THE SADDEST CHRISTMAS EVER
Tom Johnson was looking forward to Christmas. His lovely wife, Angela, had decorated the tree. The presents gleamed in its lights. The Johnsons sat around a merrily crackling fire, along with their daughters Cindy, a high school sophomore, and Jenny, a second-grader in pigtails, waiting for their oldest child, Bobby, to return from college.
The front door burst open and Bobby rushed in on a cloud of snow. He was weeping.
“Dad! Tina left me!”
“What’s this now, son?” Tom said.
“She gave me back my fraternity pin, and the ring, and condemned me as unworthy of procreation! She’s dating a rugby captain now! All my hopes and dreams are shattered!”
“Oh dear,” said little Jenny. “This is the saddest Christmas ever.”
The family gathered around Bobby to comfort him, until Cindy noticed the snow he tracked in wasn’t melting.
“Wait, this isn’t snow!” she said. “This is volcanic ash!”
They rushed out to the backyard to find a new volcano forming there, like Paricutin. Lava gushed out over the neighborhood. Ash blanketed all.
“Dear, did you close the door?” Angela asked Tom.
He had not. When they got back inside, they found the living room filled with ash. The tree was dead and all the presents were ruined.
“Oh dear,” said little Jenny, brushing grave-gray dust from the face of her dolly. “This is the saddest Christmas ever.”
“Don’t worry, kids!” Tom said. “I’m sure our neighbors will rally around us in the moment of crisis.”
The doorbell rang. There stood a process server, notifying the Johnsons that the family was being hit with a class-action suit from their neighbors for harboring an attractive nuisance (to wit: a volcano).
“They haven’t a chance. This is completely baseless,” said Silas Q. Potato, the Johnson’s lawyer.
“Who’s the judge?” asked Angela.
“Didn’t Judge Brown’s BMW get eaten by the lava flow?” Cindy said.
They lost horribly. Two days later, Silas was indicted for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from several orphanages over which he held power of attorney.
“Oh dear,” said little Jenny, watching her toys being seized by bailiffs of the court. “This is the saddest Christmas ever.”
The award was far more than the Johnsons had in the bank, especially after they had spent all their savings purchasing now-destroyed Christmas presents.
“Don’t give up, kids! We can raise the money. We’ll sell Grandmother Johnson’s antique glassware collection,” Tom said.
“That won’t get us near enough bread,” said Bobby.
“Sure it will. It’s genuine Vaseline glass.”
“Wait, genuine? Are you sure?” said Cindy.
“Vaseline glass is made with radium! We’ve been eating off radium all these years!”
The Johnsons went to the doctor, who found that all five of them were stuffed with tumors fuller than a Cracker Jack box, complete with a surprise bonus prize tumor somewhere on their bodies.
“Oh dear,” said little Jenny, prodding the baking-soda-submarine-shaped tumor on her arm. “This is the saddest Christmas ever.”
The Johnsons ran to the nation’s finest oncology department, where the doctors promised them that everything would be all right.
“I’ve rarely seen such advanced cases,” said the world-famous Dr. Miley Q. Copperbottom. “But I consider it an honor to take the challenge.”
For hours, the surgeons stripped out all the tumors. The medical staff flicked the tiny wads of tissue at each other while making PEW PEW noises.
Afterward, the Johnsons met in the post-op ward to compare notes.
“My procedure went great!” said Bobby.
“My procedure went great!” said Cindy.
“Children, your father was the site of a massive surgical fire,” said Angela. “Dr. Copperbottom activated the ablative laser right next to his methane-laden intestines, and the room lit up quicker than Chicago 1871. Now he’ll have to paint his face on every morning like Lon Chaney.”
They saw their Dr. Copperbottom being led off by security. It had been discovered her medical degree was from a Bulgarian mail-order school.
“Oh dear,” said little Jenny, picking pedicles of flesh off her father’s ravaged form. “This is the saddest Christmas ever.”
“Johnsons, your story represents The American Dream. I want to put it on the big screen,” said Ephraim Q. Mustache, the big-time film producer.
“Hear that, kids? I knew our luck would turn around!” said Tom, his voice muffled by the yards of bandages covering every square centimeter of his body.
Filming began immediately. The family jetted out to the coast, took lunch meetings, sat by the pool and drank papaya daiquiris. The Johnsons: Tearjerking Heartbreak starred Liam Neeson as Jenny, Peter Lorre as Bobby, and the Kardashians as the tumors. At the premiere, George Cloony called the film “historically important.”
The Onion AV Club gave it an F-. The Johnsons swept the Razzies. Every single theatergoer demand their money back, and more, resulting in, for the first time in cinema history, negative box office. Ephraim Q. Mustache flung himself off the top of a Studio City skyscraper and took out a homeless encampment on impact.
“Oh dear,” said little Jenny, posing to show off her new L.A. face and Oakland booty. “This is the saddest Christmas ever.”
Bobby went to Tom and declared “Father, our misfortunes have shown me the vanity of all worldly pursuits. I intend to renounce the pathways of society and become a philosopher.”
“Go get ’em, tiger!” Tom said.
Bobby took up residence in a barrel and commenced to read and then teach wisdom. But his study was misguided; the tree of his inquiry bent as under a great storm. He embraced falsehood, and worse, he taught falsehood. Many fell enchanted by his degeneracy. No happiness came from his teachings, no one was uplifted towards ataraxia. So trite were his words, so puerile his thought, that it drove Cindy to logical positivism. The two siblings began a war of words, and then of disciples, each faction screaming mindless slogans in the streets and driving all sentient beings away from any possible path of real enlightenment.
“Oh dear,” said little Jenny, still in chains of her passions and deceived by maya so as to be unable to perceive true dharma. “This is the saddest Christmas ever.”
“Dear, have you checked on the volcano?” Angela asked.
“Good idea, honeybunch,” said Tom. “Let’s take a gander at—whoa nelly! The Earth is splitting apart at the seams!”
The planet rent asunder, exploding into millions of tiny asteroids. Every asteroid carried a small group of humans, and each group of humans was perfectly unsuited to each other, like the worst, most passive-aggressive roommates anyone could possibly have. Every shard became a pit of emotional combat without end, of humanity at its most squalid and petty. Yet there was no escape, no exit, only inertial flight to the stars.
“Oh dear,” said little Jenny, floating through a monotonous infinite void toward a monotonous infinite void—a state of affairs that could be judged equivalent to the traditional concept of hell. “This is the saddest Christmas ever.”
A month and a half later, two portions of Earth collided. Aboard those two asteroids happened to be Bobby Johnson and his ex-fiance, Tina. The stuff of the asteroids and everything carried on them was compressed to an irregular mass, with Bobby and Tina’s heads jutting out of one end, right next to each other.
“Hi, Bobby,” said Tina.
“I broke up with that rugby captain.”
“Oh! Uh…that’s too bad.”
“I judge you worthy of me now, Bobby, by virtue of your redemptive suffering,” Tina said.
“Aw, shucks, Tina. I still think you’re swell.”
They kissed. They joined forevermore, in perfect love, perfect enough that they ascended to Star Babies. Using their new cosmic powers, they reassembled the solar system—not as it had been, but in a transcendent form that would know no pain or loss, in which every tear be dried and death be no more.
And that, beloved readers, is the story of the best Valentine’s Day Ever.