“You ain’t never seen Christmas until you seen it in Texas. Santa commands a Ford F-150, his pickup bed piled high with the expertly dressed carcasses of his reindeer, humanely dispatched one and all, ‘cept Blizten, who thrashed about a bit. He brings tidings of natures both good and picante, and fills the cowboy boots hung by the barbecue with care. Santa is also shot in around 40% of the homes he enters, but is able to shrug off any injury due to his being king of the snow-elfs.
“The Second Amendment don’t take the Yule off in Texas.
“I have seen palm trees wrapped root to frond in glittery gilt, and I have been asked to leave Midnight Mass in Melrose, Mass. Nogs of various provenance have been presented to me, along with toddies would scald a lesser man. I performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: they handled Handel, while I did the Wassail Watusi. The Rockettes cracked my nuts. Christmas always was a working holiday for Roy Head. Yes, that Roy Head.
“You should’ve heard of me.
“Growing up in Cascabel, the one thing we didn’t have was money. Or education. Decent roads, neither, or anything to do ‘cept get drunk and piss towards Oklahoma. I realize now I should have waited to number our deficiencies until after listing them, especially since I now remember several more problems with Cascabel that many or most would term dealbreakers, such as the structural racism, the freaky whine what came from east of town but no one could be more specific than that, and the Mofetta, which was a devillish skunk-beast the size of a large midget and twice as aggressive.
“It took cattle in the night, and once ran for mayor.
“The deprivations of our poverty were merely material. We were as brimming with faith as our drinking water was lacking in flouride; our hearts were as soft as our teeth, and we showed it during the Season which bears a Reason. No wall could flower in Cascabel when Father Christmas asked us to dance. Though free of funds with which to decorate, the town still gussied herself to a high and shiny polish. The square always featured a terrific and towering tree, the tradition transmitted to Texas through Teutons, even when we couldn’t afford a real fir and were forced to pile Mexican fellows on top of one another.
“It was a different time, and they were allowed to eat the popcorn strings.
“Most magical of all Saturnalias was my eighth. I had begun my show business career that annum, booking a regular gig at Miss Rosa’s Cathouse, which was right outside town, but not too far. I slung high notes at the lowlifes, and they flung five-spots at me, and I danced in a manner that caused me to be preemptively banned in Boston and New Boston. It was my legs that made the bluenoses see red: they defied both gravity and consequence, but their opprobrium never reached Miss Rosa’s, on account of opprobrium would have gotten its ass kicked the moment it walked in for being such a sissy word.
“Miss Rosa’s patrons are populists, linguistically.
“I high-kicked and shimmied; I did the Wig-Wam and the Charlie Chan; I did the two-step for two bits, and all the while wailing. I was the highest of altos at the time, as I had not yet pubertied, and I interpreted songs male and female in origin, including an Andrews Sisters medley during which I imitated all three of them women, even the one who had eyeballs what didn’t communicate with each other. Big Bucktoothed Pete was my accompanist, and though he has thick and graceless fingers that many have likened to swollen cow teats, he could manipulate that ivory better than the Chinese government, and without one lesson. That man’s ears were connected to his heart, which were furthermore attached to his hands. One day on the bus, I drew this vision for him in pencil, a great heart with ears and hands, and Big Bucktoothed Pete became frightened of the artwork and refused to look at it, so I chased him about the bus for hours waving the drawing and making oogie-boogie noises.
“But I get ahead of myself.
“Week after week, my engagement was held over at Miss Rosa’s. Talent scouts and song touts came from far, wide, and deep. A dressing room was procured, and then one I did not have to share with the bats. My daddy was stashed in a room upstairs where his scheming would find no purchase, only hourly rental, but he rarely fussed as my deal with Miss Rosa included regular and professional pickle-pumping. In addition, the girls had become enamorated with me, and would permit me to watch as they stripped from their frilly undergarments and put on their lacy covernothings. They would rub my head, and press bills in my hand, and remark on my cuteness, and they would do it with their titties out.
“I know at a young age that show biz was for me.
“The money flowed in as though it were water and I was a lower level than the one it currently occupied. At first, I was frugal and upright. This glory so recently achieved, and the remuneration thereof, could only be temporary. I opened a savings account, for which I received a new toaster that I gifted to Mama. This thrilled her, and we sat by the piano singing songs referencing, either directly or obliquely, Jesus. My joy was so complete that I felt like my soul had been simonized. The Heads was on our way up the ladder to heaven.
“Rich folks get a stairway, but we got a ladder.
“That same night of the toaster occasion, I was hollering and making a plentiful noise while my legs did their thing, and I realized that I was super-duper talented and that my success would go on until eternity, and it was no use saving any money because more would always come in. I was like Saul on the road to Damascus, but instead of being struck blind, I was struck awesome. A toaster wasn’t enough for Mama. It was more than Daddy deserved, but my mama was a sainted woman. She took in other people’s laundry, sometimes when they wasn’t looking. She could make a hearty and nutritious stew from a handful of rhubarb, some porridge, and an overdue bill. She scrimped and got by, never caring for herself.
“Daddy was a drunken fuckwit, but Mama was good people.
“And Christmas was fast approaching, getting a day closer every 24 hours. Like I said, Cascabel had faith when it came to Christmas, but now I had the bankroll to buy deeds. What, though, shall I do? My mind was blanker than the Antarctic landscape forgetting an acquaintance’s name. After another barn-stomper of a show, I assembled my brain trust of Big Bucktoothed Pete and Skippy Joe, who was still tending bar at Miss Rosa’s, and still not wearing a shirt. I put my query to them. Big Bucktoothed Pete advised paying off the house note, and perhaps arranging a credit deal for a semi-new automobile. Skippy Joe got a forceful nosebleed, and was not included in the discussion thereafter. I countered by noting that Mama was a churchgoing woman, and that her chosen house of worship, Fruitful Loins of Christ Risen Anointed and Sanctified in the Name of the Living God, was a ramshackle knockdown in which one of the exterior walls was held up by the choir and would be condemned had the county inspector not praised Jesus there.
“I know the Lord, and He likes a fancy church.
“It was settled, and when Skippy Joe had corralled his nasal anguish, he rejoined our happy circle and we repaired to the bar to drink in honor of Christmas. We had Die Hards, which are vodka with your shoes off. We drank Rudolphs, which is when you shoot so much gin your nose explodes like J.P. Morgan. We had Xmas Suicides, which are equal parts whiskey and phone calls you never made. It was going on dawn when we decided to begin construction, which begins with demolition, which we were perhaps too enthusiastic for. We had neither plan nor permit, and lacked the skills and tools required by the task, and we were eight years old. Luckily, my dear and sweet brother Skippy Joe put a halt to our schemes.
“Unluckily, he did so by burning the church down.
“It wasn’t his fault! Skippy Joe should not be permitted access to the wiring! He gets to fiddling! The building had the structural integrity of a popsicle-stick house, and not even name-brand popsicles! The generic kind! The church was consumed in mere moments, as was the load-bearing choir! Mama had to worship at the Catholic Church that Christmas Eve, and she died not long thereafter!”
“Sir, do you want the wings medium or hot?”
“I BELIEVE IT WAS PAPISM WHAT KILLED MAMA!”
“I’ll just get you medium.”