Out of Retirement

Merry Christmas, everyone! 😀

 

Out of Retirement

By Adam Dixon

 

“Voila! What do you think, mon ami?” The old reindeer turned at the sound of the cheery voice, his legs creaking and his back threatening to cramp up. He lifted his shaggy white head at the newcomer as he stepped in through the door and into the tiny cabin. A large old man dressed in green cloth grinned and turned his flabby jowls towards the roaring fire. The orange and gold light flickered across his clean-shaven face.

Well, Pierre, I didn’t realise you had quite so many chins,” he replied, sending the thought with a mischievous wink. The old man’s smile faded and he huffed, flopping his bulk down on a nearby armchair.

“Oh, you are a scoundrel!” he declared “Ah, but you are right, of course!” There was a small wooden table next to his armchair and upon it stood a bottle of wine and two clean glasses. Pierre uncorked the bottle and helped himself.

“So, the big night is upon us again, no? It comes around so quickly!”

Yes, it does,” the deer nodded. “I still get the old feelings of anticipation, you know. I suppose they never go away, even after retirement. How long as it been now?

“Twenty-five years for me,” Pierre replied. “And I believe that it will be twenty-two for you. Mon Dieu, how time flies!”

Hard to believe that the new Santa is the second one after you,” the deer said. “And the Rudolph is the third after me. We seem to be getting through them these days. Pity about Seamus, he was a wonderful Santa.

“Oui, he was,” Pierre said sadly. “But a bit too fond of whiskey, in the end. He shouldn’t have drank so much before flying through that Pacific storm…such a shame…and that was three years ago now, no?”

Yes, that’s right. Still, the new Santa appears to be finding his feet,” the deer sent. As soon as he had finished speaking, there came a knock on the door. A moment later an elf poked her head inside, an expectant look on her face. The cold night air rushed in and disturbed the fire, sending shadows dancing around the room in a panic.

“Evening, sirs,” she said, curtseying as she stepped inside. The small bells on her tall, pointed hat jingled. “Santa would like speak with you. He’s a bit nervous about tonight, I think.”

“Speak of the devil!” Pierre said with a broad grin. “Wiggles and I are not up to much, please send him in!” The elf curtseyed again and left the cabin. The reindeer growled and glared at Pierre.

Why do you insist on calling me that?” he sent.

“It is your name, is it not?” Pierre asked, pouring out an extra glass of wine as he refilled his own.

That’s not the point, you know I hate it!” Wiggles sent, scowling. “That was the hardest part about retiring, having to lose my first decent name…” Before Pierre could begin laughing in earnest, the door to the cabin swung open again. Another very fat man strode into the room, resplendent in his red-and-white clothing and shining white beard. His dark face was creased in happiness as he walked over to Pierre and seized his hand.

“Pierre! Ça me fait toujours plaisir de te voir!” he said with enthusiasm. Pierre smiled at the compliment and nodded towards Wiggles.

“And to you, mon ami! But let us speak in English for the sake of our valued steed, yes? He is not intelligent enough for two languages!” Pierre yelped as Wiggles bit him on the hip.

I have a working understanding of the language, you fat fool!” Wiggles chided. “Half a century of listening to you wail your old songs gave me that much at least!

“Those are ballads of great beauty and skilled composition, I’ll have you know!” Pierre said with a laugh, rubbing his hip. “Now, what can we do for you, dear Emmanuel? May I offer you some wine?” The man in red smiled and spoke up, stroking his beard with his fingers.

“Nah man, I’d better not,” he said slowly, sampling the less familiar words with care. His accent was thick and exotic for the North Pole. “Pierre, I don’t like the take-off, man. Reindeers are all ready, but I’m the scared old goat! Ya both helped me last Christmas, an’ so could…could ya come an’ see me off this time? I’d be grateful.” Emmanuel’s eyes moved imploringly between Pierre and Wiggles. It was Wiggles who spoke first.

Of course, Emmanuel!” the reindeer sent, shooting Pierre an eager look. “The fat fool and I were just discussing the old times, as it happens. I think we both miss the job more than we’d like to admit.” Emmanuel’s grin split his beard in unequal halves and he nodded with vigour.

