Written December 24, 2002. Eleventh in my series of cheery stories posted to alt.religion.kibology on Christmas.
This story required lots of research. Namely, I had to look up the spellings of "Kwanzaa", "Giordano Bruno", and "garderobe". Also, parts of it are factually accurate.
Einstein was having a boring Christmas. He didn't have a Christmas tree, or a menorah, or even a Kwanzaa stick, because he had renounced all religions after God hadn't prevented him from inventing the atomic bomb. (God was clearly evil.) And he hadn't received any presents because he was a scientist and therefore didn't have any friends. He sat in his empty apartment all by himself, because his dog Spot was dead.
Spot had died months ago, in a drug-related incident. He had smoked a marijuana-flavored reefer and spent an hour trying to stare into the Sun through the belt of a belt sander, keeping his face pressed against it until his entire head was sanded down to a nub. It had been a closed-casket funeral, which enabled the mortician to steal the body so his kids could build whimsical Lego creations that snapped onto Spot's nub.
Einstein sighed and turned on the TV to cheer himself up. This being Christmas, the news was on, and they weren't trying.
"THIS family's house burned down... ON CHRISTMAS! And THIS family's house burned down... ON CHRISTMAS! THIS family's house burned down twice... ON CHRISTMAS! And THIS widow was trampled to death by overzealous reporters!"
But just then, the real news was interrupted for a terrorism warning. "Be highly suspicious of anyone wearing a disguise, especially if they have a beard, because they might give you suspiciously-wrapped packages!" There was a grainy, black-and-white close-up of Santa talking to a little boy as the words "HYPOTHETICAL RE-ENACTMENT OF POTENTIAL EVENTS" flashed on the screen.
"Ho ho ho. Little boy, I'll give you that Microsoft XBox game console you wanted, if you're a good little boy and do what Santa wants... BURN DOWN YOUR SCHOOL. Then I'll give you an XBox with every game ever made!"
Of course, Einstein knew that Santa would never recruit kids to do his evil bidding, because Santa could burn down all the schools in the world by himself, with his God-like powers. Then the TV news switched to a completely serious report on the threat of nuclear war posed by some country that claimed to have a million billion zillion nuclear bombs even though it didn't have electricity or toilet paper. The TV was depressing him with its news of horrible events, even though most of them were imaginary, so Einstein turned it off and vowed to spend this Christmas making the world a better place... through science.
A while ago he had invented a chemical powder he still needed to test, so he took the vial off the shelf and went downtown to the place where farts were most likely to hang around. The purpose of this brown dust was that, when sprinkled in the air, it would make farts solid and opaque, so that at last science would have an answer to the question, "What shape are farts?" Einstein tried it out and huge mis-shapen bronze blobs formed in the air, all looking exactly like Garry Shandling's head. But then Einstein got kicked out of the public library because the Shandling heads were clogging up the second floor, blocking the Harry Potter books, which constituted a form of fart-based censorship.
(The library had been open on Christmas just for the convenience of those kids who had to write essays over Christmas vacation and needed to go to the library and cut pictures out of the encyclopedia.)
Next, Einstein tried his solid-fart powder on the subway, and discovered that every subway car contained exactly one fart shaped like a subway car, but people seemed not to appreciate this valuable discovery after they had to claw their way out of the block of fart before they suffocated.
A cop pointed at him and yelled, "You're under arrest for making people look at other people's farts!" Several policemen began chasing Einstein, and he ran down the street, tossing fart powder over his shoulder to slow them down. But he was out of shape, and almost out of fart powder, so they were sure to catch him sooner or later. Then he saw the entrance to:
KING SKIP'S REALLY AUTHENTYK DISCOUNT RENAISSANCE FESTYVYL
From what Einstein could see through the barbed wire, inside it seemed to be several hundred years ago. "Aha!" he said, "I can go in there and they won't be able to prosecute me because I won't have been guilty hundreds of years ago, due to the Reverse Statute Of Limitations I just made up!" He took out his wallet to pay the entrance fee to the knight manning the cash register by the turnstiles. A musketeer stepped between them.
"Not so fast," said the Seventh Musketeer, blocking Einstein's access to the Knight Of Payment. "Before thou canst be admitted to ye olde Renaissance festyvyl, your clothing must be inspected for rigid conformity to our rules. Some of what you're wearing is acceptable, such as that baggy tunic with the stretched-out sleeves--"
"You mean my sweater?"
