Best Christmas Ever, The by Kelly, James Patrick, 2004

Best Christmas Ever, The by Kelly, James Patrick

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The Best Christmas Ever is a short story of novelette length about what appears to be a post apocalyptic landscape. In it, a man named Albert "Bertie" Paul Hopkins is the last male on Earth. There is a female, "Ellen," who seems to be pretty nuts, and together they are the anti Adam and Eve. It is most likely that humanity has died from some plague, or perhaps from the effects of a biological war. All of buildings are still standing, but there are no other people, and all of the plants have died. Mankind's successors to the planet are artificially intelligent robots called "biops." They are smart and can assume a wide variety of shapes. In fact Bertie has been provided a girlfriend biop who can shape change into any fantasy he desires. Unfortunately the only things that Bertie is interested in is drinking and avoiding bathing. Oh, and he wants a Glock 9mm for Christmas, but Aunty Em does not know quite what to make of that.

Bertie is depressed, and no matter what the biops try, he will not shake his funk. The sole reason that this group of biops exists, including the girlfriend, Kathy, Aunty Em, the master of the household, the "pal biops," who are a couple of silent clods, and a biop dog and cat, is to keep Bertie happy and alive. Aunty Em decides that Bertie could use a Christmas, and even though they just had one a few months ago, she arranges to have another. She calls the biops at Wal Mart so that Bertie can get into the season by going shopping, then commissions a sled to take them to the suburbs. Unfortunately they are a pretty inept bunch, and often try to comfort the man with overkill.

Four ewes had gathered at the river's edge to drink, their stumpy tails twitching. They were big animals; their long, tawny fleeces made them look like walking couches. A brown man on a dromedary camel watched over them. He was wearing a satin robe with gold trim at the neck. When Aunty Em beamed him the signal, he tapped the line attached to the camel's nose peg and the animal turned to face the road.

"One of the wise men," said Aunty Em.

"The king of the shepherds," said the girlfriend.

As the sleigh drove by, the wise man tipped his crown to them. The sheep looked up from the river and bleated: Happy holidays."

"They're so cute," said the girlfriend. "I wish we had sheep."

The man signed, "I could use a drink."

While at Wal Mart Bertie and his group run into Ellen and hers. Ellen is about ready to kill herself out of loneliness, and the man feels for her and tries to comfort her. it does not seem to work, but just before the two part ways Ellen says something that suggests that like the biops, she is just playing a part too. "Ssh. It's okay." The woman hugged him. "Just pretend. That's all we can do, isn't it?" she says to Bertie when he hugged her to calm her down after she completely lost her cool and started ranting at the biops. And that apparently was what Bertie needed to hear. When he got back home he started to play his expected role by getting into the party and accepting the good cheer that the biops were trying to spread.

This is a relatively new story, but I have taken to reading it around the holidays for the last few years. I think I need it. I am not yet old enough to be called a "curmudgeon," nor am I a Grinch. But I do not enjoy the family gatherings at the holidays the way that the rest of my family seems to. And what I usually need to hear to get me into the holiday frame of mind is "can't you just pretend?" I have noticed that when I do pretend, things go just fine.

Copyright 2008, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 4 star(s)


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