June Tale

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June Tale by Neil Gaiman
From A Calendar of Tales



My parents disagree. It’s what they do.

They do more than disagree. They argue. About everything. I’m still not sure that I understand how they ever stopped arguing about things long enough to get married, let alone to have me and my sister.

My mum believes in the redistribution of wealth, and thinks that the big problem with Communism is it doesn’t go far enough. My dad has a framed photograph of the Queen on his side of the bed, and he votes as Conservative as he can. My mum wanted to name me Susan. My dad wanted to name me Henrietta, after his Aunt. Neither of them would budge an inch. I am the only Susietta in my school or, probably, anywhere. My sister’s name is Alismima, for similar reasons.

There is nothing that they agree on, not even the temperature. My dad is always too hot, my mum always too cold. They turn the radiators on and off, open and close windows, whenever the other one goes out of the room. My sister and I get colds all year, and we think that’s probably why.

They couldn’t even agree on what month we’d go on holiday. Dad said definitely August, Mum said unquestionably July. Which meant we wound up having to take our summer holiday in June, inconveniencing everybody.

Then they couldn’t decide where to go. Dad was set on Pony Trekking in Iceland, while Mum was only willing to compromise as far as a camel-back caravan across the Sahara, and both of them simply looked at us as if we were being a bit silly when we suggested that we’d quite like to sit on a beach in the South of France or somewhere. They stopped arguing long enough to tell us that that wasn’t going to happen, and neither was a trip to Disneyland, and then they went back to disagreeing with each other.

They finished the Where Are We Going For Our Holidays In June Disagreement by slamming a lot of doors and shouting a lot of things like “Right then!” at each other through them.

When the inconvenient holiday rolled around, my sister and I were only certain of one thing: we weren’t going anywhere. We took a huge pile of books out of the library, as many as we could between us, and prepared to listen to lots of arguing for the next ten days.

Then the men came in vans and brought things into the house and started to install them. Mum had them put a Sauna in the cellar. They poured masses of sand onto the floor. They hung a sunlamp from the ceiling. She put a towel on the sand beneath the sunlamp, and she’d lie down on it. She had pictures of sand dunes and camels taped to the cellar walls until they peeled off in the extreme heat.

Dad had the men put the fridge – the biggest fridge he could find, so big you could walk into it – in the garage. It filled the garage so completely that he had to start parking the car in the driveway. He’d get up in the morning, dress warmly in a thick Icelandic wool sweater, he’d get a book and thermos-flask filled with hot cocoa, and some Marmite and cucumber sandwiches, and he’d head in there in the morning with a huge smile on his face, and not come out until dinner.

I wonder if anybody else has a family as weird as mine. My parents never agree on anything at all.

“Did you know mum’s been putting her coat on and sneaking into the garage in the afternoons?” said my sister suddenly, while we were sitting in the garden, reading our library books.

I didn’t, but I’d seen dad wearing just his bathing trunks and dressing gown heading down into the cellar that morning to be with mum, with a big, goofy smile on his face.

I don’t understand parents. Honestly, I don’t think anybody ever does.

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