The scene: a darkened bar frequented by reporters. A man walks in, stamps the snow off his feet, and notices a tall, astringent stranger at the bar nursing what looks like a double whiskey neat. Yet, she looks familiar somehow. Of course! Now he recognizes her. He walks up and sits beside her.
Hello, Katie. I don't think I've ever seen you here before.
Oh hi, Nick. And I prefer Kathy.
I know, Katie, I mean Kathy; I'll try. What's the matter?
As you may know, Monday—the day for next my column—is Christmas Eve.
That oughtta be a natural for you.
I know! But I've wracked my brain trying to tie in condemnation of gays, Muslims, or even public schools, into the Christmas Story, but nothing is coming up. All this "peace" and "good will" stuff has got me all stopped up.
Maybe I can help.
What do you mean, me? Of course, me. I've been a newspaperman a lot longer than you, and I've plowed through writer's block a time or two myself.
Really? Would you do that for me?
It is Christmas, and we are [shudder] colleagues.
That would be great! What do you suggest?
Well, first maybe you should drop the polemics for Christmas Eve.
You think so? That might confuse some of my readers. It would be really hard for me, too.
Ah, you can do it, Katie—Kathy. I've got it! You could write about a private act of charity. That would be killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.
That's a great idea, Nick. I know this white woman who has been really nice to a Hmong family for three years! I could call her a "surrogate Santa," or do you think "surrogate Santa" sounds too much like "surrogate mother?"
Nah, works for me. It's actually the kind of white man's burden story you like, only subtle for the holidays, I mean Christmas.
You're right! What do you think of this line?
Santa is very much alive, full of magic and mirth, and ... living in Maple Grove.
Gripping, give me some more.
You may imagine Santa ho-ho-hoing in a state-of-the-art workshop amid a wonderland of prosperity. In fact, Schulz [the actual kind lady in question]-- like many Americans -- doesn't have a lot to spare, though she has one of the largest hearts you'll ever encounter.
The imagery is magic, Katie.
Right. Any more good details you can flesh out?
Well, "Santa's" grandchild got little May [a little one in the Hmong family] a "Hello, Kitty!"
I'm sorry, did you say "Hello Katie?"
No, silly, "Hello Kitty." Maybe you'd know if you had a daughter among those three rug rats you have at home.
It sounds like you have the situation under control. Just be sure to peg the saccharine meter!
Oh, I will, Nick. Thanks for the help. [rises to leave, downs the rest of her whiskey, throws a quarter on the bar for a tip, and departs]
[to the bartender] I didn't need a drink when I came in here. But I do now. Bushmills neat.