Funny Christmas

Providence, Rhode Island, 1994

“Sincerity is hard to come by. Everything is such a setup,” George complained without reason while his wife, Wanda, concentrated on her eyeliner. ‘You’re in our thoughts and prayers.” He snorted. “If you count the thoughts, yeah. Once. Because you said it. I was in your thoughts. But how many of those hypocrites actually pray for anybody?”

“George, will you calm down. People are just trying to be nice when they say that,” Wanda said. "You shouldn’t be insulted. You sound like my father! Besides, nobody has died! Now get ready for the party!”

“I am sorry for your loss…….,” he shrugged, “I know. You have to be. I would be. But you don’t even know me, and I wish you would keep it to yourselves.”

“Are you planning to go batshit at somebody’s funeral? No one is dead, George. Chill out and get ready!”

“Yeah, the intention is there,” he said, “but I can’t wait. I can’t wait to look everyone in the eye when they say, ‘Merry Christmas!’ I bet I can tell if they mean it. And, by the way, why isn’t it ‘Happy Christmas?’ Does it have to be all sleigh-bellish? I mean, nobody says, ‘Merry Birthday’. Am I right?”

“Just accept it the way it is, George.”

“I have an idea. Why don’t we say it like Ed McMahon introducing Johnny Carson. Meeeeeeeerry Christmas! At least we could laugh about it, and that would make it a happy salutation.”

“Christ, George, you really know how to spice up a pre-party,” she sipped on her eggnog. “We only have an hour left.”

“Yeah, well, you wait. I’m gonna say Merry Christmas like Ed McMahon introducing Johnny. Just to see how they react,” George said as he put his green pants on. “We have an hour? It takes me ten minutes to get ready. Why don’t I go down to the 24-hour drug store and see if they still have that sweater we saw. You remember? That stupid Rudolph sweater with the nose that lights up? That would be fuckin’ hilarious. And I could take it all seriously, like, ‘you don’t like my sweater? Why are you laughing?’ That would be funny as fuck. I’m gonna do it. I GOTTA do it,” he put a long-sleeved shirt on and grabbed his car keys.

“On Christmas Eve? You can’t be fucking serious, George, you gotta help me with the cider!” Wanda looked like she had just dropped a tuna casserole on the floor.

“Yeah….I’ll give you cider. I won’t be late, just tell my chowder head brother-in-law to help out. He’s always early.” 

Wanda sighed as she heard the car start. 

George sang along to the new hit, “Lightning Crashes” playing on the stereo, and by the time he had parked the car the lyrics had him drying tears from his face. At the checkout counter he paid and put the sweater on.

“This thing comes with batteries, right?” he asked the cashier.

“It should. Just click the button where the eye is, and it’ll light up.” 

George tested it, laughed like a villain, and left the red light on. “Thanks.”

“Yessir, Merry Christmas.”

“Yeah, Happy Christmas to you,” he snickered.

Walking to his car, George noticed a that the pop machine that wasn’t plugged in, the cord sitting on the pavement in a puddle next to it. “Damn kids,” he said as he leaned down and plugged it back in. Sparks flew out of the outlet, which startled him. “Mother of God!” he yelled, and a bolt of electricity shot out and struck him in the forehead.  

Unconscious for only 10 seconds, George awoke, stood up and brushed off his pants. The light on Rudolph’s nose caught his attention, and he pulled the sweater out from his waist and looked at it. He clicked the button on the eye a few times and smiled. “Hey, that’s kinda neat!” 

The jolt of electricity affected George in strange ways. He knew who he was but had yet to realize that the people he knew and loved had become strangers. Like a homing pigeon, he got in his car and drove to his house, but he didn’t recognize it as he pulled into an empty spot in front. He stared at the front door from the car, wondering why he had driven there. His sister-in-law, Gladys, was trying to unload several food trays from her trunk, and seeing George, yelled out for him to help.

