Welcome to the wide crazy world of TJ Klune

As you can see, this is a blog (a blog, you say? You're like the only person in the world that has one!). Here are my promises to you: I promise to up date this as much as I can. I promise that at some point, you will most likely be offended. I promise you may suffer from the affliction the Klunatics know as Wookie Cry Face. I also promise to make this some place where you can see how my mind works.

You've been warned.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The 10 Month Lapse

By the time my next novel is released, it’ll have been 10 months since I’ve published a book. 294 days. 7,056 hours.

Now, to some, that may not seem like a long time.  To my long suffering readers, it probably  seems like decades.  However, in the m/m world, it’s probably like a lifetime, given how literally hundreds of m/m books have been released since April 2012 when Who We Are came out.  It also seems like some authors have releases every few weeks, as if they are some kind of m/m mass producing machine and are able to churn out books like clockwork.  I can’t attest to the quality of those books as I haven’t read them, but I can’t help but wonder how that is possible and have the books be good.  Maybe they are and I just don’t know it and it’s my loss because I haven’t read them.  Maybe they’re not.  I’m not some snob, however, who is under any illusions that what I write is considered high literature (though, I suppose you can debate what can be considered “literature” until you’re blue in the face and never come to a specific consensus).  I am becoming increasingly concerned with the saturation of the m/m market as it seems to be getting harder and harder to weed through all the titles and the ratings seem to be getting lower and lower for all these new books.  Eh.  That’s another blog post all together.  Let’s talk about me some more instead.  Hurray!

If we went in order of completion, me next novel released would be Into This River I Drown, followed by the novel, Tell Me It’s Real.  ITRID was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write, given multiple things.  The subject matter, as it is an ode to my father; reopening wounds long thought closed is never something I want to do again.  The timing of the novel itself: ITRID was the first thing I wrote once my time in self-imposed pitying exile was complete following the accusations over BOATK.  I wrote like a man possessed, turning out 230,000 words in the space of approximately two months (it has been since edited waaaay down.  Sort of.).  I never want to do something like that again.  I didn’t sleep much.  I was surly all the time, if I was even aware at all.  I didn’t interact with a lot of people during that time.  I’d get up at 530 in the morning to write.  I’d go to work at seven.  Come home at five.  Write until two or three in the morning.  And then I started the same thing all over again.    I stopped taking care of myself as well as I should have.  It wasn’t the best experience of my life, but it may well have produced the very best thing I’ve written.  Into This River I Drown is the work I’m most proud of out of all my books and I think you’ll see why.

Following ITRID, I needed to go light.  Fluffy. Short (ha!).  I started writing what I thought would be a 40-60K word story about an overweight sarcastic dude, named Paul who had a two legged dog named Wheels, a cynical partner in crime/best friend/confidante (who also happened to be a drag queen) named Helena Handbasket, and a lovable (though not very smart) hunk who believed in love at first sight named Vince.  Easy, I told myself.  Keep it short.  Keep it simple.

Yeah.  That didn’t go like I had planned at all.

I had too much fun with those characters, probably more fun than I’ve had with any of my previous books.  It was a welcome change after the somberness of ITRID, and it was a rewarding writing experience for me, probably the best I’ve had.  There wasn’t any time I was pulling my hair out, wondering how a character could possibly be acting the way they were acting and why oh WHY was there so much angst? 

Tell Me Its Real is a screwball, madcap romantic comedy that is, without a doubt, the closest I’ll ever get to writing a pure comedy.  I think it’s also going to be my most accessible novel, as well as the one that is closest to and hopefully will be able to translate over to film (hint, hint producers—make this into a movie!).

However, in order to get back into the swing of things, I requested that Tell Me It’s Real come out first, just because it’s been so long since I’ve had a book out.  I didn’t want it to be ITRID and have people be all, “Yay! A new Klune book! And now he made us Wookiee Cry Face within the first five minutes! Ugh!”  Instead, I wanted people to feel all light and happy with Tell Me It’s Real first.  Then, I’ll make you cry.  Again.

So.  We have Tell Me It’s Real out on February 15th.  It’s a little shorter than Who We Are.  We have Into This River I Drown out on March 25th.  It’s longer than BOATK, but shorter than Burn.

After that?

Eric Arvin and I got our Zombie novella coming out from Empire Press in what I think will be April 2013.  This is a horror comedy satire that’ll gross you out and make you go AHHHHHHHH and then AWWWWWWW. (And then you’ll probably look at us weird for the twisted shit we’ve thought up.  It helps when the person you’re writing with is also the person you’re dating because you can say the most off the wall shit that should be included in the book and the boyfriend/co-writer won’t even bat an eye.  As a matter of fact, he’ll probably run with it and make it more dirty and gross.  Arvin, how I adore you, especially since we’re going to make a zombie ____  the bodybuilder).

After that, I’ll get serious again with my novella John & Jackie, a 30K word story that’s probably the most romantic thing I’ve written.  It’s also the shortest, which was an interesting experiment for someone like me who word vomits all over the place. I set myself a cap of 20K words when I set out writing it.  Obviously I failed miserable.  I had thought of starting J&J (and actually did) after BOATK came out with the plans of making it this massive, story told over the course of two novels, a decades spanning love story.  You know what’s awesome?  I did that same thing in 30K words.  I adore that little story and hope you do too.  It’ll be released as part of an anthology called Crack The Darkest Sky Wide Open in May 2013 and will include Arvin and some other awesome talent.  Aside from the short story experimentation, this will be the first time I ever go the self-publishing route as we are doing this antho on our own. 

So, will the lapse between my last books and these new works hurt me, given how it seems new authors pop up all the time and release book after book after book after book in such a short amount of time?  You know, I’d like to think it won’t.  Given the success of my first three novels, I hope that’s afforded me some allowances and a bit of time to work out the kinks in my head.  I’m happy to say those kinks have been destroyed and I don’t plan on going anywhere for as long as you’ll have me.

(Oh, and P.S.—my plan is to have Elementally Evolved Book II: Break released toward the end of next year followed by BOATK 3 either at the end of 2013 or beginning 2014.  Yes, this is a real thing.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Epic BOATK Holiday Poem Part II

Okie dokie, friends and neighbors!  Here we are again, entering into the holiday season, a time of love and joy and family and blah, blah blah.  That's all bullshit, right?  We know the real meaning of Christmas, don't we?  It's about how Santa is really Satan and tries to take over the world.  That's the true meaning of the holidays.  Good thing there's a kick-ass vegetarian who rises up to fight the Devil.             

