Doyle and Michale had just ventured from the kitchen with a plate of snowman-shaped sugar cookies and warm mugs of cocoa when a car wheeled into the driveway, the reflection of headlights against the front window announcing its arrival before going dark. Both paused to turn an eye in the direction of the window before exchanging a glance with one another.
“You don’t think--” Michale trailed off, letting a questioning eyebrow finish the thought for him. You don’t think that’s Jerry, maybe he came to his senses and came home--
“Unlikely,” replied Doyle, but Michale was already setting his cocoa down and was off like a shot toward the window. He threw back the curtain and strained to see outward into the dark.
“I can’t see shit,” he complained, squinting. “It’s a black car.” He squinted again. “I think it’s Chud,” he said brightly.
A moment later, the bells on the front door jangled loudly, and a jovial voice called out from the entryway to the parlor.
“Dudes, I‘m--whoa. This tinsel is insane.” Michale all but tackled his best friend at the door, nearly sending Chud, the bags he was toting, and himself to the floor. “Hey, you!” Chud laughed. “Merry Christmas!” By that time, Doyle had come to the door to see what all the commotion was, and he stood watching the exchange with a smirk.
“You guys are dorks,” he stated plainly. “You’ll have to excuse him, Chud. He’s in a dangerously festive mood.”
“Hey, it’s Christmas Eve,” said Michale matter-of-factly. “It only comes once a year. You gotta share the love.”
“Speaking of which,” Chud held up two metallic green gift bags. “I come bearing gifts.”
“Ooh! Sweet.” Michale snatched his, eagerly yanking tissue paper out to get to the present inside. The item he pulled out of the bag was, quite easily, the most festive holiday sweater that any of them had laid eyes upon in all of their collective years. A bright, proud shade of cardinal red, the knit sweater was adorned with a large Christmas tree pattern that was embroidered onto the chest. Much to Michale’s amusement (and Doyle’s outright horror), the lights on the tree were actually functional.
“If you press the star on top of the tree,” said Chud with a smirk, “the lights flash.”
“Chud,” Michale said, “this has got to be the most disturbingly Christmassy sweater I have ever seen, ever.” He paused a beat before he exclaimed, “I love it!” Michale beamed and pulled it on over his shirt. He pressed the gold star and the tiny bulbs on the tree blinked to life. “What do you think, Doyle?” asked Michale, looking entirely too amused for his own good. The look on Doyle’s face spoke volumes enough on its own.
“It’s…something, all right.”
“All right, Doyle, your turn,” prodded Chud, and Doyle decided that the devious look he was trying and failing to conceal did not bode well for him--not in the least.
“I’m almost afraid to.” He reached into the bag gingerly, as though expecting to find something unsavory within. “Oh, no.” He peered in and winced; inside was a sweater identical to Michale’s, twinkling tree lights and all. “Matching Christmas sweaters, Chud?” Doyle regarded Chud with a pained expression. “I thought you loved me.”
“The two of you together will make an adorable picture for the Christmas cards,” said Chud with a grin. “We can even send one to our producers.”
“Take my picture with this thing on and I promise you won’t make it to New Year’s,” Doyle mock threatened.
“Oh, so you will be wearing it, then,” Chud pointed out. Doyle just sighed and shook his head. “Hey,” said Chud suddenly, glancing about. “We’re down a Caiafa. Where’s Jerry?”
“It’s…complicated,” Doyle answered, a long-suffering expression working its way onto his features. Chud fired a look at Michale that questioned, quite clearly, ‘just what the hell am I missing, here?’
“Doyle,” Michale said gently, one hand coming to rest lightly on his arm. “Maybe we should let Chud in on what’s going on.”
Knowing Michale was right, Doyle agreed.
The three found their way back to the den, congregating in a small half-circle by the hearth. The tray of cookies was between Michale and Chud; both of them nibbled while Doyle brought Chud up to speed on the events of that evening thus far--Jerry’s missing-in-action, the phone call, his more-than-dreary outlook on the holidays. Then, in the warm glow of the fireplace, Doyle began.
* * * * *
As it was with many complex matters requiring explanation, it was necessary to go back to the start of things. The story as Doyle told it began in the small Jersey town of Lodi, many years before. At the time, the band that eventually came to be known as the Misfits was nothing more than a product of Glenn Danzig’s imagining. According to Doyle, there was a friend that Jerry had that was also a friend of Danzig’s, who told Jerry his band was looking to audition a bassist--which was lucky, Doyle said, as Jerry had been playing bass for a month or so. Jerry’s friend arranged a meeting between the two of them.
