Click here to start at the beginning of our saga. Otherwise, let’s jump into the fray…
The standoff at Kohl’s continued for some time. No one was willing to take a risk and be the first to trust that the rest of us would be kind and decent human beings and not rip into their stash the second they walked away.
And why should there be any trust? It was a full two months before Christmas, and yet every one of us was crammed into this tiny Holiday Section, fully determined to get started on our Christmas villages today. Clearly, we were not right in our heads. Therefore, common decency was way down on our list of priorities.
Still, until I had a receipt in my hand, the new crop of love-children would not be officially mine. So I had to get all this mess to the sales counter in one trip. I took a deep breath, hauled out a stack of those flimsy Kohl’s mesh bags that I had stashed behind a dancing snowman that grunted Bible quotes (the crowd gasped at my subterfuge), and I got to work.
Fifteen minutes later I had rigged and trussed together this convoluted contraption that looked like something Leonard da Vinci had scribbled on a sketch pad when he was envisioning the day when people could float through the air and earn frequent flyer miles. It was uncomfortable, and it was heavy, working muscles that were not thrilled with the wakeup call. But I managed to wobble my way down the aisles, with my da Vinci wings sweeping entire displays off endcaps and knocking over one woman who only got out “Can you tell me where the-” before she was flat on her back, questioning her life choices.
Naturally, there was a huge line at the sales desk. What is up with the checkout people in Kohl’s? Are they all anemic? Why is it such a tremendous struggle to lift a crouton and drag it over the little scanner device? Did you not understand that you would have to do such things when you took the position?
And what’s with all the conversation? We don’t need that. You people are here for one thing and one thing only: your job is to quickly and efficiently scan my purchases and get my ass out the door. I don’t need to hear about your bunion that magically appeared in an unusual location. I couldn’t care less that you have a full-grown sister that you didn’t know about until yesterday. And the bank that is trying to repossess your ridiculously over-sized pickup truck currently taking up three spaces in the parking lot?
Two things on that last subject. Number one, you work at Kohl’s as a cashier. I’m sure you’ve got some very nice benefits and your co-workers are pleasant. But you can’t possibly be making enough money to afford the monthly payments for a vehicle that costs more than my house.
Number two, you don’t need a vehicle capable of hauling a 5-ton payload. When are you ever going to require that kind of horsepower in your entire life? You don’t live on a farm where you might possibly have use for such a thing, you don’t transport heavy machinery, and you are not pulling smashed boats out of a harbor after the latest hurricane. You live in an apartment, and the biggest load you will ever carry is a fresh shipment of diapers for the seventh child you just produced as a result of someone breaking out the tequila during a Cowboys football game.
Why do so many of these Texans insist on having a truck bigger than Rhode Island?
It just amazes me.
Anyway, Bunion Lady finally figured out what buttons to push, my credit card was not rejected even though it probably should have been (as a sign from the gods that I was on the wrong spiritual path), and I waddled to the car. The deed was done. It was time to race home while my madness was at fever pitch and get started on some analytical village planning. I had some new recruits and they were going to march onto the field of glory.
Now, ground zero for the village is in the “formal” living-slash-dining room of the house. It’s an oddly-shaped room, something like 20 feet by 40 feet, positioned at the front of our dwelling. This space actually has two entrances, both of them pocket doors, which were apparently really hip at some point, probably around the time that Mamie Eisenhower was serving apricot sorbets in the White House.
This is where we keep our classy stuff like the hugely-long dining table that can seat about fifty, a jelly cabinet (yes, that’s a real thing, look it up) where we store fancy serving ware that we never need, a pie cabinet (also real, keep googling) with more useless but pretty items, and a massive storage facility designed in the manner of a giant apothecary cabinet, an immense piece of furniture that can hold something like 1,200 music CD’s in its many drawers. And it’s completely full. That thing is so heavy we haven’t been able to move it a fraction of an inch in seven years. There must be a mat of dust bunnies under that thing so thick that you could insulate a spaceship.
Yet for the most part, we never even enter this room, unless we’re looking for a Madonna CD that we haven’t heard in a while or we haven‘t seen the cat in a few days. It’s kind of sad, with all the neglected finery waiting to be loved. Or at least dusted.
On the flip side of this neglect is the fact that I can use this room as a staging area for whatever holiday is in need of tribute. I do a pretty aggressive Halloween thing, with tons of cobwebs and creepy lighting and battery-operated thingies that gurgle and howl. We also stage Easter-egg hunting competitions at various times of the year. (An odd thing we do, I’ll save the details for another blog post.) But mostly, this is the Christmas Village room, wherein I completely transform the room for months at a time.
