map Happy X-Mas

by Shelly Jacobs

Published in Issue No. 2 ~ January, 1996

Rachel Wispe jigged her short, plump body along to the radio as she decorated the Christmas turkey. She’d made a pledge to herself that after the festive season she would loose a few pounds and buy herself the slinky dress she’d seen in the stores. Until then she’d concentrate on giving her new family the best christmas they’d ever had.

Her size depressed her and was a dominant feature of her life. Many times she’d hung over the toilet bowl and let loose a painful bout of vomit ridden throat. Then, pulling herself from the cramped position, always gazed into the mirror and bitterly criticized her face, hating the mole speckled nose and flabby cheeks, the thin lips and double chin with all her heart.

The midnight news broke up the music and Rachel wiped her hands on her apron, remembering her fourteen year old step-daughter, watching the christmas eve late film in the lounge.

“Come on Emily it’s time for bed,” she called as she made her way through to the lounge.

“Don’t talk to me like a child. I’m fifteen not six,” snapped Emily as Rachel stepped through the door.

“Come on Emily please. Tomorrows going to be a busy day.”

“You have no right to tell me what to do. Your not my mother remember.” Replied Emily maliciously.

Rachel swallowed hard, trying to appear unperturbed- but the comment stung deep.
“Emily let’s not fight it’s Christmas,” she said trying her best to smile.

Emily spun from the T.V and glared at her.

“How can it be Christmas with my father so far away and my mother dead?”

“Your father will be here soon. He promised me he’d call as soon as he arrives at the airport,” said Rachel, more hope than truth in her words.

“You stupid fat bitch. Father has no more intention of coming home this christmas than any other.”
Rachel bit her lip and fled back into the kitchen. She headed straight for the cutlery draw, pulled out a craving knife, feeling a her body shudder
as she gazed at it’s slitting edge, shinning in the florescent light.

A squirt of blood hit her in the eye as she slit the stomach, guts flopped onto the chopping board. She wiped her eye and continued to hack at the body, until the dismembered parts glistened before her. At last the fish were ready for the frying pan.
“At least the smell of the fish over rides your stench.”

Rachel jumped, slicing the blade deep into her index finger.
“Emily, please don,t creep up on me like that. Look you made me cut my finger,” she said displaying the bloody digit.

“What a shame. Pity it wasn’t your throat,” replied the child cooly.

Rachel ignored the remark and set about covering her wound.
“Where do you think my father is today Rachel ? ” asked Emily.

“He’s at work darling you know that.”

“At work ! You actually believe that bullshit ?”

Rachel again ignored her and continued to dress her wound.

“Shall I tell you where he is,” said Emily smiling. “He’s with one of his whores.”

“That’s enough Emily now go to your room please !” Rachel tried her best to sound firm.

Emily treated her to a contemptuous sneer and continued.
“And you know why he’s with a whore don’t you. Because you, his new wife can cook, but can’t fuck.”

Rachel jumped back at the vindictive force of the statement and hit the back of her head into the metal grill handle. For a few seconds she could not see, just feel the jet of pain as it surged through her head.

When her vision returned she gazed at the blood dripping on the tiled floor and turned sharply on Emily.
“I really am cross with -.”

Rachel halted mid sentence. Emily was no longer in the kitchen. She went to call her though decided to leave it and returned to preparing the fish.

As she placed the last fish in the tray, a trickle of oil caught the edge of the fire and before she could react her hand was engulfed by the shooting flame. She reared back and rushed over to the sink, the cold water extinguishing the flaming hand, leaving blackened, swollen flesh to sizzle painfully.

“What are you doing in there ?” Emily shouted from the lounge.”Can’t you smell the fish burning?”

“Thank you Emily. I was just distracted for a moment.I-”

“Save your excuses,” came the acidic reply. “It’s the only thing you’ve got.”

If only I could make it right between me and Emily she thought sadly. Then we could be a happy family. That’s all she wanted, just to be a good wife and mother. The word mother doused her in sorrow as she thought of the final result from the fertility clinic, confirming she would never be able to conceive a child. Though that fact remained well hidden in her locked diary, and would remain so until she felt confident enough to break the news to David.

