All characters, settings, plot details, and other minutiae are property of their respective creators, producers, and distribution companies. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made.Not-the-Author's Note:
I did not write this. My brother did. This is another chapter of his delightful series "Oh, The Places He Goes," which the poor schmoe though he'd finished last year, but I keep bugging him to continue. So far, he's obliged me. Karma Comes Calling
It was early Sunday afternoon, when Xander Harris heard the knock on the front door. Being in the front hallway, and closest to the door, he made his way over. Peering through the eyehole, he spied the visitors. A flash of recognition hit him, making him weak at the knees. He grasped the doorjam to steady himself.
“Oh God, no,” he whispered in horror. “It can’t be. It just can’t be.”
“Who’s at the door?” a voice asked from behind him.
Xander spun around in surprise. Before him were three Slayers, Buffy Summers, Rona Darrow, and Violet Jennings, as well as two Watchers, Dawn Summers and Reginald Johnston.
“Uh… it’s no one,” he answered. “Just… I dropped something. And it sounded like a knock. But there’s no one there.”
The doorbell chimed loudly in the hallway just as Xander finished his halting explanation. Buffy stepped towards the door, but Xander stood in front of her.
“I forbid you from opening that door!”
Buffy stopped and stared at him. “You’re forbidding me? From opening the front door? Seriously?”
“It’s…. Look, it’s not safe to open the door. We don’t want to let those people in. It’s too dangerous,” he told everyone.
“But, the wards haven’t gone off,” Reg pointed out. “If anyone had malicious intent, they would be glowing bright red.”
“Yeah, well…. There are many kinds of dangers. Just trust me. On the other side is most corrosive, degrading presence to walk the earth. Do not open the door.”
“Cousin Xander?” a voice asked from the other side of the door.
Xander groaned at this.
Rona smirked as she watched him squirm. “Cousin Xander?” she asked.
“Just… Just be quiet and we’ll act like no one’s home, so they’ll leave,” he told them.
“Cousin Xander, we can hear you,” the voice said.
“Jesus,” Xander muttered. “Um… Xander’s not here. He… died. It was very upsetting. Everyone here is very sad and in mourning. Please leave before you make everyone cry.”
“We better go,” a second voice from outside said. “I don’t want to make anyone cry. When I see people cry, it makes me sad. Then I start crying. I don’t want to cry.”
“So, it’s your family outside?” Dawn asked.
“I don’t know how they tracked me down,” Xander whispered. “After Sunnydale, I never contacted any of them, or gave out this address to anyone outside of the Council. They would’ve had to do some serious research to find me. Which means they want something from me. Which means we can’t let them in.”
“Okay, now you saying that just makes me want to open the door even more,” Rona said.
“Judas,” Xander accused. “Look, I’ll make you all a deal. Everyone just ignore those two outside, and forget this ever happened, and I’ll con Giles into coughing up the dough for the JetSpa you guys have been asking for. Deal?”
“Um, Xander?” Violet raised her hand. “No offense, but all your desperation just makes me more curious. At this point, I’d rather open the door.”
The others nodded in agreement. Xander dropped his head in defeat. “Fine, but whatever happens will be on your head,” he warned them.
Buffy stepped up and opened the door to reveal the two men waiting outside. The first man was dressed in blue jeans and a flannel shirt. He had a thick mustache and guileless smile on his face. The second man was an unkempt, burly mass with a vacant look on his face.
The second man gaped as he spotted Xander. “Look, Earl! Cousin Xander’s not dead. We got to tell everyone so they don’t cry anymore.”
“Hey, Cousin Earl. Cousin Randy,” Xander greeted them with a sigh. “So what brings you to Chicago?”
You know the kind of guy who does nothing but bad things, then wonders why his life sucks? I was that guy. It took losing a winning lottery ticket, getting hit by a bus, and having Carson Daly explain the concept of Karma before I changed my ways. Now in order to live a better life, I'm trying to make up for all the bad things I did.
I'm just trying to be a better person.
My name is Earl.
I was babysitting the kids for Joy and Darnell, when Dodge and Earl Jr. began playing toy war. That's a game they invented where they throw toys at each other until one of them is knocked unconscious or until Joy yells at them to stop. Joy yelling at them is how the game ended nine out of ten times, so Dodge and Earl Jr. knew this was their chance to go all out. So when the Barbie Doll thrown by Dodge nailed me in the crotch, I took it as a sign to take care of #51 on my list: Stole and destroyed my cousin's girlfriend's Barbie.
