SENSITIVE CONTENT: Mental health issues, homelessness, substance abuse, cursing, sexual debauchery, hints at murder, sacrilege, crime ... this story has no redeeming value, as one might expect in a world full of unfiltered sociopathic Dans, and you probably should not read it at all.
It was the end of the season, and Dan was quickly painting himself into a corner. That was the thing with Madvent: you had to start small. He had been celebrating it long enough to know that, but come December 1st every year, his enthusiasm for celebration made him forget that simple rule, and he often found himself in this same predicament.
The closest he had come to getting caught was 5 years back, and that was coincidentally the last time he had been way too enthusiastic at the start: Yurtle the Turtle, they had called that guy. He was a homeless man who was always moving at a snail’s pace and insisting on stopping rush hour traffic. A stone in the collective shoe for years, he was also an extremely violent drunk who was known to expose himself regularly. It had practically been a public service when Dan approached him late on December 24th as his final act of Madvent that year – it was the only option, he reasoned: you had to outdo yourself each day from the day before. At least he could make it count for something: Happy Holidays to the unwitting masses!
What he hadn’t noticed at the time was a woman just rounding the alleyway. She saw Yurtle (nobody knew his real name) fall and started screaming as Dan quickly ran in the opposite direction, zig-zagging through several streets until he was certain he was in the clear, just as the clock chimed midnight. Another successful Madvent had come to a close.
That close call ensured that he had begun these few intervening years with lesser deeds on Day 1. While he was committed to the idea of “Whatever it takes,” he’d much rather perform the ritual outside of a jail cell than try to be creative behind bars.
Sometimes, he had to take license. He allowed himself to count #6-10 of "God's Big 10” (as he thought of them), as well as actual crimes, of course; for the lead-up, he used social faux pas which began small and worked their way up to the particularly egregious and borderline sociopathic without being criminal. He tried to stay in that sweet spot as long as possible these days before moving on.
There were some easy stand-bys which helped fill in the gaps: Sandy was always Day 12. She was his neighbor’s wife, and December 12th was her wedding anniversary. After her annual date night with her husband, she would invite Dan into the basement rec room for some all-night wild times. She got something twisted out of it, and it always gave him a checkmark for that day, so it worked out well for them both. Because that wasn’t an actual crime, but one of the Big 10, it was good that it came mid-list. Perfect positioning, he always mentally quipped.
Misdemeanors finally arrived between the 15th and 20th. If you’ve ever seen another driver who made you shout out loud, “Where the hell’s a cop when you need one?!”, then you understand Dan at Madvent. And you’d be right: he was unapologetic, but he was certain never to get caught at it.
When he ran out of misdemeanors, there were usually only a handful of days remaining in the countdown, but it got trickier. When you think of felonies, a few come easily to mind – murder, arson, assault, DUIs, drug dealing, large-scale thefts – but those all involve an element of risk. That was part of the excitement, but as he got older, that thrill was tempered with the desire to remain free to enjoy another year. What seemed like potentially wicked fun when he was younger was now becoming an albatross around his neck.
Two days ago, on the 21st, he had keyed both sides of a truck belonging to some jackass taking up two parking spots at the mall. That had felt extremely satisfying, and it hadn’t occurred to him until afterwards that it counted, since he had just done it on principle.
Yesterday he had been more diligent in seeking out opportunities, but none had presented organically. By 9 p.m., he found himself outside of Sandy’s bathroom windows “Peeping-Tom-style” while she took a bath. From his vantage point, he could easily see the water seductively swaying her shapely form amidst the rising steam. He thought about tapping and seeing if she was up for something, but he didn’t like complications, so he soon called it a night.
Since peeping was a felony in his jurisdiction, that meant the bar had been raised, and today and tomorrow both had to be felonies, as well. It was already 6 p.m. with no ideas having presented themselves, and Dan was lounging on his leather recliner in front of a cozy fire, pondering his predicament.
He enjoyed fine wines, and in fact had some exquisitely expensive ones. He briefly considered helping himself to some of the pricier ones and then breaking some of the cheap bottles in order to commit insurance fraud, but it seemed like an awful lot of work, and would of course ruin the resale value, which was the real reason one was a collector in the first place. Still, it would be an option in his back pocket for now.
He mentally cast about some more. It was a frigid late-December night, and flakes were swirling in the silent air. Darkness fell by 4 p.m. now, the perfect cover for misbehavior, if only one could find the right flavor to choose from…
An idea suddenly occurred to him, one so ridiculous that Dan was cackling to himself as he quickly threw on his shoes and coat and dashed out the door. He was back home in no time, shaking off the chill and carrying his thin, red-boxed victim du jour: a DVD movie. He could use a DVD burning program on his computer to make a copy of the movie, and – as stated clearly on the opening title screen, he giggled to himself – that, my friends, is a felony. Day 23, done! He settled back in for a simple, quiet night at home. Maybe he would enjoy a glass of the cheap wine with his movie.
Tomorrow would take care of itself, he was sure.