Tag Archives: christmas

Five Golden Rings

I’ve been too crazy busy preparing Grand Guignol for the Adelaide Fringe this week, so I haven’t got a new story. Instead, I’ve got an old one, from the first version of the Grand Guignol stage show. It’s a poem that I wrote for a fundraising gala, where everyone had to contribute something connected to a different ‘day’ of Christmas. I got assigned ‘Five Golden Rings’. I’ve cut it from the stage show because it’s not funny enough, and a bit embarrassingly twee.

T’were the night before Christmas, the old man had died,
Clutching his sheet to his chest.
And the vultures who’d circled to be by his side
Now pecked at his massive bequest.

The family sat for the wake and the meal
And to finally farewell their pater
And inspected the silver, to use or to steal,
Or to use then come back and steal later

There were murmurs the patriarch died in a manner
Suspicious, unnatural, and icky
Each person there had the wishes and means
And the whole clan excelled at being ‘snicky’.

(At this point, there was a gag about how crap my rhyming scheme was, to rhyme icky with sneaky.)

There were Billy and Gilly, the sourdust Twins,
Now working as real estate agents
They’d surveyed the grounds with ill-disguised grins
And chewed on their lips with impatience

It was said that they’d once bought a derelict slum
And hanged squatters from the escarpments.
They then did it up, charged a sizeable sum
For tours of the ‘haunted apartments’.

Their sister Roberta, a chemist and snake
Who sidelined in poisons, pro rata
Today she was helping to cater the wake
Tho no one dared try the frittata.

Their brother, Pengelly, the oldest of five
And a widower five times or more <br.He’d made his great fortune from that of his wives
As each of them died ‘premature’.

Then last of all, Tim, the babe of the clan,
A dullard, a mouse and a weak ‘un.
The meekest of sheep, he was barely a man,
And worse, it was whispered, a vegan.

And at the head, at his old high backed chair,
An empty place held for their da.
With his solid gold monogrammed phone by his plate,
Alongside his favourite cigar.

The Sourdusts surveyed the room with a glare,
While they toyed with their butter and meat.
Except for poor Tim who toyed with his lettuce.
The only thing there he could eat.

And as each Sourdust lifted his fork or his spoon
To taste the feast made for the mourners
A blood curdling shriek tore right through the room
And richochéd off of the cornice

Ah, just the phone! Father’s gold-plated phone,
Whose ringtone he’d picked for a wheeze.
The butler, he answered, then quickly hung up.
“No voice”, he said, “just a soft breeze”.

So once again each gripped a spoon or a fork
Of jellied eels, barley and mullets
A gluttonous display of roast turkey and pork
Just inches away from their gullets

But Pengelly stood up, tapped his fork to a glass
And announced in a rich baritone
“That ring make me think … I’ve a thing to discuss
As his siblings all stifled a groan.

“I know that we’ve not been the closest of kin
But it’s time we thought of our bequeather”
But before he could finish, or even begin,
A second loud scream split the ether.

Pengelly stomped up to the phone, snatched it up
And heard naught but soft crumpled sigh
Like the rattling air that they call a death moan
Pushed out from your lungs as you die.

“Is that father?” He asked with a crack in his voice
And tinged with a dollop of guilt.
He hung up, and with shuddery hands, sat back down
As ring number three built, and built.

A querulous squeak came out of Roberta
And Gilly and Billy looked pale.
“Has he come back to judge us? Avenging his murder?”
They asked, in a terrified wail.

Then a fourth and a fifth call rattled their wills
And confessions erupted like geysers.
“I poisoned his milk!” “I weakened his pills”
“At night I filed down his incisors”

Again … a bit desperate. But it rhymes.

All but Tim, who sat watching this unfolding ballad,
And lacking a tragic admission
Confessed to being unhappy with salad
And worried about his nutrition,

Then Gillian picked up the roast carving knife
And swung it around with a yell.
“Don’t you see? Because we ne’er loved him in life
He’ll drag us all with him to Hell!”

“It’s a ghost! A phantom! A boojum! A spook!
And he’ll claim his revenge if he’s able!”
And in madness, she plunged her knife into the cook
And spilled his guts, right on the table.

Chaos ensued, as each family member
Scrabbled to arms, or to cutlery
To stab, slice or grate, cut, spoon or dismember
The nearest ranged brother or butler … y.

Til all Sourdusts lay all crumpled and torn
In a gruesome and sodden display.
Except for the vegan, whose lack of red meat
Left him too weak to join in the fray.

The only survivor, Tim picked up his things,
And slipped out from the carnage beguiled.
He’d just realised the source of those five golden rings:
The phone in his pants pocket-dialled.

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Boxing Day

Oh, okay. One more. It’s a peculiarly positive Christmas this year, so let’s see if I can’t ruin it.

—–
None of the grown-ups seemed to know why it was called Boxing Day, but here was Dani on the day after Christmas at half-past five in the morning. And here, under the tree, was an extra box. It was done up in cream paper with a green ribbon and a small card that simply said “To Dani: for being so nice”.

