Pride Lands Online
'twas The Plush Before Christmas

'twas the night before Christmas
and all lay in hush
not a creature was stirring
not even a plush

How much is that plushie in the window?
The wee Simba cub with the grin.
And if, pray tell sir, you have a Nala
I'll buy all the stock you have in.


Christmas: Christian or not, one can not be indifferent about this holiday. One either loves the holiday, and the spirit and the fellowship that goes with it, or one hates the pressures and expense and obligations that go with it.

It seems to bring out the emotional duality in many of us. Some have mastered the skill of both loving and hating the holiday at the same time. Perhaps this is the same thing as indifference; the inability to secure one's feelings in any particular emotional pigeon-hole. I think it's something closer to a form of benign insanity.

I'm afraid I have to fall into the "haters" camp. I find the holiday to be a lot of needless fuss and pother and expense. The only marginal benefit I can attribute to the holiday is the rapturous occasion it affords to gather together the family for an orgy of overeating and squabbling.

This year was different, however. I knew there would be no dining with the turkeys in my clan because I'd put about a thousand miles between myself and the rest of my blood relatives. I couldn't count on any of my friends to be around for the holiday either; they had their OWN families to go fight with over Christmas.

This was going to be one of those "thirty-something bachelor Christmas" years. I considered a number of options, including a day of channel surfing. I thought on many different options, until I settled upon what I proudly call "The Plan".

The Plan was striking in its boldness, yet elegant in its simplicity. It was one of those things that could feasibly happen through spontaneity, but I decided not to risk to chance what I could carefully orchestrate. My plan was thus:

On or about Christmas Day, at approximately nine o'clock in the morning I would sit down at my computer with a forty ounce bottle of cheap scotch. At five minutes past the hour I would log onto the internet and start reading messages from people who were gloating on-line about the wonderful times they were planning to spend fighting with their families during the course of the holiday. At about twenty minutes past the hour I would get depressed and open the bottle of scotch.

I would then fire up the game DOOM and play my way through every level of it, drinking cheap scotch the whole time. At about six thirty that evening I would stagger outside, wearing nothing but my undergarments, and scream obscenities at the neighbors until the police arrived. I would then throw the three-quarter empty bottle at them. If all went according to The Plan, I would then spend a quiet evening enjoying Christmas dinner with the other residents of the drunk tank.

With the surety of the resolved, I dressed myself in my warmest winter jacket and Sorels, pulled on my Simba earmuffs and Timon toque, and departed on a sacred quest for cheap scotch. I hunched over into the bitter, frigid wind of a Winnipeg winter and slogged my way through the crunchy, blowing snow. As the daggers of wind sliced at my cheek bones, I let myself dream of the phantom warmth I would get from slugging back a good mouthful of the scotch that was the object of my outing. I wrapped my "Circle of Life" scarf around a little closer at the thought, revelling in the feel of the simulated wool against my neck.

Y trujed th'ru ye blyzard, ych torchorys plod
in syrch of ye scotch whych to wyrm my chyll bod'
ynd happn'd acryss ye most cyurius can
whych sundr'd compleat my yngenius plan

I only stopped in front of the convenience store because it was leeward of the blizzard. I had only planned to spend a few moments in the relatively still air to cup bare hands over my ears, to warm them - and to assure myself that they hadn't frozen and fallen off. I was a little miffed at the ineffectivenes of my Simba earmuffs; had they designed them for a tropical climate? The wind cut right through them! I flexed the life back into my ears and wondered briefly if lions ever suffered from cold ears.

So it was, then, while I stood outside the store, alternately puffing warm, steamy breaths into my cupped hands to restore feeling to my fingers and slapping sensation back into my face and ears, that I began to notice the ethereal colours and shapes of merchandise through the ice-rimed store window.

There were square things, and round things, and amorphous objects that I assumed to be bagged products. Although I could not make out any distinct features through the window, I could identify most of the products and brand names by the shape and colour of the containers. There was a box of Uncle Ben's Converted Rice. Over there were two cans of Mini Raviolis. Between them stood a row of Kraft Dinners - the official staple food of bachelors - lined up like so many cardboard sentinels. In the midst of these familiar products, however, was an oddly shaped can that I couldn't identify.

It stood alone, slightly apart from the other products, as if it was being shunned, or was embarrassed to be sharing a shelf with the others. Its shape was familiar, and at first I'd thought it was a can of simulated ham, but the label was wrong. I tried scraping away some of the ice from the window, but the rime was on the inside. It bothered me, this can. I was certain that it was a meat product, but I couldn't match it to the limited scope of familiar brand names that made up my repertoire of known canned meats.

