Gundal came to see me at the house today. Margaret let him in, and made him some scones. She keeps calling him Stephen. ‘But he reminds me of Stephen,’ she keeps telling me. But I’ve no idea who Stephen is, and the disturbing thing is: neither does she. We don’t know anyone called Stephen. Plus, Stephen is a human name. Gundal is an elf name. Gundal has an elf name, largely due to the fact that Gundal is an elf. If we did know somebody called Stephen who reminded us of Gundal, then this Stephen would be three-feet tall, with ears that looked like they’d been caught in a thresher. I worry about the old bird sometimes. Her memory’s not what it once was. It’s playing tricks on her. World-class magician tricks. With added conjuring. Because she’s even started to forget things that she hasn’t even done, and then remembering them again.
Margaret’s memory’s a relay baton being passed between illusion and reality, making a lot of our conversations feel like code-breaking sessions at Bletchley Park. She’s lucid most of the time, so I guess it’s simply yet another wonderful side-effect of ageing, like my eight-day hangovers and fierce urges to urinate that come upon me on-the-hour-every-hour, like Piss FM traffic updates. But I would seem to be her rock, in the sense that her memory and focus never seem to fail her when it comes to my transgressions. Oh, they shine like beacons in the mist of her mind, keeping her anchored to reality. That’s my justification for continuing to leave the toilet seat up and nibbling my knuckle warts, in any case. I’m being noble, and trying to keep her memory ticking over. In many ways I’m a hero, I suppose…
Anyway, I gave Gundal a leg up to one of the armchairs in our living room. Typically, elves are predisposed to jolliness – they’re not grumpy wee bastards like dwarfs. But little Gundal looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His smile was a hyphen, and his eyebrows were like two thin daggers each ready to strike diagonally at their opposing nostrils.
He shared what was troubling him, and as I listened I could feel the anger bubbling in me from boots to beard. The elves have received a memo from Coca Cola telling them that they will no longer be employed directly by Coca Cola. The elves’ work has been subcontracted to a third party, some company called Dwerg Neuken, and its management has sent a communication informing the elves that there will be changes to their working hours, conditions and rates of pay; a new, harsher contract, in essence. He wants me to fight their corner, which of course I’ll do – as I always do. I just don’t know if I’ll have a leg to stand on with Coca Cola given recent events. But what the Hell. Who needs legs when you’ve got fists?
Drinking’s a young man’s game. I still feel a little out of sorts after Gundal’s birthday bash. My neural pathways are like never-ending corridors in a vast hospital; thoughts staggering down them like heavily-medicated mental patients with their dressing gowns open. I keep finding clues to my drunken behaviour. Trying to remember the other night is like piecing together a jigsaw made out of fog. Maybe some things are better not knowing. Like how the Jesus from Glasgow’s George Square nativity scene ended up in my bathroom. In May. How in the name of Hell’s bum whiskers did I manage that?
I might have a bit of magic at my disposal, but I thank all that’s good that time travel isn’t among my talents. Think how much worse it would have been if I’d managed to snatch the actual baby Jesus. I guess that’s why Doc and Marty McFly don’t get pished up before they hammer the DeLorean up to 88. I dread to think what Marty would have done to his mum if he’d downed a few bottles of vodka on the way to that dance. Anyway, I’ve wandered off the point a little. It serves a purpose, though. Nonsense talk about time travelling incest is distracting me from the fact that I can hear my heartbeat through my fingers. I’m even sure I can smell my blood, and it smells like Jack Daniels on burnt toast. Blasted bloody hangover! Margaret says I should clamp the reindeers before I start drinking. Or stop drinking. A novel idea. Perhaps I’ll consider it.
It might improve staff relations. Doritch, my most reliable elf, had to fly back to Greenland with Rudolph to pick up the elves I’d left behind. Apparently I kidnapped them. That’s a strong word. I’d like to think I invited them on an adventure against their own will. They weren’t too happy, the boring little buggers, but I’ve given the five of them a week off work, plus a bonus, so all’s fair in rum and war. On the home-front, the conversational cold war between me and Margaret finally has ceased, and relations have warmed. I’ve graduated from being a loutish brute to a lovable rogue again.
My friend Ronald phoned today. He’s flying out next week for a visit. We used to have a wild old time back in the day. We would’ve made Gundal’s party look like an Amish disco. Seems like we’re both slowing down. Age has done it to me, a new-found sensibility has done it for him. Was talking to him about my desire to retire, and he thinks it’s a good plan and I should really push it with Coca Cola. He said we can talk about it when he arrives. I’m looking forward to that. Haven’t seen him in years. Last time I saw him he was a natural fluorescent red. Now I gather he dyes it. Ah, well. I just hope he doesn’t bring with him that drippy friend of his; always gabbing on about this stamp collection and the mating behaviour of woodland insects. I can’t stand the Hamburglar.
Last night’s party for Gundal was so good I woke up in Greenland. The flight home was a bit shaky, because the reindeers were still a bit pissed, too. Six of them vomited into the Arctic Ocean, and I caught a bit of splash-back. I’m sure we’ve left a few elves behind. I might send one of the more responsible elves back with Rudolph later in the day to do a reconnoitre/search-and-rescue thingy.
Margaret was pretty furious with me. Worried sick, she was. She left the community centre quite early in the evening complaining of a headache, and I said I wouldn’t be too far behind her. By this point, however, I was dressed as a polar bear and roaring at elves, so maybe she shouldn’t have put so much stock in my promise. I guess I’m just trying to rationalise in light of my shenanigans. Margaret said to me this afternoon that I should start acting my age and have a bit more respect for myself. Especially since all of the elves look up to me. By the time she uttered that line I was too hungover even to do the obvious and cruel elf-related height joke. So I vomited into a bucket instead.
‘You should be top of your own naughty list, Frank McGarry!’ she told me.
That’s my real name: Frank. I’m not supposed to reveal that information for fear of contractual reprisals. ‘Brand continuity’ and ‘image integrity’ are the relevant buzz-words here, I believe. But I come from a long line of Santa Claus’s. We’re not immortal; just ordinary Joes living in extra-ordinary circumstances, working for a bunch of extra-ordinary arseholes. There are rites of succession, sort of like what they do with Popes. We die, and another Santa takes our place, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.
No more journal today, though. My skull feels like it’s filled with explosive eels. And I’ve got a dear wife to crawl to, and sick to scrub.