Jude (aka Mr. Elf)
“I’m sure we can find someone who owns a flamethrower. Hell, Amazon delivers just about anything.”
God, one day the thin walls in these apartments were going to be the death of me. Looking up at the ceiling, I tried not to imagine what the idiots upstairs would do with a flamethrower.
They couldn’t even run a toaster without setting off the fire alarm in the building.
What the fuck were they doing?
“What about moving? That’s an option. You said you wanted more closet space.” The earnest panic in the slightly deeper voice had me realizing I could hear them entirely too well.
Fuck. I’d left the window open. It was stupid considering how badly the sound carried, but it wasn’t my fault. It was not supposed to be this warm in December.
“Where’s a Daddy when you need one?”
I knew that voice. It was the short one with the big eyes who was always tripping over nothing. Last week I’d walked past him on the stairs and he’d almost killed himself…and from what I’d heard the firefighters say, he’d been the one to set the toaster on fire.
The first voice was still entirely too excited. “Do people give flamethrowers as Christmas gifts?”
No, they didn’t and if someone was stupid enough to give them one, I’d fix that bad decision quickly.
“We can’t wait a week for help.” The reminder from Bambi Eyes upstairs that Christmas was just around the corner didn’t help my mood any. “And I can’t call my family and ask to be saved again. They’d never let me live it down.”
They really had no idea how loud they were when the windows were open. What the fuck had they done this time? If this was another shadow that looked like a mouse, I was going to complain to someone.
“The mouse was perfectly understandable.” Flamethrower Dude seemed to be just a bit offended. “But this is a spider…and we can see it clearly enough to take a picture. It’s bigger than the crickets were.”
Damn it. Why did it have to be reasonable this time?
“I’m pretty sure it’s bigger than our plates, fuck the crickets.” Closet Dude was starting to sound more and more like he was going to side with Flamethrower Dude.
“Maybe if I take a picture of it, we can get one of my brothers to come help?” Bambi seemed like he hated that idea but was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of humanity. “Did you know they came that big?”
What the fuck had they found upstairs?
If it turned out to be fucking plastic or they were high and it was invisible, I was going to call the fucking management company.
Setting aside my computer where I’d been job hunting to help supplement my scholarships—a hopeless task right before Christmas—I thought about how to capture and/or possibly kill a spider the size of a dinner plate.
That had to be a pet, right?
It seemed me and Closet Dude were on the same wavelength.
“Wait. Don’t some people keep spiders as pets? Like the big ones? Right?” They mumbled too low for me to hear for several seconds before Closet Dude’s voice came back. “Come here, Buddy. Oh, maybe he’s got a human name? Hey, Nick, come here.”
They had to be high.
Shaking my head, I grabbed a big-ass Tupperware cake container I couldn’t remember buying and the industrial strength bug spray I’d purchased after the Great Cricket Fiasco.
I lived in the strangest apartment building ever.
But just as I was about to head upstairs and make sure they weren’t so high they were talking to imaginary arachnids named Nick, Bambi’s voice caught my attention again.
“Does Santa take requests?” The way his voice volleyed between panic and hope had me shaking my head. “He likes littles. Everyone knows that. You guys are screwed, but he’ll help me.”
Like littles or was Bambi shorter than I’d realized?
Stairs could fuck with perception, right?
Oh, had he really talked about a Daddy before?
As I started to fall down a rabbit hole of self-recrimination, Bambi spoke up again. “Save me, Santa. Please. I’ve been very good this year and I haven’t bought any toys in months.”
Closet Dude sucked in a breath and groaned. “Man, don’t lie to Santa. That’s just messed up.”
Clearly Bambi had bought more toys than he wanted to tell Santa about.
“It’s for a good cause. Don’t tell on me.” I couldn’t tell if Bambi was being serious or just fucking with Closet Dude, but if he was little, I would lean toward serious. “Santa said I’m going to get a Build-a-Bear this year. You’re going to put me on the naughty list.”
“You probably should’ve asked him to save us. Aren’t Christmas wishes supposed to be about helping others?” Flamethrower Dude had a point.
I wasn’t going to listen to them debate how they should manipulate Santa, though.
If the spider was real, it might end up eating them before they could figure out how to get Santa to send help.
Heading upstairs, still telling myself I was an idiot, I knocked on their door and heard more chaos.
“Maybe his name is Ralph?”
For fuck’s sake.
Who would name a spider Ralph?
I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or frustrated when Bambi opened the door. “Oh.”
