THE WILD SIDE"We do Christmas a bit different out here in the mountains." Ruth spoke softly as she led this year's new boyfriend beside the hound on the chain and up the dark, overgrown path to her Gran's house.Light streamed towards them as the front door squeaked open to show little-old-Gran standing silhouetted in welcome. Behind her they could see glimpses of a party that was already in full swing but which seemed strangely quiet in the cramped space of the old cabin."Hello Gran, this is Chase," said Ruth."Chase is it?" said Gran. "Looks more like you've caught him already. Oh, do bring him into the light where I can get a good look at him."Gran looked the young city lad up and down rather more carefully than he thought was normal for an older lady. Picking up on his reaction, she smiled and held out her hand. "Very pleased to meet you Chase. I've heard so much about you. Now, I've finally got to meet you and check you out. It looks like you've got good taste written all over you. A suit like that doesn't come cheap but it's how you wear it that really counts. And oh my goodness, you are the tasty one, looks like you've been working out."Then came a round of hearty Christmas' greetings and hugs for Ruth coupled with introduction after introduction for Chase. Soon he had given up any hope of remembering who was who in the extended family.When at last they had a few quiet moments to themselves he whispered, "So many relations and they all look like you.""Don't you dare say a word about in-breeding up here in the mountains," grinned Ruth. "And you haven't even met my aunties yet. Let's go through to the kitchen. They always get together in the kitchen.""This is my favourite side of the family. The wild side. They like the old ways," said Ruth as she went round the kitchen table hugging each of her aunties in turn."Doesn't he just look good enough to eat," giggled one auntie."So, you're Chase. I hear you're in computers. Oh, I do wish I could have your brains," said another."No, I want his brains," giggled another."Old ways?" said Chase."Oh yes, they still make their very own moonshine whiskey," said Ruth. She pointed to a generous collection of bottles with neat home-made labels set out on the table. "Be careful my aunties don't fry your brains with the spirits.""Mine's the very best," said one as she poured Chase a full glass."Just wait until you try mine," said another."I think I'm going to enjoy this Christmas party," said Chase as he settled down with the aunties. Their stories of the old days in the mountains just got better and better with each and every sip of moonshine. After a good while, Chase had to hold tight to the edge of the table for his world was spinning round and round and everything he could hear was drifting farther and farther away.* * *"Sooo-ee, sooo-ee," the calls woke Chase with a start. All around him, the men of the family were calling out together. Christmas party hats were gone. Now they all looked strangely sinister in identical tall white chef hats but even worse was the rasping symphony of steel on steel as each sharpened a long carving knife."Sooo-ee, sooo-ee," the calls grew louder and louder. In a cold moment of realization Chase remembered this was how they called the hogs. And now they were all around him and staring coldly down at him and sharpening these long knives. Out of control, his mind raced to flash back in an instant to some of what had been said earlier, "We do Christmas a bit different here, the tasty one, good enough to eat," and then there was all that stuff about brains. Now it all made sense, now he understood and now it was all too late.Chase struggled to get to his feet but the moonshine whiskey held him tight in its grip and he barely moved. As if in some dreadful dream, he felt himself try to call out through the fuzzy haze of the alcohol but he had little control over his thickened tongue. The effort was altogether too much and he felt himself slipping down into darkness.* * *It hurt more than anything had ever hurt before."What happened?" said Chase holding his head where it hurt and seeing it was morning and that he was still at the kitchen table."Moonshine whiskey happened," said Ruth. "You passed out before they did the thing with the hog. It's an old family tradition. You were supposed to put on your chef's hat and help them carve it not start mumbling something about us not making a pig out of you. Looks more like you made a pig out of yourself but we can always blame my aunties for giving you way too much whiskey and you not being used to it the way they are. Oh, and by the way, they said they like you."endThe Wild Side was accepted publication in Golden Visions Magazine, Spring 2012 Issue. ISSN No. 1942-4450.First appeared as the Winning Entry in Adult Creative Writing Club CompetitionNo. 114, Feb 2011.