Thursday 21 December 2023

Thank God It’s Christmas by Billie-Leigh Burns, a nice cup of tea

“Thank Santa for the presents!” says my husband to the kids.

I look at my hands, torn skin from the saw-toothed tape dispenser, paper cuts on every overworked finger. Hours of research, tracking down toys, bartering with a collector because Benjy wanted a lime green action figure – just for the ten-minute tornado of shredded paper, for Santa and his elves to waltz in and take the credit.

There’s not enough time to dwell. My to-do list is longer than War and Peace; just like it, nothing will be resolved. Peel carrots, chop onions, make stuffing, preheat the oven, potatoes on to boil, turkey brined and ready – all of this to the melody of, ‘Mum! This one needs batteries!’

Meanwhile, he sits in a chair, reading the paper. He reads it word for word, slowly, consumed. He only gets up to answer the door, his parents arriving with another cyclone of noise and presents, ‘Where’s Grandma’s kiss!’ and ‘What did Santa bring?’

“Wine for Mum. Grab a Stella for my dad,” he orders.

The Stella’s in the shed, so it’s a trip down the garden for me. I see my ashtray on the sill and crave a moment alone. But the turkey’s coming out of the oven in ten, and I still have sprouts to roast.

He takes the drinks from my hands, and they thank him. Mother-in-law starts stroking her new mink stole, ‘Your father’s gift! And he’s booked us a Mediterranean cruise!’

I look at my gift, a new set of oven gloves, already stained with gravy.

As everything reaches boiling point, turkey thoroughly rested, potatoes growing crisp, the baby nearly pulls down the tree, tangled in fairy lights. It didn’t occur to anyone else to free her. She’s getting fussy, so now she’s on my hip, and I’m a one-armed bandit, hoping I roll sevens and pull this meal together.

Finally, everyone’s seated. Baby girl’s in her highchair next to me, falling asleep. There’s gravy on her face, where she used her dinner as a pillow. Benjy’s brought his action figure to the table, demanding he has his own plate. I find a saucer for our unexpected guest, and it seems to satisfy him. My husband’s at the head of the table, scrutinising the offering before him, trying to find a blemished vegetable or a burnt edge.

He coughs for attention, his hands linked in prayer, “I want to thank Jesus for the food we’re about to receive…”

I earn his wrath by tucking in before he’s finished. When Jesus dons an apron and gives me a hand, maybe then I’ll thank him. 


About the author 

 Billie-Leigh Burns is a writer from Liverpool. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published in 50 Word Stories, Fictionette, and Naked Cat Lit. She is also a bookkeeper, making her the only writer she knows who owns an 'I Heart Spreadsheets' mug. 
Social Media: @BLBWriter 
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