by Gianluca Mercadante
– Darling, what are you going to get me for Christmas?
– Dear, Christmas presents are supposed to be a surprise.
– Darling, organising surprises when you’re married is a big mistake. If you use your debit card to pay for the present, for example, I get a text message telling me how much you’ve spent.
– Forgetting the fact that I have no problem with paying in cash, Dear, tell me, what’s the point of a service like that? You’re the account holder; you already know perfectly well how much you spend.
– First of all it’s free, and free things should always be taken advantage of, Darling. Secondly, let’s get this straight: do you have your own account?
– Yes, Dear. I’m in the red, but I’ve got one.
– So which account do we use most?
– Yours, Dear.
– And our cash?
– It comes from there, Dear.
– Therefore: if you use my money, Darling, I think I have a right to decide which present I want for Christmas.
– Can you write a list and send it to me, Dear?
– Knowing Royal Mail, you wouldn’t receive it until next Christmas, Darling. And anyway, I might as well tell you out loud, here in our home. Or do you have an alternative address?
– No, Dear, I don’t have an alternative address. Not least because I’d have to charge the rent to your account, and the bank would inform you of the transaction straight away with a handy, free-of-charge text message.
– I see, so the only reason you’re not renting your own little flat where you can screw your lady friends is because of the free transaction information service kindly provided to me by the Bank, Darling?
– No, Dear. I’m not renting any little flat because I don’t have any lady friends to… how did you put it?
– Screw, Darling. I said screw.
– That’s it. Let’s come back to the present, Dear.
– Absolutely not, Darling. Christmas presents have to be a surprise.
– But if I can’t use my debit card, and I can’t withdraw cash from the account either, what the hell am I supposed to do, eh?!
– That’s your problem.
– Right, ok. How about I start working as a prostitute?
– I hope that’s just another way of telling me that you’ll ask your mother for the money, Darling.
– I got her to stop giving me my weekly pocket money once I reached forty.
– So let me get this straight. You’d rather stand at the crossroads offering your arse to all and sundry?
– Dear, I was jo…
– Or perhaps you plan to become a gigolo? I mean, it’s not like you’d be cheating on me, is it? It’d be work.
– I’d like to see how you’d react if I did the same thing, Darling. Let me just put on some slap, dress like a whore and go out onto the street. I’m sure I’ll come across dozens of salivating old codgers willing to pay their weight in gold for my services.
– I’m afraid your plan may fail, Dear. There’s a lot of competition.
– Of course there is! You men think all women are whores, don’t you?
– No, Dear, we don’t, and in any case that’s absolutely not what I meant to say. I wanted to say that…
– Do you think I’ve got too many stretchmarks to be able to tempt perverts? Men don’t give a damn about stretchmarks when they want a shag, Darling.
– Dear, I think the tone of this chat we’re having is beginning to distance itself quite significantly from a healthy Christmas spirit.
– Darling, you don’t think Father Christmas himself will rock up to the lamppost I’m going to hang around, do you? Now that would be a great way of confronting the issue with a healthy Christmas spirit!
– Dear, I need the debit card. Your debit card.
– Certainly, Darling, here you go. Are you going out?
– Will you be gone for long?
– Just enough time to buy some cigarettes.
– All right.
– But… Darling?…
– Yes, Dear?
– You don’t smoke.
– Exactly. But I need an excuse if I want to get you a surprise, don’t I? You’re right, Dear, surprises are difficult when you’re married. You need a fail-safe alibi.
– And you call that a fail-safe alibi? First of all, you don’t smoke. Secondly, it’s the classic excuse men use when they want to run away from home. Do you plan to run away from home, Darling?
– It’s a surprise. If it turns out that way: Merry Christmas in advance, Dear.
– Merry Christmas in advance, Darling.
– What about my debit card?
– You’ll get the information in a text message, Dear. After all, it’s free.
