The Baby Jesus took up bowling, rolled my life through twenty one seasons until I landed here, Daddy, outside your office door, all grass smears and circling birdies, talking in tongues, and quaking out the ritzy beetles, scaled with brown leaf like a pangolin. Weary, date-eyed and stymied you handed me over to your secretary like a suspected letter bomb. Dispatched
upstairs in a bubble bath, I shook out the toothbrush tumbler, mixed a candy cane cocktail from Colgate and tap water. I heard you pace your sanctuary, a wood-clad submarine, a mahogany place made maritime by the crouched, thrown light of a banker's lamp, the solid warmth and twenty two framed paintings of the Christina O. Over and over –
rehearsing your intros, announcing with feverish ovation The Maryland Carollers! Captain and Tennille! The Whistling Custodians of St. Simons Island Fudge! Teetering on a high stool at the kitchen window I watched you out in the yard – a lonesome mime, framed by pink dusk, practicing a spectacular pratfall – propeller arms to launch you across the fake frozen lake crash-bang into the twenty-three members of the Salvation Army band, all furred and scarfed under the studio's hot stars. That set is seared
in my memories, clear as our own home, the tartan throw across your armchair where you'd pup-pup-pup at an empty pipe and muse upon the year's misgivings. The fireplace decked with stockings, guarded by the twin tin soldiers I'd ritually kiss on each iced cheek like doughty lovers. And underneath the baubled tree where I came undone and saw twenty-four presents piled up in stacks so juicy square and tight and red and green I tore into all of them, a little Boudicca, increasingly desperate as each unwrapping revealed a polystyrene cube which dissertated and squeaked beneath my fingers. I ran outside,
in flight from your anger, felt the cold hold my face in its camera. "Don't worry hon", Pam the producer put her hands on my stuttering shoulders, "the only thing real in there is the Scotch in his glass." She told me to be kind, explained the strain of filming a holiday show to air. In. Real. Time. But your moods only darkened in the weeks ahead. And who could blame you? Just days before the special was to go out live twenty-five members of the crew – the gaffer, the sound technician, the guy who worked the blizzard machine – all went on strike.
Louise Peterkin is a poet from Edinburgh. In 2016 she was a recipient of a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust in the poetry category. She is the co-editor, along with Rob A. Mackenzie, of Spark: Poetry and Art inspired by the Novels of Muriel Spark (Blue Diode Press, 2018). She is an assistant poetry editor for The Interpreter's House. Her poems have appeared in many publications, including The Dark Horse, The Glasgow Review of Books, Magma and The North, and her first collection of poetry, The Night Jar, is out now, published by Salt.