She returned to preparing the meal and cracked an egg into a bowl, whisking it with her intact hand. The other hand holding the glass rim with badly scorched fingers. She cracked another egg and repeated the process until all eggs were mixed thoroughly. Then placed the bowl on the work surface.
“Maybe one more egg – must keep my man healthy,” she told herself.

Again she held the rim of the glass bowl with her injured hand and
cracked the egg with her intact hand. The shell split and the contents splashed into the bowel. She felt something warm and wet fall into her palm and looked down. It was a deformed chick.

It’s eyes blinked up at her and in the same moment it slid off her hand, it’s soft skull hitting the tiles hard. A horrified whimper escaped her lips and as it did the bowl slipped from her hand and crashed onto the chick, showering it with a thousand tiny, needle sharp fragments.

She gasped and put her hands to her mouth, then steadying herself
scooped up the chick with a tissue and dropped it into the bin. She rushed over to the sink and scrubbed her hands, her skin crawling and chilled by the ugly experience.

She turned off the tap and took a deep breath, yet it was stifled in her throat as the feeble sound of agonized chirping, floated up from the bin. She froze indecisive and confused. Under no circumstances could she open the lid and put the chick out of it’s misery. Though equally she could not bare one more second of the tormented shrill. She decided the best way to deal with the sound was to turn up the volume on the radio. Though this proved no better and the chirping continued to sound above the
usic. She began to sing, voice tremulous and out of tune, yet still the chick’s cry pierced her ears.

The sound of the phone came as a welcome relief and she raced towards it’s ring.

When she reached the lounge though Emily had already answered it.

“Daddy how are you ?” she asked, then noticing Rachel hovering in the door way scowled at her fiercely.
“Hold on a second dad. I just have to arrange something.”

She turned sharply and fixed Rachel with a contemptuous stare.

“Haven’t you ever heard of privacy?”

“I, I just want to say hallo,” Rachel spoke nervously.

Emily placed the phone on the sofa and walked over to where Rachel stood.
“Goodbye Rachel,” she said and before Rachel could protest the door slammed in her face.

“I’d like to speak to him before he goes please,” she said half heartily through the door.

The thud of an object rattling the frame had her retreating into the kitchen. I’ll busy myself with the dinner until Emily calls me she decided.

After a few minutes though she could not wait any longer and went towards the closed lounge door. She leaned on the frame and knocked softly.

“Emily if you’ve finished talking to your father, I,d like to say hallo please,” her voice sounded weak and hollow.

Without warning the door flew open and she fell forward, smashing her shin into the glass coffee table. Her agonized scream echoed around the room as the glass cut through the bone and into the soft tissue beyond.

Emily stood over her as she writhed on the carpet.
“If you’d come earlier you could have spoken to father,” she said unsympathetically. “But because you decided to hide in the kitchen, you missed your chance. Anyway he’ll be late and said to eat without him.”

She sat down on the sofa and flicked through a magazine. Rachel moved painfully to her feet, steadying herself against the wall. Her head felt faint and nausea stirred in her throat.

“Did he say how late ?” Rachel asked, breath heavy.

“Late you moron. Don’t you know what late means ?”

“Emily please don’t talk to me like that.”

” I’ll talk to you how I want. This is my house remember.”

“Look darling let’s not fight. I’ll clear up the glass and then make us a nice cup of tea. How about that ?”

“How about you just get out of my face.”

Rachel bit her lip, feeling tears well in her eyes and left the lounge before they flooded down her cheeks.
Back in the kitchen she clutched at her leg, the cut deep and in need of hospital treatment. That though was out of the question. Christmas diner was far more important.

Thankfully the chick no longer cried out and for that small mercy she was
extremely grateful.

The makeshift bandage she utilised, oozed blood every time she moved around the kitchen. Droplets slapped on the tiled floor, forming small crimson puddles at her feet, yet she continued through the pain.

She cut a straight line along the stomach of the piglet and felt it’s guts spill out, warm and moist on her hands. She discarded the unwanted organs and placed the rest in the blender. Then hacked off the piglets head and placed it in the oven.

Satisfied with her work so far, she decided to take a break and tend to her leg. Sitting at the table she bent forward and eased aside the bandage, dabbing the wound with antiseptic, soaked cotton wool. The sight of the gash turned her stomach and she gagged, sending a pool of bile onto the floor. She started to sob, feeling pathetic and weak.