Flesh on flesh, rubber on rubber
Dear Father Christmas,
This year I’d love you to give me a girlfriend. This year has to be the one. I’ve been asking you for a girlfriend for forty years, Father Christmas, every damned year, and you haven’t even given me a blow up doll. I can assure you I’d have been satisfied. I’d have handled her with gloves, and I’d even have used condoms. I mean, obviously we would have had a monogamous relationship, but I wouldn’t have had a problem with using a condom in order to show my respect towards her, Father Christmas, towards the doll I mean. Flesh on flesh, rubber on rubber. I would have taken her to the golf club, and to Sunday lunches with the family.Â I think she would have silently appreciated the arthouse cinema masterpieces which I follow with passion together with 22 other spectators. I’m sure she would have burst with happiness seeing me leap out of bed in the middle of the night, grab the notebook on the bedside table and write the colourful lines of a new poem composed by me, which I then immediately recite out loud, because that’s part of what poetry is about: verbalising it. I’ve no doubt she would have saved my place in the queue at the post office, she would have come shopping with me, and… well, let’s not exaggerate: I’m really not sure she would have been any good with the stove — the heat generated by flames seems to have a lethal effect on people with plastic skin. Holidays by the sea would have probably been tricky as well, but indoor pools during the colder months would have been all right, so would a week at a ski resort in the mountains. It’s a shame I don’t know how to ski, but she would have been able to teach me if she was able, or we would have taken lessons.
I would have loved her, Father Christmas, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, and you teach me that love is the real meaning of Christmas, the real driving force behind it.
So why the hell don’t women ever want to get it on with me, eh?
Whilst waiting for your quick reply, Father Christmas, I’ll wave you goodbye with my other hand.
Happy Christmas and enjoy your work.
Say hello to Rudolph. He understands me. He’s always got bags under his eyes…
THE ADVENTURES OF A PUSSY DESIGNER
– Good morning.
– Good morning.
– Do I… do I really have to… take them off?
– If you’re not sure about it, I…
– No, you know… it’s the first time I… well… that I’m doing it.
– We’ll have a little chat before we start, ok? I’ll make you a coffee.
– Thank you, that sounds lovely.
– You seemed quite convinced on the phone. And I must say, your idea isn’t bad at all. Can I ask you something?
– About what?
– For now, about how many sugars you’d like.
– Half a teaspoon.
– How about… a quarter of a sachet? Is that ok?
– Great. Here’s your coffee, drink it while it’s hot or it’ll lose its flavour.
– Hahaha! You’re so kind and thoughtful, Sir. Thank you.
– Don’t be daft, you’re very welcome. Now, where were we… is it a Christmas present for your boyfriend?
– No, actually… no, it’s not really.
– So… forgive me, can I ask you the reason behind your request? I think you know that at Christmas people kiss underneath the mistletoe.
– Yes, that’s exactly why they sent me here.
– They sent you? Who?
– The organisers. They advised me to come to you, given the part I’m going to play at the Christmas party. It’s a… private party. Very private.
– Ah. And… during this party, you’re going to be… what?
– The mistletoe. I’m going to be hanging like a chandelier all evening and the guests… have to kiss… and kiss me… underneath the mistletoe.
– Right. I’d say we can make a start, it’ll be a quick job.
– But… but I’m embarrassed…
– Don’t worry: I can create the design on the upper part of the layer of hair, that would make more sense given what the guests are going to use it for. That way you won’t have to take your knickers off in front of me.
– Really? Oh, yes, that would be fantastic!
– That’s sorted then. Here, make yourself comfortable and open your legs, placing your calves on the supports provided.
– Like at the gynaecologist?
– Hanging like a chandelier, eh?
– Your coffee is delicious, you know.
– Doctor, do you feel like you’ve been infected by the intoxicating Christmas spirit?
– I’ve had myself vaccinated.
– What are you going to give to your loved ones?
– A salary.
Illustration by ManuelaCh
Gianluca MercadanteÂ was born in 1976 in Vercelli.
Dozens of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and in the Italian book series Giallo Mondadori.Â He has published “McLoveMenu” (Stampa Alternativa publishing, 2002, Parole di Sale prize), “Il Banco dei Somari” (NoReply publishing, 2005), “Nodo al Pettine — Confessioni di un parrucchiere anarchico” (AlacrÃ n publishing, 2006), “Polaroid” (Las Vegas publishing, 2008), “Il giardino nel recinto di vetro” (Birichino publishing, 2009), “Cherosene” (Las Vegas publishing, 2010), “Io ho visto tutto” (Milanonera publishing, 2012), “CasinÃ² Hormonal” (Lite Editions publishing, 2013), “Caro scrittore in erba…” (Las Vegas publishing, 2013) and “Noi aspettiamo fuori” (EffedÃ¬ publishing, 2014). Together with Daniele Manini, he has also been responsible for the anthology “Liscio assassino” (Zona publishing, 2014), appended to the band Banda Putiferio’s album with the same name. He has written literary criticism articles for the Italian daily newspaper “La Stampa” and for the magazines “Orizzonti”, “Pulp” and “Satisfiction”.