Audiophiles, Listen Here:
Gerard opened the flimsy envelope as soon as he got back to his desk, like everyone at Numo Corp. Inside, he found a glittery, unsigned “Happy Holidays” card and a gift card for $25 at the grocery store. Fourteen years at this place, chasing pennies on doll production costs until his eyes twitched and his heart grew two sizes too big, and every year, it was the same Christmas bonus.
He wasn’t surprised, but he had an unlikely spark of hope that one year it would be more, or there would be a handwritten note thanking him for his contributions. Anything. His salary wasn’t bad. His expenses were more than covered, since he lived alone and always had. He didn’t need grocery money. This gift felt like a very small box had been checked, very far down a chore list in human resources. He pinned the glittery card on his corkboard next to its 13 identical siblings.
Gerard was going to turn 53 in three weeks, an early January baby. Born close enough to Christmas to get shafted on presents, but not close enough for his parents to get the bonus tax deduction. He came up just short his whole life. Now bepaunched around the middle and thin on the top, with features that were all too small, too nothing, too washed out, always too something, he was aggressively forgettable. When he’d proposed for the third time, and been turned down for the third time, and things had gotten nasty, she’d spat at him that she didn’t want children with little rat’s ears. Fair enough. Realizing he agreed, he stopped proposing and got a cat.
His relationship with Christmas had never been the uncomplicated joy of other children. He was acutely aware that it wasn’t normal to get Birthmas presents. It was an irony that he’d landed here, at Numo Corp., world’s largest supplier of Christmas decorations and seasonal toys. His lack of sloppy sentimentalism made him good at cutting costs, though. When an item was realistically going in the trash after three weeks, why bother with quality? Churn them out as cheaply as possible and make another sale the following year. Every line Gerard worked his magic on minted coins the next season.
After another hour of spreadsheets, Gerard packed his satchel with printouts of the doll division production costs and headed to his small blue house. He didn’t like the blue, but there was no reason to repaint over a perfectly good paint job. The house was a luxury he’d obtained mostly for his cat. Doodles needed quiet. Doodles was a nervous cat. Doodles peed on things when he was anxious. Everyone was happier without shared walls.
When Gerard opened the door, Doodles came flying toward him. The cat’s head whacked against his outstretched foot, the only barrier between furry missile and some imagined outdoor nirvana. Doodles rocked back and hissed at the foot while Gerard slammed the door shut. Every day, the same thing. The one time the cat had managed to escape, he’d run into the road and immediately been hit by a car. The vet saved all of him but one leg, but being run over hadn’t made him any smarter.
Doodles continued to stare at the door until Gerard went into the kitchen, the hallowed tuna-dispensing room. Gerard wondered if the cat sat and stared at the door all day long, with an occasional litter box break. Probably. Chowing into a smelly mound of his natural prey, the ocean-dwelling 300-lb fish, Doodles calmed to a companionable cat who liked to sleep on the couch while the TV droned. Gerard fixed himself microwave burritos, turned on his flatscreen, and watched the world in two dimensions.
The next day at work was wholly unpleasant. The regular cost accountant on the plastic candy cane lights, Donna, was in a car accident for which she’d netted a DUI, and not a minor one. She must have spent her $25 on several boxes of wine to blow that blood alcohol. Their joint manager asked Gerard to go over her work to see if perhaps she’d been accounting under the influence as well. She had. It was going to take at least a week to sort out the mess she’d left behind, and she wouldn’t be coming back. Gerard moved all her files and her laptop to a conference room and put a Sharpie-lettered “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on the door. After closing the door, he got right down to contemplating how this always happened.
It wasn’t fair, of course, that being good at his job got him assigned the debris people left behind. He’d have to work a bunch of overtime, and at the end, train some new person to take over the canes accounting. His extra effort would get him the same $25 recognition as DUI Donna.
The wall across from him was covered with posters from the Sales department. Elves and reindeer frolicked in identical computer-generated snowstorms. Plastic candy canes lit the walk of an elderly couple waiting for the whole family to arrive. A tiny child, angelic in her blond curls and nightdress, bent down to whisper into a stuffed elf’s ear, some precious secret no doubt. Gerard had overheard the art department talking about that little cherub. After the shoot she’d screamed profanities about the nightdress, torn it off, and stomped to the elevator in only her underwear.