The first time Jerry saw Glenn Danzig was in a club in Newark at one of the band’s earliest performances.
“So here’s this spooky-looking kid,” was how Doyle put it, “dressed all in black with a fake gunshot wound to the head, special-effects blood everywhere, all over the stage. And when he sang, pure evil came out.”
Jerry and Glenn met after the show and talked late into the night. Shortly thereafter, Jerry joined the band. The rest, as it went, was history.
“Sounds like Danzig made quite the first impression on Jerry,” said Michale.
“Yeah,” Doyle agreed. “He was good at that.”
“This story’s exciting,” declared Chud, snagging a cookie off the tray, taking a sip of Michale’s cocoa. “What happened next?”
“Well,” Doyle continued, “the two of them hit it off from the word ‘go.’ Next thing we knew, the two of them were joined at the hip. You couldn’t see one without seeing the other somewhere close by. The dynamic worked; the band at the time was writing and producing, playing gigs, recording--Danzig handled most of the business and Jerry marketed, mostly. And all the while, this connection that the two had forged just continued to grow. They were inseparable. Then one day, for Jerry, something just…changed.”
Had either Michale or Chud not been sitting on the floor, both of them would have been haphazardly on the edges of their seats.
“Changed?” Michale leaned forward sharply. “Changed how?”
“Well, about a year into it, Jerry came to me. One day, we were hanging out at the house, just the two of us. Jerry told me he thought he was in love with Glenn.”
Michale was in the process of taking a sip of cocoa; he promptly choked.
“What?” he managed through a fit of coughing. “You are shitting me.”
“I shit you not,” Doyle replied matter-of-factly.
“Okay, wow.” Michale blinked. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” said Doyle with a little laugh. “That’s what I said. Jerry asks me if he thinks he should tell Glenn, and I tell him it‘s his choice to make. So Jerry tells him--”
“And Danzig socked him one,” Chud put in.
“Actually, he did,” Doyle replied thoughtfully. “But only because he was pissed Jerry didn’t tell him from the start. See, he had feelings for Danzig almost a year before he decided to tell him about it. Turns out Glenn felt the same way about Jerry. After that, they were, you know. Together.”
“Jerry and Danzig,” Michale mused aloud. “Wow.” He looked up at Doyle and bit his lip. “For how long?” Cookies and cocoa forgotten, Michale was leaning against Chud’s shoulder, a look of what could easily have passed for dread on his face; he knew this was not a tale that was going to end well.
“Until the breakup,” Doyle said. “Theirs, and the band’s.”
“What happened?” asked Chud sullenly.
“Nobody quite knows for sure. Jerry and Danzig had a falling-out. What it was about, Jerry never told me, and I never asked. When Glenn ended things with Jerry, he was devastated.” He paused. “That was on Christmas Eve, 1982. Ten months later, the band dissolved due to what Jerry and Danzig chose to call ‘creative differences.’ They never spoke again.”
For a long, silent moment, Michale and Chud just stared, rapt, at Doyle. Somewhere along the line, the two of them had scooted closer, crowded together like kids around a campfire trying to keep the dark away.
“That sucks,” declared Chud, his expression genuinely sad.
“I can’t imagine,” Michale’s eyes were wide, blinking in disbelief. “Babe, I had no idea. I just--my God, Doyle, I just can’t.” He let his head rest against Chud’s shoulder. “Poor Jerry. No wonder he hates Christmastime.”
“Well, part of all that just has to do with Jerry being himself,” admitted Doyle. “But, yeah. I’d imagine that’s a big part of why he hates the holidays.”
“Not that I blame him,” said Michale. He frowned. “Man, I’m really bummed about this now.” He reached for Doyle’s hand, laced their fingers together between them.
“Don’t be bummed, babe,” said Doyle. “You have a Christmas party to host tonight, remember?” He smiled lightly, squeezed Michale’s hand. “Don’t worry. Jerry just needs some space, that’s all. This isn‘t easy for him. It never has been. He‘ll be all right, though.”
“Where do you think he is?” Michale asked.
“I don‘t know. I only hope he has the common sense to be somewhere safe, and not out there in this weather.” And, more importantly, he added mentally, not doing something fucking stupid.