Graded on a Curve:
Bob Dylan,
Christmas in the Heart

Well, the Holiday Season is upon and soon it will be Christmas Eve, that magical time when families gather together and go for the throat. Uncle Bob will overdo it on the eggnog and topple into the Christmas tree, while ancestral family grudges will explode into bitter recombinations and shouting matches. Your sister and her boyfriend will sneak upstairs to the coats heaped on mom and dad’s bed, while the little ones will stop their shrieking and fighting just long to upload videos of a passed-out Uncle Bob, face draped in blinking Christmas lights, to YouTube. The only bright spot is your 12-year-old nephew Timmy won’t unwrap his bb gun until the next morning.

But what to play amidst the chaos? Aunts Gladys and Sue bicker over the respective merits of the Michaels Bolton and Bublé, dad clamors for Brad Paisley, while Timmy petitions for Afroman’s A Colt 45 Christmas because it’s one long pussy joke. In short it’s a free-for-all, during which some unknown somebody–perhaps the Spirit of Christmas himself–slips Bob Dylan’s 2009 Christmas in the Heart on the stereo.

And at the first strains of “Here Comes Santa Claus” everything stops. The bickering ceases, long-harbored grudges are forgotten, the kids stop running and shrieking, and Uncle Bob sits up, still wrapped in Christmas lights. It’s as if the Prince of Peace has walked into the room. A silent night has, unthinkable as it is, come to pass, because for the first time in decades everyone agrees about something.

“What is that horrible croaking noise?” asks Aunt Gladys.

“Sounds like a frog with throat cancer,” says Mom.

“Or a guy being strangled with piano wire,” says Grandma.

“Reminds me of a fella I knew in the Army, took a bullet to the neck at Chosin,” says Grandad. “He sounded just like that. Before the mortar shell blew him to smithereens.”

“Well, take away the awful singing, and the music’s lovely,” says Mom. “Very traditional.”

“Strings, bells, rump a pum pum, the whole nine yards,” says Grandma.

“Battle of Chosin,” repeats Grandpa, lost in a revery of the Korean War. “Bullet caught him right in the Adam’s apple. They was carrying him off on a stretcher when the mortar hit.”

““Who’s singing, anyway?” asks Mom

“Album cover says it’s some fella named Bob Dylan,” says Grandpa.

“Isn’t he that folk singer who sang ‘Blowing in the Wind?’” asks Grandma..

“He blows alright,” says Timmy. “I wanna hear A Colt 45 Christmas.

“I had a Colt 45 once,” says Grandpa. “Shot a Korean fella with it on Pork Chop Hill.”

“The music really is quite lovely,” repeats Aunt Gladys.

“It truly is,” says Grandma.

A silence falls upon the room.

“Well isn’t this nice?” says Aunt Gladys.

“I’ve always said there’s nothing more important than family,” says Grandma.

“It’s a blessing,” says Mom.

“But that poor man’s voice,” says Grandma. “He can’t be happy.”

“I don’t know,” says Mom. “He can’t sing a lick, but he sounds happy enough to me. Like Scrooge on Christmas morning.”

“We should all sound as happy as he is,” says Grandma.

“And enjoy the precious time we have together,” says Aunt Gladys.

They fall silent again, turning their attention to the crackling fire on the TV.

“Has anybody seen my daughter?” asks Aunt Gladys.

“She upstairs,” says Timmy, “with her boyfriend’s jingle balls in her mouth.”

Aunt Gladys leaps from the sofa and runs upstairs, screeching.

“That Gladys just lets that tramp run wild,” says Mom.

“Oh, shut your trap why don’t you,” says Grandpa.

“Anybody want another eggnog?” asks Uncle Bob.

“I thought you were going to those meetings,” says Grandma.

“A lot of good it’s done,” says Mom.

“Every year the same thing,” says Grandma. “You people make me sick.”

“God bless us all!” says Timmy. “Now turn on A Colt 45 Christmas!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B

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