Listen

A Christmas calamity!

by Patrick O'Connor

Christmas House

DON smiled. Chris Rea's 'Driving Home for Christmas' was playing on the car radio and he was ready, very ready for Christmas.

Just the two of them, Don and his wife Jan, cocooned inside their smart, four bedroomed detached house.

Listen to the story

 

No distractions, just a quiet, relaxing time at home. It was Christmas Eve  and as Don turned his Mercedes into the tree-lined avenue where he lived, he could feel all the pressures of work flowing away.

Everything was dropping into place. There had been a smattering of snow, nothing too dramatic, but enough to help create the right sort of atmosphere.  The snow glistened on the ground and many of the houses in the avenue had Christmas lights adorning their exteriors. Nothing too flash but as they say in the carol, everything was crisp and even.

He had it all planned out for the night, a large glass of wine in front of the fire, the TV magazine already marked - red for his selections, blue for Jan's, DVD recorder at the ready for when there was a clash.

Dan and his wife were not particularly religious but they usually rounded off the day by tuning into the Midnight Mass on the radio or TV. It all contributed to the feel-good vibe that Christmas evoked.

Christmas Day would involve a leisurely mid-morning walk, followed by a traditional lunch, followed by a return to the TV schedules and then the two of them would slowly sink into a warm and comforting slumber.

As he entered the house, warmth enveloped him immediately and the mouth-watering aroma of the turkey being cooked in the oven filled him with a glow of anticipation.

He was so tired, aching to chill-out.

"There's been a change of plan darling, " said Jan as she greeted him in the cavernous kitchen, wearing The Simpsons oven gloves Don had bought her the year before.

The look of a worn-out, stressed executive which had just about been discarded, returned with a vengeance.

"What?" screeched Don.

"It's Phillip, he's coming."

"What?" screeched Don.

Phillip was Jan's brother but these were no cosy siblings.They hadn't spoken to each other for two years, not since there was a big fall-out following their father's death and a rather contentious will.

"Why's he coming here, you two aren't speaking are you?" asked Don.

"It's Pam, they've had a row. She's kicked him out," she replied.

"So? What's that got to do with us?"

Jan frowned, the way she always frowned when she wanted to admonish her husband. "Don, he's my brother, my only brother. I know we've had our bad times but he really is in a terrible state."

"Why? What happened? " said Don.

"He's had an affair."

That cheered Don up. "What Phillip, strait-laced, boring as hell Phillip? Who'd want to have an affair with him?  Dirty old dog," he chuckled.

"I don't know. He's not saying much, just that he's been very silly. Pam's found out and kicked him out of the house. It's Christmas Eve Don, we can't turn him away."

"What, he's coming to stay?"

"Yes, just for a few days."

Don loosened his tie, turned away in a sulk and went into the lounge. But no sooner had he sat down then Jan, a neat and tidy woman with a pleasing oval face and short brown hair, followed him in and said: "Do me a favour, love, we haven't got anything to give him as a Christmas present."

"Jan, it's gone seven, nowhere will be open now," said Don with despair written all over his face.

"Yes, they will, the store at the precinct, that's always open. Pop down there and get him something, I don't know, a bottle of malt whisky, the best they've got. I think I've still got some wrapping paper around somewhere."

A few moments later, much to his dismay, Don was venturing out again into the cold, frosty air. As Jan had predicted, the shop was still open. It took only a moment to buy a bottle of Glenfiddich and as he left the premises, Don heard the shopkeeper locking the door behind him.

Don walked around the back of his car to get to the driver's door and came across a teenage girl slumped by its side. Although she was smartly dressed in a casual sort of way and quite attractive, he was immediately overwhelmed by the stench of booze.

"Hmm, excuse me, can you get up please, I need to get into my car," he said.

The girl barely moved, her eyelids flickering upwards for a moment, before slumping down again.

"I need to get into my car, I've got to get home, " said Don, this time adopting a more forthright tone.

The girl slowly looked up at him and then emitted a tearful, lingering whimper. Don couldn't work out any clear words but there were no signs of any obvious injuries so he presumed she was in a state of emotional distress.

He attempted to lift her off the ground.

"Noooooooo" she moaned. "Noooooooo".

"What's the matter? Are you hurt?"

"Leave me alone. I want to die," she sobbed.

Don looked around to see if he could get any assistance, or at least pass the burden on to somebody else.

But the precinct was completely empty and devoid of people. There were no longer any lights on in the shop and when he banged on the door no-one answered. He returned to the girl and thought about ringing for an ambulance but then realised that he had left his mobile at home.

