Christmas in Cannes with Cunts

Short story by Michael Botur



  1. Chateau de Cunt


The landscape is caramel-yellow, scorched unseasonably dry for December, way beyond sunny Mediterranean charm, so for my rockstar sister to be operating sprinklers on her whale-sized hedges and endless vineyards when it’s daytime is just criminal.

It’s like, Bitch, honestly: It’ll RAIN during the night. We’re talking Europe here. I know playing bass in an Grammy-nominated band makes you important, but give the fucking grape growers some water already. 

Hard to blame her for cutting loose in the most debauched place on earth, though. Laura doesn’t view southern France – or any part of the world –  from an environment-first perspective. When the rest of us were lumbering through basic geography at school, she was in the toilets smoking cigarettes, trying to shove a vodka tampon up her pussy with her punk wannabe rockstar friends who knew, like, one chord.

Anyway, here’s Laura coming out of her mansion to greet us on the lawn with her arms out wide, her sleeves brown leather, presumably fake leather, considering the vegan thing. Thick sunglasses like vinyl blacking her eyes, cause that’s what rockstars do, right? Rockstars let everyone know their needs must be considered.

Pfft. Pretentious terra cotta tiles on the roof; clichéd fountains with cherubs pissing in a pond in the garden. Little Miss Rockstar’s place screams Unoriginal. Great material for a story, granted. I’ve always founded it easier to tear down pretentious people through prose rather than face-to-face convo. 

As I get out of the overpriced taxi with my embarrassing family and groan my way to the castle doors, I decide Laura’s climate-punishing sprinklercide is not the most offensive in the, like, Everest of offensive things my womb-mate is responsible for. Just making the family fly halfway round the world to pay tribute to her in Cannes for Christmas is offensive. We all have to live in shitty ole Erewhon while she gets to live on endless red carpets, and the one Christmas she actually decides to grace her blood relatives with her presence, it’s US who have to come to HER?!

There is ZERO reason Laura can’t pull her ass out of the Whiskey-a-Go Go and come to Ashburton like a normal person – except, try telling that to my family, fawning and fainting as they emerge from the luxury cab, my Mum and Dad and my money-mad big bro Baz, who WANT to have flown in a double decker Airbus A380 to Nice, who WANT to have driven in a fancy-ass Peugeot along Monte Carlo Drive from – urgh, those James Bond films – and a whole mile up a private column of trees to park under a fancy porte cochere and get over-hugged by a fake-ass daughter who’s totally overcompensating for being a bitch to us all while she was climbing the Rockstar ladder and–

‘Big siiiiissssssss, last but not least, Happy Holidayyyyy, 3D,’ Laura says, and wraps her arms halfway round my massive boobs.

‘We’re, like, Christian. Ostensibly, at least,’ I correct her. ‘You can say “Merry Christmas.” And I’m not your “big” sis. I’m three minutes younger than you.’

‘Big can mean a lot of things,’ she retorts. Ouch. First will come the jokes about how I’m a diabetic disabled dyke (3D, very clever), next there’ll be jokes about how I chose the most un-celebrity art form (creative writing) when I could’ve been an anorexic indie Pinterest pin-up holding a guitar I can barely play like Laura.

Thanks, God. You deal me the shit hand and I’m supposed to worship you at this time of year? Yeah, nah.

Laura seizes Mum’s hand and waltzes us all into her marble hallway, which looks like an art gallery. She’s basically pinned money to the walls and we’re all supposed to murmur admiration. She strokes the Gibson guitars, the Silver Scroll Award, the Planet Hollywood t-shirt with a Steve-O doodle on it. We’re all hypnotised by the framed photographs on the wall. No pics of her with me or Mum or Dad or Brother Baz, of course. Because she’s been a professional entertainer since Joel Fucking Little “discovered” her at age 17, she hasn’t been around us much. She’s freed up precisely zero time to go print photos at Harvey Norman like a normal person, so most of the photos are either of her or the egos leading her band, Jared and Jake McDowell. The Evil Twins.

‘…aaand that photo’s an Anton Corbijn,’ she says, ‘And Josh Kiszka took this one of me personally.’

We’re admiring a Polaroid any Downer could’ve snapped. Point and click. Outsider art, at best.

‘Nice,’ Baz goes, ‘Make sure it’s insured. It’s an asset. Bank on it.’

‘Josh Kiszka,’ I go. ‘As in THE Josh Kiszka. From Greta van Fleet.’

