The Gift Teller

There is no set. There is an electric sign over the stage.

A pool of light comes up ON JULIE, 20’S. Julie is a lovely, young woman with especially beautiful, long hair.

JULIE

The magi, as you know, were wonderfully wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And so, here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house.

(a moment)

Thank you.

THE TELLER enters. He is over fifty. He is (possibly) bearded. He has a rich baritone, an English accent.

THE TELLER

Very nice. Good, yes. Very. Julie, is it? Let’s have a look at you. Not the usual audition piece. O. Henry if I’m not mistaken. The Gift of the Magi.

JULIE

It seemed like the right season for it.

THE TELLER

Indeed. And beautifully done. As was the Miranda. And as it just so happens we’re doing The Tempest this season.

(a beat)

Well. As you know Young Shakespeare has arranged with British Equity to take two American actors into our company this year. Sort of a cross the Atlantic cultural thing, right? Just two. So it’s difficult. So little money. So many excellent choices.

He stares a moment, as if considering something. Then:

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Well, I’m sure you have a dinner of thanks to get to. Thank you for humoring an ignorant Brit and coming in on what is a holiday for you but is a working day for me.

JULIE

Not a problem.

Disappointed, Julie turns away.

GRAHAM LANE

Julie. Thank you again.

Julie exits. The Teller turning to the audience, light pooling around him.

THE TELLER

(speaking normally now)

Not bad, mmm? The accent? I’d like to think I’m fair at accents but it’s more about character, isn’t it. And I’m going to be doing a number of them so for better or worse, you’ll have to bear with me.

(Gesturing off-stage)

Julia Gianelli.

(Italian accent)

Gianelli.

(Normally)

Sounds like an opera singer. Or an actress, yes. Hopefully they won’t make her change the name.

(Then:)

Well! Let’s dig in. Places to go, people to see, that sort of thing.

Lights further up.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

This –

(the empty stage)

– is Manhattan. Now really, you have to go with me here. New York City. It is late November. Already cold. And guess what?

The words come up on the electric sign: Only 29 shopping days until Christmas!

THE TELLER (cont’d)

There are only 29 shopping days till Christmas.

The sign going out; The Teller starting to exit –

THE TELLER (cont’d)

(the empty stage)

Oh – and this is now an art gallery.

– exiting – as TRACY, mid 20’s, enters stage left.

TRACY

Sebastian? Sebastian? SEBASTION!!

SEBASTIAN, mid 20’s, has an apron on, a casserole dish and wooden spoon in hand.

SEBASTIAN

WHAT!???

TRACY

Don’t yell.

SEBASTIAN

You did. What is it?

TRACY

You cannot use a client’s painting as a dinner table.

SEBASTIAN

It’s paint side down and it’s by what’s his name – Herman Henry Vitz.

TRACY

Oh… well, in that case it’s okay.

SEBASTIAN

Is there gravy for these potatoes?

TRACY

Those aren’t potatoes, that’s stuffing.

SEBASTIAN

I thought the chunky stuff in the blue bowl was the stuffing.

TRACY

(exasperated)

No, those are the cranberries. The green bowl is the stuffing, the chipped bowl is the potatoes.

SEBASTIAN

Are we sure about that?

TRACY

Sebastian, don’t wear an apron if you’re not going to help.

SEBASTIAN

(exiting)

I’m making gravy.

Daniel Moore, mid-20’s, enters behind Tracy. It’s cold outside and he is dressed appropriately. He has a worn camera bag over his shoulder.

DANIEL

We don’t need gravy, I brought salsa!

TRACY

(hugging him)

Daniel!

DANIEL

Sorry I’m late. I also brought wine – two bucks a bottle but one of the better vintages.

TRACY

(taking the bag)

Sebastian, Daniel brought wine! Two Buck Chuck!

SEBASTIAN

(off)

Great! We’ll mix it with the tequila!

TRACY

Let me take your coat. Where’s Julie?

DANIEL

On her way. She had an audition.

TRACY

On Thanksgiving?

DANIEL

Some English company or something. They’re only in town for a couple of days and so…

SEBASTIAN

(entering)

Is salsa any good on mashed potatoes?

TRACY

It might be. Why?

SEBASTIAN

I think I just burned the gravy.

TRACY

Sebastian!

(To Daniel)

Be right back.

(To:)

How do you burn gravy — ?

Taking the wine, they exit. Daniel turning as –

JULIE

(off)

Hello!?

DANIEL

In here!

Julie enters.

DANIEL (cont’d)

Well, hey!

JULIE

Hey, Stranger. Sorry, I’m late. Oooh, it’s freezing out.

DANIEL

Not much better in here. I think we’ll be wearing coats for dinner. So how’d it go?

JULIE

Oh, you know –

(she’s heard this before)

“Thanks for coming in”.

DANIEL

Thanks a lot on Thanksgiving.

Julie takes off her hat. As her hat comes off, her hair tumbles down.

JULIE

Yeah, well, these days my career as a star waitress is so successful, it might have been the only day I could have come in. Have I missed much?

TRACY

(off)

Sebastian!!!

Sebastian quickly enters.

SEBASTIAN

I burned the turkey. Pretend it’s good. Hey, Jules!

He rushes back off.

DANIEL

Shall we go help?

JULIE

Wait a minute, wait –

She kisses him. His hands go almost automatically to her hair, sensuously entwining for a moment.

JULIE (cont’d)

There. Better now.

DANIEL

Much. Uh – speaking of burned…

JULIE

Oh, Daniel, no.

DANIEL

I had a little problem with the oven timer.

JULIE

You don’t have an oven timer.

DANIEL

That was the problem.

JULIE

Daniel. I worked on that pie.

DANIEL

I know, I’m sure it would have been delicious.

Sebastian and Tracy enter, each with two jelly glasses of wine.

SEBASTIAN

Here we go! The heck with the turkey, thanks to Daniel, we have wine!

TRACY

Toast, toast! Daniel, you brought the wine, make a toast.

DANIEL

Okay, uh… okay… to you two for inviting us to what is going to be a delicious Thanksgiving feast –

SEBASTIAN/TRACY

Thank you – thank you!/It is – would have been.

DANIEL

And to Julie for forgiving me that I burned her pie.

SEBASTIAN

What?

JULIA

I haven’t yet.

SEBASTIAN

And I won’t.

DANIEL

Please?

JULIE

You… are forgiven.

SEBASTIAN

Boys and girls, let’s get it to the table!

As they all exit, talking at once:

TRACY

It’s not a table, it’s a painting.

SEBASTIAN

As a painting it’s a better table.

TRACY

Daniel, you’ve got to take pictures!

SEBASTIAN

Daniel, always takes pictures! Getting him to stop…!

The Teller enters. He is carrying a small simple lamp.

THE TELLER

They don’t know it yet but in a future of tablecloths, perfect turkeys and champagne, they will look back and find that this was perhaps the most memorable meal of all.

(The lamp)

This… is a television.

He puts the lamp down on the downstage right corner of the space.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Did I mention that Christmas is right around the corner?

He gestures – the lighted sign comes up again – ONLY 28 and 1/2 DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS!!!

THE TELLER (cont’d)

And now.

Daniel and Sebastian enter. Sebastian is preparing a cigar for smoking; biting off the tip, etc.

SEBASTIAN

(the cigar)

You sure you won’t partake?

DANIEL

Uh-uh. I don’t know how you smoke those things.

SEBASTIAN

I don’t, but Tracy let’s me pretend to.

DANIEL

So what are you getting her?

SEBASTIAN

Huh?

DANIEL

Tracy. For Christmas?

SEBASTIAN

We have this great system. She gets me something she wants. I get her something I want. What are you getting Julie?

DANIEL

I was thinking… jewelry.

SEBASTIAN

Really.

DANIEL

A ring… maybe.

SEBASTIAN

Really. A diamond ring perchance?

DANIEL

Perchance.

SEBASTIAN

It’s that serious, huh?

DANIEL

It is for me.

Daniel turning to look across the stage as Julie and Tracy enter stage left.

SEBASTIAN

Yeah, well, you’re both young, destitute, barely getting by. Why not ask her to marry you?

DANIEL

That’s what I thought.

SEBASTIAN

How about a little football?

Daniel and Sebastian turn on the “lamp”.

TRACY

I don’t want to jump to conclusions but somebody has not taken their eyes off you all evening.

