Ex mas

About this: a recently rejected submission, actually that’s not quite true, they didn’t send a rejection notice. I think possibly the ambiguity over who’s speaking at the end, which is deliberate, might’ve harmed its prospects but it has to said, this story not my best effort. In fact, when writing it, getting the words out was like chasing hens in the garden, just couldn’t get the job done. Which I think shows in this story, with its laboured prose. It was awkward writing in the present tense but reading it back, it appears I  gave up on technique and decided to just relate events rather than evoke them. I might tinker with it, it might be an interesting exercise to post further edits of this.

 

-*-

 

I’m humming to the tune of Let it Snow as I listen to voice message prompt. No luck still, this is the third try today: ‘Sorry kids…’ I exclaim aloud, ‘…she’s not answering’, she never was much for the domestic life, so perhaps they’re eating out for dinner. For a few moments, while I let the disappointment fade, I ponder the thought of Xmas dinner amongst the singles and retired couples at a hotel or pub, the uniformly sliced portions of cardboard tasting turkey roll, the amorphous flavour of carrots and sprouts boiled up together in a stock pot. Not a prospect that holds much potential for Xmas atmosphere I would’ve though, but each to their own.

Myself I’m glad I made the effort, the whole flat is permeated with the aromatic of roasting bird, stuffing, parsnips and gently simmering sprouts. It’s particularly strong in the kitchen and dining area. I turn to look at the twins, trying to acknowledge the disappointment I’m so sure they must be feeling with a shrug and an, ‘Oh well’. They’re smiling but there’s an incongruous lack of chatter, we call ’em the twins but there’s over a year between them. Jason being rather small for his age, it was touch and go there for a while, when he was nipper but he’s over it now, as much as he’ll ever be, we all have our scars to bear, his just came a litter earlier in life than for most of us.

let’s see if we can get bit of atmosphere going, The CD that’s playing has been running through suitably seasonal songs to kill the silence but I’ve got something special lined up for dinner. ‘Let me see, where did that put that…? Ah here it is.’ I announce the hand written legend, ‘Xmas dinner compilation,’ with a suitable flourish of histrionics, then place the CD in the player.

‘Daddy, this is going to be the best Xmas ever,’ caught by surprise by Jason’s voice, there’s a lump that’s lodged to my throat, I try to collect a suitable response before the chorus I know that’s coming.

‘Merry Xmas!’ too late, the room is already echoing with the joy drenched laughter of a family in celebration.

‘Right let’s get the bird on the table,’ I announce, Mark teases Jason over presents while I carve, I chime in with a, ‘Be nice remember the Xmas spirit, it’s a season of gifts and sharing’. They don’t hear me of course but it’s all in good humour. The playful ribaldry of children is what Xmas is all about and not fit for the censure of zealous parents. The bird is small but tender and juicy, dressed with Paxo and onions, there’s roast spuds too, not too many, want to leave room for the buttered parnies.

‘Oh not sprouts! Mark cries, he’s the quieter of the two but veggies are a consistent source of his protests at meal times.

‘Just try ’em, you might like ’em,’ I lie, I know they taste like the…

‘Giant bogies!’. he compares them to, for the sensitive palette of a ten year old. Gosh time has flown, he’s ten already. looking at his face, he’s a picture in his paper hat, beaming with the light of an eight year old in his eyes, how long will it be before he’s bringing the girls over for Xmas? He’s got a few years yet, if he’s as slow to get started as his old man but it wont be too many years before it’s time to start thinking of tips I can share with him in that department if he’s to avoid my mistakes. As for Jason, well let’s just say he’s the sensitive sort, even if he is the more demonstrative of the pair. I think he might have a career in musical theatre ahead of him, despite the urgings of his grandma, who takes every opportunity to remind him how many hearts he’s going to break when he gets older. I think she might have a clue about him: his mum is oblivious, well they always are aren’t they.

I lay out a modest serving for the both of them, complete with sprouts and veggie, they be wont be touching it, it’s just for my benefit really, a symbolic offering to the Xmas spirit. On the subject of Xmas spirit, Where did I put that bottle of brandy, oh I see it, beside the Xmas tree, my slightly pathetic effort, that I cobbled together from coat hangers and left over wrapping paper, nestled between the twins’ neatly wrapped presents. I’m not big on decoration, I made some effort, we’ve got crepe paper and some plastic baubles for the tree, that don’t hang quite right on its flimsy branches. I did get plenty of crackers though, a box of twelve, bit of a mistake really because I spent quite a bit of money on good quality ones and there are too…

The wisp of vapor lingers over my plate as the I pour the gravy: the phone rings. I still keep it in the hall, never bothered to change it for a the new one when I moved into the flat. I’m regretting my lack of foresight now as I have to leave the tableaux of a family Xmas dinner I so carefully created, behind to answer it. I rush, the gravy spills, a napkin falls to the floor, one or two sprouts roll off onto the edge of the table, as I nudge it in my clumsy haste.

I’m answering before the second ring, ‘Hello!’ there’s a pause, then he speaks, it’s Justin, Jesus fucking Christ, she couldn’t even be bothered to ring herself.
‘Hi Justin, is Tracy there?’.

‘Yeah I know, I wasn’t supposed to ring but you know, season of good will and all that’.

‘Okay busy… what about the twins can they come to the phone?’.

‘It’s just for a second Justin… right okay, how about…’.

He’s hung up, ‘Shit head’ in my haste to reach the phone, I forgot the CD player, left it playing.

‘Daddy, this is going to be the best Xmas ever,’ it’s on loop. I pick my plate up from the table, draw a flat blade across its surface, the meal falls into the bin, ‘Merry Xmas!’ once again the flat sound of laughter rings. I turn the Xmas photograph of Jason and Mark down flat, then open the brandy.

 

-*-

Told you  it wasn’t that good, oddly I found a few errors and other issues as I skimmed it, which leaves me pondering whether I sent the wrong draft, oops.

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~ by deadspidereye on December 9, 2015.

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