The Elephant in the Stable

Rubí donkey writes a seasonal blogue post about celebrating the traditional Boxing Day with a family argument

“What are the derangements for Boxing Day?” I asked.

Morris was just emerging up the slope from Level 2 after checking that there was no food left over from Christmas Day. We were waiting for the Peasant to arrive with our breakfast.

“Only the Peasant calls it ‘Boxing Day’,” Morris replied. “We don’t have ‘Boxing Day’ in Spain. Why do you have to use the English Christmas calendar, mother? Anyway, I think you meant to say ‘arrangements’.”

“Arrangements, derangements… it’s all the same to me,” I replied. “I’m writing my blogue, so I just wondered, so I could write about the derangements in my Boxing Day blogue.”

“It’s not Tuesday,” said Matilde. “You write your blogue on Tuesdays but this is Monday. And it’s the Fiesta de San Esteban, the first Christian martyr – not ‘Boxing Day’ which is simply a weird English Peasant thing.”

“If I want to write a Boxing Day blogue, about Boxing Day derangements, then I can’t wait till Tuesday or it will be too late!”

“Why does the Peasant call it ‘Boxing Day’?” asked Aitana, coming up the slope from Level 2, where she had followed Morris to see if there was any food left over from Christmas Day.

“Because it’s a horse racing day and they put the horses in boxes to take them to the races,” I said. “Obviously!”

“Boxes on wheels,” Matilde added, noticing Aitana’s confusion at this explanation. “They transport them to the races in horse boxes.”

“Rubbish!” Morris interjected. “I Googled ‘Boxing Day’ last year when the Peasant mentioned it, and it is the day when the servants get their presents – after they have finished serving their masters during the Christmas feasting. The servants get money and gifts in boxes with their names on, so they started calling it ‘Boxing Day’.”

“Oh no…” I replied. “We didn’t get a present for the Peasant!”

“A present for the Peasant?” repeated Morris. “What is this, some kind of script for a Danny Kaye Christmas movie?”

The reference was lost on everyone, since Morris is the only donkey who does reading, so only he knows about these things. The discussion continued about Boxing Day for a while, but by the time the Peasant arrived we didn’t much care whether it was called ‘Boxing Day’ or the fiesta of San Esteban, as long as we got our heads quickly buried in the food. As a special treat the Peasant gave us some more olive branch prunings. Some branches still contained a few olives that had been missed during the harvest.

There was also a rumour of more Christmas oranges to come. Did the Peasant actually say he’d bring oranges or was that a rumour started by Matilde? Morris kept looking around, as if expecting the oranges now, and he was getting increasingly irritable.

After breakfast Morris seemed to have got himself into a very bad mood, which often happens after he’s been eating olive branches. They have the opposite effect on him to the traditional peaceful offering of olive branches. Maybe it’s something to do with all the jostling to get the best bits? Anyway, Morris was looking cross.

“It’s time we talked about the elephant in the stable!” he announced.

“What elephant in the stable?” we all asked, looking at each other in surprise.

“The great big, huge, enormous elephant – right there in the middle of the stable – that nobody wants to talk about!” shouted Morris, stamping his hooves snappily on the hard winter ground.

“I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about, Morris,” said Matilde, looking at the remaining bunch of chewed twigs with no remaining olive leaves on them. She ground her teeth on some of the wood, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. “I haven’t seen any elephants in the stable. Are these hallucinatory olive branches? I don’t think so…”

“I haven’t seen any hefalumps either,” I agreed.

“You’re both in denial!” Morris shouted. “And using childish language like ‘hefalumps’ won’t make it any easier facing up to the reality of the situation! We just need to talk about it!”

Aitana trotted away quietly and slowly approached the stable doorway to peek nervously inside, looking for the elephant. When she returned, she said, “There isn’t one.”

Morris kicked her.

“Don’t you kick me when there’s no elephant in the stable,” Aitana said. “You big liar!”

“Don’t be a silly horse,” I said. “Morris means it’s a figurative elephant.”

“Well if it’s a figurative one, it should be on a mantelpiece and not in the stable!” shouted Matilde. “I’m fed up with the whole subject! Why don’t you all shut up?”

“There you are!” announced Morris, triumphantly. “You can’t talk about the elephant in the stable because you simply cannot face up to dealing with reality! We need to have a proper discussion about it instead of just pretending we’re having a happy Christmas!”

But I am having a happy Christmas,” I said. “Or at least I was having a happy Christmas until you ruined it with your elephants!”

Aitana looked around and spotted the Peasant arriving with a tray of Christmas oranges. He tied Aitana’s lead rope to the fence. Lately, she has turned her nose up at any treats – whether they are oranges, apples or even sometimes carrots as well – so the Peasant has to feed them to her in small pieces. She goes through the motions of pretending not to know what they are and testing them before eating them. It’s completely psychological and she needs to just get a grip. But as a life coach, I can’t say that: I have to put it more professionally: I have advised her to spend a little time reflecting and considering the central place of food in the wider mental health lifestyle economy.

Aitana sniffed and eventually accepted a slice of orange from the Peasant. Meanwhile, the rest of us greedily tucked into our Boxing Day oranges with great relief and juicy whiskers. Thank goodness we’ve got the traditional Christmas family argument out of the way.

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