Christmas with the Inlaws

After the blue cheese incident at Bonfire night, I don’t know why my partner thinks these are the people I want cooking my Christmas dinner. For one thing I hate turkey and my mother-in-law puts it on my plate and tries to pretend its chicken. It’s not chicken, its turkey. It looks like turkey and it tastes like turkey. And the Brussel sprouts…what’s with that? I don’t like them, so why continue to put them on my plate and try and encourage me to eat them like I’m six. I am not six. They are green and they smell funny and they taste yucky.

   And after last year’s antics: spending two hours before dinner, with myself, my father-in-law, and my partner up in the attic looking for rats, which turned out to be birds, I dread to think what will happen this year.

   Last year we went in, greeted everybody, decided to save present giving for after dinner; when my father-in-law tells me they’ve got rats.

   “Up  in the attic,” he says. “Big ones, lots of em’ as well. And they aren’t ordinary rats either. These ones are educated.”

   “Educated?” asked my partner.

Father-in-law nods. “That’s right. Every day, every damn day they come out at the same time. I hear them scuttling all in the attic. But when I go up there, I can’t see a single one. Can hear them though, right above my head.”

   Mother-in-law is nodding enthusiastically by his side.

Due to a phone call, this conversation is interrupted.

   Then about a half hour before dinner is to be served, my father-in-law goes outside with a bag of bird seed, and scatters it inside the three bird houses he’s built in the back garden.

   He comes inside, puts the bag in the kitchen, comes into the living room and says: “Come with me.”

   My partner and I oblige, following the white-haired man up the stairs. We stand on the landing, underneath the hatch for the attic. We all listen intently, and sure enough I can hear scurrying from somewhere inside the attic.

   My father-in-law holds a finger to his lips telling us to be quiet and then slowly opens the hatch and pulls down the wooden steps. He starts climbing and signals for us to follow. We do. Now the attic is a bit of a mess, floorboards have been moved, some base boards and there are three large holes in the walls…proof of my father-in-law’s search for the rats. I can still hear the rats (or as I like to think of them ghost rats) because I couldn’t see any rats up there, when suddenly I get this sneaky suspicion.

   “Dad, how often do you put food out in the birdhouses?” I ask.

“Every day,” he whispers.

   “Do you do it the same time, every day?”

“Two o’clock, every day. The birds know” he said, and touches his finger to his nose.

   I smile at myself. “Come with me.”

“But the rats–”

   “I’ll show you the rats,” I said.  

I led the way back down the steps, down the stairs and out to the back garden. I stood by the birdhouses, which were covered with birds and turned to face the house. My partner and the in-laws did the same. And there on top of the roof, was a long line of birds patiently waiting for their turn at the bird houses, ruffling their feathers and shuffling about.

   “There’s your rats” I said.