It was a frosty December evening as Nick looked out the window of Dr. Brown’s lab. The sun was setting behind the snow-capped pine trees as a chilly wind blew through them. Just kidding. It was 72 degrees, sunny, and the snow-capped pine trees were palm trees. Nick had just put in an order for ten gallons of methylamine, and didn’t at all question the purposes his eclectic boss had for the chemical. It was a few days before Christmas, and there was to be no work until after New Year’s. He would soon go home to Kayla, who had been complaining about her students’ behavior for some time. But the spirit of Christmas, spending time together, and exchanging gifts would soon alleviate those complaints.
Dr. Brown walked in and gave Nick a bottle of Patrón Añejo tequila. Then he got an idea. He told her he celebrated Hanukkah instead, and she gave him an additional eight bottles of the tequila. Then he told her he celebrated neither of these holidays, but celebrated Kwanzaa, and he was given a KFC gift card. So, Nick set out in his car down the hill that evening with over $400 of tequila and ten dollars of Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular problems. He also carried a box of office supplies: some pens and paper, a stapler, and a roll of duct tape, unbeknownst to his boss. In exchange, Nick gave Dr. Brown ten lemons super glued to a life-size stuffed bobcat, and a pass for the municipal bus system in Brisbane, Australia, all for which she had been dropping hints since early November.
Shortly after Nick got home, Christian showed up, carrying a plate of cinnamon buns.
“Yeah. It’s always a good idea to have cinnamon buns on hand,” said Christian. “I learned that when I worked in the bakery.”
Christian is working behind the counter at a bakery. Nicki Minaj walks into the bakery with a large snake.
[Christian:] Welcome to Amelie’s Bakery. Can I get either one of you something?
[Nicki]: My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon.
[Christian]: As a matter of fact, I do have cinnamon buns.
[Nicki]: Oh, wonderful!
Christian passes a cinnamon bun over the counter and the snake, very excited, swallows it whole.
Back in the present:
“Yeah, and then afterwards, oh my gosh, I got to look at her butt,” Christian said, giving Nick a nudge with his elbow.
“Wow. It almost seems as if you brought those cinnamon buns t just so I would say something and you could bring up that story,” Nick said.
“Uh, heh, heh. Don’t be silly.”
Just then, Steven pounded on the door.
“Nick! There you are! I just realized something!”
“Christmas is in a few days and I haven’t gotten Amanda anything! I don’t really know what to get her!”
“Oh, man. You’re going down to the wire on this. I already got Kayla her presents,” said Nick.
“She likes fish, right? I mean, that’s what she’s studying at UCRB, right?” Christian asked.
“Well get her a blue fish of some kind. Name it Dory. They’re coming out with Finding Dory as a sequel to Finding Nemo.”
“You guys realize Finding Nemo came out 11 and a half years ago. Don’t you feel old?”
“Finding Nemo, WMD’s, and other fiction from 2003…” commented Steven.
Meanwhile, at Sand Crab Elementary School, it was the last day of school before winter break. Kayla’s little miscreants thought they were all very clever and told her they didn’t want to see her until next year…of course, next year being two weeks away. Then a bunch of them began jumping up and down demanding that she show them a Christmas movie.
“I can’t show a Christmas movie, because not all of us celebrate Christmas,” she told them.
“Oh, you mean Eli Goldschwitz? The kid with the big nose who always complains about his asthma and talks about how much he loves his Polish grandparents and is really stingy with his crayons? We can’t see a Christmas movie because Eli is Hindu?” one kid protested.
“It’s basically like the Halloween policy. I can’t officially acknowledge that it exists. Think of it like the school district’s Area 51,” Kayla said.
“Whenever someone says ‘Seasons Greetings’ to my mom, she gets mad and says, ‘It’s Merry Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season,’” one girl said. “They’re attacking religion and taking it out of a religious holiday. It’d be like taking independence out of the 4th of July.”
“Yes, but when someone says ‘Merry Christmas’ to me, I get mad because they’re assuming I believe the same things as they do. Like I’m not allowed to have my own beliefs, which is arrogant,” Eli said. This was uncharacteristic of Eli, as he usually kept quiet on these matters.
Back at Nick’s apartment, the debate continued as to what Steven should get Amanda.
“A fish isn’t a good idea, because they die quickly. Fifty percent chance the fish dies while it’s still Christmas, then Christmas is ruined,” said Steven. “Come on, guys, I’m really stressing out over this!”
“What about getting her a several thousand dollar piece of jewelry, like all the TV commercials suggest? You know, that’s actually a pretty sexist marketing campaign: all women are so petty and superficial that the only way to make them happy is something shiny. Sure, some are, but not all,” said Nick.
“Amanda told me Samantha Martinez’s boyfriend gave her a Bentley for Christmas once, but she threw a big bitch fit because it was the previous year’s model,” said Steven.
“So what to get Amanda…” Christian said.