The group sat around the library, listening to Earl Hickey finish his explanation. They turned to look at Dawn.
“This guy stole and destroyed your Barbie?” Violet asked.
Dawn shook her head. “Sorry, not me,” she told them.
“It was Willow's!” Xander yelled from the other room.
“You know, this would go a lot faster if you were in the same room as us, Cousin Xander,” Earl said.
“I'm not talking to you!” Xander yelled.
“When did Xander date Willow?” Rona asked.
“We were five,” Xander poked his head in. “We met the first day of kindergarten. We decided to be boyfriend and girlfriend a week later. That lasted for just over two months until...” he paused to glare at Earl, “he ruined it all and let me take the blame.”
“And that's why I'm here. I want to make up for it,” Earl said.
“I don't want any half-ass apology from you,” Xander said. “And I'm still not talking to you.”
“I actually came to make it up to your friend. I wasn't able to get an address on her and I was hoping you could tell me where she is,” Earl said.
“Oh, you need my help?” Xander asked. “Well forget it! No way I'm sending you to bug...” he trailed off as a gleam hit his eyes. “No, wait. This could be interesting. I get Willow over here, and you tell her the whole truth about what happened, and watch her... calmly accept the truth and not overreact at all. Yes, yes that's it,” he chuckled. “I'm going to enjoy this.”I got a bad feeling about the sadistic glint in Cousin Xander's eyes, as well as the gleeful cackling as he called his childhood friend. Turns out my feeling was right. His friend showed up a couple of hours later. Now I hadn't seen her since she was five. All I really remembered about her was that she had red hair and was Jewish. Luckily I brought the manual with me to help me along.
Willow Rosenberg stood with her arms crossed, tapping her toe impatiently, glaring at Earl. He held Judaism For Dummies
open in front of him. “Shalom, Fraylin Rosenberg. I come to you seeking mechilluh
. I stole and partially destroyed your tayer
Barbie doll. Now I know you're thinking it takes real chutzpah
come clean twenty years later. All I can say was that I was a real putz
. I acted like a meshuge
back then. But now I'm trying to be a real mensch
here. So I brought you this to make up for it,” he said, handing Willow a brand new Barbie Island Princess, still in its package.
Willow glared at the box, but did not take it. “I don't think so,” she told him. “First of all, I'm not five years anymore, so I don't play with Barbies. Second, if I wanted a Barbie, I would just buy one. Third, this doll promotes an unrealistic body image for young girls, so by buying it you're only perpetuating a negative role model.”
Earl smiled amiably, and nodded along.Unfortunately, Willow was not in a forgiving mood, so I pulled my number one defense when being yelled at. I just smiled and nodded along. It was a tool I learned and perfected when I was married to Joy. This actually wasn't too bad. One a scale of one to ten, one being five minutes late to pick Joy up from work, and ten being eating all the ice cream when Joy has PMS, this was barely a three.
As I listened to her oysmusern me I couldn't help but think she had a point. The fact is that I took a beloved possession from her when she was five. But Barbie wasn't very beloved to her twenty years later. And she was right about the unrealistic body image. When I was twelve, I heard a girl I liked say she thought Ken was cute. But no matter how mousse in my hair or tucking I did, I couldn't make myself look like him.
But the end result was that it was going to take more than a trip to Toys R Us to cross Willow off my list.
“Willow, you're right. I'll have to find some other way to make it up to you,” Earl told her. “You wouldn't happen to know what that is, do you?”
Willow shook her head.
Earl sighed, “C'mon, Randy. We got to go figure out how to make it up to her.”
“Aw, do we have to go, Earl?” Randy asked from the other side of the room. “Cousin Xander has a toy dog from Japan, and I think I saw a talking monkey earlier, but he hid when I tried to pet him.”
“You have to let him approach you,” Violet said. “And if you offer him a radish, he'll probably come out.”
“Sorry, Randy. We've got work to do,” Earl said.
Randy nodded sadly and followed Earl to the front door. After they left, Gobo Fraggle stuck his head out from the hole in the wall he was hiding in.
“Was that a Gorg?” he asked nervously.
