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Christmas Cracker: Short Story PDF Print E-mail
Culture
Written by Nick Alexander   
Tuesday, 25 December 2007 00:00
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Christmas Cracker: Short Story
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Why was he doing this again this year? Doug felt like a prize sucker as he buttoned up the red Father Christmas jacket. He’d already slipped the thin cotton trousers over his jeans and the beard and hat were drooped across the back of the chair.

As he checked the jacket in the cracked mirror, his thoughts couldn’t help straying back to last year. What a flaming fiasco! He’d agreed to man the Christmas grotto in his Uncle’s family supermarket. The place was underfinanced, situated in the degenerate rather than regenerate part of town and the premises themselves had a funky dampness in some of the far-flung aisles, particularly the one to which Santa had been exiled. Outside, the shop’s lights gave off a steady forty watt glow, which was completely overshadowed by the blaze of the High Street a little further up the road. In fact the Christmas lights strung across the road stopped short of this end of the town by a good fifty yards – a gulf of swirling half-light separating two universes.

Then there’d been the clientele. A succession of rude untameable little dung-monkeys had traipsed through his grotto, pulling his beard and barking his shins. He’d hidden some wire wool in the beard for the afternoon session, but after two of them had come away with bleeding fingers he’d had to cut it out (literally) as murmurings of complaint had been heard.

Then the little darlings had started their revenge. He hadn’t even realised it was happening to start with, nor could he have foreseen that they would have access to such industrial quantities of superglue. Trussed and glued he had been rolled out into the store and pushed backward and forward like a giant weeble, so that he swung to and fro, unable to release arms or legs for protection, his head crashing into great stacks of tinned Christmas puddings to send them flying in all directions. Then, he had been manoeuvred into the vegetable aisle where they could achieve a greater swing. A vast pile of satsumas had been scattered in an avalanche of Xmas jollity toward the tills, but at least they were softer to the head. The melons were a bit much, but the most painful had been the coconuts.

The fire brigade had had to spend about three hours cutting him out of his costume before they delivered him to the hospital. His neighbour of two doors away had been amongst the fire crew and she had had the unenviable task of cutting his trousers and underwear free. What an introduction! He had wanted to make an impression, and he had at least done that!

Over the last year since then, actually, they’d become good friends and in a way his decision to return to the grotto this year had been seen by both of them as a fitting tribute to their meeting. She had made sure that she was on duty again and was now keenly awaiting the call-out. He had sworn to himself that she wouldn’t be seeing his Rudolph Glow In The Dark boxers this year – not in public, anyway.

If anything, trade had dropped off since last year, but the local paper had printed a little article recalling the frolics of the year before and a small queue of ghouls had started to form by the time he took up his position in the grotto.

The customary unpleasantries were exchanged with a parade of small Herberts. One sweet little boy managed to smear seasonal dog muck along the back rung of Santa’s chair, which leant a certain heady atmosphere to the proceedings. An angelic looking seven-year-old girl reeked of absinthe as she burped, causing his eyes to smart.

The store had had the foresight to install a winch, which enabled him to cope with the large number of elephant-sized pre-teens who scattered chocolates and pies in their wake. It didn’t relieve Doug of the support his body had to provide once they were lowered into position, but at least it meant that they didn’t have to crampon their way in, which usually involved a detour via his testicles. Last year they had ended the tour of duty looking like table tennis bats, an abnormality that had caused no end of confusion when his neighbour had initially burrowed her way into his nether regions, not having arrived by helicopter.

After a couple of hours, Doug felt as though his knees had played host to most of the Welsh pack, and his thighs were particularly well tenderised.

The day drew on and he began to allow himself the glimmer of a belief that he would emerge from the experience relatively unscathed. The afternoon rush had ended at about 3.50. That’s when the local theatre opened its doors for the pantomime performance. All the mini hard nuts in town deserted ‘Santa’s Grotty’, as they liked to call it, and were now in the panto queue, racing through their first box of malteasers.

The clock ticked slowly while the floral reindeers wilted. Santa’s little helper, Rita, aged 63 and cheerful as a mugging victim, went off for a fag and shopping expedition and forgot to rush back.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2008 12:22