"--and those shiny tights are excellent--"
"But these are the same corduroy pants I've worn since I was twelve..."
"--however, elastic won't be invented for five centuries, and therefore we consider it to be the work of the devil. Give me your underwear."
"But I need my underwear, because these are the same corduroy pants I've worn since I was twelve..."
"GIVE ME YOUR UNDERWEAR!" screamed the Seventh Musketeer, as the Knight Of Payment drew his Sword Of Underwear Rules Enforcement. They confiscated Einstein's underwear, and his wristwatch, and his heart medication. They took all his paper money (because Gutenberg hadn't invented the printing press yet), and they took all his coins (because everyone knows that in the Middle Ages everyone only had solid gold coins three inches across), and they took away his credit cards (because they were made from plastic and plastic is made from oil which came from dead dinosaurs and this was the Middle Ages so the dinosaurs weren't dead yet.) They pocketed his money, and tossed his underwear into a recycling bin with "RECYCLING BIN" written on it in runes, then patted him down to ensure he wasn't bringing in any outside food or beverages. For added authenticity, the Seventh Musketeer opened a Tupperware tub full of lice and dumped it over Einstein, then the Knight Of Payment yelled "NO REFUNDS!" and shoved him through the one-way turnstile.
Suddenly, Einstein was in an actual Renaissance Festyvyl! "Wow!" he gasped, "It's as if I'm actually in as much of the Middle Ages as I've heard about! This is just as good as a time machine!" (He made a mental note to dismantle the time machine he'd invented yesterday.) This was truly the most fantastickal, magickal, wonderkful place imaginable! Knight were fighting with swords made from actual stainless steel, a Chinese conquistador was playing hopscotch with a Viking with eight glow-in-the-dark horns on his helmet, pirates were chasing wenches in little circles, women were running around wearing nothing but chain mail bikinis, Darth Vader was riding Han Solo like a pony, Isaac Asimov was on a flying bicycle with two other guys, and lying in the mud on the jousting field was the bloody corpse of Fred Flintstone. This was no ordinary Renaissance Festyvyl, but was truly authentyk, just like in the movies! It was colorful, violent, dirty, and beautiful!
A merchant in a leather jerkin approached him. "Please good sir, wouldst thou sample my wares? Gatorade, eight dollars."
"They took away my money..."
"Fine, than thou shalt be apprenticed to me until thy debt is paid off. Come, sup at my stall at yon food court."
Einstein looked at the selection. There were bottles of Gatorade in an ice chest with the words "MEDIEVAL ICE CHEST" spelled out in sticky Helvetica letters. And there was a grill, with some greasy little logs on it. That was all. "Those look like fish sticks..."
"But good sir, this is the Middle Ages, and supermarket fish sticks haven't been invented. Those are chunks of sea cod in apple batter."
"Oh! You mean those are FRUITY COD PIECES!" Einstein said a little too loudly, just because he thought the fish sticks looked pretty gay. But he bought some of them anyway, along with one of the medieval flavors of Gatorade (Awesome Ale, Green Grog, Raging Rum, Mystery Mead, and Dung), because he was hungry. Then he began his term as an apprentice.
He spent the next several hours preparing greasy fish sticks for sale to other suckers. Finally, he was finished, and left the stall. "I never want to put my hands on another cod piece again!"
Next, Einstein went to a demonstration of the difference between pantaloons and breeches and several other names for kinds of pants that made your legs cold. He learned that the reason medieval pants didn't have pockets was because nothing had yet been invented that was small enough to go into a pocket, as the smallest possessions people had in the Middle Ages were dwarves, and they were usually just kept in large burlap sacks. Einstein marvelled at the craftsmanship of a diorama illustrating the fantastic history of burlap, and another on how dwarves were made.
He watched a guy making authentic medieval chain mail by twisting tiny wires with Sears Craftsman pliers, noting that after every three square inches the guy tossed his pliers into a large bin of broken Craftsman pliers. At the cobbler's shop, he witnessed the magic of people's feet being laced into shoes completely unlike the shape of a human foot. Then he saw the most wonderful thing of all, the mud show, where people pretending to be beggars would fall into mud for money. It was a marvellous expression of human creativity!