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” he said with excitement. “I bet you do miss it, man! It’s the best job I ever had! The kiddies are so happy in the mornin’, an’ I get to make it happen! An’ seein’ Haiti again always brings me joy!”

“Oui, that is wonderful!” Pierre said with longing in his eyes. “I am envious, Emmanuel. I would love to see Lille again…to be frank, I would love to see the world again, but I am too old to travel away from here now.” Emmanuel seemed struck by a thought and he cocked his head to one side.

“Maybe not, man,” he said slowly. “Ya should come with me! Both of ya! Think about it, man! Up in the sky again, feelin’ the wind in ya hair and hearin’ those sleigh bells jinglin’!” Pierre’s eyes widened and Wiggles was too taken aback to say anything.

“Emmanuel, that is a magnificent idea,” Pierre replied, choked. “I didn’t realise just how much I missed that creaky old bucket and the stink of the reindeer blowing in my face until this evening. I’d love to do it all one more time!”

Eloquent as always,” sent Wiggles. “You can count me in, as well, Emmanuel! That is if the Grand Elf sees fit to let us, and if we can get the ‘creaky old bucket’ off the ground with you both in it!

“Aha, you a cheeky one, man!” Emmanuel said, grinning from ear to ear. “Come, come! Let’s go an’ speak with him right now!”

***

The Grand Elf was an old being who radiated knowledge and wisdom. His small face was cracked and creased by innumerable lines from innumerable years on the earth, and his long white beard trailed the floor in twin lines behind him. Standing in the large, decadent Grand Cabin, supported by two young elves who held him at the elbows, he looked hard at his audience. Despite their own long lives and their familiarity with him, the trio were struck dumb with awe at the elf. They fidgeted before his gaze, scuffing their feet on the floor and clearing their throats as he pondered their question.

“This…is most irregular,” the Grand Elf rasped. His voice sounded like sandpaper scraping across a wooden toy. “There is no precedent for a former Santa Claus and Rudolph taking part in Christmas Eve so long after the termination of their duties. Why should I allow it?”

“Master Elder, sir,” Emmanuel began, wringing his hands together. “I’m still scared about the take-off, an’ I could use the help.”

“The elves working here can provide ample instruction,” the Elder wheezed, frowning.

“I know, sir, but I would feel much better to have my friends with me,” Emmanuel pressed. “An’ also, they wanna fly again! You’d be doin’ them a great favour, too!”

“Hmm…” the Grand Elf mused, rubbing his chin with a trembling, time-withered hand. “It is not simply a question of missing the journey into the sky, but of the magic of Christmas. Do these two still hold that magic close, I wonder? Or has it faded with the decades of inactivity?”

“Tch! Don’t be silly, man!” Emannuel said, affronted. He was immediately contrite. “’Scuse me, sir! I mean, of course the magic is still there. These two are walkin’ Christmas spirits!”

“I would ask them the question and not you, young man,” the Grand Elder said with a stern frown. Emmanuel blinked at the comment but held his tongue.

“Sir, I don’t know where I ought to begin,” Pierre said with confusion. “I… Christmas has always been special to me, and I tried to spread my happiness every year when I was living in France. I helped charitable organisations feed the homeless and visited the elderly in my younger days….” Pierre trailed off, thinking. The Grand Elder stood in silence, waiting. Pierre gulped and continued.

“But I must talk to you about the work itself…I still remember the first time I was given the honour of being Santa…” Pierre stared into the distance with a smile on his face. “Mon Dieu, it was fantastic! To wear those wonderful clothes, to see the world with sturdy animals and the starlight to guide me…. incredible! But…but most of all I loved to imagine the smiles on the faces of the children on Christmas morning. Ah, the rosy glow of happiness! The cheer in their eyes! The laughter and the love! That, to me, is the real joy of Christmas!”