That was the truth lurking just under these fabricated memories. Numo Corp. pumped out hundreds of versions of Santa’s Little Helper. People bought it, because it was as close as they could get to a memory worth having. Spend your money on shiny artificial feelings and ignore your ocean of bills and shitty marriage and entitled kids. No one wanted to look at the turd under the pile of tinsel. No one wanted their real life, not in December. He threw his pen at the poster of the elf and child, harder than he intended, and it stuck, point-first, in the elf’s round little belly. Gerard had a small flash of satisfaction before he got up and removed it.
Gerard was living his real life right up until 8 p.m., when the cleaning crew came in and made it impossible to work. The noise, the vacuuming, the clattering of trash emptying, all sounds that made his shoulders tighten and teeth grind. He shut the conference room door on the candy cane crisis and went home.
He turned his key in the lock and raised his foot, ready for Doodles to bang into it. Doodles didn’t come. This wasn’t right. “Here kitty, kitty, here kitty,” he called, still poised with his foot in the open door. He waited a few more seconds, a long time to stand on one foot like an idiot, then put his foot down and came in. He shut the door. As much as he’d like to think that Doodles had calmed the hell down, it was more likely that the cat was shut in one of the rooms ruining the carpet. Gerard sighed and started searching.
“Here, kitty, here Doodles,” he called, opening the doors to each room. There were only four possibilities, the bedroom, extra bedroom, mud room, and bathroom. The cat wasn’t in the bathroom with his cat box, of course. He wasn’t in the living room or the kitchen. The door to Gerard’s room was open, no cat in there. The mud room door was closed, and so was the back door, putting to rest the fear that someone had broken in and Doodles had made a run for it. The windows were all intact. He was starting to worry, though, if the cat was trapped, there would at least be meowing. “Doodles, here kitty, kitty, where are you?”
Gerard went to the extra room door, storage for things he didn’t want to buy again someday. If Doodles was trapped in there, it was going to be a pain in the ass. Who knows what box he’d crapped in during the day? Gerard opened the door and flipped on the light. “Doodles, here kitty, here kit—”
“Rrrroooooooowwwrrrr,” Doodles growled.
“Doodles?” The cat wasn’t facing Gerard. He was looking into a corner of the room, underneath the elliptical that had been retired with the marriage proposals. Gerard swore. A mouse in the room was worse than Doodles, there would be mouse turds in every box. “Shoo!” He swished a hand at Doodles, trying to get the cat to get out of the way so he could look. The cat hissed at him, vicious and open-mouthed, and Gerard snatched his hand away. He fumbled his phone out and turned on the flashlight, then engaged the angry feline with a sensible shoe. Doodles lashed out at his toes, leaving a set of scratches across the leather, turned tail, and ran.
“Christ, cat,” Gerard breathed. He wouldn’t buy new shoes, not over a cosmetic scratch, but he wasn’t happy about it. “That’s coming out of your tuna budget!” he yelled. He got down on his knees, pointing the phone the wrong way and blinding himself, and leaned down to look in the corner under the foot pedals. There was something back there, bigger than a mouse, though. Aiming the light at it, he put his face right on the floor under the pedal and looked.
“AHH!” he yelped. His ear hit the elliptical pedal and his eyes watered as he scooted away from the machine. “OWW!” It wasn’t a rodent. In the corner, he’d seen a small person-like face with shocking red hair, bright green eyes, and a grin that looked more like the prelude to a bite than good humor. Gerard was trying to process it. It wasn’t real, was it, how had it gotten there? Maybe the long, underappreciated hours at work had driven him over the edge like DUI Donna. He hadn’t been drinking, though, and the cat had definitely seen it. Doodles was too dumb to be imagining things.
He crawled back and shone the light in the corner. The thing was really there. He studied it for a minute. It was dressed in a little Santa hat and a red and white costume, sitting splay-legged in the corner and staring back at him. It was one of those damned Christmas elf dolls from work, like the one in the poster he’d skewered. How the hell had it gotten in his house? He didn’t decorate for Christmas, never had a tree or presents or put up a single light. No one else had a key to the house, and no one had been in it for months, not since the plumber had informed him the “flushable” cat litter was not at all “flushable.”
