Category Archives: Fiction

A Christmas Carol

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Celia Arnold dropped two Alka-Seltzer into her morning G&T and sighed heavily, it was the day before Christmas yet there was still so much to do. Edward and Annabel Woodward were expected for dinner the next day – but there was still no tree up in the Arnolds’ stylish £1.5M mid-Cheshire townhouse. Presents were still to be bought and despite repeated assurances that everything was in hand, her husband still hadn’t arrived home with the turkey he claimed to have ordered weeks previously.

Upstairs, Richard Arnold finished his morning shave and locked eyes with his reflection in the bathroom mirror. “You’re a tiger”, he growled to himself… just as he did every morning without fail. This, ever since his university days, had been Richard’s personal slogan. He even had the words etched into his bathroom mirror as a constant reminder. 2013 had been a great year for Richard Arnold, a year of unprecedented professional and personal success. Today was Christmas Eve, but before he could switch off and spend time with his family (or ‘domestic colleagues’ as he’d often refer to them) – just like every other day, there were deals to be done and strategic alliances to form.

Richard bounded down the stairs as the family assembled in the kitchen for breakfast, although he preferred to think of this time as a ‘pre-9am meet-think’. “Morning team!”, he boomed. “What are we hoping to achieve today?” Celia busied herself preparing son Julian’s packed lunch as the small boy concentrated on finishing his Cornflakes. Richard was momentarily stunned. “Julian, what are you eating there?”

“Cornflakes, dad”, said the child.

“Hold it right there, son. Are you or are you not aware that we’ve recently agreed a deal with Nestle to be our official breakfast cereals partner? This amounts to a serious breach of contract.”

“But I don’t like Shreddies, dad”, replied Julian, glumly.

“We’ve been through this countless times…” began his father, “which breakfast cereal provider best demonstrated a commitment to our shared family objectives of health, growth and minimum nutritional value at affordable prices?”

“Errrr… Nestle, dad?”

“Exactly. So I do not expect to see Kelloggs’ products on display in this kitchen in future. Understood?”

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Julian sighed and finished his breakfast in silence, as his father sat next to him drinking a quadruple espresso and talking to both his accountant and life coach on separate Bluetooth headsets – all whilst simultaneously watching Bloomberg for news of the day’s global financial markets. Surveying this familiar scene, Celia turned up the kitchen radio to mask the sound of her own sobbing.

Richard upped and left for work with just a few tasks to complete that day. After a short stint in his spacious office situated in Old Trafford’s North Stand, he intended to pick up a Christmas tree and collect the turkey he’d ordered from his local butchers on the way home. Firstly though, Richard strode into Edward Woodward’s plush workspace to collect Julian’s new PS4 – the consoles were in great demand but Edward had a contact based in Barcelona who he was certain would deliver on time. “Eddie baby!”, Richard roared.

“Dickie, my good man! Wasssuuuuup?!”

The two friends collapsed into fits of giggles before greeting each other warmly with their customary ‘high-five’. “So Eddie, this PS4 deal you were working on…”

Woodward’s face dropped and he suddenly looked very despondent – this was an expression Richard had come to know well in recent months. “Ah, slight problem there, Dickie… the Spanish trail has gone cold. I went in with an offer that I was certain would secure the deal, but unfortunately it looks like I’ve slightly misjudged things and they no longer want to sell.”

“Oh no!”, exclaimed Richard. “What am I going to do? Julian will be crushed.”

“Don’t worry”, Edward quickly re-assured him, his lips forming a thin smile. “I also have a contact in Liverpool, a man named Kenwright who was willing to do business – he couriered one over to me this morning!”

“Fantastic!”, grinned Richard. “I’ll write you a cheque – how much was it? £400?”

“Errr, unfortunately I had to pay a small premium, Dickie… you know the situation, supply and demand and all that.”

“Not a problem, buddy”, Richard chuckled. “What’s the damage?”

“Erm… it was 3 grand”, replied Edward.

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Richard handed over the cheque and departed Woodward’s office feeling on top of the world. His dear and trusted friend had come up trumps once again and Julian would receive his prized PS4 in the morning. Sure, Ed had paid a little more than he’d anticipated – but it was a sellers’ market and he could certainly afford it. Job done.

