You don't seem to be a very religious guy; what do you do on Christmas Eve?
Best Holiday Wishes,
To explain I shall the scene: It was December 24, some indeterminate hours after the noon, and my lab had been all but abandoned to the purpose of fruitful labor.
"I AM LAZARUS, COME FROM THE DEAD, MOFOS!" my lab assistant, Rob, called out, gesturing with his rustling plastic sacks of carry-away cartons as he entered our cold, gray offices on the afternoon of the Eve of this most recent Christ's Mass.
"EXCELLENT WELL, ROB! DID YOU STEAL THE NAME OF GOD FROM THE TEMPLE?"
Rob popped his eyes in mock conspiracy, "Shhhh! They'll hear! Then we'll have to share the One True Name with all the riff-raff." He rattled his plastic sacks, "I also stole Chinese take-out from the Koreans and Mucinex from the pharmacy. Check it out," Rob held his sacks of food out to either side, straight-armed, and drew great whopping breaths in through his not-inconsequential nose, "I can breath through that fucker again. I even did the stairs without getting winded, and I was coughing up pink spongy shit two days ago."
"YOU TOOK THE STAIRS UP ALL 74 FLOORS TO MY LAB AND LAIR?"
"What," he stitched his brow. "No. No fucking way; I meant I took all the stairs from the top level of the parking lot to the first bank of elevators."
"THERE ARE SIX STEPS ALONG THAT PATH, IN TWO SETS OF THREE."
"Yeah, and I took 'em without breaking a sweat. Cured!" I let the matter rest.
"AND ALL OF THIS ACCOMPLISHED WITH THE SIMPLE THEFT OF CHINESE CUISINE, OVER-THE-COUNTER GUAIAC TREE SAP, AND THE NAME OF GOD?"
"Yeah, well, I paid cash for the pills and the chow." Rob set the sacks upon the floor, dug through them, and removed a white carton. "But the Name of God? Total five-finger discount. Ain't gonna never catch a King of the Road like me paying retail on God-Names." He loaded the carton into my lesser food hopper, flooded the chamber, pressurized the lock, gleefully shouted "Chow mein in the hole!" and launched my Eve of Christ's Mass supper into my tank. The density and pressure of the salt water peeled the pasteboard carton away from the mass of noodles which, warm and wok-engreasened wriggled in a stunning verisimilitude of life, writhing in their mass as they delicately twirled into my waterspace, only the first outliers starting to peel away and evenly distribute themselves throughout the tank. I plucked a sinuous noodle out and slurped it into my beak; blood-warm food is wonderful, of course, and it's fight for life refreshing, but there is some obscene relish in enjoying food that is as dead as a coffin's nail, and also a good thirty degrees hotter than any of its components were in life; like the Unsayable Name of God, its savor is in its intractable aesthetic conflicts.
"ROB, HAVE YOU READ THE TOLDOTH YESHU? I AM NO HEBRAIST—BY FAITH OR FORMAL TRAINING—BUT, WITHOUT A DOUBT, IT IS THE BEST. GOSPEL. EVER. SECULARLY SPEAKING."
Rob used a pair of chopping sticks to worm about in his first self-proffered carton, selecting a curl of cooked pink shrimp. "No," he said absently. "That the autobiography of that guy from Bob Marley's old-school Wailers"?
"NO. IT IS A MEDIEVAL ANTI-GOSPEL, PENNED BY HEBREWS, AND PROPORTING TO BE A COMPLETE AND TRUE ACCOUNT OF THE BIRTH, LIFE, AND TIMES OF JESUS CHRIST, WHICH IT DESCRIBES AS SOMETHING OF A SWINEY-TOOTHED WILDMAN, CONCEIVED OUT OF WEDLOCK AND IN MENSTRUATION BY A DECIDEDLY NEITHER VIRGINAL NOR IMMACULATE MOTHER AND A ROMAN SOLDIER, POSSIBLY WITH A LIMP AND A MILD LEARNING DISABILITY. THE BABE, IN TURN, LIVED ON TO BE A SEDUCER, A HERETIC, A THREE-BIT SORCERER, A DERIVATIVE AND LAZY GUITARIST, A LIAR, A THIEF, AND A SELF-PROMOTING SHOWBOAT. LATER HE DIES IN SHAME, HIS CORPSE IS STOLEN, AND THE REMAINING MEMBERS OF HIS BAND CLAIM HE WAS DOUBLE-RISEN, SON OF THE LORD, AND SO FORTH. IT IS REALLY QUITE A ROMP."
Rob chewed his fried rice and shrimp slowly, unmoved by my enthusiasm.
