A short story written for Tunbridge Wells Writers annual Christmas countdown. There are a few more to come, but I don’t want to pull focus from the group project so will post here after they’ve appeared there. This year’s prompt is the opening line from Terry Pratchett’s HOGFATHER, which I take a slight liberty with in this particular story…
Let There be Lights
Everything starts somewhere, we’re told, though I’ve heard it said that many physicists disagree. The amount of time I’ve spent trying to find the start of these fairy lights I’m beginning to think they might be on to something; if I ever find the first bulb and get them unravelled it’ll be a Christmas bloody miracle! My own fault, I suppose, because I was so busy sorting the rest of the decorations back into their box last January I let the boy sort these out. ‘Make sure you wind ‘em round the slotted spacer thingy and thread them on one by one,’ I said, ‘or we’ll never untangle ‘em next year.’
Two minutes later he says, ‘all done! What’s next dad?’ and I actually winced as he said it.
I go to look, and the box – and the slotted spacer – are both still on the floor and there’s a dirty-great black bin liner bulging at the seams with what looks like a green plastic tumbleweed poking out the neck of it. The little coloured lamps seem to be winking at me conspiratorially, but it must be a trick of the light (if you’ll excuse the pun) because they’re nowhere near an electricity supply.
‘What happened to the box,’ I ask, ‘and the slotted spacer? Why didn’t you use the spacer?’
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I forgot,’ he said.
‘But I only just said… … …’
‘Calm down, dear, it is Christmas after all,’ said the missus.
Technically Christmas was all done and dusted, but I wasn’t daft enough to pick her up on it, so I just sighed and got back to putting the baubles away. I think I might have snapped the head off one of the little redcoat soldiers, but I haven’t found him yet. That’s easily sorted – a bit of superglue and he’ll be good as new. Not like these bloody fairy lights.
Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. There’s been plenty of time to sort them out. If I’d done it straight away I wouldn’t have this problem now, but after all the other Christmas stuff I just couldn’t be arsed, and once they were back in the loft I just forgot all about them. Until now. Not just the boy who forgets stuff, then. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Or the fairy light from the Christmas tree in this case.
I can’t even see the fuse bulb. God knows. I’ve got the plug – well can see it at least – so that’s the business end sorted, but it’s right at the centre of the tumbleweed, and if I reach in and yank it out I’ll be tying all sorts of new knots that’ll make things even worse. Come on, you little white bugger, show yourself! It’ll still be like unravelling spaghetti, but once I lay my hands on you I’ll at least have a fighting chance.
She’s no help either. I say it every year: if we had lots of smaller sets it would be much easier to sort ‘em out. One big string’s just asking for trouble.
‘But I don’t trust them extension cords and four-way adaptors,’ she says, ‘and we need the other outlet for the telly.’
That’s her dad’s fault. He nearly burnt their house down one year trying to plug about eighteen things into one of them little five amp round-pin sockets. She’s been paranoid about electrics ever since.
Ah. There you are… Gotcha! Now we’re getting somewhere… I hope you’re not blown after all this…
WHAT? What love…?
Well tell him to sort it out himself, I’ve just found the fuse bulb and I don’t want to lose it again!
Well what does he expect me to do about it? If Rudolph’s got the squits again there’s sod all I can do about it! One of the others will have to stand in for him. Besides, we’ve got headlights on the sleigh now, so Rudolph’s more tradition than necessity. Tell him I’ll be back at the workshop in a couple of hours, and if he can’t handle things himself until then I’ll be looking for a new foreman in January…