The Worst Christmas Ever

Darby Flynn grimaced as he packed the last of his collection of chubby, stuffed gnomes into a box for the return home. A new departmental edict banned all such decorations. Instead, each worker was given a replica of the eagle which appeared on the dollar bill and the presidential seal. It clutched arrows in one set of claws and an olive branch in the other. The birds stood on black, plastic pedestals and came in silver, copper, or gold depending on the rank of the worker to which it was given.

“I can’t believe he’s done this,” Darby Jones complained to his equally dismayed co-worker, Agnes McGee. “I’ve put my little collection up in my cubicle every year since I started working here. Nobody ever complained.”

“That was all before the new boss arrived,” Agnes said.

Darby glanced around before responding, “He should change his name to Grinch.”

“Or Scrooge,” replied Agnes, a woman who’d occupied the cubicle next to his for several years.

“I’ll say this for his appointment.” Darby checked again to make sure no one else could hear him. “They picked the right guy for the job. I don’t know of anyone who hates the holidays more than Simon St. John.”

“A saint, he ain’t.” Agnes pursed her lips. “Have you seen the list of charges he drew up? The so-called crimes he intends to prosecute?”

“Crimes? Seriously?”

Agnes ticked them off on her fingers one-by-one, “Breaking and entering, illegal trespass, flying an unlicensed aircraft through restricted airspace, and that’s not all.”

Darby clenched his jaws. “I was only aware of the first one, but I didn’t really believe it.”

“Oh, it’s real all right, but that wasn’t enough for St. John. He’s also working on labor law infractions; he’s got a team pouring over OSHA rules and regs, and he’s appointed someone to draft a major complaint about discrimination.”

“You’re kidding,” Darby said. “Discrimination?”

“According to St. John, the old guy only hires elves, nobody over three feet tall, give or take.”


“And then there are charges of animal cruelty. Something to do with reindeer working extended hours in all kinds of weather. He’s even got somebody working on that.”

“We have to do something,” Darby said. “This is crazy. If he’s allowed to continue, he’ll destroy the holidays!”

Agnes exhaled. “Maybe, maybe not, but he’d for sure destroy the commercial side of things. People will still have the freedom of religion. They just won’t have… You know… The whole North Pole thing.”

“C’mon, Agnes, think about it—no more kids carrying their wish lists to the mall for a visit with old Saint Nick. Instead, it’ll be ‘Celebrate the season with Santa in Cell Block C.’”

“But we’ll still have the religious side,” she insisted, though her voice betrayed a lack of conviction. “And we’ll still be able to exchange presents.”

 Darby shook his head. “I’m not sure about that. Just the other day I heard our ‘dear leader’ complaining about the vast inequity of gift-giving. He thinks there ought to be some federal guidelines about who gets what, and how much anyone should spend.”

“Bureaucrats already have a dreadful reputation, but Simon St. John will add a whole new layer of—” Agnes abruptly went silent.

Darby took the hint and tried to appear casual as he turned his head to see what had caused Agnes to go silent. A pair of men in plain black suits and dark glasses had entered the room. They walked purposefully between the rows of cubicles, peering intently over the low walls as if looking for intruders. Occasionally, one or the other would adjust the bald eagle decorations adorning each of the work spaces.

“What’re they doing?” Agnes asked, but Darby remained silent.

When the two men reached them, they stopped and examined the security badges Agnes and Darby wore. One of them made a gesture to the other, who looked into the box on Darby’s desk.

“Thought so,” he said. “Pick that up and come with us. Now.”

“I packed ‘em up as soon as I heard about the new—”

“Shut up, and do as you’re told,” the man said, his voice cold and flat.

“You can’t talk to him like that,” Agnes said as she put her hand on Darby’s arm.

“Looks like you’ll be coming along, too,” the other man said.

“What? Why? What have we done?”

“It’s an obvious case of conspiracy. You’ve virtually indicted yourselves by discussing plans to disrupt the Seasonal Reality Statutes.”

“That’s absurd!” Darby exclaimed. “We haven’t done anything wrong.”

“That’s not how Commissioner St. John will see it,” the first man said. “Hope you weren’t planning anything special in the next few weeks. You’ll be confined to units in the Attitude Assimilation dorms.”

“I have to call my husband,” Agnes said.

Darby chimed in, “And I need to call my wife!”

“That won’t be necessary. We’ll advise your emergency contacts about your status.”


“So, Jonesy, what’d yer old man think of the new UIVR?”

Darby Jones, Jr. lowered his head. “Dad said it sucks, and whoever invented Ultimate Immersive Virtual Reality should be shot, or worse.”

“I’m guessing he didn’t have a fun trip.” Darby Junior’s friend, Louie, chuckled. “Which scenario did you give him?”

“The St. John thing. I mean, it made sense to me, ‘cause Dad’s always complaining about the commercialization of Christmas.”

“Oh, man. That’s a tough one to start with. I hope you gave him the code word so he could break out of the storyline.”

“Actually, no. In all the Christmas morning excitement I sorta forgot.”

“Oh, geez. What’d he do?”

“Other than ground me until Spring Break?”

“Seriously? Until Spring Break? That’s like months from now!”

“He said it was only because grounding me for life wasn’t an option. And he said it right after he smashed my UIVR headset with a sledgehammer.”


I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season and a healthy, happy New Year.


About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
This entry was posted in novel writing, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Worst Christmas Ever

  1. Gerald W. Flinchum says:

    Good One! I’ll continue to disrupt the “Seasonal Reality Statutes” this year!

  2. dorisreidy says:

    Oh, that brain of yours! I just never know what’s going to shuffle forth. Thanks for a good story.

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