JULIE

Funny how it works. Before Daniel, I always dated guys who were well… who were different than Daniel.

TRACY

You mean unreliable, unfaithful and mostly involved with themselves?

JULIE

So you have met my old boyfriend.

TRACY

I had him first.

JULIE

What are you and Sebastian doing present-wise for Christmas?

TRACY

We have this interesting system. I get him something he wants and he gets me something he wants. Why?

JULIE

I’d like to get Daniel something special.

TRACY

Tough call. What do you get for the man who has practically nothing?

Suddenly:

SEBASTIAN

Hey! Come quick! Julie’s commercial on television

Julie groaning as everyone moves to the “TV”.

JULIE

No!!

SEBASTIAN

Residuals, baby!

(Announcer voice)

Do you have hair like mine? So glossy, so silky wet. Pearls oozing through it like maggots through jelly.

The ladies shudder at the thought.

TRACY

Sebastian.

JULIE

(a high chipper voice)

Resolve! Rich in petroleum by products! I use it!

JULIE/TRACY

Every day!

They laugh.

DANIEL

(staring at the TV)

I think you’re beautiful.

(Catching himself)

Her hair… you’know – beautiful.

JULIE

Years of acting classes all so I could almost be set on fire.

SEBASTIAN

What’s this?

DANIEL

On set. They kept spraying this gel on her hair. Some of it got onto a light and it burst into flame.

JULIE

It’s how we met. Daniel put me out.

TRACY

That is so romantic.

SEBASTIAN

Don’t tell me – and you were so grateful afterward you said yes when he asked you out.

JULIE

No.

(Smiling at Daniel)

I asked him.

SEBASTIAN

(Turning off the “TV”)

Now that is romantic. How come you never asked me out?

TRACY

I like you worshiping me from afar. As possible.

She hugs him.

SEBASTIAN

Come on, who wants to go out for ice cream?

Everyone agrees. As they start to exit, we hear the sound of a cell phone ringing.

DANIEL

Get the coats. I’ll be right there.

He turns away. Lights pool on him; come up on The Teller. He is now:

MICHAEL

Danny, it’s Mike.

DANIEL

Michael, hi. I was going to call you. Happy Thanksgiving.

MICHAEL

It is for some people, kid.

DANIEL

Oh, no. What’s wrong?

MICHAEL

What’s not? The old man’s train gets in around two yesterday afternoon. By five, the house is too drafty, the kids are too noisy and the sound of the ocean is gonna keep him awake at night. This is the cape, there’s nothing but ocean.

DANIEL

Please tell me this gets better.

MICHAEL

You tell me, bro. People start arriving around noon today. He ignores our guests, he insults Cynthia and her parents and then he want to know why the hell you’re not here.

DANIEL

Michael, I told him, I couldn’t get away, I had to work.

MICHAEL

Kid, he knows this. To make a long story short, we’re just sitting down to dinner when he decides his emphysema is acting up, and he needs to go the emergency room.

DANIEL

Is he okay?

MICHAEL

They decided to keep him for observation overnight.

DANIEL

Are you?

MICHAEL

You know, Cynthia almost had me convinced it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we moved him into this assisted living community in Barnstable? Now I’m not sure New York is far enough away for me.

DANIEL

Give me the number of the hospital. I’ll give him a call.

MICHAEL

Suit yourself. Kid. But if it was me? I wouldn’t bother.

Daniel stands, lost in thought. Light change. Julie enters with Daniel’s coat and camera bag.

THE TELLER

And now, four ice cream cones on a frigid night later….

JULIE

Thanks, Tracy! Thanks, Sebastian!

DANIEL

It was great, you guys!

SEBASTIAN/TRACY

(off)

See you/Stay warm!

DANIEL

Hey, dinner this next week! The four of us! Pizza!

SEBASTIAN/TRACY

On you!/On us!

We sense now that Julie and Daniel are walking.

JULIE

I really like your friends.

DANIEL

They’re your friends now. They think you’re good for me.

JULIE

I am.

(Then:)

Want to talk about the phone calls?

DANIEL

Mmmm… not really.

JULIE

Your choice.

DANIEL

My father. He has some health problem and he shouldn’t be living by himself. And he doesn’t like it, so he drives anyone who tries to help him totally crazy.

JULIE

You included?

DANIEL

Mostly he hates being retired and he misses my mother.

JULIE

Want to know the kind of man your boyfriend’s going to be? Meet his father.

DANIEL

Forget it, you’ll run for the hills. But! Maybe I should meet your Mom.

JULIE

(flirtatious)

You don’t need to. She’s every bit as sweet as I am.

DANIEL

You’re sure of that, huh?

JULIE

You’ll have to take my word.

They’re about to kiss. Suddenly Julie sags.

DANIEL

What’s the matter? You okay?

JULIE

Grrr. Daniel, do you think I’m wasting my time?

DANIEL

What do you mean?

JULIE

I can’t stop thinking about it, beating myself up over another audition today. Then watching myself do that stupid commercial. I mean, we’re just barely getting by, all of us, all because we want to do something or be something we’ll probably never be. We should grow up and get real.

(a moment; snapping out it)

Sorry. Where were we?

DANIEL

We were gonna….

JULIE

Oh, yeah.

They’re about to kiss – they freeze – they both look up.

JULIE (cont’d)

No. Snow?

DANIEL

Rain.

JULIE

Freezing rain.

DAN

I have twenty bucks burning in my pocket.

JULIE

A rich guy. I have eight bucks in mine.

DANIEL

Feel like taking a cab?

The Teller moves in. He is a homeless man.

THE TELLER

Hey, uh… sir? Look, uh… I’m outta work and I got a wife and kids and… it’s twenty eight and a quarter days to Christmas… maybe you could help me out.

Daniel gives him the twenty dollars

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Hey… thank you… thank you.

He exits.

DANIEL

Afraid it’s the subway.

Julie takes Daniel’s arm.

JULIE

I love the subway. Your place or mine?

DANIEL

Mine. I want to show you something.

They exit. The Teller entering. He stares pleasantly at the audience for a moment. He begins to whistle to the tune of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Until:

THE TELLER

(singing)

– gonna find out who’s naughty or nice! Santa Claus is coming to town!

(To the audience)

Everybody!

(Singing)

He knows when you’ve been sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!

The Teller’s reaction tells us that the audience’s singing is questionable at best. Lightchange. The Teller moves thoughtfully around the perimeter of the playing space, pointing – at the floor, at the back wall. And where he points, a small spot of light appears.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Naughty, nice, bad, good. Did you know that some modern psychologists now believe an overly judgmental nature can damage a child’s self esteem. It’s true. The problem apparently is that children today are not rewarded according to good or bad but rather, they receive gifts according to the amount of money their parents are willing or able to spend on them. A good child may receive nothing because his or her parents are poor. And because they’ve been taught that only bad children receive no gifts, they assume they are bad. And an ill-behaved child who’s parents bury him in gifts may come to the conclusion that good behavior counts for nothing. I would suggest that the greatest gift one human being can give another is love. Love is priceless and it costs next to nothing. All the shiny wrapped presents in the world can’t replace…

(to the audience)

“I love you”.

Daniel and Julie enter.

DANIEL

This is why I really burned the pie.

Julie staring at the pools of light.

THE TELLER

I would like you to imagine photographs. Black and white. Of people. Of happiness. Sadness. Tears. Rage. People.

Picking up the lamp, he exits.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

JULIE

You did this today?

DANIEL

I did the framing over the last few weeks but yeah.

(a moment)

You’re all over here.

She turns. She stares. We sense there is more than one picture – many more. And as Julie stares, Daniel takes out his camera.

JULIE

I don’t know what to say.

Click! Daniel, camera now in hand, moves to a different angle. Click.

JULIE (cont’d)

Stop.

He takes another.

JULIE (cont’d)

(giggling)

Daniel!

She reaches out to put a hands over the lens.

DANIEL

Whoa, careful. She’s old and cranky.

He hands the camera to her. She carefully takes it.

JULIE

Leika. What is a Leika?

DANIEL

It’s a German company. They’ve been making cameras since 1901. This one’s a collector’s item – an M4, first produced in 1967. My mother gave it to me when I was a kid. It was hers.

Click. Julie takes a picture. She hands the camera back. She looks around.

JULIE

You really should show these, Daniel. I bet Tracy and Sebastian would give you a show.

DANIEL

I don’t know. Maybe when they’re good enough.

