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Familiar Holiday Tales, Evening 2

December 5, 2016

The stage is set: a comfortable armchair draped over with woven blankets sits next to a glittering Christmas tree, itself festooned with tinsel and tasteful decoration. A cloth-bound book rests crookedly on the arm of the chair. The NARRATOR enters, dressed in earth-toned tweed, his pants just a little short and revealing festive knee-high socks.

Narrator (sipping from a wineglass of eggnog carried in his hand before placing it with care on the floor): Compliment your rum with a dash of eggnog this holiday season.

Welcome to Familiar Holiday Tales one and all, young and old. Whether we are grey-haired, no-haired, or just had our first haircut, we are all celebrating the same wonderful season. Those who are not celebrating the season are probably not doing so willfully, but must simply not know that it is Christmastime; but never fear, my welcome extends to you also: to the black-and-curly-haired and the corn-rowed. Welcome one and all to this installment of Familiar Holiday Tales, even if you are not familiar with holiday tales at all.

The NARRATOR has another sip of eggnog before picking up the book and opening it to a particular page.

Narrator: Tonight’s Familiar Holiday Tale is, like our last, most commonly recalled in song. It would not do, however, to present this tale at a juvenile Christmas concert; its inspirational message and haunting imagery deserves renditions by pop stars and airtime on national television.

Without further ado, hoping to do it dramatic justice, I present to you this evening’s Familiar Holiday Tale: ‘Fear and Dread, at Christmas’.

We join our protagonist in Africa City, Africa, a slum-filled slum town run rampant with crime, corruption, gang violence, and AIDS. His pronounceable name is Albert and the last time he had Christmas he was seven years old and holding a red and green shoebox given to him by a nice white lady.

Albert races down a refuse-strewn back alley, his breath rasping in a throat of which too much has been asked. The dusty street that has never seen rain suddenly feels the moisture of salt tears, racing almost as fast down Albert’s cheeks as Albert himself is racing down the alley.

Albert blinks back the tears’ bitter sting. His burning bare feet cry out for relief, for a river to carry their burden, but every corner Albert frantically turns reveals around its bend nothing but dry, dusty roadway. Not even the green of weeds greets his eye: nothing grows here, underneath December’s burning sun.

A nearby clock chimes the hour, but to Albert the sound is the clanging chime of doom. He is running not only down another dirty, narrow alley, but out of time. His is a world of dread and fear; even the glitter of Christmas lights in an embassy window nearby cannot offer him a reprieve from his panic. Indeed, one might wonder if he even knows it is the holiday season.

It is halfway down the next alleyway that he is finally caught, tackled from behind and pinned to the ground by two burly men wielding machetes. A face appears in an overlooking window, drawn curiously by the sound of Albert’s cut off cry. As the face is withdrawn the words, “Thank God it’s him instead of me,” are muttered in relief.

“It’s Christmas time,” says one of the large men, mockingly, “there’s no need to be afraid.”

Albert struggles, very afraid (does he even know what time of year it is? Probably not; I think his fear has driven all knowledge from his mind).

“Tell you what,” growls the other man. “You return what you stole from my employer and we’ll let you live.”

“Heh,” laughs the other joylessly. “His life will be the greatest gift he gets this Christmas.”

“Okay okay!” yells Albert. “The thing is in my pocket! Just take it!”

The men quickly find the stolen item. They release Albert, who remains prostrate on the pavement, and stand up.

“Here’s to you,” one of the men drawls, flipping a coin onto Albert’s back.

“Feed the world,” laughs the other, clapping his partner on the shoulder.

Poor Albert is left all alone. Exhausted and bruised, where are his thoughts? Does he know it’s Christmastime at all?

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