Chapter 1: Dash's Theory of Zombification
Simon looks up from his cereal. “Did you just say magic beans are turning people into zombies?”
Dash nods. “It works like this: Guy buys beans. Guy consumes beans. Guy feels great. The next day, he does it again. Same result. Then the supply runs out. Gradually, the higher brain functions shut down. Guy becomes sluggish, lifeless. Looks awful. Just before the end, the undead rage kicks in. Guy turns on his friends and loved ones.”
Marshall raises his head from where it’s resting on the table and glares. “Dash, just shut up and remember to buy coffee next time.”
Chapter 2: Unseen
In which somebody, but not everybody, finally makes it out of the house for Halloween in Eerie.
Written for Better Weird than Dead: An Eerie, Indiana Fic Fest. Prompt from froodle was: "Halloween. Something with costumes."
“Guys!” Simon covered his eyes. It had been a long night, and all he wanted to do was get home and shower off the blood of eldritch abomination. But instead—
“Sorry!” Marshall called from the couch, from underneath the blanket he’d hastily thrown over himself and Dash.
“This is why you two have a room. With a door. We have a policy on doors, remember?”
“Sorry,” Marshall said again. “We were watching TV and getting ready to go to Janet’s Halloween party and—“
“Stop,” said Simon. “Some things, once seen, cannot be unseen. As I have already learned more than once tonight.” He began to feel his way along the hallway toward the bathroom.
“How was Janet’s party?” Marshall asked. "You're home kind of early."
Simon sighed. “Fine. Everybody’s fine. No more monsters. I took care of it.”
“Good.” Then, “Wait, what?!”
“We’ll talk about it in the morning.” Simon stepped through the bathroom door and slammed it behind him. Then, eyes still shut, he opened it again long enough to yell, “And Han Solo does not do that with Darth Vader!”
Chapter 3: The Black Cow Is Life
Written for Better Weird than Dead: An Eerie, Indiana Fic Fest. Prompt from froodle was: "anything from texts from last night crossed with eerie."
TFLN inspiration was:
I told you I was good to drive
dumbass I drove... you sat in the passengers seat and steered with a paper plate
There was a cute girl at the counter of the World O’ Stuff that night. She looked up and smiled when Simon walked in.
Unfortunately, Simon wasn’t alone.
“See, I told you I was good to drive,” Marshall told him.
“Yes, and you did a great job with that, Mars. Now just hand me the steering wheel.” Marshall looked at the paper plate in his hand, then reluctantly passed it over to Simon as they made their way toward the counter.
Dash X followed them. He tripped over his own coat on his way down the stairs. “I meant to do that,” he said. “That was all part of my cunning master plan. Clearly.”
Simon just sighed and helped him up.
“Beer?” Radford asked. He was already preparing three identical versions of the same order: one black cow with a nip of java.
“Angry pixies. The good news is, thanks to the heroic actions of my associates, that troop of missing Girl Scouts narrowly avoided getting hit with this same spell and are now safely on a bus back to Muncie. Also, we got paid. The bad news is,” here Simon raised his voice to be heard over Mars and Dash’s spontaneous rendition of “We Are the Champions” in several different keys, “this is going to take a while to wear off.”
“I see.” Radford set the black cows down on the counter.
“Yes!” said Marshall. “The black cow is life! Mooooo!”
“Moooo,” Dash agreed. “If I didn’t get one soon, I was going to die.”
“So you said twenty-seven times on the way over. Now drink them, so we can go home and you guys can sleep it off,” Simon ordered.
The cute girl laughed. She had long, brown hair and was wearing an Indiana University sweatshirt. She looked to be around Simon’s age, if not a little older. “You’re a good friend,” she said to him. “I’m Tiffany.”
“I’m Simon. These are Mars and Dash. They’re not usually like this.”
“Mars and Dash. Are those code names or something?”
Dash looked up from his cow with a highly offended expression. “No,” he said. Then to Marshall, “Hey, we should get code names.”
Marshall nodded. “Good idea. Yours can be Annoying Dumbass.”
“Funny, I was going to suggest the same for you. You know, I don’t think I like you very much.”
“You know, I don’t think I like you, either.”
“Remind me again why we live together?”
Mars appeared to ponder this. “Because you look cute wearing ice cream,” he said at last, before catapulting a spoonful into Dash’s face.
“Unfortunately, they’re usually exactly like this,” said Simon apologetically, before turning to face the other two. “Hey! What’s the policy on food fights?”
