An Inconvenient Holiday

This short play was first read at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre in December 2007 under the Core Theater Company banner with Patrick McNulty as Kris, Alicia Campbell-Triana as Martha and Ethan Angelica as Valandil Palantir. Recent things in Copenhagen had me thinking about this play again. Happy Holidays.

An Inconvenient Holiday
By Chris Harcum
Copyright © 2007

Scene: A home office off a kitchen in a comfortable home.
Time: Late November 2007.
Characters: Kris-40s, Martha-40s, and Valandil Palantír-20s.

KRIS
I hate this time of the year.

MARTHA
Kris!

KRIS
I can’t help it. You can feel everyone’s impatience mounting.

MARTHA
I know things aren’t like what they used to be.

KRIS
True. Now it’s completely in the shitter.

MARTHA
Now, now, you’re too young to be this crotchety.

KRIS
Would you lay off me and the crotchety, Martha? Jesus. I can’t express myself at all to you without you making it out to be something it’s not.

MARTHA
I always forget you get like this every year around this time.

KRIS
I have every right to, don’t I?

MARTHA
But people count on you to bring them-

KRIS
–I know. I know. You don’t need to lecture me on me. (muttering to himself) Why did I get myself into this stupid line of work?

MARTHA
When I first met you, you said that you didn’t choose it. It chose you.

KRIS
I was such an asshole. I’d’ve said anything to get in your panties.

MARTHA
Ah, yes, the good ol’ days.

(Valandil Palantír enters)

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Hey, chief, here’s our latest order.

KRIS
This is outrageous.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
It’s only getting bigger. We had three extra trucks pull up with them this morning.

KRIS
Production will never be able to keep up. Let’s see, they want…and…and…and…this is terrible. Call them back and say we had to cancel.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
What do I tell them?

KRIS
We can’t-no-we don’t…we just aren’t going to do this order. If they don’t like it, they can kiss my ripe red rectum.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Sir, if you don’t mind me saying so, you’re not the person I met when-

KRIS
-I didn’t ask you! Don’t stand there like an idiot. Go!

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Sorry, I’ll go cancel the order.

(Valandil Palantír exits.)

MARTHA
Kris, you were so mean to him.

KRIS
He’s lucky I didn’t can him on the spot. Little turd.

MARTHA
You’ve made him employee of the year twice. You’ve treated him like the son we never had. That was completely unnecessary.

KRIS
Yes, and I was even setting him up to take over this God-forsaken business if things ever worked out so I could retire. But there’s something about him I hate. I don’t know what it is but I hate it deep down in my guts. Hate like I hate hypocrisy and pedophilia and-

MARTHA
-I get it, Kris. I just think that was… (slight pause) I wish we could sneak in a little getaway this weekend.

KRIS
You know I can’t.

MARTHA
You always say that.

KRIS
Come on, Martha, you know I have to work all year round. This job doesn’t allow any breaks.

(pause)

MARTHA
I made some holiday cookies. Maybe you could take a little break. I’ll bring in a tall glass of-

KRIS
-I don’t want any fucking holiday cookies. Christ, we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet. Up until 1978 people had the decency to wait until the Monday after Thanksgiving to start on all this Christmas bullshit. Then that Black Friday shit came out in the 80s like it was crack. “The busiest shopping day of the year.” Then you had to start getting in front of the explosion. Now it’s…I’m sorry, Martha, it pisses me off. Fucking holiday tunes when you go into the store to get some milk on November the Fucking Eighth?! It’s…it’s…retarded! People need to go live a life and give this Christmas shit a rest. The more people want to have Christmas all the time, the more miserable they become and…where’s my fucking Ibuprofen? I bought a mega-sized jar of the shit because of this stupid migraine season. Ahhhh!!!!

MARTHA
I have a little bottle of it in the kitchen. I’ll go get it.

KRIS
No, I’ll get it.

MARTHA
You know where it is?

KRIS
Is it over the—

MARTHA
-No, it’s in the recipe drawer next to the scissors.

KRIS
I’m sorry I got upset about your cookies. I love your cookies.

MARTHA
I know you do.

KRIS
The doctor says I need to get my cholesterol down.

