by Larry Hodges
I was hidin’ behind the tribute tree snackin’ on sugar-plums when the redcoat came down the chimney on the night of 24th December. If Ma and Pa knew they’d thrash me and prob’ly make me go to school. But I had to see one for myself—they only come down once a year. ‘Sides, I had a pistol to defend myself with. Sort of.
There was a clatter, and then the ugly blue thing came outa the fireplace and crept on all fours toward the tree, its fat belly scrapin’ the floor. I hunched down, hopin’ it wouldn’t see me. My shoulder rubbed against the tree and musta shook it.
The redcoat froze, starin’ right at me with its squinty black eyes. It wore a bright red coat with white trim, with black smudgin’s from the chimney, and a big black belt. The nose seemed out of place on the fat blue wrinkly face, like a bright red cherry. It was sorta human-lookin’, in a non-human sorta way—a tiny forehead over a too-big mouth that stuck out too much, the eyes all squinty, and little bitty ears.
It grinned, and continued slinkin’ toward the tree. It rummaged through all the decorated boxes and stockings full of loot we’d left for it—tribute so it wouldn’t burn our house down and kill us all—and stuck it all in a sack over its shoulder. It ate the chestnuts we’d roasted over the fire. Then it stood and began feastin’ on the tree.
It’s strange that man’s only predator ain’t a lion or bear or crocodile or some such meat-eater. It’s these veggie-eatin’ redcoats. President Washington took ’em on last year, with thousands of troops all over our newly freed country, ready to shoot them redcoats as they came out the chimneys, just like they’d shot the British redcoats a while back. What a travesty it was. The bullets just bounced off these redcoats, and they shot fire from those red noses and killed all the troops, includin’ Washington. Vice President Adams sensible-like decided that a little tribute once a year ain’t so bad, even warned people to stop blockin’ off their chimneys as the redcoats burned down those houses. Bloody coward.
The redcoat ate half the tree, a little Douglas Fir, stuffin’ them needles and branches down its gapin’ mouth like a robin gulpin’ worms. Then it shoved the tree aside and burped. It looked at me with a big crooked grin on its face.
I stood there, frozen. Then I got angry. This was my house! I pointed my gun at it, the one I’d spent all afternoon whittlin’ from a tree branch, and cried “Bang!”
It lashed out and grabbed the gun.
“Hey!” I cried. “Give it back!” Instead, it dropped down on all fours and crept real fastlike back to the fireplace. Turnin’, it grinned one more time as it crouched down in the fireplace. Then, holdin’ a finger to the side of its red nose, it shot up the chimney with all the tribute–and my toy gun.
“You plonker!” I cried. But it was gone. “You skanky, barmy arsehole shite!”
I musta hurt its feelin’s as it came back down the chimney. Now it was grinnin’ all sinister-like, showin’ its yellow teeth. It crept toward me and stood up. Pish! I slowly backed away. Suddenly fire shot from its cherry nose, just missin’ me as I sprang away. I dodged about like a crazed rabbit as it kept firin’. The curtains burst into flame and begun to spread. Then it cornered me ‘gainst the wall.
Bugger! I leaped toward it and swatted its big red nose. Sproooing! It fell off, revealin’ a bunch of flailin’ blue tendrils underneath, like a tiny upside-down octopus where the redcoat’s nose had been.
“They come off?” I cried. The redcoat and I both dove for the nose on the floor–and I won, holdin’ up my prize. The redcoat cowered like Cornwallis at Yorktown. Then it dashed away toward the front door, its belly shakin’ like a bowl full of jelly, and was out like a flash. I chased after it, but it scaled up to the roof and flew off in one of them flyin’ sleighs they use to come down from the North each year. That’s when Ma and Pa came out and began yellin’ at me. The house burned down, but we got out.
It’s been a year since I knocked the nose off that redcoat and told our generals all about it—and I’m a regular hero. President Adams even gave me a medal. Now that I’m a somebody Ma and Pa made me go to school to learn to talk right, but that ain’t gonna happen.
This year our militia’s got these metal suits, like knights from King Arthur’s time, to block the nose-flames as they get ready to ambush them redcoats. Blacksmiths spent all year makin’ these things—they even brought in these experts from England, who’s suddenly our best friend. Them metal suits will protect ’em long enough to get in close so they can smack those levitatin’ fire-shootin’ invisible-shield makin’ red nose things right off the redcoats ugly blue faces.
Ma and Pa put me to bed early, didn’t want me around when them redcoats come down our chimney again, but I snuck down by the fireplace where it’s snuggly warm. Paul Revere made me a shiny silver suit and I’m gonna grab me another red nose. It’s gonna be a Merry Christmas.
Larry Hodges recently published his humorous fantasy novel, Sorcerers in Space, via small press Class Act Books (see our review here). He’s an active member of SFWA with over 60 short story sales. This includes two to Abyss & Apex (“Human Help Desk,” 3rd Quarter 2013, and “Ghosts of Cretaceous Park,” 2nd Quarter 2008), as well as four to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, three to Space & Time, two to Weird Tales, and others to Escape Pod, Penumbra, and Buzzy Magazine.