Last Christmas a friend asked me to help him put together a swing set for Santa to deliver for his daughter. I reminded my friend that I am mechanically challenged. One cannot devote one's life to the demanding career of a gourmand and also master screwdrivers or hammers or whatever else those kinds of people use. Nonetheless, in the spirit of the season, I agreed.
I arrived to find the entire backyard strewn with what appeared to be random pieces of metal. My friend held the directions on the hood of his truck—a worried look on his face.
"I might be in a little over my head," he said. "I've called in more help."
Noting again my lack of ability in this area, I asked how I was to assist.
"You can put out the milk and cookies for Santa."
A small, but critical task. "Done," I said. In the kitchen, I found a box of Oreos. I arranged a few cookies on a plate and left a note instructing Santa to look in the refrigerator for milk.
In the yard, a number of Santa's helpers with equipment gathered. The nerve center appeared to be a small trailer. One person sat and read the directions as another input them into a CAD program on a laptop.
As darkness fell, three large trucks arrived with lights mounted in their beds. One driver proudly announced that we produced more candlepower than Smith-Wills stadium. A 50-foot crane, under the direction of a structural engineer, lifted one of the pieces of the swing set into place.
Suddenly I realized how to contribute to this undertaking. This army of Santa's helpers needed milk and cookies—or the equivalent thereof. I went to work. In the kitchen, I found a cake already made and a coffee maker. So well received were these refreshments that my host insisted I keep the food coming. The kitchen proved to be a gold mine of possibilities. I found vegetables, salads and biscuit dough. It occurred to me that these items were there for the Christmas meal, but extreme times call for extreme measures.
A little after midnight, in a search for a serving dish, I discovered a half-gallon of Wild Turkey. Why should these unselfish souls exist on milk alone? Why not milk punch? Quickly I assembled the other ingredients—cream, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. As I expected, the crew greatly appreciated my efforts.
On my second or third glass of milk punch, I decided to begin breakfast—a celebratory meal to commemorate the completion of the swing set. I began to scout the premises for the makings of pancakes. Luckily, everything I needed was available.
Out of clean mixing bowls, I found a wooden salad bowl and began my preparations. On the fourth or fifth glass of milk punch, I knocked over the flour and the sugar but swept most of it out of the way with my hand. The incident with the maple syrup did not go as well. Somewhere in the night I had apparently used all the dishes. My good fortune held, however, when I found the dining room table already set for Christmas dinner. I gathered the dishes and served my grateful companions.
Dawn broke, and my friend's daughter, the beneficiary of the evening's labor, descended the stairs with her mother. I felt enormous pride in my contribution to her happiness.
Before I reached the yard to see the look on the child's face, I heard a primal scream from the kitchen. My friend's wife looked at me and uttered some very un-Christmas words. Then she lunged toward me—a large knife in her hand. Just as she jumped, her feet hit the syrup, sugar and flower mixture, cementing her to the floor.
In the backyard, the swing set, with a slide, tree house, fountain and Internet access, stood complete. It was an edifice sufficient to send the entire Clinton City Council into a frenzy of litigation. Our girl of the hour looked at it and said, "I wanted it in red."
Unappreciated by either of the women of the house, I went home to my cat. This year I refuse to be Santa's helper. But you ask, what will Santa and his helpers eat? They have no bread. I say, "Let them eat Oreos."
Andrew Scott is the pseudonym of a local scoundrel who likes to cook.