OK UK?: A Christmas Story...
Back in England in the early eighties, I was a rookie policeman, the very junior "Bobby" on my shift, so I won first prize every year in the “worst duty” stakes. Added to the additional prizes of worst assignment, worst car, etc, it made for some fairly miserable Christmases.
For at least six years I was on night shift. Shift started at ten, so you were ready to go at 9:45pm. The departing shift will have avoided calls for the past hour or so, leaving a backlog of unpleasantness that would color the rest of the night.
It is amazing what enforced family closeness can do. Most of the calls, at least until a couple of hours after the pubs closed, were “domestics.”
These are tense, often violent, and occasionally hilarious. One of the latter that sticks in my mind (pun intended), involved the impressive use of a mantle decoration. Now, even in some of the most humble abodes in England, there is a desire to celebrate one’s heritage. Family crests, real, or purchased from a market stall, abound. Some go a tad further and mount the crest on a real shield, complete with crossed swords. While more at home in a baronial castle, these displays were occasionally mounted on the chimneybreast in the living room. No matter that the fire was gas and could not possibly roast an ox, there above the mantle would be this decorative representation of family honor.
In a land that does not easily permit the ownership or carrying of guns, having this ancient weaponry to hand would seem like a problem just waiting to happen.
The craziness of Christmas Eve behind us, the quieter Christmas Day allowed our shift to relax a little. This was done by sitting around at the sub-station, complaining about working, for the most part, and involved copious amounts of tea. I had left the small, embittered group to use the facilities. This meant that being out of the room, I would catch any calls if they came in.
And I caught a doozy.
The complaint was a report of a couple arguing loudly in Rowlands Gill, a village about ten minutes away from our station. The neighbors were concerned, as they reported the man as “having some drink on him,” i.e. drunk as a skunk. The protagonists were well known to us, and were regular patrons of our marriage counseling services. It was not something that unduly concerned us, so I drove out into the boonies on my own.
The house was a dumpy little excuse of an abode, which had been “decorated” by a single strand of colored lights around the front door, illuminating the collection of junk in the front yard.
As I made my way to the front door, I realized that it was unusually quiet in the house. Normally the occupants would be giving full voice to their issues with each other. Mr. A was a big man, well over six feet, but flabby. Mrs. A was a tiny woman, with a hard face and a bitter disposition. He would come home from the pub “with drink on him,” and complain about her housekeeping skills. She would respond with comments about his lack of performance in their marital bed. It would continue until her frigidity and his utter lack of any manly attributes had been very loudly aired.
There were plenty of threats of violence, but had never amounted to anything, and once one of the boys in blue had called a halt to proceedings, they would actually go upstairs to bed.
The lack of noise was, thus, very disturbing. I figured that I had possibly stumbled across my first murder, so every nerve was tingling. The front door was not fully closed, due to the extension chord sticking out, powering the lights around the door. I pushed the door further open and walked directly into their main room.
The sight was extraordinary. Mrs. A was standing with her arms crossed, still fizzing, in front of the fireplace. Mr. A was sitting on the couch, rocking back and forth, quietly saying, “fuck, fuck, fuck…” to himself, his visage one of abject terror.
Above his head was the reason for the terror. Their Christmas turkey, fully cooked, was impaled by one of the pair of decorative swords that had been on the chimneybreast. The sword had gone straight through the turkey and well into the wall. The force required must have been considerable. That the little Mrs. A had thrown it was not in doubt, but how on Earth had the turkey got in the path of the projectile?
I took Mrs. A into the kitchen and got her to make some tea, and thus distracted, she told me what had happened. Apparently, Mr. A came home from the pub well lit, and late for the Christmas dinner that she had prepared. An argument ensued, with Mr. A grabbing the turkey, and stating that he would take it to the pub to share with his drinking buddies.
Mrs. A snapped.
It was the proverbial last straw, She pulled the sword down from above the mantle and threw it directly at her husband, he used the turkey as a shield, and ducked. The sword went straight through the bird, missed Mr. A by a hair and had enough force to stick into the wall.
Leaving her seated in the kitchen, I went in to speak to Mr. A and remove the turkey kebab from the wall. Even with the bird removed, the sword was heavy. I was amazed that there was enough room to swing the thing above her head and launch it, or that she could even lift the darned thing. Mr. A was very contrite, but also in awe of his little wife. I could sense the pride as he recounted his near death experience.
Hasty apologies, each one to the other, and my removal of the swords for the remainder of the holiday period remedied the incident. Dinner was ruined, I’m sure, but after returning the swords in January, I do not recall a single further incident from the pair of them.
Hell hath no fury!
Merry Christmas. Don’t be late for dinner…
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