My Aunt Mabel was a bit of a sad case, a complete loser.
She lived alone in a big house, with only a plague of cats to keep her company. They all had names, and apparently, different personalities. I wasn’t too sure about that, but I knew that all her cats hated me.
Mabel was supposedly well off, but you’d never know it to look at her. Her house didn’t even have a TV in it, or broadband. She didn’t even own a mobile phone.
She spent her days knitting, crocheting, and doing the occasional painting or throwing some dodgy pottery together. She would regularly inflict her offerings on her family as presents; the cheapskate. If she was so loaded, why couldn’t she buy decent presents like everyone else?
I was convinced that she was a little crazy, and one day, I was certain she’d get carted away to the loony bin. It was on the cards.
Mum always invited Aunt Mabel around for Christmas dinner, ignoring my protestations. After the pudding, we would sit around the table and swap presents. I lived in dread of whatever hideous creation Mabel would have for me this year. Still, I always had fun taking the piss out of everyone else’s presents.
My little sister, Janice, got her present first. It was a big lumpy jumper with a smiling hedgehog on the front of it. “That’ll keep you warm this winter,” Mabel advised.
“It’s a bit big,” Janice replied, “but I love the hedgehog!” She had a thing for hedgehogs, the daft cow.
“You’ll grow into it,” Mum assured.
“Yeah, like in three years,” I scoffed.
Mum threw me a dirty look.
My cousin Nigel got his present next. It was a rainbow coloured hat and scarf, with matching fingerless mitts. It was hideous, but he seemed to like it, even going as far as giving Mabel a kiss on the cheek for her trouble.
“You can wear it to your next Gay Pride meeting,” I joked, but no one laughed.
Everyone knew that Nigel was a homosexual, but no one spoke openly about it. He hadn’t come out of the closet yet.
My dad got a new mug, big enough to fit a pint of tea in it.
Mum got a framed picture of some horses in a field, which she seemed to like.
I’m sure they were faking it, but none of them had the bottle to tell Mabel that her gifts were naff.
Finally, the moment I’d been dreading … Mabel rummaged around in the bottom of her sack for my present.
What was it going to be this time, an oversized cardigan, (who in God’s name wore cardigans anymore?) or a pair of knitted Y-fronts? My knackers itched at the thought of it! Please don’t let it be another knitted cover for my I-phone, like last year. God! The stick I got from my mates about that, when they heard about it. It was stuck at the back of one of my drawers somewhere, never destined to see the light of day.
“I had to think long and hard about your gift, Jeffrey,” Mabel explained. “You never seem to get any pleasure from the gifts I’ve made for you.”
That’s because their crap, I thought. Wisely, I kept my trap shut. Mum would only tolerate so much backchat.
Mabel produced a small box, the type you’d present a pair of earrings in. “I was looking through some knitting patterns on-line at the library, and stumbled across this. I instantly thought of you.
Taking the box from her, I unwrapped it. Well, I thought. At least it wasn’t a jumper.
I opened the box and looked inside.
It was knitted, that much was for sure, but I wasn’t sure what it was. It was small, cream coloured, with a little smiley face on the end. It looked like a demented caterpillar.
Lifting it out with distaste, I examined it further. There was a hole at one end, just big enough to fit my little finger in. The maggot covered half of my pinkie.
“It’s not a finger puppet?” I asked with dismay. She had really scraped the bottom of the barrel this time. I was nineteen, for crying out loud. What did I need with finger puppets?
“No dear,” Mabel replied, giving me an innocent smile. “It’s a willy warmer. I hope it’s not too big.”
Everyone was laughing, but I couldn’t see the joke.
Mum piped up, “Maybe he’ll grow into it,” which had everyone in stitches.