Couple of things:

1) Yes, this is illustrated.  But, of course, my scanner broke THE DAY I AM RELEASING THIS FUCKING STORY!!!!  So, I had to be all ghetto and take photos of each picture and upload them.  I call it guerrilla illustrating, so it makes me sound more awesome.  But, keep in mind you can click on each picture and it'll blow up so you can read all the words I've written there.  Trust me, there's a few things you don't want to miss.

2)  You will most likely get Wookiee Cry Face.  I did.

3) I really want a burrito from Los Betos right now.

4) This one time I--

What was that?  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I talk too much.  Here's your damn story and have a merry holiday blah, blah, blah.

Remember, you can share this story, but ask me first, cool?  Don't be a dick about it.  I wrote it, it's mine and I know attorneys (okay, I don't really, but didn't that scare you?).

'Twas A Few Days Before Christmas

Part II:


A Heartwarming Holiday BOATK Short

By TJ Klune


Bear! Otter!”
            The scream from the Kid is one of such mortal terror that I swear my heart stops instantly in my chest.  I’m running through the kitchen of the Green Monstrosity even before I realize I’m moving, sure I’ll enter the living room where the Kid and Dom are sitting and find them both lit on fire or their skin sloughing off due to a rapidly spreading case of necrotizing fasciitis (that’s the flesh-eating disease for all of you not in the know.  I saw a report of it on the news a couple of months back and was convinced for the longest time that every unclean surface would carry necrotizing fasciitis and that everyone I loved would contract it and have their noses fall off.  Which, of course, led to the thought of trying to make out with Otter while he didn’t have a nose and I just couldn’t picture it and I told him that it may make me an asshole, but if he lost his nose, I’d probably end up leaving him because what would happen if I kissed him and my nose went into the hole where his nose used to be and I tried to take a breath and ended up breathing in his insides?  He gave me the weirdest look and I was reminded yet again that sometimes, I shouldn’t say everything that comes across my brain.  That, and I heard Otter and the Kid talking later and my name and the words “manic” and “obsessive compulsive” were uttered in the same sentence and then I sort of wished they both would lose their noses for talking about my crazy behind my back.  But, to be honest, by then I was already partially distracted by trying to figure out if the flesh eating disease was the same as leprosy and I really just lost a whole day pursuing that idea).
            Yeah, yeah, I know: same old Papa Bear.
            But now that doesn’t matter because the way Ty has screamed my name means I have to get to him as quickly as I can.  I can hear Otter thundering down the stairs from where he was pulling down the last of the Christmas decorations from the closet in the spare bedroom.  I almost crash into him, but manage to avoid the collision by doing this jump/spin/dive/kick thingy that I am sure would look awesome in slow motion.  I’m surprised when I land on my feet and I have a moment where I think that I would have made a spectacular ninja assassin, but then I’m running again, crossing the last few feet until I reach the living room.
            Please don’t be necrotizing fasciitis.  Please don’t be necrotizing fasciitis.
            It’s not necrotizing fasciitis. 
            The Kid is not on fire.
            As a matter of fact, he and Dom are standing in front of the couch, watching me expectantly.  The Kid smiles as Otter crashes into my back. 
            “Told you that would get them in here,” Ty tells Dom.  He’s holding pieces of paper in his hands.
            “That was amazing,” Dom rumbles at him in that broken voice of his.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bear move that fast.”
            “What happened?” I demand, darting my eyes between them, sure still that something is wrong.  Maybe the necrotizing fasciitis is eating them from the inside out.
            “Bear can move fast when he wants too,” the Kid says, rolling his eyes.  “Usually though, it’s only when there’s bacon involved.  You remember that documentary we watched on the hunting habits of the Tyrannosaurus Rex?  It’s kind of like that.  Lots of snarling, bloody meat-eating, and stubby little arms.”
            “You don’t have stubby little arms,” Otter says automatically, patting my shoulder.
            “Are you dying?” I ask the Kid, my voice high-pitched.
            “Not unless you plan on being killed by my epic-ness,” he says, a glint in his eyes.
            Dom snorts next to him and Ty elbows him in the stomach.  “Epic-ness is not a word,” he says with a chuckle. 
            “Creative license,” the Kid says.
            “Creative….” I stop, my eyes narrowing and going to the papers in his hands.  He didn’t.  “You didn’t.”
            His grin is positively gleeful.  “I did.”
            “What?” Otter asks, glancing between the two of us.
            “You manipulative little shit,” I growl, taking a step forward.  “You screamed like that to get us in here just so you could tell us another Christmas poem!”
            He scowls at me.  “What do you mean by just?  That was literally the high point of your year last year.”  He glances over my shoulder.  “Well, aside from that whole Otter thing.”
            “Wow,” Otter says from behind me.  “It’s always fun to know that the best thing in my life gets reduced to ‘that whole Otter thing.’  And I was about to be excited about your dumb poem.”
            Dumb?” Ty says, obviously outraged.
            I grin back at him over my shoulder.  “Best thing in your life, huh?  Damn right.”
            Otter smiles crookedly at me.
            “Gross,” the Kid whispers loudly to Dom.  “Watch.  They’re going to start kissing in a minute.  They do that now all the time.  Creed says it’s because they’re in the honeymoon phase of their marriage, even though they got married like four months ago.  He told me I was going to be disgusted for weeks.  It’s already felt like years.”
            “I wonder if it’s too late to go back to court and say I changed my mind,” I ask Otter, doing my best not to turn back and kiss him just because I don’t want to prove the Kid right. “Do you think they have an adoption return policy? Like if you don’t like the little thing you’ve adopted, you can return it within a year for a full refund?”
            “We could,” Otter says, “but I don’t think they’d take back damaged product.”  He stands next to me and squints at Ty.  “And this is very damaged.”
            “You know what’s sad, Dom?” the Kid asks very loudly.
            “What’s that?”
            “When your older brother and his husband think they’re funny but happen to be the only people that think so.”
            “I think they’re funny,” Dom admits with a shrug.
            “I’ve always knew it’d be you who betrayed me,” Ty says, looking scandalized.  I can’t help but feel a slight chill to his words, but I push that away, thinking it’s probably just my crazy again.
            “Am I in the poem more this time?” Otter asks.  “Last time, I was in it for like two minutes and only after everything was done.  That was lame.”
            “Yeah, but I also wrote that you and Bear were going to get married and look what happened.”  He has a smug look on his face that I have to fight from smiling at.
            “I’m in,” Otter says, just as I knew he would.
            “Fine,” I say, throwing my hands up in the air.  “It can’t be any worse than last year, could it?”
            “This time I have illustrations!” the Kid exclaims.
            “Oh sweet Jesus,” I mutter.
            We move to sit on the couch, Otter wrapping his arm around my shoulders, pulling me close.  I lay my head on his shoulder and can’t help but glance down at the rings on our hands as his fingers touch mine.  My breath catches in my throat as it often does when it hits me yet again that we’re as married as two men can be in the state of Oregon.  Little goose bumps prickle along my skin and I turn and kiss the skin of his neck lightly, brushing my nose against his unshaven cheek.  He grunts quietly and pulls me tighter, knowing everything I’m thinking like he always does.
            “No commentary this time,” the Kid says, scowling at me.
            I snort.  “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”
            His eyes narrow, but he lets it go.  “Okay, this year, the epic spectacular of a poem is titled ‘Twas A Few Days Before Christmas Part II: Die, Satan, Die.
            We all stare at him.
            “What?” he says defensively.  “Satan returns.  He has to die.  It’s pretty much the point.”
            “Christmas is so weird in your house,” Dom says.
            “I also have a tagline for it,” the Kid says, “in case it gets optioned for a movie.”  He takes in a deep breath and lowers his voice.  “This Christmas, we’ll make the Yuletide pay.”
            “No amount of therapy can fix this,” I say, disbelieving what I’ve just heard.
            “Get it?” he asks, ignoring me.  “Instead of gay, it’s pay.  Although, in this household, I’m pretty sure gay fits more appropriately.  It’s like our own daily pride parade up in here.”
            “He’s not a normal kid,” I mumble for the trillionth time. “My little brother has figured out how to use puns.  The Mayans were right: this is the year of the apocalypse.”
            “Understatement,” Otter whispers.  “I wish we had made a fallout shelter.”
            “I can hear you,” the Kid reminds us.
            “Let’s get this over with,” I tell him.
            “You make it sound as if this is the worst thing ever.”
            “I haven’t had my wisdom teeth pulled,” I tell him.  “So I can’t say quite yet.”
            He rolls his eyes, takes a deep breath, and begins.


