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I'm About to Tell You a Christmas Story
Matthew Di Paoli

I’m about to tell you a Christmas story, but I feel that just by saying that I’ve already ruined it. It’s not a Christmas story so much as it’s a story about humanity and everything that makes us human, and the weighty tomes we read.

            It’s—ok, it’s existentialist. It’s really about a man alone in a blue hot air balloon floating in the stratosphere asking the approaching sun, “Am I real?”

            I mean it’s not literally about that, that’s a metaphor, and I feel stupid for even saying that now. Of course, you know it’s a metaphor. This is a story about humanity and existentialism and cursorily about Christmas and about the great weighty tomes that defined our generation, so of course, it’s going to be metaphorical.

            Alright, I’ll admit, it’s more allegorical—like a folk tale. Let’s say it involves a tortoise and a hedgehog like an old German fable. Now you wouldn’t take those animals literally, would you? No, of course, you wouldn’t. I shouldn’t keep underestimating my reader. After all, this piece is already meta enough without questioning the depth of knowledge of my reader. Of course, it’s important that the reader questions her own existence while reading this piece; that’s essential. If you’re not able to question your own existence, stop now. I’ll wait for you to put this story down…

Did you put it down? Of course, you didn’t, but you should if you’re categorically incapable of wondering even for a second if you’re not a German hedgehog’s fever dream. If you can’t imagine that, there’s no way you’ll even begin to comprehend the multiple layers of this veiled, almost new age Christmas story in which religion is not so much even a character as it is a force. Not a force as in something that will compel you to believe but a force like a conscience, a force that makes you choose a twelve-dollar artisanal salad over a burrito because then you won’t have to work out later.

            A German told me the other day that Santa Claus and St. Nick are two different people, and St. Nick rides around on a mule on St. Nicholas day. Maybe it was the hedgehog that told me. I can’t remember now, but did you know the tortoise kills the hedgehog at the end of that story? The hedgehog reduces the hare to bloody stumps by cheating his way through race after race. He kills him. The hedgehog is a murderer. What’s the moral here? What would Santa say the moral is? God is dead, but Santa is alive in a small Santa Monica one bedroom struggling with his sexuality.

            This story isn’t about Christmas; it’s about you. Ok, it’s really about me. It’s really about my seeing if you can understand me through the prism of Christmas because Christmas seemed much more inviting than if I were to tell you I’m going to tell you a story about myself. That does sound a bit unappetizing.

Time to be honest with one another. Are you ready for honesty? I can feel your hands shaking the paper, but here goes. I’m kidding; you’re not reading this on a piece of paper. No. You’re a hedgehog. Hedgehogs can’t read English. They read German. But here goes anyway. This is it. Don’t get scared.

I’m about to tell you a story about you.

Matthew Di Paoli received his BA at Boston College where he won the Dever Fellowship and the Cardinal Cushing Award for Writing. He was also nominated for the 2015 and 2016 Pushcart Prize, featured in "Best of the Web" by The Great American Lit Mag and won the Prism Review Short Story Contest. Matthew earned his MFA in Fiction at Columbia University. He has been published in Fjords, The Stockholm Review, Post Road, Neon, Cleaver, and Gigantic literary magazines among others. He is the author of Killstanbul with El Balazo Press and teaches in New York City.

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