Pierre is right,” Wiggles sent. “It’s been a long time since I was a foal, but I have spent every year since trying to make humans happy. The children and the old, the merry and the glum, they all deserve to be joyful at Christmas. Serving mankind as Rudolph for forty years has been the highlight of my life. I’ve never been happier, and I still want to spread my happiness across the world with my friend Pierre.

“We did it together, mon cher ami,” Pierre said with great affection. He laid a meaty hand on the old reindeer’s head. Wiggles nuzzled Pierre’s hand and bleated fondly. The love between the two friends was palpable and one of the Grand Elder’s aides sniffed loudly. The other dabbed at her eyes. Gradually, the air inside the Great Cabin became warmer and seemed to shimmer around Pierre. The fat man laughed in delight as he flexed his tingling fingers, his eyes growing wide as soft, white sparks danced along his skin. His belly shook as he laughed, the happy, rich sound booming around the room as he sparkled with light. Next to him, Wiggles began to croon in the back of his throat, bucking his legs and shaking his head. He squeezed his eyes shut, snorted twice and then sneezed. As he lifted his head, a crimson light shone around his nose, lighting up the astonished onlookers. His face looked as close to a bright smile as a reindeer could get. Bathed in the light from the two friends, Emmanuel clapped his hands together and bounced up and down, his bulk making the floorboards creak.

“You see! You see! They’ve still got it!” he said, his wide smile threatening to burst from his face. “What did I say, man? I told you!”

“Yes, this is quite a display!” the Grand Elf said, beaming through his own beard. “The magic of Christmas is still strong within you both! Excellent, excellent! I see no reason for you not to accompany Santa, if you are both able. Blast the irregularity, it is Christmas!” Emmanuel seized Pierre’s hand in both of his and pumped it vigorously.

“Oh, Pierre, my heart sings for you!” he said, still bouncing on his heels. “This will be the best Christmas ever!”

“Oui, mon ami,” Pierre said, sharing the excitement with tears in his eyes. “It certainly will! Now, I must prepare! I will need my old suit, my old hat and my old boots! Oh non, will I still fit into them? I have gained so much weight since then…Oh, Mon Dieu, why did I decide to shave today of all days?” Emmanuel burst out laughing as the old man hurried off towards his own cabin, muttering to himself and fretting about the cold night air. Wiggles shook his great head and sent his amusement to Emmanuel.

That old fool never did have the best timing!” the glow from his nose waved merrily as he laughed. “Now, I’d best get ready myself. See you on the runway, Santa!

“Not soon enough, Rudolph!” Santa answered with a wink. Wiggles scampered off, feeling as happy as a foal at feeding time. What a wonderful Christmas it was going to be!

 

 

Fiction Fursday/Pride and Seagulls

Time for my weekly story once again, and this time the prompt comes from the brilliant Viki Allerston. Viki has been following me via email and has been very encouraging towards my story writing. A few weeks ago Viki suggested that because I currently live in Sussex I could write a story about the great annual celebration which is Brighton Pride. She also suggested that I include the American Express Stadium, the home of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club and the stomping ground for many a proud Brightonian. I thought this was a wonderful idea and have crafted a fun tale from the idea. Viki also suggested a few other Brighton landmarks, but I will use those for another story. Thanks, Viki!

Oh, and as you may have noticed, I have included my own Brighton motif…the mighty seagull! I hope you all enjoy my story.

P.S. If any of you would like to suggest a story for me to write in the coming weeks, please feel free to let me know by leaving a comment. I’ll give anything a go!

P.P.S. Just a quick note to say that I won’t be posting a story next Thursday as I will be getting a sexy tan/burning to a crisp in Cyprus. I’ll still read your wonderful blogs though!

Pride and Seagulls

By Adam Dixon

“I’ve always wondered why that worship that one,” said Waark the seagull, wiggling his scruffy feathers. “I mean, what’s so special about him anyway?”

“You sure it’s a he?” Kai-Kai replied as he dug his beak into his wing. “I’ve always thought it was a female.” He shuffled to adjust his balance as a gust of wind nudged him sideways.