He climbed around the other side of the elliptical, scooting it out from the wall, and picked up the doll. It wasn’t dusty, like the carpet around it. In fact, it was this year’s lowest-cost-ever model. It was the female version, with slightly longer red hair and a skirt rather than trousers. Its face wasn’t quite right, though. The expression of manic good cheer, painted with disinterest by someone making a few cents an hour, was more mania than cheer. The fabric of its dress was supposed to be fuzzy, but the mandatory flame-retardant treatment made it stiff and unpleasant to touch. His fingers wanted to crawl away from it.
Gerard carried the doll into the living room and set it on the mantel. The backstory on the dolls was pure manipulation. Santa sends the elf to watch the children and report all their bad behavior before Christmas. The children are not allowed to touch or molest the elf, or Santa will KNOW. In this police state, the elf was allowed the run of the house and all its contents. Gerard didn’t think much of parents who had to buy Numo Corp.’s cheap crap to enforce discipline.
Doodles was behind the couch, calmer but not coming out. “Here, kitty, here,” Gerard tried, no luck. A can of tuna finally lured the cat into a mad dash to the kitchen, where he stayed for the rest of the evening, ears flattened, facing the living room and staring. After his regular TV time, Gerard picked the cat up and put him in the bedroom, where he finally settled on the bed. It was creeping Gerard out a little. Maybe Doodles’ lost marbles would be back in place in the morning. Gerard turned out the lights and went to bed.
He woke from a nightmare where one of the cleaning women from work was whipping him with a plastic candy cane, repeating “You’ve been a bad, bad boy” with each strike. He had an erection, and he didn’t know how to feel about it. The cleaning women were all in their 60s, and he hadn’t ever spoken to any of them. Dreams were weird. As his own cane softened back into sleep mode, he heard a noise from the living room and the rest of his body stiffened.
Doodles was curled up on the bed, so it wasn’t the cat. He took his just-in-case can of pepper spray from the nightstand and put his bare feet down on the cool, nubby carpet. His phone was plugged into a socket in the kitchen, and for the first time he regretted this distance. There was another noise from the living room, a crash that confirmed his limited ability to imagine things. The appearance of the doll seemed more sinister now.
Pepper spray at the ready, he turned the corner into the hallway and flipped on the lights. Waving the canister in a panicked arc, he saw nothing. No sounds, no movement. He moved slowly down the hall, breathing shallow little breaths, and flipped the living room lights on. Nobody tackled or shot him. Everything looked essentially normal. He bent down to look under the couch and screamed, reflexively shooting pepper spray into his couch cushions and all over his fingers. He dropped his canister on the floor.
Coughing, right eye watering, he backed up and took in some clean air. Without thinking, he rubbed his eye with his hand and immediately regretted it. The spray on his fingers didn’t go into the eye, but the eyelid began burning and stinging furiously, and tears ran down his face. Shit, shit, shit. He needed to see what was under the couch for sure, though.
On his hands and knees, he looked again. The damn elf, the one he KNEW he’d placed on the mantle, was staring out at him from under the couch. He looked around the room, wondering how it had gotten over there. It must have fallen off the mantle and been stuffed under the couch by the cat. It didn’t explain the noises, though. He reached under the couch, having a momentary vision of pulling back a severed, bleeding stump, and fished out the toy. It still felt gross to hold, and now it was covered in dust and cat hair. He dropped it on the table and went to wash his hands and face.
After soaping and rinsing his hands and flooding the residue off and out of his eyes, he flipped on the light to see if he needed medical attention for his eye.
Scrawled across the mirror in smeared white goop he read, “SANTA KNOWS WHAT YOU DONE.” A shudder ran over him. Someone had been in the house. This wasn’t an odd story about dumb Doodles at all. It was a true-crime story in progress.
Gerard racewalked to the kitchen, looking wildly around as he waddled. He grabbed his cell phone and started through the elaborate security gauntlet he’d set up for his own protection. When he got to the iris scan, his phone balked. The damn thing was set up to read his right eye, of course it was, and having it swelled nearly shut was making it impossible to get the scan to work properly. He furiously thought about an alternate way to get in. Emergency call? That had to be an option, right? He poked at the screen trying to find it and put himself in phone timeout for five minutes. He threw the phone down on the counter and watched it bounce into the sink with a splash. He should have done those dishes instead of “letting them soak.” He fished it out and threw it in a bag of rice.
