GK: Every Christmas, I imagine that one of my nieces will ask----

ER: What was Christmas like when you were a boy, Uncle Carson?

GK: And then I'll tell her stories about growing up in Minnesota, but unfortunately she never asks --- because like all kids today, she's extremely busy ----

ER: I have to run. Sorry. I'm dancing in the Nutcracker tonight. .

GK: Nice seeing you. Guess I won't see you until next Christmas....

ER: Call me. We'll have lunch. How about some time in June?

GK: (MUSIC BRIDGE) The kid has her own phone, a pager, her own fax line, and an executive secretary named Mitch.

ER: Good morning, Mitch.

WB: Good morning, Emily ----sleep well? Good--- Brought your packet for today---- here's the agenda for the student council meeting. Eight-thirty. Book report is due at 11. Here's the second draft.....I thought we needed to rework it---- but tell me which way you want to go on this and I'll have a final draft in an hour. Lunch ---- you're meeting Angela in the cafeteria. Here's the two dollars you owe her. Chemistry test after lunch --- play practice at three. Cello lesson at six. And your parents wondered if you might come by for dinner.

ER: Tell them I'm sorry but I'm too busy. Maybe Friday.

WB: Very well. I blocked out seven to nine for calculus study----

ER: Calculus---

WB: Test tomorrow.

ER: Could you take care of that for me?

WB: Of course. Brad called and wondered if you could come to his birthday party.

ER: Brad?

WB: The football player.

ER: Naw. Tell him I'm busy.

WB: Very well. Remember: Jennifer's sleepover is Friday. And, by the way, your Uncle Carson called----

ER: What did he want?

WB: I don't know. Something about Christmas.----

ER: Make a note to get back to him.

WB: Okay. Good. (MUSIC)

GK: My niece Emily. She's such a great kid. It's hard to get an appointment with her. When I was a kid, it seemed like we had all the time in the world --- and we'd go out to the farm and visit my old bachelor farmer uncle (TR SWEDISH GEEZER) and he'd sit in the kitchen, dribbling tobacco juice down his chin, and he'd reminisce about the old country (SWEDISH GEEZER PHRASE) and tell stories, and we'd stay for hours and when it got dark we'd turn on the Christmas tree lights and we'd sing a song that went....

Now it's Christmastime, O blessed Christmastime, O smell the candy and the cookies. Hallelujah lujah halle halle halle hallelujah hallelujah

Now it's Christmastime, and we will light the tree, and set a candle in the window Hallelujah lujah halle halle halle hallelujah hallelujah

And we'd turn out the lights and join hands and we'd all sing:

(ALL) Now it's Christmastime, and everyone is here, all the bachelor farmer uncles Hallelujah lujah halle halle halle hallelujah hallelujah

(ALL) And we will dance and sing, and we will dance and sing, and we will dance until it's morning, Hallelujah lujah halle halle halle hallelujah hallelujah


GK: What is it?

ER: Tell about Christmas when you were a boy. I want to hear about it. -----Really. ----Please.

GK: You don't have to get to a rehearsal or something? You don't have a car service picking you up in ten minutes?

ER: No.

GK: What happened? Is your computer down?

ER: No. I want to know what Christmas was like when you were a kid.

GK: Really?

ER: I need it for a term paper.

GK: Oh. Well---- okay. (BLIZZARD, WOLF HOWL IN DISTANCE) Christmas in Minnesota was very cold when I was a kid; much colder than it is now, and the snow was deeper. Now it comes up to your knees but back then it was up to your waist. And I would struggle home through the deep drifts, carrying a load of books --- and your mother and I would do chores around the farm.

BA: Oh, my dear children. Whatever would I do without you?

GK: Is there anything else we can do to help, Mother? Bring in firewood? Tend to the livestock?

TT: We could read aloud to you as you darn socks.

BA: No, no. You just sit here by my side.

TT: Oh, no! Our landlords!


TR (RUSSIAN): Aha! Here you are!

WB (RUSSIAN): Indeed. And today the rent is due!

BA: Oh please. Christmas is almost here. Please.

WB (RUSSIAN): If you do not pay us now, then you must go live in a shoe.

BA: But I have too many children to live in a shoe!

WB (RUSSIAN): It's a big shoe. (EVIL LAUGHTER)

BA: WEEPING TT: Don't cry, Mother. Everything will turn out well in the end.

BA: Maybe Buddy could----

GK: Yes, Mother???

