Dreaming of a different Christmas
By Michael J. Parry
Iain wiped the sweat from his brow as he used the tongs to flip steak, after steak, that sizzled on the barbeque. The heat from the smoky gas mingled with the heat from the hot sun. Not even the meagre spot of shade from the sun umbrella provided any comfort.
“Here you go love,“ Sophie’s voice came from behind him.
A beer was placed on the deck railing, and Iain smiled a thankyou as he placed the tongs on the table and took a long drink from the bottle. He sighed a little as the coolness eased a parched throat.
“Cheers love,” Iain said after draining half the bottle. “That’s just what the doctor ordered.”
“No worries,” Sophie said, laughter in her voice.
“What’s so funny?” Iain asked, though he suspected he knew.
“Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?” Sophie asked in return.
“You don’t approve of my sartorial elegance then?” Iain gestured down at himself. He had black gumboots on, with no socks, hairy legs and nobly knees, faded blue walk shorts and a black singlet. Over the top was an apron with the words Worlds Best Dad emblazoned in big red letters. A cap with the Tui logo, from Iain’s favourite beer, prominent on the front.
“Everything but the gumboots,” Sophie laughed.
“Best thing for splatter protection, I tell you,” Iain laughed as well.
“How are the kids going?” Iain asked after poking at the blackening steaks.
Sophie shrugged. “Well I think.”
Iain shuffled over to the French doors and poked his nose into the lounge. Sally and Roger were busy decorating the Christmas tree. The smell of pine filled the room, mingling with the sounds of laughter and Feliz Navidad that came from the stereo.
“How are you two going?” He called to the busy workers.
“Nearly done,” Sally called back.
“Yeah,” Roger added, “this years tree is going to be sick.”
“That’s good right?” Iain asked.
Roger rolled his eyes. “Dah”
Iain admired the garish concoction of colours that blurred and hid the tree dominating one corner of the family room, before pulling his head from out of the door and turning back to the cooking. Sophie laughed, leaning back in her chair, her yellow summer dress pulling back and riding up in all the right places.
“You lame old fart,” she teased.
“Yeah, well your just as old,” Iain grumbled.
“But I don’t show it,” she grinned and hitched her dress so it didn’t show quite so much skin.
“Spoil sport,” Iain leered.
“Do you want to pay for the kids counselling?”
“Hmmm let me think on that,” Iain mused for a moment. “No, guess not.”
Iain turned back to the barbeque, and turned the element off.
“I think these are done,” he said taking the steaks from the grill and putting them on a plate.
Sophie looked at the burnt hunks of meat dubiously.
“If you say so,” she rose, “I’ll get the salad.”
“Dad can I have a beer?,” Sally asked from the door.
“Sure you can have a ginger beer,” he grinned at her.
Sally poked her tongue and disappeared back into the house.
“What about me?” Roger called.
“Gosh Roger, let me see, umm yeah sure you can have a ginger beer too.”
“You’re so funny dad.”
Iain put the plate in the middle of the table, as the rest of the family came out carrying drinks, plates and bowls.
“So what do you want for Christmas dinner this year?” Iain asked.
“A full roast,” Sally said immediately.
“But it will be so hot,” Iain said. “What’s wrong with barbeque?”
Roger scrapped a hunk of soot of his steak. “Gee dad I don’t know.”
Iain gave him a look, but Roger just grinned.
“It is sort of traditional,” Sophie pointed out.
“So is snow, but in case you had failed to notice, it’s summer,” Iain tried to be reasonable.
“I wish we could have a white Christmas,” Sally sighed.
“Yeah that would be sick.” Roger added.
“Yeah and a sure sign that Climate change has really screwed us over,” Iain pointed out.
“Point to you dad,” Sally giggled.
A while later Iain sat back in his chair, watching the birds flitting from tree to tree in the park across the road. The sounds of playful bickering drifted from the house as Sally and Roger cleaned the dishes.
“A white Christmas would be good you know,” Sophie said thoughtfully.
“What do you suggest?” Iain asked closing his eyes with a satisfied smile.
“I guess we can’t do anything this year, but next year we could do a trip to Europe.”
“I suppose, but can we afford that?”
