At Large : For the Comment people, who need it
'Twas the night before, and the Comment people were still at it. Don't they ever give it a rest, he asked himself, as he set out the cookies and milk for the Big Guy. As the holiday that dares not speak its name approached, he had worried, knowing as he did that illegal aliens, and even some aliens who are legal but, well, alien, can attract a crowd of critical, no, blisteringly critical, comments. And the Big Guy is not someone you see every day. He doesn't look like you and me. He's as alien as it gets.
You may remember that David Sedaris, diligent researcher that he is, learned from an Amsterdam cab driver that the Big Guy we know actually descended from Europeans, who have long inhabited a continent where he is also unpapered. In the Netherlands, the Big Guy's story takes a twist that is wholly unfamiliar to us and would unsettle and aggravate the Comment people no end.
It seems the Big Guy has helpers, no matter what country he's visiting. The Dutch, Sedaris explains, had a story for the helpers, or elves as some people call them. "The words were redefined," Sedaris says, "when I learned that Saint Nicolas travels with what was consistently described as six to eight black men. I asked several Dutch people to narrow it down, but none of them could give me an exact number. It was always six to eight, which seems strange, seeing as they've had hundreds of years to get an accurate head count."
What would the Commenter who styles himself Eat My Shorts say about the Big Guy et al who will make the midnight visit? Doesn't live here, no passport, no papers, plus an indeterminate number of helpers, also undocumented presumably.
And, what about the many Mees, numbered separately but perhaps all one and the same contentious somebody – all unrelentingly passionate Commenters who cherish nothing more than the opportunity to call other Commenters (perhaps even another of their many selves) nasty names, question their parentage, and demean their intelligence and education — what will they have to say about the Big Guy's animals, non-native to the Vineyard every one, and flitting about on private property the way they will certainly do. The many Mees and so many others despise guard dogs and their owners and don't want them anywhere in town. They can make some pretty rude Comments about other people's animals.
Oh yes, he winced, recalling the regular Commenter from Chilmark who goes by a variety of pseudonyms, each of whom knows all there is to know about anything at all, no matter what persona she adopts for a particular post. What if the Chilmark Commenter gets her disdain on for the rest of us who are fond of the Big Guy and who don't mind the way he lets his animals wander around our property? What if Chilmark commenter, as is her (or maybe his) habit, calls us all drunken, illiterate, lazy, messy, ill-clothed, ill-kempt, dope-smoking imbeciles for welcoming the illegal?
If Chilmark Commenter does that, it will certainly set off that fellow from Edgartown who is so proud that he attaches his real name to all his comments and demands that other Commenters do the same. (Not his name, of course, but their own.) By the way, he wondered, is that the Edgartonian's real name, or is he is using someone else's name to disguise himself and veil his donnishness.
As he contemplated the mayhem that was certain to erupt among the Comment people, our hero decided that what he needed to get through the rest of this global moment of good will toward men, and the joyful gift-giving, feasting, and merrymaking of the next day, was a good stiff drink. And then, maybe another one or two. It will help me survive this occasion of peace and joy, he reasoned, although there is the danger, as he recognized, that his ability to spell might be compromised, which would attract withering attention from the Chilmark Commenter. And if he inadvertently extended a cheery good wish to the illegal Big Guy, his uncounted helpers, or some other not necessarily American visitor, it would draw fire from the many Mees and so many others. And if, in the grip of the stimulants now sloshing around noisily within, he were to forget his real name, what might that Edgartonian say about such a lapse.
To say that this night, which ought to have been so smilingly uplifting, was fraught for our hero, is to put it mildly. Indeed, it was fraught as fraught can be. Fraught to beat the band would not be putting it too strongly.
As the midwatch of the blessed night approached and the two going on three toddies he'd gotten outside of began to have their way with him, our hero sighed contentedly as he contemplated in his mind's eye a vision of Comment people, smiling, congenial, forgiving, if only on special occasions, and hospitable — his people, really, but astonishingly different on this one night of the long year, their crabbed selves bent over their computers, their hoary fingers traipsing over the keyboards, as they composed well-spelled and grammatically correct expressions of peace and warm wishes to one another, and to the Big Guy of course.