I bought this for you weeks ago. Santa Claus got most of your presents, but this one is special from your mom and me. It was very hard keeping it a secret from you. Partly because you're so curious, always getting into everything, and partly because after Daddy bought this present it was the top story on the local news for a week.
You're only 4 years old, so you may not understand all of this. But this new version of the LeapPad tablet features a 2.0-megapixel camera on both the front and the back—here and here, see? Its processor is 25% faster, which means it won't freeze up on you. They've also beefed up the internal memory, so you can store more of your favorite educational games and apps on it. Also, I crushed the windpipe of an elderly gentleman with my heel to buy it for you.
If you're wondering why your mother has been drinking more of her special grown-up juice lately, that's part of it. She saw the whole thing. I imagine watching your husband of ten years trample an old man to death isn't something you're likely to soon forget.
Oh, hey, this is neat! Check this out—this app lets you make your own cartoons. That should be fun. We'll make one later for Mommy, but we'll tell her she can only watch it if she promises to get out of bed.
Let's open one of the spelling games on here. I'm going to type a word, and we'll see if this LeapPad can read it. M-A-N-S-L-A-U-G-H-T-E-R. That sure is a long one, huh? I think it sounds more sinister than "murder," personally, but what it means is fewer years in prison for Daddy. Let's just hope Uncle Gary is as good at clearing people of capital crimes as he is at getting teenagers out of DUIs.
You know, the moment I saw this in an advertisement for Black Friday sales, I knew I would buy it for you? It was a special bundle that came with a recharger pack, twelve cartridges and a gift card for twenty free apps at a huge discount. Your mom and I knew you would love it. It has puzzle games, coloring games, memory games, math games.
Maybe it will teach you how to calculate the value of human life. Is it equal to, greater than, or less than deeply discounted consumer electronics? Does your LeapPad have an app that can calculate the damage to one's soul? Lately, I've been wondering if mine is beyond salvaging.
Son, come here. Sit on your dumb old dad's lap for a spell. Do you know how it feels to take another man's life? Your iPad-For-Tots there can't tell you. I'm not sure I can either. Not really. I saw the video from the security cameras. It was definitely my size-12 Nunn Bushes that ended the man's life. I was so focused on getting to the electronics aisle I didn't notice the guy go down. I stomped him into the concrete floor as unwittingly as I might mow down a squirrel in the street.
But how much worse am I than anyone else? This toy was likely manufactured by kids a few years older than you slaving away in godforsaken working conditions to put together some tawdry piece of plastic that two years from now will be in a landfill where it will stay for the next 1,000 years. You know what Christmas is, son? I'll tell you. It's the belief that some things exist outside the sucking maw of time. We look forward to December 25 every year because it's the same. I can't remember a single present I got for Christmas when I was your age, but I know we ate ham because we eat ham every damn year. I hate ham, especially the way your grandma prepares it with the slimy pineapple slices on top, but it's comforting to know it's going to be on the table this afternoon. It's familiar. And what is familiarity but the illusion of stasis? Every year we put up variations of the same lights and decorations, play the same dozen songs, and travel hundreds of miles to exchange gifts with people we only see once a year in a poignant attempt to distract ourselves from the knowledge that the piece of plastic you're holding will be here long after we're all dust. But in a world of limited resources, all this crap we need to make this mass delusion possible requires millions of people around the world to live in poverty and ushers us ever closer to a day of unimaginable reckoning. In that respect, Christmas is exactly like every other day of the year. Our entire way of life is predicated upon ruination, but I stampede a man to death to buy the most sought-after gewgaw for 4- to 9-year-olds this holiday season, andI'm the lone bad guy? We're all complicit, son. My crime was reminding everyone what they already know but don't want to admit: That we're all blindly fighting each other for the choicest spot to perish in the cavernous black hole that is an uncaring universe.
Oh hey, this has a movie mode! Film the Christmas tree, son… go ahead. You know, I think this may be the prettiest tree we've ever had.
This article originally appeared on McSweeney's. It was republished with permission.
Photo by Flickr user bartfields, used under Creative Commons license.