ON THE FIFTH DAY OF XMAS

What did my true love give to me? I ask Joy, seeing as it’s my turn to ask. Grace’s mother sucks her flabby jowls in and wobbles her head from side to side. She looks like she’s just eaten a whole lemon, sour-faced fucker she is, rind and all. You shouldn’t say Xmas, she says. I take a drink. Why?...  She says, Because it takes the Christ out of Christmas. Grace shuffles in her seat. Grace’s brother Victor nods in agreement as Scarlett and Joe busy themselves with a Chinese puzzle from a cracker.  Grace’s younger sister Hope puts a Quality Street in her mouth. I watch her lips for a second, hearing myself sigh, the pissiness hissing out of me like a car tyre on Mischievous Night. Joy glares at me across the table. I look away and flip the card over to check the answer. It’s for a piece of pie, Mum! sings Grace, trying to stick the pin back into the hand grenade… Fuck. I hate Christmas. Who’s idea was it to play Trivial Pursuits? Couldn’t we have just watched Goldfinger? I put the card on the table and drink. Yum. Tullamore Dew… C’mon Mum, says Hope, her thin voice ever on tiptoes. She’s well fuckable, but Christ her voice. She sounds like one of those floaty-gobbed mediums, breathing questions into the air for the dead to answer. Must be all those years of living with her mother. I look at Joy. She smiles, and her lips look like two earthworms fucking… Five. Gold. Rings, she says triumphantly, like she’s just discovered penicillin, the atom, and the absolute Biblical proof that her son-in-law is Satan. I flip the card over and look at the answer again, fighting the tug of a smirk… Sorry. The answer says Five golden rings… I pass the die to Victor. Scarlett and Joe are giggling into their palms. Victor passes the die back to his mother. Close enough, he says, Grace rifling the bag for a pink piece of pie. Poor Victor. Cadfael bald-patch at thirty. Still living with his mother. No girlfriend. Face like pig-farmer’s bucket. Here you go Mum, says Grace, slotting the pie into her mother’s pie-holder. Joy shakes the die again, smug-fuck look on her face, turbulence from her bingo-wings shivering her dress, udders shuddering somewhere below the table. I drink, get up to change the CD. Hope starts telling Grace about her reflexology class. Your foot has pressure points that are connected to the rest of your body, she breathes. Inside, and out… Before reflexology it was aromatherapy. And before that acupuncture. She never sticks at anything for longer than a month or two. Grace says her sister is trying to find herself. I have no idea what that means. I pull Screamadelica from the CD cupboard, smiling as I press play because I know it’ll annoy the fuck out of Joy. I busy myself with drinks in the kitchen while Scarlett asks Joy her question. Grandma, what are you if you’re myopic?... Oh! I know this one! says Grace. She’s so cute when she gets excited about stuff. She sounds twelve. In the kitchen, I drink from the bottle… My-opic, myyy-opic, says Joy through the chomp of another Quality Street. Joe appears by my side so I take the bottle from my mouth, fill my glass and grin at him. Is there anymore Tango? he says. Joe helps me carry the drinks through into the front room. Scarlett says, No Grandma, it’s near-sighted… She shows Joy the card. Well, short-sighted is the same thing, Joy says, Victor grunting his agreement. I knew that, says Grace. I put everyone’s drinks in front of them. Joy shakes the die again, her flabby jowls working yet another Quality Street. In front of her stand ten wrappers twisted into ten little foil goblets. Five more wrappers wait by her elbow to be twisted in her fat fingers. She lands on the blue pie square, singing OOH! PIE AGAIN!... No kidding. Victor slides a question card from the box. Right Mum, says Victor in his stupid too-serious question master voice, What city’s main thoroughfare is O’Connell Street?... Easy, I say. Joy ignores me. Grace smiles. She looks quite cute in that Santa hat. I bought her some red crotchless knickers for Christmas. A dildo too. OOH! EDINBURGH! yelps Joy, nodding her fat head and picking the die up. WRRRONG! I sing. It’s Dublin. I raise my glass and toast to Erin