'Twas a few days before Christmas
in the fabled town of Seafare.
There was magic flowing in the streets,
and a delightful feeling in the air!

It was the holiday season
returned again at last!
This year would be most epic!
To make up for the year just past!

You see, much has changed
in Seafare, and all around the world.
Everyone has altered their ways!
Every single boy!  Every single girl!

From the most staunch and stoic,
From little ones to octogenarians!
Because of one brave, smart, and most excellent boy,
everyone in the world has turned into vegetarians!

[“Oh Jesus,” I moan into my hands.  “It’s starting already.  I swear to God we at least got through more stanzas last year before you started preaching.”
“Yeah, and I swear to God we got through more stanzas before you decided it was okay for you to rudely interrupt a future poet laureate,” the Kid retorts.
“Oh, snap,” Otter says.  “You got so burned.  Someone call the burn unit.  Bear’s gonna need skin grafts for those third-degree burns.”
“You need to stop hanging out with Creed,” I tell him.  “You’re not as funny as you think you are.
“I’m hysterical,” Otter reassures me.]

Everyone clearly remembered
what happened last year,
when a single man named Bear
caused a torrential downpour of demonic fear.

In his selfish need (as is always the same)
to be the first to sit on the lap of St. Nick,
he almost brought about the End of Days,
all the while acting like a total and complete dick.

            [“Tyson McKenna!” I shout above Otter’s laughter.
            “I couldn’t find a word that rhymed with ‘Santa’!” the Kid shouts back.
            “In the city of Atlanta!  I was drinking a Fanta! For my stomach ache, I took Mylanta!”
            “Huh,” the Kid says, looking down at his poem with a shrug.  “I suppose those could have worked.  Hindsight’s a bitch, eh?”]

It turned out that Santa was Satan
and rose up to destroy all he saw!
A great battle ensued
as the Devil roared out his gaping maw!

But thanks to the smarts
of the one known as the Kid,
Satan himself was banished
and of the Devil, the world was rid!

And in the year that has followed
The world did heed his call!
Everyone converted to vegetarianism,
Oh, joyous day, happy for one and all!

Well, there wouldn’t be a poem
if it was really one and all.
You, see there is one person now.
One person who could cause the world to fall.

            [“Five bucks says I’m that person,” I grouse.
            The Kid rolls his eyes.  “It’s not all about you.  But I wouldn’t bet against that, either.”
            “I think it’s all you, too” Otter tells me.  “You already tried to destroy the world once by flirting with Santa and wanting to get up all in his business.  Pretty sure you’re lucky I still married you.  You’re welcome.”
            “All of you are so stupid,” I mutter.]

One person that did not heed the change
or the warnings of the super-intelligent boy.
One person who had been locked up since the previous Christmas,
all because he still wanted to eat baby cows instead of bok choy.
            [“I don’t even know what bok choy is,” I say.
            “Chinese cabbage,” Dom rumbles.

Yes!  You’re right!  You know who it is!
His name now brings fear everywhere!
That name synonymous with harbingers of doom!
The one, the only, the super scary Papa Bear!

            [“I am divorcing you all,” I say.]

Locked in a cage, deep under Seafare,
to keep his carnivorous appetite at bay.
For if another person should decide to eat meat,
Satan could return and ruin everyone’s day!

But let us leave him for now,
and to the surface return!
It won’t take as long to get back to him, however,
unlike the wait for the sequel to the book Burn!

            [“What?” Otter asks, sounding baffled.  “What’s Burn?”
            “Trust me,” the Kid says.  “You don’t even want to get me started.”]

Here in Seafare, Christmas is in the air!
With holly and pine and the kissing mistletoe.
Everyone is tra-la-la-ing,
filled with cheer as they move to and fro!

“Hello, Tyson!” people call out to the intelligent boy.
“It’s lovely to see you!  How have you been?”
The Kid gives a jaunty wave in return,
and says, “I am the most happiest of men!”

And it’s true, he is, more than I could say!
Everyone agrees with him, as they rightly should!
Nothing could possibly go wrong,
and they wouldn’t, even if they could!

            [“Ooooo,” Otter says.  “Foreshadowing.”
            “More like blatant upside the head shadowing,” I say.
            “Your uppance shall come,” the Kid says with a scowl.
            “You’re not very threatening,” Dom tells him.]

Everything is right!  Everything is fine!
Everyone is glorious, smiling and free!
But, alas, things are not always what they seem,
for there is trouble afoot in the town by the sea.

