Knecht Brude Et Noel

My story begins in Europe, near the west, a small village of note—but that’s where these things normally begin, don’t they? My family was quite poor. Food was in short supply and diseases ran rampant from the lowly insects on rats to the royalty in the east. I was quickly orphaned along with my younger brother. It was our times’ version of a “cost-cutting measure.” Yet, neither my brother nor I would be discouraged. As the oldest, I had to put myself to work doing menial chores and back-breaking physical labor. My brother, on the other hand, was suited more to mental challenges. He was able to persuade people into charity with a twinkle in his eye or a trinket in his hand. Never a tear shed or a manipulative sulk. At first I thought nothing of it but more and more people came every day to tussle his hair and give him coins for scraps of who knows what. I guess that’s when I began to wonder, what was so special about him? Why were people getting so excited for little bits of wood, paper, and cork cut and shaped? Shiny paint made from bug bits to coat everything. Round baubles made fantastical with just a glance from my brother’s blue eyes.

The following winters would get worse and worse, storms blowing down saplings and snow clogging up the streets.  Yet every day the line for my brother’s novelties grew longer. It didn’t matter that I was breaking myself, working in the factory from dawn to dusk—hell, even fellow workers were in line when I’d get back.  And what did he do with all the money, you ask? Why, it all went back into the trinkets. They were all he cared about.

Except, to be fair, for one night.

I found a bright red winter coat wrapped and laid carefully on my bed, and the next day, when I brought him some breakfast as usual, he was wearing a similar coat. But a small nod and a new addition to my wardrobe wasn’t going to change anything. When we got word that our parents passed, he refused to come back into town with me to pay our respects, saying his work was too important.  That’s when something between us started to break. As the oldest I had to put him first, but just once it would’ve been nice to rest, to leave this life behind and not have to worry about someone else. I dyed that stupid coat a dark black and journeyed to the farthest reaches of town, searching for where my parents were marked and buried as the aftermath of disease spread people far from their families. When I did find them, all I had to leave for the gods was a lump of coal from the factory and one of my brother’s gaudy ornamentals. I tied one to each marker, shed some tears and hurried away.

Upon my return is when I lost something else. The sickly bright colors had taken over my home and every other stead. My brother’s small craft stand had turned into an empire, with feeble malnourished children, fresh off the street, hammering and carving small objects with precision. I had to search through multiple shops and stands to even get wind of my brother, not because he was looking for me but because, apparently, he was making deliveries of wares to people’s homes. It felt like I wandered into a waking nightmare, and it got even worse when a rotund looking stranger all in red clapped me on the back and exclaimed “Ho, ho, ho!”

Shock overtook me, but after a few days I got used to my brother’s new visage and career aspirations. Hell, I even began to join him on longer trips out, but somehow everything got twisted. I defended him from robbers and assembled a team of assistants for him when I couldn’t be there, because he needed protection always. Shiny objects attract predators, it’s a simple fact of life. That, or things get poisoned. I never understood how a man so large could be so naïve. Joyful and nice to everyone—baw, please. I got so many beatings that should’ve been upon his head and received nothing in return—besides a crippled body, of course. I’m just thought of as a monster or a joke, but I never hit any urchins with a broom or took young ones from their homes, or beat anyone with a bag of ashes, because how would that even work?  I didn’t own slaves, and yet I’m the bad one and I’m the one that gets misremembered and then let go by my own brother due to “image” concerns for the Christmas “brand.”

“Umm sir, we don’t really deal with that kind of thing here at the UO. When I say ‘what was your last job’ and ‘in what field,’ I mean something along the lines of sales and at, you know, a company.”

“Apparently in these times I’m a lability for—-oh right, right. So then, I was a human… relationship consultant at, uh… SAND CO. Yes.”

“Okay, and how long did you hold that position?”

“Over four hundred of your earth—uh, I mean, forty. Over forty years, until my brother and the new media threw me under the bus with their—”

“Haha, okay, I think we’re skipping ahead a little. The reason you left your other position could come up a bit later, but let’s not worry about it now. It isn’t as important as you might think. With your level of experience, you could be a great fit for many jobs. What industries do you think you might be interested in?”

“Well, something indoorsy, I guess. I have a limp. Also don’t like interacting with large groups.”

“Ah, I see. Does that affect your working ability? For example, could you still lift up to thirty pounds if necessary?”

“Of course I could! I’ve lifted an entire sleigh! I mean, sled… set. I, uh, stocked toys at the factory.”

“Great! I’ll make a note of that. Do you have any other relevant work experience? You mentioned something about human resources and children? Also some sort of factory?”

“Blah, ugh, I hate children, so sticky and awful.  But I do have a lot of experience in conflict management and mediation.”

“That’s wonderful to hear, Mr. Kne-ch-it.”

“It’s Kent.  Rupert Kent is fine.”

“Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure to meet you, Mr. Kent, and I’m sure with your level of expertise, you’ll get many calls before the end of the holiday season. Plus we keep your résumé on file for up to two years and will update it for you upon request.”

“Great, yes. Good tidings to you and the rest of the office.”

“Wow Cath, what was that guy’s deal?”

“I don’t know. It’s always hard placing older people, but this one’s going to be really difficult. And his contact information doesn’t bring anything up.”

“+1 19125978-25121219? What kind of number is that? No email?”


“How are you supposed to contact this guy? Smoke signals?”

“Ha. I guess I’ll just have to think really hard.”