Leighton picked up his nail clippers, slowly but surely. He’d made up his mind. He walked to his balcony, slowly but surely. He looked at the pigeon net that ensconced the balcony and began to cut, slowly. But surely.
He climbed onto the metal frame, and dangled his legs over the edge. He looked down, down, down to the road, thirteen stories below. Another Christmas. Another fucking Christmas.
The season of joy had always been one of anything but for Leighton. Many people claim to hate Christmas – the over-commercialisation of a religious event, the Christmas charts number 1, and the endless, unceasing good cheer – but for Leighton, Christmas had been one emotional dagger to the heart after another. And now, on this Christmas Eve, once again reading the Line message – a Line message, signed with a fucking ‘sticker’ no less – from Megumi, he decided he could take no more Christmases.
Leighton smoked a final cigarette and watched as he flicked the butt, watched as it swirled in the wind, watched as it disappeared from sight somewhere around the seventh floor. That was it. It was time.
“It’s pretty dangerous up there, you should be careful.”
The unexpected voice startled Leighton, making his already precarious position virtually untenable.
“You might fall.”
Leighton carefully turned to the direction of the voice and found, on his old battered deckchair, a strange man of diminutive stature, clad head to toe in red and green.
“Where the fuck did you come from?”
“Come on Leighton, get down from there.”
“I asked you a question. Where the fuck did you come from.”
“Your questions will be answered momentarily, but first, let’s get you on firmer footing.” And then, with a barely perceptible waggling of curiously pointed ears, Leighton found himself lifted by invisible forces, hovering for a moment and then on his feet, the safe side of the balcony.
With Leighton stuck for words, the stranger took his cue.
“So, first of all, to answer your question, ‘where the fuck did I come from?’ Well, I came from the North Pole, though I presume that your question was less of a geographic nature, and more of a ‘how the hell did I get into your apartment?’ nature. Am I right?”
“Well,” the stranger continued, “it was kind of like….” And then, in a puff of blue smoke he vanished, only to reappear at the other end of the balcony. “…this.”
Leighton spun round, still dumbstruck, so the stranger continued.
“I am what you would call an elf, though personally I find the term somewhat derogatory. My name is Erikyjafjallajökullanopkalderaltidafdødelægtningehelstdirekteforfædre, but you can call me Erik.”
Leighton finally found his tongue. “And what are you doing here? Are you some kind of Ghost of Christmas Past, come to tell me how unhappy everyone will be if I die?”
Erik spat with distaste. “Come on Leighton. The Dickens thing has been done to death. It’s so passé, and it’s the last refuge of the unimaginative. But I am here to make sure you have a good Christmas. So put your glad rags on, and let’s hit the town.”
Then, in another puff of bluish smoke, Leighton found himself no longer on his balcony, but in a packed gaijin bar. Not only that, but he found himself dressed head to toe in designer gear and, when pushing his hand into a designer pocket to search out a cigarette with which he could soothe his frayed nerves, he found that it was stuffed with ¥10,000 notes.
“Look Leighton, I’m here to cheer you up a bit, to show you that Christmas can be a time of fun, a time of cheer. It doesn’t always have to be miserable. Christmas, like life, is what you make of it Leighton.”
“What are you? Some kind of genie?”
Erik waggled his head, the little bell on his hat tinkling as he did so. “Kind of, in so much as I can make wishes come true. But not,” he added hastily, “in any way that might infringe on the famously litigious Disney Corporation’s many copyrights of the aforementioned lamp-dwelling being.
“Now stop trying to rationalize things,” Erik continued,” and get yourself to the bar. These two beautiful ladies look thirsty.”
And sure enough, as Leighton looked to his left he found two gorgeous girls smiling at him encouragingly, expectantly.
“Um, right you are,” Leighton muttered, nervously shoving a hand into his other pocket, finding it too, stuffed with cash. “Champagne?”
As the night wore on, the bubbly flowed as easily as the conversation, and the foursome – Leighton, Erik and the two delightful young ladies in their company – had moved via puffs of smoke around Nagoya, sweeping through the city’s exclusive bars and fine dining restaurants, until eventually they found themselves, all horrifically inebriated, back in Leighton’s apartment.
Leighton had been gleefully enjoying the company of both beautiful ladies in his bedroom, but feeling a sudden pang of guilt for doing so, called out to his elven friend.
“Erik, oi Erik!”
“Whassup?” the elf slurred, streaks of vomit on his little green waistcoat.
“You’re a fucking legend mate. Come on, get in this fucking bed. I can’t handle both of these girls. They’re too much for me!”
The girls giggled their assent.
“Sorry Leighton, I can’t mate. Them’s the rules.”
“Rules? Fuck the rules. Who’s gonna know?”
“The boss. He’ll have my guts for garters if he finds out.”
“Well, who says he’ll find out?”
“Oh, he’ll know. He’s got this list, you see,” Erik hiccupped. “And he doesn’t just check it once. He’s a meticulous bastard is my boss.”
“Fuck it!” cajoled Leighton. It’s Christmas, innit? You’ve given me a great gift, so it’s my turn to reciprocate.” And with that he whipped the covers back to reveal the beautiful, naked, giggling ladies.
Faced with the feast of firm flesh before him, Erik’s resilience wavered, and he took off his little elven hat. The girls giggled at the sound of the hat’s bell as he laid it on the ground. Then he took off his little elven shirt. The girls giggled at the sound of the shirt’s bell as he laid it on the ground. Then he took off his little elven trousers. The girls giggled at the sound of the trousers’ bell as he laid it on the ground. Then he took off his little elven underpants. The girls didn’t giggle this time. No, they didn’t giggle at the sound of his enormous elven penis hitting the floor with a thud.
“Well, I suppose it is Christmas…”
The next morning Leighton woke to find himself alone in his bed, the lingering scent of perfume the only thing that remained of the beautiful women.
But still he felt invigorated, buoyed by the previous night’s frivolities, and remembering that it was Christmas morning, hopped out of bed to see what presents he may find.
But Leighton found no presents. All he did find was a sullen, depressed looking elf.
“Merry Christmas Erik,” Leighton gleefully hallooed.
“What’s so merry about it?” Erik was ashen-faced.
“Well, it’s Christmas. You’re an elf, shouldn’t you be all jolly and shit?”
“I should be, but I’m not. I’m fucking miserable. My life is ruined,” he wailed.
Leighton wasn’t really the consoling type, but mustered up his best “there, there, it can’t be that bad.”
“But it is,” Erik sobbed. “For me it is.” He blew his nose into an oversized handkerchief, the bell in his hat tinkling as he did so. “I’m not supposed to consort with the human women, but I couldn’t help it. I was so drunk. And now, not only is my wife gonna kill me, but I found this in my stocking this morning.”
In his hand, Erik held a small, hard, lump of coal.
“I told you the boss would find out, and this is his way of telling me that, not only am I no longer on the nice list, but I’m also out of a job. My life is over.”
In a puff of blue smoke, Erik disappeared from the sofa and reappeared on the balcony ledge.
“Don’t be stupid mate,” Leighton called after him. You told me that life is what you make of it, right.”
Erik turned to look back at his friend, a crooked grin on his face. “Leighton?”
“Go fuck yourself.”
And with that, in not a puff of bluish smoke, he disappeared.