JULIE

They already are.

DANIEL

Hey – come here. I want to show you the my favorite shot in the whole place. Other than you.

He turns her – downstage, into moonlight.

DANIEL (cont’d)

Just a glimpse… of the New York skyline.

JULIE

Ohhhh…. It’s beautiful.

DANIEL

You’re not crazy, Julie. You can be anything you want to be. Because anything can happen there.

JULIE

Daniel?

DANIEL

Hmm?

JULIE

….you make me happy.

Tableau. Lights fade on them. The Teller enters.

THE TELLER

(speaking)

Sleigh bells sing. Are you listening? In the streets, snow is glistening. A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walking in a winter land.

(Then:)

Christmas is a magic time in New York City. Especially when the weather cooperates. Meaning cold. Hopefully snow. Not wet but like sugar – like frozen confetti that crunches underfoot. You bundle up, wrap scarves around your neck and chin, pull down warm silly hats. Everyone walks slower, carrying bags, looking in windows. Doorman with shovels try to keep pace with the falling flakes and succeed in merely making the sidewalk more slippery. The horse drawn carriages on 59th, adjacent to Central Park and the Plaza Hotel, seem like much more suitable transportation than taxi cabs. Fifth Avenue. Christmas lights. Garlands strung across the street. Puppet shows and toys in the windows at Saks. Skaters on the rink at Rockefeller Center. And off 45th Street, Daniel’s favorite store in the entire city.

He raises a bell – ding-a-long! Lightchange as Daniel and Julie enter. Daniel immediately moving across the stage to look at:

DANIEL

Isn’t it incredible?

JULIE

Very. What is it?

DANIEL

Only a Leica Sumicron M-90, the jewel of modern camera lens technology. Focal length from 21 to 135 millimeters. F-stop less than a tenth. Camera compatible going back 50 years.

JULIA

Wow. I have no idea what you just said.

DANIEL

What I’m saying is I could take some great photos with it.

The Teller crosses to them. He has put a yarmulke on his head and is now SAUL ROSEN. He speaks with a heavy Jewish accent.

SAUL ROSEN

Of course you could. And for a mere twelve hundred dollars, it’s yours.

DANIEL

Hey, Saul.

SAUL ROSEN

Hey? Hey is for horses. Who is this magnificent creature and how is it you find yourself so lucky as to be in her company.

DANIEL

This is my friend, Julie. Julie, this is Saul.

SAUL ROSEN

(kissing her hand)

I am blinded by such radiance.

The actor playing Sebastian enters. His attention is on Julie.

LARRY

(a Brooklyn accent)

Hey! Hey, Danny, how ya doin’ –

(to Julie)

I’m Larry. What can I sell you?

SAUL ROSEN

Get outta here, you. She’s taken.

LARRY

Not by you. Did you tell him the new Nikon’s in?

SAUL ROSEN

Why should I? He’s interested in art, not technology.

LARRY

Want to take a look?

DANIEL

Absolutely.

They move away. Saul looking amused.

SAUL ROSEN

Him I like. You should too.

(Then:)

You’ve heard this before but you have beautiful hair.

JULIE

Thank you.

SAUL ROSEN

And hair I know. My wife comes from a family of wig makers.

JULIE

Jewish wigmakers?

SAUL ROSEN

Orthodox women, when they marry, they cut their hair and wear wigs. Why? Who knows. Maybe so we’ll take them seriously. Good hair, hair like yours, short supply. If you ever want to sell.

JULIE

I don’t think so.

(Then, looking down:)

Tell me more about this lens Daniel likes so much.

Lights fade slightly on them and up on Daniel and Larry.

LARRY

– over 400 shots on a chip. You get yourself hooked up with the latest software, you don’t take photographs, you make photographs.

DANIEL

(not really interested)

Yeah, well. Not anytime soon.

LARRY

What. You can have it right now. Get out of the dark room. I’ll give you twenty-five hundred for the Leica.

DANIEL

It’s worth that much?

LARRY

To a collector? Better believe it. More. Tell you what. Twenty-eight hundred plus my discount on the Nikon. You’d even have something left over to buy your good lookin’ girlfriend Christmas presents.

Daniel glancing back over to where Julie is chatting and smiling with Saul. Hesitating. But then:

DANIEL

I don’t think so.

LARRY

Your decision, Danny. But you change your mind — you know where to find me.

Lights back to:

JULIE

Twelve hundred dollars?

SAUL ROSEN

You find a better price anywhere, I’ll match it.

Julie glancing over to where Daniel and Larry are talking. She sighs.

JULIE

It might as well be a million.

Larry exiting – lights changing as:

DANIEL

It’d be nice though…

JULIE

But wouldn’t it be nice…

Daniel and Julie exit.

The Teller takes a bright, colorful piece of wrapping paper from his poicket. He begins to fold it as:

THE TELLER

It’s confusing this whole thing of gifts, isn’t it. One wonders where it all started. Santa Claus? He was created out of the legends of the Greek sea God, Poseidon and the Teutonic god, Hold Nickar. In the Christian church he was St. Nicholas, a bishop from Asia Minor who adored children, who threw gifts anonymously into the windows of their homes and on occasion brought dead ones back to life. In much of Christian Europe, he was called Christkindlein or Kris Kringle. In Germany, he was Weinachtsmann or Christmas man. In France, Pere Noel, in Russia Father Frost and in Scandinavia he was Houtupukki and his sleigh was pulled by wild rams. Hardly the round, rosy cheeked figure created as an advertisement by a soft drink company in 1931.

(a beat)

At any rate….

He holds up the folded paper. He has created an origami Santa Claus. As he exits, Daniel and Julie enter – and stop.

DANIEL

Well.

JULIE

Gotta get to work. This has been great.

DANIEL

Hey, listen, I was wondering something.

JULIE

What? Daniel.

DANIEL

I was thinking that maybe we could spend Christmas together. I could make something at my place – Christmas dinner – or better yet, Christmas Eve, because then you could…

(spend the night)

– “re-make your pie” and I could get us a little tree. Just a thought.

JULIE

I… would like that very much.

DANIEL

It’s a date then.

JULIE

It’s a date.

DANIEL

Good. Great. Okay, then. See ya.

JULIE

See ya.

They start to exit. Daniel stops.

DANIEL

Julie!

JULIE

What? Daniel, what?

DANIEL

(thrilled)

I — just – never mind – see ya!

The Teller enters to watch them exit. He is holding Christmas cards.

THE TELLER

Christmas, for all its inherent beauty, can be a complicated time. Tis the season to be jolly. But in between the fa-la-lah, it also can open holes in the heart.

He holds up a card.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Julie, for example, couldn’t afford to go home last year, and this year, it’s even more impossible. Her family back in Indiana is a close one and once again they will celebrate the season without her.

(Holding up another card)

Tracy is estranged from her parents. They’re, shall we say, conservative. They don’t approve of her. They never have.

(Another)

Sebastian, an only child, has parents that are divorced. They fight over who will have him for the holidays and so as not to hurt feelings, he ignores them both. So look at the loved one next to you and consider yourself lucky. There are people who would envy you.

(a beat)

Oh – and as for Daniel —

(moving sidestage)

Pardon me –

Whistling God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, The Teller moves side stage, puts down the cards, takes up a bathrobe and puts it on. He pulls a small step ladder to the center of the stage.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

There.

And now he kicks the ladder over with a clang. He is now –

PHILIP MOORE

Ah, son of a – ahhh! — guhh —

(Coughing)

God bless it — gahhhh!!

DANIEL

(off)

Dad? Dad!? Dad, where are you!?

PHILIP MOORE

I’m in the kitchen! Where do you think I am?!

(coughing; then:)

Of all the nonsense –

Daniel rushes in.

DANIEL

Dad!? You okay?

PHILIP MOORE

What? Of course, I am!

DANIEL

What happened?

PHILIP MOORE

I think it’s obvious what happened. I fell off this damn step ladder.

DANIEL

Dad, I can change lightbulbs for you.

PHILIP MOORE

If I wait for you to change my lightbulbs, I’ll be waiting in the dark.

He pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his robe pocket. Daniel grabs them.

DANIEL

Dad.

PHILIP MOORE

Give me those back.

DANIEL

No way. You can’t smoke.

PHILIP MOORE

Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do. God knows, they’re my one remaining pleasure. Daniel.

DANIEL

(tossing them to him)

Fine. Your funeral.

