Hola, amigos. What's going on? I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I've been carrying a heavy load lately. The winter's really depressing the shit out of me. Between the cold and the 14 hours of darkness, I never want to leave the house. All my pals are in the same boat, so they don't come over and hang out like they usually do. Good thing I got my GameCube. That's all the friends I need.

I did manage to find myself a gig for the month, though. There's this Christmas store called Holiday Land, where they sell all kinds of festive shit: wreaths, trees, mistletoe, and candles that are supposed to smell like cinnamon or pine but just smell like stink-candles. You probably know the place. In October, it was called Spooky World, and they sold masks and vampire fangs. I was hoping I could find all that old Halloween stuff in storage so I could snag a few tubes of fake blood, but they have this warehouse they send all the stuff back to when the season's over.

I'm in the tree department. I guess I got my wish to get a job where I can burn off some of my gut, 'cause all I do is haul crap around all day. I take people's trees and run them through this tube of nylon net so they can tie it to their car without needles and branches flying all over the place. The pay's pretty decent, and I guess everyone's all right, except my boss, Mr. Smalley. The guy's a total dickweed. He thinks he's being funny when he calls me Jim Clamchowder, like I didn't hear enough of that in eighth grade.

Last Friday, Smalley totally dressed me down for wishing someone a Merry Christmas. I told him I thought we were supposed to say that, and he was like, "You're supposed to say 'Happy Holidays.' It fosters an environment of religious inclusion." I got a news flash for you, Smalley: It don't make no difference if you tell them "Happy Ass Day." They're there to get a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree.

Then there's the whole Secret Santa thing. Smalley was all like, "Come on, it'll be fun!" Now, I've got a pretty good idea of what fun is, and some bullshit Secret Santa just doesn't make the cut. It wasn't like we were required to participate, but it was "strongly suggested." It's like peer pressure. In junior-high health class, they never had film strips about Secret Santa peer pressure, but they should've. And they should've starred Smalley, shaking a coffee can full of names in your face.

I drew Nancy, this old chick at the checkout counter. I had no idea what to get her. We'd barely said three words to one another since I started working there. All I knew about her was that she smoked Newports and had an enormous rack.

The days flew by, and I kept forgetting to pick something up. The day before we were supposed to swap gifts, I thought long and hard about it on the drive home from work. It's tough work trying to figure out what to get someone you don't know and won't be working with in three weeks. It was making me thirsty, so I pulled over to the big warehouse liquor store on the way home. That's when it hit me.

Right in front, they had this huge stack of what can only be called paradise. It was a tower of 12-packs of Miller Genuine Draft that was at least as tall as me. The 12-packs were on sale for $6.50. At that price, I'd have been stupid not to get it for the Secret Santa, especially since it was definitely under the $10 spending limit. I picked one up for Nancy and grabbed three for me. I wasn't about to spread that sort of holiday cheer without getting a little for myself.

I took my treasure trove home, put one of my twelves in the fridge, and looked for some wrapping paper. All I had was a bunch of Walgreens circulars that had been piling up for, like, three months and some duct tape. After the longest 15 minutes of my life, I finally finished the wrap job. Rewarding myself for a job well done, I took out one of my beers and had a swig.

The next day, I went to the break-room table and, sure enough, there was a gift waiting for me from my Secret Santa. It was definitely too small to be beer, but maybe they got me a pint of Dr. McGillicuddy's or something. I put my package with the others and got to work.

At about 4:30, we knocked off a half-hour early so we could eat cookies and open our presents. After five or six people went, it came time for Nancy to open hers. As she started to open it, I yelled, "Hey, save the paper—I took a lot of time wrapping that!" Everyone laughed, and I knew I had it made.

As she was opening it, she had this weird look on her face. Then she started shaking. Some of the other cashiers were staring at me, giving me the stink eye. Nancy looked up at me and said thanks for the gift, but told me she'd quit drinking about four months ago. I was like, "All right! More for me!" but this time, no one laughed. I kept to myself the rest of the "party," and every once in a while, I'd get dirty looks from the other cashiers. How was I supposed to know Nancy was on the wagon? When the party ended, I just drove home and went through the better part of one of my 12-packs.

And what did I get from my secret Santa? A red and green scarf. Man, there are so many things wrong with that. First off, Jim Anchower doesn't wear scarves. Never have, and I ain't about to break tradition just because someone got me one. Second, I never wear red and green. Shit, why not just knit me a sweater with a reindeer and the words "Kick my ass" on it? That'd do the job just as well. Sometimes, there's no justice.

But like I said, I ain't ungrateful. I'm sure my Secret Santa, Debbie from the back office, thought it was cool. We can't all be blessed with good taste. I took the scarf and threw it under my bed. At least now I have something to give if I ever get suckered into doing another Secret Santa.

New Year's Eve had better be better than Christmas is shaping up to be. That's all I'm saying.