The Story of Crouchmas, Seattle 1883: A Very Special Holiday Story

1883 was, as they all had been, a rainy December in Seattle. Swivulets of frigid rain came down like tangled fishing line on any sucker daft enough to step outside, the weather ensuring its victim hours of cold misery. Cold, bitter drops fell on exposed necks, enlightening their victims on the inevitability of suffering.

In respect to the people and dogs of Seattle, this kind of kind of weather was not unusual; they had always been neck deep in watery depression. It was into this wretched environment, this distressed city where a woman could get her boot sucked off by syrupy mud in the morning and not realize until she tried to take off her shoes at night, that the poorly conceived story of Crouchmas was created.

During the first week of December, 1883, Helen Molder-Phosphate, editor, publisher, and sole contributor of the "Phosphate Illuminator" wrote an editorial entitled, "Yes, Helen Molder-Phosphate, there is a Borpo Crouch!" in which she described, in great detail, the legend of Borpo Crouch, a Seattle-specific Saint Nicholas-type figure. According to Molder-Phosphate, during December nights, Crouch would unscrew the hinges on Seattleite's doors and do odd jobs around their houses, as well as leave fried sweets and other food. She also mentioned that, in a very Seattle-like twist of pessimism, Crouch always left some sort of household hazard behind. This latter supposedly some sort of lesson, though the meaning of this lesson was not explained by Molder-Phosphate. This kind of half-assed, sparsely-facted story was typical of the Illuminator.

Surprisingly in a city mired in communal depression, the legend of Borpo Crouch caught on like a mudslide. Instead of believing in a day when it wouldn't rain (a date that would not occur for another seven years), Seattleites decided to put their faith in a person who did odd jobs. It seemed like a minor-enough miracle to happen in Seattle.

It should be said that all of this excitement came as a great surprise to Mrs. Molder-Phosphate's neighbor, Borpo Crouch.

Crouch had not read Molder-Phosphate's article, but when he started receiving scraps of paper with instructions on where the outhouse needed to move and what kind of roofing tin to bring, he decided to seek out the newspaperwoman. A few days later, when he found himself walking next to Helen Molder-Phosphate in the street, the two of them dumbly staring into the distance and tempting pneumonia, he asked her where the idea had come from.

"I was sleeping peacefully," Molder-Phosphate explained to him, "which is extraordinary because typically the holes above my bed make it feel like Christ is crying on me, and I thought to myself, 'Helen, did someone fix your roof?'

I seized upon this idea and I thought everyone should experience this kind of selflessness. That's why I wrote the editorial. As it turned out, an unconscious raccoon had fallen on my roof that night, plugging the typically open holes with its wet, burglarous body. The next night I returned to misery as Jesus wept. Anyway, I chose you because you made me a leek, scallion, and onion pie last October when I was laid up with the Hacking Cough. I thought to myself, 'Helen, wouldn't it be wonderful if somebody did something nice for all these people? And I thought, yes, since you don't have time Helen, I think Borpo is your man.'"

Borpo was confused by a mention of pie, and rightfully so, because Helen's other neighbor, Elijah Jesperson had made the pie. But Jesperson, a fisherman with an unfortunate fear of fog horns and buoy bells, was in equal parts generous and anonymous, so no more mention need be made of him in this account.

Borpo Crouch moved to Seattle in the way many other people had, he and his wagon of "masculine anti-chaffing ointments" had become mired in the mud and his mules were smart enough not to risk pulling their ass muscles in the outrage that was Seattle streets. Since becoming bogged down, Borpo had worked jobs that were easily wandered away from, drank beer, and sulked. A hulk of a man, he was not a bad person, but he was also not a generous or patient man. For several days after talking to Molder-Phosphate, Crouch decided to approach the story in a way that was familiar to all Seattleites: avoid eye contact and hope it, whatever it is, would all blow over.

Then one drizzly afternoon while drinking, an idea began to ferment within Borpo like a poorly cooked salmon. He realized that he wanted to be loved by Seattle, he needed to be loved, because with love came favors such as people fixing your wagon wheel or lending you their slightly more enthusiastic mules. Crouchmas and a reasonable road surface could be his ticket out of Seattle.

