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December 21-27, 2005

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The Byrne Report

A Cheesemas Tale

By Peter and Miles Byrne

Editor's note: This ancient manuscript was found in a box of old (unpaid) invoices at the Bohemian's international headquarters office in Islamabad, December 2234.

It was the night before Cheesemas, and George, the baby skunk, merrily hunted salamanders and rats and roly-poly bugs—occasionally chomping down on a slow-witted tweety-bird. Being nocturnal, skunks are at home in the dark of night, relying upon well-tuned ears and sharp noses to hone in on small prey. They seldom venture into daylight, because the sun blinds them. When the bright sun rose on Cheesemas morning, little George scurried into the family burrow. Outside, snow blanketed the meadows and forests, and a chill wind blew.

Satiated and lazy, George nestled deep inside the skunk burrow with his mama, Methyl, and a pile of sleeping skunklings. Everybody was snoring and scratching fleas and dreaming about marking territory with fragrance, when suddenly, George awoke with a start. The burrow was warm and dark and fetid, but he felt restless and crawled outside for a stretch.

In those olden days, we must tell you, nobody called Cheesemas "Cheesemas." In fact, this day had no name at all, because nothing special had ever happened on that day. That was about to change—and all because of a little skunk.

Exiting the burrow, George blinked and sniffed and listened in astonishment. The snow was gone, the ice was melted, the air was hot, rivers of warm mud sloshed through the meadow. A panicked deer splashed by. "Flee, little skunk," she exclaimed. "Boosch is coming! Boosch is coming!"

"What is 'Boosch?'" George shouted after the sprinting doe. "A dragon!" she screamed, leaping over the hill.

George had heard about dragons. He knew that they breathed fire and burned up everything in sight, even baby skunks. He shuddered with fear, and at that very moment, with a whistle of incoming, the Boosch landed next to George, its huge, leathery talons crushing the skunk family burrow into slightly acidic mush.

"Ho, ho, ho," the dragon humphed, as it set the woods on fire, "I'll give you global warming, liberal traitors." With that, the Boosch slouched easterly toward the human village of Iwrack. George trembled, horrified by the untimely end of his entire family, but getting madder and madder and megamadder at the cruel dragon.

"I shall stink Boosch to death," George snarled, as he ran after the marauding lizard, who was plucking Iwracki babies from cribs and toasting them like marshmallows. Squinting in the sunlight, George turned his backside to the scaly beast and shot a stream of smelly effluent that hit the dragon's thigh and steamed away, ineffectually. Fur singed, George beat a retreat into a nearby hut. Inside, a little old man and a little old woman were cooking a limburger and gorgonzola puppet. It was six inches tall, with olives for eyes and a salami mouth. Suddenly, it leaped out of the oven, bragging: "You can't catch me, I am the Stinky Cheese Man!"*

The old man and the old woman fainted under the powerful smell of the Cheese Man, but George, who was used to strong essence, stood his ground. Unimpressed, he told the Stinky Cheese Man, "If you are so odiferous, help me drive away the Boosch!"

With banshee yells, George and Stinky rushed toward the smoldering ruins of Iwrack where the dragon sat picking his teeth with an oil derrick. George climbed a blackened redwood tree and unleashed a sulphurous burst of butyl mercaptan gas which hit the dragon in both red eyes. The Boosch roared and staggered. Gasping, it fell to the ground, whimpering for mercy as the redolent Cheese Man moved inexorably closer to his smoking nostrils. "Oh please, not the stinky cheese, not the stinky cheese," the beaten dragon cried while crawling, badly damaged by double stink, into a nearby restaurant where . . .

Editor's note: The Cheesemas manuscript fragments here, and legend has it that the father-son chroniclers disagreed about what happened next. To his dying day, Byrne the Elder swore that the Boosch had been made into dragon hock soup by cleaver-wielding kitchen staff. However, Byrne the Younger's version is thought to be more historically accurate (the Elder was a newspaper reporter, and that thankfully extinct species was never known for veracity). According to Younger, once in the restaurant, the Boosch ate a tasty falafel and became a Sufi Dragon. He spent the next several centuries atoning for his evil deeds by turning himself into a pollution-free source of energy, thereby ending world hunger, global warming and the war. Which is why we celebrate Cheesemas.

*The existence of the Stinky Cheese Man is documented by Jon Scieszka in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.

Peter Byrne (all alone) returns next year.

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