Before you get to the short, I also got some other news today I thought I'd share. BOATK was selected by Amazon.com as one of their top books published in 2011 AND both the Kindle and PH editions were selected in the Top 10 Gay & Lesbian Fiction/Non-Fiction published in 2011. How insane is that?!?! I think my dedication below show's exactly how I feel about it.
(C) TJ Klune 2011.--You can share, but hey: don't be a dick about it, yeah?
(C) TJ Klune 2011.--You can share, but hey: don't be a dick about it, yeah?
Dedication~~To the fans of Bear, Otter, and the Kid: I wrote this with you all in mind. This is my way of saying thank you for what you made BOATK into, something that I couldn't even have imagined in my wildest dreams. Because of you, I get to keep on writing. I can proudly say I've got the best damn readers in the world!
“What is this, an assignment for school or something?” I ask, dreading what’s on the paper the Kid has handed me.
“Or something,” he agrees. “You know the poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas?”
“It’s doesn’t have the right message,” he says with complete seriousness. “And it feeds the lies parents tell their children that Santa Claus is real.” The Kid shakes his head. “I can’t believe some of the stuff adults get away with. You’d think this is Communist Russia with how adults brainwash children. It makes me wonder what else you two may have lied to me about.”
“You’ll never find out,” I grin at him.
“I don’t think kids in Communist Russia ever even got Christmas presents,” Otter points out. “If they did, it was probably a radish or something else. Like goat milk.”
I’m horrified. “People drink milk from goats?”
“Communism does weird things to people,” the Kid says.
“I don’t even know what Communism is,” I assure the both of them. But then of course, as I seem to do, I get stuck on a single idea. It’s my curse. “How do you think that the first people decided to drink milk from cows and goats, anyways? Did they just see one in a field one day and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to squeeze that fleshy thing underneath and swallow whatever comes out?’”
The Kid’s smile grows evil. “Isn’t that what you say to Otter now?”
Otter loses it. I glare at the both of them. “I’m not going to read your damn poem if you’re going to be dirty,” I snap at the Kid.
He grabs the paper from my hand. “Fine. I’ll read it to you.”
“I don’t think I can ever drink milk again,” I tell Otter as we move to the couch. “I’m way grossed out now.”
“You don’t have to drink milk,” he says. “You’ll only get osteoporosis and then die, just like those commercials say.”
“I don’t think that’s a real thing.”
“What? Commercials? Commercials are very real, Bear.”
“Hey!” The Kid says. “You gonna listen to me, or what?”
Otter drops his arm around my shoulder and pulls me close. “You realize we have no one to blame but ourselves for the bad poetry, right?” he whispers in my ear, his lips grazing my skin and causing me to shiver.
“There’s a reason the arts in schools are a first thing to go,” I mumble, turning to kiss him lightly.
He kisses me back with a little more force. “How about tonight I squeeze your fleshy thing and see what happens?”
Gross. Kind of.
“I wonder if all my classmates have to see their brothers making out with their partners too,” the Kid says quite loudly. “I’m sure the conservatives would have a field day with our household, probably wondering how long it’ll take before I feel the need to kiss a guy.”
I narrow my eyes as I glance at him. “You don’t get to kiss anyone until you’re forty,” I admonish the Kid. “Kissing is a gateway act that leads to fuc—other things. No way in hell are you going to do that.”
“Whatever,” he says, waving his hand dismissively. “Are you going to listen to my poem or not?”
“There’s a choice?” I say hopefully.
I roll my eyes. “Read the latest epic, Kid.”
“It’d better rhyme,” Otter warns. “Real poems rhyme.”
“Oh, it does. Prepare to be blown away because I think I’ve outdone myself. Ladies and gentleman, I give you, ‘Twas a Few Days Before Christmas: A Wistful Reflection On My Carnivore Of A Brother .”
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” I mutter.
‘Twas a few days before Christmas
in the Green Monstrosity.
And there lived a brilliant boy!