“Sorry,” Marshall said. He returned to sipping his cow. Dash who was about to launch his own spoonful of ice cream, dropped it and did likewise.
“So, I’m a little lost,” Tiffany said when Simon turned back to face her. “I’m supposed to meet some friends at the…Eerie Bait Shop and Sushi Bar? That’s gotta be a joke.”
It wasn’t, but Simon didn’t bother explaining. Instead, he said, “It’s actually not too far from here. I can walk with you, if you want.”
“Thanks, I’d really like that,” said Tiffany.
Simon glanced over at his associates, who were now earnestly debating whether or not “Mr. X” made a good code name for somebody who went around using that letter as a last name all the time.
“Um, Mr. Radford?” he said. “Would you mind keeping an eye on these two for, like, five minutes?”
“I don’t know,” said Radford. “Can you promise me nobody’s going to pass out on anything, throw up on anything, or shoplift anything?”
Radford raised an eyebrow.
“I’m sure they’ll behave themselves for five whole minutes. Well, mostly sure.”
The eyebrow remained raised.
“You still owe us one for the thing with the possessed jukebox.”
Radford gave in. “Okay. I’m sure my best customers will be fine for five minutes.”
Simon turned to Marshall. “I will be right back. Stay here, okay?”
“’K,” said Marshall. “Can I have your black cow?”
“Yes,” said Simon. He left with the cute girl named Tiffany.
A few moments later, a familiar-looking man in a loud, sequined jumpsuit came through the door. “Pardon me, Mr. Radford. Where do you keep your chainsaws? And your whipped cream?”
Radford glanced at the boys, who now were quietly sipping their cows, and decided they would be fine without his direct supervision for the length of time it would take him to help a customer. “Right this way,” he said. “I’ll show you.”
“Thank you, thank you very much.”
As Radford left the counter, Marshall Teller finished his black cow, then reached for Simon’s. He suddenly paused, and looked around the World O’ Stuff, confused. “Hey Dash, where’s Simon?”
Dash seemed equally confused. “I don’t know,” he said.
“Our trusted associate is missing!”
“We should probably do something,” Dash said. “Quick, to the Teller-mobile!”
They ran toward the door. Halfway there, Marshall turned around, ran back, and grabbed the paper plate from where Simon had left it on the counter. “Almost forgot,” he said.
“Good thinking,” said Dash. “I’m glad you’re in charge of these things.”
Two minutes later, Radford finished ringing up three chainsaws and a dozen cans of whipped cream. “Have fun at bingo night!” he called to his departing customer.
It was then that he noticed the older boys were no longer in the World O’ Stuff.
He paused, considering whether or not he should do something. No, he decided at last. He had a business to run, and he was pretty sure either Simon had come back to collect them, or Simon would find them eventually.
Simon did, but that was another embarrassing story he was no longer allowed to tell people at parties.
Chapter 4: Dash Dances
In which Mars and Dash's latest stupid argument leads to...dancing?
Pure silliness, set in the ten-year-later 'verse.
“Well, to do this properly, we’d need a radio that plays only cheesy pop songs from the early ‘90s.”
“I think we can use the regular radio for that, Teller,” Dash says. Marshall shrugs, conceding the point, and Dash goes over to it and locates a suitable station, broadcasting something slow. “Okay, now what?”
“Now come stand over here.” Marshall’s moved the couch and the coffee table over to one side to create a bare spot in the middle of the living room. Dash does so, and Marshall stands in front of him, then reaches out so that his fingertips are resting on either side of Dash’s waist. “Okay, now you put your hands on my shoulders.”
Dash starts to move forward, and Marshall stops him. “No, too close. It’s got to be at least arm’s length, or we’re not doing it right.”
Marshall nods. “Seriously. If you want the authentic junior high experience.”
Dash sighs and steps back, leaving only his fingertips still in contact with Marshall. “So now what? Are there moves?”
“Well, if by ‘moves’ you mean shuffling around the floor in a circle, while swaying in vague time to the music, and trying to maintain the maximum possible distance while still staying in contact with each other, then yes,” say Marshall. He proceeds to lead while they do just that.
“I don’t understand. Are we supposed to be dancing, or zombies?” Dash says after a few seconds.
“You know, at B.F. Skinner Junior High, the answer could easily have been both.”
“So is this all there is to it?”
“Well, if you want extra realism, we could add in the awkward small talk.”