PHILIP MOORE

Exactly that.

He puts them in the pocket of his robe.

PHILIP MOORE (cont’d)

How’d you get in here?

DANIEL

I have a key.

PHILIP MOORE

Since when?

DANIEL

Since always.

PHILIP MOORE

I want it back.

DANIEL

Forget it.

PHILIP MOORE

Hmmph. Why are you here? Do you need something? You must. You look like a barn door.

DANIEL

I do?

PHILIP MOORE

I’m old, I’m supposed to.

DANIEL

I’m young – unlike you, it looks good on me. Are you eating?

PHILIP MOORE

Food doesn’t taste good.

DANIEL

You have to eat, Dad.

PHILIP MOORE

Don’t tell me what to do. Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be off doing that… prop work?

DANIEL

It’s called production assistant.

PHILIP MOORE

Assistant. I keep waiting to hear you’ve come to your senses and are doing something unassistable with your life.

DANIEL

Actually I just entered this great contest. The losers get jobs on Wall Street.

PHILIP MOORE

Did you come by just to make fun of my profession or is there a legitimate reason.

DANIEL

Dad. I wanted to make sure you were okay, that’s all.

PHILIP MOORE

Why wouldn’t I be?

DANIEL

You haven’t put up a Christmas tree.

PHILIP MOORE

Why do it when I don’t have to.

DANIEL

We could do it together.

PHILIP MOORE

Hmmph. Something on your mind other than fiddle-faddle?

DANIEL

I… okay, yeah… I wanted to talk to you about something.

PHILIP MOORE

What’s that.

DANIEL

Mom’s engagement ring.

Philip is silent.

DANIEL (cont’d)

I think I’ve met someone, Dad.

PHILIP MOORE

Think or know?

DANIEL

Know. I know. And I can’t afford a ring. And I wondered maybe if I could… borrow hers. To keep in the family. I think she’d like that.

PHILIP MOORE

Do I get to meet this young lady?

DANIEL

Of course. Eventually.

PHILIP MOORE

May I at least ask her name?

DANIEL

Julie.

PHILIP MOORE

Julie. Does she have a last name?

DANIEL

Julie Gianelli.

PHILIP MOORE

Sounds like an opera singer.

DANIEL

No, she’s an actress, Dad.

PHILIP MOORE

She’d better change her name then.

DANIEL

(angrily)

And that’s why I haven’t introduced her to you! She’ll think stupidity runs in the family.

PHILIP MOORE

Well, Daniel, we’re at a bit of a roadblock here. Because if you think I’m going to place your mother’s wedding ring into the hand of some little chickadee I’ve never met and know nothing about, you’re sadly mistaken.

DANIEL

She’s not a “chickadee” –

PHILIP MOORE

I’m sure she’s not a lot of things –

DANIEL

– she’s beautiful and smart and talented and I should be so lucky that she’d say yes if I asked her to marry me.

(a beat)

And that should be enough.

PHILIP MOORE

Well, it’s not.

Daniel, staring sadly.

DANIEL

Michael was right. I don’t know why I bother.

He exits. Taking off the bathrobe, the Teller moves the ladder off stage.

THE TELLER

It’s hard to be old and alone at Christmas. Especially when memories of your Christmas’ past hang in the air. And now – – another gift.

He gives a single ring on his bell. Julie enters, crossing. He rings again. Julie stops to answer her cell phone.

JULIE

Hello? Yes, this is Julie. You’re kidding. Yes! Yes, I’m interested! Yes, I’ll call tomorrow… Yes!! Merry Christmas to you!

(Softly; to herself)

I’m going to London.

(Loudly, to the entire world)

I’m going to London!

She exits at a run.

THE TELLER

Getting more complicated by the minute, isn’t it.

He points. Lights up on the sign – Only 19 more days till Christmas!

He rings the bell again. Daniel enters. The Teller, turning.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

(a plummy sophisticated” voice)

Good day! May I help you, sir?

DANIEL

No, I’m just… I’m looking.

THE TELLER

If I can be of service, let me know.

A moment. Daniel looking.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Those are watches.

DANIEL

Expensive watches.

THE TELLER

Most young people today don’t wear watches. They use their cell phones to tell time. They use their cell phones to do everything. Perhaps you’re interested in a cell phone? In which case you’ve come to the wrong place.

DANIEL

Actually I’d like to look at rings.

THE TELLER

Rings! In that case, you’ve come to the right place. Friendship rings, tongue rings, Superbowl rings? Or dare I guess… a diamond?

DANIEL

…yes.

THE TELLER

Excellent. Over here, please.

He leads Daniel to an imaginary case. Daniel looks. A moment.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Who’s the lucky girl?

DANIEL

Just… a girl. Can I look at that one?

THE TELLER

Ah, good choice.

He “gives” it to Daniel. Daniel “looking” at it.

DANIEL

She’s an actress.

THE TELLER

Is she?

DANIEL

She was offered a job this week.

ACTOR

(meaning it)

Good for her.

DANIEL

The Young Shakespeare Company. A ten month contract.

THE TELLER

She must be very talented.

DANIEL

She is.

(Then:)

It’s in London.

THE TELLER

Ah.

DANIEL

She wants to move to the most expensive city in the world to do a dead playwright no one’s interested in anymore.

THE TELLER

I rather like Shakespeare.

DANIEL

(the truth; sigh)

I do too.

(Handing the ring back)

May I see that one?

THE TELLER

Of course.

DANIEL

She didn’t know what to say at first.

THE TELLER

To your proposal?

DANIEL

To Young Shakespeare. It’s a big decision.

THE TELLER

As is marriage.

DANIEL

She said yes.

THE TELLER

To you?

DANIEL

To London.

THE TELLER

(Gesturing at the rings)

And yet, we’re….?

DANIEL

Hoping she might change her mind.

(Then:)

How much is this one?

THE TELLER

That is fourteen hundred and seventy eight dollars.

DANIEL

(a sigh)

Do you have anything smaller?

THE TELLER

How much smaller?

DANIEL

Much, much, much, much, much smaller.

THE TELLER

Let’s take a look in the case over there.

Daniel exits. The Teller turning to the audience to say –

THE TELLER (cont’d)

A ring, of course, is a circle. Medieval scholars considered it a symbol of God, who’s center is everywhere and who’s circumference is nowhere. A ring, no matter how small, symbolizes love and hope – the hope that love will take on the characteristics of the circle and capture all eternity.

He exits as Julie and Tracy enter, carrying Starbucks coffees. It’s cold out.

JULIE

So a cheap, round trip ticket to London’s, like, four hundred bucks. I might be able to do better, but –

TRACY

About that.

JULIE

Yeah.

TRACY

Unless you have advantage miles.

JULIE

I don’t. And a place to stay while I find a place to stay is… what do you think, a couple of hundred?

TRACY

At least.

JULIE

A week?

TRACY

A night.

JULIE

Ouch.

TRACY

And when you find a rental, even if it’s as a roommate, it’s going to be insanely expensive

JULIE

Tracy.

TRACY

These are the facts, Jules.

(a beat)

You giving up your apartment?

JULIA

Do you know how long it took me to find that apartment?

TRACY

So unless you can find a sub-let right away – – you’re going to have to cover your rent here…

JULIE

And that’s another eleven hundred a month. So just to make it through the first two weeks, I need, like, twenty-five hundred bucks.

TRACY

You plan on eating?

JULIE

Okay, twenty-five fifty.

(a sigh)

I hate facts.

(a beat)

I need another job.

TRACY

Julie, you’re already doing double shifts at the restaurant.

JULIE

I know. I just don’t want to give up on this. Not yet.

TRACY

What about Daniel?

JULIE

We… haven’t really talked about it much yet.

TRACY

Oh.

JULIA

Yeah.

TRACY

You probably should.

JULIE

We will. Eventually.

TRACY

He’s a good guy.

JULIA

He’s a great guy.

TRACY

So…?

JULIE

Tracy, all I can think about right now is I need another job.

TRACY

Come on. I might have something.

They exit. The Teller enters. He has a pad of paper and a pencil in hand and is focused on it. He looks up, sees the audience.

THE TELLER

Have you ever stopped to consider that the physics of Santa Claus and his gift giving don’t work?

