And now, for something completely different.
I found this short story in my files, written ten years ago. I post it here for your reading pleasure.
Another “Christmas Story”
by Elizabeth Jones
I had hoped this Christmas season was going to be somehow, well, different.
Alas, it was the same.
Same old frantic shoppers, frantically rushing from store to store. Same old lighted decorations in our newly renovated downtown shopping district. Same old “holiday” songs sung at our children’s school “winter concert.” (note: not “Christmas concert.” Not, heaven forbid, expressing the seasonal view of the predominant religious group in these United States in even one song in the concert. No.)
Same old Christmas video tapes played in our apartment. (Condominium, really. Small, modest rooms, in a great area in our town. Such a steal, at the time we bought it. But I digress.)
As I was saying, my family—specifically my husband—played the same old video tapes that they had played every year since I could remember. Especially, over and over again, “A Christmas Story.” Or, as I shall refer to it from this point forward, The Movie.
I knew the plot of The Movie backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards. I knew Ralphie and his angst at the possibility of not receiving the Red Rider BB gun. (“You’ll put your eye out, kid.”) I had felt Ralphie’s pain at being forced to model the bunny suit for doting grown-ups. My tongue smarted at just the memory of being frozen to the flagpole at school. (I did not even have to see the actual scene in the movie.)
I had suffered through The Movie countless times, as my husband and two children also sat glued to the small screen and variously chortled, giggled and guffawed through the whole thing, no matter how many times they had seen it.
I also had drifted through our living room, where the television, topped by both videocassette player and compact disc/dvd player, sat enthroned in state. In passing, I had observed various scenes from The Movie—Ralphie being pelted with snowballs, Ralphie getting his mouth washed out with soap, Ralphie on his knees next to the decorated tree, actually receiving the precious BB gun as a Christmas gift.
I was sick and tired of it. The whole thing. Every single, solitary scene of The Movie, lock, stock and barrel.
I started thinking about how I might dispose of the bootleg copy (actually, a copy of The Movie that my husband taped from a showing on television many years ago). I seriously began to consider how I might get rid of it, with no one being the wiser.
We had no dog, since our small apartment barely had room for two adults and two rapidly growing children. However, since there was no dog, I couldn’t very well say that our dog had chewed up the tape of The Movie, could I?
Or could I?
. . . nah!
Nice try, though, if I do say so myself.
I could try the old “abducted by aliens” routine, except I could say the aliens wanted to see The Movie so much, that they took our copy and left me a nice pair of earrings in exchange. I needed to tell my husband about my newest pair of earrings somehow, and this seemed as plausible as anything else I could come up with at such short notice. But, my husband and son would see right through that one. They had used the alien abduction thing on me more times than I could count.
No, I simply couldn’t think of any way I could get rid of The Movie. Not without my husband somehow knowing that I had deep-sixed it. Gotten rid of it. Whatever you call it, I very badly wanted to toss the tape.
It isn’t that I dislike Mr. Sheppard for writing his short story. I fully applaud him for writing such hilarious material. I don’t even feel any animosity towards him for narrating The Movie, even though I have seen it uncounted numbers of times. (Incidentally, if anyone ever wanted to make a movie about a short story of mine and asked me to narrate, I would be so there.)
Now that we have settled the part about me not being mad at—I mean, being jealous of—I mean, being really in awe of Mr. Sheppard and his narration of the successful motion picture adaptation of his short story, I’m going to move on. To the article in the New York Times I saw some days ago, where The Movie figures prominently
That article, from my point of view, was the nail in the coffin. Or, the last straw. Or, as my husband viewed it, the icing on the cake. That article started him on a whole ‘nother cycle of watching The Movie yet again. That article was fodder for my husband bringing up seemingly endless, minute details about The Movie. As if I hadn’t had enough of The Movie on the small screen, he had to regale me with tidbits he had read in the New York Times article, or, even worse, had dug up on the Internet.
I tried to ignore him. With limited success. In fact, next to no success. At least I tried to ignore him. The operative word here is “tried.”
So, now I was getting desperate.
The real, real last straw was when I considered what to get for my husband for Christmas several days ago, and the only thing that popped into my mind was an exact replica of the fishnet-clad leg lamp that Ralphie’s dad bought—and loved—in The Movie. (Coincidentally, the Times article mentioned replicas being sold somewhere in Cleveland.) The price, as I think I remember, was $300.
