Angry smokin’ Christmas icons

Illustration by Max Burbank

BY MAX BURBANK | (Lights up on SANTA and JESUS seated at dilapidated bar that last saw renovations in 1978. They are both smoking like chimneys. Several empty glasses and bottles indicate they have been there awhile. An elderly bartender gives them the fish-eye while towel-drying a single tumbler far longer than any tumbler needs to be dried.)

SANTA: It’s just… I don’t know, Jesus. Every year. Every damn year it gets a little more… what? Pointless? Futile? Like… some kind of weird-ass, repetitive muscular tic I can’t stop doing because I’ve done it for so long? I think I’m gonna cancel.

JESUS: You say that every—

SANTA: No, no, no, no, it’s canceled. What’s the point? The elves aren’t into it anymore, there’s no damn joy in handcrafting a frikkin’ Amazon gift card. The reindeer, Jesus, ever since Rudy died, they’re all, like, “You exploited his nose, you knew he was depressed, you worked him to death,” and I’m, like, “Who was it wouldn’t let him play in any reindeer games? ME? Take a long look. I’m a fat, old, HUMAN on his fifth triple bypass. I don’t play REINDEER GAMES!” Judgmental bastards. I tried to INCLUDE RUDY! Buncha flying middle school mean girls in bad fur coats and jingle bells, that’s what they are.

JESUS: Santa—

SANTA: Mrs. Claus HATES me, she can’t stand the SIGHT of me, she’s all like, “Go, just GO, it’s the one night of the year I get some damn peace, you’ll DIE in that sleigh—

JESUS: Come on, Santa—

SANTA: “IN-THAT-SLEIGH, because you’ll never retire, you’re too CODEPENDENT!” That’s just ignorant. People can’t be codependent by themselves. She’s all in on this. That woman enables the crap out of me. Screw it. I’m canceling Christmas.

(Long pause. They drink.)

JESUS: Okay, newsflash, St. Nick. You can’t cancel Christmas.

SANTA: Hell I can’t.

JESUS: “Oh, I got a cold! Oh, I’m depressed! I’m canceling Christmas!” Well, you CAN’T. As in, you do not have that ability, it’s not your call, it’s not UP to YOU! You wanna scrap your little breaking-and-entering, cookie-bingeing, stocking fetish part of it, you go right ahead, but THAT, my morbidly obese friend, is not Christmas. You never seen the damn Grinch? Grinch comes down from Grinch Mountain, right? Takes EVERYTHING. Sure. The toys, the trees, the FOOD! The Whos got nothing to frikkin’ EAT! And what do they do? They come out, and they stand in a DAMN CIRCLE and they sing. “Baboo Bores”… “Fahoo fores?” Whatever, they sing Who nonsense words that are Who for, “You can’t CANCEL CHRISTMAS, SANTA!”… I don’t know who told you it’s about you… but it’s not.

(Long pause. Santa lights another cigarette, takes a deep drag.)

SANTA: I call bullshit.

JESUS: What?

SANTA: If all the Whos down in Whoville woke up Christmas morning to find the town ransacked, they wouldn’t sing. They’d scream. They’d call the Who cops and then they’d spend the whole damn day bitching on the Who Internet. Probably organize a Who witch-hunt. Round up all the Jew Whos.

(Long, dispirited pause. Jesus finishes his drink.)

JESUS: I hate you.

SANTA: No you don’t. You don’t hate anybody. You’re not human enough.

JESUS: I hate you. Damn… fat bastard. I mean, whose birthday is it, right? What do I get under the tree? I get to listen to every damn prayer, get to hear people thank me for a Golden Globe, survivors of horrendous tragedies saying I must have a purpose for them, like I didn’t have any use for all the other people who DIED, like everyone else in a car crash or a house fire or a WAR, I just let them die?

SANTA: Okay, hey, Jesus—

JESUS: I blame you. You! Your red suit, all that phony “HO-HO-HO” crap—

SANTA: Jesus—

JESUS: Because morons focusing what little faith they have on some damn fat-ass, magic elf in a flying sleigh is NICE, right? It SELLS stuff better than a baby being born Prince of Peace all so he can grow up and… and get…

SANTA: Okay, now, Jesus, let it… just—

JESUS: Think this is what I had in mind? Think I like this? Take a man’s birthday away, turn it into all this… lights… and, and Rudolph and shit?

SANTA: Come on, man. Settle down. Turn the other cheek, right?

JESUS: Yeah… I know…

SANTA: Sure you do. Who better, right? Holidays are tough sometimes, is all. Let me getcha another boilermaker.

(They sit together, just drinking. After a long time, Jesus laughs.)

SANTA: What?

JESUS: It’s nothing… I was just thinking about… this one word. People say it a lot this time of year… It’s stupid. It just makes me laugh.

SANTA: What word?

(Jesus looks at Santa. Looks down at his drink. Smiles a little.)

JESUS: “Nutcracker.”

(Long pause. Jesus starts to giggle. Then Santa giggles.)

SANTA: “Nutcracker.”

(Santa starts to laugh. Now both men are laughing loudly.)



(They laugh and laugh. Santa pounds his huge fists on the bar. The bartender starts laughing. Jesus isn’t even making sounds anymore. His mouth is just wide open. It’s a silent laugh and tears are streaming down his face. Jesus, Santa, and the bartender laugh and laugh and every time it starts to die down, someone starts to say “Nutcracker” again and they can’t even get the word out before they’re all howling again. Let’s back away and leave them like that. Back away slowly as the lights start to fade, letting their laughter get quieter and more distant until it’s just a whisper and we can turn and walk away into the dark with the sunrise coming soon, but not quite yet.)