GK: It's St. Lucia's Day today, the 13th, and in all proper Swedish homes the children awoke before dawn this morning and brought coffee and cookies to their parents (TR SWEDISH, EXPRESSING SURPRISE AND GRATITUDE), but you forgot, didn't you, and now it's a little late. Your parents have been waiting all day for coffee (TR GLOOMY SWEDISH), and now they're pretty bummed out about it, but hey, a little gloom is good for us. We're northern people. This cold and darkness were sent for our own good. (TABLEWARE)

JB: Is that all we're having for supper? Soup?

GK: It's gruel. It's good. I used the water that I boiled the potatoes in last night and then added a couple spoonfuls of oatmeal and boiled it again.

JB: It's so grayish looking---

GK: Gruel is always gray. (HE TASTES IT.)

JB: I was hoping we could eat Japanese tonight.

GK: Fine. I'll put some noodles in it.

JB: What are we doing for Christmas this year? Roy called --- he invited us to come up to the Berkshires. You want to go?

GK: Go away for Christmas? But I found such a good parking place for the car.

JB: I know, but he's my brother. I haven't seen him for months.

GK: I know, but when am I ever going to find another parking space like this? Two blocks away and it costs less than I pay in insurance.

JB: But what point is there in having a car if you don't use it?

GK: You're not from New York, you wouldn't understand. (MUSIC) Earlier this week, every car in Manhattan was parked, even the ones with people behind the wheel, when the President and Mrs. Clinton and their motorcade (HORNS, TRAFFIC JAM TAPE STING) came up to do some shopping and raise money and make a pointless political gesture. The President announced that New York City would be getting $96 million dollars in housing money, which as it turned out is money that's already in the '98 federal budget ---- it was like opening your Christmas present and finding your allowance.

TR (CLINTON): Well, I just thought it would add to the festivities.

GK: You created some humongous traffic jams here, Mr. President ---- were you aware of that?

TR (CLINTON): I thought people were honking because they were happy to see me.

GK: There's an old tradition, Mr. President, that Christmas is a time when political leaders disappear for awhile. Maybe you should try catalogue shopping.

TR (CLINTON): Yes, but when you shop by catalogue, you don't touch the lives of people the way you do coming through midtown Manhattan and closing off streets.

GK: Good point. So--- what are you hoping to get for Christmas, Mr. President?

TR (CLINTON): Well, Hillary and I have been blessed with so many things, living in this great land of ours, with the economy doing so well, unemployment at a 24-year low, the budget deficit nearly eliminated, that it would seem redundant in a way to ask for any more riches than we already experience.

GK: So you don't have a Christmas list?

TR: (CLINTON) I did. But it was subpoenaed.

GK: That's awful.

TR: (CLINTON) It is. So Hillary and I decided for Christmas we'd get ourselves a little puppy, a chocolate Labrador, and we're as excited as any new dog owners could be, although of course we don't intend to turn our backs on members of the cat community, or people who own other types of pets, such as birds, goldfish, ferrets or all of the wonderful reptilian species, because diversity is one of the things that makes America what it is.

GK: Uh-huh. Does this new puppy have a name yet, Mr. President?

TR: (CLINTON) No, but for a $50,000 donation I'll let you call her anything you want.

GK: That's OK.

TR: And for $100,000, we can breed her with your dog and you can have the pick of the litter. (MUSIC BRIDGE)

GK: I got into the mood for Christmas by going to see Chekhov, a play that's running in New York, called I've Gone Off and it's wonderful.

DD (RUSSIAN): Good morning, Dmitri Mikhailovich.

TR (RUSSIAN): Good morning, Anna Ouspenskaya.

DD (RUSSIAN): Did you sleep well?

TR (RUSSIAN): Are you kidding? All night I tossed and turned. I had terrible dreams. I woke up with the sheet around my neck like a noose.

DD (RUSSIAN): What is the matter?

TR (RUSSIAN): Life is what is the matter, Anna Ouspenskaya. I am an insomniac. I'm an agnostic. I'm dyslexic. I was awake all night wondering if there really is a dog.

DD (RUSSIAN): You've been brooding about this for twenty years.

TR (RUSSIAN): Yes. And by now, I should know.

DD (RUSSIAN): Forget it. It's Christmas. It is a time we should feel joy, Dmitri Mikhailovich!

TR (RUSSIAN): How can I feel joy when the great love of my life may be only a cruel deception?

DD (RUSSIAN): You could try cheering up----

TR (RUSSIAN): If I did, it wouldn't be me.

DD (RUSSIAN): Good point. (DARK MUSIC)

GK: I stayed for the whole play, which is two days, room not included, and afterward I came home and (SOBBING) I wept quietly in a dark room, and when a person takes time to do that, and you feel so much better afterward. (NOSE BLOW) Weeping is one of the best therapies there is. That's why "A Christmas Carol" is such a depressing play: it starts out well----

TK (CRATCHIT): Please, sir, may I have tomorrow off? It's Christmas, sir.

