• Jeff South

The Kilroy All-Star Christmas Spectacular: The Chapters Were Hung By The Chimney With Care

My mom's favorite Christmas song is "Jingle Bell Rock," but only the Hall & Oates version. "It is the definitive recording of that song," she says and never entertains a rebuttal. You're entitled to your wrong opinion, as far as she is concerned. I'm listening to it right now as Tony and I steer the Dodge camper van back to Someone Else's Books to get some much needed weaponry from Kevin.


"He is storing a couple of prototypes there," Randi told us. "They haven't been used in the field. Only beta tested."


She wrote the weapon names on the back of one of her business cards and told us to hand it to Kevin. The Hall & Oates take on "Jingle Bell Rock" is keeping me pumped despite the circumstances of my mom being held hostage by Herpezoids and the incessant goddamn rain that is falling in lieu of festive snow.


"We're gonna get her back," Tony says. "We will."


"Damn skippy we are."


We pull in a spot in front of the bookstore but don't get out of the van until "Jingle Bell Rock" has ended because it is bad luck to get out of the car in the middle of a cool song. It's science and it's something Mom taught me. The last time I got of a car while a song was still playing I tripped on a curb and fell into a puddle of muddy water. I was seven.


"I told you," she said to me.


Never again, I told myself.



*



Kevin leads us down the stairs from the main floor of Someone Else's Books and into a private room in his basement and I suppose that sounds creepy and unsavory, but in this context it is a call to action. This basement is a mystery to regular bookstore customers, but to a select few it is the command center for all Herpezoid activity in the greater Poplar Bluff. Kevin uses this lair to organize Herpezoid hunts.


"Gentlemen." Kevin gestures to the general mess of the room. "Please ignore all of this. The cleaning room hasn't come this week because I don't have a cleaning woman and even if I did she wouldn't be allowed down here because she would then learn about Herpezoids and also frankly a man needs a space to call his own. I'm sure you understand."


Kevin has raised slovenliness to a kind of abstract art form. The mountain of dirty laundry in the corner by the washing machine looks like a rhinoceros. We are not here to judge how Kevin keeps a house, though. He taps a few digits on a keypad at the base of the stairs and the wall above his couch slides open to reveal an arsenal of rifles, pistols, and other assorted weapons.


"Snazzy," Tony says. "I love what you've done with the secret gun wall."


"Thank you." Kevin pulls two items from the display. "These babies are brand new."


He hands Tony a pistol with a thick barrel the color of a clear sky and an orange six cylinder revolver attached. It looks like a toy gun that shoots foam darts.


"What does this do?" he asks Kevin.


"That is the holiday version of the Passive Aggressive Agitator. One shot and your target will give you backhanded compliments about the gift you just gave them."


"I don't understand." Kevin sighs. "Okay. Shoot me."


"What?"


"You know how behavioral modification weapons work. It won't hurt me. It'll just change my behavior for a little bit. Shoot me."

Tony shrugs and honors Kevin's request. One quick sky blue bolt from the chamber slams into Kevin's chest. He doubles over and winces, then stands and looks at Tony. He wears a forced smile and holds an imaginary gift.


"Oh. Well. This is unexpected. I don't know what to say. It's nice to see you doing so well for change that you can give these more expensive gifts. Oh, and that Christmas sweater makes you look so much thinner."


"I shot him," Tony says, "but I feel like I'm the one being punished."


Kevin drones on about about how the gift is fine, really, even though it isn't what he asked for, but he's not mad. He just assumed Tony knew. It's fine. Really. Then, he pauses and his expression fades back into the usual Kevin face.


"See?" he says. "Easy peasy lemon squeezy."


"What does mine do?" I hold up the small clump of putty he handed me a moment ago.


"That one is really interesting," he says. "It is inspired by old cartoons. You throw it at a wall and when it sticks it creates the illusion that there is a hallway there. When someone tries to run through it, they crash and burn. Classic slapstick."


"Neato," I say.


"Perfect if you're trying to stop someone from escaping a room."


My hands are clammy and my mouth is dry and I'm having a hard time standing still.


"So, now what?" Tony asks. "We go spring Jeff's mom or do we go get Kelly Clarkson? Or should we get the pizzas first? We should probably get the pizzas. Unless those are being delivered."


"You guys will get the pizzas," Kevin says. "Then meet me, Randi, Dean, and Kelly Clarkson back here for further instructions."


"Wait," I say, "you're gonna let Kelly Clarkson into the private room where she see that enormous pile of dirty laundry and see all this Herpezoid shit?"


"First of all, that is clean laundry. Second, Kelly Clarkson knows about Herpezoids."


Color me astonished.




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