In December, the days seem to get both shorter and longer—shorter because the sun sets earlier, but longer because the days become heavier, weighing us down with their ruthless persistence until the warm spring months come to rescue us. Hanukkah falls around this time of the year, but the holiday’s pageantries often find themselves usurped by the seasonal bump in schoolwork, its Baruch Atah Adonais sandwiched between arduous periods of homework and studying. Such was my delight, then, to be celebrating the first night of Hanukkah this year on a weekend (the first night is always the most exciting night—at least in the Kohl household).
The best part of Hanukkah, at least to my secular, materialistic self, is the gift-giving. Well, maybe just the gift-receiving; there’s nothing quite like the infinite thrill of holding an unmarked box—inside it, a means to salvation or assurance of damnation. This Sunday evening, I found myself somewhere in the middle: a present purgatory, of sorts—I received four sweaters, each one folded neatly atop the other. At their mere sight, I found myself frozen with indifference, unable to show even a semblance of gratitude for the thoughtful gift. But then something happened. It started getting colder outside. My jacket and dress shirt were no longer cutting it, but I didn’t want to lug around a coat all day. Enter the sweater.
When I began wearing my sweaters to school, it started off pretty regularly, my slight increase in overall temperature and comfort benefitting both my mood and academic performance. But just as I started to get used to this new outfit accessory, strange things began happening to me. Teachers in sweaters would come up to me and ask for little favors. I was intrigued, but kept my mouth shut. That was until one day when Mr. madeyoulook asked me into his classroom. “Look,” he said. “As you know, Hello goodeditor will be going before the Honor Council next week. I need you to get him off, he’s one of us.” There were many things wrong with his request. Besides being morally obtuse, it’s outside the influence of one Honor Council member to “get somebody off.” But what I was most concerned about was the phrase “one of us.” Who was this “us” he spoke of? I pressed him on the issue, and he seemed hesitant to go into specifics. “We can’t talk here. Go to the archives at 7:30 on Wednesday morning for the answer to your question.” I was skeptical, but it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Tuesday was the longest day of my life. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I spent the entire night staring up at the stars, contemplating life, death, free will, and sweaters. But time—though slow in its march—is firm in its convictions, and Wednesday eventually came. At precisely 7:30 a.m., I walked down to the archives and knocked on the door. The door then opened, and before me, sweater-clad, sat the leaders of this mysterious group: Mr. _____, Ms. ______, and Dr. _______. “Welcome, Sam,” they said. “Please sit down with us.” I sat. “Sam, before we go any further, I need to know if you are with us or not with us. Nobody in this room will think any less of you if you choose to walk away. But if you choose to stay, this family becomes your life. If you’re at your dying mother’s bedside and this family calls you, you leave your mother because this family comes first. Do you understand?” Why not? I thought. I had nothing to lose. “I do,” I responded.
“Open your hands,” requested Dr. _______. He then took a needle and pricked my finger, causing a small amount of blood to begin pooling on my palms. Ms. ______ then picked up a picture of a sweater and lit it with a match. “As this picture burns,” she remarked, darkly, “so may your soul in hell if you betray this family.” She then placed the picture in my hands and motioned for me to rub them together. Through sheer force of friction and suffocation, I quickly extinguished the flame, which immediately prompted clapping by all the members seated around me.
Now, I can’t tell you much about what happened next. And you better not ask, because… well, let’s just say bad things happen to people who don’t wear sweaters.