What we did with the remains

What we did with the remains
Photo by Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash

What we did with the remains   by Jan Marsh

I carefully put down the smeared carving knife and step back from the table. A red pool is seeping into the cloth, blending the holly and reindeer into an angry blur. Behind me, the wreckage of wrapping paper and exploded crackers lies trampled, crushed by the running feet of shocked and suddenly silent children. They are gone now, driven off home by their parents, some of whom definitely should not be behind the wheel after the copious amounts of alcohol imbibed during the afternoon, but, at this point, driving is the lesser evil.

The dozen place settings at the main table are in various states of consumption and disarray, gravy congealing and a few tumbled peas rolling on the tablecloth, attesting to the way the diners leaped up and left the room. The children's table is askew, little chairs overturned. On the sideboard, bottles are half-emptied and the pav is an untouched glory of blueberries and strawberries on a snowfield of whipped cream.

I shudder at what I have done. My angry voice still echoes in my ears and I can see the shocked faces of the assembled in-laws staring at me as I rant. It took a moment to notice that they were fixated on the dripping carving knife which I didn't remember snatching up. Ashen-faced children left their bickering and slipped in behind their parents. When the first aunty stood, tight-lipped, and left the room, she started a stampede through the open ranch-slider and across the lawn to the cars.

My wife comes in with a huge plastic bag.

I stammer, 'I'm so sorry. I've ruined Christmas and you went to so much trouble.'

She shakes her head. 'Don't apologise. The old bastard had it coming. He was baiting you all afternoon.'

I'm shocked that she dismisses her uncle so heartlessly, but secretly relieved she's on my side.

'Here,' she says, turning to the matter in hand. 'Help me get the carcass into this.'

She holds the bag open while I manoeuvre the heavy turkey.

'With or without the plate?' I ask.

She sighs. 'Without. It'll be hard enough to get it in the fridge as it is. We'll be eating turkey sandwiches for weeks, you realise.'

I'm starting to feel hysterical. 'And bubble and squeak,' I splutter, indicating the bowls of roast veges.

'Salad for breakfast.' My wife starts to giggle.

And pav, I thought. I coveted the pav but didn't feel I deserved it after my outburst.

I sprinkle salt on the spilt wine, hoping the reindeer will be restored by next year. We set about clearing up the remains of our failed attempt at a family Christmas, from time to time recalling Uncle's face when I, the worm, turned, and exploding into laughter like complicit children.