I asked my son Toby what he would like for Christmas. Usually I select a present on his behalf, but at almost four years old, I noticed he was beginning to form his own opinions and tastes; It was time for him to have a say in the matter and write a letter to Santa Claus.
‘What would you like from Father Christmas?’ I asked him one day in front of a festive Peppa Pig.
He was adamant: ‘Chainsaw. Please Daddy.’
I thought this was a strange idea, so I asked him again.
‘Well, I’m not sure if I want a chainsaw, or Spider-Man costume,’ he replied. ‘…but I think I want chainsaw.’
Toby is an intelligent child, so I pressed him further, asking him to tell me just how much he wanted a chainsaw.
‘Well, Daddy,’ he told me. ‘Forty-eight percent of me wants a Spider-Man costume, and fifty-two percent of me wants chainsaw.’
It seemed to me to be an intelligent enough response, and Toby had been a good boy that year.
‘Very well. A chainsaw it is! I shall have a word with Santa.’
I immediately settled back in my chair and returned to my newspaper.
Later, after Toby had gone to bed, my wife asked me if I had any thoughts on our child’s Christmas present. I beamed and told her everything was already in hand. In accordance with his wishes Toby would be getting a chainsaw from Father Christmas.
My wife stared at me. Her lips began to purse and a small, but noticeable vein began to throb in her head.
‘You’re doing fucking what!?’ she asked.
I explained to her that I had asked Toby, Toby wanted a chainsaw, and that was that.
‘Christ!’ she exclaimed, ‘How could you be so irresponsible? Do you even realise how crazy that sounds? Giving a chainsaw to a child? What do you think is going to happen?’
I explained, again, that I had asked Toby, Toby wanted a chainsaw, and that was that. After a lengthy debate and much screaming, neither of us were in a position to relent. I ended the argument by calling my wife a traitorous whore, and a bad parent for not obeying the legitimate will of our offspring. I also made a note to orchestrate a hate campaign against her on social media once she went to bed.
That will convince her, I told myself.
The next day she asked Toby what he wanted from Father Christmas, in full view of myself and in nothing less than a transparent gambit hopping the child has changed his mind. To my delight, Toby began dancing around the room shouting “Chainsaw!” repeatedly.
‘Are you sure?’ asked my villainous spouse.
‘CHAINSAW!’ screamed Toby, ‘CHAINSAW MEANS CHAINSAW!’
I smiled at my wife, pleased that my son’s outburst should stop her fear-mongering once and for all.
‘Sorry darling. Spider-Man lost. Chainsaw won. Get over it.’
As I hoped, she has barely spoken to me since.
I explained the situation to my friends at the pub. They all agreed with me.
My best friend Rupert, said yes, I should definitely buy Toby a chainsaw. He even offered to sell me one, as by a fortunate coincidence he happened to own a controlling stake in the local chainsaw factory.
My other friend Boris was hesitant at first, but then followed everyone else. I suspect Boris is an idiot, and had probably been drinking all day. He’s always to be seen propping up the bar and starting fights for the hell of it, but I’m pleased to be vindicated by him nonetheless.
Tim – the pub landlord – also thought this was a good idea, and immediately began to draw chainsaws on all the beermats. He regularly writes a humorous newsletter for his customers, and he promised me he would make sure the next issue would be full of pictures of children holding chainsaws. I have no idea why Tim is so passionate about this, but this is all grist to my yuletide mill.
Nigel, the local bus driver, overheard and also chipped in, telling us that he’s been saying that children should be able to play with chainsaws for years, and that this is a great opportunity to take control over who tells us whether it’s safe to buy a child a chainsaw or not. Sure enough, on the following day, Nigel’s bus overtook me on the high street. He had painted a giant chainsaw on the side. He gave me the thumbs up as he passed.
His purple gargoyle face radiated pure joy from underneath his festive hat.
At home, my treacherous wife made me watch a BBC news report on why giving chainsaws to children could be considered dangerous. I laughed at her and wrote a stern letter to the broadcasting ombudsman, complaining about such flagrant bias in the media.
Shortly afterwards, Toby came downstairs crying: Through mostly unintelligible sobs he told me he’d seen other children playing Spider-Man, and had decided that he needed a costume of his own so he didn’t feel left out in the playground.
‘Daddy!’ he cried. ‘I don’t want a chainsaw no more. Can Santa give me a Spider-Man costume?’
‘No,’ I told him. ‘You asked for a chainsaw, and now you’re getting one. Besides, I’ve already placed the order with Santa and his elves. It’s on its way. There’s no going back now.’
I noticed my wife had started sobbing too, but I think this is due the all the threats she’s been getting on Twitter rather than anything I’ve done wrong.
My son’s chainsaw was delivered by a woman whose name badge read “Theresa”. She initially looked a little hesitant, as if she didn’t agree with giving a child a chainsaw, but eventually she handed over the package without any meaningful fuss.
Toby was very excited on Christmas morning.
My wife was not excited at all and seemed to be cowering in the corner as if expecting something very bad to happen.
‘You are an enemy of this family,’ I told her as my son greedily tore the wrapping paper and began to open the box.
Toby was initially cautious, but once I got the saw blades going for him he seemed to be having a whale of a time. He tried out his new toy on the coffee table, reducing it to splinters and matchwood within a matter of seconds.
My wife wasn’t paying attention. Her hands were in front of her eyes, shielding her sight as Toby moved on to attack the corners of the footrest before shaving off random chunks of the television stand. He was having the time of his life.
I’m not sure what happened next, but I think Toby tried to lift the chainsaw higher so he could attack parts of our mantelpiece. The weight of the tool got the better of him. He lost his balance and toppled backwards, with the chainsaw following after him. Out of control, it began sawing at his left arm, just above the elbow, sheering through his juvenile flesh and bone instantaneously. The harrowing pain made him convulse and jitter on the floor, bouncing the saw across his body, causing further deep lacerations before it settled on the opposite limb.
My haemorrhaging son jived wildly in pain. Thick rivulets spouted from his arteries as his Christmas present jerked itself loose and began working on another extremity.
It was only when the chainsaw cut its own power cord that the carnage was over. Its mighty teeth finally ground to a halt.
I found myself thinking that I should have asked for a receipt.
My wife was on the floor, screaming and cradling our son’s bloody torso. Her cascading tears mingled with the weakening jets of bloody spray. The child was bleeding out, and would eventually end up a quadruple amputee at best. She screamed at me that she knew this was going to happen all along.
I looked at my wife and what was left of my son as he pumped out wet arcs of scarlet. After a few moments of shock I decided to pack my bag. My wife would have to clean up the mess on her own, or perhaps she would find another husband in about five years who would be able to deal with the problem.
As I was putting on my coat, she was still holding what was left of our son in one hand, while trying to call for an ambulance with the other. I explained that medical help would not be coming because I had cancelled our health insurance in order to pay for Toby’s Christmas present. Neither of them seemed even remotely grateful for the sacrifice.
I slammed the door behind me, muffling the screams and bloody chaos. It occurred to me that even if we could save my son’s life, the damage done to the lounge will be tremendous, and there’s no way I was going to scrub the wallpaper, let alone mop up. It’s not like I even liked Toby anyway.
I waited for the bus to take me as far away as possible, but after a while it was clear that it wasn’t going to turn up. Apparently they don’t run on Christmas day, so Nigel had gone on holiday to America to see a pen pal of his.
They stayed in a big hotel with a golden lift.
o o o
is a fiction writer. You can find his short stories online.
Darren’s Christmas song for Open Pen: