Joel lay in the workshop hospital with a splitting headache. He assumed that something had rattled loose when the car crashed. That was the only explanation for why he saw the things he saw. At least, it was the most rational explanation. Short, pointy-eared people wandered around taking temperatures, delivering paper cups of pills and drawing blood with glitter-covered syringes. Joel couldn't see much beyond his bed. The curtains between him and the beds beside his were in the way, so it was like he was in a box, wrapped up with a knotted bandage on his head. Knotted like a bow. He could hear some muttering from the bed to his right.
"I'm fine, Marcie. I don't want a Coke. I'll eat at lunch. I'm just... I'm tired, that's all."
A stretcher being pulled by a reindeer passed by the door.
Joel's eyes opened to the sight of his jeans covered in regurgitated Christmas cookies. They started the night as little trees and snowmen with discreet segments of white, red and green, but now they were just lumps of washed-out orange. Joel felt awful until he realized he could just grab a fresh pair of pants from his suitcase in the trunk. Slush spilled into his shoes when he stepped out of the car and the night smelled like far-away fire. He stumbled to the trunk, only to realize he had left the keys in the ignition. He retrieved them, rubbery legged, and finally got into his suitcase, one of those roller-style things with airplanes in mind. He pulled his black slacks from a few layers deep and suffered through the cold to change right there in the frigid December midnight. "I feel better already," he thought as he closed the trunk, a streak of blood running down his forehead, the front end of his car bent around a tree.