“Come on Rachel Wispe stop that crying right now ! ” she scolded. “You know how much David hates it when you cry.”

A scourge of nagging fatigue crawled up her jangled nerves and she suddenly wanted to sleep. How though could she be so selfish ? There was the sweet to prepare, the table to be laid, her man to be fed. So much to do.

Gingerly she hauled herself from the chair and moved over to the oven to check the piglets head. It hissed and spat hot oil as she pulled it from the oven. She tried not to rush in case she slipped, even though boiling fat jumped onto her naked forearms.

Concentrate. She told herself as she stepped towards the work surface. Concentration though began to fade as the head spat sizzling oil onto face and neck. She closed her eyes and begged for renewed strength. Her hands though were already out of control and the pain twisted fingers refused to hold the tray any longer. The tray and hit the floor and her world exploded.

She tried desperately to locate her faculties amongst the confusion. But it was impossible. She saw herself in a abattoir: crisp cotton white coat on her back, shiny polished knife tight in her hand. The piglet now being handed to her screamed as it was torn from it’s mother, yet screamed even louder now as she sliced its tender, young throat.

The bloody image jolted her out of her confusion and somehow she found her mind and the kitchen came crashing back. The piglet, the dinner, the family. All washed down the drain.

Suddenly Emily was there, shouting something in her face, shaking her violently.
“Your having a nightmare,” she screamed.

“Nightmare ?”

Rachel was scared and disorientated.

“What happened Emily ?”

“Your shouting woke me up. That’s what happened. Do you know what time it is?”

Rachel glanced at the clock. It was four a.m Christmas day. She was seized with panic as she her focus cleared and drew in the culinary chaos surrounding her. The pigs head laying in the pool of cooling oil, the blender smashed, it’ contents splattered around the walls, burnt fish flooding her nostrils- Christmas dinner down the drain.

“I,m sorry Emily I really am. It’s just that I-.”

“Don’t worry, ” said Emily. ” Dad can eat at his whores. At least then he’ll get a decent fuck after the meal.”

“Emily, please don’t say that.”

“I’ve told you already. This is my house and I’ll say what I want,” replied
“Now if I was you I’d clean up this mess before dad gets home.”

She turned swiftly on her heel and left Rachel to the dereliction of the Christmas kitchen.

Rachel worked through the pain and sorrow of the silent, early hours until a new meal was prepared. At midday she laid the last fork on the table and gave a huge sigh of relief.

Rachel Wispe you’ve actually done something right for once. She could hardly believe it. For the first time your life you’ve actually accomplished something.

Emily appeared at the kitchen door and looked at Rachel with disgust. Rachel smiled, buoyed by her success went to the cupboard.

“Happy christmas Emily,” she said, cheerfully handing the girl a present. “I hope you like it.”

Emily knocked the gift out of her hand.

“I don,t need your cheap crap thanks !”

Rachel opened and shut her mouth in utter disbelief .

“Oh Emily please lets not fight.”
She picked up the present from the floor. Again she offered it to Emily.

“Please take it,” she was almost pleading now.
“I don,t want your fucking gift ! Can’t you understand that.”

Rachel drew away, a flood of tears coating her cheeks.
“Emily please,” she sobbed.”I just want us to be friends.”

“Friends !” shouted Emily. “How can I be friends with you? The parasitic whore,sucking my fathers wealth dry. You pretended to love him, snaring him with your sweet sick smile. All you really want is his money !”

“No Emily that’s not true. I do love your father he means-”

“He means what. Nice cloths, smart house, everything your useless family could,nt provide for you. Look at your father what kind of man was he ? A hopeless cripple, unable to earn a crust for himself. Your sow of a mother screwing your neighbours husbands to get money.”

Rachel put her hands over her ears to block out the hate filled words.
“It’s not true,” she protested, voice shaky, words jumbled. “My father did his best for all three of us, especially me and my younger brother.”

“Your younger half brother you mean. Don’t try and pretend he was a conceived
of your fathers sperm. You know as well as everyone else he’s a product of some dirty liaison with some work man or other. And while were on the subject of babies, seems to me we could have done with your mum around today.”

Rachel looked genuinely puzzled.
“What do you mean ?”

“What I mean is the well documented lack of child rearing potential in your diary.”