The next day, Earl and Randy returned. The group once again gathered in the library, except for Xander, who refused to be in the same room with Earl for moral reasons, K-9 who was projecting a laser from its nose onto the wall and floor of the hallway, and Randy, who was trying to catch the moving dot of light on the hallway wall and floor.
“You're probably wondering why I called you all here today,” Earl started.
“We know why,” Buffy said. “You're trying to get Willow to forgive you.”
“Oh... yeah. I just always wanted to start off a meeting by saying that.... maybe next time,” Earl grumbled. “Anyway, I'm glad you're all here for me.”
“I'm not here for you!” Xander yelled from the other room. “I am in no way taking part in this farce!”
“We know, and we respect your choice!” Dawn yelled back. “So what have you got that will get you out of Willow's doghouse?”
“Well, I gave a lot of thought to the problem,” Earl told them. “Originally, I figured I took a Barbie doll, so if I gave one back, it'd be even. But that's not the case, is it?”
Willow shook her head.
He continued, “The fact is that I took away a cherished toy from a child. But you're not a child anymore, and Barbie is apparently a misogynistic tool of oppression nowadays. So the truth is, I can't make it up to you.”
“I told you he'd screw it up!” Xander yelled.
“Honey, if you're not taking part, you can't make comments! Sorry, but that's the rule!” Dawn yelled back.
Xander grumbled inaudibly in response.
“This is your solution?” Willow asked. “Say 'my bad' and expect me to okay with that?”
“Nope,” Earl replied. “I remembered that karma works in mysterious ways. Since I took a toy away from a child, then I have to give a toy to a child. And that's just what I did. This morning I went out and donated a bunch of children's books to Toys For Tots in your name. I got you a certificate,” and he handed her the paper to Willow.
As she took it, her face softened. “That's.... actually incredibly sweet. What books did you give?”
“Dr. Seuss. The lady at the bookstore recommended him. He's the one that does the picture books based on those Jim Carrey and Mike Myers movies,” Earl answered.
“They are not based on... forget it!” Xander yelled.
“Wait, I'm still fuzzy on a few details,” Violet said. “How did you steal Willow's Barbie, partially destroy it, and then shift the blame to Xander?”
Growing up, the only vacations my family went on were to relatives around the country. So Thanksgiving 1986 my parents packed up me and Randy into the car and we drove to California to visit my Mom's cousin and her family.
Cousin Xander enjoyed our visits. My parents tended to spoil him, since they never had to appear in juvenile court with him. And I enjoyed visiting the Harrises since they never locked their liquor cabinet.
It was the Friday after Thanksgiving when Xander's friend Willow came over to the house. She brought her brand new Malibu Barbie doll her parents had bought her the week before. Seeing how much the young girl loved her doll, all I could think was that she would pay a lot to get it back.
I had Randy distract everyone while I went for the doll. I left behind the ransom letter. Unfortunately the only paper I could find to glue the letters to was one of Cousin Xander's old tests.
“See!” Xander interrupted. “I told you I didn't take it. Why would I use a paper with my name on it? It just doesn't make sense!”
Willow patted his arm. “Yes, you were right and I was wrong. I'm sorry I blamed you.”
“Just wanted to hear it,” Xander said.
“Can I continue?” Earl asked.
Xander shrugged. “Still not talking to you,” he muttered.As I was saying, I took the doll and left the ransom note. Now I knew that once the ransom note was found, Willow's parents would search for it. So that meant I couldn't keep it with me, but had to hide it. So I stashed it with some other stuff me and Randy grabbed that weekend.
I went back to the kitchen and had a nice long meal, while I waited for Willow to get the ransom together. When I finished and went back to the stash, Randy was there already. And that's when things started to go wrong.
First of all, some of the other stuff we grabbed was fireworks from Cousin Xander's room. Second, Randy wanted to blow something up. And third, I was beginning to have doubts that a five year old girl could get her hands on a six pack of beer and all the Smokey and the Bandit movies on tape, like our ransom note asked for.
So I guess it was inevitable that Randy and I stood in the woods behind the Harris house, lighting the M-80s we wrapped around an innocent Barbie doll. In our defense, it did make a real cool explosion.
Shortly after the explosion, Xander came by and found the charred remains of the doll. And a few minutes after that, Willow got there and found Xander holding the charred remains of her doll in one hand and the leftover fireworks she had seen in his room in the other. Not surprisingly, she blamed him for the whole thing. Randy and I had already left and were busying drinking the bottle of scotch we found in the Harris liquor cabinet.