“Nahh, can’t be!” Waark scoffed, but he still cocked his head for a better look. From their vantage point on the roof of the American Express Community Stadium the two gulls had a very good view of the whole building. They were scrutinising the gigantic image of a seagull in flight which decorated one of the walls facing the freshly-cut pitch, the same gull which was depicted onto several rows of plastic seating. They stared at the image in silence for several minutes.

“No, it’s definitely a male!” Waark said triumphantly. Kai-Kai flapped his wings in annoyance.

“I’m tellin’ you, it’s a female!” he said. “Not a very good likeness, I’ll admit, but it’s definitely a female.”

“Well, whatever it is, it hasn’t done anything to deserve the attention it gets,” Waark replied. “The humans worship the blooming thing! They even have its image on their clothes! They come here in their thousands to pay respect to it, and why?”

“They think she blesses their ball game,” Kai-Kai suggested. “Makes sense to me. They must think she’s some Game Goddess or somethin’.”

“Perhaps…foolish humans!” Waark cawed with amusement, shaking his head and hopping from foot to foot. His stomach growled again; it must have been almost twenty minutes since he last ate.

“Why are we still here? There’s a mass gathering towards the ocean today which we need to take advantage of!” Waark said. Kai-Kai looked at him eagerly.

“Mass gathering? Brilliant!” He screeched in delight. “I love it when loads of ‘em come out! Grub for everyone!” The two gulls took to the skies, gliding towards Brighton.

***

“Sweet Doughnuts, there’re a lot of ‘em today!” squawked Kai-Kai a couple of hours later, dodging around a car decorated with multi-coloured flags.

“You’re not wrong!” Waark agreed, scanning the packed seafront for his next morsel. He rode a light breeze and perched on a railing overlooking the seafront. The beach at Brighton was heaving, crammed full of humans who were whooping with delight and charging to and fro in excitement. The streets were just as crowded, with brightly-coloured garments and flags being waved with wild abandon. The usual smells of the seafront were present such as the greasy waft of fish and chips, the salt in the air and the varied scents of dozens of human bodies, but today they were greatly magnified.  Voices were raised in cries of happiness, surprise and pleasant intoxication; the humans were having a wonderful day.

“It’s that time of year again,” Waark said, his beady eyes following a group of cheering men who were dressed only in golden tights. “The Day of the Colours, my old mum used to call it. The humans make a great fuss out of it and flock here from miles and miles away. I think it’s something to do with the males of their species.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Kai-Kai said, watching two elderly men tottering along the beach holding hands and smiling. “Not sure what they’re celebratin’ but it looks like they’re havin’ a blindin’ day!”

“So are we though!” Waark giggled, shaking his feathers and belching. “I’ve lost count of how many chips I’ve managed to snatch! I even got some of that sticky pink stuff from a child on the pier! Oh, but it is divine! Come to mention it, I think there’s still some stuck on my leg…”

“Yeah, it’s been a bloody good day for it!” Kai-Kai said. “I’m stuffed! Although, I could always fit in something sweet…” Without warning Kai-Kai leapt into the air and swooped towards a group of teenagers. The group, three males and two females, all shrieked and ran for cover, dropping the bag they were sharing onto the pebbles. Kai-Kai screeched in triumph and began shredding the paper with his sharp beak. His delicious prize was revealed: five and a half sugar-coated doughnuts, still warm from the oven. Kai-Kai wasted no time and neither did his fellows. Within seconds a flock of gulls had descended, jostling and fighting one another for the contents of the bag. The noise of the competing gulls was terrific, and Waark watched it with great amusement. Less than a minute had passed before the sugary treats had been devoured with not a trace to be found on the beach. The flock dissipated slowly, with Kai-Kai flapping up to sit with Waark once again.

“Ahhh that worked like a charm!” He laughed, his beak coated in a fine layer of sugar. “Shame those others turned up when they did, they must’ve been watchin’ me!”

