'Christmas' by John Holland
My father died in the bath on Christmas Day. Two years ago. He was seventy. We had waited for him to come down and take his present from under the tree. I’d bought him a photographic history of erotic magazines. Wrapped it in brown paper as a joke.
The children were small and were excited when the ambulance came. They ran outside with the dog to greet it and we had to shepherd them away. The siren was sounding and the blue light flashing - even though when we phoned we said he was dead.
When they examined him, his skin the colour of the grey lukewarm suddy water, they went and turned off the light.
Later, our daughter asked if the ambulance would return the following Christmas.
“Like Santa Claus,” she said.
I said I didn’t think so.
“Perhaps if we believe,” she said.
Last Christmas my mother collapsed and died while lifting the turkey out of the oven. We heard the crash and found her lying on the kitchen floor, the bird covering her face, as if she had a roast turkey for a head. Her new navy blue crimplene dress was decorated with chipolatas and rashers of streaky bacon, the dog excitedly picking them off, sliding around in the turkey fat on the vinyl floor. We told the children to take him away.
My daughter grabbed his collar and lead him to the window, whispering in his ear, “Watch, Rex, the ambulance is coming. The ambulance is coming.”
We thought we should ask my daughter if she wished for it to happen, but neither my wife nor I did.
Last week I told my daughter that I hoped next Christmas would be more peaceful.
“How peaceful would you like it to be?” she said.