A goat skull, horns decked with red glass star ornaments.

Merry, Merry.
Blessed Be.

Another Chort story.



“Do you have to take off your coat? It’s so cold!”

My wife pouts when I hand it to her, but then smiles prettier than the 14-karat flakes in the Goldvasser they toast me with in Gdansk. They call me Gwiazdor there, the Starman, and I’m not so bad.

Kraków is different now, too close to Ukraine, and people are scared. Here I wear chains, and my horns curl long during Advent.

I heft the sack that she’d covered with needlework—each stitch a spell—and I follow Nicholas into the house.
He keeps his robes on, flaunting his privilege in a houseful of shivering kids. Sanctimonious bastard.

The house is freezing.
Putin turned the gas mains off, yet I’m the son of Czernobog?

The mother bends low as she pours shots of throat-burning krupnik. I snort my appreciation of her cleavage, though my wife’s are much nicer.
Nick passes out candy to the girls, as if they can afford a dentist. He skips the sullen youth in the corner.

I catch the boy’s eye. “What did you do?”

He juts out his chin. “Stole a kielbasa from the grocery store.”

I pull a few black lumps from my bag and toss them in the empty coal bin. “Is that all?”

“Stuck it down my pants and shook it at Anna-Katarzyna.”

“Nice.” My sack grows no lighter as the hopper fills.

Outside, she throws my coat around my shoulders, and kisses my face. I say filthy things in her ear, loud enough for good Saint Nick to hear.
I am a devil, after all.

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