As graceful and humble as can be!
His intelligence was a gift,
a great burden to carry,
especially since his older brother
made him nothing but weary.
[“Oh, this is going to be one of those poems?”
“No commentary, Bear!”
The smart boy watched
As his brother would fumble
through everything he did,
his words coming out in a garbled mumble!
So it made this brave boy sad
to see his older brother fail as he tried.
“I wish I could help him,”
The brave boy said aloud as he sighed.
[“I think I like it better when your poems are trying to get me to be a vegetarian,” I tell him.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Otter says thoughtfully. “This is pretty good so far.”
The Kid grins as he says, “Thank you, Otter. It’s nice to be appreciated. For once. And Bear, don’t worry. My hidden message is coming soon. See if you can catch it!”
“I’m sure it’ll be real hard to find.”]
It was the holiday season
that Kid loved the most;
almost as much as
he loved tofu on his toast.
[“Gross!” I say.]
But forget tofu, at least for the moment.
It was Christmas time, don’t you see?
A time for family and friends and love
and materialistic things to make everyone happy!
They needed to go shopping
for presents at the mall.
When they got inside, Bear stuttered to a stop,
saying, “OMG, it’s Santa!” and that was all.
[“Sounds exactly like you,” Otter says. “You’re always OMG this and OMG that. It’s like your catchphrase.”
“I don’t even know what that means,” I say, bewildered.]
Now, the Kid was smart
And knew the undeniable truth:
there was no such thing as Santa Claus
much like no fairy comes for your tooth.
It was hard to watch,
as his brother’s eyes lit up with glee
at the first skinny mall Santa
ringing a bell for charity.
“It’s Santa!” Bear said when they went inside,
pointing with unfeigned delight.
“Hey, Santa!” he started to scream,
giving everyone around him a fright.
[“Why are you scaring everyone by shouting at mall Santas?” Otter asks me, arching an eyebrow, that gold-green shining. “We can’t take you anywhere.”
“You’re not funny,” I tell him. “Like, at all.”]
Bear began to beg and plead
to sit on Santa’s lap.
But the Kid was oh so smart
and said, with Otter, that would cause a flap.
You see, Bear’s got a partner,
which makes him a gay.
And if he’s sitting on Santa’s lap,
it’s going to ruin Otter’s day.
[“Oh, so now you’re flirting with the mall Santa?” Otter says incredulously. “No, class, Papa Bear. None at all. Please, Kid, continue. I want to know what else Bear does when I’m not around.”]
But Bear wouldn’t give up,
saying Otter would understand.
“Sometimes,” Bear tells the Kid.
“You just need a real Santa man.”
[“A real man?” Otter growls at me. “I’ll show you a real man.”
“Are you getting jealous?” I ask, eyes wide. “Of a poem?”
“Of course not,” he scoffs. “I am a real man, though. See how big my biceps are?” He flexes, which of course makes my mouth go dry. They’re very big.]
So the Kid devised a plan.
One, that once and for all,
would prove to Bear that
there was no such thing as Santa at the mall.
“Bear!” he said, ever so sweet,
“To Santa, my brother, we go post-haste!”
Bear’s eyes lit up with childish wonder.
He said, “You mean it? There’s not a moment to waste!”
Bear cut to the front of the line,
waving his arms high above his head,
shrieking, “Santa, oh, Santa!”
the others in line wishing he was dead.
[“That’s really rude of you, cutting in front of all those people,” Otter tells me. “They’d probably been waiting a long time in line and you were just a jerk. No wonder they wished you dead.”
I just glare at him.]
Mall Santa saw Bear coming
and with a glint in his eye
said, “Hello, my boy!”
the words ominously sly.
The Kid was suspicious then
of this jolly man in red and white.
Something’s quite off here, he thought.
Something’s not so very right.
You see, the Kid was smart
and infused with supreme intelligence.
Everyone knew it was the vegetarian side of him
that allowed him this careful due diligence.