“You mean like this?” Dash pitches his voice higher. “'Hi, so my name is Marshall Teller. I’m, like, an amateur paranormal investigator and overall obnoxious teenage do-gooder. I think I’m smarter than everybody, including the police, the FBI, all scientists, and you. Despite that, I grow up to be a perpetually broke paranormal investigator who’s about to get all his utilities shut off, because he doesn’t have the heart to make sure he actually gets paid for doing his job. So what kind of music do you like?'”
“I do not talk like that,” Marshall says indignantly, but Dash can tell he’s trying not to laugh. “I never did, even when we were kids. And fine,” he adjusts his voice, “'Hi, Marshall. You can call me Dash X. It’s a cool name I made up for myself, because I’m a pain in the ass with amnesia and a mysterious past. It’s a tragic life story that means I can’t be held responsible for anything I do. Stick with me, and I’ll keep using this excuse for the next ten years, despite the fact that by then I should be able to remember items like how to pick my own stuff up off the floor, whose turn it is to do the dishes, and how money works. Specifically, that bills have to be paid every month and my roommates and I would have had enough to pay them if I hadn’t blown what we’d budgeted for utilities betting on...what was it this time, jackalope racing? My favorite music is the sound of people shouting at me because I screwed them over again. Also, I might be slightly homicidal. So, do you want to, maybe, I don’t know, go to the movies or something?'”
“You’ve got the voice all wrong,” says Dash, who is snickering despite himself. “I don’t sound anything like that. Nobody sounds like that.”
“You do. You really do,” says Marshall. “Ask Simon. And again, that last client was a thirteen-year-old girl with a missing cat. I wasn’t going to charge a kid because you were being irresponsible again.”
“I will ask Simon, and he will vouch for me that you’re way off. And like I said, thirteen-year-olds can be remarkably resourceful.”
“Well, you were a remarkably resourceful thirteen-year-old, yes. But like I said, not everyone is a budding criminal mastermind with multiple sources of illicit income at that age.”
“Like I said, some of us were just trying to survive while other people got to hang out at the World O’ Stuff, play video games, and go to school dances.”
“And I said school dances sucked anyway, and that was still no excuse...”
“And I said I wouldn’t know, because I never had even that much of the junior high school experience.”
Marshall nods. “Which is somehow how we wound up here, doing this.”
“Which is somehow how we wound up here, doing this,” Dash agrees. He moves closer without thinking, and starts to wrap his arms around Marshall.
“Careful now,” Marshall says. “That much actual touching on the dance floor is moving into high school territory.”
“Well, I never had a high school dance, either,” Dash points out.
“Okay then,” Marshall says, allowing himself to be pulled even closer. “We’re in high school now. Aside from the increase in physical contact--and maybe the fun of watching Nick and Eddie getting busted for getting drunk on cheap wine out in the parking lot halfway through the dance--it’s really not all that different.”
“All right,” says Dash. Then, in his 'Marshal' voice, “'No, Dash, I still don’t want to go to the movies. See, I’m far too interesting to actually enjoy doing normal things with normal people, even on dates. How about spending the night sitting around in the freezing cold with binoculars looking for U.F.O.s, and then making out? Or staking out the Eerie Cemetery in response to a possible zombie sighting, and then making out? Or maybe instead of making out, I’ll give you a lecture on morality. That sounds like much more fun, and I’m pretty sure my mom and dad will let me borrow the car.'”
“'I don’t know,'” says Marshall as 'Dash' again. “'If I can’t make and/or lose money doing it, and if it doesn’t sound illegal or like it might present a danger to other people, I’m not that interested. How about we do some shoplifting, and then maybe tear a hole in the space-time continuum on the way home?'”
“Teller, if you’re going to sound that stupid, you can’t be me anymore,” says Dash as himself again. He smiles. Then, “How have we gone this long without killing each other yet?”
“Well, to be fair, you did try--”
“Nope,” Dash interrupts. “Remember the policy. You already brought that up once this morning at breakfast to get the last toaster strudel.”
Marshall sighs. “I’m beginning to think the biggest mystery in Eerie is how Simon has gone this long without killing both of us.”
“Yeah,” says Dash. Then, “Look, I’m sorry about the money. I promise I’ll put it back before they shut off the electricity this time.”
“I am still resourceful, even in my old age.”
Marshall sighs. “As long as nobody gets hurt or arrested, I don’t actually want to know. Dash...I’m sorry you had to be such a resourceful kid. And that you never had a real school experience. And that I took Janet Donner to homecoming instead of you."