There is one who is sick in the heart,
for he loves the man imprisoned in the cage.
He would do anything to see him freed,
Even if it meant ignoring advice that is sage!

            [“You better not be talking about me,” Otter says with a frown.  “I say leave Bear in the cage.”

His name is Oliver Thompson,
though everyone knows him as Otter.
But maybe one day he can go by “Dad”
should they ever decide to adopt a son or daughter.

            [Everyone stares at me.  I don’t even know what to say.
            Sure you do, it whispers.  You’ll smile and nod and say oh sure, can’t wait!  Because you just do everything for him now, don’t you?  All that he wants is what matters.  And you saw the look on his face holding little JJ, didn’t you.  You know what he wants.  You know.
            “Tyson, move on,” Otter says quietly.
            “Just read your poem, okay?”
            He nods.  “Okay, Otter.”
            Way to speak up, as always, Bear.]

Unbeknownst to the town,
Otter has snuck in to see Bear.
And what has he brought with him?
A single piece of bacon.  Oh, world, beware!

Bear has been slightly tricksy,
telling Otter that he needs bacon to live.
And Otter, being the man that he is,
has decided he will be the one to give.

            [“Awww,” I say.
            “Shit,” Otter groans.]

“Bear,” Otter says.  “Oh, Bear!”
“I have brought you some succulent bacon!”
“Thanks be to the heavens,” Bear says.
“Without it, I have just been a-achin’!”

“Fear not,” Otter cries, “oh, love of my life.
I shall make sure your life is sustained!”
And with that, he slips the bacon into Bear’s hands.
And what is to follow shall surely be Otter’s blame.

Bear takes the bacon and shoves it in his mouth,
chewing and biting like it’s going out of style.
“Whew,” he says as he swallows it down. “That was good!
Though, I’ll probably be gassy in just a little while.”

Then his face contorts in a grimace,
And his hands wrap around his middle.
“Scratch that,” he says.  “It seems as if
my stomach has already started to twiddle.”

Twiddle it does, but not just because of the pig meat,
(though, to be honest, that’s wouldn’t be a big surprise).
No, it is something more, something bigger,
and the underground starts to shake, to move, to terrorize!

            [“I just brought back Satan, didn’t I,” Otter says.
            “You truly did,” Dom agrees, shaking his head.
            “Awesome,” I say.  “At least it wasn’t me this time. I win at everything”
            Otter punches me in the arm.  Asshole.]

“What is this trickery?” Otter cries,
as the ground beneath begins to crack!
Then comes a horrendous roar!
Like an oncoming monster about to attack!

“Uh, maybe I should leave,” Otter says,
starting to back against the far wall.
“I’m pretty sure some bad crap is about to happen.
And I probably shouldn’t have given you bacon. Not at all.”

But Bear doesn’t seem to hear him,
as he is bent over, his face constricted in pain!
The roaring sound grows even louder!
And then from the depths rises a beast thought slain!

He is fifty feet tall, if he is an inch.
And all fiery and brimstone and black and red!
His teeth are foot long wicked hooks!
And he wears a Santa hat between the horns on his head!

He has risen once more!
He looks down at the cage with a grin
and says, “Why hello there, you meat whore.”

            [“When he gets called into the next brother-teacher conference,” I tell Otter, “I’m going to tell them that this kind of thing is all your fault.  He was normal until I went gay for you.  Ish.”
            “Meat whore!” Otter gasps, tears streaming down his cheeks.  “It’s so true!”
            “The only reason my teachers call you is because they don’t understand my level of intellect,” the Kid says.
            “Yeah.  Keep telling yourself that, Ty.  It’s bound to come true one day.”]

“It seems that my mortal enemy,” Satan says,
“could not live up to expectations.
All the world will be vegetarians?
Ha!  There seems to have been a slight complication!”

“Santa!” Bear shrieks, as he once again is fooled.
“Oh, Santa, I’ve been such a good boy!
This year, I have so many presents I would love!
Like how I still would like an adult toy!”

            [“Oh, God, not this again,” I say, burying my face in my hands.
            “What do you mean by adult toy?” Dom asks the Kid, who leans over and whispers something in his ear.  Dom’s eyes widen as he looks at Otter and me with a strange look.  “Ew,” he says, wrinkling his nose.  “Why would you put that up anywhere?”
            “CPS is so getting called back to this house,” Otter says.  “Yikes.”]

“My dear boy,” Satan says with a grin.
“I fear we’ve moved beyond that. A sort of progression.
No, now is not the time for blow up dolls or rubber dongs.
Now is the time for possession!

“You see, when the Kid cast me back to Hell
using the power of the Vegetarian Club and his animal friends,
it did something to my immortal body.
But alas, not to worry.  I have found my means to my end.”

“Uh, so, do you mind if I get out of here?” Otter asks.
“I mean, I wouldn’t want to be in your way.
Trust me, I’m really a bore, and I have tons of stuff to do.
So, like, I could totally see you another day.”

            [“You’d leave me to get possessed?” I snap at the jerk.
            He shrugs.  “Apparently, like, totally, I have stuff, like, to do.  And stuff.  You got this.”
            “Do you think Erica handles dissolutions of civil unions?” I ask the Kid.
            He nods.  “Pretty sure.  Throw enough money at her, and I’ll bet she’ll do anything.  She is an attorney***, after all.”]
***This does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the author.  He is sure attorneys can be wonderful people.  .  Who don’t have souls.

“Nonsense, Otter,” Satan says, waving jovially hello.
“You can stay in this cage, locked in Bear’s place!
After all, we can’t have anyone warning those up above.
But don’t worry.  I won’t make too much of a mess of his face.”

And with that, it began! A demonic possession!
Bear opens his mouth to shout for more selfish things,
and Satan shrinks down and flies right in his mouth,
like a bird taking flight on a wing.

            [“These pictures are very disturbing, Kid,” I say as Dom hands me yet another.  “How about we keep these here in the house and not show anyone any of these ever?”
            “Too afraid of my artistic abilities becoming known to the world?” he asks.
            “Er.  I don’t think that’s quite it.”]

It is over in just a few seconds or so,
and when Bear opens his eyes, they briefly flash red.
One must almost feel sympathy for the devil, however,
being trapped inside Papa Bear’s head.

            [“Oh, ha, ha very funny!  Some people like listening to me and further more—”]

But somehow he is able to manage,
as Satans/Santas are prone to do.
Because what is the devil if not hella neurotic?
He and Bear probably stick together like glue.

