Story and Graphic by Sandshoe
I got a cup and saucer that sat in a tiny sled that could be stood on end to display the china and was tiny like the combo. Santa gave the ornamental toy to me at a Carols by Candlelight held on the town sports oval where football and vigaro was played and a corner doubled as a circus field when the circus was in town. My association of it with tethered elephants was already romantic when Santa arrived that starry night on the tray of a farm truck or a seat of a sled trailer hauled by a tractor used normally for sugar cane haulage not sure which now. I did somehow know then the event was a co-operative undertaking organised between Santa and the Council. Our people had been talking to Santa’s. That was the town where I was born and Santa eventually came I saw it with my own eyes.
So many years later sitting at a radio sales meeting and a seriously new employee of Rural Press in a hinterland of this place of my nascent experience of Santa, I was digging it hearing Santa was going to arrive in a helicopter. I was hearting Santa-Air. Talk turned to a recent take-over by allegedly “us” of the only other commercial radio station in the district and far-fetched claims accompanied by warrior-style victory breast thumping regarding what the purchase meant now “we owned” that previous competitor. Whoop! Whoop!
Talk was turning further as I sat thinking about selling hay and legume seed to old tobacco farmers and ride-on mowers to doubts held by my colleagues regarding who might be expected to fly with Santa. There might be some minor adjustments to calibrate. No one was to worry. Santa would be “theirs”.
So far in my life-long days I had not yet heard anything half as silly as that dialogue between intelligent practitioners of any arts or sciences dressed up as work.
Stop me later if you’ve heard me tell this story.
Anyway it was the Christmas staff party coming up. Yes, as I was advised, it was a long way and why would I drive that far. You know you can’t drink. I won’t. So sensible. Yes, I was driving.
Over a long tinsel-bestrewn trestle table I was sat at in its middle directly opposite the manager, I unavoidably watched the same harshly tell his wife seated on his left, “Behave” at that moment the flush of the excesses of alcohol began to suffuse his primal excitability. I could have died and gone to heaven not. The nice thing was my present from under the Christmas tree was a plus large pink plastic telephone wrapped in pretty pink tissue paper and tinsel.
You see it was the one intimation I ever received that the position I was employed to implement was genuinely answerable only to the Manager who would be my assistant to set up a so-exciting and new telephone sales project. The manager made something of a fond fuss before-hand of how he couldn’t wait for me to see what ‘they’ got me. A presentation speech on the subject how special I was gulled me further bathed in a spotlight. He consistently failed to turn up to discuss or assort the project with me where instead I soon only found myself sole charge of our satellite office on the coast while the jock I worked with in it took holidays. Meanwhile it dawned he thought he could assess but not only, teach me my job and sure enough as I guessed from assessment of the tracks of what was happening, chose the Christmas drinks at the pub after work to sidle up alongside to do that (“only thing about how you’re doing is I wouldn’t use the word solicit. It doesn’t sound nice other than that you’re doing just fine”).
Earlier that day, I had purposefully addressed a client in a voice to project between our walls and using the word o, so beautifully, to test the culture once and for all. The summer was cloying hot outside, visible through the glass walls of the enclosed palm-tree foyer.
Worst thing about that drive-to Xmas party was the room was shared with another table of party goers celebrating an occasion and the behaviour of the dishevelled at ours drowned out theirs.
Some other time we may examine the proposition that all salespersons are equal.
My favourite Santa Claus I have met so far was Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas of Father Christmas Goes On Holiday. He was ‘stuck up there in the bloomin’ cold’. I feel stuck up here in rural Australia again with ghosts of Christmas pasts tugging at my jacket. My sister was real skinny and she is rushing into the kitchen in some kind of fit about 12 years old.
I, the youngest by seven years her junior and looking up at shapes and forms recall those dear people in bodies with far away concerned faces. Dad had a usually slightly sarcastic way of looking at you as if you were in on a big joke. He looked ordinary Honey was upset. She was sobbing. Her face streaked. The day was hot stands to reason and getting hotter the way you know once you don’t have it any more in changeable southern climates all those days were in the summer of North Queensland on the coast.
“He’s…” she sobbed and looked terrified, “not a he. He’s a she. We can’t eat him.”
The ensuing wail was now terrible. We rushed outside (I simply chase the action without understanding). The shadows are falling under the mango tree onto plate-size patches of lawn grass in sunlight and scratched dirt. The turkey is clucking and gobbling, walking from one side of the cage he was especially contained in as we did not usually keep fowl. This bird allegedly masculine we were to fatten was a Christmas present to our family from my mother’s cousin (I had not known why. I had never seen a turkey before).
My sister’s aversion to everything and everybody if the turkey was harmed, its least feather, seemed likely inconsolable. Battling with the confusion of conditions at knee and thigh level, in my sister’s case (true) close to shoulder level, I managed to work out using my agile wits the bird was laying an egg that was unexpected.
“Tell Dad, Mum” screeched my sister as if our father was approaching the cage with a knife in hand and a hangman’s noose, “how could anybody kill this now it is…”
She blubbered. The two mango trees were thriving then and dwarf everybody, the garage and house, the cage and the turkey, everything. Gobble gobble. Forth and back. Along one side of the property a dingley dell of two paw paw trees, a bush lemon tree and the spare wire of a literally one barbed-wire strand fence on a lean make another scrabble of shadows among weeds against stark sunlight revealing the spare allotment next door. Gobble gobble. Back and forth. My sister rushed off somewhere.
I truly don’t understand a lot of it. Who ate the turkey I don’t know. Our family didn’t.
Have a safe and Happy Yuletide, piglets and our readers. Thank you for keeping the pub ticking over tickety-boo, Merv, Janet, Granny, Foodge, the tenants like the indomitable Glenda at the Pigs’ Legs Waxing and Beauty Salon and its workers and wenches, Eddie O’Bad alongside whose patronage we seem wholesome, Father O’Way without whom we would be lost plus the mob in the carpark who sneak in and out using the facilities when Merv is upstairs changing the twins’ nappies for Janet, the Mondrian Bros. (Plumbers to the Pigs Arms), so many contributors and Emmjay who is our proprietor, Mike Jones.