by Cath Barton
Kevin had two great ambitions, ambitions which had brewed in him for two years since he had turned ten and started exploring some of the further reaches of the public library shelves. One day he could keep them to himself no longer and, in the steamy kitchen where his mother was boiling haddock for his tea, he blurted them out to her.
“You ain’t never going to get to be upper class,” she said. “Not with them buck teeth. If you’d’ve worn them braces like you was meant to, maybe. But on second thoughts, nah. You was born into the working class and you will stay there, like me and your Dad, God rest his soul. And be proud of it.”
It was a long speech for Kevin’s mother. She lapsed back into her usual silence punctuated by sighs as she stirred the cheese sauce. But it had obviously set her thinking.
“You ain’t going to get into all that chanting nonsense are you Kev?”
The boy screwed up his nose, making his teeth even more prominent than usual.
“What you on about, Ma?”
“Chanting. Ain’t that what them Buddhists do?”
“Wot? I don’t know no Buddhists.”
“That chap you’re so keen on, he was a Buddhist.”
Kevin just looked at her open-mouthed. She said he’d better get his hands washed if he wanted any tea. He did as his mother said. As he ate the haddock, which was a bit tough, though he was not going to say so, he wished he’d kept his ambitions to himself. But, the cat being out of the bag, his mother was not letting it go.
“So how did he get the name, your friend Mr Humphreys?”
“He ain’t my friend, Ma. He’s been dead since 1983.”
“Is that so, Mr Clever Clogs?” she said.
They carried on in this snippy fashion until they had both chewed their way through the haddock on their plates, eaten the bread and butter, drunk the tea and exhausted themselves.
Kevin loved Christmas. If it had been up to him he would have had the house decorated with Christmas lights, baubles and streamers all year round, but it was not up to him and he would never have dared suggest it to his mother, who would certainly have said something about them not being made of money and probably also that there was only so much electricity and people shouldn’t use more than their share. Where she got some of her ideas he really didn’t know. She didn’t read books or papers. So how she knew about Mr Justice Christmas Humphreys being a Buddhist baffled him. Maybe it was her friend Mavis. She was always on about Mavis saying this, Mavis saying that. Kevin felt like coming back at her with some comment like ‘Mavis for Pope then!’, but he thought better of it.
He knew that his mother couldn’t stop him changing his name. He had asked at the library and the lady – she really was a lady, she spoke so posh – had said it was up to him. He decided that the best day to do it was Christmas Day itself. He had hoped to do the becoming upper class on that day too, but it looked as if that might be more complicated, so he was going to stick to the name change for now.
On Christmas Eve Kevin was beside himself with excitement. For once he didn’t argue with his mother about going to Midnight Mass.
“Good lad, Kev,” she said.
He just smiled. She wouldn’t be calling him Kev after the Mass. He would have become Christmas. He decided that the first person he’d tell would be the priest, who always stood at the door of the church bleating on about the Good News as the congregation filed out.
“I’m Christmas now, Father Michael,” Kev announced to him with a toothy grin.
“That’s right, lad, just so, spread the Good News of Christmas,” beamed the cleric, who had always thought Kevin a little simple.
When he told his mother she was to call him Christmas and not Kev she surprised herself as well as him by laughing.
It was relief, she told him after they’d eaten their turkey and were sitting together, hats askew, waiting for the Queen to come on the television, a relief that he’d only wanted to change his name.
“I was afraid you were going to shave your head and become a Buddhist.”
“Don’t be daft, Ma, all I wanted to do was become Christmas.”
“That’s fine Kev,” she said, patting his knee. “Pour me another glass of sherry, there’s a good lad.”
Cath Barton is writing some longer fiction too these days but still loves the short form.