“Hey, if this is anything to go by, I didn’t miss much.” Dash realizes they’ve stopped moving a while ago, and the radio has since gone on to play something that doesn’t work at all for slow dancing, but they’re still in each other’s arms. “So what now?”
“Well, if my last actual high school dance experience is anything to go by, now we leave, go park somewhere, and wind up spending the next forty minutes arguing about how I’m spending too much time with...well, you.”
Dash raises his eyebrows. “Really?”
“Yeah, you’re probably not the only one I need to apologize to for homecoming.”
“So what do you want to do this time?”
“Given that you are you and we’re adults now and we have our own place with our own bed, at least for the time being until you decide to spend the rent money?”
“Given all that, yeah.”
Marshall just gives him a look.
Twenty minutes later, Simon gets home to find the radio blaring, the furniture rearranged, and the trail of clothes leading to Dash and Marshall’s door. He sighs, and mutters to himself about how it's like living with a couple of teenagers, honestly, and given that he is the only actual teenager, at least for the next couple of months, he really shouldn’t have to be the most mature and responsible person in the whole apartment.
Chapter 5: Four
Drabble written (over a year ago, but author forgot to archive it here) for Better Weird than Dead: An Eerie, Indiana Fic Fest. Prompt was "Four."
The bedside clock reads four a.m. Dash was only dreaming. At least...
His eyes dart around the room and he becomes aware he's muttering under his breath when Marshall rolls over and blinks at him.
"Are you counting the walls?" Marshall asks.
"Yeah," says Dash, too tired to make something up.
"Oh," says Marshall. "Are they all still there?"
"Yeah," Dash confirms. "All four of them."
"Good." Marshall takes his hand. "I hate that nightmare, too."
Dash curls up beside him. He closes his eyes and tries convincing himself he has no doubts everything here is real.
Chapter 6: Policies
In which Simon still has a policy.
Comment fic from the Eerie, Indiana comm.
Simon read the notice pinned to the wall of the Eerie Shooting Range and Family Entertainment Center.
NOTE, it read in a bold, intimidating font.
Due to recent past incidents, the following are no longer allowed on the range:
- Blessed or cursed ammunition
- Disintegration rays
- Mega-volt "zappers"
- Self-aware firearms (unless accompanied by an authorized shooter over 18)
- Sonic blasters
- Voice-activated weapons of any kind
- All firearms manufactured AFTER the current calendar date and year
Here there was a large arrow pointing to the kitten-a-day wall calendar which helpfully displayed this information under a picture of a wide-eyed Siamese for any who might be confused.
He read on.
Also note that range safety officers reserve the right to inspect all weapons, ammunition, and equipment for spirit possession at any time. All other range rules remain in effect.
He turned to his associates. "And you guys are directly responsible for how many of these?"
Marshall looked down at his shoes. "Just two."
"Three," Dash countered, sounding vaguely proud of himself.
"No, technically, the 'no disintegration rays' thing was in place way before you—"
"Yeah, but it didn't specifically say—"
"That's because anybody with any common sense—" Marshall began, then stopped himself. "You know what? Never mind."
"This," said Simon shaking his head, "is exactly why I still have a policy."
Chapter 7: Stamps
There were glowing red eyes watching Simon from behind the barrels of toxic waste in the alley behind the post office.
He stuck his hands in his pockets and tried hard not to glance sideways as he strolled past, doing a better job of pretending not to notice the creature than it was doing of hiding from him.
The bell over the door jingled as he walked in, the noise causing the trout in the small indoor pond beside the packing supplies to duck back under the water and swim in frantic circles.
He carefully avoided stepping in the pond as he made his way back toward their post office box and retrieved the last few days worth of mail. Nothing exciting, he noted as he thumbed through it. Just the usual bills and advertisements, plus three bridal magazines in Dash's name and yet another adult superstore and couple of Sunday school supply catalogs in Marshall's, the not-yet-cancelled remnants of a prank war that had gotten out of hand and into the U.S. mail system. The Sunday school ones were turning out to be a decent source of inexpensive supplies for battling some of the darker forces of weirdness.
He stopped at the trout pond and crouched beside it until one of the fish swam over to him and up to the surface, just long enough to let Simon stroke the wet fur on its back with one finger. It swam away, staying corporeal just long enough to give Simon a glimpse of the markings on the left side of its fur that closely resembled the 1993 commemorative Elvis stamp. Then it vanished.
Semicorporeal philateral furred trout. Just another thing you got used to when you lived in Eerie.
He made his way up to the counter, where the usual Thursday clerk waited.
