Orlando bounces into the room (cluing Karl into the fact that Orlando might have had a touch too much sugar) and spins in a circle before collapsing in a heap on the sofa. He lands beside Karl and half on Katie.
Katie, predictably, is less than thrilled by this turn of events and she promptly shoves Orlando off the sofa.
Let's go Christmas caroling, he says from his new location on the floor.
There's a beat of silence with Karl and Katie looking at each other before Katie points out that Orlando can't sing.
Karl just says that he can't, either, and wanders into the kitchen to see if the buttermilk chess pie is finished cooking.
In all honesty, Katie is the only one in the house who can carry a tune, but she's usually far more interested in singing loud and off-key. It bothers Orlando.
Karl just pretends he can't hear her, but he always ends up humming along with whatever she's singing.
To his credit, Orlando doesn't give up on the caroling idea. It's mentioned at least once a day. Twice if he chooses to resort to pouting. Three times is he's just determined to be a brat.
The three-times-a-day days are usually the ones where Katie is home.
Karl bakes fourteen different kinds of cookies and offers to let Orlando help decorate them.
To understand Orlando's burning desire to go caroling is to appreciate his sheer love for the holiday. While Katie is always in charge of their Christmas festivities (with the exception of The Year of the Naughty Elf Costume that they don't talk about), Orlando is the one who insists on putting up the tree the first of December.
The non-stop Christmas music – both in the house and in the car – follow in short order. Orlando knows the lyrics to all of them, even the new or obscure ones that no one knows.
He takes great delight in singing "The Wassail Song" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" every time either song plays. They play a lot because Katie swears he has a dozen different recordings of each of them.
Karl thinks about pointing out the two dozen different recordings of "White Christmas" that he has, but he contents himself with multiple attempts at perfect Yule log cake.
Through sheer obstinacy and the refusal to accept no for an answer, Orlando wears them down. Karl agrees to keep the peace (and so he can remind Orlando next year of just how bad this idea turned out) and Katie agrees if she can pick the songs.
Karl already knows that that isn't going to turn out well for anyone and wonders if maybe bringing along a thermos of spiced rum would be a good idea.
That fear is proven at the fifth house they hit.
Orlando is a magpie in human clothing and he's never met a shiny object that he didn't like. And his definition of 'shiny' is a very broad one. Karl and Katie know this and are pros at redirecting his acquisitive impulses.
Which is why Karl's heart almost stops when he turns to see Orlando reaching for a very bright and shiny yard decoration as Katie stalks towards him. She looks slightly less than threatening bundled up as she is, but Karl figures that's balanced out by the simple fact that she can turn into Ghost Rider at any given moment.
He knows, he's seen it.
Put that down, she says, but Orlando has turned his listening ears off, which isn't a surprise because once he gets focused, a bomb could go off and he wouldn't hear it. The trick is getting him focused.
Of course, there's always the possibility that he'll focus on the wrong thing.
So Karl watches in horrified amusement as Orlando picks up the shiny, brightly lit candy cane and waves it at Katie. The fact that he's holding it at crotch level adds a certain Orlando-ish flair to the whole scene.
Katie just looks horrified.
Put that away. Right. Now. she hisses as Orlando waggles it at her and starts to dance.
It's supposed to be a sexy dance, bordering on obscene, but Orlando doesn't dance very well at all.
Katie is clearly torn between the urge to smack him silly and the desire to pretend that she doesn't know him. Karl just grins and gives Orlando two thumbs up when he looks over at him.
By the time the spiced rum is gone, Orlando and Katie are ready to head home. Karl promises them blueberry apricot scones for breakfast if they behave.
He knows they won't, but he also knows they'll get the scones anyway. They know it, too, because sometimes he is that easy.
But they make it all worthwhile.
Which is why Karl just laughs and shoves his hands in his pockets and follows them when they link arms and start to high-kick down the middle of the street singing "The Christmas Can-Can" at the top of their lungs.