Escape This Christmas
It’s a beautiful thirty degree day. Birds are chirping. You can hear the Midnight Oil blasting from one of your neighbours’ houses, and Christmas carols coming from another. It’s kind of picture perfect. And yet, the two of you can’t stop checking your watches. See your favourite cartoon of all time has a Christmas special playing this afternoon! And you wouldn’t miss it for the world! You don’t have a VHS so the only way to see it is to tune in. But it’s already after midday and you’re worried that you’re going to miss it, because mum has said no TV until after Christmas lunch.
Christmas lunch is, of course, being held in your backyard. And your mum won’t let you back inside the house until lunch is over. At this rate, there’s no way you’ll be finished with the family part of Christmas in an hour.
The food isn’t ready and nobody’s sitting at the table yet. Your chances are slipping away by the minute, but Mum won’t sympathise one bit. She’s even taken the door key to the house and stuck it in her apron pocket so you can ‘t sneak away for a minute. You’ll only get that key when, in her words, “We’ve finished having the perfect Christmas.” So, you need to orchestrate the perfect Christmas lunch, within the hour.
You look around your backyard, taking stock of all the things currently stopping that from happening.
First there is THE LUNCH TABLE where your mother is hovering and setting up.
Your father is working THE BBQ and there’s a big esky on the ground beside him. Your dog is crawling around his legs, trying to steal bits of meat.
At THE POOL there’s Aunt Kay-Lynn sunbathing and your cousins: the triplelets: Tim + Leo. You can only be glad that the third kid, Gus, is home sick with a fever. So Tim and Leo are splashing and yelling as they play in the pool, You can’t stand any of them, but you have to put on a big, fake smile or Mum will accuse you of trying to ruin the festivities.
Also, your Grandmother was invited as well, but you can’t see her anywhere. That’s weird.
You also notice THE FENCE is decorated with big, cardboard letters that spell out ‘MERRY XMAS’, and scattered on the grass in that area are presents. Lots of presents, all of them already torn open by Tim and Leo, even the ones that aren’t theirs.
There’s THE SHED. It’s a classic with a tin roof and rough wooden paneling.
You glance back to the house and teal painted back door. It’s locked of course. Your (social) lives depend on getting back inside that house.
Okay. You just need to get everyone happy and cooperative enough to participate in Mum’s perfect lunch. And fast. How hard can it be?
- THE LUNCH TABLE where your mother is setting up.
- Your father is at THE BBQ with an esky beside him. Your dog trying to steal bit of meat there too.
- At THE POOL there Aunt Kay-Lynn sunbathing and your twin cousins (Tim and Leo) are splashing and yelling as they play in the pool,
- THE FENCE is decorated with big, cardboard letters that spell out ‘MERRY XMAS’, and scattered on the grass in that area are presents, already torn open.
- THE SHED is a standard tin roof shed.
- Also, your Grandmother was invited as well, but you can’t see her anywhere.
- THE HOUSE – with the back door firmly locked.
LUNCH TABLE – Mum has tongs. / SEATING: Cousins together. Dad not next to Aunt. Grandma between you two.
BBQ – Dad needs gas from shed, tube needs tape / Esky has Apple juice and Bacardi. / Dog has key
POOL – Aunt wants her ABC drink. / Guarding box of tape and paper.
POOL – Cousins will pummel you with beach balls. / They need tongs to dive to grandma’s teeth
FENCE – Presents are mixed up. Have sort them out to spell name.
SHED – Need to unlock (dog has key) and grandma needs teeth from pool/ Shed also has gas
FINAL – X marks the spot
Mother: Your mother is putting food on the table, and to her credit, she’s working quickly. She must notice your hopeful expressions, because she snaps, “Don’t think you’re getting out of this. I’ve still got the key. If you really want to get inside, you’ll help fix up the presents and the table. And I’ll need everyone sitting down and ready to eat as soon as the meat’s done. Chop chop!” She claps her hands so fiercely that the comically oversized salad tongs in her apron almost fall out.
Table: There are eight table settings around the circular table, complete with plates, cups, cutlery and Christmas crackers. But the named place settings are still in a pile in the centre. Your mum has already put out most of the non-meat foods, including three enormous salad bowls: Caesar salad, potato salad, and cherry tomato and cucumber salad.