BA: ---- Oh no. Never mind.

GK: What is it?

BA: No, it's too dangerous. You're only a child.

GK: Tell me what it is, and I will go do it. (HEROISM CHORD)

BA: You could go to the King.

GK: The King!

BA: And beg for his compassion and his charity.

ER: You had a king in Minnesota?

GK: You know, it really slows down the flow of the story when there's somebody nit-picking at every little detail, you know?

ER: Sorry.


I hiked north toward Duluth, and along the way I passed ten pipers piping (BAGPIPES) and eleven lords a-leaping (LORDS LEAPING) and then---- (HORSES HOOVES IN SNOW, APPROACH, JINGLE BELLS) ---- a sleigh came along, and it stopped for me.

WB: Whoa....whoa....(HOOVES STOP, WHINNIES, HORSE SFX) Hello! Who do we have here?

GK: I'm the son of an honest woodcutter, sir, going to Duluth to see the King and ask for a pittance to help pay the rent so our cruel landlords don't make us live in a shoe.

WB: Is that right---- Well, I doubt that the King is going to be much help.

GK: I thought he was a good King.

WB: That's Wenceslas. Whole different situation. But I guess it doesn't hurt to ask. Climb in.

GK: Thank you, Sir.


GK: What kid?

WB: The one who got in the sleigh with you.

ER: Hi. My name's Emily.

WB: Is she in the story now?

GK: I guess.

WB: I donno---- now I'm confused. This isn't the one about the mermaid, is it?

GK: No. It's a Christmas story.

WB: Oh. Right. ----And who am I?

GK: I was hoping you'd know.

WB: Well, we'll figure it out. (WHIP. WHINNY. HOOVES.) (MUSIC BRIDGE)

GK: So off we went and we came to Duluth ---- its little twisting streets leading up to the magnificent castle that rose high into the air, and around it was a moat, with a drawbridge across, and at the drawbridge stood the King's Trumpets. (CROWD AMBIENCE)


TK: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. His Majesty the King, His Highness, His Magnificence, His Wisdom, and His Royal Goodness, hereby declares that it is now Christmas (DING BELL) and all of his loyal subjects may now make merry. (CHEERS AND HUZZAHS)

TR: The King has granted license to sing, to dance, to feast, and to be joyful! Subject of course to the King's will! (CHEERS SUBSIDE) At the King's pleasure.

ER (TO G.K.): Why do you need a license to be happy? That's crazy.

GK: Shhhhhh.

ER: But it's Christmas. Everyone can be as joyful as they want to be. You don't need a license.

GK: Keep your voice down.

ER: But Christmas doesn't happen because he says it does. (MURMURS OF ALARM) It's Christmas! Whether the King says so or not! (WHISPERS) Christmas doesn't belong to him! Christmas belongs to everybody! (MURMURS OF CONCERN)

GK: Oh boy, you put your foot in it now.

TK: That is high treason!

TR: Apostasy!

TK: Sacrilege! Heresy!

TR: Hair tonic!

TK: False doctrine!

TR: False teeth!

TK: Despicable!

TR: Dessert spoon!

TK: Absolutely.

TR: She must be punished.

TK: Off with her shoe! (CROWD MURMURS)

TR: Off with her shoe!


ER: Go ahead. Take my shoe. Take it to the King and tell him to stick it in his pipe and smoke it! (BRASS QUINT: WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED: CHORALE :25)

GK: Duluth is so beautiful at Christmas, and you know it got its name from the fact that life here is more easy-going, more looth than other places in Minnesota. People in Duluth like to dance in the streets and sing and have a good time---- (TAMBOURINE, CROWD CLAPPING, AS THEY PASS A MINSTREL IN THE STREET)

TR: (SINGS) Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer.
A pocket full of money and a cellar full of beer. (OPEN CAN OF BEER) (BELCH)

ER: Look!

GK: Three young rats with black felt hats, (RATS)
Three young ducks with white straw flats, (DUCKS)
Three young dogs with curling tails, (THREE BARKS, DIFFERENT)
Three young cats with demi-veils, (THREE MEOWS, TO MAKE CHORD)
Went out to walk with two young pigs
In satin vests and sorrel wigs: (PIGS)
With not so much as a By Your Leave,
For after all, it was Christmas Eve. (ANIMALS FADE AWAY)

TT & BA & GK:
Boys and girls come out to play,
Let care be gone, it's Christmas day.
Leave your supper and leave your sleep,
And join your playfellows in the street.
Come with a (WHOOP) and come with a call
Come with a good will or not at all.
Up the ladder and down the wall,
A half-penny loaf will serve us all;
You'll find milk, and I'll find flour,
Christmas pudding in half an hour.


