I’m assuming, from the use of quote marks, that this first part is a conversation between two people, who we later learn are Dave and Dave. But this initial conversation is too confusing. You don’t have to completely identify both speakers, but you do need some tags to make it clear that you’ve got two people speaking here. Also you need to differentiate the voices in some way. We need to be able to figure out which is the “real” Dave speaking and which is his alter-ego, or split personality or whatever it is that he is. Or, if it’s the same “person” speaking here, you’ve used the quotes incorrectly.
“I am going to have the most perfect Christmas this year. I won’t let anything or anyone stop me. I had a perfect Christmas once when the kids were little, maybe four and six. Well, I am going to have another one this year. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to stop me.”
“This year they get to come for Christmas vacation. They live in the snowy north so when they come to Arizona it’s really different weather. [a little trite] I’m a good dad. Really I am. I plan all kinds of good things for them to do when it is my turn to have them. Look, I never agreed that they should go to that fancy-schmancy private school. So when I get them here, I get crazy to give them freedom and a no–worry existence. They’ve got to do good at this school or it makes my ex and her new husband testy. “ [Paragraph is choppy. Rearrange the sentences so it flows better.]
“So here we go camping. [awkward] Eat fast food. Go to bed late and get up late. Neither of them have to read anything and I buy new video games for my Wii just for them. I got a girl’s game this year for Sammie, she’s eleven and Devin is nine. She still likes dolls so I got a few Barbie dolls and some new clothes. Devin loves those Transformer things so I got him a couple of those.” [choppy; if this is intentional, to show that he’s unstable, you need it to be a little more obvious.]
“But that’s not Christmas. That’s just to show them I love them. You know, presents I hand them when they get here. I always get them presents when they come to visit.”
“For Christmas, we’re going to decorate a palm tree. Yep, I said palm tree. I bought little pepper lights to string along the fronds and lizard ornaments. But that isn’t the big big present. You know I got them something really wonderful this year.”
“I don’t have to tell you what it is. On Christmas Day my sometime girl friend [narrators use this type of description, not the actual character], Rita, is coming over to cook a Southwest dinner and after we’re all going to the movies. It’s going to be great.”
“Want to come with me when I go to the airport to pick them up? Okay, well, it’s tomorrow at noon and we’ll go out to the airport. They always like my friends, Dave.”
# # #
“There they are, Dave.”
“Hi kids! Hi Sammie, Hi Dev! Look how you’ve grown.” I grinned and waved at them. “Dave, I told you they were cute.”
“Hi Daddy! Hi Daddy!” They yell and run at me; they’re not so old that they don’t do that any more. I swept them up in my arms and hugged them. It seemed a long time since last summer.
We all got in the car. The kids were talking a [at] the same time. About school and their friends. They said they had a dog.
“Daddy, the dog’s name is Snuffy. He walks around smelling everything.” Dev was all boy, despite [delete-of] his frailty. He was small and thin for his age with horn-rimmed glasses. I use to think [thought] it was some Harry Potter fixation but his mother said n,o he didn’t like Harry Potter but did like the glasses. A little egghead just like me. Sammie was more like my sister, Vera. She was taller and just as thin because she was at that age when girls shoot up but don’t look very female [feminine]. She was almost to my shoulder. She wanted to play basket ball in middle school.
“Dave, these kids are my whole life.”
“Oh, yeah? What about the lab? What about your ‘project’ that you keep telling me is SO important? Important enough to change the world?” Dave’s eyes blinked at me.
“Well, sure it’s important but not as important as the kids. Kids are the future.”
“Ha,” said Dave in a lower voice. “I thought you said I was the future.”
“Shut the heck up. They don’t know anything and they’re not going to know anything, Dave.”
He lapsed into a sullen silence as the kids continued to tell me more about their lives. Before we got home my head was muddled with all the noise and stuff from the kids. [awkward] I’m not use to kids any more. But I love my kids, don’t get me wrong.
We went out for pizza after the afternoon playing in the pool. [awkward] I wanted Dave to come but he decided not to. I sort of minded that Dave wasn’t there to enjoy the fun. [awkward] Rita met us at theDel’s Pizza Parlor; she’s a great woman. Kind of ditsy, if you know what I mean. Never reads anything. Watches a lot of TV. But she’s smart in her own way; you know, like clever. I decided Dave didn’t want to come because of Rita. For some unexplained reason he didn’t like her.
But the kids did. Rita was able to talk to them about all kinds of things. She gave them a couple of dollars each in quarters so they could play the game machines. I hate those games. I play my games with the sound down. But of course I wouldn’t make the kids do that. They like noise.
We got ice cream cones after at a mall shop [awkward] and wandered for a bit looking at Christmas things. I asked the kids what they wanted for Christmas.
Dev yelled, “A dirt bike! Or an ATV!”
Sammie stood still smiling in front of a beautiful blue party dress with a low-cut front. “I don’t care; I like everything.”
Rita said, “I bet you’d like a dress like that, huh?”
Sammie shrugged. I lost it and shouted at Rita.
“She a kid for crying out loud, quit pushing her.”