He would never have expected it, but Einstein was actually enjoying himself. He was happy for the first time since the gory death of his dog Spot. He began whistling a happy tune.
"What's this?" bellowed a guardsman, "Do my ears deceive me? That is a tune other than 'Greensleeves', and therefore it hasn't been invented yet! GET HIM!" Several guards advanced on him, each brandishing a sword, an axe, a mace, a halberd, a pike, and a glaive.
"Wait! Stop! I can be more authentykally medieval! You just have to give me time to forget most of the stuff that's in my brain!" yelled Einstein as they dragged him towards the Punishment Plaza in the village square. He screamed and kicked and cried like a baby and eventually they relented and threw him on the ground.
"Okay, if thou art truly a Renaissance Festyvyl personage," growled the Puce Knight, "what manner or class of dork art thou?"
"Is it not it obvious?" said Einstein, getting into the spirit of things. "Behold my comically oversized ragged clothing, with one red sock and one blue sock. And see how my tangled hair is arranged into two big droopy spikes. Clearly, I am the local court jester. Wouldst thou arrest the King's fool?"
"Okay, then, I was just fooling. I'm not really the King's fool, I am the King. After all, does not the King look like this--" (he grimaced) "--and is he not this tall--" (he held his hand four feet off the ground and ducked his head under it) "--and do his hindquarters not protrude thusly?" (He waved his ass around.) "Because I look exactly like the King, how do you know I am not he?"
"Well, that is an accurate, if insulting, portrayal of our beloved King. Only the King's fool would be entitled to mock the King."
"Huzzah! I'm free to go!"
"Nah, we're going to lock you up anyway because we need someone to fill up the stocks. People put a lot of work into building them. And besides, even though it's only the Middle Ages, we all already hate clowns and mimes and jesters." They padlocked him into the stocks and hung a sign around his neck reading "NOT AUTHENTYK ENOUGH". The villagers jeered and pelted him with centuries-old fruit and twenty-sided dice.
"Hark!" bellowed a harksman, "The King approacheth!" Indeed, it was the King, a most regal and kingly king, sitting in a throne which was carried by four shining knights, who were each sitting in a chair carried by three squires, who were sitting on stools carried by two knaves, who were standing on top of hunchbacks. The King climbed down from atop the human pyramid, stepping on as many faces as possible, and walked over to Einstein.
The King scowled. "So the reports are correct! There is a new fool in the village, although the bells seem to have fallen off the tattered edges of his ludicrously baggy clothes! After eleven years, I have gotten tired of my current fool, and ye shall be his replacement. Guards! Release this new, extra-wacky fool from the really authentyk stocks!"
They took Einstein out and inserted one of the hunchbacks instead, which straightened him out in a hurry. Einstein was stuffed under the seat of the King's throne and they went back to the castle.
At the castle, which was the only building in the village that didn't burn down twice a day, Einstein met the King's previous fool.
"Hello, I'm Anson Williams, best known as TV's Potsie."
"Uh... My name's Einstein. I used to be a scientist, but at the moment I'm a fool."
"Oh, you really don't want to be a fool in this castle. The King is mean! Once he made me eat a bug."
"Was it a funny bug?"
"No, and it was all because I made the mistake of telling the King to 'sit on it'. Apparently that expression wasn't as popular in the Middle Ages as it is today. Plus the King beats me, and throws Gatorade bottles at me, and gives me noogies while wearing steel gauntlets, and once he somehow managed to give me a swirlie in the garderobe. I hate being the King's fool."
Einstein put his arm around Potsie. "Well, Potsie, by medieval law, as your replacement, it is within my power to choose your manner of execution. I shall put you out of your misery in the most human manner yet invented... drawing and quartering."
"Oh boy! I love drawing, almost as much as I love coloring! And I can use the quarters to buy root beer floats when it's 1958! And... YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!" Potsie screamed as four of the King's horses rode out through four different doors with most of Potsie's body. There was now a big red "X" on the floor of castle, the four trails of blood leading off to different parts of the horizon. All that was left of Potsie was a small chunk of meat which had stayed put because it was in the exact center of his body, possibly the middle inch of his small intestine. Einstein picked it up and put it in his pocket as a souvenir of the time he saw Potsie killed during the Middle Ages.