“Never mind, you got some,” Waark was distracted, turning to watch the bustling town once again. A procession of large vehicles passed by, each one boasting feathers, banners, streamers and flags of vividly bright colours and filled with ecstatically waving humans. Music was blaring from speakers mounted on several of the vehicles, with their scantily-clad passengers dancing and gyrating with glee. The crowd gathered on either side of the road shared the joy of the passengers, returning their waves, blowing kisses and shouting their support. Males were embracing other males in their dozens, pressing their faces together lovingly and caressing each other’s hands and cheeks. It was a curious environment permeated with deep feelings of happiness and acceptance.

“I wonder about this day, you know,” Waark said thoughtfully. “I don’t understand what they are yelling about or what this all means, but it seems like a happy occasion. What do you think?” Kai-Kai raised his wings in the seagull-version of a shrug.

“I dunno,” he said. “Don’t care that much, to be honest. As long as they bring the grub I’m up for any crazy human ritual!” Waark shook his head.

“I had figured as much,” he said, half-amused and half-disappointed. “I’m inclined to agree with the sentiment, but I love the vibes the humans are giving off today. It would almost be enough to experience it without any food on offer.” Waark and Kai-Kai exchanged a glance in silence before bursting out into squawks of laughter.

“I said almost!” Waark said, flapping his wings and chuckling. “Come on then, my greedy friend! I spy a loosely-held bagel! First one to it gets it for himself!” The two birds took to the skies, their cries echoing those of a hundred nearby gulls on the beach. As they pursued their feast, the people of Brighton continued to dance and drink and frolic and celebrate their day. Once again Pride in Brighton was a triumph for everyone.

 

A – Z Challenge Day 7

I can’t believe it’s Day Seven already! My word today is “GARGOYLE”, once again suggested by Kate.

This one was fun to write. I began wondering what it would be like for the gargoyles if they were alive and what they would do to pass the time. I had to remind myself of the difference between “gargoyles” and “grotesques” before I did so, mind you!

Anyway, here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy reading it.

GARGOYLE

By Adam Dixon

It was a wet, miserable Wednesday morning in London, and as usual everyone was scurrying about the vast city with nothing but themelves in mind. It’s not that they didn’t care about the world and other people in it, it was merely that that kind of morning always succeeded in making the most cheerful of people recede into his or herself. With their consciousness sheltering in their skulls like turtles in their shells and their tunnel-vision modes activated, nobody was paying much attention to anything except avoiding the many large puddles dividing the pavement. But they should have been paying attention, and they should have been looking towards the rooftops, for the gargoyles were certainly paying attention to them.

“How about that one?” The Bearded Man said around the rainwater which was trickling out from his open mouth.

“Which one?” Several irritated voices answered at once. There were roughly two dozen other gargoyles within range of sight, clinging to their respective buildings and issuing forth the contents of their gutters. None of them could move, of course, so they needed the Bearded Man to be more specific.

“Oh, yes, my apologies,” the Bearded man mumbled sheepishly. “The woman in the bright red raincoat just passing by the Lloyd’s bank on the corner. Can you see her? She’s on my left.”

“I see her!”

“Target confirmed!”

“That’s an affirmative!”

“Wait, I can’t see her!”

“She’s by the entrance to the Tube now, moving towards the Nandos!”

“Oh yes, I see her now!”

“Good,” Bearded Man said, pleased. “Well, what do you think?”

There was a slight pause as the gargoyles thought for a moment. The rain fell more heavily, dancing a merry pattern on their stone features.

“Well I think that she is going to the library!” The Bearded Man announced proudly. “She is wearing glasses and she is carrying a large pile of books in that plastic bag, I’m sure of it!”

“No she isn’t!” scoffed the Rearing Lion from the other side of the road. “It’s got food in it! She’s probably just carrying around her lunch for this afternoon. She’s going to work, probably in one of the offices.”

“I think she’s goin’ to stop at the theatre,” the Grinning Imp asserted. “She looks like the thespian type to me.”

“Balderdash!” The Bearded Man said, incredulous. “Look, she’s going straight past it!”

“I mean the other theatre, you pigeon-fouled buffoon!” laughed the Grinning Imp. “That one’s only for the cheapos of the city, and judgin’ by her shoes she can afford to go to the more up-market one down the street!”

