The Host | Vannessa Ho

With mother ill, it falls to the rest of the clan to weave some Christmas magic.


The Host

By Vannessa Ho

Hairpin Tarpaulin Award


‘We’ll take care of everything, dear.’ With that single sentence, Dad sealed our fate and I found myself the host of our Christmas party.

Mum usually organised everything but she had come down with bronchitis. With her talents as a witch she was famous for creating an extraordinarily wonderful party every year. Dad and I couldn’t disappoint her.

***

‘Welcome! For our lunch show I will be using my specialty, summoning magic!’ exclaimed Dad. Sweat was beading on the side of his face and I knew it was from nerves more than the 30°C heat. Our whole family sat before him, my Grandmother, aunts and uncles, my three little cousins and my mother, looking pale and sickly from her illness.

We had our plates piled with food. As I ate the ham I heard Grandmother say to my cousin Amy, ‘I wouldn’t eat that dear, it doesn’t look very nice or healthy. Stick with the lasagna I made.’

‘But I like the potato salad Aunt Mary makes,’ complained Amy. Grandmother’s smile went rigid with jealousy.

I smirked, that potato salad was Mum’s specialty dish.

‘And now, feast your eyes on the wonderful, ethereal unicorn!’ said Dad, dissolving the tension that had sprung up.

‘Oooooo,’ said my three cousins in unison.

For once, the little terrors were enraptured. But so were the adults, preventing Grandmother from being critical and Uncle Bill from starting fights with Aunt Sophie’s uptight boyfriend. So far, my plan for Dad to distract everyone was working. As long as Dad could keep it together, nothing would go wrong.

I had planned this party out so that every little detail would be perfect. I had even enlisted my Familiar to calculate the placement of the lights and decorations to have the optimal aesthetic impact.

Dad dramatically lifted his arms and starting weaving the summoning spell in the air with his fingers. The air shimmered with magical symbols. As they expanded, the magical being was summoned.

Everyone shrieked, chairs were knocked over, food went everywhere and they ran to the back of the room as the creature shrieked.

I was the only one still in my seat. I sighed. Instead of summoning a unicorn, of course Dad had to go ahead and get a Bunyip.

The Bunyip screeched and its sharp teeth gleamed with saliva. Dad was frozen, petrified. The creature pulled its scaly, seal-like body forward with its flippers, looking to attack.

I stood up and placed my food on my chair. Then I gestured, using a neutralising spell. Just as the Bunyip leaped for my Grandmother, the creature disappeared in a shower of sparks.

The adults gave a sigh a relief while Aunt Julie comforted her crying kids.

‘Wooooow,’ said my cousin Tommy. ‘Do it again!’

From the corner of the room, my mother’s eyes were narrowed and her lips turned downwards. After a moment she nodded, laughed and clapped her hands.