December 2010

A Very Modernist Christmas: The Hospital

Read Teddy's Story

Read Joel's Story


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.

A Very Modernist Christmas: Hitchhiking

Read Teddy's Story

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.

A Very Modernist Christmas: The Workshop

Teddy's first indulgence of his blossoming self-annihilation impulse was accidental, according to observers. They were elves, the observers, who worked at the same station as Ted, their eyes and mouths filled with the fluff that shot out of him the day he embraced the blade. Made early, hurriedly, and in a sense incorrectly by Armand Elf, a diminutive creature of discomfort and dissatisfaction, an aspiring bartender with dreams of a dive in Moscow instead of never-ending toy nights at the Pole. Armand made Teddy wrong. The bear hobbled around the workshop in his first few days, reporting for a hazy procession of reviews with the Standards Department. One of them said he ought to be given to an at-risk child, one toeing the gray line between naughty and nice. This idea was soon, like Teddy, discarded. Studies suggested that naughty children identify with irregular toys. Clause, shrewd as he could be, was no barbarian. He saved Teddy from incineration in the monster's mouth of the kiln, only to have the bear limp through plaything limbo, forbidden to leave the workshop but protected from the termination reserved for spastic springs and exposed metal. They called Teddy's dysfunction benign.