[“Here it comes,” I groan. “I knew it.”]
The Mall Santa looked dangerously hungry
as he pulled an unsuspecting Bear up
onto his lap with a shark-toothed grin.
“What do you want for Christmas, my little pup?”
Bear started listed things off
like books and shirts and maybe an adult toy.
Santa just nodded until Bear was done.
Then he said, “Have you been a good boy?”
[“Where did you hear about adult toys?” I growl at him. “Have you been doing things on the Internet that you shouldn’t be?”
His eyes widen. “What are you talking about? Adult toys, Bear. Like ride-on lawn mowers, or a George Foreman Grill.”
“Oh. Okay, then.”
“Or a double sided dild—“
“You should probably continue your poem,” Otter cuts in.]
While Bear still babbled
as he was prone to do
the Kid saw something
that chilled him through and through.
There was a moment, a brief pause in time,
where Santa’s eyes flashed red,
and the Kid knew something was wrong,
various thoughts going through his super-powered head.
This was not normal, he thought,
this isn’t a mall Santa, it cannot be;
quick, Kid! Think your hardest!
What is there? What do you see?
He thought, This time of year is supposed to celebrate
the birth of that lord and savior.
Could that be the key, the answer?
Could that explain the Santa’s red-eyed behavior?
The Kid looked at Santa
and took in the red, the white, the jolly.
Then, for a moment, the Santa seemed to change,
Like a scene in a painting from Salvador Dali.
[“Who?” I ask. ]
His face ran together, his teeth grew long.
It was a look of evil and malice.
His eyes again flashed red, his snarl grew wide.
It was cold and dark, calculating and callous.
But the image was gone
before the Kid could be sure it was there.
Think, Kid!, Think! he told himself.
You have to protect your Papa Bear!
And then it came to him
like a brightly lit flash!
SANTA was an anagram for SATAN!!!
The Kid took off at a dash!
[Otter and I stare at him, completely speechless.]
“Bear!” he screamed. “Listen to me!
That man is not who you think!
He’s not Santa, he’s the Devil!
It’s your blood, not eggnog, that he wants to drink!”
Satan heard the Kid coming and the façade was dropped.
People ran screaming from the mall
as Satan revealed his true brimstone self
and grew at least thirty feet tall!
“Help me, Kid!” Bear screamed.
“I don’t want to be eaten!”
“Let him go!” Tyson shouted.
“Let my brother go, you misbegotten cretin!”
The Devil laughed at the Kid,
and his voice came out gruff:
“You can’t stop me. I’m the Devil! Besides,
I heard your brother likes it rough.”
[“Wow. You need to stop reading this now.”
The Kid looks up at me. “Why? Does it…hurt to hear?”
“I think you’re hilarious,” Otter manages to say, wiping the tears from his eyes.]
Tyson growls, “You’ve messed with the wrong person.
I’ll make your face run like velveeta.
You want to know who you’re fucking with?
I’m a vegetarian and a member of PETA.”
[“Watch your language,” I snap.
“Don’t censor me,” he retorts. “What is this, China?”
I don’t get it. What does China have to do with anything?]
There was a look of doubt in Old Scratch’s eye,
like he finally figured out,
he’d stepped over the line,
crossing someone with considerable clout.
“Vegetarian?” Satan breathed. “Can it be?”
His voice was all a-tremble.
“I thought your kind were just a myth!”
And that’s when Ty called for the PETA team to assemble!
Hearing his cry, there came monkeys and lions
and hawks and llamas and dolphins.
There was even a duckbilled-platypus
from a zoo just outside of Laughlin!
The Kid’s animal friends surrounded him,
growling up at the Devil called Beelzebub.
The Kid reached behind his back,
And pulled out the legendary Vegetarian Club!
[“What hell’s the Vegetarian Club?” I ask.
“A weapon of unimaginable power that only vegetarians can use,” the Kid says, sounding like it should be obvious. “It’s sorta like Excalibur, except it’s a club that can beat up Satan. Duh.”
