Last Minute Negotiations

Christmas was meant to be a time of peace and goodwill to all men. But all Father Christmas could think of now, was how damned hard that was to bring about. This year he'd not even been given one day's respite. The moment he'd got back from delivering the last of his presents, his brand-new state-of-the-art cordless telephone – ironically enough his own present from Santa – had started ringing. By the end of January his agents all over the world had phoned in with well over a hundred cases for which his help would be needed.

He had begun his tour in early February, as soon as he was assured that production for next year’s presents was well underway. By Easter he had visited three continents and dealt with a majority of the cases his agents had been unable to resolve. But dealing with humans was beginning to take its toll, so he took a one week holiday before moving on. Now, he was on his Dole and the last case before returning home. It was not, he hoped, the most difficult case he had faced, but it was the most saddening.

It was in Dole he had inaugurated what to date had proved to be one of the most effective ways of bringing never-would-otherwise-fraternise groups together. The idea was the brainchild of a local radio station, planted into one of their DJ’s mind after a particularly long evening of soliloquising on the way home from a late-night party. The previous year this DJ had announced over the air the death of Santa. He really had used the word death, although what he meant by it was, of course, the fact that Santa had never really existed. Meeting this man at the gates of the local park he accompanied him to his home which they reached some thirty minutes later. The man was unusually quiet making Santa’s task all the easier. By the time he entered his house enough arguments were planted into his mind for the soliloquising to go on all night. Just days later the man went on live to announce Santa’s resurrection and his Goodwill Plan for that Christmas. The idea was simple: anyone who would be spending Christmas alone could phone up the radio station, as could any person or family who wanted to open up their home, however lowly or humble to another human being.

That first year things had been difficult. Several families phoned and expressed their willingness to open their house to others, but just two or three were willing to actually take up on the hospitality. To increase chances of getting more people the following year, the station had decided to interview each of those involved to talk about their experiences. That’s when things began to unravel. One of the men was extremely dissatisfied with his experience and equally extremely verbose in his condemnation of the project. If he could not be prevailed upon to change his mind, the programme, due to be aired on the 1st August would be cancelled and the whole project would shelved. Apparently, the old man felt he had been completely ignored. The family played out their Christmas much like they would have done every year, without a thought for his presence. Dinner was some kind of traditional Greek dish, very meagre fare in comparison to what he’d been used to in previous years and they’d not served a drop of wine explaining that they never drunk it themselves. He’d stayed long enough so as not to be impolite and then beaten a hasty retreat.

Once Santa had interviewed the family concerned he realised he was up against a typical case of mutual, cultural insensitivity. They had moved to France just six months previously and were not aware of all that was involved in receiving strangers in this most gourmet of countries. All they had wanted to do was to open their house for a lonely stranger in need, and share what they did and had with them. Yet, he had been so impolite turning his nose up at everything they offered, , and finally leaving after just one hour, just as the singing and dancing was due to begin. They had even had the chance to get to know each other properly, they complained.

With the greatest of pleasure Father Christmas wrote out the two checks: the first, a six week course in cultural discovery including a wine-tasting at one of France’s greatest cellars, for the exasperated family; the second, a finely bound tome on Greek including a voucher for an evening’s gourmet entertainment at a specialist restaurant.

5 comments:

I like the way you describe things in your writing. One thing that might help you move your story along is using dialog - it also will help to show rather than tell a bit more about the characters and their interactions. Good work :)

31 July 2009 at 22:24  

I like the premise of this piece but agree with Ronda in that I think some dialogue would have given us a clearer understanding of the cultural misunderstandings. Liked it a lot.

1 August 2009 at 01:37  

Thanks for playing along this week.

I think what might have been disconcerting for some is the wandering of the story line leaving them unsure of who was actually talking to them ( the reader.)I think instead of inserting just dialogue, (though in fairness its a great suggestion) you might go back and ask - "whose story is this?" This will give you the storys POV.

You have captured a great idea and through the story readers can see the passion you have for the spirit of sharing and giving during the festivities in December.

Although I love the guessing game, red herrings and mystery, the uncertainty of the setting , especially coupled with the ending may leave readers dissatisfied.

I'd be very interested in seeing an edited version of this - as I fully support the message it portrays.

Visitors can find mine at

http://annieevett.blogspot.com/2009/07/where-shall-we-meet.html

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