He stood there staring at me for several long seconds before blinking and coming back to life. “Um, hello?”
I wasn’t going to even try to figure out why that’d seemed like a question.
“I’m here to help with the bug.” Raising one eyebrow, I held up my weapons of choice.
His eyes got even wider and he marveled at me like I was the second coming of sliced bread. “How did you know?”
I was an asshole.
“Santa sent me.” As he stood there sputtering, I brushed against him and wiggled my way inside. “Show me where the damn thing is.”
Bambi pointed toward the Christmas tree of all things. A truly sad Charlie Brown one that looked like it’d been put through the wringer. His insane roommates were standing there like they were hypnotized by the lights and somehow coordinating ornaments. All ten of them.
Yep, they were fucking high.
But surprisingly enough there was a spider the size of a fucking plate making a home in their Christmas tree.
Somehow, they hadn’t hallucinated it.
Maybe the stupid cake container wouldn’t be too big after all.
When the spider moved, Dumb and Dumber jumped and finally noticed me. I wasn’t going to begin to guess what they’d consumed or which one had decided a flamethrower was a good idea, but I gave them both stern glares just in case they were subs too.
“Santa said there will be absolutely no flamethrowers. Is that clear?” They nodded like the Christmas Angel had touched down in the middle of their living room. “Santa also wants to know what you’ve been eating. He’s pissed.”
There was no smoking in the building and they weren’t potheads…just idiots…so I wasn’t surprised when they pointed to the table.
Glaring again, I looked between the morons and Bambi. “Who gave you the brownies? Santa is very upset.”
Dumb and Dumber looked at Bambi. “Brady’s mom.”
For fuck’s sake.
“Santa told me they’re going to give you food poisoning. They need to go in the trash right now so you’re not up all night with the shits.” That scared the three idiots enough that they all ran over to dump the half-eaten pan of brownies in the trash.
Whose mother gave out pot brownies for Christmas?
Suddenly my fucked-up family didn’t seem so bad after all.
While they were trying to decide how much they’d eaten and who’d consumed more of the toxic brownies, I studied the spider. The fucking huge spider. It was fancy too, kind of striped-looking and almost pretty if I ignored that it was a spider the size of a plate.
Definitely a pet.
This was not something we had naturally roaming around the eastern US.
Praying to whatever gods would listen, I asked the universe to make sure the damned thing couldn’t kill me as I tried to save the potheads. Of course, I didn’t have a lot of faith in said universe, but I figured under the circumstances it couldn’t hurt.
As I watched the spider move around and tried to figure out the best way to trap it—bug spray was not going to work on this sucker—Bambi came over. “Do…do you think Santa is angry that I might’ve stretched the truth a bit? I’m…I don’t want to be on the naughty list.”
High littles were the strangest things ever put on this planet.
Taking him absolutely seriously, I glanced away from the tree to shake my head. “No, Santa understands emergencies and he doesn’t expect you to wait all year to get presents. He sent me, didn’t he? That means he can’t get mad. I bet your Build-a-Bear is going to be great.”
Bambi marveled and his tone was filled with awe. “You talked to Santa.”
Shrugging, because that wouldn’t be lying, I watched the spider shift around on the tree. “Just make good decisions and you’ll see.”
“Oh, wow, you know Santa.” Bambi was really stuck on that point, so I had a feeling he’d eaten the bigger portion of the brownies. “Are you an elf?”
Before I could decide if I was going to laugh or bark out at him that I was like a foot taller than he was, Bambi turned to his equally insane friends. “He’s an elf. Santa isn’t mad at me.”
That seemed to make perfect sense to the nuts.
The guy who I thought was Flamethrower Dude smiled. “I knew you weren’t on the naughty list. That’s great.”
So did they all just take Christmas really seriously because of the little or were they really that high?
Closet Dude came over and gave Bambi a hug. “That’s great, man, just great. I knew you wanted that guy. Suits are hot.”
For the teddy bear?
Suits were hot on a fucking Build-a-Bear?
Rolling my eyes, I couldn’t decide what I’d done to have the universe drop this insanity in my lap. “Just so we’re clear, none of you guys actually own this spider, right?”
It seemed like a stupid question, but as they turned to each other questioningly, I realized it might not be. After a few seconds of curious looks and a round of man is that your bug, it was decided that none of them owned the spider.
This definitely had to be Cricket Dude’s problem.
The no-pet thing applied to fucking spiders as well.
How had this even gotten loose?
Cricked Dude was probably high from pot brownies too.