“At last!” Bear/Satan/Santa says deeply.
“While this body may not be the most tough,
I think it will work out just fine!
After all, I remember that Bear likes it a bit rough.”

“Yeah,” Otter says smugly. “I can attest to that quite well.
Though, I don’t know if that is precisely the point.
It seems as if you are still locked in the cage!
How do you plan on busting out of that joint?”

“Quite simply!” Satan says, with a haughty little smirk.
“It’s quite easier than you think!”
In Bear’s normal voice, Satan said, “Hey, Sweet thang!
Could you let me out of here?” And then he laid out a devious wink!

Otter, it’s true, is susceptible to Bear’s awkward charm,
and will easily (as usual) answer his every desire.
So with that, Otter reaches over and unlocks the cage.
Even if the being inside Bear is a big fat liar.

            [“Isn’t it awesome how I answer your every desire?” Otter says, kissing my forehead.
            “I desire you to make this poem stop and never happen again,” I tell him.
            “Okay, well maybe not every desire.”]

And with only a few seconds to pass
Bear and Otter’s places are switched!
“Man,” Otter groans, his hands on the bars.
“That’ll teach me the next time I wanna get hitched.”

And Santa/Bear/Satan lets out a blood curdling chortle,
As he looks up toward the surface with glee!
“Oh, Tyson! Oh, Kid!” he shouts out.
“I think I shall rise above and break both your knees!”

And far overhead, walking the streets of Seafare,
the Kid is in the middle of petting a Christmas horse,
when he hears a maniacal cackle run through his head!
“Oh, no,” he whispers.  “There’s a disturbance in the Vegetarian Force!”

            [“The Vegetarian Force?” I echo.  “Are you kidding me?”
            “What?” the Kid asks innocently.  “It’s not like George Lucas can sue me anymore.  That jerk sold out to Disney and now we’re going to have princesses singing about waiting for their princes to come while holding light sabers!”
            “What the hell is he talking about?” I ask Dom.
            “Oh, you don’t want to know,” Dom warns.  “Trust me, if he gets going on this, it will never end.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone type that much on an Internet message board before.”
            “I mean, really George Lucas?  Disney?  Are you out of your flipping Jar Jar Binks-creating mind?  There are going to be Ewok parades at Epcot!  And Wookiee’s on ice!  And—”
            “I told you,” Dom groans.]


How TJ Klune Feels about Disney buying the Star War Franchise:

Twenty minutes later, after the Kid bitches about a new Star Wars trilogy by Disney (yes!  THIS IS A REAL THING) coming to a theater near you starting in 2015 that should never ever happen:

The ground begins to shake, like an earthquake underneath.
People start to scream, to run, and to fret!
The earth splits open wide, and buildings tumble down.
“Oh,” the Kid says wisely.  “I should have known this wasn’t over yet.”

And from the gaping hole on Main Street
There rises such a fright!
A skinny, pasty white figure of a man!

But as we all know, as these stories are told,
our hero will rise, to beat back the darkness!
More dashing than Bond, more powerful than Superman,
he even looks better than Captain Jack Harkness!

            [“Who?” I ask.
            The Kid slaps his forehead.  “Do you not follow pop culture at all?”
            “Pop culture?  You mean like the Kardashians?”
            The Kid bows his head.  “Dear Jesus. How are you? I am fine. Please strike Bear down for that last comment.  You know why.”]

But even someone as debonair as the Kid
would stutter at this sight of his possessed brother.
“Satan!” he cries. “You diabolical mastermind!
Not him!  Never him!  You had best find another!”

“Ah, child,” Satan coos.  “You find this form displeasing?
I thought as much, but fear not!
You won’t be alive long enough to worry.
Now come on, veggie boy!  Give me all you got!”

The Kid shakes off his worry, and reaches behind his back,
And pulls out the legendary Vegetarian Club!
“I beat you once,” he snarls.  “I can beat you again!”
“Aye,” Satan says.  “But isn’t that the rub?

“You see, little cretin, you’ve grown slack in your vegetarian message.
While you cavorted around the earth, preaching wisdom and receiving praise,
I’ve only grown every stronger in the pits of Hell.
Now, you shall bear witness to the true END OF DAYS!”

As a storyteller, I wish that I could tell you,
that all Satan’s bravado is for naught.
That the Kid defeats him quite quickly.
But that’s not the type of story you’ve sought.

The vegetarian is brave, yes, as all vegetarians are.
He leaps through the air, the Vegetarian club raised over his head!
The plan is quite simple, really! Foolproof! Amazing!
Kick Satan’s ass again and again and this time, make sure he’s dead!

O, alas!  That is not quite what happens.
The club whips through the air with a whistle that is grand!
But right before he smashes his demonic Christmas looking brother in the mouth,
Bear/Santa/Satan stops the Club’s descent with a single hand!

            [“I. Am. So. Awesome,” I crow.
            “Uh, you’re possessed by Satan,” Otter reminds me.  “That is pretty much the opposite of awesome.”
            “Oh.  Right.  Well, it’s still kind of awesome.”]

The Kid stops frozen, unable to believe what he sees.
Satan lashes his hand out, knocking the boy wonder back!
The Kid lands fifty feet away, and rises from the ground
in time to see Satan break the Club over his knee with a resounding CRACK!

The disturbance in the Vegetarian Force grows stronger
as the energy from the Club rushes out.
It explodes across the tiny kingdom of Seafare.
And for the first time in a very long time, the Kid is filled with doubt.

For who is he really, but just a little boy?
He’s been lost before, and it seems sometimes he’ll never be found.
And there’s a single moment when he wonders if that will always be true.
That there will always be an Ocean there for which he could drown.

He’s different, he knows, different than most of the other kids.
And there are times that he wishes it wasn’t always this way.
That maybe, every once in a while, he could just be normal.
That he could just be a kid.  Just run.  Just play.

            [I want to say something.  Anything.  Oh, God, how my heart hurts.  But I don’t know what would make this okay.  I don’t know anything I could do to make him okay.]

But then the Kid remembers something that he has kept secret.
That when the world seems to be at its most dark and gray,
he might just have one simple solace, one place to turn.
And to her, always to her, he begins to pray.

“Mrs., P,” he whispers.  “If you could hear me now.
It’s me.  The Kid.  God, how I miss you so.
I could really use your help right now.”
And all around him begin to drop little flecks of snow.

