A Faustian Christmas

Scene 1


Mr Faust sitting in a big chair, with Little Faust on his lap, reading.  Mrs Faust sitting in another chair, knitting or something.

Mr Faust:       And I heard him exclaim

As he drove out of sight

Merry Christmas to all

And to all a good night.

(Closing book).  Well, that’s what happens on the night before Christmas.  How did you like it?

Little Faust: It’s not real, is it, Daddy?

Mr Faust: What do you mean?  Of course, it’s real.  Santa is real.  The reindeer are real, the presents are real, the whole bit.  Every last bit.  Honest truth.  Really.  Truly.

Little Faust: But it’s not scientifically possible, Daddy.  Reindeer can’t fly.

Mrs Faust: Yes, dear.  I’ve been thinking the same thing.  I wonder how it’s all supposed to work.  Aerodynamically speaking, it doesn’t seem likely, does it?

Little Faust: And how can one sleigh hold all of those presents.  There must be tons.

Mr Faust: Two million tons, by my calculations.  But I don’t see why it couldn’t work.  Think.  Let’s suppose that the reindeer were filled with helium.  Would they float?  Let me see (grabs a piece of paper and a pencil and begins writing furiously, erasing and frowning at what’s on the paper).  I can’t quite remember the lung capacity of the average reindeer, but as best I remember it’s enough so that a reindeer filled with helium could float.  Or what about jet packs?

Little Faust: I want a jet pack for Christmas.

Mr Faust: Suppose the reindeer were wearing jet packs.  They could fly that way.  But I suspect that there’s something else.

Mrs Faust: What?

Mr Faust: Genetic engineering.  Listen, in a lab scientists can mutate fruitflies so that they grow legs out of their heads, or wings where their legs should be.  I’ll bet that Santa has a genetic lab at the north pole, where he genetically alters reindeer so that they have wings on the sides.  That way, they could fly anywhere they wanted.

Little Faust: I want a genetic lab for Christmas.

Mrs Faust: But, dear, you’re forgetting one important factor.  Heat.  Reindeer traveling fast enough to go around the world and visit every home on a single night would be burned to a crisp.

Mr Faust: Elementary, my dear.  Perfectly elementary.  Santa’s equipped the reindeer with heat shields.  How else could it be done?

Little Faust: What I really want is a heat shield.

Mrs Faust: We’ll if you’re right, then Santa has been far ahead of the rest of the world in developing technology.  He’s been using flying reindeer for hundreds of years, and we’re only beginning to understand how to control mutations.  And how did he find out about heat shields, centuries before they were invented?  It’s all very mysterious.

Mr Faust: You’re right.  Now that I think about it, it’s uncanny.  He’s some kind of super-duper genius.  Man, I’d give anything to have that kind of knowledge, to invent things that the rest of the world wouldn’t understand for hundreds of years.  Anything.

Thunderclap or threatening piano chord, and a puff of smoke.

Mr Faust: What was that?

Mrs Faust: Maybe a sonic boom from Santa’s sleigh.

Mephistopheles: No, it was I.  I heard someone say he was willing to give anything to be as great a scientist as Santa.  Did I hear correctly?

Mrs Faust: How did you get in here?  I sure hope you wiped your feet.  It’s really sloppy outside.

Mr Faust: Well, yes.  I guess I said that.  But I say, what’s the idea here?  What are you doing in my house?  And how’d you get in?

Mephistopheles: Elementary, Mr Faust.  That is your name, isn’t it?  You heard that thunderclap . . .

Little Faust: Sounded more like a piano chord to me.

Mephistopheles: Yes, well.  Good meteorological help is hard to get these days.  In any case, the sound you heard was the sound of me arriving from the eighth dimension, which is called Emcron.  I have come to fulfill your request.

Mr Faust: Emcron?  Say, are you some kind of lunatic?  Have you escaped from the asylum?  I’m going to call the police.

Mephistopheles: It will do no good.  And besides, if you do, you’ll never receive the knowledge that I have to offer.

Mr Faust: What kind of knowledge?

Mrs Faust: Why, here I am just sitting here.  Could I get you some cookies?

Mephistopheles: No, but thank you very much.  The knowledge that will enable you to become a greater scientist than even Santa Claus, the knowledge that will help you unlock the secret of life, the universe, and everything, the knowledge that will bring you unimagined power and wealth and fame.

Mr Faust: And what makes you think you can give me this knowledge?

Mephistopheles: I taught Santa Claus everything he knows.

Little Faust: Do his reindeer use jetpacks?

Mephistopheles: Ha!  Nothing so simple and easy.  You couldn’t even begin to understand how Santa makes the reindeer fly.  He is so far advanced that you are all children compared to him.

