‘He stared down at me like he was Father Christmas and I the little helper who’d sold Rudolph to a venison farm.’
Extract from Present Tense
By WHS MacIntyre
Published by Sandstone Press
‘Don’t give me any excuses. You promised her,’ my dad punctuated his words with a few short blows of his nose. ‘You promised she’d have that doll for her Christmas,’ he managed to get out before collapsing into a fit of sneezing that prevented me from pointing out that I hadn’t promised anything of the sort. He had.
My few months of fatherhood had taught me that children, like clients, should never be promised anything. Ever. Make a child a promise and you might as well open a vein and get it all down on vellum, because they’d hold you to your word like Flashman holding Tom Brown to a roaring fireplace. I’d had a father-to-daughter chat with Tina about the whole problem in which, leaving the intellectual property aspect to one side, I’d done my best to explain the predicament in which Santa Claus found himself. It had gone fairly well until my dad had spoiled it all by mentioning how he knew Santa personally. Seemingly, they were great pals.
I led the old man to a chair and tried to push him down into it.
‘Firstly, I promised her nothing – you did, and, secondly, sit down and I’ll make you a toddy.’ I hoped mention of the amber nectar might assist in a change of subject. ‘A drop of whisky, hot water, lemon and honey, and your coughing and sneezing will be sorted out in no time.’
‘Get away.’ He shrugged me off. ‘I’ve got a cold. I’m not marinating a chop.’ He pulled out his hanky and blew his nose. ‘Just tell me what you’re going to do about getting Tina that doll that she wants.’ With a final sniff and wipe he stuffed the hanky back into his trouser pocket. ‘Sauntering about like tomorrow will do. I think you’ve forgotten how close to Christmas it is.’
‘Christmas? Really? You’d have thought there’d be decorations in the shops or adverts on the telly to warn me about that kind of thing.’ I took him by the shoulders and this time was successful in pressing him down into a chair. ‘Calm yourself or you’ll start coughing again. It’s going to be all right. Trust me. It said on the news that they’re hoping to have everything agreed between the TV company and the manufacturers any time now. There’ll be plenty of stock available come the New Year.’
‘The New Year!’ The old man launched himself to his feet again. ‘What good is the New Year? What do I say to the bairn on Christmas morning? It’s the only thing she’s asked for.’
‘Listen, dad. It’s Pyxie Girl that’s supposed to be magic, not me. If there’s none available, there’s none available. And anyway, how come it’s all down to me? It was you who promised you’d get it for her. You and Santa…’ I crossed my index and middle fingers and held them up. ‘You’re like that, apparently. Why should it be my problem? I’ve got her my presents already.’
‘Presents?’ He blew a blast into his hanky. ‘Clothes aren’t presents to a four-year-old. Weans want toys at Christmas.’
The conversation came to a shuddering halt when our very own four-year-old came through looking for more kitchen roll because her doll’s cape had ripped mid-flight.
‘Supper, bath and bed for you,’ I said, picking Tina up and holding her in my arms. ‘You’ve got a big day ahead of you helping Gramps get you all packed for going to Disneyland. That’ll be fun, won’t it?’
Tina looked me in the eyes. ‘Can you come too, Dad?’
‘Me? No, I’m too old for Disneyland.’
‘But Grandma’s going and so is Aunt Chloe and they’re old, so why can’t you come?’
I gave her a hug, put her down and hunkered beside her, holding her hands. ‘I’ve got to stay and work, darling. I have to go to court. I’m not allowed to take holidays just now, but I’ll be off for a few days at Christmas. When you get back you can tell me all about Disneyland and we can play with your new toys, and—’
‘Gramps says that he’s asked Santa to bring me Pyxie Girl.’ Tina turned and looked up at my dad all wide-eyed. ‘Didn’t you, Gramps?’ Back to me. ‘Gramps says that he knows Santa and that they’re friends and that Santa always does what Gramps asks him.’ Back to my Dad. ‘Doesn’t he, Gramps?’
‘That’s right, pet,’ my dad stared down at me like he was Father Christmas and I the little helper who’d sold Rudolph to a venison farm. ‘He does.’
Present Tense by WHS MacIntyre, the first book in the Best Defence series, is out now published by Sandstone Press priced £8.99.
You can read another extract from the book here on Books from Scotland.
Last Will, the third installment in the Best Defence Series featuring criminal lawyer Robbie Munroe, was published in November 2017.