‘Oh, yah. We’re tight. I take it you’re not tight with him, or… ?’

‘They’re splendid, the piccies, all of them,’ Mum interrupts, prodding photos with a fake pink fingernail. Mum notices me glaring, folded arms. ‘You could be like this someday too, honey.’

‘Like this what? Like Laura? Like totally one-dimensional?’

‘Successful, I mean.’

‘It’s true,’ Baz chimes in. My giant brother is squinting down at me from a fat, pale face and an overchinned, balding head. ‘You gotta retrain. Look at skills that are in-demand, know what I’m sayin? Like engineering.’

‘I had a short story in The Paris Review last year, okay. THAT’S successful.’

Nobody gives a fuck, of course. I dump my bags in the hallway, the spines of my novels thunking on the tiles, embarrassing me for even entertaining the notion that people would ask if I’ve brought my literary art with me. Laura has pulled us through into the conservatory and Laura is loudly telling Baz about how strong the buds are on the organic spray-free weed she’s growing in out in the vineyard and Baz is nodding seriously and asking about the price per milligram of THC, because sales and profit are the only thing Baz the Businessman cares about. My parents don’t even flinch because they don’t want to risk my sister getting uppity and cutting off contact for a year. Next we’re shown the “carport” and Laura is stroking her fleet of ATV four wheelers and humblebragging about how she barely knows how to drive the ATVs and they were forty thousand bucks down the toilet, haw haw. Christ I hope she breaks her pelvis on one of these things and can’t perform on stage anymore…. I want my cunt sister to experience failure for once in her life. Disappointment. Like having a permanent limp because somebody squished her hipbone while in utero.

Before I can even utter a takedown we’re leaving the garage and strolling the strawberry patch, descending a football field of Bermuda grass then toeing the edge of the lake, watching koi nibble the surface. Then it’s back up the lawn – urgh, agony on my deskbound-thighs – and we’re opening an oak door in the library and descending dark stairs. I count the wine bottles in the basement. 33 in all, some impressive, sure, and one Burgundy gifted to her by Slash, okay, very impressive, Laura, but it’s not technically a wine cellar, as according to Michelin guidelines, a wine cellar is expected to host a minimum of 150 bottles.

It’s exhausting, letting my cunt sister know all her faux pas, honestly. But amazing material for my next novel.

‘Just so you know, Lores, wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants,’ I go.

‘Dire Straits, eh,’ Dad mumbles, shouldering past me to get closer to Rockstar Laura the Favourite Daughter and ask her about the foundations of the house.

‘Epictetus, actually,’ I call after him, lamely. Forget it, Dad. Forget Greek history. Forget the very foundations of Western civilisation.

They can’t hear me, my Clan of Cunts, because we’re going back up to the ground floor then ascending a carpeted staircase to Level 1, Laura leading, Mum trailing behind, blunting Dad’s enthusiasm, Baz stroking the walls, knocking the plasterboard, listening for structural integrity or whatever.

Laura spreads her arms to herald the guest bedrooms, huge and white. We listen to Dad’s fangirl shriek as he discovers the gift basket on his pillow. Dad is overcompensating for his depressed years, when he went into black moods and was unfaithful while bitter at the family.

Now, retired, he is catching up and totally overcompensating.

We climax in the kitchen and pour alcoholic depressant into five wine glasses to arrive, united, in a common low spot and forget how much better we could all be with some decent counselling.

After namedropping Glastonbury and Jay-Z, Laura begins opening kitchen drawers, muttering about finding the correct silver sword to chop the top off a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne. No order to her search, just hoping the universe will give her what she wants if she’s cunty enough about it.

‘Don’t you hate it when your house is so damn big you can’t find, like, actual silver?’

Dad trails behind her, closing each drawer and cabinet for his pwecious widdle baby girl. ‘God damn wine glasses were supposed to be on the rider… .’

I pull five empty Red Bull bottles from the kitchen sink.

‘These’ll do? Just rinse ‘em out.’

‘Ech. If you want to drink out of what’s literally garbage, fine.’

‘It’s recycling, though I take it you’re too busy trying to be the next Amy Winehouse to take the recycling out. Anyway: not garbage.’

‘YOU’RE garbage.’

‘GIRLS.’ Dad has clapped. We’re snorting like beasts when we turn and face him. ‘Champagne’s done. Moving on.’

Dad pours bubbles into bottles and says ‘Cheers!’

Laura politely tips hers down the sink.