MARTHA
You’re losing weight. This is the thinnest I’ve seen you.

KRIS
You think?

MARTHA
Yes. You’re much thinner than when we met. I worry about that.

KRIS
I love you.

MARTHA
I love you too.

KRIS
I’ll be right back.

(Kris exits. Martha takes a moment. She lets out a big sigh. She presses her forearm into her mouth and rips out a frustrated and angry muffled scream. Valandil Palantír enters to catch the tail end of this.)

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Hi.

MARTHA
Oh. Hi.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Is he…?

MARTHA
He’s just in the kitchen getting some Ibuprofen.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
I didn’t like cancelling that order.

MARTHA
I know you didn’t.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
I could work someplace else.

MARTHA
Please don’t. Before you do anything, let me talk to him, Val.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
He isn’t going to care.

MARTHA
He doesn’t show it but he does. If nothing else, I don’t want you to go.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Thank you. That’s a nice sweater.

MARTHA
Thank you.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Did you make it yourself?

MARTHA
Actually, yes I did.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
You’re so talented. We could use your handiwork over in the shop.

MARTHA
Well, I think I do more people more good by taking care of things here at HQ.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Do you ever miss teaching?

(Kris enters.)

KRIS
Hello.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Hi. Um, I need to tell you-

KRIS
-Val, I want you to know how much I appreciate what you’ve been doing. How invaluable I think you’ve been. I’m sorry, both of you, for being such a jerk. I got a glass of water just now and I caught my reflection in the window over the sink. My smile lines seemed to jump right out at me. Smile lines. God bless it all, I love my freaking smile lines! I thought about it and thought about it and yes, dammit, the whole point of what we do is help other people show how they love each other. To bring people joy. Val, if you can forgive me, I’d like to make you an offer. I’d like to make you my second in command. One day I’m going to be too old to keep doing this so someone else will have to….man the Ibuprofen bottle.

(They all share a laugh.)

Also, I’ll need to take Martha on a few overdue vacations.

MARTHA
Oh, Kris. Do you mean it?

KRIS
Of course, Martha. You’re the best. The best. Jessica wasn’t half the Kringle that you are. What do you say, let’s get down to business. Val, bring that order back in.

VAL
But I’ve already cancelled it.

KRIS
Well, guess what?

(Kris presses his temples and squints his eyes.)

I just uncancelled it. Onwards and upwards. How’s production?

VAL
We’re up to our necks this year because of all recalled toys from China.

KRIS
Good. We need a little challenge to keep things interesting. And if we up production, Mrs. Kringle can stay at home rather than spend more time out advocating against child labor laws.

MARTHA
That’s right, Mr. Kringle.

KRIS
Your first big job for me is…to bring in the Most Massive Plate of Cookies you’ve got. And a Belly Washer of Milk.

MARTHA
Yes sir, Mr. Kringle.

KRIS
But you have to say the thing first.

MARTHA
We can’t have a skinny Santa Claus.

KRIS
Why?

MARTHA
‘Cause there’s more for me to pinch.

KRIS
Oh, you naughty little helper. I know someone who’s going to get her stocking stuffed later.

MARTHA
Really?

KRIS
Mmm-hmm.

MARTHA
Good ‘cause I’ve got a nice big fire going for you at the bottom of my chimney.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
I’m sorry to interrupt.

KRIS
Val, yes, the orders.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Well, we also have some bigger concerns.

KRIS
Ah, yes, the big stuff. The. Big. Stuff. Well, I’ve been thinking about our safety standards for the kids’ toys and we’re going to use more recycled materials than ever. We’re going GREEN, baby. So I don’t think-

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
-That’s nice, boss, but people are asking for things I don’t think we have.

KRIS
Nonsense. We can make anything.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
But now they’re asking for an end to the war. Or, at least, for reasons behind it. Or for legs they’ve lost. We’ve had a spike in old people committing suicide because their bodies weren’t made to go on for so long. It’s really kind of…sad.

KRIS
We can’t end the war. We don’t do that. That’s not us. That’s not our….We’ll just…we can…give them…uh…

MARTHA
Love.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Actually, I did a search on all the orders and only two people Winsocket, Rhode Island wanted love. Then they met at a bar and now they want stuff to give to the other person.

