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Special Mention - Gianetta Murray

A Family Holiday

By Gianetta Murray

Everything kicked off halfway through the Cluedo game. 

Charlie hated holidays. At sixteen, he wanted to be out having fun with his friends, not cooped up in Aunt Julie’s house with scads of cousins, all of them younger and constantly whining about one stupid thing or another. 

But his father said holidays were for family, there were traditions that had to  be respected. 


One of these seemed to be everyone eating and drinking until they were  about to burst. Charlie’s super-cool Aunt Phillipa once told him that her coping  strategy was to drink as much alcohol as possible as fast as possible from the moment she arrived. Charlie looked forward to implementing this strategy once he  was of drinking age. 

Another tradition was enforced by Charlie’s mother. After the main meal, when  everyone was feeling sleepy and uncomfortable in their too-tight clothing, they had to gather round the dining room table and play board games. No ifs, ands, or buts. It  brought families together, she said, gave them a chance to converse. 

Charlie wasn’t sure that was a good idea, but nevertheless found himself  roped into playing Cluedo. He hadn’t even gotten to be Colonel Mustard, the only  character he liked, thanks to his right-wing Uncle Fred calling dibs, leaving Charlie as  a disgruntled Professor Plum. Aunt P was Miss Scarlet, of course, and her new  boyfriend, a solicitor from the Middle East somewhere, shrugged his shoulders when  asked if he had a preference and was assigned Reverend Green. The players were  rounded out by Charlie’s mother (Mrs. Peacock) and his cousin Rachel (Dr. Orchid).  

The rest of the family were at the other end of the table playing Monopoly, and  Charlie regretted choosing murder over money as they seemed to be having a good  time if their constant laughter was any indication. 

Charlie was daydreaming about Marissa, a girl in his English class who had  the most incredible green eyes, when the shouting started. Tuning back in, he  gathered Uncle Fred was objecting to Aunt P’s move through the underground  tunnel, claiming she had miscounted squares.


It got ugly fast, although in weird way, because another family tradition was  not to swear in front of the children. Substitute epithets inevitably had a sweets and  pastry theme, probably because their holidays were so centred around food it was  on everyone’s mind. 

“Stop talking through your wine gums, Fred. We all know from your voting record that your intelligence doesn’t stretch to counting,” taunted Phillipa. Charlie could see the red climbing up his uncle’s neck to his face and knew an  explosion was coming. 

“Phillipa, you are and always have been an absolute…Aero head! Why don’t you and Turkish Delight there find some other ‘woke’ place where Smarties can be rude to people, because I’m tired of your constant insults!” 

Charlie’s mother was shushing like mad--to no visible effect--as Phillipa stood up and cleared the game board with a sweep of her arm. She then planted both  hands on the edge of the table and leaned over to glare at her brother. 

“Upset because your country is no longer the land of Dairy Milk, Fred? Thank heavens you and your ilk are a dying breed, because the world is changing, brother. Someday there will be equality for All Sorts and we don’t need the likes of you  dragging us back to the fifties!” 

Fred snorted. “If only. The fifties must have been glorious, everyone united after the war, caring about their neighbours, and dedicated to God and country. Look at us now! SnowFlakes grousing about pronouns and mouthing off at their elders. My God, I just found out Rachel has a girlfriend who is actually a boy. I don’t know if that  makes her a crème puff or not! Next thing you’ll tell me is they’re into M&M or something!” 

The argument had finally caught the attention of the other end of the table and  there was a deathly hush as everyone absorbed Fred’s words. Charlie was  particularly interested in the reaction of his cousin Bo (Rachel’s brother, often called “Hairy Bo” due to his premature growth of excessive chest hair). Bo was known to be  fierce when it came to protecting his sister, and it was looking like this would be no  exception. Bo’s brows were lowered over narrowed eyes, his mouth grimly set as he  stared at his uncle. He’d knocked over his berry juice drink, which was seeping into  the white tablecloth like a giant bloodstain.

Charlie’s father stood up and tried to ease the tension. “Come on, everyone, I  see we’ve got ourselves into a bit of a…Twirl, so let’s just calm down before anyone says or does something they’ll regret. Remember, Kinder is better.” 

He looked to Fred’s wife for assistance. “Victoria, sponge please, to mop up  the table? Then we’ll all try to sit and have some dessert without this becoming eatin’ mess. (Charlie’s father was American and his Texas accent became more  pronounced in times of stress.) 

There was some grumbling but everyone did as requested and proceeded to  dig into their lemon drizzle cake and ice cream. 

Almost everyone. Charlie continued to eye Bo, who remained laser-focused on Uncle Fred. At fifteen, Bo had a teenager’s sense of wounded pride that Charlie  well understood, and it made him suspect things weren’t over yet. 

He was right. With lightning speed Bo suddenly grabbed the slice of cake off  his plate and threw it with impressive accuracy down the table to smack Fred in the face. Time on the cricket team had served Bo well. 

Fred yelped, Rachel cheered, and the real games began. Fred tried to use his  spoon as a catapult to fling ice cream at Bo but only managed to hit Charlie’s mother,  at which point Charlie’s father came over to restrain his brother-in-law at Aunt Julie’s  request. Victoria hit Charlie’s father over the head with the cake pan to get him to  release her husband, while Phillipa landed a Double Decker punch to Fred’s handily  exposed doughy gut after he called her a Treacle Tart. 

At this point the cousins were all joining in, with food flying everywhere and  screams of glee reverberating off the ceiling joists of Aunt Julie’s once pristine cottage. 

Charlie leaned his chair back on two legs to avoid the worst of the culinary missiles and grinned. This was more like it. Maybe holidays weren’t so bad after all.  Shame he had to wait until May for the next one.


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