Mother – asking to borrow the salad tongs: She looks at you like she’s never heard a stranger request come out of your mouth. “I… suppose,” she says. She hands you the extra long tongs.
Mother – attempting to get her to start lunch before all tasks are completed: Mum looks at you, exasperated. [GM should ad-lib something about whichever task hasn’t been completed yet, eg. “You’ve got those two sitting next to each other? You know how they behave!”]
Trying to use table cutlery: There’s only plastic knives and forks, but you can pick them up. If you use them you’ll be like – the idea seems good, but it’s not quite sharp enough.
Barbecue: Your father is hunched over the barbecue like a tiger protecting its cubs. He doesn’t let anyone else near the thing; maybe being in charge of fire makes him feel extra tough. He actually calls it his ‘baby’. But there isn’t much fire to speak of at the moment: for whatever reason, the meat isn’t cooking. The flames are practically non-existent. And Dad does not look happy.
Father: Your father does not look happy. Maybe it’s because the barbecue isn’t cooking the way he wants it to, but you aren’t sure that’s all there is to it.
Dog: Ah, the family dog. The one ray of hope and happiness you have besides each other. He’s prancing around the yard – mostly around the barbecue – with his collar jingling loudly around his neck.
Esky: You lift the lid off the esky and, no surprise, it’s completely full. There are all sorts of ingredients for mixing drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
There’s Vodka, Apple juice, Bacardi, Lemonade, Orange juice and Whiskey.
Dog – calling the dog’s name: You call your dog’s name and give a little whistle, and he bounds up to you happily. Well, why wouldn’t he? He’s your dog. You give his ear a scratch, and as you do, you realise there’s something attached to his collar, something that was making it jingle more than usual. It’s a key.
Esky – searching for ingredients/drinks starting with A, B and C: Well, you immediately find apple juice. That’s easy, and it also seems to be the only A in here. As for B, the only thing you find is a bottle of Bacardi. And C… oh, okay. Apparently there’s nothing here that starts with C. Not even a cola!
Esky – searching specifically for cherries: There are no cherries in here. Nor is there anything even remotely cherry-flavoured. Hmm.
Father – asking him what’s wrong before fixing the barbecue: He shakes his head. “Nothing. Nothing except the food. And the BBQ. And the gas. Don’t worry, I’ve got it under contol”
Father – asking him what’s wrong after fixing the barbecue: “Oh, it was mainly the barbecue problem, but… keep this between us, okay? I don’t really want to sit next to Kay- Lynn today. Every time I sit next to her, she steals my drink and I have to walk over and get a new one. It’s silly, but it’s exhausting. I feel like I might snap if she does it today.”
Barbecue – checking the gas: You kneel down and check the fuel canister, and yeah, no wonder nothing’s cooking. It’s almost totally empty.
Barbecue – trying to switch out the empty fuel with a full canister from the laundry: You hoist the full canister up to the barbecue and, under dad’s supervision, you plug in the fresh, full cannister of gas. Except…there’s still no flames. And there’s a hissing sound! “Must be a leak in tube!” dad says, quickly shutting off the gas valve. Hmmm.
Barbecue – tapping up the tube: If dad thinks it’s unsafe to repair gas line with bog standard sticky tape, he’s keeping it to himself. You give it a few wrap arounds just to be safe…and turn on the gas. There’s no hiss – only a satisfying whoosh as the flames roar to life. “Nice work kids,” dad says as he gets to work sizzling the sausages. “Won’t be long now. Just make sure everyone else is ready, OK?”
Aunt: Kay-Lynn is sitting in a deck chair, with her feet propped up on a carboard box labelled “Christmas supplies.” With sunglasses covering her eyes you can’t tell if she’s awake or not. That is, until her arm flings up in your direction, and you see that in her hand is a glass. “ABC,” she barks.
Pool/Cousins: Tim and Leo are splashing and screaming in the pool, trying to rip each other’s floaties off, occasionally yelling, “Yarr!” Guess they’re playing pirates. You think you see something at the bottom. But you can’t quite make what it is with your cousins splashing around. When you approach and they catch sight of you, they immediately stop attacking each other. “Enemy ship!” one of them screeches. “Preparing to board! Ready the cannonball!” They grab a giant beach ball and hurl it at you at speed. It slams it right into your face! It bounces off and back into the water before you can react. You’d better back away – they’re getting ready to aim again!
