THERE is a wooden elephant lurking behind the dresser.
I noticed it when I shuffled downstairs in my dressing gown and slippers looking for something ordinary to eat. Something unfestive, like cornflakes.
Its ear is missing. It was like that 15 minutes after it was unwrapped.
The dog threw it back up on Boxing Day, along with the remains of the turkey, one of those little blower things, and a tiny plastic ballet dancer from a cracker. But without an ear, which he must have digested.
I have ignored the elephant. I’m more concerned about the hand behind the sofa. I think it’s attached to a person. Who has been there since Christmas Eve, when my daughter had some friends round.
He might be dead but if he is he’ll have to wait. I can’t cope with a dead body until at least January 2.
What happened! Is this the same planet I occupied last week, when life was filled with warm benevolence and the euphoria of giving.
I am certain the hand behind the sofa is the one that, on Christmas Eve, had a firm grip on my 20-year-old bourbon.
I vaguely remember that I gave it to him. That was then; this is now. If he isn’t dead behind my sofa, I’ll kill him anyway.
It’s been two days since I was filled with peace and goodwill! Now I am filled with remorse and regret. I daren’t look at my bank account. I could have bought a house with the money I spent. Instead all I have to show for it is a very full wheelie bin, an elephant without an ear, a vet’s bill for the dog, and a dress (not mine; my wife’s) that will have to go back because it’s the wrong colour and too big.
(Some advice: if you buy a dress for the woman you love, buy one that’s too small if you must, but never, never buy one that’s too big).
I have lost my bonhomie. It’s the same every year. A tidal wave of philanthropy until the morning of December 27, followed by a suicidal re-evaluation over breakfast. A desperate and hysterical attempt to recreate the mood will occur for two or three hours on New Year’s Eve, but it will only make matters worse.
By New Year’s Day I shall be swapping places with the bloke behind the sofa, if he’s still there.
Is it just me, or is it a human thing? For every star-spangled peak there’s a latrine pit. For every celebration there’s a hangover. For every festival that’s going to change the world there’s the awful realisation that actually, nothing changes.
I don’t even like my daughter’s best friend. He’s a pompous prat. Why would I invite him in and pour drink down his gullet? I think I even embraced him, for heaven’s sake! How could I have done it! Yes, yes; peace and goodwill and all that, but I shall have to live with the consequences for an entire year.
Unless it’s him down behind the sofa, and he really is dead.
That would make it all worthwhile. And the bonus will be that he won’t turn up on New Year’s Eve pretending he likes me.
Is this the sum total of my Christmas? A one-eared elephant, a corpse in the lounge room, a vet’s bill and a carpet of dog sick. It felt as if it had more value… on the day.
Never mind. In five days time it will be 2004. I’ll probably have to wait till then for cornflakes. Meanwhile I shall just shuffle back to bed. Wake me when it’s over.
And by the way, Happy New Year.