Things like this only happened in the movies; or so I thought. It turns out, some of the ridiculous scenes in Christmas films do happen. Only, I didn’t wake up in a big Victorian with my beautiful wife resting by my side. There weren’t two mischievous, yet extremely charming children, slumbering down the hall. There was no stack of silver-and-gold of gifts waiting under the tree. My life was far less glamorous than that. I was living alone in a one-bedroom apartment. My family was scattered all across the US. And, despite the few friends I had still living in New Jersey, I felt alone. The holidays were just making it worse.
I guess I had seen too many Christmas movies. I never seemed to bump into an attractive girl, who I had once dated in high school, in town for the weekend. I never had that harmless fender-bender that led to sharing a warm cup of hot chocolate in a cozy little Diner. Nor did I have a co-worker, who maybe had too much wine at the holiday party, reveal she had a big crush on me. The holidays it seemed, didn’t hold any special power; at least, not anymore.
As I mentioned, I was living alone in the Stony Hill apartment complex, or “Stony Hell”, as my friends called it. It wasn’t super nice; but it was close to work, just five-hundred bucks a month, and utilities were included! I should mention that roaches were also included, as well as a pack of rabid squirrels that lived in the attic.
I woke up tired. I hadn’t been sleeping very well lately. All night long I had been haunted, not by three ghosts, but by the fond memories of childhood Christmases past. Now it was Christmas day and I wasn’t feeling the magic. It was just another Tuesday. I hadn’t even put up my tree yet, looked like that wasn’t going to happen this year.
As I clicked on the fluorescent lights to my kitchen I heard the familiar pitter-patter of tiny roaches retreating to the cupboard. But other than that, not a creature was stirring. Even the squirrels which normally rustled above me must have had holiday plans, because they were strangely silent on that winter morning. Everything was exactly as I had left it. The sink was full of dirty dishes. A forgotten gallon of warm milk and the leftovers from last-night’s dinner rested plainly on the counter. My advent calendar was still stuck on December second. I grabbed a pack of blueberry pop tarts from the shelf and a can of Coke and started my day.
As soon as I stepped into my living room, I noticed something was wrong. The box of fake candles I had bought for the front window sat unopened on the couch next to the spot where my Christmas tree was supposed to go. I may not be able to magically produce a Christmas tree and decorate in one day, but I [could] plug in some fake candles to go in the front window. I quickly dismantled the box and searched for an extension cord. I had to disconnect the fish tank, but I finally found one.
As I approached my front window, I saw the large shadow of a tail in the venetian blinds. Seconds later, a large squirrel lunged past me, slamming into my prized collection of Bruce Springsteen CDs. Unlike the furry Hollywood variety, this squirrel clawed and shrieked at me as he leaked feces over the white carpet, like a gumdrop trail from hell.
You never plan for bad things to happen. I didn’t wake up thinking that my apartment would be invaded by an ill-tempered squirrel. Like most things in life, it just happened. I wish I could tell you I rushed to face my attacker with bravery and emerged victorious. But what really happened was much less glorious. I grabbed my keys, and then sprinted down the stairs to my car wearing only boxers.
The squirrel peered down from my second floor unit me hiding in my car, taunting me as I speed-dialed the superintendent, reaching the answering service. They took the message but didn’t promise anything. At that moment, it hit me. It was Christmas Day. There was no one coming. I was on my own.
My limbs froze in my car, while my mind boiled with the thought of the squirrel running wild in my apartment. I wasn’t going to let some little rodent steal my home and my Christmas. I finally got out of the car and ran towards the building. The courtyard was empty except for an old woman walking her dog. She took one look at me, and headed off in the other direction.
As I climbed the stairs of to my apartment, my breath quickened. I could hear the squirrel grinding through my living room above. When I finally made it to the top of the stairs I stopped dead in my tracks at the door. With my fingers on the cold brass knob, I tried to summons the bravery of the Minute Men from the Revolutionary War who flushed the Red Coats out of New Jersey. But did I really want to spend the holidays getting a round of rabie shots to the stomach?
Before I could turn the knob, my superintendant came bounding up the stairs. I smelled alcohol on the old guy’s breath as he blew past in a bright red jogging suit. He could have passed for a Santa, a mall Santa anyway. Just like the real St. Nick, he went straight to his work. This pretty much included swatting at a squirrel with a broom stick. “Open all the windows!” He yelled.
I froze in the middle of the room as the squirrel bounced around the apartment like a pin ball.
“Go on! Open up!” My superintendent screamed loader this time.
Finally, I sprung into action. With my head down, I plowed through the living room towards the front windows. I jimmied the locks open with the skill of a master locksmith. Mission accomplished, I swept through the rest of the apartment clearing multiple paths to the outside world, or egress as the military say.
The whole ordeal jump-started my body. I felt the rush of adrenalin pumping through my veins. I felt alive again, like I could run a marathon. I wouldn’t say it was Christmas miracle because those don’t typically happen when you’re naked. But, for the first time in a long while, I had hope that things could only get better. I would start with the apartment.