            [“Ty—” I croak out, watching as a tear slides down his cheek.  Otter grabs my hand and shakes his head just once and pulls me back into him.  I look on as Dom wraps his arm around my little brother’s shoulders and leans down, putting his chin on the Kid’s head.
For a moment, his little hands tremble and the papers rattle in the quiet.  He tries to start once again, but his voice catches.  He clears his throat and nods his head.  And starts again.]

While the Devil laughs, feeling so very triumphant,
The tiny flecks of ice crystal begin to swirl and form.
And out of the spinning white mass a beautiful angel appears,
made almost whole by the sudden winter storm.

The Kid looks up from his position on his knees,
and sees into kind eyes the one person he misses the most.
She chuckles kindly down at him, reaching out to cup his face.
She says, “You bet your sweet ass I’d come back as a ghost.”

“I miss you every day,” he says to the face he adores as his voice breaks.
“I thought I would be okay, but sometimes it’s just all too much.”
She laughs quietly and says, “Those we love are never truly gone, my boy.
I would have thought that, from me, you would have learned as such.”

“I suppose that I try,” he admits.  “Thought I don’t always succeed.
I think that I thought I could be stronger than I truly would be.”
“Fear not, my Kid,” Mrs. P. smiles.  “I will help to show you the way.
And with that, in this world, you can truly be free.”

She leans forward till her lips are near his ear.
He takes in a deep breath of her, and it’s like lilacs, softly sweet.
She whispers the secret of Christmas to him quietly,
and then with her strong, lovely arms, helps lift him to his feet.

“You understand now, Ty?” she asks, stroking his hair.
“I think so,” he says slowly.  “It’s like knowing you’ll never be far.
Because the strength doesn’t come from just one person.
It comes from all of us.  It’s from all of us because this is who we are.”

She tilts back her head and lets out such a laugh!
It’s a sound that reminds him of twinkling lights, of silvery bells.
“You couldn’t be more goddamn, right,” she says with a grin.
“Now, Ty.  Do what you do best.  Kick the Devil’s ass.  Send him back to hell.”

            [I can’t help the watery bark of laughter that comes out because in his words, I can hear her, knowing that is exactly something she would have said.  Jesus, how could I not have known this was hitting him as hard as it is?  He’d bounced back so much that I thought it miraculous.  Has it been like this for him the whole time?
            I pull away from Otter and this time, he lets me go.  In three short steps, I wrap my brother up in my arms and feel his little body shake against mine.  His hands wrap around my neck and his face presses against my throat and for a moment, we just breathe. 
            Its minutes later that I sit with him in my lap on the floor.  I place my chin on the top of his head and only a moment passes before Otter curls himself around us.  He kisses my wet cheek and then leans down to murmur quietly in Ty’s ear.
            I look up and see Dom standing a few feet away, looking unsure.  I don’t even have to think when I raise my hand out to him.  He watches me for a moment, then nods and reaches out and grasps my hand.  I pull him toward us and he sits at my side, resting his hand on the Kid’s knee.
            “Finish it, honey,” I tell my brother quietly.  “Kick the Devil’s ass.  Send him back to hell.”]

The Kid nods up to her and gives her a brave smile.
“I’ll do what you said, and thank you for all that you’ve given me.
Thank you for all that you are.  Because of you I’ll be strong.
I promise you I’ll make something of myself.  Just you wait and see.”

She laughs again and does a little twirl in the falling snow.
“Honestly,” she says, “I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Now end the Devil’s reign of evil, you should!
Oh!  And I have another surprise for you, I must confess.”

Satan/Santa/Bear stops in his destruction of the town,
as if from far away he could hear the strong lady’s words.
He takes a step toward Mrs. P with a snarl on his face,
but she waves her hands through the air, bringing on a flurry of birds.

The eagles and hawks and owls fly down,
in a snarling, crying snap of fluttering wings.
They rocket towards the Devil who begins to roar,
and somewhere in the smoldering town, church bells begin to ring.

The birds attack Satan with an almighty ferocious might,
and he cries out in extraordinary agony as the talons scratch his face.
“Now,” the Christmas angel says with a grin,
“it’s time we put this bastard back in his place.”

She turns back to the Kid and raises her hands,
And around her rises up the swirling snow.
“There once was a time when the world was young,” she says.
“Before we had forgotten all there was to know.

“A great beast arose from the darkest of night,
And brought with it a destructive hoard.
But there was one who rose to stop them all.”
And with that, the snow froze and formed into a beautiful sword.

            [“Next year,” I tell the Kid, “you should probably just have it be a mega death ray.  Seems like it would be easier than a club or a sword.  Maybe even like a nuclear bomb bazooka or something.”
            “Next year?” the Kid asks.  I can hear the smile in his voice.
            I shrug.  “Figure this will be tradition, you know?”
            He tilts his head back and kisses my chin.  “Yeah,” he says.  “Tradition.”]

“The great Vegetarian Sword,” the Kid gasps.
“A legend, if there ever a legend was.”
“Not legend, not myth,” Mrs. Paquinn says.  “But fact.
And it is here for you.  Do you know what it does?”

“It can bring balance to the world,” the Kid says,
watching more birds descend from the surrounding trees.
“It is order in the chaos, a resolution to all the dark.
It can help bring the evil to its knees.”

“You’re damn right it will,” Mrs. P says with a cackle.
“And of the devil, this world will be rid.
And it’s been waiting for one such as you.
Someone brave.  Strong.  Someone like you, my Kid.”

She hands him the sword and within his own depths,
he hears an aching song being sung in his heart.
Unable to keep the tears from his eyes, he says,
“If I take this from you, will we have to part?”

His Christmas Angel smiles, one so familiar that it’s like home.
Her hand reaches out and caresses his cheek.
“Yes,” she says quietly.  “But just for now.
It’s time for you to rise, child, to protect those that are meek.”

“Can I truly be brave enough?” he asks,
testing the weight of the sword in his hand.
“It seems like there are times when your best is never enough,
that all that is against you is much too grand.”

“That’s life,” she says.  “And that’s the way it will always be.
There are times it will feel like you are sliced and scarred.
But I know you, I know your heart. What you will be.
Tyson, remember this: I know who you are.”

And with that, the snow swirls up again,
and the bells ring louder, as the ice surrounds her.
“Please don’t go!” the Kid cries.
But her figure has already begun to blur.

“Tyson,” she says, her voice coming faint.
“Listen now, for the words I say are true.
It matters not where I am, and if we are a part,
Because I will always be with you.”

And with that she fades, leaving the Kid in the falling snow.
The weight of the sword pulling him down.
He thinks on it for just a moment, her words;
then, with all that he has, he pushes himself up from the ground.