For the rest of the morning Richard busied himself concluding a deal he’d been working on intensively over the preceding month. Before he left the office, an official press release appeared on the club’s website detailing his latest coup. “Manchester United are delighted to announce a new strategic alliance with Festitat Enterprises – the club’s official bauble and tinsel partners in North-West Luxembourg.” Richard was cock-a-hoop with excitement. ‘Just wait until the club’s 350 billion-strong fanbase get a load of this news!’, he thought to himself.

Richard waved goodbye to his colleagues before wedging himself into his club-supplied 2013 63 plate Chevrolet Captiva LTZ 2.2 for the short drive back to Cheshire. It was time to find a tree and pick up a turkey for the next day’s festivities! After negotiating the busy M60 and A34, Richard was soon patrolling the streets of Wilmslow ready to conclude his two final deals of the year.

Four hours later, the normally upbeat Richard was feeling somewhat disheartened. He’d managed to get his hands on a tree, but negotiations hadn’t gone well at all. The salesman had looked completely bemused at his offer of ‘territorial exclusivity for plants and foliage’ and instead, the pathetic looking specimen he’d secured had cost him £80. Still, it would have to do. Quite furious with this temporary loss of business acumen, Richard left himself an angry, expletive-filled voice message on his carphone whilst he drove to his local butcher.

Richard arrived at the butchers just after 5pm and to his horror, found that the shop had already closed for business. He hammered repeatedly on the door for several minutes until a light was switched on and a man peered out of an upstairs window. “Yes, can I help you?”

“I’ve come to collect my turkey!”, barked the profusely-sweating Richard.

“I’m sorry, Mr Arnold… you were too late”, replied the figure at the window. “I received a special request from my best customer just prior to closing time – he’s paid a premium price for all my uncollected orders. I’m afraid I’ve got nothing left to sell you.”

Richard sank to his knees and his face turned a deep shade of pink. “NO!”, he screamed up at the man. “I AM RICHARD ARNOLD… AND RICHARD ARNOLD ALWAYS BRINGS HOME THE BACON!”

“Bacon you say? Hang on a minute”, replied the butcher. “I might have a solution – it’s not ideal but it’s the best I can do at short notice.”

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5 minutes later, Richard arrived back home bearing the fruits of his day’s labours. The tree stood in his hallway, the PS4 was placed underneath and the 16 stone, best-of-breed Tamworth pig he’d acquired took a massive shit in the kitchen. Celia fled the room in order to vomit, whilst an amazed Julian jumped up onto his father’s knee and hugged him tightly. “Oh dad, thank you!”, said the boy. “This is the best Christmas ever! Can we keep him? I’m going to call him Anderson!”

Richard leapt out of his chair as his mind suddenly went into overdrive. “That’s it! You’re a genius, son!”, he chimed. He reached for his mobile phone and dialled a number he’d not dialled for several months at Celia’s insistence.

“Anderson! It’s Richard Arnold here, I need a plump bird.”

“Sure man, I can sort that out. BUNGA BUNGA TIIIIIIIME!!!”

“No, not that type of bird”, whispered Richard – conscious that his young son was in the room. “I desperately need a turkey.”

“No problem, my man!!!”, wheezed the portly Brazilian. “I’ve just picked up a dozen from the butchers this afternoon. Come round to mine and help yourself, my friend.”

“A dozen?!”, gasped Richard. “Are you having a party?”

“No. Just a snack”, replied the nonplussed, former athlete.

“Awesome. See you in a while.”

Richard placed his mobile back in his pocket, let out a contented sigh and drank in the sights and sounds of Christmas that surrounded him. Today had turned from potential disaster into a tale of personal triumph he would recall fondly for years to come. The happy scene of domestic bliss was only disturbed by Celia’s screams of terror as the pig attempted to join her in the downstairs toilet. “No Ando! Leave mummy alone!”, Julian scolded the inquisitive porker.

“Utterly hilarious! Merry Christmas, everybody!”, Richard laughed heartily as he ruffled his son’s hair.

THE END

Copyright Red News – December 2013

www.rednews.co.uk

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