DAY 1: Don’t Blame It On the Dog by Jude Higgins

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On the 1st Day of Christmas Jude Higgins gave to me…

I’m round at Gran’s for our pre-Christmas, Christmas. She’s bought me a vegan sausage wreath and made chocolate coated brussel sprouts. After I’ve forced them down, we settle in front of the TV with Mum’s mince pies to watch ‘The Return of the King’, the Lord of the Rings movie Gran loves.

‘Your Corbyn would get more votes if he had no facial hair, like those nice Hobbits,’ she says when the adverts come on. A crumb of mince pie trembles on her lip. ‘You can never trust a man with a beard.’

She seems oblivious that my boyfriend’s sitting opposite her, as big as a lighthouse, with his own beard, oiled and trimmed for the day, the tiny beard fairy lights I  bought him as a joke flashing on and off.

‘Nobody with half a brain would vote for the Eton-educated jokers who got us into this mess,’ I say, although I told Mum I wouldn’t talk about politics today. ‘Anyway Gandalf’s got a beard and you think he’s the dog’s bollocks.’

Gran gulps down her port and lemon.

‘Very funny,’ she says. ‘If this country was Mordor, I’d sooner vote for the Dark Lord Sauron to be prime minister than a left wing loonie.’ She waves her finger at me. ‘At least  he’d take back control and get Brexit  done.’

I open my mouth to tell her Sauron would sell the NHS to the chief Orc in a trade deal if he was prime minster and that would be the least of our worries. But my mother, who’s sitting next to me, jabs me in the ribs with her elbow.

‘Ow,’ I shout, which makes Derby, my Gran’s miniature dachshund  bark and snap at my ankles. She squeals as loud as I did when I brush her away.

‘Whatever have you done to my baby?’ Gran says. She  scoops up Derby, goes into the kitchen and refuses to come back in. My mother follows.

‘Your daughter’s a cruel girl,’ I hear Gran say. ‘She takes after her father with her communist views, and why hasn’t he come this afternoon, if you all can’t be bothered to visit on Christmas Day itself.’

‘They’re short staffed at A & E,’ Mum says.

‘A likely story,’ Gran says.

‘How can you say that?’ Mum says. ‘You know what it’s like at this time of year.’

While the row between them escalates, my boyfriend sits next to me and the dog sidles back in, jumps on my lap, and farts. In the stink, we silently watch Gollum fall with the ring into the cavernous fires of Mount Doom which makes Sauron’s power crumble. After the sinister black cloud of his departing spirit blows away, I take a deep breath.

‘Fuck it,’ I say. I go into the kitchen and give my Gran a big hug.

‘That was the best vegetarian Christmas dinner I’ve ever eaten,’ I say. ‘Especially the brussel sprouts.’

Jude Higgins

Jude Higgins’ flash fiction pamphlet ‘The Chemist’s House’ was published in 2017 and she is published widely in magazines and anthologies. She organises Bath Flash Fiction Award and Flash Fiction Festivals UK. judehiggins.com

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