“Wait, I can’t see any fancy shoes!” the Stunned Dragon shouted.

“You can’t bloody see anythin’, you’ve got an eye missin’!” The Grinning Imp cackled. More voices filled the minds of the gargoyles playing the game, all eager to put forward their interpretation of the unsuspecting Londoner. In the end, the Screaming Man guessed correctly: the woman had walked into an infant’s school at the far end of the street. She was probably a member of staff or a mother dropping off a forgotten packed lunch. Screaming Man was very pleased with himself and made it known, whilst Rearing Lion grumbled that he had at least been right about the packed lunch.

“Oi, Crouching!” the Grinning Imp shouted telepathically. “You never made a guess. What’s up with you?”

“I’ve got more interestin’ things to look at!” came the Crouching Imp’s sniggered reply. That particular gargoyle was set facing a particularly grim-looking block of flats, so naturally the others were curious to know what he had been so preoccupied by.

“There’s this couple on the sixth floor,” the Crouching Imp chuckled. “They’ve left their curtains open an’ let’s just say that they’re havin’ a better mornin’ than most of this lot on the street!”

“Oh, you utter cretin!” the Bearded Man said in disgust. “Avert your eyes, for the sake of dignity!”

“Hey, I didn’t tell them to leave their curtains open, did I?” the Crouching Imp protested. “Besides, I can’t avert my bloody eyes, can I?”

“Oh, you lucky sod!” the Grinning Imp was very amused by this. “You’ll ‘ave to give me all the saucy details later on!”

“I should think not!” the Bearded Man shouted, eliciting a burst of laughter from various gargoyles who were listening in.

“Oh, shut it, Beardy!” the Crouching Imp snorted. “You get on with your bleedin’ game, I’m doin’ just fine over ‘ere!”

“Fine, I think I will!” the Bearded Man huffed with an air of contempt.

“Right…” the Rearing Lion began awkwardly. “Erm…what about that one, then? The fellow in the brown suit with the small umbrella? He might be a teacher as well!”

“Who, him? Nah, he looks more like a journalist!”

“Don’t be silly, look at his briefcase! He must work for the Council!”

“The Council? With that tie?!”

So the game continued on into the morning, with the gargoyles happily protecting their buildings from the worst of the rain. It was not a complicated game, but it served to pass the time.

 

A – Z Challenge Day 6

It’s Day Six of the April Challenge and that means another story! Hold the applause until the end, please!

Today’s word comes again from the lovely Kate, and it is “FRAGILE”. An interesting word which gave me a few ideas right away, although most of them concerned fragile mindsets or fragile bodies. In the end, I went for something a little different but which I’m sure everyone can relate to!

Here’s what I came up with, and I hope you enjoy it.

Brief note: just a quick reminder to any readers from Across the Pond that it is legal to consume alcohol in the UK from age 18, although I’m sure that the Europeans on the mainland find that laughable!

FRAGILE

By Adam Dixon

Darren cautiously opened one eye and immediately regretted it as the blurred room spun before him. The safe retreat of sleep was unreachable and as he became more fully awake he was welcomed by all the accompanying pain of a hangover; his head pounded along with his heartbeat, his mouth felt as dry as a baked sandal and his neck ached. To top it all off, he was still fully-clothed. Fantastic. A hell of a start to the day. Darren rolled over carefully and the movement tore a groan from his throat.

The door to his bedroom burst open, hitting the wall with an almighty crash and Darren’s father, Mike, stood glowering in the doorway.

“GOOD, YOU’RE AWAKE!” He strode into the room, deliberately stomping his slippered feet on the wooden floor. He slammed the door behind him and made the room shake. Darren clutched his head with both hands and wriggled down under the bedclothes for protection. Mike seized them and yanked them from Darren’s weak grip easily. Darren lay in the foetal position, wincing at every roar and step from Mike.

“OH NO YOU DON’T, YOUNG MAN!” Mike moved purposefully towards the closed curtains. Darren yelped as he realised what he was doing.

