Thursday, 11 December 2014

Days of Christmas: A Sarah House Novel by Craig Saunders

Evening. Been keeping busy. Just uploaded this. Blogger won't let me have enough pages to upload samples of everything, so I'm putting a sample here until I set up a real webpage...if you wanna read :) This is from Chapter Two - Salted Nuts.


The 2nd Day of Christmas

 Salted Nuts

 I.

On the second day of Christmas, most people would be eating leftovers, tidying up the wrapping paper or swearing about the bins not going out.
            Me, I'm in the men's toilet in a Heathrow bar with a mouthful of nuts. They're far too salty, and a little bit sweaty, like old nuts tend to get when they've been tucked away too long; the ones you thought about having in September and prudently waited for Christmas instead.
            You probably think the opening paragraph is some kind of pun, like I'm eating KP salted peanuts in the men's toilets. Why would I be doing that?
            Nope. I have a man's balls in my mouth. The fact that he has a peg-leg is almost, but not quite, just the icing on the cake.
            When I said I wanted to get some action...this really wasn't it.

*

II.

I'd expected my husband back on Christmas Eve, then on Christmas Day, but in that kind of tentative, hopeful, not-really-expecting-anything-way. He's abroad, or he's supposed to be, at least. Where, what country, doing what, I have no idea. He probably said, and I probably didn't listen.
            His flight's due in at three. British Airways, first class, of course. We're not poor people. Not stinking rich, but we have a wine cellar, rather than a wine rack.
            I'm working my way through it that morning, after seeing mum off in a taxi. When I tell her my husband's coming home, she gives me a look.
            'Shut up,' I say, and bundle her into her taxi.
            'Uh-huh,' is her reply, but thankfully she leaves it there. We're pretty clear where she stands on the issue of my absent spouse.
            Dad shrugs his shoulders in the seat beside her. That's his only contribution, but for a ghost, it's pretty expressive.
            Normally, I don't start drinking until later in the day (around 11, most mornings, I suppose...seems civilised enough), but by the time the taxi arrives to take me to Heathrow I'm a fair way drunk. I like it better that way.
           
*

III.

'You alright, love?'
            The taxi driver makes me jump when he speaks, and I realise I've been staring out the window most of the ride. Probably gawping like an idiot, a couple of glasses of wine away from licking the windows and hurling into my handbag.
            'Thank you,' I say. I don't qualify it. I don't really want to talk. In a roundabout way I'm thinking of how I'm going to greet my husband when he gets into the airport. Meeting him in the arrivals area. Me, pissed and hung-over at the same time, swaying in the midst of happy families waiting on loved ones. He'll breeze in, kiss me on the cheek, trailing a suitcase on wheels because he's never lifted anything heavy in his life, unless it's maybe his bank balance.
            Do I have a right to complain? I'm comfortable, aren't I? Isn't that enough?
            I wonder if I'd be just as happy alone with a bottle of cider as alone in a too-big house with expensive wine.
            Probably. I think that's as close to an answer as I can get.
            Probably.
            'Terminal Four, love?'
            'Thank you,' I say again.        
            When I get out of the taxi, I realise they're the only two words I said to the taxi driver the whole trip.

*

IV.