He didn’t have a landline, nobody paid for a landline just to get scam robocalls. He hadn’t heard anything more, and it occurred to him to check the windows and doors to make sure who or whatever had been in the place was out and stayed out. All the windows and doors were locked. From the inside. This was not good. Doodles was still asleep on the bed, so he knew no one was hiding in the bedroom. He searched the house carefully, and found no one.
It all started to seem pretty strange. He went into the bathroom and wiped the mirror down with a series of tissues, sniffing to confirm it was his toothpaste. Maybe he’d been sleepwalking. He was having that odd dream before he woke up—did Santa see what he was doing with the custodial staff? He was relieved he hadn’t dialed 911 now. He imagined the face of the police officer sent to check out the crazy doll guy and was almost glad he’d dropped his phone in the sink.
He went into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of milk. He briefly wondered whether he should pour it over his eye, which was still killing him. He wished he could google it. He picked up the milk and chugged it, feeling the cool liquid slide down his irritated throat. As he upended the glass to finish it, a clump of something dislodged from the bottom of the glass and barreled into his windpipe. He gagged violently, but the clump of whatever it was had lodged in his esophagus and wouldn’t come back out. It was painful, a hard lump that stung like a thousand tiny razor slices. He rushed to the sink and stood over it, gagging and coughing. What little vision he had swam, and his scalp contracted with pressure from his distress. He heaved, expelling a thin stream of bloody saliva in the empty half of the sink. It trailed across the white porcelain and slid down the drain all at once, impossibly slow. He closed his eyes and beat his hands against his solar plexus.
The object dislodged with a nearly audible POP and the entire contents of his stomach followed. Milk and burrito slurry exploded into the sink, forming a blast radius that defied fluid dynamics and the laws of physics generally. He heaved several more times, then stood over the sink breathing hard and drooling saliva and more blood on the mess. He ran the water and used the pathetic little hand sprayer to dribble water on the gunk trying to find what he’d choked on. A bright twinkle caught his eye and he reached in to pick up the thing, a roundish blob less than an inch in diameter. It looked like a hairball. A hairball made of silvery reflective strands of something. He sprayed it off, turning it, and a few strands came loose and trailed in the water, sparkling as they twisted.
Tinsel. He’d choked on a fucking ball of tinsel. Not modern plastic tinsel, either, but the old lead kind. How had a ball of tinsel gotten in his glass of milk? He searched his pajama pants for his phone to take a picture and remembered it was drowned and riced. He turned to grab an improvised evidence baggie out of the drawer and jumped with a breathy little scream. The ball of tinsel flipped out of his hand and rolled under the refrigerator. The elf was sitting in the middle of his kitchen table, propped against the napkin holder so it faced him at the sink. It was holding something Gerard couldn’t quite see. He was POSITIVE no one had snuck behind him while he was throwing up Christmas décor. Mostly positive. Pretty sure.
He got a fork out of the silverware drawer and crept across the floor to the table. The doll didn’t move. He reached to the length of his arm plus fork and tipped the hands of the elf apart. A tiny silver ball rolled away and onto the table. He stepped back, jerking his fork away. It was a miniature tinsel ball, just like the one that had tried to kill him. He rasped in a sharp, painful breath.
What in the holy hell was going on here? He stared at the doll, willing it to speak, explain, give him some clue as to what he was supposed to think about this. It grinned silently at him, green eyes glittering in the kitchen fluorescents. Gerard wanted it to stop looking at him. He hooked his fork through the elf’s red hair under its hat and lifted it off the table. It dangled from his fork, swinging slightly, its whole body a gently persistent negative motion. “No, Gerard, no touching,” it seemed to be signaling. He’d be damned if he was going to leave it on the table, though. He opened the freezer and tossed the doll and its silverware gibbet into the space next to his frozen burritos. He slammed the freezer shut and stood for a moment, lightheaded and sweating.
Well, he needed to get the hell out of there, that was for sure. He also needed to grab the cat from his bedroom. He ran down the hallway. He heard the cat growling again, a growl that started low and reached a shrieking pitch he’d never heard before. He sprinted the last few steps to the bedroom. “No, not Doodles, no, no, no….”
