‘The Night Before Christmas: A Monologue’ by Mary E. Marcy from International Socialist Review. Vol. 10 No. 6. December, 1909.
SCENE: The ribbon counter of a large department store in Chicago. It is eight o’clock of the night before Christmas. The store is thronged with people and a crowd continues to edge its way to the ribbon counter to purchase ribbons with which to tie up Christmas packages. The speaker is a neatly dressed young saleswoman aged about twenty-five years. Her pleasing face is stamped with the marks of excessive weariness.:
Cora (replying to the inquiry of a disheveled shopper):
“Furs? Third floor, madam; take elevator to your right. (To prospective customer):
“Mam? The Exchange Department? We don’t exchange goods during the holidays. No, mam. Mam? No, mam.
“Have you been waited on? (to a woman waving a sample of cherry ribbon). Same color? Yes, mam.
(Digs around in show case for bolt to match sample. Aside to next sales- woman):
“Gee! I’m dead to the world. I’d give ten dollars for a chance to sit down for five minutes. (Showing bolt of ribbon to customer):
“How many yards, mam?
“Mam? You only want it HALF the width of the sample? Yes, mam. I’m afraid we’re all out of that width. (Digs around in show case.) (Aside to next saleswoman):
“Have you had your supper check yet? You HAVE? Gee, I wish I’d a had you bring me a sandwich. I haven’t had a bite since eleven o’clock. (Emerging from show case with a bolt of ribbon a hair’s breath more narrow than specifications):
“This is the nearest thing we have, madam. Mam? No, mam. Were all out of it. (To next saleswoman):
“Kate, are you sure there’s no more of this 234? What? He DID? (To customer):
“We’re all out, madam. (To question, aside):
“Ladies’ handkerchiefs? Mam? Yes, mam. Seventeenth aisle; third to your right. (To customer debating over the cherry ribbon):
“Would you like some of that, madam? (To another questioner):
“This Alice blue? Five cents a yard. Ten yards? Yes, mam. (Measures off ten yards; makes out check.) (Aside to next saleswoman):
Gee, I guess Mr. Nesbit’s forgotten me. Has Sadie been out to supper? She HAS? Well, ain’t that the limit? I’m the first one to go to lunch at eleven and last to get my supper check. It’s eight hours since I ate anything. Wonder what he thinks I’m made of. (To customer):
“Fifty cents, mam. (As she sends parcel to be wrapped, she turns to the red ribbon customer):
“Would you like some of- that, mam? (But the prospective customer decides not to take the plunge and disappears in the crowd.) (Cora, speaking to the woman who has just purchased the blue ribbon):
“Mam? Yes, mam, it IS hard. I’ve worked fourteen hours every day for the last three weeks. Seats? No, mam. They don’t have them. Mam? No, mam. We wouldn’t have time to sit down in them anyway. (To new inquirer):
“Children’s toys? Fifth floor; elevator to your left, sir. (Handing parcel to customer and counting out change):
“Fifty an’ fifty and one—two dollars. Mam? O yes, mam. Merry Christmas! Mam? Same to you. (Aside to next saleswoman):
“Merry Christmas NOTHING! Every time I hear any Christmas talk, I feel like slapping somebody in the face. I HATE Christmas. It’s nothing but work, work, extra work, without extra pay and keep-a-going till you DROP during the holi— (to a questioner):
“Mam? Kimonas? Fifth aisle to your right; fourth aisle down. (To new customer):
“Hollyberry ribbon? Yes, mam. No, mam. It’s something NEW. Twenty cents a yard. You saw the same thing at Hillman’s for twelve cents? Is that so? No’m, I suppose not. (Aside to next saleswoman):
“Gee, if I don’t get something in my stomach soon, I’ll keel over. I’m so weak I can hardly stand up. I— (to prospective customer):
“White? Yes, mam. Same width? Yes, mam. Mam? (To new inquirer):
“Candy? Six aisles up; three to your left. (To customer again):
“How many yards? Half a yard? Mam? Yes, mam. (To a perplexed man):
“Umbrellas? Straight down to the State street side (pointing): “Yes, sir. That way.
(Measures off ribbon and makes out check—aside to next saleswoman):
“Gee, I’m so hungry I’m dizzy. Maybe I won’t be glad when the holidays are over and I shan’t stir out of my bed all day tomorrow. What? A DULL way to spend Christmas? Well, the best present anybody could give ME would be a REST. (To customer, holding out hand for change):
“Seven cents, mam. (To last inquirer):
“No’m, they’ve been moved to the basement. Mam? The elevator to your left. (To next inquirer):
“This hollyberry ribbon? Twenty cents a yard. Mam? Yes, mam, I think it would wash. Mam? No, mam. I’ve never washed any of it myself. (To somebody who has called a question over the heads of the customers):
“The collars are right behind you, madam. (To new customer):
“This black satin, mam? Thirty cents. Two yards? Sixty cents, mam. (Aside to next saleswoman as she measures off the ribbon):
“O dear, I’m so faint I can hardly see, The lights are kinda dancing—it seems to me. (To customer):
“Mam? THREE yards? I thought you said TWO. Mam? No’m, my hearing is not bad. Tend to my work? Well, I’ve been putting in fourteen hours a day at it—for three weeks. Mam? Yes, mam. (Cuts off three yards):
“Ninety cents, mam.
“You thought I said SIXTY cents? Well, I SAID sixty cents for TWO yards, three yards would be NINETY cents. (Customer goes off grumbling without taking the ribbon.) (Aside to next saleswoman):
“Well, wasn’t she the worst ever? O dear! How I wish I could sit down for five minutes! My feet feel as if I were standing on BOILS. (To new questioner):
“Mam? The linings? No’m, they used to be here, but they’re on the fifth floor now. Elevator to your left. (Aside to next saleswoman):
“My, but I’m dizzy. Things look kinda darkish.” (Leans weakly against the counter and drops noiselessly to the floor in a faint.)
The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and critically loyal to the Socialist Party of America. It is one of the essential publications in U.S. left history. During the editorship of A.M. Simons it was largely theoretical and moderate. In 1908, Charles H. Kerr took over as editor with strong influence from Mary E Marcy. The magazine became the foremost proponent of the SP’s left wing growing to tens of thousands of subscribers. It remained revolutionary in outlook and anti-militarist during World War One. It liberally used photographs and images, with news, theory, arts and organizing in its pages. It articles, reports and essays are an invaluable record of the U.S. class struggle and the development of Marxism in the decades before the Soviet experience. It was closed down in government repression in 1918.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v10n06-dec-1909-ISR-gog.pdf