Christmas wasn’t a holiday we celebrated in my family. It was a day we tried to pretend didn’t exist. But it was a day that wouldn’t be ignored, no matter how hard we tried.
The twelfth day before Christmas was always marked by drums. A rather bad drumming solo performed by someone who should never be allowed near a drum set. The drumming would wake us up every year at five in the morning on the thirteenth of December and would be repeated every morning until Christmas day. It didn’t matter what day of the week or where any of us were, the drums would start at the same time and would carry on for an hour every morning. It would stop as abruptly as it had started and we would all carry on with our day, whether it was school or work, the day would carry on as normal. Well … as normal as could be under the circumstances. There wasn’t anything normal about my dead grandfather haunting our family for most of my adult life.
After the drumming other strange things would happen. It would first be little things that started to go wrong, an exploding toaster or lights going on in the middle of the night. The television would switch channels. Annoyingly, it would always change to a programme none of us wanted to watch, usually an old movie from the 1940′s or some documentary about the Second World War, something my Grandfather would have wanted to watch.
It all started on the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death or murder, depending on your viewpoint. Some of us believed that his death had been a little suspicious while others held to the safe assumption that it had been natural causes. The fact that the doctor’s were unable to determine the cause of his untimely demise was quietly swept under the carpet and in true family tradition – ignored. None of us wanted to believe that one of our own had given Grandpa something to speed his way into an early grave on Christmas, of all days. Even if they’d been justified in wanting him dead. We all had our reasons for wanting him six foot under and pushing up daisies.
And so, for the last twenty years, Christmas and the preceding twelve days were ignored.
It didn’t matter what the decaying bastard threw at us, we would simply clean up the mess or change the channel or leave the room and wait for whatever little temper tantrum he threw to be over.
But this year was different. Something had changed. The atmosphere was charged with a deep seeded anger. His attention seeking had always been a little irritating, but now it was downright violent and bloody. I think the old codger finally got tired of being ignored.
The first victim to bite the dust was my grandmother’s cat. Her furry corpse was displayed on Granny’s bed a couple hours after the first drum roll. The rest of our beloved pets were dispatched one by one. Everyday brought a new victim and fresh tears. Tears that were never shed for Grandpa were bursting the banks for the four legged members of our family. He hadn’t been a popular member of our rather dysfunctional unit when he was alive and even less so in death. His latest antics relegated him to the ranks of most loathed.
Christmas day slammed into us with yet another pet being buried. This time it was my niece’s pet budgie. Not much of a loss as far as I was concerned, but the poor girl was completely devastated. The rest of us were a little too punch drunk to cry or care anymore. We were all cried out, or so we thought. Grandpa’s final salvo was not the dead bird, but something a whole lot more shocking and something none of us would be able to ignore or forget.
His rotting corpse, which seemed to be a reasonably well preserved skeleton with a few odd bits of flesh dangling from the bones, sat at the head of the dining room table that my mother had laid for our usual family Christmas dinner. He reminded me of Jeff Dunham’s Achmed, the terrorist puppet. He even had those same plastic looking eyeballs.
Our deceased pets, had been dug up and put on display around the table. While we stood in shocked silence, he ripped the drumstick off the roasted turkey. I wasn’t sure how he planed to eat it without any teeth or lips, but I was sure he had some plan for the rest of us. Waving the turkey leg around, he bade us to take our places at the table. My grandmother took the seat at the opposite end. I’d always believed that Granny had been the one to do him in and my suspicions were finally confirmed by Grandpa when he glared at her through those plastic eyes and said, “I’ve given you twenty years to apologise for murdering me, but since you’ve never shown an ounce of contrition, I’ve decided that you’re coming with me.” With that he flung the carving knife, that had been placed next to the turkey, across the table. The knife found its target and plunged into Granny’s chest. Blood dribbled from between her lips as she breathed her last breath. Her ghost stood up and stepped out of her body, shedding it like a cocoon. Extending her middle finger at Grandpa, she left the room. Grandpa stood and followed her, mumbling: “Typical bloody woman.” We never saw hide or hair of either of them ever again. The rest of us enjoyed our Christmas dinner in peace for the first time in twenty years.
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