Another rainy night in New York. Another TAKE FIVE meeting in Budapest. As the cigarette smoke cleared I knew it would be our Christmasest evening yet. I was a hot detective working a cold case, but the weather was mild and I knew I had long passed my best shape. Still, it was a holiday club meeting and someone had to do the speaking. And if that someone is going to be someone, then that someone is going to be me. With heart full of determination and Era by my side I knew I might just get it done. Or at least give it my damnedest.
The evening began. At first there weren’t many of them there, but I knew better. I knew that this was always the way, and I wasn’t taken in quite so easily. Oh no, not anymore. Not after my heart was broken in Cairo, when I was still young and I thought I could handle an English Club without any bells. Well, not this time. I came prepared. As I rose from my seat they might have expected me to clear my throat, or to even use the regular bell. They had no clue what the night had in store for them. I wasn’t going to beat around the bush anymore; I took out my phone and rang the special Christmas bell application I downloaded earlier. The effect was exactly as I expected – mild amusement with hearty smiles all around. I knew instantly that this would be a good night to be a Take Fiver.
I felt like having a double whisky and a sad tune on the piano, but I got a pot of tea instead. The bell was a nice touch, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let it go into my head. The night was still early and I needed my English at its best. While we waited for the others I thought of playing word chain with a Christmas and winter theme, and I wasn’t wrong. We didn’t always keep to the theme, but hell, who does. People kept arriving, and we were shaping up to be quite a group. It was time for the introductory question and I thought to myself what the hell, I’ll ask them. And they can tell us whatever they want to. So I looked right at them, and with a smile twitching at the edge of my mouth I posed the question straight off: ’So, what do you want for Christmas?’
I could see I hit the spot; they laughed a bit and I could see them trying to come up with a witty answer. I gave them a few minutes and then told them to get to it: tell us their name and gift idea. We all spoke and had a few laughs. Some of the ideas weren’t all that bad, and in the dimmed lights you could see that they were enjoying this make-believe Take Five Santa. All those Take Fivers, eager to get on with it. What a bunch. I knew I couldn’t make them wait any longer. It was topics or nothing, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let them down. Not after they came all the way down here. And not at the last meeting of the season. I was the last to answer, and after that I let Zsombor do his thing. He’s got a way with the envelopes, you see, and he is pretty good with the crowd, too. He seemed to be in his element – he even read out the topic.
The first one was a real doozy: Grammar Nazis. It was a club member topic and a fine one at that. But it seems that fate had all the cards and there was no pass at the checker’s table. As we drew another topic, it started to get suspicious. It was also Noémi’s. That’s TAKE FIVE for you. The discussion went fine, and the speakers really gave it their best. The second topic, that Global Citizenship thing, even sparked a bit of debate, but nothing serious. It seemed everyone had something to say about it, which is nice – we are a conversation club, after all. It was time for the break and I went to the bar to get a beer. It was a long day and a cold one was in order.
It took two seconds for the break to be over, or at least it felt that way. I could hardly get a head start on my beer and already I was faced with a crowd ready to play some of our trademark games. Well, Era, Zsombor, and I came prepared, so we didn’t worry. We had something really special up our sleeves. God, we felt invincible. Even if you’ve been around language clubs as long as we have, it still gets in your head. Like a goddamn rookie after their first introductory speech.
Zsombor had an idea for the first game. As if the night wasn’t thrilling enough, he decided to add another mystery to the table, and had the members solve the story of the sock in the metro. Few people know this, but this used to be an actual case of Zsombor’s. The man’s got an obsession, but who am I to judge him. There are worst things to get riled up about, I guess. The group had no idea about all this and they went merrily about coming up with a story. That’s what being a private eye is, that’s what it comes down to. Telling stories. Hoping they are true. Sometimes desperately needing them not to be.
The groups managed to get us smiling with their crazy ideas. And there was still plenty of crazy to go around. The second round saw to that – we asked them to come up with goofy ways of giving gifts. I knew this woman once. Her idea of a gift was knife in your back, a broken heart to go with it. But these Take Fivers deserve better, and again, they made us laugh. God, you’ve gotta like these people. But the main event was yet to come. Taboo has always been a well-known TAKE FIVE game, but this time regular Taboo wouldn’t do. We knew that, we weren’t born yesterday. That’s why we said to hell with it, we’ll make our own Christmas Taboo. And damn, did we do it.
Not all of us could play, but I didn’t mind. When you’ve played as much Taboo as I have, you can’t look at the world in the same way. Some say it’s a gift, but I don’t know about that. We had just enough cards for Era to join. Zsombor measured the time and I was to investigate. Pretty ironic. Me, a private eye spending day after day looking into people’s dirt, just idly walking up and down seeing if anyone uses the forbidden words on the cards. Kind of fitting I guess. At least this time no-one would get hurt if I find something. The game was a rousing success, and we had shared winners: Regina and Noémi. It was nice to see someone win for a change. In my line of work people usually lose and they usually lose big.
We wished everyone a Merry Christmas and with that the last TAKE FIVE of 2015 was over. I knew we would see each other again in February, but I felt depressed all the same. So I did what I do best: I finished my beer, turned my collar up, and wandered out into the night.