Sunday, November 9, 2008

Christmas Crackers

Christmas Crackers

By Scott Wilson

Word Count: 93

"I used to like Christmas when I was younger, right up until the unfortunate incident we now call The Christmas Cracker." Juliet said to her best friend Mary.

"What happened?"

"Well, it all started like a typical festive season. The entire extended family made it up to Mum and Dad's for the weekend. It was the first time the Christmas holidays fell on a Thursday and Friday in years."

"Yeh, I know what you mean. It is so hard getting annual leave at my work over Christmas. Everyone in my office put in for leave twelve months ago and the bitch of a boss only got around to approving them the first week of December. No one could plan anything."

"It used to be us parents got first choice for school holidays, like
Christmas and Easter. Not anymore. I don't know why single people or
couples without kids would want to have holidays when the kids are
out of school anyway."

"Bastards like my boss are so selfish and self absorbed they don't
even realise it is important for parents to spend these special
occasions at home with their kids."

"Well, that's why it was such a big thing. All of us up at the oldie's place for Christmas. Now, I wish we didn't all make it that year. The kids are petrified of Christmas these days."

"That's horrible."

"It was. I'll never forget the screaming, the blood, and smell of burning hair and flesh."

Juliet took a tissue out of her bra and dabbed the corner of her eyes, careful not to smudge the mascara. She sniffled, stuffed the tissue back in little cocoon, and regained her composure.

"Dad was so happy we could all make it. He was quietly dying of lung cancer and knew he probably wouldn't see his children together again, unless it was through a drug-induced stupor from a hospital bed. He was right about that, but for the wrong reason."

Mary put her arm around her best friend, seeing the tears well up in her eyes again.

"You don't have to tell me about it if you don't feel up to it yet."

"No, I want to talk about it. You have been my best friend since high school and I haven't told you exactly what happened yet. It's been six years now."

Mary rubbed Juliet's arm reassuringly, then brushed her long black hair from her face. Juliet forced a smile and patted Mary's hand softly.

"We sat down at the table in the garage to say grace and have our traditional seafood lunch. Always had to set up three fold-up picnic tables in the garage to fit everyone in, what with five couples and twelve children. The seating arrangement was the same whenever we got together like this. Mum and Dad at the end of the first table, closest to the door to the house. My older brothers, Ron and Charles, sat on opposite sides with their wives. Bec, my younger sister, and I sat at the next table with our husbands, and the children all sat together at the last table. Thank goodness for that at least. None of the children were close enough to feel the heat
from the explosion, or to be hit with any of Ron's face when it blew up."

"Struth, Juliet. What happened? Were you sitting next to him?"

"No, I was next to Charles, across the table from Ron. It was the Christmas crackers. The one on the table in front of Ron had Dad's name on it. Dad would have held it out and both Mum and he would have died from the explosion."

"Both of them? But didn't only your brother Ron die?"

"Yes, but his wife lost her right hand and eye when the Christmas cracker went off. If it was Mum and Dad pulling it, the shock from the injuries would have killed both of them, the paramedics said. As it was, Ron caught the full force of the explosion in his face and chest. He got the larger part of the cracker when he pulled on it with his wife Marge. The cracker flung back right into Ron’s face."

"How did it do so much damage? They only have a tiny bit of gunpowder in them to make a small popping noise. It shouldn't have exploded like it did?”

Juliet pulled the tear-moistened tissue out of her bra again to dry her eyes.

"The police said it looked like it was loaded with gun powder and buckshot. Like a huge shotgun shell or something."

"Why would someone do that to a Christmas Cracker?"

"Ron did it. He was the oldest son and was supposed to get the biggest share of the inheritance out of us kids; He had a huge debt to pay off with some dodgy loan shark who was going to kill him if he didn't pay up by New Year's Day. The kids must have moved the crackers around before diner when they were helping Mum set the table. Ron ended up with the one he booby trapped for Dad. It would have remained a mystery if Ron's wife didn't tell the cops everything when she was doped up on morphine."

"What a bastard, how could you do that to your own father?"

"I know. In front of twelve children and on the most precious holiday for young children. Bastard killed himself and the mystery of Father Christmas at the same time."

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