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Christmas in Crackland: The Annual Pageant

by Devon Pitlor

Sunday, December 23, 2012

As another rather non-eventful year was passing into history in the

Autonomous Kingdom of Crackland and Its Associated Territories,
King Zack of the House of Wampaugh sat wearily on his knotty pine
throne well above the throngs of well-wishers who had been admitted
into the sprawling palace to celebrate along with their benevolent yet
unyielding king a holiday they had once so cherished on the surface.
Notables of the House of Wampaugh (named for the exclusive
preparatory school where Zack Hammer-Twift had once reigned as
prom king) mingled about on the polished tile throne room floor
awaiting the various pardons, edicts and verdicts that their king
would issue before the glorious Christmas pageant would unfold by
torchlight and the always-springtime night of the subterranean colony
would fall from the invisible domed rooftop of what most present
deemed as the truest paradise of tranquility and order to be found on
Earth. As ever, King Zack nourished his share of mystical intrigues.
Several food tasters, petty Canadian and American criminals all---
brought to Crackland to bolster the awesome sway of its king---had
died during the testing of the huge meal that was being prepared in
the several royal kitchens within the massive, one-storey palace. Once
again, the rumors of the wicked Jabari the Magician, now known
bluntly as Trey Agremont, swirled amidst the crowd. Jabari had, as
predicted, become a white man, a sorcerer of immense power, and had
escaped the royal cage earlier that year by transforming himself into a
bladder bird and lifting off through its narrowly-spaced bars. It was a
galling and still unresolved quandary, one that would require a more
energetic royal presence. Still the discussion on many lips deviated
away from the enigma of the unseen Jabari and to rueful speculations
about the edibility of Crackland’s only flying creatures, bladder birds.
It was well-known by this time that bladder birds ate only discarded
human waste and rotting farm animals. In this way, they developed
within their blimp-shaped bodies natural gasses, which, upon sudden
release would propel them handily through the sunny skies of the
underground colony. King Zack had decreed this year that all invited
guests would be treated to mandatory dishes made in various ways
from bladder birds, but no one had ever commented on the taste of
these offal-eaters. The smell of their escaping methane on launch
quite closely resembled that of human flatulence, and it was surmised
widely that they tasted “like shit.” But the king had ordered their
consumption and had instructed the most innovative of the royal chefs
to prepare them in diverse ways, using exotic sauces concocted from
the indigenous flora of the land. A legion of unsuspecting food tasters
had been on hand to personally gauge the toxicity of these native
plants, and, as mentioned, some had found them tasty but, regrettably,

As the king and his new queen Taryn tickled, poked and petted at one
another on the raised wooden throne, the Grand Vizier Aaron
Arvicher, dressed as ever in his flowing purple one piece robe
embroidered with moons and stars, handed scrolled documents up to
his king and queen. These amounted to suggestions for a host of New
Year’s edicts, which King Zack skimmed lightly and usually
proclaimed law on the spot. There were also pardons. Certain
criminals, many imported directly from the surface to enhance the
clout of the monarchy, were pardoned with no more than a nervous
giggle from Queen Taryn. “He’s cute,” she cooed. And Zack waved
his wooden scepter and the man went free. “One of her breasts is so
much larger than the other,” Taryn remarked. And Zack summoned
a dreaded Midnight Rider, and the unfortunate girl was taken directly
to the royal executioner, Butch McGreevey, who wasted no time
separating her head from her body through the agency of his well-
worn, cold steel axe, which for over ten years had protected the
sanctity of royal edict.

Among his many other proclamations, Zack agreed to allow mint (and
mint only) chewing gum in the Kingdom for the following year.
However, anyone who stuck it under a table or a desk would be
delivered without petition to Butch McGreevey and his blood soaked
tree stump which bore the stain of many years of swift and
indisputable justice. There was going to be no dried chewing gum
stuck under things in Crackland.

