Michael’s face was red. “OK, then, gun to your head,” he demanded, “what’s the best Christmas movie?” Though his tone suggested he might actually have put something to my head, he hadn’t. Well, first, I told him, with a gun to my head I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on movies; second, the category’s too broad: Christmas comedy? Christmas love story? Is Die Hard a Christmas movie for taking place on Christmas? “Completely irrelevant,” he said. “Best is best. But anyway, it’s a trick question. They all suck because they all lie.” I knew better than to take the bait but I told him anyway that all movies lie. “Well, I know actors wear makeup and play make-believe,” he told me, “but they do that to tell a truth; Christmas movies lie to lie.” He put his mug down hard as if he wanted to tenderize the coaster. Glasses clinked down the bar. He’d been pounding me the same way since we sat down, which was common, but his red face was not. He cared about this. I watched his eyes and waited. A string of lights twinkled behind his head. “You think Santa Claus is universal,” he told me,“and that finding out he’s your parents is a primal disillusionment. That’s Hollywood bullshit. Kids have dads who bring out guns on Christmas Eve and put them to their children’s heads one by one,” he said. That can’t be right, I told him. “One by one and pulled the trigger,” he told me, “year in and year out, and made them wonder if one year there’d be bullets. Why have I never seen that in a movie?” I waited until he was finished. Why are you telling me this, Michael? I asked him. What the hell are you telling me?

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