by Guest Author JA Clement
In the Clement household, Christmas is a real dash. Christmas Eve begins early and is filled with daytime choir and nativity play rehearsals, followed by the evening jaunt to the big Christmas Nativity Play and Mass (followed by mince pies in the church hall). It’s fun but tiring, and we usually spend most of Christmas Day recovering.
That particular year, however, we had snow and could not get out. A White Christmas is fairly rare in the UK, but this time it did it in style with snow several feet deep and big drifts. Moreover, the roads had not been salted and were slick with ice and very treacherous.
Christmas Eve came. We were snowed in and reveled in the novelty of it. Instead of the usual marathon, we pottered around finishing the wrapping, putting the presents under the tree (walled off with a fire guard so the dogs couldn’t get in), and doing all the other last-minute touches that normally take place at about 2 a.m. My Mum sat on the kitchen sofa with a glass of wine. Similarly equipped, my oldest sister, Cath, and I chopped vegetables and made desserts, automatically falling into our usual roles in charge of Christmas dinner (and breakfast and lunch where applicable). It was very civilized.
The phone rang and Mum answered. It was my brother. Half a conversation later, she reported, “He’s got rid of the last of his flock of turkeys, and ours is plucked, gutted, and ready to be picked up.”
This was slightly problematic. Our family is fairly extensive, so this turkey was huge and needed a couple of us to lift it. Though we weren’t going far, we had intended to take the car, but we couldn’t get it up the icy drive, never mind on the road.
Cath shrugged. “Plan B—we can easily walk there. We just need to find a way to carry the turkey. Dad, we need your wheelbarrow.”
Dad giggled. This is usually a sign of guilt. “You know when I filled it with concrete to fix the step the other day and you called me in for tea?”
“You forgot about the concrete, didn’t you?”
“That’s out, then. However are we going to get it round here?”
“Santa might do it.” Dad was helpful as ever.
“We could certainly do with a sleigh and some reindeer,” Mum said.
Suddenly I had a thought. “We might not have reindeer, but we do have a sleigh. It’s a lovely clear night. Why don’t we just walk round and pull it back on the sledge?”
“We could take the dogs for a walk while we’re at it.” Gabby stood up. “Come on!”
We took the sledge and set off along the winding lane, under a sky of luminous midnight blue scattered with stars like shards of ice. The snow was untouched except for pheasant and rabbit tracks, bathed in frosty blue light by the full moon. The air was heavy with the frozen, muffled silence of snow, slivered slightly by the tinkling of water where the rushing stream escaped its ice and dashed against the glazed rocks below. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
The dogs bounded about like mad things, diving and rolling in the drifts, and we had a brief but exciting snowball fight that the dogs loved, leaping up to catch the snowballs, and sneezing when snow exploded in their mouths.
Eventually we ended up at my brother’s house. He and his wife came out to help with the turkey, but it took several goes to get it onto the sledge securely. My sister-in-law started to snigger. “That looks quite obscene.”
We looked at the turkey. She was right. There was something disturbingly nude and splay-legged about it. Gabby covered its modesty with her woolly hat, but that started us all giggling.
“That looks even worse,” my sister-in-law said.
“Yes, but I’m not putting the hat back on now.” Gabby was adamant, so leaving the hat in place, we wished them a happy Christmas and started back.
It was a strange little procession. Cath led off, followed by Gabby, then me pulling a red plastic sledge on which reposed the mother of all oven-ready turkeys, shockingly nude apart from what looked very much like woolly underpants. The dogs followed, more than a little confused. Our cargo smelt enticingly dead, but they were not at all sure it should be moving.
We were about halfway along the lane when a noise intruded into the stillness of the night—a tractor! Someone was about to catch us trekking through the snow with a naked turkey on a sledge! What could we do? We were all of a fluster. We pulled into the side, called the dogs over, and dragged the turkey behind us.
“It’s alright. They can’t see it with us standing in front,” Cath muttered as the tractor chugged past.
“Wait a minute. Why are we hiding it?”
As the tractor disappeared round the corner, we let go of the dogs, feeling rather foolish. There wasn’t actually anything nefarious in taking the turkey for a ride on the sledge—it just felt nefarious, somehow….
So, with many a slide and slip (and paying a certain amount of attention to the whereabouts of three dogs who were entirely up for an investigatory nibble), we finally managed to negotiate the bird home where, being too big to fit in the sink, it had a good wash in the bath before finally taking up residence in the range oven.
On Christmas Day, everyone agreed that the turkey was delicious, and it really was. However, I’m not convinced that deliciousness is guaranteed by putting a woolly hat on your turkey, taking it sledging, and then giving it a bath before cooking. So as recipes go, I’m staying traditional this year!
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AUTHOR AND BOOK INFO
JA Clement lives near London with her partner and as yet, no dogs. She has been writing her fantasy series, On Dark Shores, for some years but only uploaded the first book, The Lady, in March. Book 2 (The Other Nereia) is due out in ebook formats in early 2012 and a paperback comprising both will follow later in the year.
She reads all her reviews and can be found on Goodreads, as well as Facebook and Twitter. She loves chatting with her readers and hopes you will say hello if you’re ever in that part of cyberspace.
On Dark Shores: The Lady
by JA Clement
Trapped in fear and poverty after the death of her parents, the thief Nereia will go to desperate lengths to protect her beautiful younger sister from the brutality of Copeland the moneylender. No one has dared to attempt escape before; the whole of Scarlock trembles in his grasp. Only Nereia’s cunning and some unlooked-for help give her hope.
In a country still recovering from war, events are stirring, and the little harbour town will not remain obscure for long. But in Scarlock, right now, Mr Copeland is coming to call — and this time he’s not taking no for an answer.
Parallels: The Black-Eyed Susan (Accompanying short story to the On Dark Shores series) is also available free from most of those sites.
JA Clement has also contributed a story to Christmas Lites, an anthology of 26 short stories, featuring Santa, small children, zombies, werewolves, ghosts, and much, much more, by writers from the Creative Reviews group. All proceeds of this book will be donated to the NCADV – National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. More information about this project can be found at 3…2…1… Switch on the Christmas Lites!