A windless winter’s night. The snow dawdled in the air, taking its time to turn the ground a Christmas white.
We had begun caroling an hour earlier. The evening was going well. The harmony sounded clean in the cold sky. The neighbors were happy to see us and generous with cookies and cider. The warmest welcome came from the Edelsteins. That’s Madtown for you.
But suddenly, as we approached the next house, the night turned dark as a fat brother-in-law after his third Korbel. One of the women in the group informed us that this was the home of a new neighbor.
“Her name is Vicki. She does a talk radio show on the same station as Sean Hannity. She’s like our very own Rush Limbaugh.”
“Oh, a celebrity!” someone exclaimed. “Let’s start with some Handel to impress her.”
We began singing and the door flew open. A small woman with a cigarette dangling from her mouth stepped into the night. Her dog joined her on the step. Glenn Beck was weeping in the background. She smirked at us, then interrupted the number at “he shall reign.”
“The Messiah? Well I’ve got news for YOU PEOPLE. Obama is NOT the Messiah. Get it? He’s the farthest thing from a saviour. He’s RUINING this great country of ours!”
We stopped in a stagger of notes. “Uh, we weren’t singing about the president. It’s a traditional holiday song.”
“Holiday song? See, PEOPLE? That’s what I’m talking about! The Atheist Wack Job Left won’t even let you call it a Christmas song.”
“It’s a Christmas song.” I said.
One of the women, ever the optimist, suggested another song. “How about Santa Claus is Coming to Town?”
Vicki snorted, “Yeah and his name is Nancy Pelosi. And she’s carrying a bag of free health care for everyone this year. But don’t bother going over the river and through the woods to visit Grandma because she will be trembling in front of a DEATH PANEL!”
Trying to find a middle ground, I began to tick off Christmas songs that might pass muster with our new neighbor.
“Oh, sure, PEOPLE!!!!” Her eyeballs were beginning to roll back into her head. “And watch Obama’s buddy Reverend Wright sue you for bias because it isn’t Black Radical Christmas? Or you’ll get a phone call from Kathleen and Dave who are so concerned about the environment that the want to change the name of that ditty to Green Christmas!”
This was becoming fun. I offered her another option.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen?”
She threw her hands in the air. “Don’t YOU PEOPLE see? That song is all about the gay agenda undermining the traditions of the American family. They might as well call it the Man Boy Love Christmas Anthem! ”
I tried again. “Jingle Bells?”
“Jingle?” Vicki fulminated. “There will be no jingling this year. Not after Barney Frank gave away all our coin for toxic mortgages to unemployed immigrants. Don’t you pointy-headed liberal Madison hippie Democrat elites get it? Our country is swirling the drain!”
“Sure, I voted Obama,” one of the group answered. “But I also voted for Tommy Thompson a couple of times.
“Me, too. And Scott Klug. Like four times,” another said.
The group stood in silence for a moment. Then one of the women offered a meek “Merry Christmas” and the deflated group shuffled away. I remained on the steps.
“You don’t like Christmas, do you?”
Vicki flicked her cigarette into the snow. It hissed like a snake.
“You’re right. I don’t. Too much happiness and good will. People coming together. No money in it. If I’m going to get out of this cow town and make some serious millions, I am going to have to induce paranoia in a much larger market.”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “Between Rush, Beck, even Olbermann, the scare market is glutted.”
For the first time all night Vicki smiled. “Right. But thank God there are always people out there who love being angry and frightened.”
I looked her in the eye. “Do you believe in everything you say?
She laughed, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?”
I nodded, turned to leave and then stopped.
“Hey, I figured out a Christmas carol that you might enjoy.”
She looked up. “Really?”
“Yeah.” I grinned and waited a beat. “Fear To the World.”
She laughed as she closed the door.
“Now you’re talkin’.”
Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Comments? Questions? Write firstname.lastname@example.org.