My Father's Garden: Christmas Decorations

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Christmas Decorations, a chapter from R J Dent's novel-in-progress, My Father's Garden.

Submitted: March 30, 2016

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Submitted: March 30, 2016

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My Father's Garden: Christmas Decorations

by R J Dent

 

 

When my father said he was ‘going to go all out’ with the Christmas decorations, I wondered what he actually meant.

I soon found out.

The first thing I noticed was the length of cable strung around the front garden, tacked along the front porch, stapled above the windows, secured to posts, threaded through bushes, coiled around tree branches, propped up with canes, fixed to fences and so on.

The next night, my father had cut the cable and was fitting the ends into a light-bulb rose. I looked along the cable and saw he’d wired about a dozen light-bulb roses to it. It was obviously my father’s own version of Christmas lights.

– Don’t tell anyone, he said. I want it to be a surprise.

– I won’t tell anyone.

Once my father had finished wiring all of the roses to the cable – twenty-four in all – he fetched a box of light-bulbs from the shed. They were ordinary household light-bulbs, but my father had painted them in a variety of colours using household paint. One bulb was maroon, one was mustard, one was silver, one was avocado green, and one was black. And then the sequence was repeated. And again. And again…

The next day, my father had a huge box open on the front path. On the side of the box, upside down, was some writing. I tilted my head; it said EXTERIOR CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS.

My father was arranging a variety of objects around the front garden. It was difficult to discern what they were, as none of them had been switched on. Once my father had placed them where he wanted, he took the wires to each item and stuck them all onto a metal disc.

– What’s that? I asked.

– A plate magnet.

– Oh. What does it do?

– Wait and see.

My father had run an extension lead out of the hallway window and he now plugged the plate magnet into the extension lead’s socket. Immediately and simultaneously, all of the lights, bought and homemade, and all of the plastic decorations lit up. I took my eyes a minute or so to adjust to the glare.

Once I could see again, I watched my father move around the front garden, adjusting each of the EXTERIOR CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS.

It was quite a collection. There was a team of reindeer and a sleigh. In the sleigh was a huge pile of presents. There was a glowing snowman. There was a Santa on a rope, climbing up the side of the house. Halfway up the roof there was a pair of red-trousered legs sticking out of a fake plastic chimney. There was a glowing white seal balancing a flaming Christmas pudding on its nose. Every minute or so, the flame light of the pudding flickered and pulsed and turned blue, like the real brandy flames of a Christmas pudding. There was a blue skiing penguin and a white luminous polar bear cub. There were silver and blue icicles hanging from the front porch. There was a fake Christmas tree in the middle of the lawn, covered in fake decorations and a thousand tiny lights. There was a giant angel with palms touching in prayer. There were fairy lights in every tree, bush, shrub, plant and flower. There was fake snow on every surface and every branch, leaf, petal, blade of grass. Nothing had escaped being decorated.

My father suddenly switched all of the lights off, plunging the front garden into blackness. He then went indoors and I could hear him telling my sister, my brother and my mother that he needed them outside in the front garden for ‘lighting up time’.

Once everyone was assembled on the path, my father gave his usual pre-switch-on-the-lights speech.

During it, I whispered the details of the decorations, the lights and the glare to my brother.

He nodded and held up a pair of sunglasses.

– I remember how bright last year’s display was, he said quietly. The power surge blacked out France.

My father was reaching the end of his speech.

– And now, he said eagerly, let there be light.

My brother surreptitiously slipped on his sunglasses, and muttered:

– Goodbye Finland.

My father threw the switch.

We were bathed in the glare of thousands of Christmas lights.

My mother screwed her eyes shut.

My sister shielded her eyes with her hands.

My brother chuckled.

– You are witnesses to the best-decorated Christmas garden in the world, my father said proudly.

I was just thinking that this was quite a bold claim (especially as I knew very well that my father had not travelled the world to see if his decorations really were better than everyone else’s) when from inside our house I heard a very loud bang and a fizzing sound and all our house lights went off simultaneously, plunging the house into total darkness.

Out in the front garden, the Christmas illuminations continued to dazzle us.

– You’ve fused the entire house, my mother said icily.

– It’ll only take me a couple of seconds to get ’em back on, my father said casually.

– I have got twelve mince pies cooking in the oven, my mother said. And we can’t eat uncooked pastry – it’s not safe.

My father suddenly pointed at me, then at my brother.

– Right, you two. Bring one of those lit-up creatures into the hallway.

Having given us our instructions, he went into the house, probably to start messing about with the fuse-box in the dark.

My brother and I grabbed hold of the skiing penguin.

– All right then, penguin, you’re coming with us, my brother said. Don’t try resisting.

We carried the glowing creature into the house and deposited it on the hallway carpet. Our father was rummaging about in the cupboard under the stairs.

– Oh, for Pete’s sake, not the ruddy penguin, he said. It’s too dim. It doesn’t give off enough light. I need to be able to see what I’m doing. Go and get the one that gives off the most light, you daft ha’p’orths.

– I thought you wanted it for company, not for light.

My father sighed.

– Go and get a bright one, he said. And I don’t mean you. Obviously you’re not a bright one. The opposite I’d say; positively dim.

– Shouldn’t that be negatively dim? my brother asked. Surely positively’s got too many… well, too many positive connotations.

My father totally ignored my brother and looked outside at the dazzling collection of Christmas illuminations.

– Bring me that seal. The flaming pudding on its nose’ll be bright enough to illuminate the fuse box.

My brother and I took the penguin outside and tossed it carelessly on the grass. We lifted the seal and carried it, trailing its wires, inside the house. We dumped it on the carpet outside the under-the-stairs cupboard.

– That’s better, said our father, his muffled voice coming from the cupboard. Proper light. Efficient light. Light bright enough to work by.

As he said this, the Christmas pudding flickered and dimmed, then turned blue.

– Oh, damn and blast it, for crying out loud, and for Pete’s sake, my father said.

– Is the light proper light, efficient light, light bright enough to work by? my brother asked.

– Take that ruddy creature away, my father said, not making it clear if he was referring to the seal or to my brother. I’m fairly sure he meant both.

– We could time it so you can work when the light’s bright.

– Or you could simply use a torch or a candle, said my mother, who was standing in the front doorway, watching us.

– I don’t know where the torch is, my father said.

– It’s hanging up by the side of the fuse box, my mother said. I put it there in case the fuses blew and we needed light to see what we were doing.

– Found it! Now get rid of that ruddy seal.

My brother and I wrestled the seal away, dragging it and its flickering and blue-flaming puddinged nose out onto the front lawn. As we got outside, the house lights came on again.

My sister cheered.

– Yes. Light, she said.

My brother and I looked around the lit-up front garden.

– Yep, we needed more light.

– Ah, the Wittenberg prince again.

– What is? my sister asked.

– More light. More light.

– Oh.

My sister went into the re-illuminated house. I think she didn’t want anyone to know that she didn’t understand anything that my brother was saying, even though we both knew that she didn’t understand anything that my brother was saying.

We stayed in the garden, bathed in the glare of thousands of lights, me squinting, my brother comfortable with his sunglasses on.

We agreed that the EXTERIOR CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS and all of the lights were far too bright.

Not that it mattered. The Christmas lights and decorations stayed on for the next twelve days.

The neighbours probably liked them as much as we did.

 

*

 

 

My Father’s Garden: Christmas Decorations

Copyright © R J Dent

 

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