It's one in the afternoon, so I go and sit on my own in the airport bar and order a Tia Maria and Coke to sober up. The Coke bit, not the Tia Maria. The alcohol's there so I don't start feeling tired. Or sober. Or something.
            Fuck it, though. It's Boxing Day, my husband's coming home.
            I don't think I'm entirely happy or unhappy about it, either way.
            'Excuse me...do you mind...?'
            I turn my head and there's a man around my age, maybe, smiling with good teeth and kind of waving at the stool at the bar beside me.
            Brilliant, I think. Some crap pick-up in an airport bar?
            I could do worse, I think.
            Then, sadly, another thought tags along.
            I already have.
            I nod, and notice he has a bit of trouble getting into the seat. It's high, and there's something wrong with his leg.
            'Do you need a hand?' I ask.
            'Funny you should say that...I'm in a bit of trouble. To be brutally honest...I'm desperate,' he says.
            I look at him. I'm British. I don't run away when people prove a little odd. We just kind of raise our eyebrows. I'm a public bar. There are plenty of other people around.
            'Go on,' I say, expecting some flaccid chat-up, or some kind of begging sob-story about needing a ticket to New York to see his dying mother or...
            'I've got a kilo of drugs stuck to my balls and I can't get the bag off...wouldn't have a pair of nail clippers or the like handy, would you?'
            To be honest, as chat up lines go...that's one of the better ones. I wasn't walking, anyway. I laughed.
            'That's good,' I say.
            He smiles. 'Actually...I really do.'

*

V.

I'm pretty drunk, so it seems like a laugh. But it's not.
            'Go on...I'm curious enough to wait for the punch line...you're good so far,' I say, downing my drink and ordering another, which he pays for along with a crap lager that he grimaces at when he drinks it.
            'I swear, worst beer I ever tasted in this place.'
            'Come here often?' I say.
            'Hey, that's my line.'
            He's got twinkling eyes, full of humour. Also, as I mentioned, I'm drunk and very unsatisfied on the home front. I don't tell him to piss off. At the very least, it's a good distraction.
            'But, yes,' he says. 'Yes I do. Will you hear me out? I really need help...I'm straight as I can be. I'm in so much shit...I just need a hand.'
            'A hand, eh?'
            'Not like that...well...a little bit like that. But just a pair of clippers or...' he shrugs. 'Honestly, I just thought a good-looking woman like you might have something in her bag, like scissors or something.'
            'You think I carry a pair of scissors around in case...I want to cut my hair in the car?'
            'Ah, no, then?'
            'I've got a nail file.'
            'That'll do.'
            'It's blunt. Are you really carrying drugs strapped to your balls?'
            I ask him this out of pure curiosity, in a low voice, like all of a sudden we're conspirators in some great airport game.
            'I have. It's a long story and you won't believe me.'
            'I might,' I say. 'I'm pretty drunk.'
            As I say that, I realise it's true. Of course I'm drunk. If I wasn't, I wouldn't be talking to a stranger about his balls in an airport bar. It's not really my thing.
            Not until today, I correct myself. Who knows what your thing might be tomorrow?
            'Earlier today, a man gave me a fake passport and a plane ticket, told me he's got my sister in a house somewhere in London. He showed me a photograph, so I'd know it was for real.'
            As he says this, he's not smiling or twinkling. He looks afraid.
            'My god...'
            'I know. He tells me I've got to take these drugs through customs...give them to a guy on the other side, who'll take them onto a plane. Then, I'm going to get a photo with my sister somewhere public, safe. I'm up to my neck in all kinds of shit...I can't go to the police...I'm worried they'll...hurt her.'
            'Can't you tell airport security or something?'
            'I don't think so...I wouldn't be surprised if I'm being watched...'
            'If you dump the drugs?'
            'I thought about it...on the way to the airport. I even picked up a bag of sugar on the way in. It's in my carry on. That's what I'm planning on. I'm going to swap it. They can't see me in the toilets, right?'
            'I'm confused,' I said, honestly. My head was swimming from the drink (we ordered a third one) and I really, honestly, didn't get this man's reasoning. His face, though...he looked earnest, honest, worried...almost like he might cry with worry for his poor sister.
            What was I going to do?
            'If I can switch the bags,' he said. 'Then I can maybe bargain...or...something. These Eastern European gangs...they sell women, you know?'
            'No?'
            'Prostitution...that kind of thing...I...'
            A tear leaks from his eye. 'I can't trust them...got to get my sister out. She's...so innocent...'
            'Switch, then...how are you going to bargain?' I'm in, I realise. The thought of a woman used like that...
            'Use the real drugs to get her back...swap...her, for the drugs.'
            'I'll help,' I say. 'Come on. There are toilets in here...follow me.'
            'I can't go in the ladies' toilets,' he says, like suddenly he's shy.
            'Then we'll use the men's. Come on.' I hiss the last two words, but I'm pissed and probably shout them.
            I'm drunk, so when the nail board doesn't work, like I knew it wouldn't, I get down on my knees and use my teeth on the packing tape wrapped around the poor man's blue balls.

