If you aren't familiar with the movie The Polar Express, this isn't going to make a heck of a lot of sense to you. Merry Christmas!
It was a tough run, but we made it, we finally made it. With five minutes to spare, but time runs funny up here.
The boss promised me that this would be my final run, take one last load of Unbelievers up North and I'd be out, with a new identity and a fat bank account. Half a mile more and I'd be done.
As the train passed slowly through the city, the kids yammered on about elves. Elves and the Big Guy, all they ever thought they wanted to see.
They didn't know.
I felt bad about what was going to happen to them, but that was the price of Unbelief. I knew all about that, I'd paid it myself. To look at me, I was in my fifties, but on the calendar, I wasn't even seventeen. Heck, by Easter these kids will be in their early thirties. How else do you think the Man in Red can make all those presents every year?
"Ellllvesss!" For a moment I hoped that the kid had just seen some of the loaders. Older workers looked a bit like elves; decades of hard labor and a diet of nothing but reindeer meat and hot cocoa did funny things to the body. Elves, on the other hand, were bad news. I'd seen one once; it had gotten in through the sewers when I was about forty. They finally captured it, but at a cost. At the next roll call we all had to watch as it literally shredded seven of the flightless culls before being hosed down with napalm. And that was after it had been de-fanged. That demonstration had ended any talk of escape.
For obvious reasons, Mrs. C (yeah, she handled the dirty work. Surprised?) always gassed the sleigh loaders last, but these weren't redshirts, these were Elves, real Elves, a mob of them boiling up one of the side streets. Must have breached the Wall. I heard a reassuring thump from overhead, and knew that my partner had seen them too. "You: four-eyes!" I barked.
"My name's not four-eyes, it's --"
"Don't care. You know who Ma Deuce is?"
His eyes lit up behind his glasses. "Yes, sir! The M2 Browning fifty caliber machine gun is a heavy --"
"Thought you would. Ghost is setting one up on the roof. Now get on up there, he'll tell you what to do. Pigtails! You're pretty smart, think you're smart enough to work a flamethrower?" She stared, uncomprehending. "It's like one of those super soaky squirt guns, but it shoots fire. There's one in the last car. Get to the platform on the back and hose down anything that gets close." She gaped again. "For the love of Mike, GO!"
Who else? The kid from Edbrooke was already toast, curled up on the floor in a puddle of his own piss, but where was the other one, the troublemaker?
Smart kid, he was right behind me. "Listen, young man," I said, taking one of the M4 carbines down from the concealed overhead rack, "we're in some serious jelly, but we've got to protect this train. This," showing him the gun, "kills Elves. Help is on the way, and if we're lucky, we'll live to see it."
Of course, if the Elves didn't get him, the little Unbeliever would spend the rest of his year-long life in the Workshop, but the least I could do was give him the chance of a painless death. "If not, don't try to be a hero, boy. Those things out there will make you wish you'd never heard of Christmas. If they get on board, save the last one," I ejected a single round and dropped it into the pocket of his robe, "for yourself."
Me? I locked myself in the cleaning closet. Didn't get out of the Workshop and into the Conductor job through self-sacrifice now, did I?
Nothing to do with this joint or you lot.
"I'm so glad I could get that off my chest."
"I just needed someone to talk to."
"Keep this between you and me, okay?"
Yeah, okay, fine. Y'know what the worst thing about being trustworthy is? Everybody knows, everybody knows, everybody knows that you can be trusted. They can tell you about their concerns about Smith from Accounting. They can tell you that Jones from Marketing is fucking Baker from Baking. They can tell you that they've been having trouble with their spouse lately, and are seriously considering suicide/divorce/trial separation, in no particular order. They can tell you that they've got this lump, but they're afraid to see the docs, or that their retirement account isn't, that things are going south and their whole department may be laid off, or that they're going to get promoted but only if Promo from Promotions doesn't find out that they're getting laid by the Laying-Off Division section head or that their wife snores and the bitch is going to wake up sucking down a pillow one of these nights I swear to fuck Iain I am so sick of her shit but thanks for the talk, that really helped get me back on an even keel, don't mention it keep it dark I've only told you half of my half of the story but the rest well shit you shouldn't even know this much and anyway things are looking up dunno why I mentioned it in the first place thanks by the way I don't think it's the right time to consider opening up any new positions over there with the perks and privileges and pay you're so valuable over here and I've got such a rapport with you god knows what I'd do without someone to talk to....
You can trust me, I won't tell anyone.
I can keep anything bottled up.
I just got back from Hereditary. No spoilers, but I found this movie very enjoyable in the classic horror sense of things. There are a couple scenes involving a cell phone, but they don't need to be there, and the rest of the movie could have been done anytime in the last forty or fifty years. That's a compliment, if you enjoy films like The Exorcist and The Omen, you may enjoy this film. There are no wisecracking evil menaces, no terrified teenagers in swimsuits or underwear, and no gratuitous jump scares, just a pure supernatural evil and a family's attempt to deal with it.