KRIS
Fantastic.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Which brings us to a bigger issue. With all the misery in the world, more people are doing The Secret. So they want more money and more stuff to be more happy. And there’s more people who want more stuff so there’s more misery to be filled. It doesn’t end. And, because of that, the resources are becoming scarcer and the environment is…um….

KRIS
Out with it, Val.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Sir, we’ve lost more than 20% of our workspace here at the North Pole due to global warming.

KRIS
This isn’t news. We’ve been dealing with that for the last 80 years.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Since 2005.

KRIS
Val, you are an utter buzzkill.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Just doing my job, sir.

KRIS
Fine. We can figure this out. We’ll worry about finding a new location after the busy season. Now, look over your list. What’s the toughest thing on there? What’s the most difficult job for the guys down at the shop?

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Trust.

(pause)

KRIS
Trust. Why that’s easy. To get trust, you give trust. We’ll just show people how to give others trust. How do we do that? I don’t know. I guess I take it for granted. I mean I trust you and I trust Martha. I suppose it’s easy because you’re both such great people who are always honest and I can always count on you because…. What was that?

MARTHA
What?

KRIS
There. That. That look. You two are having a look.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
I’m not-

MARTHA
We don’t-

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
We’re not-

MARTHA
We haven’t…ok, fine. We have.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Honey.

KRIS
What?

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
I mean, what?

MARTHA
Don’t be mad at him. You know you’ve been neglecting me.

KRIS
I know but, Martha, one of the workers?

MARTHA
Well, I don’t have many choices up here, do I?

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Hey.

MARTHA
Don’t take that the wrong way, tiger.

KRIS
Whoa.

MARTHA
I have needs, Kris, and while you’ve been having your mid-life meltdown over your job, I’ve been taking care of myself.

KRIS
I don’t know what to say.

MARTHA
You have a responsibility, Kris. Not just to me but to the world. You are the fountain of joy. When you get all busy licking your wounds and playing with yourself things fall out of whack. People need you. If you take a hands-off approach the way God did then we’re all doomed.

KRIS
That’s it. I’m calling a press conference.

Hello world. This is Kris Kringle. The real fuckin’ Santa Claus. I’ve been thinking it over and this year Christmas is cancelled. I should have done this long ago. And while the expression about dogs and tricks may be true, you need to get your shit together. The only way this will happen is if I stop giving out treats so you can fuckin’ potty train yourselves. I know you can do it, you’re just lazy. And TV addicted. So, um, stop having excessive amounts of babies, fix the environment, and try to export more happiness than gross domestic product and maybe, just maybe, when I can stop grading my Naughty and Nice List on such a ridiculously huge curve, I’ll come back with some great stuff for you. Who knows, maybe I’ll come up something even better than stuff. Please, just don’t disappoint me. In the meantime, I’m going to take care of some things at home while you humans take a turn at caring for the world. Oh, and, Billy Burns, Susan Saunders is right. I do exist and, even though you’re only eight years old, you’re a total douche bag. Everyone else, please. Ok? Thanks.

How was that?

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
You have more faith in them than I do.

MARTHA
I’ll say.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
Am I fired?

KRIS
Val, I learned a lot about the true spirit of Christmas today.

VALANDIL PALANTÍR
So I’m not fired?

KRIS
You are getting a special assignment. I’m going to put you in charge of the ice caps because I don’t think the humans can do it by themselves. Well, you have a lot of work to do. (beat) Go.

(Valandil Palantír exits.)

MARTHA
How about me? Am I fired?

KRIS
I have a lot to think about Martha. I’m the cause and the cure for selfishness and I don’t know how to reconcile that. I can help people with love and trust and hope and wisdom. I can give those things but I don’t know what to do about selfishness.

MARTHA
For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.

KRIS
I’m sorry too. I think I’d like to be alone now.

MARTHA
Ok.

(Martha exits. Kris takes a moment and then he pulls his Santa hat out of his back pocket, shoves it in his mouth, and lets out a muffled scream.)

The End.

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