$300! I must be out of my ever-lovin’ mind!
First of all, I do not have $300. Second of all, where did that idea come from??? Third of all, I repeat, I must be out of my mind!
Even though my husband would undoubtably love the lamp, I couldn’t get it for him, for a large variety of reasons I cannot go into right now.
I am now thinking of my position as part-time chaplain at a nearby hospital, and of the pastors and other elders at my church and their opinion on such a lamp prominently displayed in our living room. And I am thinking of the blasted money the lamp would cost, and especially of my husband breaking several of the Ten Commandments in his coveting of said lamp.
No. I simply cannot bring myself to even contemplate such a thing any further.
* * * *
I have just awakened from a dream. No, a nightmare. A nightmare concerning The Movie, complete with Ralphie and his embarrassing moment with Santa and subsequent terrifying ride down the long slide.
Thinking about what to get for my husband for Christmas yet again, I tossed and turned in bed for quite awhile before I finally fell asleep. Somehow, during my restless night, I entered the horrific realm of dream/nightmare and brought the worry about what to get for my husband with me.
Standing in line behind Ralphie, in my dream there was nothing at all odd about a forty-something-aged woman waiting to see Santa. Except, as the line got nearer and nearer to Santa, I kept looking around and seeing more and more things that reminded me of some Federico Fellini movie or other, which I hadn’t viewed for at least twenty years.
I remember I saw a busty, blond young woman, wearing a bikini and a full-length fur coat, sitting on a large, white swing hanging from the ceiling of the store. The fur coat was open, displaying the white bikini. She had a maniacal grin on her face. She swung back and forth slowly, laughing at the boys and girls as they waited for Santa.
I saw a toy train on a raised platform near Santa, surrounded by numerous small buildings, snow-covered trees and glistening fake snow, all encased under a glass bubble-sort-of-thing. The train rapidly proceeded around the track, but my eyes had somehow become the camera. I saw the train rush around the bend—in a somehow menacing manner—from an impossibly close shot. Then I was back in line behind Ralphie.
It was then I felt as if the walls were turning to jelly.
Then, I saw Ralphie go to sit on Santa’s lap.
Everything changed to slow motion. I watched as the scene played out, seemingly from a cock-eyed angle, a long way away, but I was only five or six feet distant.
As Ralphie started his trip down the slide and as I went forward to sit on Santa’s lap, I could think of absolutely nothing that I myself wanted for Christmas. I suddenly realized what I wanted was Santa’s professional opinion on a really good present for my husband. The elves laughed in a particularly evil manner as I walked to Santa. It was then that I really felt in danger, just as Santa reached for me.
I woke up, in a cold sweat.
My husband was already awake and in the living room, at the computer. I looked at the bedside clock. Its red numbers blinked “5:41.”
I realized instantly I could fight this losing battle no longer. I intuitively knew, without completely understanding how I had come to this conclusion . . . I realized that the perfect Christmas gift for my husband would be a brand-new copy of The Movie.
That would touch my husband’s heart in a way I myself simply could not.
Accordingly, I went to the video section of the cut-rate department store near our house, after my husband and children left for work and school, respectively. Lo and behold, the video section had Christmas and other seasonal selections prominently displayed. I marched right up to the end cap display, chose the dvd with additional extras at the end of The Movie, and dashed off home as quickly as possible, without getting suckered into buying anything—that’s anything—else.
(me – 1, corporate marketing department – 0)
As I tucked the dvd away in my underwear drawer, where it would wait until Christmas Eve when I traditionally had a marathon present-wrapping session, the thought came to me: this was probably the most joy-filled present I had ever bought for my husband in my life (not on my part, but on his.) He would be so overjoyed at receiving a brand-new dvd copy of The Movie—complete with bonus featurettes—I was amazed I had never thought of it in Christmases past.
As I shut the dresser drawer, I reflected that life did not revolve around me, as much as I wanted it to. And, there is always the possibility I could buy myself an mp3 player for Christmas, complete with headphones (so I wouldn’t have to listen to The Movie any more, ever again).
(I hope you enjoy something a bit different, for a change. Merry Christmas!)
Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.