Zack also had issued an edict that more domestic animals, like
bladder birds, would be eaten and sold in the markets. Crackland
had a certain number of indigenous creatures, most of which
resembled scaled reptiles and slithered through the tall grasses near
the uncultivated edges of the kingdom. Some of these lizard-like
things looked rather tasty to Zack, but heretofore he had not allowed
the eating of them. Christmas 2012 and the year to follow would
reverse that. Zack had, however, as a precaution ordered the roasting
of seventeen bull oxen as standard provender for the feast, and
surface vegetables abounded as steaming side dishes. Especially
french fries, always Zack’s indisputable favorites.

Next to standard agriculture and light manufacturing, skateboard

parks seemed to have become the main pre-occupation of the
Crackland landscape. Skateboard park builders like Teagan Carsey
and his lover Lane Dorfling, whom we have already met, remained
hard at work during the long Crackland days to satisfy the needs of a
public that, along with its handsome king, had gone recently mad over
skateboarding. Many, like Zack, had also opted for the alternating
sexual preference of lithe skater boys over the spouse who had come
along with them to settle the new colony. Following the
unpleasantness associated with Nikki Barazan, skater boy turned girl,
who had escaped royal punishment by fleeing---herself no doubt as a
bladder bird----with the transmogrified Jabari the Magician, aka Trey
Agremont, the king had declared that sexual contact with cute skater
boys was henceforth legal and morally acceptable in Crackland, and,
of course he had a contingent of the best looking of these young men
at his disposal in chambers where pretty little Taryn, his frisky
teenage queen, was never permitted.

It was, in effect, to the most eye-catching and lissom of these skater

boys the task of presenting the Christmas Pageant was given. A big
tree, which had not yet been biologically identified or named, was
erected in the central throne room. Around it stood somber-faced
Midnight Riders with real metal swords and brass knuckle-dusters.
Their presence was merely to keep order, as it had always been for
this motorcycle club which had been awarded the task of policing the
kingdom from the start. The tree, although it drooped and sagged like
a waterside willow, was designated a Christmas tree by Zack and
blessed by Grand Vizier Aaron as a true icon of the holy season. It
smelled like turpentine and was crawling with tiny green mites, but no
matter, it was this year’s tree, and it needed to be decorated.

“Rockin Around the Christmas Tree,” first by Brenda Lee and then
the more modern version by Miley Cyrus blasted in a continuous loop
through the internal speaker system. Zack rose to his feet, and
crumbs from some sort of chocolate cookies he had been eating fell
from his stylish polo shirt to the floor. He gave a signal to Taryn to
begin the trimming of the tree. Taryn, giggling as ever, stood up and
motioned for about twenty of her ladies in waiting to come forth.
These were all cute girls of about Taryn’s age, which was less than
twenty-one but not divulged widely or accurately since her arrival the
year before. On cue, each of the comely maidens strode up to the
grotesque tree, removed her blouse and bra, and flung the latter into
the floppy, limp branches of the tree. Barechested, the girls stood
around waiting for a dwarf courtier to throw tinsel over their chests,
whence it hung and jiggled seductively from their bare nipples and
smooth shoulders. The tree, therefore, was decorated almost solely
with colorful braziers, something which seemed to please both King
Zack and Queen Taryn. “It’s a tradition,” someone whispered from
the crowd. “It’s kind of sexy in a way,” agreed another, unsure.

As the girls retreated to the wings, two burly Midnight Riders carried
out a huge oak picnic table and placed it on the raised stand under the
tree. On this was positioned a huge, antique cast iron bath tub,
something brought from Zack’s family mansion back in New York. It
was filled with dried, golden plant stems which for all the world
resembled straw. Grand Vizier Aaron then approached the bath tub
with a large crockery pitcher filled with highly scented perfume,
which vaguely resembled lilac. With great pomp and dignity he
poured the essence over the “straw” and the room became airless with
the overpowering fragrance of flowers.

King Zack took his queen by the hand and began to dance around the
huge tree and bath tub. “Rockin around the Ex-mas tree” he sang as
he awkwardly danced. Even though once a prom king, Zack was a
poor dancer, and Taryn, although agile and attractive on her feet,
could not stop sniggering long enough to find her correct equilibrium,
and thus appeared likewise maladroit and inelegant.

