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Christmas Funny

Grandpa poured a generous glug of whiskey into his stained mug. He had never been allowed to use it when Thelma was around. He’d once threatened to enter the room with it during one of her coffee and cake mornings. Apparently having cartoon buttocks underneath and the words bottoms up on the side were vulgar and totally unacceptable for the church ladies. The joke backfired as soon as the doorbell rang, and he was banished to the shed. Again.

 He cradled the mug and took a long swallow, followed by a contented sigh. Grandpa, had been forced to abstain for a long time last summer after Thelma overheard a lady in the hairdressers complaining her husband had pickled his liver like a gherkin.

“Grandpa! Grandpa! You’re upside down! Turn your phone over. You look funny Grandpa, like you’re on the other side of the world and you’re upside down!” Henry and Martha tussled together for pole position in front of the camera. Grandpa squinted at the tiny screen, which showed a tangle of cotton unicorns and dinosaurs. 

“He might as well be on the other side of the world kids!” Mari forced her way in-between the twins, butt first, skilfully balancing a huge bowl of popcorn and two beakers of milk.

Leaning forward, Grandpa knocked his phone from the coffee table and onto the rug. It settled in the deep pile, focusing its camera on the side of his worn tartan slipper, and—among the debris—a peanut that had escaped from the bowl the night before.

Mari grabbed her tablet.

“Dad, are you ok? I thought the doctor said no more peanuts? Or was it no more whiskey? Or was it that you only eat peanuts when you drink whiskey? Either way, Dad, you’ve been sprung, we can see a peanut in your rug. Are you ok, Dad? Pick up the phone.”

Grandpa, his oversized waist restrained only by the tatty leather belt on his trousers, fought with the broken springs in his old arm chair as he pulled himself up to reach his phone. He huffed and puffed, grabbing the peanut first—which made the family burst with laughter again—before fumbling for his phone and setting it back on the table. 

“Grandpa! Grandpa! You’re still upside down, turn the phone over. You look funny upside down.”

Grandpa, finally got himself the right way up, his big white-stubbled face close to the screen. Glasses perched a little wonky on the end of his nose. He tossed the peanut into his mouth and grinned at the camera. Thelma had hated him eating peanuts. So uncouth. Like something you find in the local pub where men rummaged through bowls of them with urine-soaked fingers. And as for eating in the lounge, no, no, no. Too risky over the shag pile. So Grandpa ate his peanuts in the shed. 

“Dad, I can’t hear you, let me just turn up my volume. No, still can’t hear you, have you muted yourself? Dad, I think you’ve muted yourself, we can’t hear you. Do you know how to unmute yourself? Press the speaker button at the bottom of your screen Dad? Can you see the one I mean?”

Grandpa, fumbled with the phone again. His fat gnarly fingers, which in years past had crafted ornate dolls’ houses and life-like model aircraft, were now at odds with the tiny piece of technology.

“Stupid feckin’ phone! Give me a set of chisels and a piece of oak any day. Feck it!”

“DAD! We can hear you, now please watch your language in front of the kids.” 

Henry and Martha giggled and gasped at Grandpa’s vocabulary. His round rosy cheeks almost too big to fit onto the screen.

“Mummy! Mummy! Grandpa said feck it!” Henry leaned across to Martha and whispered, “Is feck it a swear word, Martha?”

Martha nodded, wide-eyed, and stuffed a handful of popcorn in her mouth. Henry’s eyes bulged. Boy, he loved his grandpa. He grabbed a handful of popcorn and threw himself back in the sofa, dropping corn in his lap, speechless, at this legendary old man who dared to swear in front of his mummy.

“So Dad, you know we can’t come and visit this Christmas. We’ll just have to make do with a video call like this one on Christmas day. It’s the best I can offer, I’m afraid. Will you be ok? On your own, I mean. Will you be ok on your own? It’s the first Christmas without Mum . . . Damn, I can’t even bring you a dinner over. What will you eat, Dad? Will the neighbours bring something round? I don’t like the idea of you not eating on Christmas day. I’ll-”

“Mari . . . Mari, can you hear me? Can you see me? You’re so feckin’ tiny on my screen I can only just make you out. Stupid tiny feckin’ screen.” He took another long sip from the mug.

“YES, DAD! We can hear and see you, so can you please watch your language?” God, she sounded more like her mother every day. “Try picking up your phone and turning it sideways. It will make the screen bigger.”

“How’s it going to make the feckin’ screen bigger?” Grandpa leaned forward again and grabbed the phone. “I maybe old but I’m not feckin’ stupid, there’s no way . . . oh, well would you look at that, it made the feckin’ screen bigger! So if I cover this little bit, can you see me now?”

Grandpa’s chubby fingers covered the screen. Martha and Henry laughed in unison, bouncing with delight.

“NO, GRANDPA, WE CAN’T SEE YOU. MOVE YOUR HAND!”

Grandpa slowly moved his hand just in time for the kids to see him stuffing something into his mouth. 

“Grandpa, what are you eating?” they said simultaneously.

“Nothing,” Grandpa replied, without opening his mouth. He swigged back another mouthful and started chewing furiously. Peanuts went flying in all directions. “I thought you said you couldn’t see me?” Small chunks of peanut hit the camera screen.

“Oh Grandpa, that’s gross!” Martha put down her popcorn. Henry grinned and grabbed another handful, stuffing all of it into his mouth. He leaned forward, getting close to the tablet.

“Can you see me, Grandpa? Can you see me?” He swigged back his milk, sprayed the tablet with wet popcorn, then burst out laughing, clutching his tummy. Milk ran down his chin.

“Henry, stop it! Thanks, Dad! See what you’ve done, Henry thinks you’re a legend because you swear and spit peanuts at the camera! Thanks for your help! . . . Now. Are you eating properly? You look like you need a shave. Is the house tidy? Are you managing to keep up with the house work? Are you washing your clothes? And the bedsheets; don’t forget the bedsheets need washing from time to time, Dad . . . Are you sure you’re going to be ok at Christmas? Dad? . . . Dad? Can you hear me?

Mari paused. Frowning, she leaned into the screen.

“Dad, what’s that you’re drinking?” 

Grandpa burped and exhaled peaty breath towards the screen. God, she sounded more like Thelma every day.

“Tea,” he said, and smiled. He reached over the camera and grabbed a handful of peanuts, deliberately dropping a couple onto the rug. He tossed a few nuts into his mouth and washed them down with a generous mouthful of the scotch.

“You know what, Mari? I think I’m going to be fine at Christmas. I’ve got a little project in the garden to do.”

“Oh . . . You’ll be ok, then? It’s been a long time since you’ve had one of your projects. What are you up to this time?”

“Oh, I’m going to enjoy this one. I’m knocking down the shed. You know what, I think I’ll be just fine. Happy feckin’ Christmas!”



November 27, 2020 16:08

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4 comments

Chris Manders
14:00 Dec 07, 2020

Another good one! Sorry when it ended. I knew who Mari was!

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Phil Manders
16:48 Dec 07, 2020

Hi Thanks for reading . . . About time you wrote another😉

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Vonnie Kennedy
22:17 Dec 02, 2020

Funny story and so typical of today's time. Who is Mari? Is she one of the grandchildren? I was a little mixed up on who was talking sometimes. I loved the ending. Some readers will definitely identify with Grampa's frustration. Good stuff.

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Phil Manders
22:36 Dec 02, 2020

Hi Vonnie thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Mari is the twins mum and grandpa’s daughter. That’s why she reminded him of his late wife Thelma. I enjoyed writing this one! Thanks again

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