From About a Boy, chapter 22
Will had been trying not to think about Christmas, but as it got nearer he was beginning to go off the idea of watching a few hundred videos and smoking a few thousand joints. It didn’t seem very festive, somehow, and even though festivities invariably entailed The Song somewhere along the line, he didn’t want to ignore them completely. It struck him that how you spent Christmas was a message to the world about where you were in life, some indication of how deep a hole you had managed to burrow for yourself, and therefore spending three days bombed out of your head on your own said things about you that you might not want saying.
So he would spend Christmas in the bosom of a family — not his family, because he didn’t have one, but a family. There was one family he wanted to avoid at all costs: no way did he want to spend Christmas eating nut fucking roast, not watching TV, and singing carols with his eyes closed. He had to be careful, though, because if he just let himself drift along he’d be carried right over the weir; he had to start swimming in the opposite direction fast.
Having decided with such unshakable firmness that he would absolutely definitely not be celebrating the 25th of December with Fiona and Marcus, it came as something of a surprise to him to find himself accepting an invitation from Marcus the following afternoon to do exactly that.
“Do you want to spend Christmas round ours?” Marcus asked, even before he had stepped into the flat.
“Ummm,” said Will. “That’s, ah, very kind of you.”
“Good,” said Marcus.
“I only said that’s very kind of you,” said Will.
“But you’re coming.”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t you want to come?”
“Yes, of course I do, but — what about your mum?”
“She’ll be there too.”
“Yes, I’d sort of presumed that. But she wouldn’t want me there.”
“I’ve already spoken to her about it. I said I wanted to invite a friend, and she said OK.”
“So you didn’t tell her it was me.”
“No, but I think she guessed.”
“I haven’t got any other friends, have I?”
“Does she know you still come round here?”
“Sort of. She’s stopped asking me, so I think she’s given up worrying about it.”
“And there really isn’t anyone else you’d rather ask?”
“No, of course not. And if there was, they wouldn’t be allowed to come to my house for Christmas lunch. They’d be going to their own houses. Except they live in their own houses, so they wouldn’t be going anywhere, would they?”
Will was finding the conversation depressing. What Marcus was saying, in his artful, skewed way, was that he didn’t want Will to be alone on Christmas day.
“I’m not sure what I’m doing yet.”
“Where might you be going instead?”
“Nowhere, but …”
Any conversational holes that needed filling were usually filled by Marcus. His concentration was such that any ums and ers and buts he looked on as cues to change the subject entirely. For some reason, though, he suddenly abandoned his usual technique and stared at Will intently.
“What are you staring at?” Will said eventually.
“I wasn’t staring. I was waiting for you to answer the question.”
“I answered it. ‘Nowhere,’ I said.”
“You said ‘Nowhere, but …’ I was waiting for what came after the ‘but.’”
“Well, nothing. I’m not going anywhere for Christmas.”
“So you can come to us.”
“Yes, but —”
“Stop asking me ‘But what?’ all the time.”
“Because — it’s not polite.”
“Because — I clearly have reservations, Marcus. That’s why I keep saying ‘but.’ I’m obviously not one hundred percent convinced I want to come to your house for Christmas.”
“Are you being funny?”
It was true, of course: Marcus was never deliberately funny. One look at Marcus’s face was enough to convince Will that the boy was merely curious, and that his curiosity showed no signs of abating. The conversation had already been extended beyond Will’s comfort point, and now he was beginning to worry that he would eventually be forced to articulate the cruellest of truths: that Marcus’s mother was, like her son, a lunatic, that even disregarding the sanity aspect of things they were both a pair of losers anyway, that he couldn’t imagine a gloomier Christmas, that he would much, much rather revert to his original plan for oblivion and the entire output of the Marx Brothers than pull wishbones with either of them, that any sane person would feel the same way. If the kid couldn’t take a hint, what option did he have? Unless …
“I’m sorry, Marcus, I was being rude. I’d love to spend Christmas with you.”
That was the other option. It wasn’t his chosen option, but it was the other option.
Nick Hornby (b. 1957)
My first thought was to use not this passage from About a Boy, but rather to use the lyrics to what is referred to above as "The Song," i.e. "Santa's Super Sleigh." But then I read the lyrics to said song and didn't like them, so I used this passage instead. It's actually a rather important passage; I think it marks the point where Will realizes that Marcus actually cares for him, and (subconciously, perhaps) decides that he can't bring himself to be as cruel to Marcus as would be necessary to get rid of him, which paves the way for the quasi-familial role Will has assumed toward Marcus by the end of the book.
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