ER: Who is this? Someone fell-----


ER: What happened?

TR: (IN PAIN) I was sitting on the wall and I had a bad fall. I seem to have broken something.

ER: You've broken everything. You're all---- in pieces. Oh dear.

TR: It's all right. I'm sure they'll put me back together again.

ER: I don't know-----



Christmas is a-coming
And the geese are getting fat.
Please to put a penny
In the old man's hat.

ER: I haven't got a penny.

TR: If you haven't got a penny, A ha' penny will do.

ER: I haven't got a ha'penny.

TR: Then God bless you.

ER: Thank you.


GK: Christmas. Smell those pies. Apple, mince, pecan, pumpkin.

TT: This is a plum pie.

GK: It smells delicious.

TT: My name is Muffet. What happened to your shoes?

ER: They were taken away from me. Because I said that Christmas belongs to everybody and not just to the King.

TT: Good for you. It's time somebody spoke up. He is such a goofy King --- always up there in his counting house, counting the money ---- weird.

WB (HORNER): Excuse me. Muffet?

TT: What do you want?

WB (HORNER): Horner's the name.

TT: So what?

WB (HORNER): Horner? Name ring a bell? As in "Little Jack Horner sat in a corner eating his Christmas pie"? Get my drift?

TT: This is my Christmas pie, Horner. You put your cotton-pickin fingers on this pie and I'll throw you down the hill. What I did to Humpty, I'll do to you.

WB (HORNER): So it was you who shoved Humpty?

TT: He's a bad egg. He got in my way, and I knocked him off. Simple as that.

WB (HORNER): I think it's about time you got back on your tuffet, Muffet. And stick to your curds and whey.

TT: I'm off curds and whey, Horner. Curds and whey is what we feed to hogs around here. I'm Little Miss Muffet, I sit on my tuffet, eating my Christmas pie, I put in my thumb And pull out a plum And say, "What a good girl am I!"

WB (HORNER): Good girl, my foot. That's my Christmas pie, Muffet.

TT: This? It's mine. (SHE PUTS THE PLUM IN HER MOUTH AND RELISHES IT, CHEWS IT, SWALLOWS IT.) Time for you to try the curds and whey, Horner. The plums are mine from now on. Unless you want a taste of what Dumpty got.

WB: One more thing, Muffet. There's a spider sitting beside you. On the tuffet.

TT: Oh, go stuff it.

WB: Spider right beside you.

TT: You're trying to get me to look so you can grab my Christmas pie, Horner.

WB: My Christmas pie.

ER: Wait!

WB: What? Who are you?

ER: You shouldn't be fighting over this. That beggar shouldn't be going around asking for pennies. There should be enough Christmas for everybody! Nobody should have to eat curds and whey! Not for Christmas! WB: Oh yeah? what are you? some kind of social worker?

ER: I'm going up to see the King and demand that he spend some of his money to make a decent Christmas for everyone.

GK: Oh boy. That is not how this story goes. You ask me to tell you a story and then suddenly you jump into the middle of it and you take over the whole thing and you tell it all wrong.

ER: Well, how is the story supposed to go then?

GK: Well, there's a ---- there were---- weren't there geese in this story? A golden egg?

WB: No, you're thinking of the Ugly Duckling. That's different. There's a princess, isn't there?

GK: On a mattress.

WB: Exactly. And she's sleeping.

GK: Because she ate an apple that the wicked stepmother gave her.

WB: Right. And then a dwarf comes along and puts a pea under the mattress.

GK: And she wakes up.

WB: And she sees her shadow, and there's six more weeks of winter. Or six less weeks. I forget.

ER: You don't know how the story goes any better than I do, do you? I'm going to go see the King.

TT: Good luck, kid. (TT SCREAMS) A spider! (TT SCREAMS, AND RUNS OFF)

GK: Well, you got your Christmas pie.

WB: With a big thumb hole in it. And minus a plum. It just doesn't pay to be good, I guess. (HE WALKS AWAY, SADLY)

ER: I think this King needs to be told a few things about the meaning of Christmas. And we need to get money so your mother can pay the rent and you won't have to go live in a shoe. Let's go.

GK: Up to the castle?

ER: It's right there.