He begins scratching out the equations on his pad.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Let’s say there are oh, seven billion people in the world. Number of children who believe in Santa Claus – 2 billion. Number of destinations, say 189 million. Assuming children sleep, on least on Christmas, 7 hours a night, Santa has approximately 31 hours to make all his deliveries. This works out to about 1,598 houses a second which means he has 615 microseconds to stop a sleigh which is going a little under a thousand miles a second, land it on a roof the size of a postage stamp, get down a chimney, distribute presents, get back up again and move on. This is not even taking into effect that if the average toy weights 2 pounds, the sleigh is carrying about four billions pounds of cargo and the load occupies about 100 million cubic feet. How is this possible?

He holds up the pad, showing the audience his calculations.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

It isn’t. Obviously there is no Santa Claus. Or is there? Perhaps there are some things in this world, like the spirit of Christmas, like the laughter of children, like Santa Claus, that can’t be explained but are undeniably true.

He rips the sheet of paper off the pad and crumples it up.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

I think so.

He exits. Tracy entering behind him –

TRACY

Here! Here is perfect. I want it here. Sebastian, here!

Sebastian enters. He is carrying a bizarre looking wire sculpture that looks like an old television antennae with lights on it.

SEBASTIAN

Here?

TRACY

Right here.

SEBASTIAN

Not there?

TRACY

Here.

SEBASTIAN

And not over there because it was there two minutes ago before you asked me to move to there which is where it was before here.

TRACY

Here it will stay.

Sebastian puts it down.

SEBASTIAN

There.

TRACY

It’s not right.

SEBASTIAN

Tracy!

TRACY

What?

Daniel enters.

DANIEL

Well, that’s unusual.

SEBASTIAN

Daniel! Thank God. Tell her it looks great where it is.

TRACY

Daniel, no. Tell us what you think.

DANIEL

What is it?

SEBASTIAN

It’s a Herman Henry Vitz.

DANIEL

A what?

SEBASTIAN/TRACY

A Herman Henry Vitz!

SEBASTIAN

He calls it Death of a Galaxy –

TRACY

But we –

SEBASTIAN

– you –

TRACY

– we – think it looks like a Christmas tree.

DANIEL

It’s… very interesting.

TRACY

See? He totally gets it. Let’s try it over there.

Tracy and Sebastian start to exit.

DANIEL

Wait – Julie left me a message, said she was here?

TRACY

Yes! She’s been in back all day, going over our books.

DANIEL

Books, what books?

SEBASTIAN

She’s good with math, dude. Least better than I am. Oh – and the London gig sounds great!

They exit. Julie enters carrying a ledger.

JULIE

Hey!

DANIEL

(turning)

Oh! Hey!

(The ledger)

You’re… doing stuff.

JULIE

Trying to. Their accountant should be shot or deported.

DANIEL

That would be Sebastian. I didn’t know you did this.

JULIA

I don’t. But it’s pretty easy with a calculator and Quickbooks. And they’re paying me twenty bucks an hour to learn.

DANIEL

Wow.

JULIA

Oh! And I was talking to the manager at the restaurant? They’re going to give me some more shifts. I just might be able to swing this, Daniel!

She exits – passing Sebastian

SEBASTIAN

Whew. Thank God that’s over.

DANIEL

What are you, crazy?

SEBASTIAN

Huh? What’d I do?

DANIEL

You gave Julie a job!

SEBASTIAN

Tracy did. She needs one. And we need someone who can straighten out my books.

DANIEL

She wants to go to London, Sebastian! I want to marry her, not kiss her goodbye!

SEBASTIAN

Oh…. yeah.

DANIEL

Yeah – oh.

SEBASTIAN

Uh, Daniel – don’t take this wrong but – if it’s that serious between you two, her going to London is not saying goodbye to anything. And if it is, well, it’s not that serious. Is it?

Daniel is silent.

SEBASTIAN (cont’d)

You could always go with her, dude.

DANIEL

Oh, right. Last time I checked I had a job.

SEBASTIAN

Some job.

DANIEL

I also have my father to think about.

SEBASTIAN

Some father.

DANIEL

Hey, look, I found him on the floor last week, so don’t tell me what I can do and what I can’t do, all right?

SEBASTIAN

So what do you want me to do?

DANIEL

Just – don’t give her too many hours. And if you hear of any other part time jobs, I’m looking.

They exit in opposite. The Teller enters to watch them go.

THE TELLER

And now, guess what? Daniel’s boss – the commercial director of the flaming hairspray – is throwing a very elaborate Christmas party. And you are invited!

He turns – rings his bell – ding-ding!

The sign lights up – ONLY 18 DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS!!

He rings it again. Lightchange!! The song, Jingle Bells Rock begins to play.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Everybody!

He leads them in a little Jingle Bell Rock, even dances a bit, as Julie and Daniel enter. Julie is wearing a cocktail dress. Daniel is wearing a sportsjacket. They both look uncomfortable.

DANIEL

It’s not Thanksgiving, is it?

JULIE

I liked Thanksgiving a whole lot better.

DANIEL

How about we just eat some food and then leave.

JULIE

I think that’s a great idea.

DANIEL

I’ll go get us something.

Daniel moves away. Julie sipping her champagne, looking around.

ANDRE STURGIS – the actor playing Sebastian – enters. Leather jacket, wire rimmed sun glasses. He has a slight eastern European accent. EVA – the actress playing Tracy – is a model – short cocktail dress; long platinum blonde hair.

ANDRE

‘ello, Julie.

Julie turns – and stares in surprise.

JULIE

Andre… what are you doing here?

ANDRE

I suppose, like you, I am invited?

JULIE

I didn’t know you were in New York.

ANDRE

Since November. I am shooting a movie.

(Then:)

This I think is Eva.

JULIE

Hi.

EVA

(Russian accent)

Dis party is so borink.

ANDRES

Wait. Remedy! I am – yes – how do you say it? – packing –

Andre reaches into his pocket and pulls out –

ANDRES (cont’d)

Mistletov.

He holds it over Julie’s head and kisses her – just as Daniel returns now with a plate. He stops in surprise –

JULIE

Don’t.

Eva giggles. Daniel moving forward now.

DANIEL

Here we go. Coconut shrimp, caviar puffs and – either very new pate or very old cheese.

(To Andre and Eva)

Hi.

JULIE

Uh – Daniel, this is Andre Sturgis and…?

EVA

Eva.

JULIE

This is my friend, Daniel.

Andre nods. Eva is no longer paying attention.

DANIEL

Andre Sturgis. The director? I like your work.

ANDRE

Thank you, I do too. And you, you are what?

DANIEL

I’m an assistant go-fer to the host.

JULIE

Daniel’s a photographer. A very fine one.

ANDRE

Really? Most excellent. We must compare eyes sometime.

EVA

Andre. I am very bored. Excite me.

ANDRE

Yes. We must mingle. Julie, we see one another while I am here, yes? We catch up.

JULIE

All right.

ANDRE

I will have someone call. Merry Christmas to both you – what was it? – Ed?

DANIEL

Dan. You too.

Andre and Eva exit.

DANIEL (cont’d)

How do you know him?

JULIE

He was conducting a workshop I was in when I first moved to the city. And then he left and the next thing – pow.

DANIEL

How is it he has your phone number?

JULIE

He was my boyfriend.

Daniel seemingly really engrossed in the food on his plate.

DANIEL

You know, actually I hate his movies. But these shrimp are great.

JULIE

Can we please go now?

DANIEL

Julie. I don’t want you to go to London.

JULIE

… what?

DANIEL

I don’t want you to go. And I don’t understand why you’d want to go without me.

JULIE

You should.

DANIEL

Well, I don’t.

JULIE

Than I think… we have a problem here.

DANIEL

Yeah… I think we do.

They exit in opposite directions. The Teller enters.

THE TELLER

Intermission. Go have a cup of Christmas cheer. On me! See you ten.

Lights to black.

Act II

The Teller enters. He is wearing a Salvation Army jacket and hat, blowing/bleating loudly on a bugle and carrying a red donation pot.

He looks at the audience. He holds out the pot.

THE TELLER

Donations for families in need?

(a beat)

Christmas dinners, clothing and toys for the poor?

(a beat)

Anybody?

Daniel enters and crossing, puts money in the Teller’s pot.

DANIEL

Merry Christmas.

THE TELLER

Thank you.

As he exits, Tracy enters and does the same.

TRACY

Happy Hanukkah.

THE TELLER

And to you!

And then Sebastian –

SEBASTIAN

Feliz Navidad, dude.

