The Night Before Christmas -- at JPL

I used to work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. You know the phrase "It ain't rocket science"? Well there, many things really were. So as you might expect, there was a fairly nerdy crowd working around me.

The following was apparently written by someone there, but I don't know who. Perhaps it was picked up from elsewhere (and doctored -- or not), but while I was there it would show up, either on the internal networks or, if necessary, on meatspace cork bulletin boards, every Christmas. I typed it in while I still worked there -- from an Nth-generation xerox.

Yes, it's The Christmas Story for the original nerds -- the Rocket Scientists.

'Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual yuletide celebration, and throughout our domicile, kinetic activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential, including that species of domestic rodent known as mus musculus. Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood-burning warming apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist who goes by many honorific folkloric appellations.

The prepubescent siblings, comfortably ensconced in their respective accommodations of repose, were experiencing subconscious visual hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically through their cerebra. My conjugal partner and I, attired in our nocturnal cranial coverings, were about to take slumberous advantage of the hibernal darkness when upon the avenaceous exterior portion of the grounds there ascended such a cacophony of dissonance that I felt compelled to arise with alacrity from my own place of repose for the purpose of ascertaining the precise source thereof.

Hastening to the casement, I forthwith opened the barriers sealing the fenestration, noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without, reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline climactic precipitation, might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself, thus permitting my incredulous optical sensor to peruse a minuscule airborne runnered conveyance drawn by an octet of diminutive specimens of the genus rangifer, piloted by an aged chauffeur so ebullient and nimble that it became instantly apparent to me that he was indeed our anticipated visitor. With his undulate motive power traveling at what might possibly have been more vertiginous velocity than patriotic, alar predators, he vociferated loudly, expelled breath musically through contracted labia, and addressed each of the octet by his or her respective cognomen, guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode, through which structure I could readily distinguish the concatenations of each of the 32 cloven pedal extremities.

As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location, and was performing a 180 degree pivot, our distinguished visitant achieved -- with utmost celerity and via a downward leap -- entry to the aforementioned domicile by way of the smoke channel. He was clad entirely in animal pelts soiled by the ebon residue from the oxidations of carboniferous fuels which had accumulated on the walls of such channels. His resemblance to a street vendor I attributed largely to the plethora of assorted playthings which he bore dorsally in a commodious cloth receptacle.

His orbs were scintillant with reflected luminosity, while his submaxillary dermal indentations gave every evidence of engaging amiability. The capillaries of his molar regions and nasal aptenance were engorged with blood which suffused the subcutaneous layers, the former approximating the coloration of Albion's floral emblem, the latter that of the prunus avium. His amusing sub- and supralabials resembled nothing so much as a common loop knot, and their ambient hirsute facial adornment appeared like small, tabular and columnar crystals of frozen dihydrogen oxide.

Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smokingpiece, whose gray fumes, forming a tenuous ellipse about his occiput, were suggestive of a decorative seasonal circlet of ilex leaves. His visage was wider than it was high, and when he waxed audibly mirthful, his corpulent abdominal region undulated in the manner of impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical container.

Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the aforementioned hosiery with articles of merchandise extracted from his aforementioned previously dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he executed an abrupt about-face, placed a single manual digit in lateral juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith affected his egress by renegotiating the smoke channel. He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I overheared his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his vehiculation beyond the limits of visibility: "Ecstatic yuletides to the planetary constituance, and to that self-same assemblage my sincerest wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn!"

Posted December 17, 2012 8:00 AM

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