December 25th has come and gone and here you are confounded. You’re standing there below the mantle, lights strewn, stockings hanging (there’s one tossed on the floor, decapitated—which is shocking, French, and thus—chic). Studying this holiday jetsam, you begin to sweat. Not a Sunday sweat. Not a prayer. This sweat, nervous still, runs dirty down your fingers. It drips ghosts upon your toes. There in your hot little hand steeps your winter prize, unexpected, deserved. That’s right. Santa’s been to town, he watched you vote. And now babe, you’ve got coal.
What to do? You toss the coal from hand to hand. It’s heavier than you thought it would be. The weight of poor decisions. Eyes close for inspection. You notice a feather sticks from the side. Dark, sticky, stuck. You pull on the feather, human curiosity and whatnot. A bird carcass drops to the floor. Metaphor.
Staring at the bird. You’re ready to turn things around. Cannot coal be a blessing? You put on a coat, pocket the coal, and get in the car. Sitting in the garage, you can’t help but wonder if others got coal too. Are there more of you? Are you singular? Were your deeds deemed the worst? What does coal taste like? No.
You drive to the bank. Seems as good a place as any to get some answers. A banker would know what to do with coal. Probably worth something. You think this very astute. Very smart. Lost in this realization, the coal slips from your pocket as you get out of the car. It rolls across the lot. Away. You chase after it, retrieve it. Inspecting it for damage (want to get the best price from this banker, who you’re now sure will buy the coal, as banks do), you smile. There’s a feather sticking out from the dark. The little guy picked up another dead bird. Knows what it likes. Knows what it is.
The bank is, of course, closed. But you and coal had a moment back there. You, too, are determined to be who you really are. Follow your bird carcass, if you will. In one swiftish move, you throw the coal straight through the bank window. The glass shatters. It is very exciting.
Inside the bank you find that you suddenly have purpose. You step across the broken glass with great abandon. It crunches, and you like that. Power feels good. You step up behind that glass-breaking coal and give it a running kick. It bounces between the teller booths, unlocking the registers, spilling cash in your direction. You're rich. You're something. And you swear there along the ridges and the carbonized plant matter, and the flying Benjamins, you see a wild face in that robbing lump. Teeth? Pearly brown. Coal smiles at you. You, clam-happy, smile back. What a scene, what a day.
You lay down in the glass and the cash. Coal rolls your way. There are sirens in the distance, shouting, but you turn away from that. Now, here, you and coal are the only lumps of matter in the world. Two combustible partners, thrown for ashes, ready to burn. Is it love, actually? One way to know. You lean in, and coal does too. The whole universe between lips and thousand-year-old dirt.
A flash, you’re in the garage. The lump of coal is in your mouth. You've been in here for two hours, both because you are an idiot and because you deserve this. A man with toupee and a bad tan promised you the world and you got coal. Chew on that.