It's that special holiday time of year once again, the time when Uncle Dave sometimes has too many eggnogs and tells the heartwarming story of the Christmas Goat.
But first Uncle Dave wants to make sure that you have all been good boys and girls who are remembering the true meaning of the holiday season, which is to stimulate the economy. Right now the economy seems a tad sluggish, as measured by the Index of People Living in Refrigerator Cartons. But Uncle Dave is confident that things will turn around any day now, because Uncle President Bush's economic advisers have been seeing a number of bright spots in the economy. Yes. They go out on the balcony of the White House Economic Forecasting Building, located on Mars, and they look around while squinching their eyes up really hard, and then they shout: "I see a bright spot! Do you see it, Norm?" "Yes! I see it, too! Do you see it, Bob?" "Bob fell off the balcony!"
Their forecasting procedure involves a lot of eggnog.
So the economy is definitely expected to recover sometime between mid-January and the collapse of civilization. But this will not happen unless you, the ordinary citizen, go to the mall of your choice and demonstrate your true holiday spirit to the absolute limit of your major credit cards. Uncle Dave recommends that you take along a set of industrial earplugs, because otherwise you may be driven insane by the mall public-address system playing "The Little Drummer Boy." This is a song, lasting longer than most dental appointments, wherein high-voiced women shriek "Rum-pa-pum-pum, rum-pa-pum-pum."
At one point, years ago, Uncle Dave actually kind of liked this song, but he was exposed to it just a few thousand times too many.
But aside from that, and the traffic, and the early-morning toy commercials on television that cause your child to come rushing into your bedroom and jump on your head while you are still sleeping and demand that Santa bring him a video-game system costing the equivalent of two Patriot missiles, and the fact that the Toys Sure "R" Costly store is so crowded that you have to park your car in Brazil -- aside from these minor irritations, Uncle Dave really loves the holiday season, because it has so many traditions. And one of the most cherished traditions is the telling of the story of the Christmas Goat.
Uncle Dave heard this story from Uncle Jeff MacNelly, who swears that it really happened, and we can trust him because he is a trained professional cartoonist.
The story concerns a family -- a mother, father, three sons and a young daughter -- who lived in Virginia some years ago. They kept a pet goat out back, and one unusually cold Christmas Eve, one of the sons went out to feed it, only to discover that, after years of service, it had been called up to goat heaven.
"The goat was not only dead," states Uncle Jeff, "but it was frozen solid in the upright position."
The boy went in and told his father. The father was anxious to keep the little girl from seeing the goat, because she was very fond of it, and he didn't want to ruin her Christmas. He couldn't bury the goat, because the ground was rock-hard, so he and his sons loaded it into the back of their station wagon and took it to the local animal shelter. Unfortunately, it turned out that the shelter did not accept animals that were in the deceased mode.
So now the hour was getting late and the father and sons were getting desperate, driving around on Christmas Eve with this goat, wondering how they could get rid of it, when -- this is the kind of miracle that restores your faith in the holiday season -- they drove past a church with a life-size outdoor Nativity scene, featuring life-size animals.
"Light bulbs went off simultaneously over all four of their heads," states Uncle Jeff. "The car came to a screeching halt."
Moments later the Nativity scene had acquired a new touch of realism, and the station wagon, now goat-free, was heading home. So it was a Merry Christmas after all, at least until the thaw came.
Now you boys and girls run along to bed, so that visions of sugarplums can dance in your heads. That happened to Uncle Dave once, and aspirin was no help at all.