The dance ended, and some sepulchral sounds filled the throne room.
It was a deep, pensive overture that had once been used as bumper
music for a now long-forgotten TV series dealing with the
unexplained. “Twilight Zone music” they called it. As the floor lights
dimmed and multiple strobes began flashing from the ceiling, the
disembodied voice of Aaron Arvicher was heard. It was the same
every year: The Story of Crackland. How a renegade maverick
Arctic explorer named John Crack had stumbled onto the place in
1958 accompanied by a coterie of Inuits and his negro manservant,
the malevolent wizard who later became Jabari the Magician and
who, forever an everlasting menace, still haunted the Darklands
where the vaulted ceiling of Crackland met with the ground, an area
of shadows and even stranger creatures into which no one, except the
bravest of the Midnight Riders (and of course the king) dared to
venture. The story wound on and came to its non-climactic conclusion
as it had since the coronation of King Zack in 2000. Crackland was
peaceful, orderly and secure. All was well. Better than anyone from
the corrupt and inefficient topside could ever imagine.

But this year the assembly, hushed and respectably seated by now,
would get another treat. Religion, previously banned by royal edict,
would be returned to Crackland. And this not only by royal
proclamation but by royal agency as well. The mournful strains of
“Ave Maria” sung by Beyoncé came suddenly over the sound system.
As a voice-over to the music, Grand Vizier Aaron explained that the
only true gods were kings, as had been his model Louis XIV of the
House of Bourbon. The apotheosis of a king was at hand, and
everything else associated with the Christmas known on the surface
was pure nonsense and now patently illegal. “We have forged a new
faith,” droned Aaron, “and our king will arise this very night as not
only our god-given monarch but also our God!!” Without stretching
the credibility of the gasping citizenry, Aaron went on to throw some
sort of mildly exploding orange powder all around, giving the scene a
lambent manger look. Queen Taryn, now bare-chested herself, as hers
was the final bra to decorate the flaccid summit of the bug-ridden
tree, much like a cupped angel ready to drop to the floor, fell to her
knees and kissed the lower cuffs of Zack’s blue jeans. She tittered
something about his becoming a god…the one true god.

Zack then arose, stretched his chest, and pulled off his polo shirt,
revealing only slight tufts of scant but curly, brown chest hair. He
then attempted to pull off his jeans, but fell flatly to his buttocks in the
attempt. Sprawled on the floor, he managed to rip off his sneakers
and pants and rose again wearing only a red and white pair of polka
dot boxers. Again a nervous twitter rippled through the mob.

A child’s voice broke the stillness of the throng: “I like baby Jesus
better,” the genderless child whimpered. Its words were cut short by
an unseen hand muffling its mouth. The crowd again fell into an
uneasy stillness. Zack stood before them puffing his chest in and out
like some sort of suddenly pugnacious gamecock. He darted his eyes
from side to side and seemed extremely pleased with himself.

A white-clad chef from one of the many kitchens brought out what
looked like a crock pot full of cooking oil (plastic had always been
forbidden by royal edict in the colony). Ceremoniously, he handed it
to Aaron, who exhibited the vessel in all directions and then poured its
greasy contents over the king’s head. Thus “anointed” and covered
with cooking oil, King Zack, slipping only a little in a puddle of the
stuff, clambered awkwardly into the bathtub and lay atop of the
perfumed “straw.” He crossed his legs and folded his arms as if to say
“I’m waiting.” More intonations from Aaron came about the miracle
of the king’s rebirth into a godhead. Zack looked bored. Then “We
Three Kings” by the Barenaked Ladies rolled out over the speaker
system. It was followed by “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Slim
Thug. Zack grimaced and the CD was jerked back to the Barenaked
Ladies. “No hip hopping in Crackland,” he grumbled.

Then two Midnight Riders, each sporting horned helmets, dragged a

lame milk cow with swinging, pendulous udders into the room. They
tried and finally succeeded to push the beast down onto the floor by
the bathtub, but not before it discharged a huge steaming stream of
urine and let flop two piles of wet excrement. This was followed by a
pig and some squawking chickens. Someone had already let fly a live
bladder bird in the room, and it sputtered malodorously as it circled
in the air just under the ceiling. A huge spotlight was switched on,
illuminating the bathtub manger and its patently bored savior. A
booming voice proclaimed that it was the “star of Wampaugh.”