Little Faust: I’m a child compared to most people.

Mephistopheles: Then you’re even more of a child compared to the great Santa.

Mr Faust: You taught Santa?  Then who are you?

Mephistopheles: I ride on the waves of the wind, I surf on the beams of light from the sun, I pierce the sky and travel to the stars.  I am Mephistopheles, the great.

Mrs Faust: Mephisopheles?  I’ve heard of you.  Did you used to be on that sour cream commercial?

Mephistopheles: Which one?

Mrs Faust: Oh, you know, the one where the man is diving into a swimming pool full of sour cream.  I think he’s supposed to be showing how creamy it is.

Mephistopheles: You know, I heard the first guy who did that commercial ended up drowning.

Mrs Faust: Really?  That’s awful.

Mephisopheles: What kind of sour cream was it?

Mrs Faust: I can’t remember.  You know how commercials are.  You can remember the commercial but you can’t remember what the product was.  I don’t see how they help sell things.

Mephistopheles: You know, I’ve noticed that too.  There’s this one with Michael Jordan that I’ve seen, and he’s jumping all over the place and all you see are his shoes.  But I can’t for the life of me remember what they were trying to sell.

Mr Faust: Can we get back to the point please?  I’m being tempted here.  You haven’t been in commercials, have you?

Mephistopheles: No.  But I’ve auditioned several times.  It’s such a competitive business.

Mrs Faust: That’s what I read in Good Housekeeping.  Or what is the Journal of Astrophysics?  I can’t remember.

Mr Faust: Stick to the point please.  You were offering me knowledge, power, wealth, and fame.  And I don’t suppose that this comes for free.

Mephistopheles: Of course not.  There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

Little Faust: I’m hungry.  Can I have a snack?

Mr Faust: OK, name your price.  I want this more than anything else in the world.  I’ll give up anything.  Anything.  Do you want my soul?

Mephistopheles: Pfuffst.  That’s so old fashioned.  What would I do with a soul?

Little Faust: You haven’t got one yourself, have you?

Mrs Faust: Now, now, Byron.  Be polite to Mr Mephistopheles.

Mr Faust: What then?

Mephistopheles: Do you have any connections in show business?

Mr Faust: I shook hands with Brad Pitt once.  He was shopping at Walmart.  He’s such a regular guy.

Mrs Faust: Oh, now, dear.  That wasn’t Brad Pitt.  That was that nice-looking checkout clerk.

Mr Faust: Really?  He sure looked like Brad Pitt.

Mephistopheles: Anyway, not good enough.  Let’s see.  What could I ask for?  I’ve got it.  What I’ve always wanted is a fluffy white kitten, just to have as my own.  Emcron is a pretty lonely dimension, you know.

Mr Faust: A little white kitten?  That’s easy.  The Dantes next door have one.  We can just go and buy it from them.

Mephistopheles: Hold on, not so fast.  Not just any fluffy white kitten will do.  It must be a perfect specimen, without blemish, with pure silken hair, blazing green eyes, perfectly formed ears.  He has to be perfect in every way.  Perfect.  Oh, and make sure he’s declawed.

Mr Faust: Where am I supposed to find a kitten like that?

Mephistopheles: That your business.  I’m in the temptation business, see?  And it’s your job to succumb to the temptation.

Little Faust: Is that really your job, Daddy?  I thought you worked on a ranch.

Mrs Faust: No, dear, you’re Daddy works at Pennys and sells cosmeti…

Mr Faust: Never mind that now.  It doesn’t matter.  Even if I have to go to the ends of the earth, I’ll find that kitten.  It’s worth it to become as great a scientific genius as Santa Claus.

Mephistopheles: There is one small catch, though.

Mr Faust: Naturally.  Go ahead, I can take it.

Mephistopheles: If you don’t find that kitten by Christmas Eve, I’ll turn you into a fluffy white kitten.

Little Faust: Why don’t you save time and turn him into a kitten right now?

Mephistopheles: Not a bad idea.  Hey, kid, ever think of going into the temptation business?  You’d be good.

Little Faust: Naw.  I want to work on a ranch like my Daddy.

Mr Faust: Christmas?  That’s only three days away.  How can I find a perfect fluffy white kitten in only three days?

Mrs Faust: Now, dear.  I think you’d better think hard about this.  You know how stuffy you get around kittens.  If he turned you into a kitten, I just don’t know what you would do.  Maybe you should just give up the whole thing.

Mr Faust: Give it up?  Give it up?  How can I possibly do that?  I tell you, I’m made for knowledge, I hunger and thirst for knowledge, knowledge is my passion.

Mephistopheles: And it’s better than selling cosmetics.

Mr Faust: That too.

Little Faust: Moma, what are cosmetics?