“Oh,” I mumble, only because I don’t know what else to say.]
The battle that followed
was one for the ages.
I shan’t recap everything here
because it’ll go on for pages.
[“That’s never stopped you before,” I point out.
“Everyone’s a comedian,” the Kid grumbles.]
Sufficed to say the Kid was brave
and he stood with his animal friends true;
he fought back that meat eating Devil
as vegetarians are known to do.
There was a moment, towards the end
when the Kid rode a magnificent eagle.
He grabbed his brother from Satan’s grasp,
looking extraordinarily strong and regal.
Bear sobbed and gasped
as he fell in behind the Kid.
“Oh, Tyson,” he cried, his voice high and shaking.
“You saved me, you really did!”
“Of course I did,” the Kid said.
“But don’t you see what your beliefs have wrought?
You could have died due to eating meat
and believing in Santa! You were almost caught!”
[“Yeah, you could have died,” Otter echoes sadly. “That would have been bad.”
“I’m confused,” I say. “How does me getting trapped be the Devil have anything to do with eating meat?”
The Kid gives a long-suffering sigh. “I guess my poetry is too subtle for the masses to understand.”
“I don’t think subtlety is the problem here,” I say.]
The eagle flew up high above the Devil’s horns.
Satan reached up to grab them all.
The Kid raised the Vegetarian Club and cried:
“Begone from the food court, Satan. Leave this mall!”
The club was brought down on the Devil’s head
where it landed with a resounding CRACK!
Satan screamed and shrieked as
the Kid called upon another animal friend: the mighty yak!
[“People drink yak’s milk too,” Otter tells me. “Like in Siberia. And stuff.”
“What the hell’s a yak?” I ask, shuddering at the thought.
“A really hairy cow,” the Kid says.
I’m beginning to think we’re going to be a milk-free household. Sure the store stores say you’re getting cow milk, but how can you prove that? For all you know, skim milk is actually from a lactating marsupial.]
The courageous yak began to charge
at the devil’s very feet!
“This is what you get, Satan” the Kid bellowed,
“for teaching the world to eat meat!”
The Devil sneered up at the Kid
and said: “You think you’ve won?
You just wait until next year!
I’ll return on the birthday of God’s Son!”
The Kid shook his head and said no way!
“By this time next year, I know
I’ll have the entire world converted
as vegetarians! Yak, let’s end this show!”
And the yak did just that,
and slammed into the Devil’s hooved feet.
The Devil cried out as he fell back
and the ground opened up, suffused with heat!
The Devil tumbled willy-nilly into Hell,
shrieking all the way down.
The crevice closed up and the dust cleared.
The Kid had saved the Seafare town!
“Kid,” Bear said, “You done real good.
If only I had been more smart.
I should have been able to show more kindness
to animals, starting with the love in my heart.”
[“Shouldn’t that be ‘smarter’ instead of ‘more smart’, Kid?” I ask smartly.
“Artistic license,” the Kid scowls at me.]
“Eating meat is like believing in Santa,” the Kid said.
“It seems like a good idea at the time.
But obviously both can lead to the Devil rising,
and out of the yawning pit of Hell he will climb.”
People started to gather ‘round,
As the Kid raised his voice:
“Listen to me, my fellow people!
It’s time for you all to make a life-changing choice!”
“You can see what has happened here,
so think of that the next time you pick up a burger!
Putting that meat in your mouth like that!
Why, it’s the equivalent of bovine murder!”
“It makes the Devil rise on Christmas,
a day that is supposed to be sweet!
Oh, and feeding your kids lies about Santa
is the same as bathing in meat!”
[“Do people bathe in meat?” I ask Otter, since he seems to know more stuff than I do.
“Oh, sure,” he says. “They do that in Siberia, too.”
“I don’t think you know anything about Siberia.”
“Probably not,” he agrees. “But doesn’t it sound like I do?”]