“Please Emily why are you saying this ? It’s just not true ?”
Rachel failed to hide the panic in her voice.
“Not true. What’s this then ? ”

Emily thrust the diary at Rachel and she grasped it, then almost immediately dropped it as the guilt ridden words within burnt deep into her hands.

Later as She and Emily sat down to Christmas dinner she could not conceal her pain and wept openly as she ate her food. Earlier in the day she would have given anything to hear David’s voice on the phone or his key turning in the front door. Now she dreaded both.
“Is your food okay Emily?”she asked clearing her throat and dabbing her tears.

Emily didn’t reply and they ate on in silence.

“About the diary Emily,” Rachel said at length.” I planned to discuss it with your father. I really did, besides there are other tests you know this one isn’t-”

“Look don’t patronise me,” snapped Emily. ” It’s obvious from what you’ve written in your diary that your about as capable of having kids as your mother was at staying faithful.”

“You have no right to say that Emily ! Now please apologise.”

Emily jumped to her feet, face distorted with rage and threw her plate at Rachel. It hit her in the centre of her forehead. Blood first, then pain gushed from the wound. Yet the assault did not stop there and Emily repeatedly stabbed her with a fork as she sat dazed and helpless in the chair.

* * *

Rachel came to amongst the dereliction of her family christmas and looked at the dinning room through sore, blood shot eyes. It had been totally devastated: smashed plates, upturned tables, blood stained napkins, walls dripping with food and wine.

At first she did not remember the incident with Emily, then as her memory resurfaced it came flooding back, and with it the agony of her injuries. She crawled out of the dinning room and into the bathroom, a trail of blood marking her course.

Inside she locked the door and surveyed her battered frame. She felt the tiny fork wounds, like a thousand needles piercing her skin, the tender, swollen mound above the bloody gash in her eyelid throbbing wildly and the hot oil burns over her forearms and hands stung fiercely like brands from a hot iron.

She could hardly believe this was the same mirror where her dreams were born. She imaging David lustily watching her dress in yet another glamorous outfit, her body trim and mind content as she prepared to be escorted by her prince to the ball.

The dream of glamour though had yet to become reality. David had always promised to take her along to his dinner parties- to involve her in every aspect of his life. Yet since marrying him two years ago she still waited on her first invitation to share either.

Back in the lounge the antiseptic applied to her wounds, stung every nerve fibre in her body as she wearily cleaned up the room. She looked and felt worse than she could imagine anyone could ever look.
“There you go again Mrs Wispe feeling sorry for yourself,” she said aloud as she cleared the room of debry.
“Always Putting your self first. Emily was right I’m no better than a parasite, living off the back of someone who has worked hard to give me what I have today.”

She looked about her. It certainly was a lot different when compared to her families cramped, tower block flat. Everything she had dreamed off as a small girl, David had made possible. The white wedding in the big stained glass church, the horse drawn carriage conveying her and her handsome groom too the lavish reception, the exotic honeymoon, the home coming to the big house in the towns most exclusive neighbourhood……

The memories faded and reality sank it’s fangs deep into her throat; the greasy cooker, the soiled underwear, the sly comments about her weight, the ironing board, David’s absence -again.

The phone rang and her heart froze in her chest. She hoped to hear the ring replaced by Emily’s voice, though for the first time ever it never happened and the ring continued. Deciding she had no choice but to answer it, she took a deep breath and tentatively lifted the phone out of he cradle.


There seemed to be an eternity until the voice at the other end answered.

“Rachel happy Christmas darling.” It was David. ” Hope you had a good one.”

She tried to sound together, though was terrified he was going to mention the diary.

“Rachel darling are you still there?”

“Yes David i,m here.”

“For a moment I thought we,d been cut off.”

She heard the way he’d slurred his words and knew he’d been drinking.

“Look love, I won’t be home for a while. The promotion has just finished and I’ve got a few odds and ends to clear up.”

Suddenly she wanted to tell David the truth about everything: the ugly rows with Emily, her awful day, the resurrected Christmas dinner. Most of all though she wanted to tell him she could never give him the son he so sorely desired.

“David I have something to tell you.”

“Sorry darling theres so much noise here I can hardly hear you. What did you say ?”

“I said I have something to tell you.”

“Listen darling I’ll have to go now some ones calling me. Bye. Love you.”

