What could be more Christmassy than a Christmas tree? Here’s a story from Sue Marlow…
The Christmas Tree
Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree, and when it came to decorating the Christmas tree Mother had always started at the bottom and Father at the top.
In the early years of marriage they had met half way, wrapped in tinsel, good humour and an expectation that their love would last forever. However forty years later compromise was no longer an option. Love had disintegrated into disappointment, resentment and a stubborn determination to win at all costs. The family tradition of decorating the tree on Christmas Eve had, to the dismay of their son and daughter, become the focal point of their year of discord.
When Helen and Mark each arrived with their young families their feuding parents took a short cease-fire to welcome them. However by the time the three grand-children, George, Alice and Millie were nestled all snug in their beds, the battle of the tree was raging again. Father had piled the presents in front of the hearth to avoid trampling and offers of assistance from their son, daughter and partners were declined. To escape the increasing seasonal bad will they soon followed their children to bed.
Untraditionally the children didn’t wake until six o’clock on Christmas morning but were immediately fully alert and eager to see what Father Christmas had left under the tree. Their parents all needed coffee before reaching the same degree of wakefulness that their children had achieved instantaneously so they all crept quietly downstairs to the kitchen. As the coffee brewed the three children were given permission to take a peek in the sitting room.
‘Goodness they are quiet!’ said Helen and went to investigate.
The children were standing just inside the sitting room door, motionless. The tree lights were twinkling in circles around the tree up to the mid-way point where upon they diverted towards the floor and trailed along Mother’s horizontal body, ending their journey in a number of tight coils around her neck. The alternating effects and colours of the lights illuminated her strangulated expression in a very unbecoming fashion.
Father lay on his back on top of the pile of presents by the hearth. There was a look of triumph on his face and his hand clutched the star which had been destined for the top of the tree. The step ladder was at an unnerving angle resting against the curtains and Father’s thinning hair exposed a large clump of dried blood on the side of his head.
The two young families remained in the kitchen while the police and ambulance crew inspected the carnage around the Christmas tree. The senior police officer apologetically interrupted their disbelief. He looked exhausted and in need of cheer but his eyes showed genuine compassion. ‘I’m so sorry I have to ask you questions at this difficult time but can you tell me who discovered the b… er… lady and gentleman?’
George stepped forward. ‘It was me,’ he said with great solemnity, ‘and I know who did it!’ Tiny gasps flitted around the kitchen. ‘There is only one person who could have got into a locked house on Christmas Eve,’ George announced triumphantly. ‘It must have been Father Christmas!’
Alice let out a tiny cry of horror and her bottom lip quivered as she began to sob, ‘Father Christmas killed Nana and Grandpa?’
The police officer did not reveal the slightest hint of a smile but his weary eyes struggled to conceal his amusement.
He knelt down in front of Alice. ‘There is no way it could have been Father Christmas,’ he said, ‘because I know for certain that he was hundreds of miles away delivering presents to my own grandchildren who are about the same age as you. It’s what we call a watertight alibi!’
Alice’s sobs began to slow as she clung tightly around her father’s neck and with a sound of relief she spluttered, ‘they did argue lots and lots…. but they were good sometimes!’
The officer turned to George. ‘That was a very clever piece of deduction though.’ he said. ‘When you grow up you would make a fine detective.’ And George grew upward by two inches, there and then.
A young policeman tapped on the kitchen door. ‘Forensics are here, Sir’
‘I think we should have breakfast,’ said Helen and began rummaging in the cupboards even though no-one had any inclination to eat.
After a while the senior police officer asked Helen and Mark to step into the hall. ‘It seems a fairly straightforward case,’ he said. ‘Your father appears to have strangled your mother and then fallen from the step ladder, hitting his head on the mantel piece as he fell, in what proved to be a fatal blow. Had he not hit his head the pile of presents on which he landed would have certainly cushioned his fall and prevented serious injury. I’m afraid though that most of the presents were smashed by the impact or have been splattered with blood. I think it best not to allow the children near them. It would probably be advisable to leave the house once we have removed the bodies. Do you have somewhere else you can go? Would you like me to arrange for someone to get in touch with you… to offer counselling for this very traumatic incident?’
The event had undoubtedly put a bit of a damper on Christmas morning but later the families agreed that at least their parents had died doing what they loved best!
‘What shall we do?’ asked Helen. ‘I’m so worried about the children. This shouldn’t be their memory of Christmas!’ She thought for a moment and then the panic began to rise. ‘And what about when George goes back to school and Mrs Pratchett asks them to stand up in front of the class and tell the other children about their Christmas?’ Everyone envisaged the scenario and shuddered.
‘Didn’t Mother have some hidden savings?’ Mark asked, ‘so that she could have the holiday of a lifetime once Father… well, you know.’
‘Any idea where she kept them?’
By that evening the two families were at the airport bound for a Christmas holiday they had never expected. And when George stood in front of the class to tell them all about his Christmas he recounted the families’ amazing trip to Disneyland, Florida adding that it was an extra special present from Nana and Grandpa!