"Hey, Simon!" the guy called. He was one of the new hires since last year's unfortunate radioactive bee incident. He was about Marshall's age, with short brown hair. His uniform shirt brought out the bright blue of his eyes behind a pair of thick, round glasses. "Here for the new ones?"
He was also, at least according to Mars and Dash, perpetually flirting with Simon, though Simon thought this was one instance when their investigative skills failed them. The guy just appreciated other people who appreciated stamps was all.
"Hi, Kevin," Simon replied. "Yes. Yes, I am."
The guy slid a pane of stamps across the counter.
Yeah. These would be perfect.
"So, where are the guys you usually come in here with?" Kevin asked.
"My roommates?" said Simon. "Doing laundry."
By which he meant that when he'd left the apartment they were on minute twenty-seven of a shouting match about whose job it was to fold the clean clothes and put them away for once. If it turned out the way these things usually did, the clothes would stay right where they were until one or both of them got tired, at which point they would be shoved off the bed to join the increasingly large collection of stuff all over the bedroom floor. Mars would spend the next week or so shouting at Dash whenever he had to dig through them to find something clean and unwrinkled enough to wear to meet a client. Dash wouldn't care.
"So, your roommates," the guy continued. "Are they…together?"
"Right now?" Simon muttered as he studied the new stamps. They featured four different pictures of smiling, stuffed teddy bears. "Your guess is as good as anybody's."
One of the sillier-looking bears reminded him of one of the few toys that had managed to survive his early childhood. At least until Harley had decapitated it in some bizarre stuffed animal ritual sacrifice when he was four.
"Sorry if that was a personal question." Kevin sounded embarrassed.
"No," said Simon. He looked up and smiled to show he wasn't offended. "It's just that…with those two, it's complicated."
The guy smiled back. Simon wished Syndi still lived in Eerie. She was the only family member whose opinion on whether or not he was being flirted with he actually trusted.
"Got any big plans for today?" Kevin asked.
"Just errands and work," Simon replied. He needed to run to the bank and the World O' Stuff, then do some more research on the Hayworth case. And then maybe watch a movie or, on the off chance Marshall and Dash were speaking to each other, see if they wanted to start a new tabletop campaign.
He considered for a moment asking Kevin what he was doing later. If he liked gaming, it would be fun to have a new person in the campaign. If he didn't, it would be fun to show some of his rarer stamp albums to somebody who was likely to do more than give them a cursory glance and a "That's nice, Simon."
Then he remembered that his bedroom was the one room in the whole apartment that had actually been clean when he'd left it, considered the moods Marshall and Dash were likely to be in, and contemplated the way the last couple of people he met reacted when they found out what he did for a living before he had the chance to ease them into it.
No, not tonight. But maybe someday.
"See you later," he said, as he made his way out the door.
"Don't forget. American bats stamps this fall!" Kevin called after him.
"You know I won't!"
Behind him, trout splashed.
As he left the building and passed the alley again, the thing with the glowing eyes and the poor grasp of stealth started to lurch at him.
He held up the pane of teddy bear stamps. "Look what they're selling now," he said.
It retreated into the shadows and, Simon guessed, well away from the post office.
Bugbears could not stand their cuddly partial namesakes. Not even in postage stamp form.
Yes, Simon though, there were times philately was a very rewarding hobby.
Chapter 8: Carol Service
For the prompt "Carol Service" in the Eerie community's 2017 Advent Challenge.
"You're going where?" Dash asks from the depths of the flannel blanket cocoon he's already determined he's not leaving for any reason. Certainly not the one he thinks he's just heard Marshall explain. Then again, it might have been the sleep deprivation talking. With the sudden increase in business this winter solstice, Dash feels like he's been awake for days.
"Carol service, with my parents," says Marshall. He's in front of the mirror in his boxers, shrugging into one of the sport coats he's had tailored to conceal at least eight different occult weapons and various anti-weirdness paraphernalia.
Not an auditory hallucination then. Marshall's giving up the warmth of their bed to go to church.
"I didn't know Marilyn and Edgar were into organized religion," Dash says, snuggling deeper into the covers he's not giving back, even if Marshall does come to his senses.
"They're not," says Marshall. "But one of the couples down the street invited them. Dad has fond memories of these sorts of things from when he was a kid and Mom's been talking about wanting to make friends with the neighbors again." He shudders as he picks at a spot on his right sleeve. "The dry cleaners didn't quite get all the entrails out after Mrs. Oglesby's funeral," he mutters. Then, to Dash, "You can probably wear that suit from your old flood insurance scam."