He turned the corner, and what to his watering eye did appear? An elf with a sharp stabbing fork, and a cat cowering in fear. Doodles was backed up against the headboard, hissing and spitting. Bright red blood marked the cat’s gray and white fur at the shoulder. The elf was leaning in, fork extended so that the bloody tips of the tines were just shy of the cat. It wasn’t moving. Gerard considered this. As long as he kept his eye on it, the doll didn’t seem to move. He grabbed his winter gloves from the top of the dresser and snatched the catricidal doll from behind. The cat exploded past him and out the door, the perfect execution of thousands of escape attempts, scattering small red droplets after him.
He stood holding the elf out at arm’s length, facing away from him. What could he do with it? Maybe he could take it outside? Burn it on the lawn? He had the tempest by the tail and no idea what to do now.
His indecision was resolved when the elf turned in his hands and stabbed him in the wrist with the sharp tines of the fork. He screamed and dropped the doll to the floor. He irrationally felt betrayed, like the doll had cheated. He backpedaled, holding his wrist. The doll lay in a heap, limbs askew and fork several inches away. Gerard had a moment of clarity. He carefully minced forward and kicked the fork across the room, disarming the perpetrator.
His arm was bleeding badly. He took a pair of socks from his dresser and bound the wound, clumsy with one hand. If he got out of this, he was going to buy nicer socks. These thin, synthetic ones weren’t absorbing the blood very well.
He inched back towards the elf and extended a bare foot. He jiggled the toe of the doll with his big toe. Nothing happened. Had he really seen it move on its own? Hard to say, except for the stabbing part. He blinked to clear his eyes and tried again. Still as the grave. He went behind it and wound up a powerful kick. The elf sailed across the room and out the bedroom door. Gerard lost sight of it for a split second. He ran to the doorway, cursing, and looked in the hallway. Nothing. SHIT.
Now he was going to make a run for it, but he had to find Doodles first. The bathroom was the closest room. The cat was in the bathtub, disinclined to be cuddled or touched in general. “ELF KILLER” was scraped into the mirror. Not written on it, but scraped into the glass, probably with the little monster’s stabby fork. “Elf killer?” What the hell was that about? He leaned in to look closer, fascinated by the surreal damage despite himself. Doodles started to wind up his siren again, and Gerard realized the reflection in the mirror wasn’t static.
The reflection behind him swam and changed, transfixing him. Instead of the neutral wall of the bathroom, a swirling parade of scenes swam past, Christmas trees, the aftermath of the American excess, with drifts of torn paper and packaging, trash bags and parents stuffing them full of the money they’d never get back. The focus came in. In each scene, there was an elf doll, one of Numo Corp.’s special Santa’s spy models, the very dolls he was responsible for cutting costs on. As he watched, the hands held the dolls up for inspection. The first had half its hair coming off, loose stitching creating a sort of wild antenna. The second’s clothes were sewn incorrectly to begin with, the sleeve on one side unhemmed, then they’d not survived the season. Her skirt was hanging down around her ankles as if she’d been molested and left for dead. The glazed expression on her painted face seemed to reflect some final horror. The third had a hand taped back on with silvery duct tape like a backwoods prosthetic.
Every one of the dolls was a victim of its own cheap construction. The hands holding them came to the same conclusion. One by one, they went into the trash bags, part of the detritus created by a disposable Christmas. Gerard sucked in a breath. He was responsible for this. In fact, this was exactly what he’d been aiming for—resale opportunities for elves every season. He felt a situationally inappropriate spark of pride at a job well done.
“ROOOWROWROWROWR” Doodles interrupted. Gerard spun around to find his jolly little nemesis poised on the edge of the tub, holding a dull steak knife like a spear. He leapt after it as it leapt on Doodles. The cat thrashed in an alligator roll, and the knife screeched on the old porcelain tub. Doodles hooked the doll’s hair with fully extended claws, pulling out a tuft of red fluff. The elf screamed in a high inharmonic tone. Gerard grabbed the closest weaponish thing, not willing to chance claws or knife. He brought the toilet plunger down as hard as he could on the elf. The rubber bounced off the tub and the doll without doing anything. Doodles spat and scratched at the elf again, hooking its little suspender and tearing the stitching at the shoulder. The elf started to retreat from the cat, which brought it closer to Gerard.
Gerard’s mind was racing. The elf was fueled by rage at the “deaths” of its fellows, he now knew, and he was really the man responsible. He had convinced Numo to make them cheap and disposable—because they were nothing more than craptastic holiday ephemera as far as he was concerned. This was not exactly making him rethink that position.