The King bounced a Gatorade bottle off Einstein's head. "Make me laugh NOW, fool."
Einstein spotted a pair of chamberpots and put them on his feet, and a red rubber ball on his nose, and started dancing to re-enact one of many heart-warmingly maudlin scenes from the heart-warmingly maudlin movie "Patch Adams". Then he performed a medley of scenes from eleven other heart-warmingly maudlin Robin Williams movies, but the King became bored even before Einstein got to the disco-dancing robot from "Bicentennial Man."
"I grow weary of this fool and his exact re-creation of the squishiness of Robin Williams. Take him to the dungeon for..." (dramatic pause) "...TORTURE! Ha! I could have said 'ice cream', but no, it's TORTURE FOR YOU!" The King clapped his hands and three men in red robes dragged Einstein away.
Einstein muttered, "I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition!"
"NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!" yelled the three men in red.
"Oh, great," said Einstein, "Nerds quoting Monty Python at the Renaissance Festyvyl. What are the odds?"
"Three million, two hundred eighty-four thousand, seven hundred fifty-nine to one," said Spock, who was hiding in one of the suits of armor nailed to the corridor walls. The Renaissance Festyvyl had suddenly turned from cool to dopey!
Einstein was thrown into a dark, damp dungeon cell. But he didn't bounce far enough, so they took him out and threw him in again. Then they locked the door (Einstein wished he had noticed the fine print on his admission ticket where it said "YOU WILL BE LOCKED INSIDE THINGS" in unreadable microscopic blackletter) and he was left to rot in the stinky dungeon.
"Hey," said a voice from the next cell, "Is anyone there?"
"Yeah, it's me, Albert Einstein. World's greatest scientist and crappy jester. I can't see you in this darkness... are you famous like me?"
Einstein could barely make out the haggard face of the man sticking his head between the bars of the next cell, and he was hard to understand because parts of his tongue seemed to be missing. "I'm Giordano Bruno, philosopher, artist and heretic."
"Wow! What did you do?"
"Oh, all I did was write a book titled 'Cabala of the Steed like unto Pegasus with the Addition of the Ass of Cyllene'. I got arrested before the Pope even finished reading the title. What's more important is my great discovery which will revolutionize the world of art and science by your time. Look -- in this darkened cell, I have drilled a tiny hole in the outer wall, and the sunlight focuses through the pinhole to project an image onto the far wall, where the scene is permanently recorded by a complex mixture of chemical pigments."
"All I see are some turds stuck to the wall. Doesn't look anything like what's outside the castle, namely the barbed-wire fence behind the fish stick stall."
Just then, the three Inquisitors returned, and went to work on Bruno. They tried to pull out his tongue, but their Craftsman pliers broke first. So they dragged him out to be burned at the stake, atop the grill at the fish stick stall. As he was being hauled away, Bruno yelled, "E PUR SI MUOVE!"
"Hey!" said Einstein, "That's Galileo's catchphrase! Just because they're killing you is no excuse to plagiarize!"
"Okay, fine... how about I yell 'EUREKA!'?"
"No, that was Archimedes. Also you'd have to take a bath."
"Can I be a Knight Who Says 'NI!'?"
"No. People who quote Monty Python are not as funny as Monty Python. In fact, quoting Monty Python is not funny at all. And it has never been funny. And will never be funny."
"Well, then, if while being dragged to the stake I see a fair maiden who looks like Jerry Lewis, can I at least yell 'SMORGASBORD!'?"
"Sure, because almost nobody saw that Jerry Lewis movie which wasn't even released to theaters, and you'd at least be guaranteed to be funnier than he was."
"OKAY! SMORGASBORD! SMORGASBORD! SMORGASBORD!" yelled Giordano Bruno as he was dragged from the cell. There was a distant sound of a propane grill being fired up.
Einstein was alone. And now he was bored. What sort of ripoff Renaissance Festyvyl would take all your money, lock you in a dungeon, and then not even torture you? Still, at least Giordano Bruno and his lame attempts at comedy were gone.
The King entered, with his new fool. "Allow me to present my new court jester. Einstein, say hello to Danny Kaye."
Danny Kaye launched into his routine about the flagon with the dragon and the chalice at the palace. It went on and on, while Einstein screamed and screamed.
It was the worst Christmas ever! Also, there were no refunds.
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December 24, 2002
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