About Mark A. Rayner

Human-shaped, simian-obsessed, robot-fighting, pirate-hearted, massively-bestselling wannabe, Mark A. Rayner is an award-winning writer of satirical and speculative fiction.

A Traditional ‘Christmas’ at the Tundra Household

Roast turkey with skull & crossbonesDr. Maximilian Tundra was heading home again for the holidays, dread clutching his heart like an iron fist. He’d managed to avoid Thanksgiving, but there was no escape from The Feast.

The Feast, as it was known amongst Clan Tundra, was a toxic stew of carbs, fats, and pharmaceuticals that had a tendency to drive the family bonkers.

Not that they weren’t certifiable to begin with.

Dr. Tundra’s sister, Eugenie, was a brilliant “installation” artist, who was nevertheless, seriously bi-polar. His younger twin brothers, Xavier and Xenophon, had never really recovered from their childhood “incident” — as the family called it — following a plane crash in the Andes. His Da, Dr. Halvard Hemming Tundra, seemed perfectly normal; of course, the Great Danger of attending the Feast was that Dr. H. H. Tundra didn’t attend, and that he sent his doppelganger, Mr. Angry McBucktooth in his stead. His Mum, Beatrice Pelagia Tundra (nee Sweeney) was in denial, but otherwise safe to be around.

And that was just the nuclear family. Getting the extended clan together required a number of court orders, insurance waivers and to be on the safe side, Da usually hired off-duty members of the SWAT to patrol the grounds.

Perhaps it was for that reason, or perhaps it was the family’s iconoclastic nature, but The Feast was never celebrated on Christmas. It always happened on the Solstice.

The darkest day of the year. Of course, it also marked the start of days getting brighter and brighter. The rebirth of the sun, his Da called it. But when it came to the holiday, his family and The Feast, Dr. Tundra was definitely a glass-is-half-empty kind of guy.

The policeman checked his ID, and waved him past the checkpoint, a set of gates loomed ahead, which would let him into the Tundra compound. A high fence, razor wire atop, surrounded the area. Guards and German shepherds patrolled the grounds, checking the fenceline for weak points.

It would do no good. It never did.

He parked, put on his flak jacket and entered the Tundra mansion. The smell of roasting turkey and peyote stuffing filled the house, and Dr. Tundra shuddered.

An outside observer would wonder if that was a shudder of anticipation, excitement, or perhaps the thrill of visceral familiarity that we get when we return to our childhood places.

But no, it was dread.

Alltop freebases its turkey. The reasons why festive feasting can cause family fracases.. Thanks to ckirkman for the turkey pic. Originally published December 2005.

Pozo and Mr. Savage

Pozo and Mr. Savage, waiting for a train with Ivanka

They lived on the margins of society as a travelling entertainment act. A classic clown-and-baboon show, in the old Czech style.

They had terrorized a generation of Eastern European children.

Pozo the Clown (once known to his family and a series of bemused teachers, as Jirka Zdenec) found his lifelong companion and colleague at the German customs house, in Dresden. (Some years before it was firebombed.) It turned out that the young baboon, of the Red-Assed Dorling family, had been abandoned by a teenage Canadian singing sensation just weeks before. Pozo fell in love with the manic little primate immediately, and agreed to adopt him, and to pay for all the medical bills of the customs agents who had been caring for him.

Their career became the stuff of legend. Their stock-in-trade was children’s parties, but they’d also perform at conventions, trade shows, and if they were unable to book a gig when they rolled into town, they’d do a little bit of busking too. Mr. Savage was an accomplished pick-pocket, so when they ran into hard times – as they often did – they could still pay for Pozo’s heroin habit and Mr. Savage’s expensive tastes in raw flesh. (He preferred macaque heart whenever he could get it.)

Most days, they were just one step ahead of the law.

Today was no different, though they found themselves at a train station, practically deserted between the morning rush hours and the 13:04 express from Praha to Brno.

The train that Ivanka had fallen asleep waiting for – a nap that one day, she would tell her therapist, changed her life.

The End

The FridgularityEnjoy this? Now check out some of my longer fiction. Available in all formats in all the usual places online :

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Alltop doesn’t have coulrophobia, but monkeys do freak it out a bit. Amazing photo Daughter of the Circus by Michael Garlington. Get his book here.

The Tyranny and Creativity of a Word Count

idea too long for social  media cartoon

On the other hand, a really specific (short) word limit can force one to be more creative and improve the text. I love the Blaise Pascal quote: “This letter is very long because I did not have time to make it short.”

In other words, brevity is not only the soul of wit, it takes more time to achieve, sometimes, than much longer pieces of writing.

This post notwithstanding.

Alltop is long on funny. Cartoon by Noise to Signal