The baby cried. A bustle of colour that signified the extended family watched on with pride. The rite of exorcism had been performed and the baby, splashed with water had entered a life with Jesus.
The party began. A darkened figure moved across the room, the baby’s great uncle. His walk was uneasy, yet all around knew him. The forced lightness of his heavy movements betrayed an inner split in his soul. A wound that was long in the making yet was slowly sliced into by bitter thoughts from unknowing people. To him it was a full twenty hours before tomorrow morning; to everyone else, who cared, the party was now.
The dinner was average. The starter, a mediocre powder based soup or a limp salad. Neither designed to excite the palate and both having been prepared far too early in advance. The great uncle, frankly unaccustomed to the need for such a small beginning to his dinner, struggled awkwardly through the soup. Each spoonful posed an inordinate amount of self-doubt, would he dribble? Did his elbow stick out too far? The seating arrangements had only heightened his sense of claustrophobia and the extended family’s conversations passing through the air further boxed him in.
He stood up. Having finished his soup he excused himself to go to the toilet. No one heard. His dinner was on the table by the time he arrived back. Some fancy roast chicken dish, over cooked veg and a round ball of potatoe, no skins of course. He longed for his pot of spuds that he could sit and eat alone, unconscious of his own personnel etiquette at home. By the time the coffee arrived, at the end of the meal, the great uncle was wreathing in agony, his inability to maintain any conversation beyond the length of a single sentence with anyone, painfully reminded him of his overwhelming shyness.
The pub opened. Truthfully this symbolised a point of sanctuary for everyone. Finally, the extended family could fragment itself into groups of its own choosing. The men, young and old, found places by the bar and the women sat. The baby and its mother had gone home. The great uncle found comfort at the bar. His male relations stood by him awaiting his offer of a round of drink. Of course he obliged. Here he was in control of his conversation. Of course the black liquid lubrication freed him momentarily from his inward voice, allowing him to communicate with familiar sentences that always has safe familiar answers. Here, he could not look like a fool, as he bought round after round of drink.
The night wore on. The women had retired back to the house for pots of tea and cigarettes, joining the baby’s mother. The baby slept. The great uncle was now at the point that they called, having “drunk yourself sober”, he just wished his feelings weren’t as intently lucid now, as they are, when the crack of his eye opens to every dawning morn. But, this one would be different. He now knew for certain as he slowly drove home.
The pot of cold spuds rested by the fireplace as he opened the door. The hunger of drink was on him as he settled into his old armchair. Happily he sat there munching on the cold potatoes until from the crack of his eye he saw the morning dawn. Slowly he stood up and a smile crossed his lips as he walked out of the door and towards the river.
The baby cried.