Xmas by Thomas M. Disch, 1977
The magic trick:
A commitment to sadness
This is a Scrooge story without the redemption, and for that I salute Mr. Disch. Our protagonist here is lonely and depressed. He isn’t reveling in it at all the way Scrooge does in A Christmas Carol. He does take actions to ensure a certain level of happiness against the sadness, though they are admittedly half-heartedly executed and ill-advised. But mostly things aren’t good and they’re not getting better. I realize I am ruining the plot for many by saying that. My apologies. This story isn’t really about plot, though. It’s about how sometimes things don’t magically improve, especially at the holiday season. Sometimes there aren’t any guardian angel ghosts to save the day. Not in this story. And that’s quite a trick on Disch’s part.
It’s hard to make friends, even imaginary friends, and harder still to keep them. Something, his reality principle or his death wish, kept intruding, like a vengeful witch cursing each newly fledged friend with warts and foibles and fatal flaws of character.