Pageant Part 5

While Braydon and Kassie debated the merits of his drinking Coke, Braydon’s teacher was in a debate of her own. The town grapevine was more efficient than any telecommunications network could manage and the news had already reached her that Braydon’s father was in town. Kim was relatively new to the town. Moving to Victoria as a teenager, she had gone to high school an hour away and then, as many like her did, had moved to Melbourne for University. Her first school had been in the city but the country had drawn her back, in the form of Craig, a primary teacher who helped her find a job at his school and also helped her find friends, accommodation and, with time, an engagement ring. It was he that Kim was now debating. The topic of the debate, however, had less to do with the arrival of Braydon’s father and more to do with the Christmas pageant that the two of them were organising.
In the past, the town Christmas pageant had been a humble, if somewhat awkward, affair. The school CRE teacher typically pulled out a song for the primary school to sing which had been stored somewhere in a cave where songs went to die, grabbed and salvaged barely moments before it breathed its last, only for a group of indifferent pre-teens to ensure that it well and truly died, never to be seen or heard again. This year, when she had suggested to the teachers that the children might like to sing “Christmas Is a Birthday Party”, Kim, whose church upbringing had introduced her to that song in its 1980s heyday, quickly interjected, “Or perhaps we could do a play this year.” Craig, who promptly kicked her under the table, did not do so in time to prevent the inevitable; now he and Kim were simultaneously writing and directing the first town Christmas play, a task which had repeatedly threatened the security of the ring on Kim’s finger.
The topic under discussion now was what to do with Braydon, the eager student who was equally capable of delivering brilliance or an all-in brawl, depending on how he felt on the night.
“His father’s come to town,” said Kim. “We can’t take the part off him now.”
“He’ll kill us all,” said Craig.
“That’s an exaggeration.”
“Only slightly. You saw what happened last week. Are you seriously saying there won’t be any problems on the night?”
It was true. Joseph’s black eye was taking longer than expected to go down after the First Shepherd had punched him, and Mary was still too scared to appear on the stage without holding her mother’s hand.
“We could always find a part for Tayla’s mother to play,” she suggested. “Then she could go on the stage with her.”
Craig looked at her. “We’re not writing another part just for Tayla’s mother.”
Kim paused. He had a point. The script had already taken long enough to write alongside reports and emails to parents. But there had to be another option.
“He needs to be on stage,” she persisted. “His father’s here. He has to have a part to play.”
Then a picture came into Craig’s mind. There was the tree. It was at the centre of the stage, just as it would have been – of course – in the original manger. Everyone gathered around it. No-one could miss it. And, if harnessed to the top of the tree and smothered in a sufficiently constricting costume which prevented him from speaking or moving – perhaps, just perhaps, Braydon could be contained.
“Honey,” said Craig, “have you thought of making him the star?”
Kim stared at him. “I don’t get you,” she said. “First you tell me to take him out of the play altogether, now you’re saying to make him…what…Jesus?”
“No,” said Craig. “Not the star of the show. I mean on the tree. The star on the Christmas tree.”
Kim stopped. That certainly was an idea.
*
“He has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” Kassie recited. “Sugar’s bad for him.”
“It’s a special occasion, Kass,” said Sue, before the debate could continue. “Just one,” she added to Braydon.
Grant returned from the kitchen with two cans. “Want one, Kass?” he asked. Kassie reached out and took the can without saying anything, glaring at Braydon as she did so.
“They’ve got practice tonight for the pageant,” said Sue. “Want to take them?”
“I’m the angel,” said Kassie.
“Which one?” asked Grant.
“Gabriel.”
“I thought Gabriel was a boy angel.”
“That’s what I said,” Braydon shouted. “But Miss Swan said that angels are…andro….andro…something.”
“Androgynous?” suggested Grant.
“That’s it.”
“I don’t know what that means,” said Kassie.
“It means you could be a boy or a girl.”
Kassie frowned. “But I am a girl.”
“You’re a sook,” said Braydon.
“Well I’m not the one that was crying before.”
A pillow flew at Kassie’s head.
It was some minutes before the fight was more or less settled, Kassie in her room crying into the pillow that Braydon had thrown but no longer screaming, and Braydon out in the back garden kicking rocks against the fence.
“Well handled,” said Sue.
“What?” said Grant. “That was hardly my fault.”
“You had to go and explain androgynous to them.”
“Well, it was the teacher’s fault for telling them the word then not explaining it.”
“Of course. Blame the teacher. Just like you did all through school.”
Grant stood up.
“I can’t do this, Sue,” he said. “Not after I’ve just been here five minutes.”
Sue was moments from saying, Then leave. You’ve done it before. Only the look on Grant’s face told her not to. His eyes were glistening. They never used to glisten like that.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
His lips frowned. “No,” he said. “I’m sorry. I just…you need to know that I’ll stuff it up sometimes.”
Sue said nothing. Her eyes were on him.
“Give me some space to stuff it up.”
“Okay,” she said.
He grabbed her hand briefly. “I’ll go get Braydon.”
“Okay,” she repeated.
Grant opened the sliding door and walked outside. In a moment Sue looked over and saw him kicking rocks beside their son.
 
Go to Part 6

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