Rachel prepared herself for the loneliness of the dialling tone as David replaced the receiver. Yet what her ears heard, her mind would not allow her to believe. It was David’s voice.

“That’s got rid of the cooking machine. Now where were we girls.”

She was stunned to the core, the receiver squirming like a huge maggot in her hand. No this was not happening. There was a fault at the exchange, somehow they’d been cut off and another caller clogged up her line. Yes that’s what had happened. Convinced she picked up the phone and put it to her ear. Yet this time there was no mistake. The voice she heard amid the moans of sexual pleasure was defiantly David’s.

She fled to the bathroom, locked the door and confronted herself or rather confronted what she’d allowed herself to become. And for the first time in her life she realised it was not her destiny to please others, but instead to be true to herself as a woman, warts and all. She realised at last how the cruel niches carved from years of oppression and self hate kept her caged. Now though the cage crumbled as the flames of her emergence cast an inferno over the lies and reduced them to ash.

From this moment on there would be no more serving, sowing, washing, ironing, dieting, crying. Bowing down and staying down had ceased to be her trade mark.

The jangle of keys in the front door shot a bolt of fear through Rachel and for one dreadful second she slipped back into bowing scrapping terror. The fear though soon peeled away and she found the strength to staggered into the lounge.

Lipstick was smeared on David’s cheek and he stank of alcohol and genital sweat. He threw his arms around her and pulled her close.

“Come here.”

There was a time now past, when such an embrace would turn her legs to jelly and having her mind swooning. Now though she felt nothing but the ugliness of his deceit as his grip tightened around her waist.

He hasn’t even noticed my injuries she thought bitterly and subtlety pulled away.

“Would you like a drink ? “she asked moving over to the drinks cabinet.

“Yea that will be great and while your at it dish up the dinner. I’m starving.”

Rachel handed him the drink and went off to fetch his meal. She returned a few minutes later and served the food. As usual he forgot to thank her and stuffed the food into his mouth.

She turned to go to the kitchen,unable to look at him any longer. Emily though blocked her path. She grinned at Rachel and waved the diary.

“Father I have something to tell you !”

David looked up from his meal.

“Emily darling happy Christmas,” he said smiling.

“No father unhappy Christmas,” she replied stoically.

“Would you like another drink David,” said Rachel, attempting to divert him away from his daughter.

“How dare you interrupt,” shouted Emily. “Can’t you see i’m trying to talk to my father. ”

“Come on you two don’t fight for christ sake,” said David sharply. “I’ve had a hard day and the last thing I need two neurotic women squawking around me.”

Emily thrust the diary at him.
“Read march second, then you’ll know about squawking.”

“Okay, okay, i’ll read it,” he replied, snatching the diary out of her hand. “Then I want peace and quiet is that clear.”

David read the page, placed the diary on the coffee table and slowly rose to his feet. Rachel made a move for the door, but David was too quick for her. She only saw the glass ashtray briefly as it thudded down onto her cranium, then she fainted.

Nausea built in the acid of rachel’s stomach as consciousness refocused, dazed and confused. She felt the side of her head with a cautious hand, it was gashed badly. The glass of the astray lay glittering around her. He could have killed me she thought. She pulled herself up and staggered to the kitchen. On her way she passed the lounge and looked in. On one armchair lay Emily sleeping, and on the sofa David cuddled up to a bottle of scotch. She smiled and left for the kitchen to attended to a couple
her chores.

David felt a tap on his shoulder and opened his eyes. Rachel smiled at him, then with a sudden flex of her hand plunged a meat skewer through his right eye and deep into his brain. Having completed chore number one she moved over to Emily and calmly slit her throat. Chore number two finished.
She cut up the bodies and stored them in the freezer until night fall, then disposed of them in the rubbish incinerator, saving a few choice -cuts for a special occasion.

Rachel had been proud of her act as the grieving wife and mother when the police came to question her about the disappearances of David and Emily. One officer took special pity on the unfortunate widow and offered to take her out, just to take her mind off things. She declined politely and instead offered him some food she had prepared earlier, explaining how it would do her the world of good to share a meal with someone again. He happily agreed and she served him up a healthy portion.

“This meat is lovely. What is it ?” asked the officer as he chewed on the succulent flesh.

“Oh nothing special. Just off cuts from a family pack,” replied Rachel with a glint in her eye.