Mrs Faust: Later, dear.  Your Daddy’s being tempted.

Mr Faust: I won’t back out.  I will find that fluffy white kitten, or die trying.

Mephistopheles: That’s the spirit.  That’s what I like to hear.

Mrs Faust: I really don’t think this is a good idea.  You should reconsider.

Mr Faust: Never.  I’m in, Mr M.  See you in three days.

Mephisopheles: TTFN.

(Another piano chord and a puff of smoke.)

Mr Faust: I’m off, dear.  When you next see me, I’ll be smarter than Newton, Einstein, and Lawrence Welk put together.

Mr Faust exits.

Mrs Faust: Don’t go, dear.  Come back.

Mrs Faust exits.

Little Faust: I thought I was going to get a heat shield.


Scene 2

Mrs Faust and Little Faust sitting at a table eating.

Little Faust: Moma, I miss Daddy.  When is he going to get home?

Mrs Faust: He should be home today.  Tomorrow’s Christmas, and he has to be home.  But, honey, your Daddy might be a little different.

Little Faust: Really?  How?

Mrs Faust: Well, you remember that time when Grandpa was working on the wiring in the house?

Little Faust: Yes.

Mrs Faust: And he put two wires together that didn’t belong together?

Little Faust: Yes.

Mrs Faust: And his hair turned all white, and his eyes got all red?

Little Faust: Is Daddy coming home with white hair?

Mrs Faust: I’m afraid he might, honey.  I’m afraid he might.

Little Faust: Cool.

Sudden piano chord and puff of smoke.

Little Faust: Hurray!  Mr Mephistopheles.

Mephistopheles: Hey there, champ.  Good to see you.

Mrs Faust: Now, Mr Mephistopheles, I have something to say to you.  I hope it won’t sound rude, since you’re a guest in my house and all.

Mephistopheles: Not at all.  What’s on your mind?

Mrs Faust: I think you should give up this crazy bargain with my husband.  Somebody’s going to get hurt.  Somebody could get his eye poked out.

Mephistopheles: It’s a done deal, ma’am.  Your husband agreed.  That’s how these things work.  I offer a temptation — money, knowledge, fame, an all-expenses paid trip to Newark — and then they succumb.  It’s been like this for thousands of years.  And no tempter worth his salt will withdraw a temptation once it’s all been done, legal and all.

Mrs Faust: But it just isn’t fair.  My husband is not. . . . he’s not the most intelligent man in the world, you know.

Mephistopheles: The ones who succumb usually aren’t.  Not my fault that your husband is a few watts low.

Suddenly the door opens, and Mr Faust enters.  He’s puffing as if he’s been running.  He hugs Mrs Faust and Little Faust.

Little Faust: Daddy!  What’s wrong with your hair?

Mr Faust: What do you mean?  It’s the same as always.

Little Faust: But Moma said it would be white.

Mrs Faust: I said I thought it might be white, honey.

Mephistopheles: I see you’ve returned.  I’ll give you credit for courage at least.  Most of them just try to run.

Mr Faust: Run?  If I’d have run, could I have gotten away?

Mephistopheles: Sure.  I’m only a tempter.  I’m not everywhere at once, you know.  I’m not Santa Claus.

Mr Faust: Drat.  I wish I’d thought of that.

Mephistopheles and Mrs Faust exchange a knowing look, and nod.

Mephistopheles: Anyway, I don’t think I see a fluffy white kitten anywhere.

Mr Faust: No.  I admit it.  I failed.  I couldn’t find a fluffy white kitten anywhere.

Mrs Faust: Where did you look, dear?

Mr Faust: Everywhere I could think of.  Pet stores, alleyways, Walmart.  I even thought of trying to get a Persian kitten and tried to book a flight to Persia.  Did you know that there are no flights to Persia anymore?  Must be terrorism.

Little Faust: It’s called Iran now, Daddy.

Mr Faust: Since when?

Mephistopheles: Whatever the reason, you failed.  And, if I’m remember correctly, now’s the time I turn YOU into a fluffy white kitten.

Little Faust: I told you you should have saved time and done it first.

Mephistopheles: Sure, but half the fun is stringing it out.  Now, let’s get to business.  (He rummages in his pockets.)  Hmmm.  Can’t seem to find my wand.  You wouldn’t happen to have a wand about?

Mrs Faust: How about a rolling pin?  Would that work?

Mr Faust: Helen, who’s side are you on?

Mrs Faust: You did make a promise, dear.  And I don’t think it’s good to be breaking your promises.  Especially in front of the children.

Little Faust: Child.

Mrs Faust: Here you are.

Mephistopheles: This will have to do.