“Hey! Come help me with this turkey!” she said, struggling with a wobbling tray.

George rolled down his window. “Pardon me?”

“For cryin’ out loud, man, stop fucking around and come help me with the turkey! It’s going to fall!” 

Who the hell is this clown, he thought, but saw that the turkey really was about to slip off a tray.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Dudn’t matter if I know her or not, he thought, and jumped out of his car to run and keep the turkey from falling.

“Thanks! My God. I thought we were going to have to eat Spam. Just run it inside, please and thank you,” she giggled. “Nice sweater!”

“Hey, thanks! You can turn it on and off!” he motioned toward the button with his chin while balancing the turkey on the tray.

Gladys raised her eyebrows, thinking he must have already started drinking. George, though feeling awkward about walking into a stranger’s house, thought that helping the lady was the right thing to do and shuttled the turkey inside where Wanda was standing, giggling at the happy Rudolph.

“Hi! Where does the bird go?” he asked.

Wanda pointed toward the kitchen with one hand over her mouth, trying to play along with George’s joke about the sweater. While the guests arrived, Wanda had George stirring the cider, which seemed strange to him, but he couldn’t remember having any plans and was glad to help out. When Wanda told him that the cider was done, she said he could go mingle if he wanted, so George thought he would go into the living room and chat for a bit before leaving. All five of their guests had arrived, and they said their “hey’s” and “what’s up’s”. Everyone thought he was trying to be funny when he introduced himself as they laughed at his sweater.

“That’s the funniest fucking sweater I’ve ever seen, George! What a great one!” his brother-in-law Leo said.

“Hey, thanks,” he smirked in disappointment, “but I really thought it was cool.”

“Oh, my God, man. You’re killing me!” Leo’s face had turned red, his large body shaking up and down as he laughed.

George wondered how they could be so rude, and he thought to get up and simply walk out, but after standing, Wanda walked into the room.

 “Where do you think you’re going? No refunds on that sweater, just stay put, you get some turkey for “best dressed”, she quipped.

“Well, I don’t want to ruin your Christmas dinner,” he said seriously, “I figured it was time I left.”

“Oh, really, well consider this an invitation to stay, George,” Wanda said sarcastically, “besides, I can’t get enough of that sweater!”

George was confused. Why would they want him to stay and eat with them? But since he had saved the turkey from falling and stirred the cider, he felt they were being sincere.

“Ok, I accept your invitation. Thank you. I’m George, by the way.”

“Wanda,” his wife extended her hand seriously because she always joked around and his skit fit into her category of fun, “and this is Leo, Margaret, Janice, and you’ve already met Gladys.”

“Hey, yeah. The turkey lady,” he waved cheerfully.

Everyone paid attention to George, entertained by his act. After watching part of a football game, Wanda called everyone into the dining room and had them sit. The turkey gleamed in the middle of the table. Stuffing, creamed corn, candied yams, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy all beckoned for everyone to feast, but before everyone could reach out and fill their plates, George had them hold hands while he said a blessing.

“Dear Heavenly Father. Thank you for this occasion, where Wanda,” he nodded at each of them, “Gladys, Leo, Margaret, and Janice have come together to celebrate the birthday of your son, Jesus. Please look over us this evening and in the days to come. Amen.”

Leo, wide-eyed, stared at George like he was getting a prostate exam. Wanda and Gladys had tears in their eyes, and Margaret looked like a deer struck by headlights. Janice spoke up.

“George, I don’t know what the hell’s got into you, but I like it,” she slapped a dollop of mashed potatoes on her plate. Rudolph’s nose blinked intermittently like a worn-out neon sign. “You’d think someone died and hit you with the humble stick, but we’re all still here, alive and well.” 

“George, what HAS gotten into you?” Wanda asked, dropping her part of the act.

“Who are you, my wife?” he asked to an uproar of laughter that caught George by surprise. As he watched them in amusement, he raised his voice. “You people are great! I can’t remember anyone laughing at anything I say!” he said happily, looking greedy for more.