‘I promised Karen O I’d do Dry December with her this month, but you guys go ahead,’ Laura says, aiming her nose at me like a gunbarrel. ‘Bae, you wanna write that down for your little novel?’ She fakes a cutesy smile. ‘You guys go ahead and indulge your weakness if you want.’

‘But that champagne’s mega-expensive!’ I screech. ‘This is, like, Marie Antoinette Let Them Eat Cake-type shit. Baz, get the u-pipe off so we can tip it back in the bottle.’

‘Turkey, girls,’ Mum says, wobbling into the middle of our argument in her high heels, struggling with some giant frozen sphere of meat she’s found in one of the four refrigerators. Mum will do anything for Laura. She feels guilty cause she pushed Laura too hard into modelling, acting and band camp at 15 and, surprise surprise, Laura became a bulimic druggie and it’s totally not Laura’s fault because The Chosen One is infallible.

Laura’s nose is scrunched. Her fangs are showing. She doesn’t know how to keep up with me in a fight without violence.

‘You don’t even know what a u-pipe is, do you Lore? Nawwww. Bless.’

Baz squeezes my bicep. ‘Easy, tiger. Girls don’t gotta know that.’

Baz doesn’t like people achieving too much. It threatens his success. He has over 20 franchises under him. Shareholders. Bigass overdraft. He bought his first franchise with a loan from dad at 19. Second franchise at 20. Baz respects people who make money.


‘Like, but I mean, you’re not the girliest girl around, know that I’m sayin, 3D?’

‘So because I’m a lesbian I’m not a girl? Did you literally just say that?’

‘Normal girls can, like, make the next generation of people,’ Laura interjects.


Mum balances her frozen bird on the lip of the oven. ‘Giiii-iiiirls, help me clear some space for the turkey, would you?’

‘Sissy,’ Laura goes, grinning so her fangs poke over her bottom lip, ‘If you’ve got your period, you’re welcome to have a lie down in the guest house beside the pool. Just don’t turn the water pink, know what I’m saying?’


Laura grabs the nearest weapon from the marble benchtop – a corkscrew – and strides towards me.

I grab a broom and prepare to fight


Fine. Change the subject. Agree to go on a scenic drive.

Ceasefire for mama.



  1. Cunts Cruise to Cannes for a Kai

We’re walking along the ocean through the shadows of palm trees on the polished cobblestones of the Boulevard de la Croisette, five abreast, hogging the footpath. Well, four abreast, what with my parents surrounding Laura, inhaling her supposed charisma. I’m hobbling behind, posting sarcastic tweets from my phone.

It’s hard to find shit to complain about. It’s barely even cold.

Cannes is a medieval walled city with blue tropical water lapping against it. Clifftop hotels hold up a shiny metal sky and the sun cooks our shoulders as it peers between the palms.

What am I even doing here? What do I want from the Mediterranean that I can’t find in Aro Valley? Fuck, god with a lower case g… I don’t deep-down respect any of these people. I thrive on them, I guess, and I don’t object to the champagne and Lexus and 1000 thread count sheets on my bed, the money’s comfortable, like soaking in a spa pool of artificial sweetener… Enough about me, anyway. I lock my phone and analyse Dad as he frolics with his daughter. Dad wants to make up for failing twenty years ago. That’s his rock to push uphill, okay, good luck, pops. Mum, she seems to want to live through Laura and make the most of them being lookalikes. Every second damn day on Facebook mum will post a photo of a bony-cheeked duckfaced 22 year old with a cryptic message, and all her cougar friends are obliged to guess if it’s mum in 1990 or Laura in 2020.


I decide to prick Laura with a barb to get some quotes out of her.

‘Say, Lores – we can’t even any Christmas snow. Ain’t very wintry here. I’m disappointed.’

‘Fuck off to the mountains if you don’t like it here. None of the restaurants up in the mountains have any Michelin stars though, girlfriend, hate to break it to you.’

Dad’s eyes bulge so wide I worry his head’s going to explode. ‘You’re – you’re – you’re not taking us to a Michelin-starred place are you? Talk about a treat!’

‘We could do La Palme d’Or, even though I’ve been there like a million times, it’s got wicked views along the Croisette. I think they named it after the movie award and shit. It’s only two Michelin stars though, Dad, is that cool or nah?’

Jesus Christ. @AnthonyBourdain probly killed self bc of my embarrassing family like gtfo my restaurant white trash, I tweet. @AugustenBurroughs Running With Scissors much?