And Dani had been nice. Dani had been good all year, she was sure of it. She’d kept her room tidy, eaten all her vegetables, and never yelled. Not once. Not even when Old Connie Bryce’s yappy dog made her drop her favourite book in the mud. Or when Old Connie Bryce’s yappy dog picked up that book and shook it in his hateful little teeth until the pages were all torn. She’d gripped that yell in her lips, bent it into a smile, and told Connie Bryce that it was okay. That she wasn’t mad or upset, and that she liked dogs, and that’s just how yappy dogs behaved. Then later that night, Dani stole back across the fence and sliced off his ears with a pizza-cutter. Because that’s how cranky girls behaved when your mean yappy dog rips up their book in the mud.

She’d written out a list and stuck it to the fridge for Santa: one Butterflicious ConformoPet (machine-washable), the latest Angelica Manson mystery, an Autopsy High Real Death Doll (with Real Scream action), and so on, and so on.

But Santa had ignored them all. Well, Mummy and Daddy had ignored them all. All except the ConformoPet. and even then they’d bought the wrong one. Then there were jumpers and socks and other Important Things. And again, Dani hadn’t yelled or sulked or been ungracious. She’d smiled at all the presents and said thank you. She’d even made a big show of wearing that stupid jumper before excusing herself and scaling the laundry cupboard to where mummy kept the medicines.

Mummy and daddy spent all night in bed, sobbing and clutching their tummies and thinking about how naughty they’d been. So this box couldn’t have been from them. And it couldn’t have been from Santa. Could it?

When Dani stroked the ribbon, it was warm and humming, like a sleeping bird, and when she fingered the edges of the lid, her fingertips came away wet.

“To Dani, for being so nice”.

Unable to wait any longer, Dani ripped the ribbon away and prised open the cream paper lid, before the box was ready. It gave a ‘snarf’ of surprise, licking its cream-coloured face with a tinsel tongue. Then, quick as a sugar plum, shot that tinsel tongue around Dani’s neck and dragged her inside.

Ho ho ho.

© 2012 Dave Bloustien

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The End

The decision to end the world came at December 24, 2:27pm Greenwich Mean Time. It was announced over every radio station, every television transmitter, every internet server. The world would be shutting down for good. Factory conveyor belts would cease their juddering, power generators would power down. Flowers would fade, trees would wither, the sun would pale and die, and people would very slowly, very quietly, slip away into darkness.

This was to be the end. The very end. Not murder, but euthanasia. Rather than let humanity eat itself into a protracted and painful death, the Powers That Be had decided to pull the plug while the earth was calm and conscious and wilfully ignorant of the diagnosis that lay just around the corner. The world was played out.

And to be fair, the people had been expecting something like this for years: Y2K, the Mayan apocalypse, hours and hours of expensive scenarios, played out on Hollywood screens.

We nearly missed the whole thing, of course. Carla, the boys and I were camping in Bungenang, just out of mobile reception. We had already packed down the tent for the voyage home, and were in mid bushwalk. As we walked, the trees grew palid and shrivelled around us. They shrank into themselves like deflating baloons and the ground grew soft and wrinkled.

It was odd and alien and a little unsettling, but no more than any isolated bushwalk. It was also beautiful in its way, and we mistook it for some quality of the landscape that we’d not experienced before. It took me several goes to start the car, as that too had started to succumb. The petrol meter was draining visibly, and we couldn’t make the engine roar, but it still took us out of the park, along the dirt track and back on to the arterial motorway.

There were no cars out there. Not a one. The flora continued to fade around us. Either side of the highway were farms, dotted with livestock, all laying down or pawing lethargically at the ground. None of this distressed us as much as it should have, but I suppose that lack of concern was also a part of the process. My hands were feeling numb and a sense of disconnect, but I managed to keep them on the wheel and guide our ailing vehicle back into civilisation.

Civilisation had been busy. The streets were littered with confetti, streamers and sleeping bodies, clutching party hats and gelatinous glow sticks. Many were half-sunk into the tarmac. Their faces were peaceful and slack.

Our car slowed and gave a final, rattling cough. The boys and Carla had fallen asleep in their seats which, again, was not unusual. The vinyl seatbacks sucked at their sagging faces. I gave Carla a half-hearted push and felt her shoulder give in to my fingers like a heavy sponge. Somewhere inside me there was a deep, deep sadness; a nostalgic melancholy for the future we’d never have, and the adult lives the boys would never experience. But again, my feelings were muted and indistinct, and I guess, just as deeply, was the knowledge that it was an inevitability. And that on some level, like every other human being, I had wanted this.

I leaned against the car door and it split open, letting me tumble to the ground. I couldn’t stand, but managed to drag myself a few metres, just to see. The bitumen was so warm and soft, like a feathered duvet. I drew it across me and then, like everyone and everything else across the planet, my springs ran down and I gently drifted apart.

© 2012 Dave Bloustien

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