Aunt – giving her an incorrect drink: Kay-Lynn grabs the glass and swirls it around under her nose. Which she then wrinkles up. “What’s this? You call this an ABC? Are you trying to ruin Christmas?” She dumps the contents of the glass onto the ground and tosses it back to you. You’d better not make another mistake. Not only is she angry, you’re running out of certain ingredients.
Aunt – giving her the correct drink (apple juice, Bacardi and a cherry tomato): Kay- Lynn seizes the glass out of your hands and gives it a huge sniff. With a nod of approval, she downs it in one go. She suppresses a small burp and adjusts her sunglasses. “Good enough. Alright, time to wash it down with some food, I suppose.” She grins. “I’m sure my boys will liven things up.” With that, she stands and heads over to the table, leaving the pool chair unoccupied. You don’t like the sound of what she just said, though.
Aut – asking about box: “What? This box is vital to maintaining and my chill and down to earth demeanour. I have lower back problems you know?” She says this while slouching further into her chair.
Christmas supply box: The box is stuffed full of colourful rolls of wrapping paper. Plus fresh roll of sticky tape and some plastic child-safe scissors.
(They function the same as the plastic cutlery. Not sharp enough to pierce the ball, but the idea is good!)
Cousins – trying to interact with them in any way while they have the beach ball: No matter what you do, say or scream, all they do is throw the beach ball in your face. And it’s too slippery for you to catch. Keep this up and your clothes will be so wet your mum will be furious.
Cousins – using the dart from a Christmas cracker to pop their beach ball: The ball comes flying at your face again, but this time, you’re ready for it. You thrust the dart out in front of you like a miniature fencing sword, and burst that ball so it drops dead at your feet. Your cousins look horrified. “We’ve been commandeered!” one of them declares. “New Captain, we are hereby in your service! Order us and we will go!” Now, that’s more like it.
Cousins – telling a cousin to dive down and get the dentures: “Okay,” Leo says, “but only if Tim and I get to sit next to each other for lunch!” You know that’s a terrible idea, but what choice do you have? You agree. Tim grins and dives down. He dives as far as he can go… which is not quite far enough to reach the bottom. He comes back up and gasps, “I can’t get them! My floaties are too strong!” Aw, man. Neither of them can swim without floaties; how are you going to get the object if they can’t reach it?
Cousins – giving them your mother’s salad tongs to help them reach the dentures: You toss the tongs into the pool and Tim grabs them. “Aha!” he shouts. “With this tool I can acquire the sunken treasure!” He dives down. His floaties try to pull him back up, but it doesn’t matter: the ridiculously long tongs give him plenty of reach. When he comes back up, he flings the item dangerously at you and you barely manage to catch it; it’s a set of dentures! “What now, Captain?” Leo asks. Well, you should probably tell them to get out of the pool and head to the table.
Pool – attempting to get close and look at the bottom of the pool while cousins have the beach ball: You take one step too close, and… “CANNONS!” And the beach ball slams into your face.
Pool – getting close after popping beach ball: There. The brats don’t have any weapons now, so you can get in close. And that thing at the bottom of the pool? You can see it clearly now, and it’s… teeth. But if you want them – for whatever reason – you won’t be able to get them yourselves. If your clothes get wet, Mum will kill you. And then bury you outside so you never get near the phone.
Fence: The fence is too high to be an escape route, and the only unusual thing about it is the big, cardboard letters tacked to it. They’re well spaced apart and spell MERRY XMAS. They’re the same ones your parents dig out every year, so you know there’s nothing special about them.
Presents: Oh, man. The lawn is chaos. At your family christmases’ – only the kids get presents. But Tim and Leo have already torn open everything. So your presents, along with the gifts belonging to Tim, Leo and Gus are strewn about.
At least you can see that your parents got you the expensive dart board and dart set that you ask for. The rest of the presents seem to be various stuff toy animals.
Look Darts: This dart board and dart set was expensive. So its the only present you’re getting this year. But it’s all you ever wanted. Oh, and to run off after you’re done with family Christmas.
Take Darts: The dartboard is a bit too heavy to lug around, but you pocket the packet of darts.
