do they know it’s chronnukah?

my sister held her second annual chronnukah (a combination of christmas and hannukah, though you wouldn’t be wrong if you guessed chronic also factored into the naming). all involved acknowledged the first event would be hard to follow, if only because a bartender cut off part of his thumb slicing a lime and we had no volunteers eager to repeat. nonetheless we made a concerted effort at entering the record books.

luckily, my sister was in championship form, spending much of the day making penguin cupcakes from a book i gave her for christmas. the only downfall of her prestigious gifts is that people would rather stare at her baked creations in amazement than eat them (you’ll notice in the picture, and this was increasingly true as the night progressed, drunk people love stealing yellow starburst beaks off of penguins).

as evidence of the strength of our sibling bond, in turn i used a gift that she had gotten me for christmas, namely, an alcohol infuser, making this perhaps the first party ever where someone went on a fruit run. after reading the instructions on the box, nothing was safe from infusion. i began with crushed pineapples and vodka. next i tried tomato, basil, and oregano flavored vodka. arriving revelers had to answer one question — are you allergic to tomatoes? — before they were handed a shot. some hated it, some said it tasted like a meatball sub or slice of pizza, a few became acolytes, finishing what others refused. later we made infused tequilas, among the variations, lime/mint and tangerine/cinnamon (refried beans were continuously vetoed as an option). i felt unstoppable, like a king, perhaps, dispensing libations to his gathered subjects, and told everyone that i had infused a pregnant lady in attendance with a baby, in an act of benevolence. that joke must have been much funnier then because i repeated it numerous times, and now i just have the urge to erase that sentence.

outside, near a fledgling fire, we played an incomprehensible game called werewolf. according to the leader, he would select two people to assume the guise of the title creature. then, once night fell on the village, the werewolves would choose someone to attack and tear apart with lupine savagery. upon daybreak, after being apprised of the mauling victim of the night before, the surviving villagers voted on whom amongst them was immersed in the lycanthropic arts; that person was subsequently lynched. later, a seer, a character who was permitted to view all the events with open eyes, was introduced. the werewolves focused their yellow ochre eyes, while the villagers sought the help of this omniscient being. in a likely example of art imitating life, i was the first to die, my supple flesh no match for claws and canines.

we began talking about werewolf movies. i started feeling left out of the discussion, so i made up my own, the ambivalent werewolf, about a guy who wasn’t sure if he wanted to kill. sure, he enjoyed the improved eyesight, the celerity, even the excessive hairiness to an extent, but he didn’t want to hurt anyone. he even felt remorse when he, at starvation’s brink, stole chicken eggs from a neighboring farm. one person hung on every word i said, believing all of them to be true, so i invented more details and surreptitiously glanced around the room to determine how it was possible that i possessed so much power. it was an art-school film, shot in black and white, very grainy; sometimes, for twenty seconds or so, the screen would be blank, saturated with pitch. i was using these terms to dissaude him from renting it. i described make-believe scenes for close to half an hour, realizing that while some people can take a box of mini doughnuts, black food coloring, and a few marshmallows and turn them into a cute little animal, i can string together some words, deliver them with a straight face, and capture someone’s attention.

when i returned back with eight copies of lyrics for billy joel’s we didn’t start the fire, i discovered that i’m also pretty good at inciting people. someone wisely suggested that we sing by a bedroom where people were sleeping, and all agreed to take part in the serenading. the song began hesitantly, as we tripped over unfamiliar references to prokofiev and dien bien phu falls, but we gained confidence quickly, feeding off of the group’s collected enthusiasm, so phrases like trouble in the suez echoed down the hallway. don’t even get me started on belgians in the congo, but the rumor is gorillas in virunga national park were heard joining our choral group.

the jewish contingent, lead by the master of the convoluted game (that’s trademarked, so hands off, parker brothers), encouraged us to play a drinking game involving a spinning dreidel. a hebrew letter decided whether you drank, forced all to drink, poured a drink into a communal glass, or drank from that glass. the last option, watching others drink a mixture of beer, wine, and liquor, was the only one with entertainment value.

a trio of guests arrived at six am, so we woke my sister, asleep on her bed and fully clothed down to her shoes, with a knife and pen beside her, to tell her she was being a bad host. the first drowsy words out of her mouth were, sure, i’ll take a shot with you.

she got the last infused drink, vodka mixed with penguin parts — their yellow starburst beaks, marshmallow stomachs — and limes. the dishwater color and the awful taste were improved considerably by the addition of pomegranate juice. she drank every drop, as if relishing life.


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