“Alright. Do any of you know anyone who has a pet spider?” That seemed to be an easier question somehow and they all shook their heads in unison. “Okay.”
Now we’d catch the spider so it couldn’t decide to move down to my apartment.
Yep, that was the plan.
Bambi and his cohorts just stood there staring in silence as I took a picture for posterity, so I knew they wouldn’t be any help unless I wanted to go shopping on Amazon.
Okay, I had to get the spider out of the tree before Bambi decided this was some kind of punishment from Santa for all the shit he’d purchased lately.
Taking a breath and letting it out slowly, I refused to back down and look like a wuss in front of Bambi and the high morons. When the spider started to move along the outside of the tree, I carefully scooped it up in the cake box and put the lid on before I could overthink it and give myself a heart attack.
Okay, now what?
“Santa sent the best elf ever.” Bambi sighed and his eyes seemed to get wider as he marveled at me. “You’re a badass elf.”
How was I supposed to respond to that?
The bobblehead morons just nodded along as they watched the cake box like they were afraid it was going to explode like some kind of horror movie nightmare.
“Thank you.” It seemed like the only reasonable response, so I ignored how stupid it was. “You three are going to stay here and watch a movie. Santa loves Christmas movies, so see if you can find one about him to watch.”
That would keep them out of trouble for a while, right?
How long did pot stay in someone’s system? I had no firsthand experience with anything like this because I was a class-A control freak and I wasn’t going to look like an idiot.
Three heads bobbed in sync and Flamethrower Dude let out a breath. “You saved us. I don’t know how to work a flamethrower.”
“Santa sent me, so be good and don’t do anything naughty.” Like drive high.
After a ridiculous round of head shakes and promises to be good for Santa, Dumb and Dumber went over to the couch to pick out a movie. Bambi looked at them and then back at me and then at the spider…and sighed like we were in the middle of a bad Hallmark rom-com. “Can…can I thank you for saving us, Mr. Elf?”
How had my life come to this?
“Yes, you’ve been very good and I did save the day.” I had no idea what thanking me would mean other than saying thank you, so I was dumbfounded when he inched around to the side and stretched up on his toes to kiss my cheek.
“Thank you, Mr. Elf. Would you please tell Santa that we appreciate being saved from the giant spider?” Bambi was so earnest as he stepped back that I found myself nodding.
“Yes, just be good and watch the movie. Santa will remember how well you followed directions.” That would give them time to either sober up or fall asleep, right?
Bambi nodded seriously before giving me a sweet smile. “Yes, Mr. Elf. I’ll make sure we’re all very good.”
Because he wanted to thank Santa and he wanted his Build-a-Bear.
Christmas was too fucking stressful.
“Good boy.” I shouldn’t have said it, but I did. “Go watch the movie.”
Bambi turned to obey, but he stopped and looked back at me for a moment. “Do you want to stay and watch it with us? I don’t think Santa would mind.”
Fuck it all.
Why did he have to be sweet?
“Thank you for asking.” I shook my head as I held up the big-ass spider. “But I have to go see a man about a spider.”
Bambi looked sad, but gave me a smile anyway. “I understand, Sir. Thank you.”
I hated Christmas.
“You’re welcome.” Then I left to see another moron about a bug before I could be talked into watching Christmas movies.
It was going to be a long week.
Save me, Santa. Please. I’ve been very good this year and I haven’t bought any toys in months.” (Shh…white lies are okay when spiders are involved.)
When a Christmas wish has a Secret Santa showing up to save the day, Brady knows he’s found the man, or possibly elf, of his dreams…until he gets accidentally poisoned and can’t remember his Christmas savior. But Santa comes to his rescue again when his Secret Santa rewards his good behavior with a new toy and a sweet letter. However, the one thing the note doesn’t tell him is the name of the man who saved the day.
Thin walls make for weird neighbors.
When open windows have Jude heading upstairs to save his neighbors from the biggest spider he’s ever seen, he’s just a bit frustrated. Well, he’s frustrated until the cutest little he’s ever seen kisses his cheek and thanks him for saving the day. Now the biggest problem is his cute little’s lack of memory and the fact that they’d never actually spoken before the great spider invasion.
Sometimes the holidays are stressful…and sometimes they’re magic.
Author’s Note: While Jude does have to go rescue Brady from a rather large spider, it’s a funny scene and not stressful. The spider is not harmed and no one is actually scared…just slightly confused and wondering if they’re hallucinating. (Brownies with an unfortunate ingredient were also involved, so it was perfectly acceptable to question reality.)