The people around the Kid
began to clap and cheer!
Saying things like “Hurray!” and “Huzzah!”
“Let’s nominate him for Genius of the Year!”
“People, please!” The Kid said.
“Just think about the animals you slaughter!
That’s all that I ask of you!”
And that’s when came the arrival of Otter!
[“About damn time,” Otter says, pouting. “I was beginning to think I wouldn’t even get a cameo.”
I smirk at him. “I’m in this poem way more than you.”
Otter rolls his eyes. “I don’t think that’s a good thing. You ran screaming to Santa and pretty much brought about the End Of Days.”
“Still in it way more than you, Captain Jealousy.”]
“What happened here?” Otter asked
as his mouth dropped open, as his eyes went wide.
“My God, it looks like a warzone!
“You all could have died!”
“But we didn’t!” Bear said.
“And it’s all thanks to the Kid!
He saved us with his vegetarian awesomeness
and of the Devil we are now rid!”
“Please, Bear, please!” The Kid said.
“Please give credit where it’s due!
It was thanks to my animal friends and the Power of PETA
that we were able to run the Devil through!”
But did Bear and Otter listen?
Well, what do you think?
They were too busy making mushy faces at each other.
And then Bear dropped Otter a big wink!
And of course they started making out,
right in the middle of the mall!
“Oh, I love you!” Bear said, embarrassing the Kid.
“I love you most of all!”
“And I love you,” Otter replied, with that goofy grin.
“You are sooo hot, you’re my manly stag.
Let us do it right here in front of everyone!”
And the Kid started to retch and gag.
[“Manly stag?” I say, incredulous. “We don’t talk like that!”
“So I come in after you’ve already fought the Devil just so I can do Bear?” Otter asks, sounding insulted. “That’s so not fair!” He blinks and then grins. “That just rhymed,” he tells me with a smug expression.
“Maybe you guys shouldn’t be all up in each other’s business all the time,” the Kid retorts. “Like any writer, I only write what I see.”]
“Maybe we should wait,” Bear said to Otter.
“Before in me you are buried.
I want to maintain my virtue,
until the moment we’re married.”
[“What!” I shout. “Are you out of your damn mind?!?”
“People’s opinions are changing, Papa Bear,” the Kid argues. “Pretty soon, gay people will be able to get married just like everyone else. It’s only a matter of time.”
“Yeah, but—it’s—are you—Jesus Christ! Otter, back me up here!”
Otter says nothing and as I turn to look at him, he’s watching me, that gold-green shining with that regard that always leaves me breathless. I don’t know what he’s thinking right now. I don’t think I want to know.
Are you sure? the voice in my head asks. Are you absolutely sure you don’t want to know?]
Bear, Otter, and the Kid climbed onto the eagle
as the people in the mall stood by.
“Remember, everyone,” the Kid said.
“How many more animals need to die?”
“You have a chance to change things
because obviously eating meat brings the devil.
And if you should choose to continue.
He’ll rise up again from the lower level!”
“So remember, at this time of year
to ask yourself, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’
I can assure you he’d agree with me when I say
that the words I speak are true!
The eagle lifted them up as everyone cheered.
It spread its great wings and took off in flight.
“Merry a few days before Christmas!” the Kid called out.
“And to all a good night!”
He looks up at us expectantly.
That was pretty freaking amazing.
As Otter and I begin to clap as loudly as we can, as the dazzling grin dawns across my little brother’s face, as I realize that this is what this time of year is all about, I send a quick thank you to whoever will hear it. Thank you, I think. Thank you for my family. Thank you for my life. Thank you for that ridiculous poem I just got to hear. Thank you.
The Kid launches himself at me and lands in my lap, his hands going to my hair and tugging gently as he babbles in my ear. Otter wraps his arm around my shoulder and rests his head against mine, listening to the Kid going on and on about this and that. I can feel them both, so strong, so warm. So alive. And mine. They’re both mine.