An underground Christmas dinner
It’s very hot today in Southern California.
The waiter arrives. Really, it’s blazing hot in Southern California today. Tony the American smiles exaggeratedly at the half-cheerful-half-slave little man, taking his glass of pina colada tequila boom boom straight from the tray.
“Thank you very much, Jeremy!”
But Jeremy is not the waiter’s name.
The weather is superb, the ocean waves have gone on vacation too, the sea is smooth as olive oil. Tony is the American in this story, and he is enjoying that sparkling cocktail, spread out on his deckchair, in fiery red Bermuda shorts, all paid by True Electra Corporations. Self-awarded travel prize, as he gave it himself, after having stated that the prize should have gone to those who would have got more contracts in the specific energy-saving category, where only he excelled (with any trick of the numbers allowed). Then two weeks on Southern California sand, with nothing to do apart from smiling and scratching your balls, under the inspiring warm ocean sun.
Ready for the plot twist?
Ready, we’re all ready.
The sand begins to gently shake. There is like a suction happening there, Jeremy the waiter runs off with the bowl of peanuts he was bringing to Tony the American. The latter, seeing the waiter running away, turns his American head and sees this growing hole. His reaction is an Olympic jump, a rotating flying cocktail and he is standing on the deckchair, ready to shit on himself.
The suction becomes a hole about one and a half meter wide, with flashes of light beginning to come out of it, and puffs of red dust and tops of real flames making such a nice effect, hit by the light of Southern California.
Tony is motionless now, standing on the deckchair, his forehead beaded with sweat, also because the hole is only a few meters from him and gives off an extraordinary heat. These are seconds when nothing happens, only the flames increase in height, but we know very well that Tony is who they want, down there in the hole. Him, his Bermuda shorts, his arrogant tanned skin, reddened by the ‘O sole mio’ of Southern California.
“No, it’s not for me. No.” but he thinks.
A skeleton looks out from the hole. White-white-whitest possible, bones only and nothing else, romantically toasted by the fire, as everyone likes things a little toasted. He comes out half-length, he smiles as only a figure with a skull instead of a face can easily do: a nice, pleasant smile.
“Tony, we’re waiting for you, Christmas dinner, you damn bastard!”
“No wait, no. Am I that late?”
“You are! Yes!”
The skeleton, still smiling, stretches an arm and, via some sort of intrinsic mechanism, the forearm begins to stretch just like a selfie stick. He stretches one two three, at least twenty times, until he catches Tony the American by the balls, with a rather firm and painful grip, considering the super bony hand and lack of fingertips.
“Come down! Now!”
The now missed American holidaymaker slowly descends from the deck chair and, gently pulled by his testicles, approaches the hole while the hi-tech skeleton’s forearm gradually retracts.
“Go change.” the skeleton smiles at him as Tony reaches the edge of the hole, sweating like a pig.
(End of the first part)
(Advertising of toothpaste, travel agencies, sanitary towels)
The table is set. Five seats. Pentagonal table. Dining room in blue and black colours, very classic and dusty furniture, black and gold curtains. The tablecloth is red with tiny Christmas decorations. The candles have recently been lit.
Tony the American is alone sitting. Dressed for special occasions: tailcoat, bow tie and everything needed and expected in between. Gelled hair, looks ready for the MTV Awards. He pours himself a glass of red, smells it and, with the casual approving look of a consummate actor, takes a sip. A message arrives on his cell phone. James Mazzilli, one of his suppliers, asks him how many cocktails he had already, there drained in Southern California heat. Tony tells him to go to hell.
From the door that overlooks the corridor you can hear another metal door closing, clearly the one of an old lift. A moment later a thin, blond man in his thirties takes his seat at the table. He puts two bicycle wheels leaning on the table leg next to him.
“Always the same fear, right? Someone’s gonna steal them, huh?” Tony says.
The towhead nods, a little angry and a little proud of his tenacious instinct for prevention.
“The rabbit isn’t there? Didn’t they call him? “ it’s Tony again speaking and the towhead not answering, even on Thursdays.
“I asked you a question, it’s Christmas, nobody’s gonna steal your bicycle wheels. I’m not trying to distract you to lift them. Can you answer?”
The towhead firmly grasps the wheels with one hand and exhales a cautious … “I don’t know.”
Through the other door, the one that leads to the kitchen, the skeleton enters, still naked, only bones, not even a bow on the missing genitals.
“We are waiting for the Moon Rabbit, he just called, he is late but he will join us, and asked politely to wait for him.”
“What about the fifth seat? Who goes there? ” And this time it is the towhead with the bike wheels speaking, clearly terrified by the invitation of a potential thief.
“It’s for Martin Luther.” the skeleton answers back.
Tony the American, even if he is not in one of his apartments, accepts to be a very formal host for a while, he lights the candles on the table, pours the wine into the five glasses and tries to start a little convivial conversation.
“What cuisine do we celebrate Christmas with this year? Who cooked?”
“This year is a Polish year, very traditional Polish cuisine. Pavel cooked, straight from the circle of assassins.”
“A good cook?”
“He was a cook in Warsaw, I trust him. His partner’s head blew off with a kitchen knife, the type you use for particularly tough meat.”
“Delicious to know, and what are we gonna eat? Human flesh? Steamed eyeballs?” and with his own joke Tony the American bursts out laughing, all alone. The skeleton never had any sense of humour, and the towhead with the bicycle wheels doesn’t feel like it, he can’t feel the need to cheer up.