go bragh. I knock it back in one. Oh, I forgot you’re Irish now aren’t you, spikes Joy, Victor snorting his fake laugh. Pogue mahone, I grin. In my mind is a ripple of applause. What does that mean? asks Hope. She has nice eyes too. Big and brown like Grace’s. But sad looking. I bet they look great when she comes… Kiss my arse, I tell her. Hope laughs. I watch her eyes narrow then close. That’s how she’d come. Victor shakes the die. The look on his face as he moves his counter is the same look he wears when he watches the horses. It’s somewhere between stifled rage and desperation. His eyes narrow to the size of a blackbird’s, his mouth to the shape of an Alsatian’s bum-hole. He’s the worst gambler I’ve ever known. It’s a badly-kept secret that his mother took his credit cards off him. In a two-horse race he’d back the one called Glue… Yellow, he says, sucking air through his Alsatian-hole. History... He squints like he’s doing a difficult shit as Joe slides a question card out of the box. Joe’s eyes scan the words, his mouth moving slightly as he takes the words in. I drink. My son clears his throat… Uncle Victor. In Genesis, who married his half-sister Sarah?... I’m about to say something about Phil Collins being a dirty fucker but I stop myself. Joe says, What’s a half-sister? I get up, glass in hand. Drinks? I say, looking at no one. A mumble of no’s send me off into the kitchen as Grace explains to Joe what a half-sister is. I see a flash of Claire on her knees. I shake my head as though shaking an Etch-A-Sketch. Tullamore Dew is very easy to drink. I hear Joe go URRR THAT’S SICK TO MARRY YOUR HALF-SISTER!... I take the bottle from my mouth and top my glass up. Joy tells Joe that we have to forgive Noah, because the Bible was written a long time ago, and things were different back then. I put the bottle back to my lips… R.E. at school. Lot’s wife being told not to look back, but she does. God turning her into salt. Lot taking his daughters to a cave. They get him pissed. Then fuck him. I screw the top back on the bottle and I hear Grace saying Sorry to Joe, that it was Abraham not Noah. Joy goes Ooh, sorry Jojo. I go back into the front room, drink, put my glass on the table, sit down. Is a bad thing not a bad thing if you don’t know you’re doing it? I look at Scarlett, her tongue poking out the corner of her mouth as she tugs at the Chinese puzzle. Joe sits flicking Joy’s goblets into a bowl of peanuts… Billy… Billy… I look across to Grace. Your go, she says, pointing to the die in front of me, question card poised in her hand. I shake, and land on brown. Right Billy. According to Bau-de-laire, whose loveliest trick is to convince us that he doesn’t exist?... I drink. The song has finished. It’s quiet, and everyone looks at me.

We leave the blinds open because the snow has started to fall, flickering specks caught in the orange glow of the streetlamp. Grace has the crotchless knickers on and I’m fucking her from behind, and with my right hand, I nudge the dildo between her arse-cheeks. I rock on my knees, Grace holding the rail at the bottom of the bed as I push the dildo in a little… No! she whisper-shouts, Don’t like it!... I take it out and carry on fucking her, my left hand on her hipbone, the now-wet sides of the slit-crotch knickers rubbing the length of my cock as I push in, pull out… Outside, the snow falls faster in the orange glow, looking like shivering bacteria in the eye of a microscope as I push the dildo up my arse, the orange-lit bacteria shivering faster as I move the dildo in and out, a mechanism of Holy-fuck between the three of us… me, Grace and the dildo, a perfect symphony of rubber and flesh, each pushing against the other as the other pulls back, and as the streetlamp fades to black, I see Hope’s sad brown eyes closing with the come, and Grace low-moans, and the picture changes to Scarlett, and I shake my fucking head till the Etch-A-Sketch changes to slate, but too fucking late… And he knew not when she lay down, or when she arose… and my arse-lips push-kiss the dildo back out, falling unseen and shitty onto the pillow in the half-light, and some things you don’t even have to see but you know… you just fucking know.