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Tis' the Season

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Mayhem loved the holiday season. To be more precise, he loved the entire period starting with Halloween and ending after the beginning of the new year.

 

What wasn't to love? Halloween, with small, sugar-high children dashing between cars and pounding on stranger's doors? Football, with the requisite tail-gating and frat boys sitting around an open flame, eating overly spiced chicken wings, washing them down with copious quantities of cheap beer?

 

Then, there was Thanksgiving. A holiday increasingly celebrated with deep-fried turkey. As Mayhem liked to remind people, it was one of his uncles that had first invented the turkey frier. To Mayhem, the propane powered bomb on wheels was one of the greatest inventions of mankind, the rare piece of kitchen equipment that allowed one to produce a turkey which was burned and crispy on the outside while still raw and harboring all manner of dangerous bacteria on the inside. As an added bonus, it would often set the chef's garage on fire and leave bystanders with third degree burns.

 

Nothing, though, compared to Christmas. Snow and ice on the ground outside and a dry tinderbox of a fur tree inside, decorated with multiple strings of lights. Extension cords frayed and tangled, all plugged octopus-style into one overloaded outlet. Unattended candles left burning, and flammable presents piled too close to open fireplaces. It was a magical time of the year.

 

Now, though, Mayhem needed to finish his Christmas shopping. He had started it on Black Friday only a few hours after the stores had opened, but he'd been thrown out of Walmart when he got caught pulling the fire alarm in an attempt to get a nervous looking man to abandon the cart holding his hard-won big screen television.

 

Pulling on heavy coat, boots. scarf and gloves, Mayhem headed out to the garage. It took him a few minutes to get the garage door raised, as it had somehow knocked the door tracks out of alignment when he'd accidentally backed into the door the week before, forgetting that it was closed. He was going to have to get that fixed. He made a mental note, adding "garage door" to the end of the list of needed repairs, right behind "rear bumper."

 

Starting the SUV, Mayhem backed from the driveway. He narrowly missed the mail carrier, but felt a thump as a fender contacted the mailbox. Oops. Ignoring the grate of metal on metal he kept backing. There was a squeal of brakes and a horn sounded loudly just as he reached the road. He turned to look and saw one of his neighbors stopped behind him, waving wildly at him and shouting something indecipherable from inside his car. Assuming it was a friendly holiday greeting, Mayhem waved back before shifting into drive and pulling away.

 

Heading into town, Mayhem considered where he could go to finish his shopping. Sadly, he'd been banned from Walmart after the fire alarm incident, and Best Buy hadn't let him in the door since that time he'd leaned against a shelf and somehow tipped over the entire display of microwave ovens. He still wasn't sure how that had happened.

 

He was, as far as he knew, still allowed in Toys-R-Us, so he headed there. Finding a spot anywhere near the store in the crowded parking lot was impossible, so he wedged his SUV into the cart carousel. It was a tight fit, and the doors were pinned, but with his usual ingenuity, he simply opened the sunroof and climbed out that way, ignoring the incredulous looks the other shoppers were giving him. It wasn't his fault they'd parked in the north forty and hiked half a block when there was a perfectly good spot available.

 

As he went around the back of the vehicle, he noticed that his mailbox was partly wedged beneath it. Well, that explained the odd rubbing noise. Kicking the remains of the box into a snowbank, he grabbed a shopping cart and headed into the store.

 

There were so many things to look at. Mayhem found himself in the game department, looking at the toys of his own childhood. Checkers, dominoes, and dice brought back memories of fun times sandwiched between emergency room visits. As he picked up a container of marbles, it slipped from his hands and fell, the plastic drum splitting open and marbles rolling everywhere. "Oops," he muttered, and quickly moved away.

 

Another package caught his attention. Jacks? Why jacks but no queens, kings or aces? Was this some new kind of card game? He opened the box and shook out the contents. Not cards, after all. The jacks more closely resembled some sort of miniature caltrops. Perhaps they were meant for some sort of medieval simulation. Shrugging, Mayhem scattered them experimentally before moving on. They really did look like tiny caltrops. He wouldn't want to step on one.

 

Somewhere behind him, Mayhem heard a loud crash, followed by the keening wail of an injured child. After a quick glance to ensure he hadn't been spotted, Mayhem kept walking, ducking into the aisle where they kept the electronic games.

 

While he hadn't grown up with video games and computers, in a way he felt more at home with them. There were shoot-em-up games, and others where the goal was to be as destructive as possible. There were even driving games where the object was to run over pedestrians. Now that was right up his alley. He stuck out his arm and swept a shelf full of games into his cart.

 

A quick check revealed that there was continuing commotion back in the board games aisle. He could hear a woman screaming something about her poor child and lawyers and suing. Probably just trying to get a discount. He turned the other way, headed to the back of the store.

 

It was there that he found the bicycles and skateboards. To his dismay the bikes were well secured to a rack, but a little creative prying loosened one of the skateboards from its packaging. Hefting the board and reversing it to examine the trucks, he gave the wheels a quick spin, delighted to see how freely they turned.

 

It would make a great gift for his neighbor's son, the same neighbor who had given Mayhem the jaunty wave as he left the house. The boy, David, wouldn't even have to do a lot of pushing off, given that he and his father lived at the top of a steep hill. The skateboard would be perfect.

 

Mayhem decided that he should test the toy first, just to be sure. He put the board down on the floor and started to put his foot on it, then paused. It might be dangerous. He looked around until he found a bicycle helmet and plopped it atop his head, fastening the chin strap. It was pink with purple flowers and seemed a little small, but no matter. Mayhem stepped onto the skateboard and pushed off, propelling the video-game laden cart before him.

 

It was incredibly bad timing that the clerk who had been tasked with cleaning up the spilled marbles and jacks picked that moment to emerge from the aisle where he'd been working. In Mayhem's opinion, being struck by the cart and the resultant broken arm was no excuse for the clerk dropping the box and rescattering the toys, but the manager seemed to see it differently.

 

Claiming, among other things, "a blatant disregard for safety," the manager had personally escorted Mayhem from the store, sadly leaving his carefully selected would-be purchases behind.

 

In the parking lot, Mayhem climbed back through the sunroof and into the SUV. As he backed up, the frame of the carousel tore off the driver's side mirror. Mayhem shrugged. He never used the mirrors, anyhow.

 

He did still have shopping to do, though. He thought for a moment. "Target," Mayhem said to himself, smiling. "They don't know me there."