Family Christmas

 

FLASH FICTION:SURE, YOU know what Christmas is like. They even stopped fighting for a day in World War One. No fear of that in our house.

Pass the spuds, please, and drop your attitude there while you’re at it.

Do we have to watch this Jesusin’ shite again? Why don’t you just go and die? I had to get out. Anyway, there wasn’t a paracetamol tablet to be had in the place and I’d a head on me like the arse end of a jackboot.

That’s when I saw them, on my way to the newsagent that never closes in the next town over. He was hunched over her. I thought she’d fallen and he was helping her up.

They were kissing. It was a clinch from the movies, she swept back at an angle that must have been murder for her back, like. Him leaning in like yon tower in Pisa.

I double-taked, because you do. Shock like that, it winds you like a sudden clodhopper in the gut. It was the brother-in-law. The lady on the receiving end I could not place. I could tell you right enough who she wasn’t, though. My sister. She was at the house with a face on her and a pair of snot-nosed infants.

I tipped the brakes, instinctive, like. Felt I should stop. I pulled in. Then I worried I’d be seen. Felt like it was me was in the wrong. Thing is, you wouldn’t know where to look.

I pulled out, without looking behind me for fear I’d catch his eye. Landed up to the shop that never closes, tipped the paracetamol, sent a few thirsty slugs of Lucozade down with them for company.

I’d a bit of a tremor, and it might have been the drink working its way through. Or it might not. Had to drive home a long way around for fear I’d see them again. Me thinking: the sister and snot-nosed kids. Thinking too: that one I met that night at the Solar, and Áine away at a hen, well, I’m not proud of it, like.

Christmas day, and standing in the street with her; what class of a muppet was he? I suppose they thought no one’d see them, day that’s in it, like. No, it wasn’t a one-nighter.

He was off to the farm and would be back later, he’d said before he left the house earlier.

“She’s a harsh mistress, what, Jim?” Me, tossing him a few crumbs of small talk.

“Huh?” Him, bit pasty-looking, no more than meself.

“Sure, you’re at it all hours, aren’t you?” Interrupted, then, by a niece with a cracker, and he was off.

Back at the house and I head straight for the Jameson. Waiting for the lights of his SUV to sweep the window. Waiting for what? Here’s the niece again. Mad for the crackers, that one. Me thinking: Merry bloody Christmas, everyone.


Send your Flash Fiction stories, of no more than 500 words, to flashfiction@irishtimes.com