“She’s right,” he says to himself, looking down the sword.
“She’s always right, and that’s a place to start.
For it’s now always about what you can accomplish,
but what it is that beats in your heart.”

He raises his gaze, to the ruins around him,
the Devil squawking as the birds fly him by.
“You know what?” the Kid says, having had enough.
“It’s time to end this right here and now. Fuck this guy!”

            [“Seriously?” I sigh.  “Why do you always have to say fuck? ”
            “Sometimes,” he says seriously, “there is no better word to say what you truly mean.”
            “Yeah, trying explaining that to your teachers,” I grumble.
            “Fuck ‘em,” Otter says, obviously not helping in the slightest.]

And as if the Vegetarian Sword has given him renewed strength,
He raises if far above his head.
“You want to come to my town?  Take over my brother?
I’m about to stab your ass dead!”

And from far and wide, his animal friends hear his cry.
And the world over they flash out of sight.
And reappear right here in Seafare!
O, glorious day!  O, glorious night!

            [“The animals can teleport now?” Otter asks in disbelief, though I don’t know why he’s picked that specific event to find disbelieving.  Three words.  Possessed.  By.  Satan.
            “It’s the power of the Vegetarian Sword,” the Kid explains.  “It’s in tune with the frequencies of all the animals in the world and gives them teleportation abilities.  It’s really quite interesting.  As a matter of fact, I’ve this forty page back story on the sword if you really want to hear it, which by the tone of your voice, it sounds like you do.  It’s got—”
            “Yeah,” I interrupt.  “Let’s just finish one masterpiece before thinking of starting another.”]

There were cheetahs and buffaloes and elephants.
And bears and otters and rattlesnakes of diamondback!
And wolves and monkeys and lions and hippos.
And of course, stepping in front of them all, the mighty yak!

            [“What’s a yak?” Dom asks.
            “A really hairy cow,” the rest of us intone, obviously experienced from last year.  Though, to be honest, I don’t know what that says about us.  I try not to think about it too much.  One doesn’t want to wonder how yak experts are treated in the real world.
            “They drink the milk of the yak in Siberia,” Otter tells Dom, who widens his eyes.
            “I still don’t think you know anything about Siberia,” I mutter.]

The birds fly away from the Devil
and return to soar above their animal friends.
“It looks like your time is up!” the Kid shouts.
“Release my brother for this is your end!”

“My end?” the Devil laughs, wipe bird poop off his face.
“This is merely the beginning, you’ll see!
But remember this, should you try and fight:
if I go back down to Hell again, I’m taking your brother with me!”

This gives the Kid pause, as it rightly should.
After all, this just isn’t anyone: it was his brother.
He thinks real hard of the consequences at hand,
and wonders fleetingly if Bear could be replaced by another.

            [“Hey!” I shout, slightly wounded.  “I am to goddamn important to be replaced!”
            Silence from all.
            “I really hate you guys sometimes,” I grumble, even as they start to snicker.]

But it is a fleeting thought, and brief it will be.
Because there is no one in the world quite like Bear.
I mean, really, who else has quite the neurosis of he,
hidden deeply buried under that mop of thinning hair?

            [“Shouldn’t have ruined my shirt,” the Kid says with a scowl.
            “Are you ever going to let that go?  I bought you a new one!  Like a billion new ones!”
            He taps his forehead.  Loooooooooong memory, Papa Bear.”]

The Kid knows that without his big brother,
there would be no Kid for the world to love.
Because without someone like his badass brother,
the world would be a reasonably darker place.  Sort of.

            [“Gee.  Thanks.  I think.”]

The Kid brandishes the sword for the Devil to see,
and watches in amusement as the Devil’s eyes go wide.
“That will always be your downfall,” the Kid says.
“Your gross miscalculation.  Your damnable pride.”

The animals around Ty chuff and growl,
ready to be on the attack, on the hunt.
“It’s time to go kick some ass,” he tells them.
“Let’s go take care of this stupid cu—

            [“Yeah, you finish that sentence, you’re grounded for a week,” I tell him.
            “I bet E. E. Cummings or Emily Dickinson never got censored,” he snaps.
            “I don’t care what your classmates get to do,” I remind him, assuming he’s talking about other kids in his class.  Who the fuck names their kid E.E. anyway?
            All Ty does in response is groan and shake his head.]

His animal friends roar with such a fright
as one by one, the residents of Seafare poke out their heads.
“People of my town!” the boy genius cries.
“It’s time to lay your fears to rest!  Put ‘em to bed!

“I made you a promise, lo many months ago.
That if you became vegetarian I would protect you,
that I would make this world a safer place.
And that is exactly what I’m gonna do.”

And with that he charges, the Vegetarian sword held high.
And racing all around him, came his animals by his side.
It is a glorious sight, one for all time!
To bring about momentous change, to turn the dark tide!

            [“Your pictures are… neat,” I say as Dom hands me another one.  I can’t even tell if I’m holding it upside down or not.
            “You’re really good with compliments,” the Kid says drily.  “Thanks for being so super awesome and stuff.”]

The battle that follows is one for the ages
like the one that had come before.
I shan’t repeat all that happens here,
because everyone knows bloody battles are such a bore.

            [“You’re weaseling out of the big battle scene again?” Otter asks incredulously.  “That’s like eating the best meal you’ve ever had only to find out at the end you were eating baby horses the whole time.”
            We all stare at him.
            “I like big battle scenes,” he grumbles.
            “Sorry,” the Kid says with a shrug.  “Ran over budget and had to cut some parts out.”
            “Budget?  What budget?”
            He shrugs again.  “Yeah, okay.  That was a lie.  I just got bored and didn’t want to write anymore.”]

When the smoke clears, there is through the dust,
a scene of such beauty and power.
For there stands the Kid and his animal friends,
up above Bear/Santa/Satan who does nothing but cower!

The Vegetarian sword held high,
the Kid looks down at the Devil with sadness.
“You know,” he says wisely, for how could he not be?
“You might be an okay guy if you gave up your badness.”

“Never,” Satan gasps.  “As long as there is you,
I swear there will always be one such as me.
Here to take away the true meaning of Christmas:
that it means nothing without family.”

“Give me back my brother,” the Kid says,
“And I’ll consider letting you go this one time.
If you don’t I’ll hunt you until the End of Days
And your head shall be mine.”

“You’ll let me go?” the Devil asks, a glint in his eye.
“Your brother means that much to you?
Because you know what will happen if you let me go.
You know what I’ll plan to do.”

