CHRISTMAS DEBT • by Jenny Schwartz

The invitation flashed in his Facebook notifications. Spam, obviously. But… it had a picture of a Star Wars grinch. Star Wars! His palms grew sweaty. Back at his mom’s house, his Luke Skywalker costume still hung in the closet of his old bedroom. He could practically feel the Force.

He clicked.

“Smile now. Pay later. Introverts, you can survive the festive season.”

He wouldn’t have believed it, would have dismissed it as a clever marketing ploy, but there was something about the photo that went with the invitation, something about that not-quite-a-credit-card image.

So he clicked.

The website opened. “Psych-Banker. Open an account.”

He wasn’t stupid enough to give some phishing site his personal details. But he was intrigued. He investigated the site.

It offered packages: Survival, Career Assist, Family Loyalty and Sparkle. They came with different levels of emotional responses. Survival offered 100 smiles, 20 fake laughs and 10 deletions of snark. Career Assist upped the deletions of snark to 50, and offered 10 compliments. Family loyalty made it 500 smiles, 50 laughs, 100 deletions of snark and 100 compliments. He didn’t bother to click on Sparkle. He wasn’t a sparkly kind of guy.

He found himself searching the site for the small print.

Oh, yes. Here. “Customers will make themselves available to be rent-a-crowds for failing comedians in the New Year. Repayment by easy stages.” And in truly tiny print. “Overdrawn account customers will provide audience participation for mimes and clowns.”

Ugh. He shuddered and hurriedly closed the site. Smiling at Christmas parties wasn’t actually that bad! Heck, if it meant avoiding clowns, he could be downright amiable.


In the secret room hidden deep within the site and accessible only to parental customers, his mom paid her Sparkle fee, and smiled. $100 to have Andrew fully committed to socializing this Christmas was a bargain.

Happy holidays!

Jenny Schwartz is a hopeful romantic with a degree in Sociology and History — people watching and digging into the past. She lives in Western Australia and is working towards her dream of living by the sea. Jenny writes contemporary romance, paranormal romance and steampunk.

If you want to keep EDF around, Patreon is the answer.

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