“How about Canada?” Sophie suggested with a sigh. “They have a winter Christmas, and skiing would be a great Christmas treat.”
“I suppose that would be more doable,” Iain smiled. “Just.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
They lapsed into silence then, both lost in thought.
“Tony,” Iain said suddenly.
“Tony?” Sophie asked. “What has your brother Tony got to do with anything?”
“A white Christmas, that’s what.” Iain said.
“And how is Tony going too….” Sophie said before trailing off as a light of realisation filled her eyes. “You think he might?”
Iain shrugged, “It can’t help to ask.”
“Ask what dad?” Sally asked as she stepped through the doors.
“Nothing dear,” Iain and Sophie said at the same time with mischievous grins.
Sally looked at her parents, before turning back to the door. “Roger,” she called, “better brace yourself. The olds are up to something again.”
The phone rang on the desk and Tony picked up the receiver with a sigh. It was quiet coming up to Christmas, just like he wanted it, and a phone call was a inconvenient interruption to his busy schedule of doing as little as possible.
“Tony here,” he said into the receiver.
“O hi Iain,” Tony felt relieved. Family was a good. “So what can I do for you my man?”
Tony lapsed into silence, listening quietly as Iain related his plan.
“Hmmm,” he murmured at various points.
“You know we could just do that,” Tony said at last.
“No it won’t cost too much.”
“You know we and the kids could stay the night as well. They would love that.”
“Yeah, we can do that. See you on the weekend”
Iain and Tony stood on the decking, slowly drinking a beer each. The longs shadows of evening were fading as the sun set behind the hills, and the smell of summer, cut grass, old barbeque filled the air. There was a slight blanket of clouds covering the sky.
“They don’t suspect a thing do they?” Tony asked.
“Not a thing!” Iain grinned.
“Perfect weather too,” Tony rubbed his hands together. “Lots of cloud cover and a cool night. Not as cold as I would like but still.”
Sophie and Amie came out the door and grinned at the two men.
“The kids are all asleep.” Sophie said.
Iain looked at his watch. “Hmmm 9.43 that’s earlier than I thought.”
Amie came up and cuddled into Tony. “I think taking them fishing exhausted them today.”
“Poor dears,” Tony chuckled.
“Where’s the truck?” Sophie frowned at the beers in the two men’s hands.
“Just round the corner,” Iain said. “You could get it if you like.”
“Sure, where’s the keys?” Sophie asked.
“Here,” Tony threw the keys to Sophie and then held his beer up. “We’ll finish these and then to work.”
The four of them grinned at each other and chuckled.
Soon a truck rolled up into the drive and their was a hive of activity as machines were pulled out and placed strategically around the property. Cords were plugged into the mains, and hoses into the machines. The night was filled with the sounds of machines quietly chugging.
“I hope they don’t wake the kids,” Iain said with a worried frown.
“No chance,” said Sophie.
They stood watching the effect of the machines and grinned.
“This just might work,” Tony smiled.
The first up in the morning was Sally. Her squeals of delight echoed through the house, waking the others from their deep slumber. She bounded into Iain’s and Sophie’s bedroom, leaping onto the bed and smothering them with hugs and kisses.
“What,” Iain said blearily.
“It’s fantastic!” Sally said.
“It worked then?” Sophie said opening her eyes.
“Worked?” Sally cried. “It’s fantastic, come and look!”
They stumbled to their feet and went out into the family room. From other doors came the rest of the family rubbing their eyes.
“What’s the time?” Groaned Roger.
“Six sleepy head.” Sally cried and grabbed her brother and dragged her to the French doors. “Look what mum and dad have done.”
“Hah don’t forget Uncle Toby!” Toby cried.
“And Uncle Toby,” Sally gave her uncle a hug.
Opening the door they looked out on the front yard. It was covered in a white blanket of snow, in stark contrast to the crisp green of the neighbours. Several neighbours were out on their decks and front steps pointing.
Snow was still being pumped from the snow machines marking the corners of the property. Eight hours of generation, coupled with a cloudy night had let the snow settle, and there was only a little melt.
Sally leapt out the door and dived into a small snow drift, making snow angels.
“It’s a southern white Christmas,” she laughed.
Released under a creative-commons no-derivative non-commercial licence.