Finally I could take it no more. I burst into the store amidst an eddy of icy snow and wind that set the door chimes to dancing in a cacophony of melodious tinkles. I paused in the doorway, slightly befuddled as the warm, moist air swept over my glasses and formed a blinding fog of crystalline ice. I removed my glasses and clutching them in one hand, Pumbaa mittens in other, I made my way through the glorious warmth to the front shelf where the mysterious can resided.

It was a can of processed turkey by-products.

Turkey! - I couldn't believe my luck. It was like finding the perfect tacky gift for your most annoying relative on Christmas eve. I reverently laid my glasses and mittens upon the self and hefted the can in my cupped hands. It was the perfect size for me; enough for one dinner and a couple of sandwiches, or perhaps enough for me and a few friends with very small appetites. I ran my fingers gingerly over the label; it was a brand name that I had never heard of before, from a company in one of those emerging democracies in eastern Europe.

The can was perfect and undented, the opening key was glued smartly to the side, still pristine and unbent. I shook the can and listened to the musical sloshing of processed turkey in a gelatinous sauce. The trilling of so many carollers that I had slammed the front door on had never sounded so sweet to my ears. I held the can to my cheek and shut my eyes, envisioning steaming slices of processed turkey on a plate, garnished with a sweet, quivering red mound of jellied cranberry.

At the thought of cranberry, I snapped out of my reverie. Could it be too much to hope that this magical store might stock cranberry sauce too? I tucked the turkey protectively into my armpit and began scouring the shelves. I poked and prodded through two rows of cans and was bordering on despair when I found it! Under a faded label, and copious quantities of dust, behind the Green Giant creamed corn there hid a solitary can of the red wonder. I snatched it up quickly, daring not look at the expiry date.

I grabbed a can of baby peas, a tin of sweet potatoes and a bag of instant mashed potatoes on my way to the checkout counter. Since this would be the very first Christmas dinner I had ever cooked on my own, I decided that there would be no corners cut, no expenses spared. At the recommendation of the grocer I also picked up a tin of gravy.

Few are things that warm folks' hearts
like cans of processed turkey parts.
It's just the sort of comfort food
to set a truly festive mood.

So buoyed were my spirits that I hardly felt the bite of the wind on my way home, though it tore at my face and ears mercilessly during the side trip to the liquor store. I bought the forty pounder of scotch I'd originally set out to buy because I reasoned that it never hurts to have a reserve plan in case dinner didn't turn out to my liking. The fact that the wind was at my back on the trip home also helped.

Though I had not been gone for more than forty minutes, my six cats were delighted to see me. Two of them rubbed around my ankles mewing and begging for attention, whilst the four cubs sat placidly on their shelf and regarded me with eager eyes.

With a dramatic flourish I placed my shopping bags on the counters and began removing the future feast, laying it out on the counter one item at a time. The two cats on the floor quickly lost interest and wandered off - presumably to nap. The cubs continued to sit, watching me with their usual rapt attention. Though they did not move throughout my entire ritual of unpacking the groceries, I could see that one of the Simbas could barely contain his excitement. I gave him a little affectionate squeeze and he purred his contentment. I felt the eyes of one of the Nalas burning into my back, so I picked her up and squeezed her so that she likewise purred.

In a wash of affection I swept up all four cubs into my arms and we had a group hug. I don't know how long this moment of mutual affection lasted, but I presently became aware of the groceries strewn about on the counter when we dislodged a can of creamed corn in our enthusiasm, and it unfortunately landed on my stockinged foot.

I put the cubs back on their shelf and turned my attention to the errant groceries. To my amazement, none of them required refrigeration. This actually came as something of a relief as I hadn't opened the refrigerator since the two day blackout some weeks before, and I was a little leery of what I might find therein.

I stacked the sum of my Christmas dinner into a tin pyramid on the end of the counter, gingerly placing the canned turkey in a position of honor at the top. It was no mean trick to get it to stay there! I confess that arranged thusly, the dinner looked less than impressive, and not altogether appetizing, but I knew what magic careful preparation could weave. I folded up the empty bags and jammed them into the first drawer I could find that still had room.

Oh! Future feast of scrumptious fare
arranged upon the shelf with care
in silver tins you silent lay
anticipating Christmas Day.

