Greetings Girls Heart Book-ers! As the season of goodwill is upon us, I thought I would write a special Christmassy post.
As you may know, I write the Joe Cowley book series, so I thought I would share a seasonal entry from Joe’s blog.
For anyone familiar with the series, this takes place between book 2 (Return of the Geek) and book 3 (Welcome to Cringefest).
Before we start, I should point out that the Joe stories are mostly suitable for ages twelve and up. so if you’re younger than that, maybe get an adult to give it a once-over first.
Anyway, here it is. See you next year!
Tuesday 25th December
‘So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun.’
Fun? You don’t know what you’re talking about, you side-burny idiot. I will never have fun again, and you screaming ‘It’s Christmas’ like an ape with his goolies caught in a mousetrap isn’t going to change diddly-squat, mate.
I’m a broken man, blog. As broken as the electronic Peppa Pig Mum and Jim bought for the twins that can only speak German. The love of my life won’t talk to me, look at me or even breathe the same air as me. It’s for this reason that I have no interest in participating in the day’s festivities and had to be roughly manhandled out of bed by my step-brother, Gav.
‘Come on, Joe,’ Mum said. ‘Open this one, you’ll love it!’
I sighed and stared out of the window. ‘Will it heal the yawning chasm in my soul?’ I said.
‘Maybe,’ Mum replied, pushing it in front of my face so I could no longer gaze at the tragic Christmas sight of my neighbour Mr Brewer crashing his new Segway into a tree.
Well, I opened it and let’s just say I don’t know why Mum thought a jumper would heal my chasm. I mean, yes, it’s pretty warm, but compared to the embrace of my dear Natalie, it is as frosty as a penguin’s nipples.
Yes blog, I am bereft, destitute, bereaved (I also received a thesaurus) and nothing can change that. I am doomed to become a tragic artist like Vincent van Gogh or that mad German bloke that skins corpses.
Anyway, after watching the Queen’s speech at an eardrum-exploding volume, Gav’s nan, Doris and her ‘man-friend’ the Colonel started ranking their top five favourite Royals (FYI They both agreed that Edward isn’t even top ten) and I decided I could take no more. I put on my new jumper and walked out, desperate to escape the inanities of suburban Christmas and experience the real world.
Well, it turns out the real world sucks even worse. Everywhere I looked, there were couples in love, happy families. Even dogs looked cheerful in their daft Christmassy coats. Why couldn’t I find anyone as miserable as me? Someone to make me realise that things could always be worse. Then I remembered exactly where to find them.
I headed through town to the soup kitchen. There were bound to be some real sad cases there. I pitched in and started serving Christmas dinners. For about five minutes. Then they kicked me out. Something about being ‘too depressing for the tramps’, blah, blah, blah.
I was about to go home to stare at the wall and contemplate the fact that I have to do Christmas again tomorrow at Dad’s and that it will definitely be ten times worse cos he’s having a hip-hop themed ‘Cool Yule’ and I will be in my cold, cold grave before I ever call him ‘K-Dawg’, when I heard a voice calling my name.
I turned around and there was my friend Harry in a pair of flying goggles with what looked like a mini helicopter under his arm. My other mate Ad would usually be with him, but he’s spending Christmas in Florida. His dad’s a butcher and made loads of turkey money this year.
‘Greetings, old boy,’ said Harry. ‘Tidings of joy and what have you.’
I mumbled a swear word under my breath and kicked a spent party popper into the drain.
‘Still pining for Natalie, eh?’ he said, clapping a hand on my shoulder.
‘You have to snap out of it, old son,’ he said. ‘Here, I know what’ll help. Come and fly my drone with me.’
I looked at the weird contraption he was holding.
‘Got it today,’ he said. ‘The AirKing ZLK. Can reach speeds of up to thirty miles per hour, with a built-in camera and top-of-the-line hovering capabilities. Should be good for a laugh, wouldn’t you say?’
I wanted to refuse because I didn’t see how watching Harry pilot a little helicopter would ever take my mind off the waking nightmare that is my existence, but then I remembered that by this time, Mum would have had a couple of glasses of chardonnay and would be forcing everyone to play charades and maybe it was a better option than going home.
We headed to the big hill on the outskirts of town. From up there you can see all of Tammerstone. I gazed at the horizon and dreamed of changing my identity and moving somewhere nobody knew me, somewhere like Paris or New York or Wolverhampton. Somewhere I could start again and begin to rebuild my life. Maybe I would meet a girl who could make me forget about Natalie and we would stroll around the Louvre/the Guggenheim/the Poundstretcher and talk about the mysteries of life.
‘Look at this, soldier,’ said Harry. ‘Barrel roll coming right up.’
Harry pulled hard on the control and sure enough, the drone did a slow spin until it was facing the right way again.
‘Great,’ I mumbled.
‘It’s wonderful,’ Harry went on. ‘I feel like Trafford Leigh-Mallory.’
I don’t know who that is, either, but I wasn’t about to ask. The last thing I wanted was a World War Two lecture from Harry.
I looked at the darkening town below. Christmas lights twinkled from trees and hedges and a solitary car slowly wound its way through deserted streets. My eyes followed it through the town centre and into the posh area. The area where Natalie lives.
I swallowed hard. An idea was beginning to form. An idea that for the first time that day, awoke the tinglings of Christmas magic within me. The sense that anything is possible if you just believe.