The next evening, Borpo inaugurated Crouchmas with a visit to the Kefferniki's, a Finnish family of Lapp heritage celebrating the traditional Feast of Humility, where the men in a family went trouserless for the day and the rest of the family was allowed to throw items on the floor and demand that they be picked up. After taking the large part of an hour to get the Kefferniki's door off its hinges, Borpo walked into the house, dourly took notice of the Feast, and started the family's requested task: sanding down their floors as the wonders of humility bobbed past at eye level. His mood soured considerably when the family performed a traditional Lapp dance for him. Borpo began to throw hard candy at them, but unfortunately for him, this was just something new for the Kefferniki menfolk to stoop over for. Intending to visit five or six homes an evening, Borpo decided instead that the Keffernikis would be enough for the first day and, as a household hazard, left their door off its hinges.

On the second night of Crouchmas, Borpo's difficulty getting the screws off the Linus-Salk's door was made worse by the sounds of snickering children inside. Not a patient man to start, things only deteriorated when Borpo grabbed an axe and started to hack at the door. Knocking out a chunk large enough to put his arm through and reach around for the lock, he was deterred by the Linus-Salk children who giggled as they beat on his hand with wooden spoons. Borpo put his face through the hole, "I'm bringing a holiday miracle into your home and there is nothing you can do to stop me. I'm Borpo Crouch!" This statement immediately preceded the moment he was struck across the forehead by a broomstick.

When conscious again, a frustrated Borpo chopped at the window with his axe, making much quicker progress through the glass than he had through wood. The Linus-Salks, newly aware to the seriousness with which their visitor undertook Crouchmas, huddled behind a bed crying as Borpo angrily scoured their pot-bellied stove, ducking when he threw hard peppermints at them. The Linus-Salk's household hazard was a kerosene-soaked outhouse burning odiferously despite the steady downpour.

At the next home, Borpo kicked at the door and yelled, "You know why I'm here!"

Unfortunately, the Sylvester family did not know why he was there and moved a china cabinet in front of the door. Much more unfortunate for them was that even a blockaded door was not enough to hold back Borpo Crouch, who climbed up on the roof to go down the Sylvester's chimney. He only got madder when he slid off the rain-slicked roof, and again decided to come through the window.

Coming to the Sylvesters was a clerical error on Borpo's part, but they were loathe to tell him that when he stood dripping in their sitting room, axe in hand, and demanding to be given a Crouchmas job. Thinking that a simple task might pacify him, Ellen Sylvester requested a single scrambled egg. She would regret this choice an hour later when her kitchen was filled with the unnatural squawks of chickens and Borpo howling, his sleeve was on fire and the kitchen pervaded with acrid smoke. Even worse, he insisted he watch her eat his culinary abomination. Ellen Sylvester would never voluntarily eat eggs again. His household hazard for the Sylvester family was an out-of-control grease fire.

Crouchmas continued to go downhill as a furious Borpo was increasingly in the sharing spirit. The horrors of his reign of giving cannot be overstated: dogs were milked; creepy foot massages were forced on the weak; floors were swept, but not mopped; a cookie called the Satan's Turd was created; children were glued together; a potato imploded; an unwilling woman was given a piggyback ride; onions were peeled into nothingness; a young man was knocked out by a thrown spittoon; family portraits were hung askew; windows were painted shut; a house slid into Puget Sound; a small boat hit a tree and inexplicably exploded; rugs were bruised, but not beaten; a duck was forced to sit on a perverted pirate's shoulder; and innocent goats were exorcised.

Seattleites tried to hide as best they could, scrambling out back doors and windows at the sound of Borpo struggling with their door's hinges. For weeks, most spent their nights in the woods or remained as quiet as possible under the floorboards of their homes. Crouchmas finally ended when Borpo, who was French braiding a mule's tail because he couldn't find 9-year old Cecilie Moot, was kicked through a barn wall and hitching post by the aggravated mule. The people of Seattle seeing that Borpo had been knocked out, briefly celebrated and decided that it was truly a holiday miracle. Then they beat him with sticks, stuffed his body into a black burlap sack, and shipped him to a non-existent post office box in Estonia. Which is why to this very day, every December night you can find Estonians trembling in their homes and listening for the sound of a poorly-utilized screwdriver on hinges, still fearful of the story of Crouchmas (Though the Estonians call it "Pieliektiemas" and Borpo Crouch is represented by an enraged talking burlap sack that is traditionally beaten with a 2x4).


Georgia said…
Hilarious! Now that is my kind of holiday.

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