This accomplished, I moved along into the dining room to hang some Christmas decorations and set the festive mood for my dinner to come. Even though Christmas was still almost a day away, I have always felt that decorations should be hung in advance to avoid last minute complications. It was serendipitous that I began on the decorations as early as I did because I soon discovered that I had no Christmas decorations in the house. None! Fortunately I had a few rolls of all-purpose Lion King wrapping paper which had enough red and green hues in that that when cut into strips and strung on a jute cord, looked passingly festive.

I strung up four such strings, and then hung a dozen unmarked Lion King greeting cards from one of the cords to complete the decor. I stepped back to examine my work, and found it to my satisfaction. I brushed the debris from table and spread out my best (and only) linen cloth. I dug into the hall closet and removed my best plates from their newspaper wrappings. I laid out five of them around the table, placing my own plate at the master's seat.

After some searching in the kitchen I managed to find five sets of silver ware that were a reasonable match, and I laid them out. The napkins and wine glasses completed the entourage, and when I stepped back to examine my handiwork I had to confess that it looked very formal - but festive - indeed. The only task left, then, was the actual cooking of the dinner itself. That would wait until Christmas. I admonished the cats, who had been eager to help with the stringing of the festive jute cords, to stay off the table. I feared that they might feel inclined to rearrange the silver, or even attempt to restring the cords that they found so fascinating. With a final stern warning I turned out the light and made my way off to bed. My concerns were ill placed, however, as the two of them followed me off to bed and spent the entire night curled up with me. I think.

That night I hardly slept.

On Christmas morning I awoke early. I rose from my bed and wandered sleepily out to the kitchen to brew a pot of strong coffee. I would need the caffeine energy for the dinner preparations that were yet to come. I found the four cubs huddled together on the shelf where I had left them the previous evening. They greeted me with their usual ambiguous grins and friendly stares. The other two cats followed me out into the kitchen where they raised a caterwaul until I poured them a dish of the dry abomination that they consider food. Thus placated, they crunched noisily on their breakfast whilst I popped mine into the toaster.

When I was finished my meal, and had rinsed off the breakfast knife and cup, I turned my attention to the preparation of dinner. I was annoyed to find that my dinner pyramid had collapsed during the night. I recalled a mysterious clatter that had awakened me in the wee hours and turned an accusing look to the cubs, but they wore expressions of supreme innocence. I decided to let the matter drop, considering the jovial theme of the festive season, and set to the task of cooking a feast.

The first thing I did was line up the tins in order of preparation. My can opener was really going to earn its keep today! I started with the turkey, reasoning that it would likely take the longest preparation. Simba2 seemed very fascinated by the process, so I carried him over and allowed him to sit on the counter while I toiled. He watched with rapt fascination as I pried the key from the side of the turkey can and rolled back the seal. I peeled back the lid and drained off the mucilaginous packing fluid.

I lifted the turkey out onto a plate and debated over whether I should cook it whole, or slice it first. I opted to slice it, in order to reduce the microwaving time. I grabbed my breakfast knife and began the arduous chore of slicing the surprisingly rubbery bird. I had to scold Simba2 when it looked like he was getting ready to pounce on the quivering fowl. Eventually I conquered the task and placed the succulent slabs into the oven.

Well, I won't bore you with the meal preparations as I'm sure you've all cooked at least one meal in your lives.

The meal took much less time than I had expected to prepare, and within thirty-five minutes, myself and the four cubs were sitting around the dinner table with steaming dishes of Christmas delight arranged on the table before us. I'd forgotten to pick up any stuffing ingredients, but a bit of compromise saved the day when I boiled up a chicken bouillon cube and sopped it up with a couple slices of shredded bread.

I wasn't actually hungry yet, seeing as dinner was coming so close on the heels of breakfast, so I tried to lead the cubs in a few Christmas carols before eating.

He came upon a midnight clear
his ghost was a fire in the sky.
The visage of my late father, dear
looked down on his son from on high.

He spoke to me in a thund'rous voice
saying, "Son, you've forgotten your dad."
I tried at first to deny it, but
I knew in my heart that I had...

My voice tapered off as I realized that none of the others were singing along. The cubs just sat in their places, regarding me curiously with those glassy eyes of theirs. The poor dears must have been starving! Though I couldn't coax a note out of them, Simba1 and Nala1 purred when I gently squeezed them. I resigned myself to the fact that the cubs wanted to eat, not to sing. With a sigh, I dished out the meal.

Later that day I threw up. I guess I should have checked the expiry date on the cranberry sauce after all!

Anyway, that's how I spent my Christmas.

Text Version
{Submitted by Dave C.}
{HTML by Thumper}

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