Wednesday 12 December 2018

Julia's Crackers by G. Norman Lippert

On the bus downtown, Julia Statham made a mental list of worse ways to spend a Friday night before Christmas. She was an imaginative woman. By the time she walked the last few blocks to the Warwickshire and changed out of her boots in the lobby coat-room, she’d come up with: one, being mugged; two, receiving emergency dental surgery from Gordon Ramsey; and three, having tea with her landlord.

That last was a close one. But he was an extremely creepy landlord.

She wanted to go home and hide under a blanket on the couch and binge on frozen pizza and Netflix. Instead, she followed the signs for the Taylor & Sweeney office Christmas party and pretended to be happy to see Jim Sweeney swaggering through the small crowd at her, two drinks held aloft, his unbuttoned jacket flapping.

He pressed a champagne flute into Julia’s hand, watched to see if she would take a sip. Dutifully, she did.

“I’ve got a special gift just for you,” he said, and plucked a cracker from his pocket. 

“How thoughtful.” It was wrapped in gold paper with tartan ribbons.

“Oh, not that,” he laughed, then leaned close to her cheek, bringing along the overpowering odor of wine breath and Brylcreem. “It’s in the Secret Santa gifts,” he whispered against her ear. She tried not to recoil. “On the table by the punch. I hope you like it as much as I do.”

He gave her a conspiratorial wink, as subtle as a Whoopie cushion at a funeral.

“Oh! Bloody hell,” Julia tipped the champagne onto her sleeve. “I’m so clumsy. Excuse me, Mr. Sweeney.” She made a show of awkward shrugs, blushing, backing away, and nearly fled to the washroom; which wasn’t easy. 

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