There are dire tidings from the Badlands this Christmas.
This hasn't been the best of years for American institutions. Manhattan is wobbling, the
Dow Jones is reeling, and now someone in Chicago is swiping cute widdle Baby Jeebuses
from church nativity scenes as if they were so many mundane garden gnomes.
The Chicago Daily Herald reports that a very, very naughty thief has stolen a ceramic Jesus
figure from an Arlington Heights nativity scene. More worrisome, perhaps, is the news
that local cops regard the incident as commonplace, with at least two other similar
thefts already on the town's crime blotter, and seven last year, which leads one to
wonder whether Arlington Heights, IL, is the new World's Capitol of Baby Jesus Stealin'.
"What could they possibly want with it? What could they do with it?" asked Faith Lutheran
Church's "director of growth and renewal," Jim Harbke. "Do they want to sell it?
If so, where? Are they just vandals who took it and threw it away?"
This just adds insult to an already injured holiday season, of course. Earlier this
month, a man in a Santa suit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was handing out candy to passing
motorists when he seemingly disconnected from reality and pulled a revolver from his bag
of toys, then shot a nearby woman in the face and arm for no good reason at all. The
woman survived the shooting, then provided police with a composite sketch of a man who
looked remarkably like Kris Kringle.
Although the two incidents seem unrelated, maybe there's something deeper going
on, a black bubbling just below the surface that's been threatening to pull us all into
its viscuous sap lately.
Maybe, just maybe (and Pigdog makes absolutely no claims of inside information on either
caper,) the Sao Paulo Santa headed way up north, fleeing from the long arm of Juan Lei,
all the way to the shores of Lake Michigan, where he then veered northwest to the quiet
community of Arlington Heights. Maybe he needed an accomplice, a symbolic consort to aid
and guide him on his quest. Maybe he heard some information, let's say, that there was
this town in Illinois where you could swipe a ceramic Baby Jesus figurine and the cops
wouldn't even bother looking for you. Yeah, that's the ticket. Somewhere in the
world where Jesusnapping is so common that no one even blinks an eye, they just throw
their hands to the sky and ask "Why would someone do this to us?"
So he angles in, grabs his prize, flees the scene. Little town blues need melting away,
so he hotfoots it for the bright lights and big cities. Deranged Santa and his most holy
of ceramic pals. They burn up fuel on the interstates, an endless series of truck stops
and rest stops, the fake Santa beard clinging by a few sticky strands of glue, revealing
another beard growing into place beneath it. Barking complicated orders in Portuguese to
bewildered waitresses, barely squeezing out of potential hot spots when they're almost
recognized by someone who reads too many newspapers.
The relationship begins to crack; so does Fake Jesus, his formerly smooth pate now
smeared with an unsightly mess of pancake syrup and cigarette ashes constantly dropping
from Santa's seemingly infinite pack of Lucky Strikes. Tempers inevitably flare,
and the two set to bickering over the slightest perceived infractions. No time for
introspection here on the road, out in the vast blankness of the hidden inner intestines
of America. They blur past county lines and mysterious road markers, not caring where
they're headed, just worried about where they might end up.
The road eventually takes the pair to Las Vegas, where no one will care the slightest to
see a grimy, road-weary Santa and his tiny Messianic partner, who has inexplicably become
animate on the trip; it happened someplace, sometime, neither can remember where or what
prompted it. All the Brazilian Claus knows is he was chatting with a cold mannequin one
minute and arguing with a tiny representation of Jesus in the flesh the next. His voice
was higher and more feminine than he imagined it would be, and his gestures suggested not
so much piety as arrogance, a fact that disturbed the man, he had to admit. He was not
an overly religious man, and so could not explain the series of events that had led him
to his current predicament, yet he retained enough of his former Catholic indoctrination
to question the sudden manifestation of this bossy, uncomfortably girly little Jesus man.
What a prick, Jesus thought. He needs to get laid. Let's find some hookers. Jesus
Christ (me me,) where do you find a good whore in this town, anyway? Or a bad one will
do. Suddenly Vegas looked much larger than they imagined, and they felt smaller. They
feasted on a series of cheap, gassy buffets and took advantage of well drink specials
wherever they could find them. Santa insisted on blowing much of their dwindling
cash reserves on an unfortunate run at blackjack, while Jesus wandered off to look for
Truth and Beauty, or at least the nearest sauna.
Their luck eventually runs out somewhere in North Vegas, in a dirty, dark alley,
surrounded by gimpy figures bent on senseless destruction. A botched crack buy, or
whatever, it doesn't matter. Santa watches somebody he doesn't know in a city where he
does not exist write down "return to sender" on his life, and the rest goes dark.
Somebody else finds a dead bum in a Santa suit in an alley, over on the bad side of town,
and the item makes page 17 of the local newspaper.
And somehow, no one knows how but everyone asks why, a slightly worse for wear ceramic
Jesus reappears in a nativity scene somewhere in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Bad craziness abounds but fate rides a string of shit luck all the way back home.