THE TELLER

Muchas gracias! Dude!

And finally Julie –

JULIE

Happy holidays!

THE TELLER

Peace be with you.

And then, to the audience:

THE TELLER (cont’d)

It’s funny, how people who can’t really afford it come through the most. And the people who can, well… keep that in mind the next time you pass someone in need. So. Where were we? Oh, yes —

And he turns and looks up. The sign lights up – ONLY 11 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT TILL CHRISTMAS!!!

Daniel enters. He is wearing the hat and jacket of an elf. He has a round rubber ball on the end of his nose. He stands, looking mortified.

DANIEL

Well? What do you think?

Sebastian and Tracy enter.

SEBASTIAN

I think whatever they’re paying you to do this is not enough.

TRACY

I think you’re adorable.

SEBASTIAN

He looks like a house pet.

TRACY

He does not.

SEBASTIAN

One of those Chihuahuas with the little harlequin bells around their neck and they go jingle-jingle whenever they tinkle-tinkle.

TRACY

Sebastian! Has Julie seen you?

DANIEL

…no.

Silence. Daniel and Sebastian glancing at one another.

TRACY

Is something going on?

DANIEL/SEBASTIAN

No./Yes.

(a beat)

Yes./No.

TRACY

What’s going on, guys?

SEBASTIAN

He and Julie are having a lover’s quarrel.

TRACY

Daniel?

DANIEL

More a failure to communicate.

TRACY

I hope you’re not going to this one for advice.

DANIEL/SEBASTIAN

No./Yes.

TRACY

Daniel.

DANIEL

Tracy, she’s going to London and I don’t want her to.

TRACY

Daniel, she’s not going anywhere. She should but she can’t afford it, no matter how hard she works. So do your Elf thing and make some money and get her a really nice gift that shows her you love her. Because she’s going to need that.

(To Sebastian)

And you stop giving people advice. And I don’t want hockey tickets for Christmas!

She exits.

SEBASTIAN

You’re not still thinking about a ring, are you?

DANIEL

Yes.

SEBASTIAN

Daniel –

DANIEL

She might say yes, Sebastian.

SEBASTIAN

But she might say no.

DANIEL

Than I’ll know where I stand.

SEBASTIAN

How much is this elf gig actually paying you?

DANIEL

Twelve an hour.

SEBASTIAN

Okay, come on –

He takes the elf nose off Daniel’s nose and drops it on the stage.

SEBASTIAN (cont’d)

– we can do better than that.

As they exit, the Teller enters. He picks up the elf nose and puts it on his own nose.

THE TELLER

Do you believe in elves? I do. They like to laugh and play, tell jokes – and above all, they take delight in the making of beautiful things. Of course, one always has to be careful that an elf doesn’t become Goblinish. Elves are generous by nature. Their joy is in the giving and sharing of what they create. But when an elf becomes Goblinish, greed enters the equation. His mind turns from creating to acquiring; even keeping what others have created. Sometimes an elf will go off the deep end completely and become – yes – dragonish. A dragonish elf is a terrible thing. He lives, terrified that what he considers his and his alone, will be taken from him. I’m sorry to say there are dragons in the world. We know who they are.

(Taking off the nose)

All too often, they are us.

Ding-a-ling-ling! He points at the sign. Only 6 days till Christmas. He exits. Daniel and Julie enter from opposite sides of the stage.

DANIEL

Christmas trees! We have fresh beautiful Christmas trees!

JULIE

Yes, sir, may I take your order.

THE TELLER

(stage right; to Julie)

You may.

(stage left; to Daniel)

Do you deliver?

DANIEL

I’m afraid we don’t. But I can do it when I get off?

JULIA

Anything else, sir?

THE TELLER

Just the bill, please.

(To Daniel)

That’d be fine.

DANIEL

Do you want to pick one out?

THE TELLER

Why don’t you do it for me? A nice six footer. Here’s there address and…

(to Julie)

– keep the change.

DANIEL

…sir, this is…

JULIE

A fifty dollar tip.

DANIEL

Really, sir, I can’t –

JULIE

I can’t take this.

THE TELLER

(to Julie)

Of course you can.

(To Daniel)

Buy something special…

(to the audience)

For a certain someone.

JULIA

Thank you. Thank you very much.

THE TELLER

You’re welcome very much.

She exits.

DANIEL

I’ll get it over soon as I can. It’s going to be a great tree!

He exits at a run.

THE TELLER

I’m sure it will be!

(To audience)

Oh! Did I mention that in Iceland, they have 13 names for Santa Claus. The least offensive of which translate as cheese-curdler, bowl-licker and cask-sucker. Iceland.

He snaps his fingers.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

A restaurant, please.

The sound of clinking plates; the buzz of the restaurant. He exits. Julie enters and moves to a “Service bar”.

JULIE

Two diet cokes, a carafe of house white and a bottle of the Pelligrino, Jimmy.

Julie takes out a cell phone and dials.

JULIE (cont’d)

Daniel, answer the phone. Daniel…

She disconnects. Andre Sturgis enters.

ANDRE

‘ello again, Julie.

JULIA

(turning; surprised)

Andre? What are you doing here?

ANDRE

I was in neighborhood. I thought I’d see if you still work here.

JULIE

Still here. Lucky me. Look, I’m really busy.

ANDRE

You are so angry with me, aren’t you.

JULIE

No. That would assume I think of you which I don’t.

ANDRE

Liar. I didn’t handle things well. I admit it. But things were happening fast. I didn’t know what to say to you.

JULIE

What do you say to Eva?

ANDRE

She is nothing.

JULIE

Everyone is somebody, Andre.

ANDRE

What about your go-for. Is he somebody?

JULIE

Yes, he’s somebody. Unlike somebody else, he happens to be a wonderful guy.

ANDRE

This “somebody else” who is maybe not so wonderful, wants to make up to you. I have contacts, I know important people. You want a part in my movie? Done. You need money? I write check. You don’t even have to pay me back.

JULIE

As easy as that, huh?

ANDRE

Of course.

Daniel enters – stops – just in time to hear:

ANDRE (cont’d)

I have missed you, Julie. I want you, me together again as before.

JULIE

I wanted to hear that from you for so long.

Andre moves to Julie and takes her in his arms.

JULIE (cont’d)

(to soft for Daniel to hear)

And now that I’ve heard it, I can’t believe I wasted even a second thinking about it.

Andre steps back. He sees Daniel. He smiles.

ANDRES

Danny-boy, hey! No worry, I just stealing your girl friend, man!

Julie turns – and sees Daniel.

JULIE

Daniel, no —

Daniel quickly exits –

JULIA

Daniel!

(Turning to Andre)

How could you?

Andre exits. Julie sags. And then she exits. The Teller enters to watch her go. He turns to the audience.

THE TELLER

Coal in the stocking for him.

The Teller raises a scary mask and holds it in front of his face.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

Fact. Seven out of ten children prefer Halloween to Christmas.

He lowers the mask.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

It’s true. They find Christmas less fun than a pumpkin. The problem is there are too many holidays in general. Christmas begets New Years which begets Valentines Day which begets Easter which begets Mothers Day which begets – the list goes on and on. And poor Christmas – these days it starts around the second week of November and carries through till the second of January. By the end of it, most parents are ready to eat their children and the children know it. Halloween is only one evening a year and if you don’t like it, you can turn off your lights and draw your curtains. It’s an unfair advantage.

He points. Only three more shopping days till Christmas

He exits. Lightchange. Julie enters and stands, lost in somber thought. Sebastian entering to hand her a check.

SEBASTIAN

Here. Just don’t try and cash it for a week, okay?

(a moment)

Hey, come on, cheer up, it’s Christmas.

JULIE

He won’t talk to me, Sebastian. He doesn’t answer the phone. I leave messages. He doesn’t call back. I go to his apartment, he’s never there. It’s like he doesn’t want to believe me.

SEBASTIAN

He believes you, Jules.

JULIE

You’ve talked to him?

He nods.

JULIE (cont’d)

Than why?

SEBASTIAN

He’s cutting his losses. He thinks you’re going to leave – for London, for jobs, guys like “Ondre” –and you’re not going to come back.

JULIE

Sebastian, you can’t predict the future.

SEBASTIAN

Julie, don’t you know by now there’s no bigger idiot thing than a guy in love. We’re embarrassing.

JULIE

I need to talk to him.

