<At a simple, double-brick home in Glen Waverley, the doorbell rings. A pale, chubby man answers the door to greet a young woman with long dark frizzy hair. She is carrying an obviously full beach bag and is wearing a pair of foam antlers.>
Lissa: Merry Christmas, Gary! <gives him a bear hug. An antler pokes him in the ear>
Gary: <turns his head awkwardly to extricate the antler while gingerly returning the hug> Merry Christmas, Lissa!
<She follows him into the house and through to the kitchen, where a single coffee mug is on the table, next to a small platter of fruit mince pies.>
Lissa: Yes, please! And fruit mince pies!
Gary: Yeah. They made them at the bakery down the street. <wistfully> They smelled good.
Lissa: They look good too, but oh god, I am still so full from Christmas lunch yesterday with Kate!
Lissa: …But not so full that there isn’t room for another fruit mince pie. My Nanna used to make those every Christmas. <she swipes her finger across the shortbread crust of one and licks the sugar from her finger.> Mmmmmm.
<Gary makes a cup of tea for Lissa.>
Lissa: Here, I’ve got something for you. <shoves a Santa hat on his head.>
Gary: <eyeing the drooping tip of it, which bears a tinkling bell, dubiously> Ah. Thanks.
Lissa: Trust me. You look very festive.
Gary: So do you. <Tweaks the end of a foam antler.>
Lissa: I don’t usually do the silly headgear, but Beatrice wanted us to look suitably Christmassy for the Christmas Eve kids’ storytime at the library, so, you know. Antlers and Santa hats.
Gary: Oh. Well. They’re. Um.
Lissa: Ridiculous, I know. <starts to pull the antlers off>
Gary: Yeah, but, you know, fun. You look…. happy in them. Leave them on. <waggles his head slightly to make the bell tinkle> If I tried I could probably make this play Jingle Bells.
Lissa: <laughs> You probably could.
Gary: I got you something too. <opens a cupboard and pulls out something wrapped in simple brown paper> Um. I forgot to buy Christmas paper. Sorry. I’m not used to the Christmas thing any more. When I remembered and went to the shop, there were… too many people. It was so noisy and I felt… I don’t know. Out of place. Then this little kid ran into me and I sort of tried getting into the Christmas spirit and smiled at him, and he screamed and took off. Because of… you know… <gestures vaguely at his fangs> Anyway, I came home. I found this paper in a box in the spare room.
Lissa: Someone should show that kid The Nightmare Before Christmas. Don’t worry. Thank you for thinking of me. This looks lovely, and very neat!
Gary: Yeah. I like getting all the lines straight.
LIssa: I got something for you too.
Gary: I know. My hat. <waggles his head to make it jingle> Thanks.
Lissa: No, silly. That’s just so we had matching ridiculous headgear. Here. <Pulls a brightly wrapped parcel from the bag.>
Lissa: Go on. Open it.
Gary: You first.
<Lissa unwraps the plain brown parcel, revealing a thick book called The Elements. She flips it open and leafs through the pages.>
Lissa: Wow. This is gorgeous. Those photos are incredible…
Gary: Read the opening, and the entries.
Lissa: <reads and begins to laugh out loud.> Listen to this! “The Periodic Table is the universal catalog of everything you can drop on your foot.” <continues to flick through the pages> This is so cool. It’s funny science!
Gary: But still proper science. But like stories too.
Lissa: It is! Wow. Gary, this is perfect!
Gary: You said once that you liked the idea of the periodical table being all organised but you didn’t really understand it. I saw this and I thought it might help.
Lissa: It’s beautiful! <gives Gary a massive hug> Thank you! Here – open yours!
Gary: <looks at the parcel, pokes at the ribbon, blinks a lot>
Lissa: You okay?
Gary: Yeah. <opens the parcel, revealing a box depicting a plant and a black t-shirt>.
Lissa: I hope the shirt fits. It’s from this website called Think Geek. It’s for the geek types who like to stay inside and do science.
Gary: I like to stay inside and read about science. <shakes out the t-shirt. It reads “Keep out of direct sunlight”.>
Lissa: … Does it fit?
Gary: <holds it up. > Looks like it will. <puts it aside. Checks out the box> A dinosaur plant.
Lissa: I thought it could go with the cactus I got you. They live a really long time, even if you forget to water them, according to the website anyway.
Gary: That’s really cool. <looks> It comes with Genuine Volcanic Lava Rock.
Lissa: Do you like it?
Gary: I liked it when I thought I just had a Christmas hat. This is ace. Just a minute.
< Gary jumps up from the table with the t-shirt and disappears. Lissa sips her tea and leafs through the Elements book. Sometimes she laughs. A moment later, Gary returns.>
Gary: What do you think? <He is wearing the black t-shirt.>
Lissa: That’s a good fit.
Gary: <grins> It is.
Lissa: Here. There’s one more thing. <She takes a few plastic containers out of the huge bag.> I know you can’t eat it, but Kate made the most awesome Christmas pudding with brandy custard, the way Nanna used to, and I thought you might like the scent of it.
Gary: … Yeah. Yes I would.
Lissa: Merry Christmas, Gary!
Gary: Merry Christmas, Lissa. Thanks. For…you know.
Lissa: I know. You too.
<Gary’s Christmas hat jingles as Lissa gives him a big Christmas hug. This time he doesn’t mind that he has a foam antler stuck in his ear.>
*For newcomers, the GaryView is a review of books/films/TV/entertainment carried out as a conversation between Lissa Wilson (librarian) and Gary Hooper (vampire) , characters from my book ‘The Opposite of Life’. Visit my website for more information.