TR (SCROOGE): (FUMING) A poor excuse to pick a man's pocket. Oh, all right. But make sure you come in all the earlier on Friday then!

TK (CRATCHIT): Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Merry Christmas, sir.

TR (SCROOGE): Bah! And humbug! (MUSIC BRIDGE)

GK: But the play ends on that false note of pure happiness when Scrooge reforms and goes to Fred's and sends the goose to the Cratchits---


GK: And you know as you leave the theater that the Cratchits have nowhere to go but down. That in a few years, they'll be at each other's throats. (QUICK MUSIC BRIDGE)

TK (CRATCHIT): About time you went out looking for work, Tiny Tim. Can't sit here all day watching MTV now can you----

TR (TINY TIM): Awww go sit on it, wouldja.

TK (CRATCHIT): Why you little--- (SLAP)

DD (MRS CRATCHIT): Why, Bob Cratchit---- you've slapped our own little Tim. Our little crippled boy.

TK (CRATCHIT): Like to whack him a good one with his little crutch, I would.

TR (TINY TIM): Awwww, go and stuff a rag in your mouth.

TK: You're not so tiny anymore, Tim. Time you started pulling your own weight around here.

TR (TEEN): Ha! A job! Mr. Scrooge left me a whole truckload of money. I got money up the wazoo. I don't need to work. Especially if it's going to make me into a creep like you, Dad.

TK: Used to be good as gold, you did. And now you're a pain in the butt, you are.

DD: (MRS CRATCHIT) Oh, what happened to us Cratchits? We used to be so happy all the time and now we're constantly bickering, bickering, bickering. (MUSIC BRIDGE)

GK: What happened was that they lost their Scrooge, lost the external threat that made them cling together and they got too darn happy. A mistake that too many people make.

JB: How about we have Christmas here then? have some friends over---

GK: For what?

JB: For dinner.

GK: Did you read that article about salmonella in stuffing? Did you see that? Those people at Thanksgiving who sat down to dinner and an hour later, there was projectile vomiting strong enough that windows were broken.

JB: Oh for goodness sake----

GK: Windows were broken.

JB: Why do you obsess on this stuff?

GK: It was in the paper.

JB: What are you saying?

GK: I'm saying that when you cook a big Christmas dinner, you're throwing the dice.

JB: Look at me.

GK: Salmonella is no picnic, let me tell you. You fix a big meal, stuff sits on the table, organisms breed, and the next thing you know, you're in the emergency room holding a Bloomingdale's bag and it doesn't have gifts in it.

JB: So, what are you saying ---- that we're going to sit home alone for Christmas?

GK: What's wrong with that?

JB: But it's Christmas!

GK: We can play a CD.

JB: What about a Christmas tree?

GK: Do you know how many homes go up in smoke every year----

JB: Never mind. How about a wreathe?

GK: Do you know how many homes go up in smoke every year because of Christmas wreathes? Do you? These things are made out of pine boughs sprayed green so you can't tell that the trees were cut back in June and the needles are dry tinder ----- people send them as gifts by FedEx, it's like sending someone a time bomb for Christmas---

JB: So what do you propose for Christmas?

GK: We'll have a nice quiet day. Exchange gifts. Practical gifts. Socks. Bran flakes. And for dinner, we'll have turkey breast and broccoli and brown rice and a non-alcoholic wine and when it gets dark, we can sit and weep. (MUSIC UNDER, BUILD TO SONG)

TR (CLINTON): Would you mind if Hillary and I joined you for that?

GK: I think you better stay where you are, Mr. President.

DD (RUSSIAN): That sounds like a lovely Christmas.

TR (RUSSIAN): Beautiful.

TK (CRATCHIT): I might sit and cry a little bit meself.

Let's all pout, and let's all cry,
Scream and shout, and spit in your eye,
Cause Santa Claus is coming to town.

He's making his list of those who qualify,
You're not on it and neither am I,
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He's investigating children
So be good as you can be
And if you've concealed your dirty deals
Negotiate a guilty plea----

He's looking around to discover the facts,
Keep your head down and cover your tracks
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He's making his list, checking it twice,
Get a good lawyer is my advice,
Santa Claus is coming to town.

You could sue for violation
Of the equal affection laws:
On Christmas night, it's everyone's right
It comes under the Santa clause. So let's all pout, and let's all cry,
Scream and shout and spit in your eye,
Santa Claus is coming----
I said, Santa Claus is coming----
Santa Claus is coming to town---- and you haven't been nice at all.

©1997 By Garrison Keillor