On the critical side, there was one scene that I think may have had a set-dressing mistake, and I wasn't a fan of casting 68-year old Gabriel Byrne as the father of a thirteen-year-old and an eighteen-year-old (when my father was my age [forty-seven] I had already been honorably discharged from the Marines and would have graduated college if I'd taken that path). It's not a complaint about how he plays the role, it's just Hollywood's typical pattern of letting leading men play roles well into their, ahem, late middle age that should really be going to younger men. Toni Collette, on the other hand, is 46, which fits the character better and is fucking outstanding in this role. Kudos to the rest of the casting decisions as well, the younger actors and actresses look like, well, average teenage kids. The "beautiful girl" love interest is pretty attractive, but doesn't come across as having fallen off a Maybelline package or anything.
So anyway, if you like the old style of horror, I'd recommend this film. If boobs and splatter and jump-scares that were only the cat are more your thing, I won't judge, but you'll probably be bored to death.
Waiting in line this morning and a man in his fifties brazenly cut straight in front of me and a dozen other passengers to secure the best seat on the bus for himself and I find a spot sit down open the virtual paper on my phone and see an opinion piece demanding sensory friendly showings of movies and plays for people with autism and that Belgian law allows euthanasia of people with autism and that a middle-class white woman is complaining that someone laughed at her child’s name which is Abcde and the president’s lawyer has pled guilty to more counts of lying to Congress about working with the Russians and 737s will crash because of a safety feature that can’t be overridden and I wonder at what point where when why all my feigned progressivism is going to be seen as the embarrassing relics of a bygone age don’t mind him it was a different time back then yes but why is he yelling at that empty chair mom?
Seriously though, the stuffing gets made in the oven a day or so before. It's not safe to stuff a turkey that's going in the smoker, and I can't do it the same day because the genius who wired my apartment building put all the outlets on the same breaker, so running the oven and smoker at the same time results in a blackout.
So stuffing in the oven, turkey in the brine, my favorite is an apple juice/bourbon mix with some garlic, cloves, nutmeg, stuff like that. Stuffing is pretty simple, toast, Italian sausage, onions, carrots, apples, sage, marjoram maybe, gummi bears, whatever.
Turkey gets rinsed, dried, and buttered. Take the butter and mix it with sage (definitely) and whatever other aromatics take your fancy. Butter the outside, and peel back the skin from the meat around the rear cavity and neck and cram as much butter as you can into the gap. Doesn't matter if it's chunky and lumpy, it'll melt soon enough and recongeal in your arteries after dinner. Quarter an onion, an apple, and some carrots and celery and stuff them into the cavity and neck area. This stuff is going in the trash later, but it'll flavor the meat and most importantly the gravy.
For the gravy, get a disposable aluminum pan. The turkey is going on the highest rack in the smoker, the gravy pan goes on the lowest. Put a couple sticks of butter, smash a couple cloves of garlic, slice an onion, apple, some celery, and a bit of carrot and put them in the pan. Add a quarter bottle of bourbon, or enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. As the turkey smokes, its juices will drip into the gravy pan, which will also be picking up the smoke from inside the smoker. The butter will melt into the bourbon and cook the fruit and veg (it stays in the whole time, several hours).
Don't forget to make your mashed potatoes during this time. It's easy, wash, cube, and boil some potatoes. When you boil them, put one clove of peeled garlic per potato into the same pot that you're cooking the spuds in, or to taste. Boil them for 12-14 minutes or until a fork smashes a cube easily. Drain the potatoes and get them into a bowl or stand mixer quickly, and add a bunch of butter. How much? Dunno, whatever you think is right, plus 20%. Put some parmesan cheese in too, it's good stuff. Mix the hot potatoes until the butter has melted, and then add cream. Whole cream, it'll coat the butter in your arteries to promote smooth lipid flow. Add the cream sparingly, if you put too much in and your spuds go runny, you can salvage things by adding instant mashed potato powder. Once the consistency is right, taste things and start adding salt and pepper until they taste right. Cover with Saran Wrap and move on.
My smoker only goes to 275, which isn't hot enough to crisp the skin on the turkey, so when you're about ten degrees short of your goal, move the turkey to the oven at 350. At this point, pull the gravy pan and dump everything into the food processor and pulse it to chop up the veg.
A traditionalist would be making a roux of flour and oil at this point. I prefer to add two or three packs of turkey or chicken gravy powder and stir.
When the turkey comes out of the oven, wrap it in foil and put the stuffing into the microwave to heat up. Check to make sure the potatoes are still warm as well, and adjust as necessary.
After about half an hour, the turkey will be ready to eat. Scoop the vegetables that you stuffed into the cavity and discard them, there's a slight chance that they may not have reached a safe temperature, so their job is done.
Cranberry sauce comes from a can, and pies from a bakery. If your guests want side dishes, let them figure it out.
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