It was decision time.

 


DON was extremely grateful that the girl had not thrown up in the car and, with the windows down, by the time they had got back home she had sobered up a little. He helped steer her into the house but no sooner had they passed through the front door when they bumped into Phillip emerging from the downstairs toilet.

 

"Rebecca! What the hell are you doing here?"

PHILLIP was a physics teacher at local comprehensive school. Rebecca was an 18 year old sixth form student.They had been having a 'fling' for the last three months before Pam confronted him in an extremely emotional scene after finding out. Phillip had then cowardly sent Rebecca a text saying he didn't want to see her again.

DON defended himself saying he had no choice but to bring Rebecca home with him as he thought she was suicidal. How was he to know that the mystery girl he found slumped by his car had been having an affair with his brother-in-law?

Jan swiftly moved into matron mode by dispatching Rebecca to the upstairs bathroom with the firm instructions to drink plenty of water. Phillip was told to stay in the kitchen and not come out under any circumstances.

Don and his wife looked at each other in desperation, eagerly trying to think of a solution when the door bell rang. Don opened it and gasped when he saw Pam and her two children, 11 year old Sam and 14 year old Lucy standing there. The kids had their overnight bags with them.

"Oh hello Pam, long time no see. Hi-ya kids," was Don's rather feeble greeting.

"He's here isn't he?" she said, eyes of steel firmly fixed on Don. She was not a woman to have a confrontation with. Like her husband, she was a teacher but was a religious education tutor at a private school.

"Well, yes."

"Good, he can have the kids, I'm off to my sister's."

As she was about to turn away, Rebecca edged her way gingerly down the stairs. She had been sick and had stripped off to her bra and panties, rather nice pink ones thought Don.

Lucy, a very mature 14 year old who attended the same school as her father and Rebecca,exclaimed: "Mum! That's her! That's the slag!"

This coincided with Phillip foolishly ignoring his instructions and coming through the kitchen door.

"You bastard!" screamed Pam who angrily chased him into the lounge followed by the two children and Rebecca who was wailing uncontrollably.

Jan trotted after them in a vain attempt to act as a peacemaker. Don was left in limbo in the hall but not for long as the doorbell chimed again.

At the door was a tall, gangling youth clutching a mobile phone, dressed like a goth with the skin complexion to go with it.

He peered through to the lounge where he could see Rebecca being dragged along, wrapped round Phillip's legs and groaning: "Please don't leave me! I love you! I want your babies!"

The youth  shouted: "Hey you pervert, that's my girlfriend" before bursting past Don to join the general melee.

Despair was now overtaking Don's world and the sound of the doorbell ringing yet again was almost more than he could take.

You would have thought that the sight of his son Jonathan and girlfriend Kirsty, attired in typical scruffy 'uni' grunge gear, would have cheered him up but if it did, it wasn't for long.

"What are you doing here, you were supposed to be in a cottage in the Yorkshire dales?"

"Got burnt down, didn't it," was his son's sorrowful response.

"And who's fault was that?" scowled Kirsty with a look that could kill a vampire.

Apparently Jonathan's attempts at making a Christmas pudding had ended in a fireball disaster and the couple had decided to head to Don's for Christmas instead.

But by now they were barely on speaking terms. Kirsty stormed off into the lounge in a huff, only for Don to hear Rebecca say to Phillip: "What's this, another one of your tarts?"

Very quickly, Kirsty was involved in a unseemly, nail flailing scuffle on the floor with Rebecca whose boyfriend was then rugby tackled by Jonathan after he headbutted Phillip,leaving the teacher clutching a bleeding handkerchief and crying: "He's broken my nose!"

Amidst the sound of furniture collapsing under this sudden onslaught,Jan and Pam were screaming obscenities at each other - "I never liked you, you snobbish cow" - that sort of thing.

This led to a considerable amount of hair pulling and 'girlie' attempts at punching.

Meanwhile Sam and Lucy were tussling vigorously over who could establish control of the TV remote control, the consequence of which was that the volume was turned up to maximum just as Wizzard's 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day' was being played on a re-run of an old Top of the Pops TV Show.

 

IT didn't take Don long to spot the familiar neon light and as he pulled into the car park he could feel his nerve ends starting to return to normality.

He gathered his overnight bag and the whisky he had bought for Phillip from the boot and crunched across the snow towards the entrance.

Moments later he was back in his car, shaking his head gently: "I don't bloody believe it. No room at the sodding inn!"

© Patrick O’Connor 2009

You can read more about British traditions at Christmas here.