THE HARD WAY
They were about to start Christmas lunch. The family were all sitting expectantly round the table: Dad, Mum, Ron and Jennie — and Jan.
Everybody was talking at once. Dad was waiting, a bit impatiently, to say what he said every year as he cut the first slice of turkey.
Jan didn't feel like talking. She was thinking of Davey, and didn't really pay any attention to the other people at the table.
When she saw the table — the huge brown turkey in front of her father, the dishes of potatoes and vegetables — she thought of Davey's words the night before. "We're killing ourselves with too much food and three quarters of the world are starving to death..."
"A bit of turkey, Jan?"
Jan hesitated, then took a deep breath and said, "No turkey for me, thank you."
Silence. The other members of the family stared at her.
"It's horrible," said Jan, trembling a little." — We're eating like pigs and they're starving —"
"Who's starving?" Dad asked, looking puzzled.
"Oh, everybody — the rest of the world —you know, you see enough of it on TV!"
Mr Morris stood still in front of the turkey. He was trying to keep control of himself. "So you think we're all a lot of pigs, do you? And where did you get that idea from?"
"Davey said —"
"Oh, Davey said, did he? That longhaired layabout? Well, shall I tell you what you can do?"
"Jim!" Jan's mother put her hand on his arm, but he shook her off. He was in a terrible rage.
"Shall I tell you what you can do?" he went on.
"You can get out of here and spend the rest of your Christmas with your Davey."
Jan knew her father didn't like Davey, but she hadn't expected this rage.
"You're wrong, Dad," she said. "Davey doesn't deserve that sort of criticism."
The rest of the family didn't say a word as Jan left the room, crying.
There was nobody else around in the streets at three o'clock that after noon. It was Christmas Day, after all. Most people were inside watching TV, or eating.
She was walking towards Davey's house. Her father had told her to go and spend the rest of Christmas with him, and that was what she was going to do.
She was lucky: Davey was in.
"Hi, Jan! Fancy seeing you here! I thought you were spending Christmas in the heart of the family, eating Christmas pudding and all that stuff."
"Well, I was, but ... can I come in, Davey?"
There was a slight pause before he said. "Sure. I've got a few people here, but one more won't make any difference."
It was pretty dark in the room. There was one candle, burning in a saucer on a shelf in one corner of the room. Jan couldn't see how many people there were, but she guessed about seven or eight; they were all sitting, or lying on the floor. Indian music was coming from somewhere.
There was a smell, too: of damp, and old cooking, and something Jan didn't recognize — incense perhaps?
Jan sat down. She was feeling tired and, she had to admit, hungry. She wondered if Davey had, after all, any food.
Nobody was talking. The music droned on. The air got thicker and thicker, and the strange smell got stronger and stronger.
"Want one, Jan?"
Davey was standing over her. The candle had got so low she could hardly see what he was offering her.
"What is it?"
It was like a long cigarette. Everybody else seemed to be holding one.
"What is it?"
"Come on, Jan, you know."
Yes, she knew. So that was the smell: pot. She felt sick. The room spun in front of her eyes. She felt herself sweating.
The candle seemed to grow six feet tall. She struggled to her feet.
"Hey, kid. What's up?"
Davey grabbed her arm, and looked accusingly at her.
"Where are you going?"
Jan pulled her arm away from him. "I don't know — I — I need some air, that's all. Let me go, Davey."
He was smiling but it was a hard smile. "OK," he said. "Suit yourself. You must be nuts, or something. We were just about to have some food, too."
But Jan didn't hear him. She was already at the door, leaving a Christmas gathering for the second time that day.
(After M. Rodgers)
1 to starve to death умирать от голода
2 layabout [leiabaut] бездельник
3 incense ['inserts] ладан, фимиам
4 pot [pot] разг. марихуана
5 nuts [nAts] слэнг псих, чокнутый