My family are all falling about and swooning and not even progressing up the boulevard.

‘We should do the Christmas market. Look! Ice skating! Can we go there?’

Laura lights a cigarette, swigs from her bottle of Evian. ‘What time should I tell Rupert to get the turkey ready for? Five? What time is it now?’

‘What, you need someone else to read your fucking watch for you? It’s one-twenty-two.’

Laura’s eyelashes flutter fakely. ‘Thanks, 3D.’

She steers us into a market which blocks out the sky and makes my anxiety flare. My family explores wooden chalets selling hot gooey crepes and mugs of steaming mulled wine. We walk past a fairground. We see the famous Palais des Festivals dressed in twinkling lights that shine across the superyachts.

Provencal Nativity play on a dais; carol service. Cymbals, tambourines, the scent of grassy shit. Reindeer trotting. Santa Claus on the Rue d’Antibes. Circus performers, acrobats, fairies, musicians. Ladies knitting. Fairy lights winking on the carved stone of the Notre-Dame d’Esperance.

Designer boutiques, department stores. Le Bon Marché, Printemps Haussman, some mosque/bazaar-looking place called Galaries Lafayette d’Sur. Lacoste, Samaritaine, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton.

I’m overwhelmed. Breathing capitalism, for me, is like breathing Zyklon-B. While my family snap a gazillion photos of Taylor Swift, who’s been spotted riding a carousel with Rihanna, I duck into the public toilet to blurt detail into my Dictaphone. I note down what the wealth does to my dad’s voice, how my mum walks different, how Baz literally adjust a door mat at the feet of Laura so she won’t trip.

Turns out Laura isn’t completely useless, because we turn a confusing corner and find ourselves in the forecourt of our destination, the Palme D’Or. A waiter with blue-black skin and exquisitely African-accented French welcomes us, tucking our chairs in. The folded white napkin never falls from his arm. The menus he hands us are Apple tablets though the wine list is handwritten calligraphy on fancy cardboard. 

‘So Laura,’ I say across the table at my arrogant sister, ‘This is where you bring people on business? I just kinda thought you oughta, you know, not consider your family a business transaction. Oh and by the way: is your slave Rupert cooking the turkey at home or are you going to attempt to do something traditionally matronly?’

‘I don’t really obsess over food,’ Laura goes, as the waiter crouches, holding an Evil Twins CD for her to sign. ‘Guess I don’t eat as much as youuuu.’

‘Least I don’t vomit up what I eat. Not that you can even cook it in the first place.’

‘Now now, girls,’ Dad goes, lifting a bag of presents up onto the bench and straightening his rumpled suit jacket. ‘It’s hard for Laura to do all that. Shall we do presents now or later?’

Everyone has their bag of presents beside their ankles. Fuck. I’m not sure if I should hand people my gifts right now.

‘It’s not your fault you can’t cook, Deary,’ Mum says, stroking Laura’s hair, ‘You’re busy with important things, aren’t you.’

‘Like sucking media dick.’

‘Wow. So creative with words – you’ve got a real face for writing, d’you know that, big sis? Oh and for the record: Least I know what to DO with a dick, 3D.’

3D has been a spear in my side since… since whenever Laura came up with it. I am three Dees, apparently: Divorced Disabled Dyke. Sometimes 4D, Diabetic Divorced Disabled Dyke, to keep me on my toes.

Laura, face down, throat crumpled, texting angrily, click at the waiter. He arrives and she flings her credit card at him as if the card disgusts her. Apart from ordering aperitifs, we look at each other’s bags of presents without speaking for five minutes. The ocean moans like a stadium crowd. We listen to Vespas, clinking glasses, sighing palm fronds without making eye contact.

It’s our Sudanese waiter who re-introduces conversation to the table, suggesting we match a particular Burgundy wine with the roasted chestnuts being placed on the table. The conversation resumes as they bring us plates of amuse bouches, macarons, foie gras, waffles, oysters, bread with garlic and cheese and pâté and sundried tomatoes imported all the way from, well, here. The world’s most exotic locale.

Once we’re stuffed full of overpriced nibbles, we progress to the rear deck and we’re astonished to find it’s atop a cliff. Below us, the mouthwash-coloured ocean spits blue on white cliffs.

