When it comes to lies related to the Non-Denominational Celebration of Peanut Brittle and Capitalism Season, there are no bigger untruths than those perpetuated by television commercials. Yes, Virginia, even the lie about Santa Clause isn’t as egregious.
What we need are ads that accurately represent a Christmas morning, avoiding the idealized depiction of upper-middle class WASPS frolicking in a mountain of exquisitely-wrapped gifts, basking in their unconditional love for one another and oblivious to any potential sadness other families may experience, in favor of honest renderings of the cold, hard realities of Christmas morning. And since the creative teams at Lexus and De Beers and Radio Shack all seem to inexplicably lack interest in producing such realistic commercials, I’ve taken it upon myself to pen one. Consider it my Christmas gift to you all.
INT. BEDROOM — EARLY MORNING
HUSBAND, haggard and balding, wakes up to the sound of pounding footsteps and greedy screams from the hallway. He grumbles inaudibly to himself, nudging his WIFE.
Honey, sounds like the kids are up.
WIFE (still half-asleep)
Where were you last night?
The Husband doesn’t answer, knowing an honest response will just hurt her even more. He sits up and puts one hand on his aching lower back, groaning.
Let’s get this over with.
INT. LIVING ROOM — EARLY MORNING
A ragged Christmas tree, decorated with a minimal amount of effort, leans in the corner. The DAUGHTER and SON are already tearing into their presents like rabid, starving animals. Their wickedly gleeful faces, illuminated by the twinkling lights of the tree, betray hints of malevolence. The Husband walks into the room, eyes still bleary.
DAUGHTER (shoving her gift into the Husband’s face)
Daddy! Daddy! I got a pink dollhouse from Santa! What a great, stereotype-reinforcing gift! Better than that dumb chemistry set I got last year.
She looks to the heavens.
Thank you, Santa, for reinforcing the cult of domesticity!
The Husband closes his eyes. His right hand automatically curls as if he’s holding a glass of bourbon.
Dad, I got a firetruck! Maybe it is a magical firetruck that will allow me to go back in time and save Gram-gram from that nursing home fire!
The Husband grunts a response. His Wife passes behind him and into the adjacent, tiny kitchen, not saying a word. She fills herself a cup of coffee and opens up a cupboard, pulling out two bottles of pills and popping a capsule from each into her mouth. A bemused, vacant smile passes over her face.
WIFE (to Husband in an emotionless voice)
Your present is in garage.
HUSBAND (pointing to a minuscule box barely visible beneath all the shredded wrapping paper)
Yours is under the tree.
They pass by each other as the children scream and holler for no reason besides the ecstasy derived from having been given to without having to give anything yourself.
The Husband enters the garage. Sitting before him is the dented family sedan. A large red bow is tied around it, and the backseat is stuffed with bags. A note, sloppily scrawled, is taped to one of the broken headlights. He tears it from the car and reads it.
I want you out by noon. Out of this house. Out of our lives. I’m taking the kids to Ted’s place for the rest of the day. All of your stuff is packed and in the backseat. The divorce papers are in the glove compartment.
He hears the sound of a car door slamming on the street. Through the garage he can faintly hear his Daughter asking where he his. His Wife responds by saying he’s going to drive on his own. The Daughter doesn’t even question the oddness of this. It’s routine by now, this distance and separation. An engine roars to life and he can hear the car pull away from the curb.
He sighs and pulls the bow off the car in order to expose the door handle. He pops the driver’s side door open and pauses. He looks down at the giant ribbon, now in a heap on the floor, and gathers it up. He weighs the red material in his hands, surprised by its heft and strength. His eyes look up to the rafters, lingering on the biggest beam. He smiles.