SEBASTIAN

…all right. I think I know where he is.

He exits. Lightchange.

Julie turns, a slip of paper in hand. It’s as if she is looking for an address.

The Teller, in overcoat and carrying a grocery bag, enters. He is now:

PHILIP MOORE

You! You there! May I help you?

JULIE

Is this… 237 Gramercy Place?

PHILIP MOORE

Yes. Are you looking for someone?

JULIE

Daniel Moore.

PHILIP MOORE

And you are?

JULIE

Julie.

PHILIP MOORE

Ah, yes. The “actress”.

JULIE

Ah. You must be Daniel’s father.

PHILIP MOORE

How do you know that?

JULIE

(dryly)

He’s “mentioned” you.

PHILIP MOORE

Daniel’s not here.

JULIE

You wouldn’t know where he is, would you?

PHILIP MOORE

We haven’t spoken in quite awhile.

JULIA

Makes two of us. Nice to meet you.

She starts to turn away.

PHILIP MOORE

Wait. Would you, uh… like to come in? For a cup of tea?

JULIE

… all right.

Lightchange. Julie spins, looking around as if at the interior of the house. The Teller taking off his coat as:

JULIE (cont’d)

I didn’t know.

PHILIP MOORE

Know what?

JULIE

That Daniel was rich.

PHILIP MOORE

Hardly rich. We’re well to do. Daniel has never asked me for a penny and I respect him for it.

JULIE

Have you ever offered?

PHILIP MOORE

(a beat)

I take it you and Daniel had a disagreement.

JULIE

How’d you know that?

PHILIP MOORE

Your face is hardly a mask.

JULIE

More like a misunderstanding.

PHILIP MOORE

Mmm. Tell me, how did you get this address?

JULIA

Daniel’s friend Sebastian gave it to me.

PHILIP MOORE

Ah, yes, the “art” salesman.

JULIA

He’s a gallery owner. He’s going to be very successful one day.

PHILIP MOORE

(sarcastic)

I’m sure “all of you” are.

JULIE

Why are you so disappointed in people?

PHILIP MOORE

Who ever said I was?

JULIE

Daniel. He says you wanted him to be a banker. Like you. Like his brother.

PHILIP MOORE

Hardly. He can be anything he wants. I just don’t want him wasting his life.

JULIE

Is that what he’s doing?

PHILIP MOORE

Don’t you think so?

JULIE

I think he hesitates to be what he wants to be.

PHILIP MOORE

Which is?

JULIE

A photographer. An artist.

PHILIP MOORE

He’s never mentioned it.

JULIE

Have you ever asked? You don’t know a thing about him, do you. All you know is he’s not like you.

PHILIP MOORE

You are a very rude young woman.

JULIE

No, I’m a very honest young woman who happens to be…

(the sudden euphoric realization)

….who happens to be very much in love with your son.

(Then; in a rush:)

Daniel’s doesn’t tell you anything about himself because he thinks you won’t approve. And he cares what you think. He wants your approval. And by the way, he takes silly jobs so he can have time to take care of you and if you ever gave him the least bit of encouragement, there’s no telling what he could be.

PHILIP MOORE

Tell me something, if you’re so supportive of Daniel why would you choose to leave him?

JULIE

Because he’s the one who’s encouraged me. He made me believe in myself and think I could be what I wanted to be. And I took him at his word.

(Then:)

Tell him I came by?

PHILIP MOORE

Of course.

Julie turns away. She turns back.

JULIE

Tell him tomorrow night – Christmas Eve! I’ll be at his place. Tell him he promised.

PHILIP MOORE

I’ll tell him.

She exits. Philip ponders a moment. Behind him Daniel enters; he looks like he wants to bust with happiness.

PHILIP MOORE (cont’d)

Were you listening?

DANIEL

Yes.

PHILIP MOORE

Is it true, what she said?

DANIEL

She loves me.

PHILIP MOORE

About us, Daniel.

DANIEL

Yes.

PHILIP MOORE

How sad. That I should accuse anyone of wasting their life, when I so often question what I’ve done with my own.

(Then:)

Tomorrow evening. Christmas Eve. Your place.

DANIEL

(smiling)

I heard.

He quickly exits.

THE TELLER

(to the audience)

We’ll go quickly now.

He exits. Daniel, in overcoat, enters at a run –

DANIEL

Sebastian! Tracy!! Sebastian!

Tracy and Sebastian enter.

TRACY

Look what the cat dragged in.

SEBASTIAN

Where you been, dude?

DANIEL

Being an idiot. How’s Julie doing on this London thing?

SEBASTIAN

She’s not gonna get there on what we’re paying her.

TRACY

Not unless a miracle happens.

DANIEL

Good.

He turns away as:

DANIEL (cont’d)

Tell Julie tonight! My place! I’ll be there! Tell her!

He exits. Tracy and Sebastian look at one another. Both exiting as The Teller enters –

THE TELLER

And now –

He puts on the yarmulke as Julie enters. Julie wears a winter coat; her hair is beneath a woolen cap.

JULIE

(getting his attention)

Saul? Saul, remember me?

The Teller as:

SAUL ROSEN

Daniel’s beautiful girl – how could I forget? What can I do you for today? How about a television? Digital, wide-screen – you’ll hate yourself, this isn’t under the tree.

JULIE

Would your wife still want to buy my hair?

SAUL ROSEN

My wife wouldn’t know what do with it. But her niece? You’re serious?

JULIE

Yes. But it has to be today.

SAUL ROSEN

We’ll call. We find out.

They exit. But not before:

THE TELLER

(taking off the yarmulke)

And now, just as you suspected…

He exits. Larry enters with a cup of take-out coffee.

DANIEL (O.S.)

Larry!!

Daniel entering –

DANIEL (cont’d)

Larry! I was just coming to see you!

LARRY

Danny, hey. What’s happening?

DANIEL

You still want to buy my camera?

LARRY

Huh? Yeah, sure.

DANIEL

Right now? Twenty-five hundred cash?

LARRY

Absolutely. Walk with me to the bank. You still want the Nikon!

DANIEL

Uh-uh. Just the money.

They exit. The Teller now enters with a simple chair.

THE TELLER

That –

(gesturing after Daniel and Larry)

– is certainly enough to buy a ring. And this –

(putting down the chair)

– will take her to London.

(Then:)

Only eight hours now till Christmas.

A quick ring of his bell and he exits. Julie entering; looking around –

JULIE

…hello?

The actress playing Tracy enters. She is –

JULIE (cont’d)

Mrs. Herschfeld?

EDNA HERSCHFELD

You must be Julie.

JULIE

Yes.

EDNA HERSCHFELD

May I see your hair, please?

Julie takes off her woolen cap. Her hair falls to her shoulders.

EDNA HERSCHFELD (cont’d)

It’s lovely. This will a young bride very happy.

JULIE

How much for it?

Edna Herschfeld writes down a number on a slip of paper; hands it to Julie.

JULIE (cont’d)

I was hoping for a little more.

EDNA HERSCHFELD

Sweetheart, it’s the best I can do.

Julie hesitates nods. Edna Herschfeld moves to the chair,

EDNA HERSCHFELD (cont’d)

Sit.

Julie sits in the chair. Edna Herschfeld takes out scissors.

EDNA HERSCHFELD (cont’d)

So what is it?

JULIE

Sorry?

EDNA HERSCHFELD

The thing you want so much that you should do this.

JULIE

… a gift.

As the lights fade to black, Edna begins to cut.

We hear the sound of carolers. They are singing The Twelve Days of Christmas and are on the eighth day.

Lights up on:

THE TELLER

The voices of Christmas. Ever since the winter night when angels sang of the coming of a Savior, the holidays have been accompanied by carols. This one? About a series of increasingly silly gifts given on each of twelve days, ultimately leaving the singer with drummers, pipers, lords, ladies, milkmaids, rings and a flock of assorted birds and various barnyard fowl. And a one, and a two –

The Teller leads the audience in a round or two of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Until, cutting them off:

THE TELLER (cont’d)

All right, enough of that.

The carolers now softly begin to hum I’m Dreaming of White Christmas. It continues as:

THE TELLER (cont’d)

(looking up)

It’s snowing.

He savors it a moment. He moves to the side of the stage and brings out a small, decorated Christmas tree. He places it center stage.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

There.

Lightchange. Daniel’s apartment. Pooled light on the perimeter of the playing space again suggest his photographs. Julie and Daniel enter from opposite sides of the stage. Julie, in coat and wool cap.