*

VI.

When he takes down his trousers, his balls are actually blue from having the circulation cut off. There really is a hefty bag strapped round them with thick, tough tape, going right back to his hairy behind.
            I hand him the nail board, and he winces, looking away from me like a man probably does when he has a prostate exam. Men are pussies about things like that.
            He tries, bless him, standing there wincing while he tries to get the board between tape and nuts, but the tape's tight and he's never plucked errant hairs from his privates before, or had a Brazilian wax at the hands of a sadistic beautician.
            'Oh, give it here,' I say. My hands a bit shaky, and I'm a bit rough.
            'Fuck! Jesus!' he shouts and I get the nail board all snapped off right there, somewhere between his balls and his arse. He's dancing around, suddenly, and his trousers fall all the way to his ankles and I realise he's actually hoping, rather than doing a weird jig.
            No wonder he struggled to get to the barstool...he's got a peg-leg.
            'Oh,' I say. To be honest, I'm more shocked at the sight of his wooden leg that I am at the sight of his blood-starved scrotum.
            'Motorbike accident,' he says, bouncing from his good foot, then back to the wooden one, trying to extricate the rough nail board from his nut-sack.
            I haven't got anything else, the man's disabled, his sister is prisoner to some kind of Eastern European slave gang...and he's got a nail board stuck somewhere extremely uncomfortable.
            'Stand still,' I say, and get to my knees and use my teeth.
            It's far from the worst thing I've ever done.
           'Oh...Jesus,' he says while I'm nibbling away somewhere around the back of his balls, and when the tape falls free I go to stand up and his cock sticks in my ear.
            'My...' I say.
            'I'm so sorry,' he says. It's an impressive hard-on. 'Blood...sudden rush of blood...how embarrassing.'
            If he thought I was going to do anything about it...he was seriously wrong.
            He tucked himself away, looking even more uncomfortable now he's got a burning erection making a dent in the front of his trousers.
            'This is so embarrassing...I can't...I can't apologise enough.'
            'As embarrassing as a woman having to take packing tape from your balls with her teeth?'
            'Yes,' he says. 'Good point.'
            'Think of your mother, in the nude,' I said. Usually that works.
            'What? Shit...what?'
            But the tent's going pretty damn fast.
            'There,' I say, pointing. 'And...er...good luck?'
            What's the appropriate parting remark to a stranger who had their balls all over your face? Cheers?
            'Thank you,' he says. 'Thank you so much.'
            We part ways.

*

VII.

My husband isn't there, in arrivals. I wait. I don't get a call. I call him, on his mobile phone, and I don't get an answer.
            I think about the man with the peg-leg, idly wondering if that was the last stiff cock I'd see for the rest of my life.
            I wait in a small, uncomfortable seat for an hour.
            He's not coming, I tell myself finally when I see the last of the passengers pass through arrivals. People hug and kiss and smile.
            I don't.
            I get a taxi and pay cash from a small purse I keep in my pocket for just that reason (I've been mugged for my handbag before. A good way to remember not to keep all my eggs in one basket) and go to a hotel, because I can't face another night alone in my stupidly large house.
            When I get to the hotel, I don't have any luggage, of course. I don't have much at all, but I have a credit card. I reach into my bag for find my credit cards to pay from the hotel. I find my credit cards where they should be, in my purse. But something else, too. A bag of drugs weighing, I should imagine, around a kilo.


*