“WAIT A SECOND! YOU TOOK MY DAD'S BOTTLE OF SCOTCH!” Xander yelled, inches from Earl's face. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA THE TROUBLE YOU CAUSED?”
“So... does this mean you're talking to me now?” Earl asked.
Xander shut his mouth and calmly walked out of the room and up the stairs. The group listened to his steps as he climbed the stairs, walked down the hall, and opened a door.
“Sounds like he's at the training room,” Rona said, leaning in to listen. “He's going in.... now he's stopped. He's opening up one of the cabinets.... and he's pulling out an axe.”
It turns out that by taking the bottle of scotch, I caused a lot more trouble than I realized. When Xander was born, his dad bought the most expense bottle of Scotch he could afford. He planned on drinking it when Xander graduated high school and moved out.
He was pretty upset when he found out someone had taken it. And since it happened during a family gathering, he knew one of his relatives was responsible. So every holiday and family gathering after that, Mr. Harris would get drunk, accuse someone of stealing it and start a fight.
Xander would avoid all this by grabbing a sleeping bag and camping out in his front yard. Apparently, this was not the safest activity in his town.
And now Xander blamed me for all of that.
So I used my number two defense when someone was angry at me. I ran and hid. Xander's friends didn't want to have to bail him out of jail for killing me, so they distracted him while Randy and I got out of the house. We got back to our lives in Camden County. I added him to my list, but figured I'd give him some time to cool off before making it up to him.
At least that was the plan. Two days after we got back, Xander Harris showed up at my parents' house.
“Where the hell is Earl?” Xander demanded.
Carl Hickey stood just inside the front door and shrugged. “Not here. You're Tony and Jessica's boy, right? Alexander?”
“Just Xander,” he told Carl.
“Earl mentioned he was going to track you down for one of his list items. You better come on inside then,” Carl invited him in. “Kay! We have company!”
Xander followed him into the house to the living room. He sat down on the couch as Carl sat in his reclining chair.
“So I take it things didn't go well when Earl visited?” Carl asked.
“Well, he got what he wanted from my friend Willow, but I'm still pissed at him,” Xander answered.
Kay Hickey came into the room carrying a tray of drinks, and sat down on the couch. “Xander! It's been years since we've seen you. How are your parents?”
“Tony died a couple of years ago. Last I saw of Jessica, she took a bunch money from me, then disappeared,” Xander answered in a curt tone.
Carl shook his head. “I'm sorry about that, son. How are you holding up?”
Xander let out a sigh. “We weren't that close the last few years.”
“I do hope you and Earl settle your differences,” Kay told him. She served the drinks to Carl and Xander.
Carl took a sip from his coffee. “I'm sure Xander has plenty of reason to be angry at Earl. We know what he was like before he got into this Karma of his. And Xander's got reason to be skeptical. I know I had my doubts,” he turned to Xander. “I suppose you'll want to find him. He's staying at a motel off the highway. If he's not there, you can probably find him at the Crab Shack.”
“Where are you staying, now that you're in town?” Kay asked him.
“I don't know. I guess I can get a room at that motel,” Xander said.
“Don't be ridiculous,” Kay told him. “You can stay in our guest bedroom.”
“Uh... I don't know. I mean I only came to town to kick Earl's ass,” Xander protested.
“Hell, I've lost count of the times I wanted to kick his ass,” Carl said. “You're family. That means you'll always have a place here.”
Xander knocked on the motel room door. He heard the feet shuffling inside, but the door didn't open.
“Earl! Are you in there?” he yelled.
“Cousin Xander?” Randy asked for the other side of the door. “Do you still want to hurt Earl?”
“Then I can't tell you where he is,” Randy said.
Xander sighed. “Fine. I don't hate him anymore. Karma has shown me the error of my ways. Now where is he?”
“Oh, he's at... wait a minute. Are you just saying that to trick me? Earl warned me you might do that,” he said.
“..... no?” Xander replied, resting his head against the door wearily.
“Oh. Okay, then... wait. Were you lying about whether you were lying? Because that's not fair,” Rand pointed out.
“Jesus,” Xander muttered. “Just tell me if Earl is in there or not.”
