This is actually the third story I’ve written about Christmas for this blog, but only the first to appear at the right time of year…
Donald sat on his hand long enough to give himself pins and needles. Then he picked up a cracker, held it between his numb hand and his good hand, and pulled. This was his way of pretending he was pulling a cracker with another person. If you can only feel the cardboard with one hand, then you’ve only got one hand touching it, right?
The cracker didn’t so much bang as make a gentle tutting noise as it broke. A party hat and a slip of paper fell to the floor. Donald put on the hat. It was luminous yellow, and too small. It perched on his head like a wasp on a boulder.
Donald read the slip of paper. It said: ‘If you want to see a joke, look in the mirror’. He sighed. When he’d asked Jerry to do the crackers this time, Jerry had still been his brother-in-law. But he wasn’t any more. And the divorce had been messy. That was why he’d been so surprised when they’d arrived in the post a couple of days ago.
A few weeks ago Donald and his wife, Shirley, had begun to row, but he hadn’t understood her problem. They celebrated Christmas twice a week without fail, and what was so wrong with that? They’d always done it. He loved Christmas. Shirley, though, had got sick of turkey and crackers and baubles and stockings and ho-ho-hos and parsnips and charades 104 times a year and, after a decade of marriage and 1040 turkey dinners, had upped and left.
He glanced around the room. The tree was wilting in the corner. Below it was his Christmas present to himself. He got up, bent over, and unwrapped the red and green paper. Socks. He wandered back to the table, sat down, and yanked on a party popper. A couple of streamers farted out of the plastic container and fell on Donald’s plate, where they sank in the remains of his gravy.
Sunlight streamed through the living room window. Outside it was a gorgeous, bright July afternoon. Donald could hear children shouting and screaming in next door’s paddling pool. He looked once more at his dinner, his decorations, his tree, and realised he didn’t want to celebrate Christmas twice a week any more.
He stood up and pulled the curtains closed, then sat down in his armchair and waited for the day to end.