Oh. So Marshall's going to blatantly ignore that at no point in this entire conversation has Dash ever once used the word "we."
"And why are you and Simon going again?" Dash says, with emphasis.
"Because it's at that church that suddenly appeared on the vacant lot at the end of Hawthorn Street last month," Marshall replies, shrugging out of the blazer. "And because apparently some of the carols come from an ancient hymnal their choir leader unearthed from the basement of the Eerie Library. And because it's solstice weekend."
Dash considers the odds of Marshall letting him go back to sleep again without arguing. Then contemplates the amount of work finding a new living situation's going to be if he wins this one and his quasi-in-laws wind up getting eaten by whatever vengeful deity, demon, Christmas spirit, or malevolent force of weirdness the congregation winds up summoning.
"Please tell me you at least found a way we get paid for this," he mutters as he rolls out of bed.
Chapter 9: Not in Keeping With the Holiday Spirit
Simon's plans to decorate the apartment don't go as planned.
666 words for the Eerie Advent Challenge prompt "wreath."
"Nope, not in keeping with the holiday spirit," said Simon, taking the wreath out of Dash's hands and putting it back on the World O' Stuff's picked-over display.
"Hey, you said you wanted something generic yet festive," Dash said.
"A garlic wreath with sage and lavender isn't festive," Simon replied. "Even if you put a bow on it. It's weaponized."
"Yeah, against vampires and stuff," Dash countered. "Not really seeing the downside here."
"He's got a point," said Marshall.
Simon folded his arms. "I don't want it weaponized against anybody." Then, under his breath, "If it comes to it, that's what the wards in the door are for."
"Well, in that case, our only option is the one that says 'Welcome' on it, and that's going too far in the other direction," said Marshall.
Simon shook his head. "No, there's the one with the tinsel and the cartoon puppies, but you said—"
"No! And I'm still saying no," said Marshall. "Canine-free was my one and only decoration policy."
"Be honest, Teller," said Dash. "That was something like your sixth or seventh decoration policy."
"Yeah, well, that's because I don't live in a place where 'nothing illegal, immoral, or likely to cause a fatality' goes without saying."
He grinned as Dash lightly smacked him on the arm.
Simon sighed, not wanting to revisit that particular conversation. "We could always make a wreath," he said. "The library's holding those crafting classes again, and—"
"You really want to go back to the library this soon after the incident with the Sorcerer's Bible?" Dash interrupted.
"He's right. Let's least give it until January," said Marshall.
Great, thought Simon, the one time they were getting along this week, and it was to align themselves against him.
"Well, do either of you have any suggestions?" he asked, glaring.
"Yeah," said Dash. "I do. Take the money we were going to spend on crap we're only going to use once a year, head down to the liquor store and buy ourselves a different sort of holiday spirit."
"That's actually not a bad idea," said Marshall.
"Traitor," Simon muttered.
He expected this from Dash, sort of, but not Marshall. The decorated Teller house was—that one incident with the Things, Inc. experimental twinkle lights aside—the setting of so many of Simon's fond memories. He'd been looking forward to re-creating a bit of that magic in his own place, and he'd expected his best friend would feel the same.
Unfortunately, it soon became all too apparent that the selection in their price range was terrible and that Simon was the only one who really cared.
"Never mind," he said, taking one last look at the sad display.
"Look," Marshall shifted uncomfortably. "If it's really important to you, I suppose I could learn to live with cartoon puppies…"
Simon shook his head. When Marshall put it that way, it sounded stupid. "Dash is right. We shouldn't be spending money on stuff we're only going to use once a year."
"It's not important!"
"Okay." Marshall turned to follow Dash, then stopped.
"You know," he said. "My mom still has a bunch of our old Christmas stuff in the garage. There's a wreath in there, if I remember. It's that tacky plastic one that used to go on the front door and I think there's some fire damage, but it'd be free. In fact, I'm sure she'd be happy to let us have anything we're willing to dig out of the mountain of junk in there. Want me to call her?"
Simon smiled. "That would be very cool."
They followed Dash out the door. "Do you think we could get some rum?" Simon asked. "And your dad's eggnog recipe?"
"Rum, yes," said Marshall. "As for dad's eggnog, remember the policy on 'likely to cause a fatality.'"
Simon laughed. "It isn't that bad!"
"That's because you've only ever had a tiny sip or two…"
Together, they headed out into the cool December morning.