In a side chamber, a handsome, long-haired skater boy named Tony,

who had hailed recently from Port Huron, Michigan and had no clear
idea of why exactly he was in Crackland, undressed and slid his
naked, muscular torso into a red velveteen robe and put a ridiculous
feathered tam over his head. He rolled his eyes at another boy named
Todd, who claimed to be from Manitoba. Both were skaters. Both
were naked except for their ridiculous capes and hats. Others were in
the room with them changing into similar garb.

“What the fuck are we supposed to say?” asked Tony.

“I don’t know. Some shit. It’s for that king guy who watches us
skate. Just say whatever comes to your mind, and then let’s get out of
here. That Jessamyn said she’d give us all some.”

“Some what?”

“Some pussy. And then some of what they got as weed here. Nasty
stuff, but it does the trick. Let’s get this over fast.”
As the Christmas tunes rung out, the skater boys rolled slowly into
the throne room on their boards, each wearing only their fluffy capes
and a plumed toques.

With great solemnity, Grand Vizier Aaron cleared his aging throat
and announced: “Arrive the Magi…First comes Gaspar. Gaspar

Tony, still bobbing on his skateboard, looked around nervously. “Say

something,” Aaron said in a loud whisper. Tony set down a candied
apple wrapped in a ribbon next to the bathtub and stammered
“Lower your monthly payments. Learn how!!” Raised mostly on
television and the internet, it was the only thing he could think of.
Zack paid no attention to his words, but surreptitiously pulled open
his cape in order examine what hid underneath.

“Then Melchior!!! Melchior speaks!” roared Aaron.

Melchior was Todd and equally at a loss for words. He put down
something that looked like a neon butt-plug tied with a ribbon next to
the king and shook his head searching for something to say. Finally,
he looked at the sex toy gift which he had been told to offer as a gift
and blurted: “Grow your penis. An inch every week. Guaranteed.”
It was something he had read often in his topside email.

As with Tony, Zack paid little attention to the words or gift and
sneaked a quick look at the boy’s privates before the latter glided
away on his skateboard.

“And now Balthazar,” bleated Aaron.

Balthazar was the third and last of the skater boys to come visit the
tub of King Zack. He carried a GI Joe doll in his hand and set it
down beside the manger. The crippled cow arched itself up and
squirted more urine with a great splash once again. The bladder bird
sputtered to rest on a strobe light and perched high above. Something
fell from its body and splattered onto King Zack’s forehead.
“Birdshit,” said Zack, wiping it with the back of his hand. “Get that
goddamn thing out of here.”

Balthazar knitted his brow searching for something much wiser than
the others to say. After all, they were wise men. Finally it came to
him. He twisted his chin with his thumb and forefinger, rolled back
his eyes and said: “The more you learn, the more you know. The more
you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you
know, So why learn??”

Zack seemed pleased with both “Balthazar” and his words. It was as
if something had finally sunken in. Instead of pulling open his cape,
he brought the boy’s head down to his mouth and whispered
something into it. Later that night, “Balthazar,” whose real name was
Gunnar something disappeared along with the king and new god of

Except for a few random executions, the pageant was finished. Queen
Taryn retreated, still snickering about seemingly nothing, to her
quarters. Aaron Arvicher, now growing quite old and tired, sipped a
midnight brandy and felt very content with his accomplishments.
Christmas itself, unfolding in the eternal Crackland springtime, was
only two days away. Before that day, Arvicher would arrange a new
miracle of some sorts, but at the end of that night’s pageant, he wasn’t
quite sure just what it would be.
But in Crackland, all things were possible. And Aaron Arvicher,
unruffled, fell into a peaceful sleep punctuated only by the most
outlandish fantasies which he alone could make real.

And religious worship if not outright piety was restored to the colony
of Crackland. Plainly this was in keeping with the true spirit of a
reborn Christmas.


Devon Pitlor - December, 2010


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