Electric Christmas Card


2008: Movie studio Merry Christmas Pictures, having sold the film rights to their major intellectual properties Santa Claus and the Grinch, releases “Blitzen,” centering on a third-tier character. Former child star Danny Bonaduce, desperate to restart his career and willing to work for scale, stars. The film is an unexpected critical and commercial success, collecting $400 million at the box office.

2009: Buoyed by the success, Merry Christmas tries again, releasing “Hermey the Elf” with Peter Dinklage in his first lead role. Again, the film wows audiences and critics alike, taking home $450 million. Enthused by the response so far, MC screenwriters promise to give their next villain a name.

2009: In response to the burgeoning popularity of the Merry Christmas films, rival studio Delightful Christmas Pictures revives their Grinch franchise, which was allowed to lapse after the infamous Who-nipple failures of the late 90s. In a dramatic reimagining, “Grinch: In The Cave” is a dark window into obsession, hedonism, and cardiovascular giganticism. The movie performs well at the box office, but not quite as as well as the MC pictures.

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GAME OVER, the Stargate machine told Bobby.

Bobby didn’t mind. His initials ROB (easier to input than RWW) were already in the top three spots of the high score list. He eased off the controls and looked around the arcade, wondering what game to play next.

He could have his pick. Two years ago, when he had first started coming here, Video Worlds was jumping every night of the week. Lines were three deep at the machines. Now only a few were occupied. The sound of the handful of games operating seemed far away, lonely.

The Pac-Man machine stood open. You could walk up and start playing. There had been a song, a big hit, “Pac-Man Fever.” In 1982, everybody had Pac-Man Fever. Well, science musta found a cure, because in December of 1984 nobody was playing Pac-Man.

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Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” Nat King Cole crooned out of the car radio.

Bob Smith angrily snapped it off. Snow was falling on the Long Island Expressway, traffic was thick, and he was distracted enough. He had received a phone call at the office from his wife.

Dear, I want to warn you-“she had said.

“About what? Did Mark’s bus get in all right?”

“Yes, dear, that’s what I’m calling about. He…he looks a lot different than he did at the beginning of the semester. And I don’t think you’re going to like it, and I think you need to prepare yourself for a little surprise.”

“Oh, for pity’s sake, Mary, I’m a grown man. I can handle it.”

“Bob, remember your blood pressure. That’s all I ask.”

He remembered it now, and unclenched his fingers from the steering wheel. What had his idiot son done? He knew he should have forced the boy to get a haircut at Thanksgiving.

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Stewey, Dewey, Hewey and Mooey, the Christmas elf marketing & design team, sat around the conference table, staring with equal suspicion at their cups of coffee and each other.

“All right, ‘fess up.  Who thought it would be funny to put a dead lemming in the Keurig machine?” said Dewey

The door slammed open. Santa entered the room.  “Ho, ho, ho.  Merry Christmas,” he said as he hooked up his laptop and fired up Powerpoint. The first slide flashed on the exposed ice-brick walls.  A red line was marked “Requests.”  It was in decline.  A blue line was marked “Complaints.” It was in steep ascent.
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So this year, in a desperate search for material to use in my Electric Christmas Card, I turned to my trusty “Boston Globe,” the nation’s most globular newspaper. Let’s see…PATRIOTS PLAN MOVE TO MEADVILLE, PA…No…MONICA LEWINSKY TO BECOME NEW FIFTH SPICE GIRL…No…GUS VAN SANT, FOR NO IDENTIFIABLE REASON, REMAKES PSYCHO EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE ORIGINAL EXCEPT WITH DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

Hmmm. That has potential. What if I remade the classic animated special “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” except with new cast members? Yeah…

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Rudolph smashed the bottle against the icy cold wall of his studio, showering cognac across the blank canvases propped nearby.

“Damn Santa!” he screamed at his guests. “Damn him and his stultifying, bourgeois ideas of art. He’s holding us back this Christmas!”

The reindeer picked up a hand mirror topped with lines of snow and snorted them up in one breath. His red nose glowed with new energy.

Yukon Hemingway, the grizzled prospector and author of the short story collection Snowmen Without Snowwomen, snatched up another cognac bottle to save it from Rudolph’s ravages—and then, to make doubly sure its contents were safe, deposited them in his belly.

“Your art will never win acceptance by Santa and his Académie Pôle Nord. Why keep trying?”

“Because those accepted by Santa get their artworks distributed across the world by Santa on Christmas Eve!” Rudolph ranted. “They are seen by millions! The very course of art itself feels the effect! I must have that power!”

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“The beasts talk,” Grandmama said. “While we’re down in the village at Midnight Mass, they talk. God grants them the gift of speech. Because they were there when Jesus was born, the beasts, they nuzzled him and loved him and the babe touched them with his hand at that sacred hour, and ever since, at midnight at Christmas Eve, the beasts talk.”

Every year Grandmama told him this, but not this year. Now Grandmama was buried, in the graveyard next to the little church in the village where everyone else on the farm was right now. Josef was not with them; he had told Mama he felt sick and managed to convincingly cough up a gob of vomit (really just old cream from the Christmas Eve cake) and she left him.

Josef was twelve, on the brink of boy and man. Next year he would be too old. He missed his Grandmama, and he would know the truth of what she told him. The midnight hour was near, he could feel it, tucked under the thick feather bolster. He crept out into the freezing room and dressed. He would see if it was true, hear their words with his own ears.

The kitchen was empty, the ovens banked after their Eve feast, preparing for tomorrow’s gorge. The Christmas tree, whose candles had been brilliantly lit an hour ago, sat dark. He skirted through the empty kitchen, though the empty house. Out to the barn.

The smell, the smell of rich manure, the smell of hay he helped cut. The snow stung his face. He plastered himself to the east side of the barn, and listened.

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