst the toilet paper.  Was it rust?  A dead animal?  We jimmied the ceiling tiles to see . . . just in time for the slow leaking pan of soy sauce, eggs and god knows (sardines?) to come crashing down on us.  We found similar ones all over the five-floor building, anywhere the nimble little Ewoks could reach an air vent.

Those furry little bastards.  How were we to get our revenge?

We knew, this time, that they had gone too far.  Besides torturing us with that smell for nearly a week, they'd forced me to once again view Argonaut's junk, a sight I'd already had to bleach from my brain three times before: once when he disrobed in front of me while I was talking about the weather, once when I caught him having sex with my best friend IN MY BED, and once when I walked in on him having sex with his girlfriend after they'd asked me to order them a pizza (during which he nonchalantly got out of bed, took the pizza from my hands, tossed it on the bed, and did not offer to reimburse me.  I felt the whole event was very rude.).  The new semester was coming, we had business to attend to, and this silly war with THC-addled Ewoks had gone too far.  We needed a coup de grace.

Several days of negotiations, bitter arguments within our own troops, and questionable changes of leadership occurred.  None of us could come up with something suitably horrible enough to close these clowns down for good.  For my part, I felt we needed what I called our "Godfather" moment, our horse's head in the bed.  Something to let these furry little pests know that we could never, would never be fucked with again, that doing so would only bring more harm upon their nation, upon their children's nation. 

Perhaps I was too literal with my analogy.  Perhaps, for a moment, need met supply that day.  Perhaps a Grinch's heart grew three sizes.  But I like to think what happened next was a miracle.  A Christmas miracle.

"I might have something," a young, relatively new member named Davey said.

"Speak to us, oh child," we elders intoned.  (Okay, not really, but just go with it for the sake of dramatic mood-building.)

"You know I am but a poor child," young Davey bah-rum-pa-pum-pumed.  "However, I did go deer hunting with my father over Christmas and shot a 10-point buck.  I have its head."

Suddenly, as if by sheer will, a choir of angels appeared and began to sing backup in perfect harmony!  "He has its head . . . its severed head . . . "

"It's in the walk-in freezer," Davey continued, against every single Texas Health Board state code and boy, I'm really glad the Health Inspector did not choose to show up that day, "in order to have it stuffed and mounted."

"A little weird," the angels sang.  "This hunting kid."

"Maybe," Davey suggested, "we could use it somehow?  I don't need to have the head.  I know I killed the deer."

"He doesn't need the head!  He killed the deer!  This kid has some balls!  Somewhere, not here!"  The angels dissipated into the mist whence they came as simultaneous lightbulbs winked on above all of us.  (Just in case, somewhere, someone wants to use this story to talk about metaphors.)

"Davey, you're brilliant!" I cried.  "Let's do it!"

And so, our merry band of buggered traveled again its lonely path of ten blocks, only this time, we were carrying a deer's head instead of a tree.  Using boards and some nails, stealth and the happy coincidence that the kitchen is not connected to the rest of the Ewok Village 3000's bedroom suites, we mounted the deer's head on top of their walk-in refrigerator, using a little ketchup to simulate blood dribbling down its chin.  One of our engineering majors rigged it so that, even if the little Ewoks tried to ignore Mr Bambi and open the fridge, his antlers would hook into the door, bringing the deer head down and eye level with whomever felt they could get around their dead little watcher.

We never heard a peep from that day forward.

And THAT, my friends, is how you get revenge on a group of completely vegetarian hippies who have a strict no meat policy in their kitchen and whose main interest group was PETA.  Merry Christmas!

*all names changed to protect the very, very guilty

(P.S. I certify that, but for the choir of heralding angels, all of the above is completely true.  I had a fucked up college experience, yo!)

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.