“Dad, don’t!” he rasped desperately. “My head…”

“I DON’T GIVE A TOSS ABOUT YOUR BLOODY HEAD!” Mike threw open the curtains, letting a blinding beam of afternoon sunlight crash into Darren’s face like a tsunami against a cliff. Darren squealed and tried to shield his eyes. Mike stood watching his son’s torment, towering over him with both hands on his hips.

“Dad…why?” Darren managed to hiss, turning away from the man who had betrayed him.

“Why? You’re askin’ me why?” Mike said, his eyebrows knitting together in an angry “V” below his forehead. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF THE CRAP YOU GOT UP TO WHEN YOU GOT HOME THIS MORNIN’?”

“Dad, please, stop!” Darren spluttered. “I can’t think straight, my h-“

“GOOD! THEN THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO REMIND YOU!” Mike swivelled and began loudly pacing the bedroom. Every step sounded as if a hammer was being swung against Darren’s skull from the inside.

“First of all, you got home FOUR HOURS later than you initially said!” Mike began, waving his arms for effect. “Your mum was worried sick! Just ‘cos you’re eighteen now doesn’t mean you don’t have to send her an update every now an’ then!”

“Secondly, you woke the bloody dog up when you tripped in through the door at FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE BASTARD MORNIN’! He started barkin’ like there was a bloody murderer comin’ in! Woke everybody up, includin’ half the bloody street! I’ve only just finished apologisin’ to them all!”

“Oh, crap…” Darren moaned. “Dad, I’m so sor-“

“SHUT IT, I’M NOT FINISHED!” Mike interrupted, thrusting an angry finger at his son.

“Not only did you embarrass me at stupid-o’clock in the mornin’, but you then decided to go upstairs an’ use the loo. Your mum followed you to make sure you were alright, only she found you our bedroom…YOU HAD YOUR TROUSERS ROUND YOUR ANKLES AN’ YOU WERE PISSING IN OUR LAUNDRY BASKET!”

“Oh, fuck!” Darren covered his face with his hands again. Mike nodded furiously.

“’Oh fuck’ indeed, Darren, you bloody piss-’ead!” He growled. “You gave your mum a good eyeful when she tried to stop you, too! A couple of things to note there! One, that it’s nice to see that at least you’ve taken after Yours-Truly in that department, and two, WHERE THE HELL DID THAT TATTOO COME FROM?!”

“Tattoo?” Darren was nonplussed. “I didn’t get a tattoo!”

“WELL SOMEBODY DREW THAT BLOODY LIGHTNIN’ BOLT ON YOUR ARSE!” Mike screeched. His voice was becoming hoarse and his face had turned an interesting shade of crimson. He raised his calloused hands to his temples and massaged them, taking deep breaths. Darren felt himself changing colour too; he was probably covered pink with shame, perhaps in contrast with his green gills.

“…An’ then,” Mike finally continued, speaking slowly and carefully. “You walked into the bathroom an’ flushed the bloody toilet!”

There was a tense silence in the room as Mike and Darren stared at one another. The corners of Mike’s mouth twitched once. Twice. A brief ripple of hysterical laughter racked Mike’s body, and Darren couldn’t help but laugh too. Soon they were both laughing uproariously despite the noise and the action bringing fresh waves of pain searing into Darren’s skull.

“Son, you are a flamin’ idiot sometimes,” Mike said fondly, wiping his eyes. “But I needed to shout at you while you’re feelin’ like death, it’s the only way to teach you a lesson. My old man did it to me when I was your age, an’ I never came home that drunk ever again!”

“Ok, Dad,” Darren mumbled. “Cheers, I ‘spose. I’m really sorry about this morning.”

“I know you are, mate,” Mike said, turning to walk out of the door. “But not as sorry as you’ll be once your mum gets hold of you! She’s outside waitin’ for her turn!” With that he wrenched open the bedroom door and Darren recoiled in horror as a livid woman stormed in. His petite, usually cheerful mother seemed to have been replaced by a raging demon! Mike darted out of the room and closed the door behind him, his smug laughter filling the hallway.

Oh God, thought Darren, Please kill me now! He closed his eyes and braced himself for his next onslaught.