My family and I sat in a semi-circle in my backyard, sweltering under the summer sun, and hungrily eyeing the raw piece of chicken we were hoping would grill itself into an edible tenderloin.

“Eat it,” said my father, taunting me.

“You eat it,” I replied. “ I double dare you.”

“Well I quadruple dare you,” interjected my uncle, who summarily received an octagonal dare by my aunt.

We sat outside increasing our dare levels by consecutive exponents of two until my mother stood up, yelled to the heavens that the gods had forsaken us, and stormed into the house.

Before someone could dare me to eat the silky slab of poultry by two to the 14 th power, Mom, in her infinite wisdom, turned the stereo volume up to migraine-level and drowned out our squabbling with the high-pitched harmony of the Beach Boys. Even though the sun continued to beat down on us, the songs froze our tempers like a yuletide blizzard and we quickly realized that we were listening to the album that served as a tribute to the Surf Board Savior (blessed be He), The Beach Boy’s Ultimate Christmas Collection .

By the second chorus of “Merry Christmas, Baby,” I was possessed by the holiday spirit and had fully regained my acute reasoning skills.

“No one’s going to eat that raw meat, not on my watch,” I said. “What we’re going to do is find Santa and make him get us a new barbeque grill.”

My proposed solution was greeted by a round of applause and Arsenio Hall-esque “hoo-hooing.” Papa then handed me a long stick with a canvas bag on the end of it and wished me luck on my journey. As there was no E-saver to the North Pole, I set sail for the mall: Santa’s last known whereabouts.

Upon entering the mall, I exchanged a twenty-dollar bill and the raw chicken breast for a hot tip from the lady operating the Aqua Massager. Apparently, during the summer, Santa goes by the name Pierre, and frequents the Le Nez Rouge Day Spa.

Like Dancer and Prancer flying to a gay reindeer bar, I sprung into action and bolted towards the aforementioned boutique health ranch. I crashed through the frosted glass doors of the spa, then jumped onto the lap of the first slippery fat man I could find. Unfortunately, his bare legs acted like a greased-up, fleshy slip-n-slide (with curly white hair all over it) and I immediately slide off his lap and landed on the floor.

“Give it up Claus, cause unless you want a thousand screaming kids and one guy with a Polaroid all over you like maggots in a dead Elf’s liver, I better get a new Barbeque!”

Before I knew what was happening the rest of the clientele, all of whom were diminutive in stature and conspicuously wearing green, hopped out of the mud pool and put me in a mass choke hold. Pierre stood up from the pedicure recliner, removed the cucumbers from his eyelids and explained that I had ruined the exfoliation process. Some of the green-clad customers quickly re-applied more exfoliating gel rub to his legs and Pierre stood over me to light a cigar.

“Was it Lowita?” Pierre asked.

I was confused.

“The aqua massage vixen at the front of the mall, did she tell you about me?”

When the midgets putting me in the choke hold loosened their grips, I conceded to Pierre that it was Lowita. He then asked if I’d said anything to his wife.

“No, of course not, this is between you and me, guys don’t do that to each other.”

At that, Pierre flipped open his cell phone and spoke into the receiver in the most un-jolliest of ways.

“Tell Blitzin that I’ll wire him the money,” he said. “And Dasher,” he added, “tell him I want it to be a clean job…no accidents this time.”

Pierre clapped his phone closed and remarked to himself that he’d do anything for some Vanilla Wafers and a glass of 2% milk.

“You’re looking rather healthy,” I remarked.

“Thanks,” he said. “It’s a combination of Atkins diet and low-impact aerobics”

With the cigar in his mouth, Pierre examined himself in the mirror and used both hands to stroke the sides of his large, but hardly obese, torso.

“Okay Bradley, for your silence on this matter, you’re getting a Ducane Stainless-Steel, Meridian MDBQ-42 Natural Gas Grill . It’s the one with their patented open flame Rotissing System, storage cabinet and side-order cooking shelf. It’s the bomb.”

I thanked Pierre by groveling at his greasy legs and kissing the patches of white gauze in between his toes, successfully neglecting to smudge his pedicure.

When I got home, the elves quietly snuck around to my backyard and installed the new grilling machine to the existing gas lines. As they left I offered the 11 short gentlemen a $20 tip, which they thanked me for but kindly refused to take.

Apparently, Santa had instituted a profit sharing system a few years back, and since the Man-in-Red has little-to-no competition (Hanukah Harry is the Apple Computer of the gift giving industry) the elfish compensation package is substantially large.

On the other side of the deck, the peace on earth and goodwill towards man had degenerated into a frenzied argument over whether “Flame-Broiled” was a way to cook or just a registered trademark of Burger King.
“Mama, Papa, stop menacingly brandishing your spatula and aluminum tongs...Santa came!”

.............................They sprang to the grill, hugged, and went ape shit
............................ And the elves stuck around to help get the grill lit
............................ Then we drew forth the flames, let the skirt steaks get cremated, ............................ “Happy Summer to all, I’ll have my meat exfoliated!”