It was after midday when Gregory surfaced on Boxing Day. He felt bloated, like an overinflated football and there was a reek emerging from his underwear that was shrouding his nether regions in an unpleasant murk. I must stink like a walking compost heap, he grunted as he threw back the duvet and heaved himself out of bed. Although ‘walking’ was a bit optimistic.
We shall gloss over his adventures in the bathroom; suffice it to say that when he emerged, he considered making a sign for the door, one of those biohazard symbols.
He waddled down the stairs – the house was quiet. The quiet after the storm of the party! They had really let themselves go this Christmas. ‘Excess’ didn’t cover it. Well, it’s only once a year. Why not push the boat out? Especially if it’s a gravy boat.
Where was everyone? He had woken to an empty bed but that was nothing unusual. The Mrs was invariably up before he was. She’d probably wanted to get a head start on the tidying up. But no – the house was still in a state of disarray; the debris of the festive feast was everywhere. And the kids? The boys might still be in bed, he reasoned. The early start of the day before and the overexcitement of opening their presents must have caught up with them. With a bit of luck, they’d be zonked out for most of the day and Gregory could get a bit of peace.
He went back up. Their beds were empty. Unslept in… It was most peculiar.
Gregory tried to think through the hangover that was squeezing his skull. Had Maisy said anything to him about taking the boys out in the morning? A trip to the sales, perhaps… No; Maisy was of the long-held view that people who sacrifice a precious day off work to queue up to buy stuff they didn’t need or didn’t want were morons. They wouldn’t be at the sales.
Where then? A walk, perhaps.
No; Maisy wouldn’t take the boys for a bracing constitutional without their dad. She would tease that of the four of them, he was in most need of burning off the calories. Unlike Gregory, Maisy was a slight, petite creature. Not much meat on her bones, Gregory would often tease her, pretending to munch on her arm.
Not a walk then.
Grunting and sweating, Gregory retrieved the roll of bin bags from the cupboard under the kitchen sink. He tore one off and spent a frustrating couple of minutes trying to find the opening. He proceeded to fill the bag with leftover scraps of food: crisps, nuts, crusts of bread. He dropped bottles into the bin for recycling glass. They had got through so much booze this year. They must have set a new record. Or rather, he must have. Maisy wasn’t one for overindulgence in terms of booze. And the boys, of course, were far too young.
Flashes of memory broke through the haze behind Gregory’s eyes. Bottle after bottle had sloshed down his throat. The more he drank, the more peckish he got. The more he ate, the more he needed to wash it down.
The carcass of the turkey was stripped completely bare. No turkey sandwiches today, then. Gregory wasn’t disappointed. He paused in his clearing-up to let out a formidable, bitter-tasting belch. Better out than in, he thought, wondering if there was something in the bathroom cabinet that could ease his indigestion.
He wrapped the bones in kitchen towel and then tied them in a plastic bag. He didn’t want the foxes tearing into the rubbish.
He moved into the living room. He didn’t turn the light on. The carpet squelched beneath his slippers. A dark wet stain had spread from the sofa right across to the television. Must have knocked a bottle of red over. Carpet’s probably ruined. He hoped Maisy hadn’t seen the state of it yet.
It was funny but in the gloom and through his hungover vision, the leftover pickled onions on a festive paper plate seemed to look at him accusingly, the exact colour of his boys’ eyes. There were more bones too, although he couldn’t remember them having anything other than the turkey for dinner.
He tipped the ‘onions’ into his bin bag. The bones went in afterwards. Had he looked at them more closely he might have noticed that one of them was wearing Maisy’s ring.