“You’re funny, George, but never this funny,” Margaret tipped the top of her glass toward him.

“Yeah, well, I have a few more up my sleeve,” he said, and watched his wife going to the kitchen to check on the pie. All eyes were on George to see what he was going to say next.

“You’re Wanda, right?” he asked his wife to more laughter. “Can I help you in the kitchen?” 

Then everyone was practically on the floor. Gladys’ chair almost tipped over backwards.

“What’s so funny?” he asked getting up and following Wanda. Gladys was the only one who could stop laughing long enough to explain.

“George, the last time you OFFERED to help in the kitchen was when you wanted to impress our parents, before you got married!” George shook his head not fully comprehending what she was saying, but happy everyone was laughing so hard. In the kitchen he asked Wanda,

“What’s wrong with those people?” but Wanda didn’t pay any attention to him. She grabbed him by the waist and pulled him to her, kissed him vibrantly on the lips and looked him in the eyes. George knew he was middle aged, but he wasn’t stupid. If this lady wanted him to stay the night and shag her, then he was going to stay the night and shag her.

“I guess that’s an invitation to stay,” he said, gazing back into her eyes. Wanda wafted an oven mitt at him. “Stop it!” she giggled flirtatiously and slapped him on the butt as she pushed him back into the dining room. 

George opened a bottle of wine and walked around the table filling their glasses while everyone devoured their food. “I don’t take this occasion lightly,” he said, putting a hand over his heart where Rudolph’s nose continued to blink. “You only live once.” He raised his glass, and everyone followed in recognition of George’s new point of view on life.

“To befriending a stranger,” he said, and Leo, feeling as though George’s words were heartfelt, said, “Here, here. Everyone. To George!”

“To George!” They all drank. 

“Hey, George, do you think the Cowboys are going to win the Superbowl again this season?” Leo asked.

“I really don’t know,” he said as he mulled a premonition of Jerry Rice catching a football with is fingertips, “I think I see the 49ers winning,” he predicted, despite the many Cowboys games he had watched with Leo.

“Hmm. Steve Young and Jerry Rice are a dynamite combo,” he agreed, but trying to remind him of how awesome the Cowboys had been performing the last couple of years, said, “Good luck shutting down Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, though, am I right? And you can’t forget about Emmitt Smith!”

“They won’t make the cut,” George said confidently with Leo grunting in opposition, but George uncharacteristically avoided the conflict by changing the subject. “I can tell you that I like this wine, Leo, where’d you get it?”

That night was the best party George and Wanda Gallo had ever thrown. They all drank too much wine, ate too much turkey, and laughed at George’s strange new sense of humor. When they gathered on the lawn to say goodbye, George felt inclined to let out a long Meeeeeerrry Christmas like Ed McMahon introducing Johnny Carson. Wanda had waited all night for that, and thought it was the perfect punch line to end the evening. 

Rudolph’s red nose blinked. Surely the battery would run out soon, and hopefully George would snap out of his shock-induced amnesia. Until then, he got to make love to Wanda like he had just met her, and after a few rounds in the sack, George looked over at the exhausted Wanda, who puffed away on a cigarette happily, and he said,

“I still don’t see what’s so fuckin’ funny about my sweater.”

December 20, 2023 23:04

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Mary Black Rose
12:26 Dec 28, 2023

That was great! I loved the dialogue. Definitely gave me a good laugh. Poor George. Sounds like amnesia made him a better person. Hope it sticks after his memory comes back. Thank God for Christmas magic in broken pop machines! This was better than a Hallmark movie! 👍👍👍👍


Ray Murphy
16:16 Dec 30, 2023

Hey, thanks! Happy Merry New Year!


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Ray Murphy
23:05 Dec 20, 2023

Merry Christmas! I hope I got to make you laugh!


21:58 Dec 26, 2023

You did! Happy Christmas to you too!


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