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Put it on, they said. I've done things in life. Undignified things. We all do. Some of us do it for money. I knew a man named Tim who sold potholders on the boardwalk in Malibu. Looked undignified to me, but Tim was a prince. Knew every hobo in his kingdom, every floozy passed out in the alley. Some men walk through this life in quiet dignity. Those men walk alone. It's their choice. I won't begrudge it.

Tim's not alone. He may be just the king of beachside potholders, but that crown's real.

I put it on and they laughed. Sometimes you need to laugh. It's like winning a few hands at the casino. You get the thrill. Your blood vessels dilate a bit. Someone brings you a drink and you forget how heavy your feet feel on the ends of your legs at the end of the day. A meaningless, dreary day, if it happens to be like most. You get the moment, and the dealer smiles, because he knows this isn't how it ends.

It ends with you down to your last chips sitting next to an empty drink. It ends with you walking away from the table broke, because that's life, a long walk through a pile of chips and drinks and easy talk at the tables playing games you know you'll lose. It ends with you wearing a snuggie, surrounded by people baring their teeth because they think they're happy.

You put on the robe, they laugh, but sooner or later you know the fruitcake is waiting. It's under the tree, or in the sock, and no matter how much courage you've piled into your system it sits there, waiting to win the staring contest between you and all that is dull and unbearable in life. You can't dodge it. The fruitcake's waiting. It wins every time, because it has an advantage you don't. It can wait forever, and it never goes bad.

Check your labels. That's not how we work. Sorry, no returns or exchanges. Sincerely, the management.

P.S. The fruitcake always wins.

So, Merry Christmas. And thanks for the robe. I'll wear it, because it gets cold, and an old man thinks of things a young man once laughed at, sweetie.


Noir Rich Brooks

(HT: KSR via Stuart.)