“He may not be the smartest,” the Kid says.
“And he may overthink things way too much.
But there’s no one in the world like me brother,
and from this day on, I’ll treat him as such.”

The Devil uses Bear’s mouth to smile,
a look that twists up in ferocious glee.
“Ah, my child,” the Devil says,
“You know not what you ask of me.”

The Kid does know, but he would ask still the same,
for who could he save if not Bear?
“I’ll be here no matter what,” he says quietly,
“and I’ll take you on, no matter if I’m worse for wear.”

The Devil tilts Bear’s head back and laughs.
“Then I accept,” he exclaims.  “It’s a deal!
But I promise you that come next Christmas,
it will be you that will kneel.”

The ground begins to shake roughly,
and Bear’s mouth opens wide.
Black smoke that reeks of sulfur pours out,
but I have a secret I must confide!

That hero of this story, that supremely intelligent boy?
He knew this might happen, so he’d hatched a plan,
to ensure the Devil could never harm another.
He called upon his best friend, such a stupendous man!

“Now, Dom, now!” the Kid cries, giving the signal.
And out steps Dom, holding the Good Book.
He begins to mutter in Latin,
or some other gobbledy-gook.

The sulfurous black smoke shakes and shrieks
as it flickered about amongst the frost.
Otter climbed out of the hole in the ground and says,
“Hey, that’s kind of like from the TV show Lost.”

            [“I spend the entire time underground and only reappear to make a reference to a stupid TV show that only you and your fellow message board nerds cared about?” Otter says, pouting.
            “You’re a stupid TV show,” the Kid retorts.
            “That wasn’t as insulting as you think it was,” I tell him.]

As Dom speaks Latin,
Satan Smoke Monster starts to dissipate.
And with a shriek that can be heard for miles,
The Devil finally succumbs to his eternal fate.

Bear collapses to his knees, bowing his head low.
The Kid rushes over, to make sure his soul has not been taken.
“Kid, oh Ty,” Bear whispers quietly.  “I just have one question.
Can you please go get me four strips of bacon?”

            [“You know, I don’t even like bacon that much,” I say, throwing my hands up in the air.  
            “I couldn’t find words that rhymed with sausage,” the Kid explains, as if that makes everything okay.
            “But Dom gets to come in and be all badass and exorcise me and the first words out of my mouth are about bacon?”
            “I am pretty badass,” Dom agrees with a smirk.]

“No more bacon for you,” the Kid says,
And from around him comes sounds of life around the town.
He raises his voices and says, “No more bacon for all!
You saw what rose up out of the ground!

“I warned you once, on Christmas last year,
what would happen if you chose to eat meat!
I said the Devil could rise again!
Right out from underneath your feet!

“I’ll warn you again, and pray it the last time,
for the fate of the world may depend on what you choose.
I hope it will be for the last time.
Think about what it is you could all lose.”

            [“Is it me or is this way more preachy than last time?” I ask Otter.
            “It’s just you,” the Kid says before Otter can reply.]

“I promise,” Bear says, standing upright.
“I promise I’ll give up meat forever.
I promise I’ll do whatever you say, if you promise
to make me the royal Queen of this endeavor.”

“Then the No Meat Queen you shall be!” the Kid cries,
and the town of Seafare applauds his decree!
And with a giggle and a princessy wave,
Bear accepts his position in this town by the sea.

            [“The No Meat Queen?” I growl at the Kid above Otter’s laughter.
            “You’re already a gay,” the Kid says.  “I didn’t think it too much a stretch.  Only you can’t use the name Minerva Fox.  That’s my queen name.”
            “Yeah.  You don’t have to worry about that, I’m sure.  Wrap it up, Kid.]

Otter comes over and gives his queen a kiss
and it’s gross and awkward and none to neat.
“Don’t worry, honey-pie,” Otter whispers to Bear.
“Forget the bacon.  I’ll fill you with my other meat.”

            [“Tyson James Thompson!”]

“Oh, Otter,” Bear the Queen says with a breathy sigh.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As a matter of fact, do with me what you will.
Because for you on certain bookshelves, I am a gay!”

            [“Ha!” Otter laughs.  “References.”]

And we’ll leave them now, all mushy and dumb,
because that’s all apparently grownups really do.
But I suppose that’s okay, if you like that sort of thing.
At least they won’t eat anything anymore that goes moo.

And as for the Kid?  Well, again it is done,
that all the town around him cries out in joy his name.
For he and his best friend in all the world Dom,
have beaten the Devil at his very own game.

“Do you really think he’s gone?” Dom asks.
“He promised to come back, after all.”
The Kid takes in a deep breath and lets it out slow.
“We’ll be here,” he says, “to make sure he falls.”

“What did she whisper to you?” Dom asks,
and there is no question as to who “she”  would be.
“It was the secret of Christmas,” the Kid says softly.
“And she revealed it to me.

“She told me that people focus on material things,
as they usually do around this time of year.
That they might not know the real reason we have,
to be holding each other near.”

“What’s the real reason, then?” Dom asks.
“It’s really quite simple,” the Kid says happily.
“Family is nothing without one another.
“Without them and you, there would be no me.”

And with that we’ll leave them now,
knowing it is for family we must always fight.
Merry a few days before Christmas,
And to all a good night!


            Its a few hours later, and the Kid and I still sit in the living room.  Dom has gone home.  Otter up to bed.  I haven’t been ready to let go of Ty just yet, and he hasn’t yet tried to move from my lap.  My chin is on his forehead as the fire dances in front of us.
            “Derrick?” he asks quietly, speaking for the first time in a while.  He hasn’t used my real name in a while, and I know he’s about to ask me one of his Very Important Questions.
            “Yes, Ty?”
            “Do you… do you think she heard me?  You know, what I said about her?”
            There’s no question as to who he means.  “Yeah.  I do.”
            “And you think she’s happy?”
            “Yeah, Ty.  The happiest.”
            He sighs.  “I love you, you know?”
            “I do.  And you know I love you too?”
            “With your whole heart?”
            “With my whole heart.”
            “Do you… do you think we’ll be okay?  Eventually?”  He plays with my fingers ever so gently.
            “Yeah, Kid.  You and me?  Otter and Dom?  We’re gonna be okay.  I promise.”  And this is something I choose to believe.
            He’s quiet for a moment longer.  Then, “Merry Christmas, Papa Bear.”
            I hold him close and once again thank whoever listens to us all for giving me what is mine.
            Thank you.

The End