“Okay, okay. You’re cranky. Maybe you’d bet go home to bed. You took these two weeks off didn’t you? You said you were going . . .” [???] Rita scowled at me, standing with a stiff back and her arms folded over her bosom. “Dave?”
“Sorry.” I mumbled not meaning a word of it. [it’s only one word] We walked a bit further and then turned back. The whole mall was alight with music, people and lights. It was a zoo. At the door we parted. [what door?] The kids and I watched until she got in her car and drove off. Then we went to my car.
“Dad, you going to marry Rita? Are you?” Sammie asked, not getting in when I opened the door.
“Get in with your brother. I don’t have time to marry anybody. I am working on THE PROJECT. I still work in research and design for Zen-nano Byte, inc. If I don’t produce a PROJECT a year they’ll let me go.”
“Dad are you still trying to get the cat that is allergy-free and glows in the dark?” Dev never forgot anything.”
“Not anymore. That was last year. Somebody else beat us to it. I have a new project this year. Actually it’s finished. I hope the new models will make us lots of money.”
“Cool, Dad.” He immediately lost interest and started looking out the window. In the rear view mirror I could see his face slacken and his eyes start to close. He was tired.
“Dad, what’s your project this year?” Sammie was persistent. Just like her mother.
“I’ll tell you later. Maybe. It’s a secret secret. Very big secret.”
“Please tell me. Is it another animal?”
“It’s better than an animal. You will love it, I promise.”
“Tell me, Daddy, please.” She was nagging me now. That is one reason the kids bother me. Their mother nagged me too. I shook my head at her, scowling in the mirror. I almost drove off the road trying to shut her up. It would have been her fault too. What does she want from me? I said no rather vehemently.
We got home and the kids went to their rooms. I kissed them good night and went back to the kitchen.
Dave was sitting at the table. He sat a beer in front of me.
“Gee thanks, Dave.”
“I didn’t hear you come in.”
“It’s my little cat feet.” He smiled in that familiar wry way.
“Good to see you, Dave. You should have gone with us.”
“No I had to think. Do you think that THE PROJECT is a suitable, responsible choice as gift for your children? I mean, what if they freak out or something?”
“They won’t freak out as you so succinctly put it. They are the children of a scientist, for crying out loud.”
“Okay, but remember I brought it up.”
“Don’t jerk me around. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me. I made you my friend.”
“I thought we were more than friends.”
I picked up my beer and went to bed. Dave could just cope by himself. I don’t need to hold his hand.
In the morning we planned our Christmas Eve day. First we decorated the palm tree. Then we drove to the mall and I gave the kids money to shop for me, their mom, and their step-dad. That step-dad guy was a car salesman. I bet with this economy and everyone wanting little cars he won’t be making much. Serves him right.
After shopping, I was tired and hungry but I wanted to show the kids a good time so we went to Chuckle Cheese and then a stupid panda movie. They ate way too much candy and were so hyper I felt like I wanted to drop them off at park and go on home. I didn’t, of course; after all, I am a responsible father.
They should have known how much candy to eat. After the movie we stopped for a barrel of chicken and mashed potatoes to eat at home.
We watched a bunch of sick Christmas stories on television. You know the kind, where something bad happens to ordinary people and then something else totally UNBELIEVABLE happens and make it all right again. I don’t think anyone believes that crap. The kids love it though. Especially that old one where nobody believes there is a Santa Clause, only Natalie Wood when she was little. Too bad she fell off the boat. Her stupid husband was probably to drunk or she was kidding around with that other guy. She was wearing a coat, for crying out loud. And nobody heard her or anything. Poor Natalie.
Finally, after the kids got so tired they were stumbling, I led them to their beds and kissed them on their sweet foreheads. There’s nothing like your own child’s forehead, is there? It symbolizes all the hope you have for them and for yourself.
Just before I went to bed I talked to Dave. “You be here early, okay?”
“And sit under the tree.”
“You’re kidding me?”
“Just do it. I’m still in charge, Dave.”
I didn’t say another word but went to bed and slept like a baby.
First thing I knew I heard the kids screaming. I sat up bleary and dazed. Christmas.
They must have found Dave.
I wandered out to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee then went into the living room.
“Dad, where’s our presents?”
“Look under the tree.” I laughed but it sounded hollow and echoing to me.
“Dad, there’s nothing there.” Dev was anxious and worried.– I could tell.
I looked under the tree. There was Dave just sitting there grinning. I looked at the kids.
“See! I made you a new daddy. You can take him home with you. He’ll always be with you.” I laughed happily. “He’s just like me, only invisible.”
They really started screaming then. [Why? Wouldn’t they more likely think their dad is joking with them? Or if they did realize he was nuts, wouldn’t they be really quiet and withdraw from him, rather than scream?]
“ Merry Christmas !” I shouted.
What I liked best: There are places where you show the psychotic break very well, like when he gets mad at the kids for eating too much candy, then later loves kissing their foreheads.
Magazine ready? No. Other than the fact that this is set at Christmas, it’s not really a Christmas story. For it to be a Christmas “horror” story, you’d need to tie various Christmas items more closely into what is happening with Dave—almost like it’s causing his breakdown. Also, it’s really not clear enough what is happening. I’m guessing psychotic break, but I’m not sure. We need a little more development to make it clear what’s going on.