JULIE

Hi.

DANIEL

Hi.

(Then:)

Take off your coat, stay awhile.

JULIE

Love to.

A moment.

JULIE (cont’d)

I like your tree.

DANIEL

I got a good deal on it.

A moment.

DANIEL (cont’d)

There’s something there for you. In the branches.

She looks at him a moment. She moves to the tree, takes the envelope.

JULIE

Daniel.

DANIEL

Open it.

She opens it and removes –

JULIE

An airline ticket?

DANIEL

To London. Coach, but round trip.

(a moment)

Merry Christmas, Julie.

JULIE

I thought you didn’t want me to go.

DANIEL

I don’t. I’m gonna miss you like crazy. But this is something you should do. And if I can, I want to be the one who helps you do it.

They move into one another’s arms. Daniel’s hand goes to the base Julie’s neck and he freezes, realizing. Daniel reaches up and takes off her wool hat. Julie’s hair is now cut short.

DANIEL (cont’d)

…whoa.

JULIE

It’s horrible, isn’t it.

DANIEL

No! It’s just — gonna take a little getting used to. I already like it. What happened?

JULIE

I sold it.

DANIEL

Your hair?

JULIE

Your friend Saul’s sister in law bought it for two thousand dollars.

DANIEL

That’s… not bad.

JULIE

I hate it.

DANIEL

Then why?

JULIE

I wanted to go to London.

DANIEL

You mean – you already bought a ticket?

JULIE

No. I bought this instead.

Julie picks up her bag – takes a gift wrapped box from it. She turns back and offers it to Daniel.

JULIE (cont’d)

Merry Christmas, Daniel.

He hesitates – he opens it. It’s the lens from the camera shop.

JULIE (cont’d)

You’re a photographer. Not an assistant go-pher to anyone.

A moment. Daniel laughs.

DANIEL

This is… pretty amazing. And really sort of funny in a way. Considering.

JULIE

Considering what?

DANIEL

I sold my camera.

JULIE

What?

DANIEL

To buy your plane ticket.

(Gesturing at it.)

In fact, there’s some left over. It should get you through the first couple of weeks.

JULIE

Absolutely not! You’ve got to get that camera back.

DANIEL

Julie, no, I want you to do this.

JULIE

No!

The Teller enters as –

DANIEL

Hey, I’m not giving you a hard time about the hair.

JULIE

My hair will grow! You can’t replace your camera.

The Teller clears his throat. They both turn. The Teller is –

DANIEL

Dad.

PHILIP MOORE

I don’t mean to interrupt. The door was open. May I come in?

DANIEL

Yeah. Please.

PHILIP MOORE

So this is where you live.

DANIEL

Yeah.

PHILIP MOORE

It’s…. small. But not unpleasant. Hello, Julie.

JULIE

Hi.

(To Daniel)

We’ve met.

DANIEL

I know.

JULIE

Huh?

DANIEL

Tell you later.

PHILIP MOORE

(looking at Julie’s hair)

Something’s different. But very becoming.

Philip turns now to stare. At photographs.

PHILIP MOORE (cont’d)

What I really wanted to see were these. These photographs.

(a moment)

All yours?

DANIEL

Yes.

PHILIP MOORE

You know your mother was quite the photographer.

(Then:)

That one’s excellent.

(Then: another)

As is that one.

(And then; another)

And this one. Especially this one.

JULIE

Is that…?

DANIEL

My mother.

PHILIP MOORE

It’s very good indeed. She was a marvelous woman, Daniel. You remind me of her. Very much. And sometimes that’s very hard.

(Then:)

Well. Not only am I late, I’m undoubtably keeping you from your dinner. I just wanted to drop off a small Christmas present. This is for you, Daniel.

He hands Daniel a small velvet jewelry case.

DANIEL

Is this what I think it is?

PHILIP MOORE

I trust you’ll cherish it and when the time comes, use it accordingly.

DANIEL

I will.

PHILIP MOORE

Daniel, I was wondering. Would you allow me to buy one of your photographs?

DANIEL

Dad. You don’t have to buy anything.

PHILIP MOORE

No, I insist. I have a feeling they’re going to be worth a great deal some day. This one of your mother, for example. This one is quite priceless. But hopefully you’ll consider this compensation enough.

Reaching into his pocket again, he hands Daniel a check.

PHILIP MOORE (cont’d)

It might even take you as far as London.

Daniel looks at it. He shows it to Julie. Her eyes widen.

DANIEL

Sold.

Daniel hugs Philip – hard. Philip hesitates, then hugs back.

PHILIP MOORE

And now I really must be going.

JULIE

(nudging him)

Daniel.

DANIEL

Oh – Dad – do you want to stay? For dinner.

PHILIP MOORE

Thank you, no. I have a car outside waiting to take me to Cape Cod. I’ve been invited to your brother’s house. Again. Those children, my God. But I’ll try to do better this time. Merry Christmas, Daniel.

DANIEL

Merry Christmas, Dad.

PHILIP MOORE

Julie.

JULIE

“Dad”.

He exits. A moment.

JULIE (cont’d)

Daniel? Are you all right?

DANIEL

Hmmm? Yeah. Never better.

(Then:)

I – I, uhm —

JULIE

What. Daniel, what?

DANIEL

I love you, Julie.

JULIE

I love you too.

(Suddenly)

Oh, my gosh. I just got goosebumps. My audition, Daniel. Gift of the Magi. Two children who sacrificed the greatest treasures of their house. For each other.

DANIEL

That is so cool.

They’re about to kiss – and suddenly Sebastian and Tracy enter.

SEBASTIAN

Hey! Thought you’d be here – whoops!

TRACY

Get a hotel room, you two!

DANIEL

Does anybody knock these days?

SEBASTIAN

Not if you don’t close your door.

TRACY

I see wrapping paper.

JULIE

Don’t even go there. That gift’s being exchanged!

SEBASTIAN

Come on! We’re all going out for dinner! On us! We’re rich!

TRACY

We sold the Vitz!

JULIE

The what?

SEBASTIAN

The Herman Henry Vitz! The painting we used as a Thanksgiving table!

TRACY

A collector came in – he loved it.

SEBASTIAN

And guess who the artist’s exclusive agent is!

SEBASTIAN/TRACY

Us!

SEBASTIAN

Let’s hit the snowy streets, sports fans!

They pull on coats; exit, all talking at once.

DANIEL

Okay, but dinner’s on me!

TRACY

Daniel, you can’t afford soup.

DANIEL

Hey, you’re not the only one who sold some work.

SEBASTIAN

Did you do something to your hair?

JULIE

No, it’s been like this forever. Duh.

DANIEL

Hey, what’d you two give each other?

TRACY

(rolling here eyes)

Hockey tickets.

SEBASTIAN

She loves hockey!

They exit, laughing and talking. The Teller enters.

THE TELLER

December the 24th. Christmas Eve. The sleigh is now loaded. Its brash is polished, its leather shined. Departure is near. Wouldn’t be nice to believe it? Really believe it. But in this modern world that views generosity of spirit as a corporate slogan; in this world where commerce take precedence over charity and profit is more important than people, it has become far too easy to feel that the giving and receiving of a simple Christmas gift is pedestrian — that Christmas is a chore rather than a blessing. It wasn’t always like this. In the beginning, Christmas was a candle lit against the gathering darkness. There were monsters in the world and as the days grew shorter and colder, one could hear their cries. The gathering together was a way of reaffirming hope in the face of that darkness. A way of saying, if we hold hands, the light will come. Well, there are still monsters in this world – dragons, yes. And it is too easy to feel helpless in the face of their fiery breath. In a world where we know too much and believe too little, the ability to pretend that even for a day there is such a thing as Christmas has never been needed more.

Twinkling lights dot the ceiling.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

It’s time now! Time to take reigns in hand, time to fly! It’s clear tonight. I see stars. They are as beautiful as the eyes of God.

He looks up at the sign. He frowns. He rings his bell. The sign begins to blink –

MERRY CHRISTMAS – MERRY CHRISTMAS – MERRY CHRISTMAS – !

THE TELLER (cont’d)

There. And as to our young lovers – in a last word, let it be said that of all who give gifts, they were the wisest.

(Then:)

Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good night.

He turns. He calls back.

THE TELLER (cont’d)

And Happy New Year!

He exits. Lights to black.