And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer. (Revelations 6:1-2)
Quivering fingers poked at a snoring duvet cover. “Dad, it’s five-thirty. Can we open presents now?”
“Did you make me a double caf venti latte with an extra shot of espresso?” the duvet asked.
“Of course. We know the rules for Christmas.”
The duvet grumbled, which set off a mad dash of limbs tumbling down the stairs and into the perumba of a Christmas tree. The owners of the limbs traded slaps and pushes.
Dad sipped his latte. “Cut it out. You both know the rules. The first present goes to the winner of a double-elimination, best three out of five rock-scissors-paper shoot out. I’ll count down the start. One, two …”
“Marci can go first, Dad,” Linus said. “The rock-scissors-paper tournament takes too long. I’ll open a present sooner if I give up my spot.”
“How very mature of you,” Dad said. “Which present would you like to open, Marci?”
“The big one! The big one!” Marci dove over the pile of loot. Flecks of spittle flew from her mouth. She wrestled a rectangular box to the ground, and ripped at the Arbor Day-themed wrapping paper like a swarm of piranhas skeletonizing a goat.
Marci held her trophy aloft. “Yay, The Four My Little Ponies of the Apocalypse. You remembered, Daddy.”
“How could I forget? You reminded me ten times a day for three months. Please share with your brother. We’re not having a repeat of last year’s Slumlord Barbie incident.”
Marci fired up a table saw to remove the protective plastic shell encasing her new toys. She tossed a white horse to her brother. “He can play with this one, but I get the other three.”
Linus whinnied and pantomimed the My Little Pony trotting over the shag carpet. His body exploded with red bumps. “Ow, Dad, this itches.”
When he opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red. And power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another, and there was given unto him a great sword. (Revelations 6:3-4)
“I’m tired of this pony. I want the red one,” Linus said. He swung a sack of nickels at his sister. She ducked under the incoming bludgeon, grabbed an empty whiskey bottle by the neck, and smashed off the end.
Jagged fingers of glass groped for Linus’s nose. “You want the red pony? Let’s dance, motherfu…”
“Kids, please. You know the rules. Any disagreement over who gets to play with a toy is settled by best four out of seven thumb wrestling.”
The sack of nickels fell to the floor. “Fine,” Linus said. “but I’m picking my nose first.”
The broken whiskey bottle smashed into the Christmas tree. “Fine, but I’m sticking my thumb up my butt first.”
“Fine, I’m sticking my thumb up the dog’s butt.”
“Fine, I’m sticking my thumb in Dad’s hollandaise sauce.”
“Dad,” Linus wailed, “Marci’s cheating and being gross.”
“Kids, you know what happens when you can’t agree on the rules for thumb wrestling. Best five out of nine interpretive dance contest.”
“Ugh, never mind,” Marci said. She tossed the red pony to her brother. “I’ll get a different one.”
When He opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. So I beheld, and lo, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts saying, “A measure of wheat for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius, and see thou harm not the oil and wine.” (Revelations 6:5-6)
Marci galloped the black pony over a wasteland of torn wrapping paper. “Dad, I’m famished. Can we eat?”
Dad rubbed his palms together. “Is it time for your Dad’s extra-special traditional Christmas dinner? Go check the kitchen for the main course.”
Marci rummaged through the pantry. “Sorry, Pop. We’re all out of Funyuns.”
“Arrrrgh. How are we supposed to honor the birth of our Lord and Savior without Funyuns.” Dad snapped his fingers. “I know, let’s check the Bible. They probably have some sort of cheat sheet in there.”
Linus flipped pages. “Here we go. No seafood unless it has fins and scales.”
“Well crap. Lobster thermidor was the back up plan in case Funyuns didn’t work out. What else ya got?”
“Crickets. Says here we can eat crickets.”
“Your grandma always makes crickets á l’orange for St. Barnabas’s Day. I guess we could switch that to Christmas this year.”
“Eww,” Marci said. “Orange is icky. Can we have Owl Bourguignon instead?”
“Bad news,” Linus chirped. “Bible says owl is out. Same with ospreys. Grasshoppers are okay, though.”
“That’s my vote,” Dad said. “I got a bushel of grasshoppers at Trader Joe’s last week. Gotta use ‘em up before they go bad.”
When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth. (Revelations 6:7-8)
Marci untangled the pale My Little Pony from its plastic bindings. She tossed it to the dog, who woofed with appreciation before chew-slobbering the toy into oblivion.
Linus opened the fridge. A swarm of grasshoppers tumbled out with a six-pack of beer, their hind legs twisted about the bottles. Tipsy mandibles sipped the sweet nectar inside. “Gross, Dad. The grasshoppers are alive.”
“Of course they’re alive. They taste like ass unless they die a horrible, painful death as you cook them, like lobster. Or collard greens.”
“Do they scream in agony like collards?”
“Damn straight they do. The screaming is what makes them delicious. Let’s boil up a big pot of cheap beer to murder us some grasshoppers for Christmas dinner.”
CALEB ECHTERLING is currently performing in a one-person show that combines self-esteem building strategies with insult comedy. He tweets funny fiction using the highly creative handle @CalebEchterling. You can find more of his work at www.calebechterling.com.