Whenever I’m asked “What’s your best Christmas story?” I always tell this one. I posted it on this blog back in December 2002 under the title The Best Christmas Present Ever. For reasons that you will discover soon enough, it’s not likely to be adapted into a made-for-TV Christmas special any time soon – at least not on the major networks. Enjoy!
Recognized (December 2002)
I was in a store on Queen Street West that specialized in the kind of funky clothing that appealed to club-goers and the snowboard/skateboard set, looking for cheap presents for my cousins. The manager saw me and asked “You don’t still have crabs, do ya?”
It took me a moment to realize what she was talking about.
“No, I don’t,” I replied, “that was my friend.”
I’m going to kill his ass, I thought.
The Frantic Phone Call (December 1998)
Four years prior, I was at the same store, buying a sweater for my cousin. While standing in line waiting for my turn at the cashier, I got a phone call.
“Joey, I need your help!” said the voice on the other end. It was my friend — whom I’ll call “X” — and his voice was panicked.
His voice was so loud that I had to hold the phone a couple of inches away from my ear.
“You got what?” I asked. “Crispy Critters? Is that fried chicken? What the hell are you talking about?”
“CrispyCrittersJoey!” he repeated, still speaking a mile a minute. “IMean…” and then he slowed down to enunciate every word: “I…HAVE…CRABS!”
He said it loudly enough for everyone around to hear, at which point they all took a step away from me. The cashier — who today is the manager — grimaced at me.
“Hey, I don’t have crabs, my friend does,” I said to her.
“Friend, huh?” she said incredulously.
X was still rattling a mile a minute on the phone.
He was phoning me from a pay phone near the Eaton Centre, not far from where I was. I arranged to meet him at the large fountain on the bottom floor, as it was near a Shoppers Drug Mart where we could buy the anti-crablouse goo.
I hung up and noticed that everyone — the people in line as well as the cashier — were giving me funny looks and keeping their distance. The cashier took my credit card the with the tips of her thumb and index finger, holding it as if I’d handed her a very full week-old diaper.
Damned X, I thought to myself. He gets the STD and I get the “unclean” treatment.
Minutes later, I was walking towards the Eaton Centre fountain. X ran towards me, ready to give me a hug when I stuck out my left arm, firmly placing my hand on his chest.
“Can we skip the hug while you’re still a travelling flea circus?”
“I know that there’s some kind of cream for it, but I don’t know what it’s –”
“Slut-o-cillin.” (That’s not the real name of the cream; I just can’t remember what it was).
“You sound awfully familiar with the treatment.”
“Oh, I’ve had them before.”
On the way to the drugstore, we passed by a store that had a sale on pants.
“Hey,” said X “before we go to the drugstore, can I try these on?”
I threw him a look that said Have you completely lost your mind?
I Hope You Know That This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Credit Record
The pharmacist was young and easygoing, but concerned about me. “He might not be the only one who needs slut-o-cillin. If you’ve had sex with him recently…”
“Oh, he’s tried,” I said, “but no, I’m just buying it for him.”
“That’s a little…unusual. I mean, I thought that because you were buying it for him that you were…ummm…together.”
“Oh no,” X said. “Joey’s such a breeder. You know he says he’s never had a cock in his mouth? Not even once?”
“Keep that up and there’ll be no cream for you, fleabag.” I muttered.
The pharmacist rang up the bill; the slut-o-cillin cost thirty dollars. I had a twenty in my wallet. “How would you like to pay, sir?” asked the pharmacist.
“Uh, is there a bank machine nearby?”
“All out of cash. I tried getting some on my break.”
“Let’s try Interac then.” I handed him my bank card and he swiped it in the debit machine. We failed to get a connection to the bank computer. With the Christmas rush, the lines were all tied up.
“Do you have a credit card, sir?” he asked.
“Yes, but I’m…uh…really trying to avoid putting this particular order…aw, hell. Take it.”
I turned to X. “If this credit card purchase ever ends up haunting me, I’m going to fucking kill you.”
Merry Christmas, Fleabag
Before we parted ways and I headed home, X turned to me and spoke.
“I know I’m a pain in the ass a lot of times, but I wanted to say thanks. I don’t know too many people who’d do this for me.”
“You’re welcome. Just try not to get into this kind of trouble all the time, willya?”
I reached into my wallet, pulled out the twenty and gave it to him.
“Use this to wash all your clothes and your sheets too. In hot water. Maybe not in your usual laundromat, ’cause you’re not going to win any popularity contests.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is the best Christmas present ever.”
That little bit of gratitude made it all worthwhile. If he weren’t such an ant farm, I’d have given him a hug.
And a Merry Christmas to You Too, Gentle Reader!
Whether you celebrate it with bells on, or don’t celebrate it at all, have a safe, happy and infestation-free holiday.