He brought the plunger down again. BOOING. “DOODLES! RUN!” he yelled, going for a third strike. For the only time in his life, the cat obeyed, running straight into the oncoming plunger head. BONK. The elf giggled as the cat sank down, stunned. It was not a nice laugh.
“Shit!” Gerard barked. “Shit, shit, shit.” He put the plunger between the elf and the cat and dragged the unresisting feline away from the doll. The elf stood up as he did. Gerard wondered if it could fly or some other unfair bullshit. The knife glinted under the lights. He brandished the plunger at it. “You stay back!” It took a step towards him. Gerard finally thought to wrench the plunger head off the handle. At least the handle wouldn’t bounce.
“STAY BACK!” It took another step towards him, painted eyes dead. The elf waved its arms and moved faster. As he wound up to whack it across the room, he saw the bald patch on its head where Doodles had pulled the tuft of hair out. A glob of glue was visible, almost like it had bled. Glue. Sticky.
The knife stabbing into his calf brought him back from his realization. With a roar, he dropped the plunger handle and grabbed the elf by its head. He couldn’t get a hand around its arms without getting stabbed again, so he ran into the kitchen with it, holding it as far from his eyes as he could. It was screeching and trying to get its legs up over his arm, biting at him and stabbing. He banged it into a wall until the knife fell to the floor.
Gerard made it to the sink. A thin skim of vomit floated on the cold, greasy water. He plunged the elf into the water with both hands. The doll thrashed and struggled, sloshing the disgusting water on Gerard and the counters. Soap bubbles appeared on the surface as the air trapped in the doll escaped. It thrashed more violently, making high-pitched bubbling screams.
A sudden flash and Gerard’s arm was cut, a deep wound that bled profusely. The elf had found another knife at the bottom of the sink. Gerard sucked in a breath and held steady. For his plan to work, the doll had to stay submerged. The dirty water in the sink turned red. He held on with one hand and grabbed the doll’s knife arm with the other. As he pulled the arm down, it resisted slightly and then came off.
Relief surged. Last year, in an aggressive push to squeeze the last few cents out of the elves, he’d switched them to a cheaper water-soluble glue. The elf dissolved into pieces, each limb floating up as it disconnected from the body. He felt its struggling weaken until it was the feeblest suggestion of movement. He squeezed, hard, and felt water streaming out of the limp stuffed body. After a few more reflexive tremors, one last piece made its way to the top of the water, breaking through the red-tinged bubbles.
The elf’s face looked much the way it had when attached to the body, too-wide grin and freckles still in place. The eyes, though, had apparently been less durable. Where the glittery green eyes had been, now Gerard found two blank, black spaces, staring soullessly up at him. He poked the face back under and brought the limp torso out, squeezing the bloody water out of it. Separate trash bags, he thought, and dispose of them all over town, one piece at a time, like an ancient immortal. Burning was still on the table. Maybe the head would flush.
Tomorrow, he was going to do something he’d never done before. He was going to fudge the numbers on a Christmas toy line to make it look less profitable than it actually was, and he was going to keep doing it until Numo Corp. threw in the towel and stopped making Christmas elves altogether. After all, he’d still get his $25 gift card, no matter what he did.
Copyright 2020, Rebecka Ratcliffe, All Rights Reserved
The Story: It will probably come as no surprise that I am not a fan of the Elf of the Shelf in real life, either, though I am a much bigger fan of Christmas than our cost accountant. I know people who have harmless fun with their elves, and by all means, they should keep doing that. At our house, on the other hand, I don’t want another thing to do, and I especially don’t want another thing to do that’s creepy, not for Christmas. Maybe I’ll have a Frankenstein(er) on the Recliner at Halloween next year.
I wrote this story a few years ago, and revised it recently. Boy, I’m kinda better at writing than I was a few years and thousands and thousands of words ago. There was enough of a fun concept here to try and salvage it, though. What if your creepy spy doll was actually homicidal? I think that’s a fun thought, anyway. Heh. I have weird ideas about fun. Do I wish I’d gotten it out before Christmas? Yes. Did I? Apparently not.
This is the concluding story to my year-long Story McStoryface project. I’ll publish my thoughts on the project in its entirety in a week or so. Now I have a lot of other things to get to, including a second Tiny Giants book and some new things that have raised their ugly idea heads only for me to ignore them completely. New things, man, they just keep showing up and making nuisances of themselves.