GK: I was going to send a fax.

ER: We'll just walk up there and talk to him.



GK: I don't think we're supposed to be here. There's nobody else around. And those signs say Keep Out.

ER: Just get a grip, okay?

TK (OFF): Who goes there?

ER: Us!

TK (OFF): Fine! No problem! Just asking. (FOOTSTEPS CONTINUE)

GK: I think I remember how this story goes----

ER: Shhhhhh. Who's that woman in the parlor eating bread and honey?

GK: That's the Queen.


ER: King???

JM: What is it?? Don't bother me. If it's the pie, set it down there. I'm extremely busy. Go away! Oh, darn it! (HE HURLS A BRASS PLATE TO THE GROUND IN FRUSTRATION)

GK: What's wrong?

JM: You made me lose count! I was all the way up to seven billion, six-hundred eighty-seven million, two-hundred forty-two thousand, nine-hundred ninety-five, and sixty-four cents, and you broke my concentration!

ER: Well, write it down!

JM: Write what down?

ER: The number you just said!

JM: What number?

ER: The seven billion something----

GK: Quick! before you forget.

JM: Too late. It's gone. (HE GROANS) Now I'll have to start all over from the beginning. What a miserable way to spend Christmas! Counting money. (HE SITS DOWN AND HEAVES A SIGH) It isn't easy being King. Having to tell people when it's time for Christmas. What's your name, by the way?

ER: Emily.

JM: Emily. I like that.

ER: What's yours?

JM: I never had one.

ER: You never had a name?

JM: I used to. I forget what it was. Everyone just calls me Your Majesty.

ER: I guess we could call you Madge.

JM: That's my wife's name. Madge. (KNOCK ON DOOR) Come in! (DOOR OPEN) Yes? What is it, Prime Minister?

WB: (FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING) It's your Christmas pie, Your Majesty. All fresh. Made just for you. There. (SETS BOWL ON TABLE)
ER: What kind of pie is that? The crust is moving.

WB: It's a blackbird pie, of course.

ER: There are birds in there?

JM: Two dozen fresh blackbirds. I have it once a year. A great delicacy. (BIRD CHIRPING) What a dainty dish.

ER: You can't eat live birds.

JM: Of course I can. I'm the King.

ER: With their feathers on?

JM: That's the best part! Give me my fork, sir!

ER: No!

JM: What? What are you doing? (24 BIRDS FLY AWAY, CHIRPING) My blackbirds! You let them loose!

ER: Try blackberry pie. It's better for you.

JM: But---- it's Christmas ---- I always had blackbirds for Christmas----- (HE WEEPS). I can't bear it. No blackbirds.

WB: Shall I call the guards, Your Majesty, and have this repulsive child sent into exile?

ER: You know what your problem is? You need a name. And I hereby name you---- King Bob. (DING)

JM: What???? (HE SPUTTERS) But---- how can I be----- Bob? (HE THINKS ABOUT IT) Bob. Do you think so? Am I really a Bob?

ER: Absolutely.

JM: Bob! Maybe I've been a Bob all along-----

ER: Probably.

JM: Why, I feel tremendously relieved, I must say. Bob. I always wondered what it would be like to have a name. ---Let's have some pie! I'll say the magic words----

Eenie, meenie, mackeracka,
Hi, di, dominacka,
Stickeracka, roomeracka, rye,
Bring us a nice blackberry pie. (BELL TREE)

See? Nothing to it. Now we need two forks.

Inter, mitzy, titzy, tool,
Ira, dira, dominu,
Oker, poker, dominoker,
Intery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and brian thorn;
Wire, briar, limber, lock,
Five geese in a flock,
Five geese and a little red hen;
O-U-T and in again. Two forks!

(TRAFFIC. NY PEDESTRIAN SFX) What???? New York!!! I asked for two forks!!!

: Let's go to a restaurant.
WB: Excuse me----
: Oh, hi. Mitch.
WB: Sorry to interrupt, but we've got to go over this term paper. And your parents are expecting you for dinner. I told them you're busy, but they insisted.
: Well, it was good talking with you.
ER: Same here. Merry Christmas.
: Merry Christmas to you.
(ALL) And we will dance and sing, and we will dance and sing, and we will dance until it's morning, Hallelujah lujah halle halle halle hallelujah hallelujah (ALL HUM) (BRASS QUINT: TELEMANN: AIR DE TROMPETTE )

©1997 Garrison Keillor