“Think of something she would want or need…and something easy for you to get,” Nick suggested.
“I know! I’ll get her a microscope!” Steven shouted.
“A microscope?” Nick questioned.
“Yes. Amanda is a scientist. Scientists look at shit through microscopes.”
“Well, I don’t really…”
“Yeah, yeah. I mean biologists. They’re always looking through microscopes. Just like chemists are always holding flasks of liquid up to their faces and staring intently at them as they swirl them around.”
“Dude, you gotta think smarter, not harder. You’re making Christmas gift-giving a bigger deal than it really is,” Nick said.
By this time, Nick brought out some beer from his fridge and offered his impromptu houseguests some, to go with the cinnamon buns Christian brought. The beer selection consisted of Ballast Point Sculpin IPA and Schlafly Tasmanian IPA, in a very scientific analysis to compare the hop profile. And of course, as Nick explained to them, collecting more data gives you better confidence in your conclusion, so they were very thorough and took lots of samples.
Some ideas were thrown around, and finally Christian said, “You should get Amanda some gold, Frankenstein, and myrrh. Oh, did I say ‘Frankenstein’? I mean frankincense, ha ha!”
“What even are frankincense and myrrh?” Steven asked.
“I don’t know. You know who knows, though? Kayla. She’s a teacher. Teachers have to know everything,” Nick suggested.
“All right! Let’s go down to Kayla’s school and ask her!” Christian said.
So, the three set out and walked down to the elementary school.
Meanwhile, in Kayla’s classroom, the debate was still ongoing. “I think the term ‘Happy Holidays’ is used more out of convenience. There are many holidays around this time of year, and rather than go through all of them or verifying which one the other person celebrates, it’s just easier to say ‘Happy Holidays,’” one girl said.
“Yeah. There’s Christmas and Hanukkah, of course. But also in December, there’s Bodhi Day in Buddhism, the Winter Solstice celebration in the Pagan/Wicca tradition, and the Death of the Prophet Zarathustra Day in the Zoroastrian faith. And then there’s Kwanzaa, which isn’t so much a religious holiday, but a cultural celebration started in the 1960’s combining elements of Black Nationalism with traditional celebrations of the harvest within the context of the West African diaspora,” another girl added.
At first, Kayla was very surprised that third graders were capable of having an intelligent conversation on such complex matters. But then a bunch of students all started shouting at each other and one called the other a butt sniffer, and Kayla’s sense of being impressed went out the window.
All of the commotion woke Leo, the class’s pet lizard, who was basking in the glow of his heat lamp in his tank. He blinked at the throng of kids yelling at each other with his head cocked slightly sideways. He cleared his throat, and then said, “I fail to understand why people take such offense when they are given what they perceive to be the incorrect holiday greeting. There is a multitude of holiday greetings, but their message is all the same. Someone may bid you Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or offer a non-denominational Happy Holidays. I do not see any of these as an attempt to strip any meaning from a holiday, nor is it an attempt to assert one’s views, religious or secular, on anyone else. To quote Shakespeare’s Juliet, ‘That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ No matter what name one assigns to the season, and the greeting they use, they are simply offering a universal wish of peace, enjoying a magical time of year with one’s family, and a renewal of time-honored traditions. It is a tragedy that such sentiments are lost in such an acrimonious debate.”
Just then, Christian, Nick, and Steven stumbled into the classroom.
“Yeah, say whatever you want. It’s all a crock,” said Nick.
The kids were stunned and stared at Leo. “Holy shit!” one exclaimed. “The lizard can talk!?”
Leo responded, “Only in elegant, philosophical monologues, where it is my intention to leave you feeling like a dick.”
“Why did we come down here again? Oh yeah. Kayla, what are frankincense and myrrh?” Christian asked.
“Hell if I know.”
“Oh wait. They’re aromatic resins extracted from plants indigenous to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, where their historic uses were for perfumes and incense. I can’t believe I forgot that. We didn’t have to come down here at all,” Nick said. “Sorry Kayla, continue imparting your erudition upon the youth of our community.”
Outside the school, it was quickly realized that no Christmas gift had been decided yet for Steven to get Amanda. Steven pulled at his hair in a panic, Christian looked at him quizzically, and Nick smirked. As they walked down the street, they passed a bookstore. Suddenly, Steven shouted, “I know just what to get her! Wait out here, I’ll be right back!” He dashed into the store, spent some time browsing their selection, and emerged with a collection of some of Oscar Wilde’s works, a book on Pacific fish and their habitats, and a copy of Fodor’s Antarctica, which simply recommended, “Bring a jacket.”
“Good job, Steven. The best gift to give someone is simple and practical, one that says, ‘I know you and understand what you want or need,’” Nick said.
“Then what did you get Kayla for Christmas?” Steven asked.
“Well, she’s a teacher, so I got her stuff that she would need lots of: office supplies, duct tape, and tequila.”