Stuffed Toys: The rest of the presents are stuffed toys. The wrapping paper got torn to shreds. All that’s left are cards with your cousins’ names TIM, LEO and GUS. Since GUS is home sick with a fever, you’ll need to re-wrap his presents. But there’s so many different toy animals:
E – Emu
G – Goat
I – Iguna
L – Lion
T – Turtle
M – Monkey
O – Orca
S – Snake
U – Unicorn
TIM = Turtle, Iguna, Money // LEO = Lion, Emu, Orca // GUS = Goat, Unicorn, Snake
Clue: You think, in the sake of fairness, each kid got 3 presents each.
Presents – attempting to re-wrap presents without tape: I mean, you’re putting the paper back around the presents, but it’s not exactly staying. You wouldn’t accept presents that looked like this.
Presents – re-wrapping the incorrect presents with tape from pool chair: You tape up some of the presents, but then, out of nowhere, Leo appears. “My present!” he screeches. “Where’s my present?” Oops. Better unwrap these ones and try again. There must be some way of knowing which ones are Anna’s.
Presents – re-wrapping correct presents (whose first letters spell out Anna’s name) with tape: Yes, perfect. Now that you see them all in a row like this, you remember that they look exactly the way they did when your parents first wrapped them. Mum will definitely be happy with this.
Fence – digging under any letters before lunch: You dig aside a little bit of dirt, but there’s nothing interesting about it. And you probably shouldn’t mess around too much, because your clothes will get filthy and Mum will have a fit.
Fence – digging under the letter X after lunch: Refer to conclusion!
Door: This door leads to the laundry, and inside the laundry is the inner door to the rest of your house. Of course, it’s locked, and you’ll need the key, but that’s not the key your mother has. She just has the back door key to the house.
Door – unlocking it with key from dog’s collar: You unlock the door to the laundry, and ah! You almost have a heart attack because your grandmother is sitting in a chair right behind the door! What is she doing in here?
Door – looking around laundry for barbecue fuel: Yep, there’s a full canister right behind the door.
Grandmother: Grandma has found herself a nice, quiet spot and is reading a well worn copy of her favourite book – Waves Of Passion. Looks up at you and smiles. “Mph raw erkjasd.” Oh, she’s not wearing her denture. She’ll have a hard time eating lunch without those.
Grandmother – giving her the dentures from the pool: You hope Grandma doesn’t mind the taste of chlorine. You try to hand her the teeth… and she just opens her mouth. Ugh, she’s making you do this? You know there’s nothing wrong with her arms! Well, you don’t have much choice. You gently push the dentures into Grandma’s mouth and fit them against her gums. With an unfortunate squelching noise, she moves her tongue around. “Ooh, bit of an odd chlorine taste. Still, can’t be worse that drink Aunt Kay-Lynn loves so much. Honestly, who puts cherry tomatoes into perfectly good alcohol?”
“Well I’ll head over to the table whenever food is read. Just make sure your mother is between me and your father. Don’t want another fight like in ’82.” You have no idea what she’s talking about, but you’ll take her word for it.
Table – correctly placing the place settings so that everyone is sitting where they want to be sitting: Grandma between dad and your mum. dad isn’t next to Aunt Kay Lynn and the cousins are together… okay, this should work! Everybody comes to the table and gets to their assigned spots. And, well, the meal goes totally smoothly. Sure, your cousins get up and run around a bit, but everything’s delicious and everyone’s happy. Especially your mum. As soon as everyone’s as comfortably full, you ask if she wouldn’t mind too terribly if you went inside. She smiles at you both.
, “Okay, you’ve done great. You can have the key.” She reaches into her pocket, and a look of surprise comes over her face. “It’s gone!” she says, and from one of the other chairs comes a giggle. Tim. Mum looks perplexed. “Tim, did you take my key?”
“Yar,” Tim says. “While you feasted, took the treasure, did I! And hidden it from marauders, as all good pirates do!”
Great. And to make matters worse, all the grown-ups are so enchanted by his cute pirate voice, they don’t even look like they’re going to punish him! You’re going to have to find that key yourselves.
You dig through the dirt under the X, which does indeed feel a little loose already. Finally your hands hit metal – you’ve got the key! Excellent! The two of you race to back door and shove your way into the house. Skidding into the lounge room, you glance at the clock. Right on time. You switch on the TV just as the theme music starts a playing and you set yourself down for 22 minute (plus 8minutes of ads) of the finest animation your young minds have ever known.