“I can't tell you that.”
“Randy, he can't just hide inside and hope I'll go away,” Xander told him.
“Isn't that what you tried when we visited? That's ironic. Like rain on your wedding day,” Randy mused.
“Is he visiting his ex-wife?” Xander asked.
“I can't tell you that.”
“Is he visiting a friend?”
“I can't tell you that,” Randy repeated.
“Is he staying with relatives?” Xander asked.
“I can't tell you that.”
“Is he at the crab shack?”
“NO!” Randy yelled. “He is definitely not at the Crab Shack.”
“Right,” Xander said. “Randy, are you lying about him not being at the Crab Shack?”
“Randy, are you lying about whether you're lying?”
“.... yes,” Randy said in defeat.
Xander entered the Crab Shack, looking around the room for Earl. Randy followed in after him.
Xander spotted a face by the bar and made his way over. “You're Earl Hickey's ex-wife, aren't you?” he asked the woman.
Joy Turner looked up at him. “What you want with that dummy? He do something to you?”
“Earl's a worthless piece of crap who screwed up my childhood,” Xander answered. “I want to find him so I can kick his ass. You know where he is?”
Randy shook his head frantically behind Xander. Joy just shrugged. “Last I saw he was talking to Catalina.”
“Which one's Catalina?”
“She's the Mexican that dresses like a whore,” Joy said, pointing to the young Latino woman at the table a few feet away.
Catalina slammed down her glass and stood up. “ESPERO QUE USTED ESTE GOZANDO DE LA HISTORIA HASTA AHORA! SI USTED TIENE CUALESQUIERA COMENTARIOS, DEJE POR FAVOR LA REGENERACION PARA EL AUTOR!” she spat out at Joy.
“You're in America now, try speaking American,” Joy responded.
Xander shook his head and walked over to Catalina. “Can you please tell me where Earl is?”
Catalina shook her head. “I don't get involved in family disputes. When my cousins were fighting over a girl, one of my brothers stepped in. That's how I lost him.... although nine months later I gained a nephew.”
Xander stayed and looked around the place for the next hour, but there was no sign of Earl.
Xander spent the next three days looking around town for me And I spent the next three days hiding from him. Since he was staying at my folks place and checking my usual hangouts, I had to call up favors from the lowlife acquaintances I know before I changed my life.
Unfortunately, I had to pay those favors back. And since I swore off crime, I had to do some really disgusting things. So as I squatted down and scrubbed the filthiest bathroom floor I had ever been in with only a slightly less filthy rag, I had a realization. This was Karma's way of telling me I had to settle things with Xander.
So that morning, I made my way over to my parents house to meet with him. I couldn't think of a way to make things up to him. The only thing I could do was take a beating. But if that's what I had to do, I would take it.
Xander sat at the kitchen table, talking to Carl as they finished up the breakfast Kay had made.
“So, when are you going to bring this Dawn around for us to meet?” Carl asked. “I take it you are serious about her.”
Xander nodded and smiled. “I... Honestly I never really introduced a girl I was dating to family. I tried to keep them apart.”
“We would love to meet her,” Kay told him. “Thanksgiving is coming up. If you don't have plans, why don't you come and spend the weekend here?”
“I'll have to check my work schedule for that,” Xander said.
“Just remember we always have a place for family here,” Carl told him.
The three looked up at the knock on the front door. “Cousin Xander?” Earl said from outside. “I'm out here.”
Earl saw the front door open and Xander walk out. “So you decided to quit hiding?”
“Yeah, I can't hide from Karma. So go ahead and take a swing at me. I figure I owe you that much,” Earl said, standing straight and closing his eyes.
Xander studied Earl and cracked his knuckles. “You know, when you screwed up all those years ago, after your visit, I dreaded family gatherings. I was the only kid at school who hated Christmas. But I finally made peace with that. Now all these years later, you show up again.”
“And I'm really sorry for all that. So, please, not in the face,” Earl asked.
Xander shook his head and sighed. “If you hadn't shown up here, I never would have come here after you. Then I never would have remembered I do have family that's worth a damn. So, thank you, Earl,” Xander leaned in and hugged Earl, much to his surprise. Xander stepped back, and walked over to his car. “I got to head back home now. But I'll see you at Thanksgiving.”And with that, I crossed number 274 off my list: Ruined my cousin's holidays.