"Nope. You'd be shocked—shocked!—how little play Big J comes up in temple, even scandalous medieval paperbacks maligning him. For reals. Anyway, you know about Nittel Nacht, right? 'cause this and that go together like huevos verdes con jamon.
"INDEED, BOTH ARE PART OF THE SAME MINDSHARE, WITHOUT A DOUBT. SO, THEN, ROB, AS A FELLOW ENTHUSIAST ON MATTERS OF JUDAIC TRIVIA, I WONDER: TONIGHT IS THE EVE OF THE CHRIST'S MASS, AND THUS IS NITTEL NACHT, AND IS ALSO THE JEW SABBATH OF FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHT; WHICH WINS OUT: Nittel Nacht or Friday night observance? IS IT OF MORE IMPORTANCE TO KEEP THE LORD'S SABBATH, THUS SPREADING LIGHT UNTO THE WORLD EVEN ON THIS DARKEST OF DAYS—AND THUS, AFTER A MANNER SOMEWHAT INADVERTENT—SANCTIFY THE NATIVITY OF THE NON-MESSIAH, OR DOES ONE PROFANE THE SABBATH WITH THE QUIET AND PROPER LABOR OF TOILET-PAPER TEARING?"
Rob deftly plucked another tiny shrimp apostrophe from his carton, "Lord A., you won't believe this, but I was basically wondering the exact same thing when I was on the can this morning, and was sorta coin tossing between emailing Ahron Rubenstein, this Lubavitcher rabbi I kinda-sorta know, and basically letting that sleeping dog lie in order to catch up on the ass-load of work I let build up while I was choking on mucus and praying for death all week." Rob ate his shrimp, and then another, and then a scoop of rice, and then peered into his plastic sack. "You want a spring roll?"
"YES, I DO. YOU SHOULD EMAIL THE RABBI EXACTLY AT SUNSET TONIGHT. IT WILL BE A SCHRODINGER'S CAT SITUATION."
Rob smiled as he loaded two spring rolls and four sachets of duck sauce into my hopper. "Dude, that reminds me, Devo got an oven that has a Sabbath Setting I've never seen this before: Basically, when you have it set to 'Sabbath,' instead of either locking the controls out, disabling safety features, or engaging a cut-off (or activation) timer, it waits a random number of seconds between you hitting the button and it activating the stove." Rob slammed the hopper closed, shouted "Egg roll in the hole!" and launched them into my tank, where the duck sauce envelopes immediately burst into sweet, gooey clouds. "I guess this is supposed to absolve you of the responsibility of having done work on the Sabbath, on account you can't really know when the work—you know, like, the actual for-real electro-mechanical action—is going to take place. I have a notion that this sorta thing is generating new commentaries even at this very moment. For reals."
I deftly snatched each egg roll from its vector and swiped them through their cloud of dulcet ink.
"IS THAT WHAT NOT THE GOYIM ARE FOR? A FECKLESS, IMPECUNIOUS, AND GENERALLY WELL-MEANING GENTILE—SUCH AS MY OWN TYPIST JARWAUN— COULD SIT IN A COZY OBSERVANT JEWISH KITCHEN ON ANY GIVEN FRIDAY NIGHT, AND WHEN THE SEMITIC HOMEOWNERS LOOK HUNGRY SIMPLY RANDOMLY SET FIRES, OR NOT."
Rob bit into his own egg roll, then squeezed a dollop of sweet sauce within. "Well, keep in mind that this is a Boss Drum Machine Problem: Non-Jews at GE and Whirlpool are imagining solutions to what they see as a simple technical Jew problems. Like, the only people I know who even have ovens with Sabbath Settings are perplexed gentiles. Besides, I think goyim randomly setting fires in Jew kitchens on Friday night . . . well, isn't that sorta exactly where we started, with Nittel Nacht and your favorite rejected Gospel? I mean, we've come so far—used to be Jews back in dingy-ass Slavic places laying low, tearing TP, and hoping their shit doesn't get torched in Xmas Eve, now all the famousest Xmas songs are written by Jews, and me and a space alien are chilling on the Eve. Like, this is a boat we shouldn't be rocking, you know."
"FAIR POINT. SHALL WE EMAIL THE RABBI'S MOBILE DEVICE NOW, BEFORE HE DEACTIVATES IT FOR THE SABBATH?"
"Naw; let's just queue up Die Hard; it's fucking Xmas, dude."
In short, I do as all civilized beings whose systems of faith and knowledge predate the birth of Christ do on this awkwardly blessed day: I eat Chinese take-out and watch movies.
With the Remainder of the Holiday's Spirit I Remain
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