“I heard the lift, the Moon Rabbit is coming.”
He is big, and tall. Two meters maybe, he is a gigantic rabbit, all white, thick fur, with huge legs and a nice jolly face. He comes in, greets everyone with a loud, ringing voice, and throws his butts on the chair, the seat between Tony the American and the skeleton.
“Of course… on the moon, with that weaker gravity thingy, you’re getting fatter and fatter. Can’t you just try and eat less? “ Tony the American again, of course.
“I don’t eat more, I just assimilate more. It’s a fluids thing you can’t understand.”
“But why did we invite Martin Luther? Does anyone know him? ”, The towhead, bravely coming forward.
“He was invited because he was chosen … you know that story, that guy with the top hat.” the skeleton explains, but says basically nothing.
“… and so they chose Martin Luther? The reformer? Really?” the towhead can’t believe his ears.
“Yes, but it seems that some of the voters understood it was Martin Luther King. It was somehow a fairly ignorant vote, but we just needed to fill the chair and divide the costs, and a new face for bingo later.”
“So when does this Luther arrive?” — Tony, ignorant and impatient.
“Not that easy, he’s taking a temporal gateway, he got the first one wrong, he ended too long in the future and found himself in Sydney during the arrival of the Japanese spaceship on Meganet, but he tripped over a human sensor and lost consciousness. Maybe he’s on the right track now, but he kindly warned me that he could be a couple of centuries late.” — The very informed skeleton all naked and pleased to speak.
“Nobody is in a hurry here.”
“Are you sure?”
“I wouldn’t mind going back to the beach.”
“Tony, it’s Christmas, stay with the family.”
“I don’t remember…” But Tony, who probably wanted to remember that he has no blood ties to the skeleton and everyone else, gets interrupted by the doorbell.
“I’m going to open it, this must be Martin.” The skeleton, lovely clicking and creaking, disappears in the corridor and then reappears after a few seconds.
“Gentlemen, my dear dead relatives, strawberries and grilled meat, welcome our guest from a very far away time, yet a dear friend, and never met before: Martin Luther.”
The towhead, the Moon Rabbit and Tony the American erupt in excited applause, they sound like thirty people, not three. Martin Luther steps in, calm and smiling, wearing a silver sequined jacket over a black Misfits T-shirt. He greets everyone, one by one, going around the table. His arrival gave a boost to the party atmosphere. He sits to the right of the skeleton, between him and the blond guy with the bicycle wheels.
“Friends all, excuse me, just a slight urgency, I have travelled a lot, may I take a quick shower?”
“No time for a shower! It’s ready! Dinner’s coming!”. The unexpected and thunderous voice belongs to Pavel the cook, who triumphantly entered with three trays of Polish canapes. While the sudden noisy enthusiasm raises and raises, because of the appetizers, the phone rings. The skeleton gets up and goes to answer.
“Tony, it’s for you. This James Mazzilli wants to know what happened to you.”
“Tell him I’m having dinner with friends, Christmas dinner, I’ll call him after the holidays.”
“Mr. Mazzilli, Tony has no time for you now. No, he’s not drinking cocktails, he’s drinking red wine, a good one. Merry Christmas to you.”
Pavel has added more trays on the table at which Tony the American, the skeleton, the tiny blond guy with the fear of stealing his bike wheels, the Moon Rabbit and Martin Luther now sat all together. Dinner has officially begun, candles perfectly lit, a Pogues record spinning by itself on the stardust-driven turntable, magic on magic.
So what was that Christmas dinner? What exactly? Who were they… before? Did anything happen later? Nothing, probably nothing, we don’t know. This story ends here. It is Christmas. Like for everyone, even for those five half-dead, half-spirits, half-weirdos, suddenly thrown where they couldn’t foresee, they were entitled to a Christmas with their family, with no downside if the family is new, unknown, open. Around a table, with a sufficient number of candles, every story can be interesting, every kindness appreciated, every hearth can heat. Everyone is better at Christmas, consciously and unconsciously, with the hope it will last for three hundred and sixty-five days ahead. The miserable, even at Christmas, will have very little hope of spending a good year until next Christmas, as St. George also said at the time of the Inquisition, the mysteries, the castle. But own there in the dining room, Tony the American now was doing nothing but telling dirty jokes, with the Moon Rabbit laughing with the power of thunder, making the whole table shake in contact with his lunar fat. The blond guy had slightly released the grip on the wheels of his bicycle, also because he needed his hands to eat. The skeleton was pouring wine and making toasts, burned ones, celebrating the unknown absent commensal, the thin, the fat, the hanged and the survivor, his words of honour. He likes to gossip, he knew some shady people, still alive … he usually goes into their dreams to let them confess to him, as an informal priest, for work, for some extra money, and it would be so nice to know more about it. When dried fruit was served, Martin Luther picked up the guitar and played some late medieval songs, gems in the melody and frightening for the clairvoyance of the birth and the death of Jesus.
After dinner, this exceptional Sagrada Familia together with Pavel the cook, will take an infernal a coal-powered lift to go two hundred floors down, for the Christmas bingo. Some anticipations leaked: a reproduction of Jimi Hendrix’s scalp, the alleged Dante’s big nose and both ears of Alan Turing will be the main prizes. But this will be another story, I can’t tell you everything right now, I have to welcome my guests. Merry Christmas, folks.