He starts waving the rolling pin around his head, and muttering some nonsensical but mysterious syllables.  Just before he points the rolling pin at Mr Faust, there’s a piano chord and a puff of smoke and Deuce X. Machina appears.

Little Faust: Another one!  Cool.

Mrs Faust: How did you get in here?  I sure hope you wiped your feet.  It’s very sloppy outside.

Mr Faust: I say, now.  Who are you?

Deuce: Deuce X. Machina’s my name.  Resolving unwieldy plots is my game.

Mr Faust: X? What’s the X for?

Deuce: Xavier.  But you can call me Deuce.  Do you have some juice?

Mephistopheles: You’re interrupting my spell.

Deuce: That’s what I came to do.  To save Mr Faust and foil you.

Mephistopheles: And who sent you?

Deuce: A fat red elf by the name of Claus.  He sends along help whenever there’s cause.

Mephistopheles: Stop doing that.

Deuce: What am I doing?  I can’t say.  But it seems to be driving him away.

Mephistopheles: I tell you, stop it.  I can’t take it.

Deuce: Do my rhymes grate your ear?  Do they make your skin crawl and make your eyes blear?

Mephistopheles: Yes, yes.  I can’t stand it.  It brings back horrible memories.

Mrs Faust: Now, now.  Calm down and tell us what the problem is.

Mephistopheles: I can’t bear to tell you.  Let’s just say that I had a bad childhood  experience with Dr Seuss.  Oh, the horror, the horror.  (Mephistopheles crumples to the ground, and buries his face in his hands.  He begins sobbing.)

Little Faust: Did they have Dr Seuss in Emcron?

Mrs Faust: That’s so sad.  And he didn’t get his little white kitten either.  Mr Deuce, why don’t you give him a break?

Deuce: No can do, I’m sorry to say.  He’s gotta go, and cannot stay.

Mr Faust: You know, you’re kind of getting on my nerves too.

Deuce: Do you also hate Dr Seuss?  Then you’re bound to get sick of little old Deuce.

Mr Faust: Yes I am.  I’m sick and tired of your rhymes.  You’ve gotta go, it’s way past time.

Deuce: Do you knowing what you’re doing?  You’re in great danger.  To shove me out and leave you with this stranger.

Mr Faust: Out, I say.  Out, out, I say.  I want you to go away.

Deuce: Ouch, that does hurt, I see.  You’re turning my own weapon on me.

Mr Faust: That’s just what I’m doing, you little rat.  Take that, and that, and that, and that.

Deuce: Help! I’m going to buzz.  You’re better at this than I ever was.

Deuce exits.

Mrs Faust: That was wonderful dear.  How did you ever learn to do that?

Mr Faust: It’s a little trick I learned in my youth.  Wasn’t sure I could do it, to tell you the truth.

Mephistopheles: Well, thank you, Mr Faust.  You saved my life.

Mr Faust: It was nothing, my friend, nothing hard.  Almost everyone can be a bard.

Little Faust: Daddy, you’re still doing it.

Mrs Faust: Yes, dear.  He’s gone now.  You can stop.

Mr Faust: It’s hard to stop once you get rolling.  It’s like running in place and . . . and . . .  I think I’m done now.

Mrs Faust: Yes, dear.  Now, Mr Mephistopheles, you can get on with your spell.

Mr Faust: Mrs Faust!

Mephisopheles: Don’t worry, Mr Faust.  It’s all over.

Mrs Faust: But I thought you couldn’t go back on a temptation once it was agreed to.

Mephistopheles: There is an exception clause in the tempter’s handbook.  It reads, “If at any time during the course of the temptation the tempted saves the life of the tempter, the tempter shall forthwith and immediately release the tempted from all obligations.  Any tempter who disregards this clause will be prohibited from further temptations, and barred from all future Halloween parties.”

Little Faust: Bummer.

Mephistopheles: You said it.  I love candy corn.

Mr Faust: So, you don’t need a white kitten after all?

Mephistopheles: Naw, I really never did.  They lose all their hair when they go through the sixth dimension.

Mrs Faust: Well, this is a happy ending.

Mr Faust: Yes it is.

Mrs Faust: Mr Mephistopheles, if you don’t have to rush off to tempt someone else, you can stay for Christmas Eve dinner.  As long as you promise not to cast any more spells.

Mephistopheles: I promise.

Little Faust: Goody.  Daddy, can I show him my room?

Mr Faust: I don’t see why not.

Mephistopheles (putting his arm around Little Faust and walking toward his room): Now, I hope you’ll reconsider your career plans.  You’d make a first-rate tempter.

Little Faust: Can you teach my how to do that piano chord?

Mephistopheles: Thunderclap, kid.  Thunderclap.

Mephisopheles and Little Faust exit.  Mr and Mrs Faust exit on the other side of the stage.

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