'Twas the night before Christmas, and just the kind I like. Kids grown up and gone, no stockings hanging by the chimney awaiting stuffing, no assembly of anything required - peace, it's wonderful. My dear partner wasn't exactly snoring, but she was sleeping peacefully beside me, and I was finishing my beloved New York Times crossword puzzle by the light of a soft bedlamp, a luxury I had rarely enjoyed in the last 40 years filled with darling, screaming, whining, yelling children. When I heard footsteps coming up the stairs, at first I thought it was one of the kids coming home late - then I remembered. None of them live here anymore. Putting down my newspaper puzzle quietly I reached under the bed for the aluminum baseball bat I keep there for just such emergencies as Christmas Eve intruders coming to remove rather than dispense holiday gifts. But this---? It wasn't what I expected. Silently, into the door of the bedroom, approached a figure that was vaguely humanoid. But it was so covered with Barbies, GI Joes, Cabbage Patch Kids and other juvenile horrors lashed to its body by a string of Christmas tree lights, I could hardly tell what it was. Trailing behind it was a stack of boxes stamped "Some assembly required" in French, Chinese and a sort of English. It raised a spectral arm and pointed a finger at me. I noticed the finger's nail was chewed to the quick. I did not wait longer. Seeing what I needed on the necklace tied about its neck, I slipped out of bed, grabbed the five-pound fruitcake I had spied, and, with all my strength, smashed the creature between the eyes. It disappeared. Climbing back into bed but making sure the handle of the baseball bat was still readily accessible, I sought again my place in the NYTimes crossword, and had just found it when - right. More footsteps on the stairs. This time, the creature that entered the bedroom was more human. It looked something like a social worker, complete with gray suit and large notebook. Unbidden it sat down on the corner of my bed and began to read in a monotonous but resonant voice. "Your oldest son is seeing a psychiatrist because of his passive agression induced by the allowance thing and also by the limited use of the car thing. Your daughter is considering divorce because her husband is as hysterical about monthly charge accuount bills as you were. Your mother has refrained from mentioning the insufficient number of times you telephoned to ask about her welfare during the past year...." Without another word, I again slipped out of bed and quietly tiptoed downstairs. I found what I wanted, in the living room and in the kitchen. As I quietly mounted the stairs, I could hear the voice droning on...."your brother is unsatisfied because you grew two inches taller than him even though you are two years younger...." And then the voice stopped, because I had utilized one of the objects brought from downstairs. It was the television remote control. I pointed it at the gabbling ghost of Christmases present and hit "mute." After a few seconds of soundless mouth-moving, the being eyed me in a distinctly uncharaitable way, then disappeared. Again I slipped back into bed and used the second item I had brought from downstairs - a large bag of frozen peas from the refrigerator freezing compartment. Settling them firmly on the top of my head, I knew the throbbing headache would be gone by the time the peas thawed. Now, where did I put that crossword puzzle.... But, of course, I heard one more set of footsteps on the stairs. The peas were still frozen, They might make a weapon, I thought, as a mistly worker had just vacated. Before it hade a chance to start babbling, I started. "All I want to know," I said, in a calm, reasonable voice that had not yet risen to a shriek, "is, what in the nine hells, seven heavens, purgatory, limbo or any other corner of the multiverse does any of this damnes claptrap have to do with the incarnation of God?" Realizing that I really was screaming now, and not wanting to wake my dear spouse who had endured this rant so patiently so many times, I modulated my tone. To the shining figure I said, "So, huh?" The figure sparkled radiantly and I heard it say within my thoughts, "I thought you'd never ask. It's amazing how few do.But, to answer your question," the voice went on, and described to me the workings of the Incarnation of God in all the realms of the multiverse, the planes of space, the planets, both inhabited and uninhabited, the worlds of if, and the worlds of when, and the worlds of infinity. Naturally, my human mind stumbled at the first hurdle of this galactically intellectual steeplechase, but it didn't matter. The answer was there. It was all there. Even if I could only capture a shred, or half a shred, it was enough. It was beautiful. I fell asleep in heavenly peace....sleep in heavenly peace.
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