I told Harry I’d be back in two minutes and ran down to the twenty-four hour garage over the road. I bought a box of fancy chocolates, some sticky tape, a note pad and a pen and headed back up the hill.
‘Harry,’ I said, panting from the run. ‘Can I have a go at your drone?’
Harry winced. ‘It is a rather delicate piece of machinery,’ he said. ‘One cannot simply fly it without preparation.’
I sighed. ‘Look, you’ll be right there with me,’ I said. ‘If I start to do anything wrong, you can sort it out.’
Harry still looked unsure.
‘It would REALLY cheer me up,’ I said.
Harry nodded. ‘OK old bean,’ he said. ‘As it’s Christmas.’
‘Great,’ I said. ‘Bring her in to land.’
Once the drone was safely on the ground, I taped the box of chocolates to the top, along with a written message that said,
My darling Natalie,
My love flies to you through the night on plastic wings.
‘I’m not sure about this, old son,’ said Harry. ‘The extra weight will create drag you might not be equipped to deal with.’
‘I can do this,’ I said. ‘It’s Christmas. Miracles always happen at Christmas.’
Harry still didn’t look a hundred per cent, but I didn’t care. This was going to be the thing that won back Natalie. I’ve watched enough romantic films to know that everything can be solved with a grand gesture at Christmas time. When she opened her curtains and saw a box of her favourite chocolates hovering before her eyes, she would run out of her house and find me on the hill, and we would share a passionate snog and it might even start snowing. There is no way it could go wrong.
We headed further down the hill, closer to Natalie’s house, and after being given a quick lesson with the controls, my love drone was airborne. It actually wasn’t as hard to control as Harry made out. As long as you kept the dials steady and didn’t make any sudden moves, you could keep the drone on course with very little effort.
I watched as it swooped down the hill and through the trees at the back of Natalie’s garden. That was when the problems started. The drone whooshed upwards as if it had just got lighter. I told Harry and he lifted his goggles and pulled out his military binoculars.
‘What’s the matter?’ I asked him, the panic rising in my throat. ‘Has your stupid drone malfunctioned?’
‘The drone is perfectly sound,’ he replied through gritted teeth. ‘But I’m afraid your cargo has disembarked.’
‘What?’ I yelped.
‘The chocolates,’ he said. ‘They appear to have ejected.’
Oh no, they must have been knocked off by a branch or something. I chucked the remote at Harry, ran down the hill and scrambled over the fence into Natalie’s back garden.
I ducked behind a hedge and peered up at the house. No-one was in the kitchen so at least I knew I wasn’t being watched. If Natalie’s dad caught me, he would probably kill me until I died seven times.
I headed for the trees and tried to work out where the chocolates would have fell. If they weren’t too badly damaged, I could tape them to the drone again and have another attempt.
After scrabbling around on the floor for a few minutes, I found them.
Unfortunately, something had beaten me to it.
Natalie’s bulldog, Deanna had found the chocolates and had already eaten most of them. Disaster.
I tried to stop her, but she grabbed a couple more and trotted back towards the house. Ah well. I knew that Christmas miracle thing was a load of old cack, really. I would just have to give up, go home, go to bed and never emerge. But then I remembered something.
Chocolate is basically poison to dogs.
This was bad. This was very bad. I had set out to try and rekindle Natalie’s love for me with a beautiful grand gesture and I was going to end up killing her dog on Christmas Day. What was I going to do? I couldn’t just knock the door and tell them because I didn’t want her to find out what I had been doing, and, like I said before, her dad would rip out my intestines and use them to decorate his Christmas tree.
There was only one thing for it. I would have to make Deanna throw up.
I scrambled to my feet and followed her. I tried whispering but she ignored me, and the closer she got to the house, the more likely it was someone would see me. I dived to the ground and made a grab for her, but she managed to wriggle away. I tried again, and this time, I managed to hold her steady. She was panting heavily and I hoped this wasn’t an early sign that she was going to drop dead.
‘OK, Deanna,’ I whispered to her. ‘What I am about to do won’t be pleasant, but it is necessary. You’ll thank me later, trust me.’
I tried to remember the Heimlich manoeuvre from when I’d seen it in films. They’d usually clasp their hands together, then violently thump just under the person’s rib cage.
I positioned myself behind Deanna, interlocking my fingers around her stomach and using my legs to hold her back end in place.
‘Here we go, Deanna,’ I said. ‘One, two, three, PUSH!’
With that I applied firm pressure to her stomach. She whimpered slightly but no puke. I had to try again. ‘One, two, three, PUSH!’
Nothing. This was getting desperate. There was no way I could let Deanna die. I couldn’t have that on my conscience. Natalie loved that dog.
‘One, two, three, PUSH! PUSH! PUSH! Come on girl, get it out! PUSH! PUSH! P-’
‘What the hell is going on here?’
I think my heart actually stopped. I looked up and there was the love of my life, Natalie, staring at me with a horrified expression on her face.
It was then I realised what it must have looked like.
‘I-I can . . . explain?’ I said.
Natalie’s eyes opened even wider. ‘What are you doing to my dog?’
My mouth went dry. I felt like all the oxygen in the world had whooshed out of the hole in the ozone layer.
‘M-Merry Christmas,’ I said.