In the initial years of the Village, I only made use of a few occasional tables. As the number of houses grew, I slowly enlisted the aid of other pieces of furniture. One of the most creative inventions was learning that I could push two matching waist-high cabinets closer together, take this huge four-part painted screen of Paris at night, fold it in half, and lay it across the two cabinets. Voila. A huge chunk of land had now been re-zoned for municipal use.
I was very proud of this accomplishment. I proclaimed this area the new “downtown”, even though it was technically outside of the previous city limits and did not make any sense. But logic is not important when it comes to villaging. After all, we’re dealing with miniature houses with low-wattage light bulbs shoved up their ass. This is not a reality-based hobby.
The downside of my creativity was that it became very clear that any piece of furniture in the room could somehow be transformed into a foundation for village expansion. In essence, I now had infinite space to work with, and could therefore buy untold units of housing and truly create an empire. Which leads to my second of many sins during the notorious fourth season of the village.
I discovered a nearly-hidden treasure trove of discount Department 56 pieces. Such bargain opportunities usually do not happen. Most merchants keep these things at full price, year after year, taking advantage of the fact that there are idiots even more crazed than me out there, and these fools will happily shell out the equivalent of a car payment just to have a porcelain model of Alcatraz for their collection.
It started innocently. There I was in a Hallmark store, one of those “Golden” Hallmarks for those of you in the know, meaning they have a lot more to offer than just greeting cards and magnetized pink teddy bears that stick together at the lips. This one had a whole section of Department 56 housing, beautifully arranged and everything turned on, twinkling and beckoning. Seriously, I was only there to admire and dream. My wallet was staying firmly in my pants. I could not justify the outrageous cost.
Then this woman noticed me admiring the display.
Perhaps I should really say, this woman noticed me drooling over an exact replica of the Empire State Building and she raced over to stop the acid content of my saliva from stripping the paint off the porcelain. In any case, after she had calmed me down and administered sedatives, she took pity on me, fully recognizing the warning signs of a true housing addict, and she whispered to me after glancing around to ensure that we could not be heard.
“Have you been to Lou’s Hallmark?”
Why no, I had not been to this Hallmark apparently owned by a person with a sexually-ambiguous name. What might I find there, pray tell?
Her voice got even lower, indicating that she truly had something remarkable to share or was actually a man. “She never sends any Department 56 back. She keeps it all. She’s got everything. And…”
S/he looked around again to ensure privacy, so this had to be good. I think I stopped breathing in anticipation.
“Lou marks down her older pieces. Sometimes half off. I am not kidding.”
I had a small orgasm right there. I tried to be discreet, but I could not control a few whimpers of pleasure and a trembling spasm in my left leg. A pinched-faced woman reviewing bible-quote bookmarks a few aisles over glanced our way with a sour look, then went back to pawing the merchandise and leading her life of denial and regret.
My new best-friend looked at me with an expression of “it’s okay, sweetie, Ambiguous Lou has hit my own G-spot many times. There is no shame in the bargain game. Would you like a tissue?”
I swallowed with difficulty, my throat suddenly very dry. “Where… where can I find this Lou’s?”
She toyed with me just a tiny bit, digging in her very hip purse for a tube of lipstick, and then applying a fresh coat without the aid of a mirror to prove that her talents were indeed immense and extraordinary. She clicked the tube closed. “Duncanville. Wheatland and Cedar Ridge. Go now.”
Then she turned on her coutured heel, and the Angel of Wisdom and Villaging exited the store, another goodwill notch in her lipstick case.
Thirteen seconds later I was barreling down the road toward Duncanville, that little burgh southwest of Dallas, my heart racing and the gas pedal mashed into the floorboard. If I caught the interest of local law enforcement, they were gonna have to use road spikes and stun guns to stop me now. In the midst of my haste and wantonness, I failed to consider all the intricacies of my destination. I was headed outside the realm of the Dallas metroplex proper, and whizzing in the direction of yet another example of The Land That Time Forgot…
Click here to read the next entry in this series…
Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 12/21/09 and “Bonnywood Manor” on 12/27/15. Slight changes have been made. (I can see in the stats that a few of you have managed to find the previous run of this series, and I thank you for your gumption, but you might be missing out on little tweaks to the tale.) Story behind the photo: A closeup on one of my villagers, circa some year I no longer recall. On the previous run of this series, I did a quasi-Warhol tribute by using the same image with different color washes for each installment. Since it makes my home page look at least minimally artistic, I’m doing it again. But for those of you worried that you won’t get to see the whole village, rest assured that the Big Reveal is coming…