I studied film at university. I know Henri Verneuil filmed Melodie en sous-sol (1963) right around here somewhere. I know Alain Chabat’s witty comebacks in La Cité de la peur (1993) by Alain Berberian, or Michel Piccoli and Marcello Mastroianni’s characters in Cent et une nuits de Simon Cinema by Agnes Varda (1995). I know Hitchcock, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly indulged themselves here making To Catch a Thief (1954). And obviously– yes – Ian Fleming set his James Bond bullshit here, holding women back with his misogynistic spy comics.

I’m desperate for somebody to talk film with – talk Chekov and Atwood and Proulx and Celíne and Ashleigh Young and the Booker Prize longlist – but all I can do is trail behind my happy family as Laura guides us down a spiral staircase to a private beach where she pays for us stroll through the waves, holding our sandals.

On the wind, I can hear my parents whisper loving words in my sister’s ear.  

The gentle winter wind softens my prickles and I can’t think up anything truly cutting.

I tweet to say I’m on the Côte d’Azur and it’s kind of not bad. I want to tag somebody into my tweet, but there’s no one.


  1. Hating Round the Table


Soon as the car is parked, we prepare for Present Time.

We gather in the sunken lounge around a fucked-up looking Christmas tree. Mum’s stroking the leaves and asking my sister what species it is, this weird-ass albino tree with candy canes hanging off it. Laura yells at Rupert till he floats into the room and informs us that the tree is a Himalayan birch. The stem is naturally white; the leaves were individually painted by whoever supplied it.

I just roll my eyes.

We sit down and presents begin. Urgh. I’m about to look like a dick.

Laura does this speech about how it’s hard for her, being on the road, so when she saw this in this shop in Tokyo, Dad, she just knew it was ideal.

‘You’d better’ve got me a mogwai or don’t even bother,’ I sneer.

‘I didn’t want to upset you, so I didn’t get you anything,’ Laura says in a voice plain and simple. ‘I take it you got me one of your books?’

Course I fucking did. In my handbag I have one of my books for everyone. Four different titles for four different tastes. Highly valuable items, in my opinion… but I kick my handbag under the couch.

Baz gives Mum a box of software so she can monitor her stocks on her computer. Dad makes a show of secreting something behind his back, it leaks, next thing he’s putting Laura’s childhood fluffy unicorn named Corny into Laura’s hands. He’s had it laundered and had its ripped-off ear stitched back on. They fall into each other and weep with emotion, Dad saying he’s so so sorry he put work first and never came to her recital and blah blah blah.

Not very original, you guys. I’m pretty sure this whole scene was in American Beauty.


God knows how we manage to get a fucking turkey on the table, but we do. Nobody wants to take Laura’s prestigious seat so there’s like a whole minute of pointless polite politics.

Laura and me deliberately stall, then there are two seats left under the chandelier, and she’s trying to shunt my fat ass into one of them.

‘There you go, Lors,’ I tell her, ‘Head of the table.’

‘No way I’m sitting there. Dad, c’mon. I want you to have this seat.’

Dad blushes, half-rises, struggles as Laura yanks and bends him and urges him into the Head of the Table seat.

He’s grinning widely, Dad is. He loves this shit, deep-down. He’s got an athlete businessman D-list celebrity son, a wife with a famous daughter, a famous daughter… everyone make him look pretty amazing. Everyone except the author with the IQ of 130 who still has to borrow money to pay for her t-shirts for her so-called street team that’s just one and a half people in the Philippines.

Everyone hushes while Rupert-the-Butler minces into the kitchen, serves the dishes and, with a flourish, lifts the silver lid off each.

There’s a discussion of diets and ethics immediately. Laura says she’s not cool with eating until she’s asked everybody their dietary requirements. I deliberately snatch a mess of turkey out of the side of the roast and chew it while eyeballing Laura.

‘This ethical for ya, sis?’

Laura snorts. ‘I can tell you what un-ethical is. Un-ethical is getting a scholarship because you wrote an essay talking about how I’m a scenester and our whole family needs therapy.’

We pass asparagus and pour gravy and chew. Baz says something about the new owners of Paris Saint-Germain and how he’s thinking of investing a little money in A-league soccer back home. Make a couple dividends. Discover some new talent.

‘Speaking of which,’ Dad goes, swallowing a cube of roasted aubergine, ‘Am I to understand Billy Joel discovered Evil Twins? He’s your manager, yes?’

‘It’s Joel Little, Daddy,’ Laura goes, rolling her eyes, ‘He discovered Lorde, not that we even use the word “discover.” More like we were… destined to meet.’

‘Destined!’ I snort.

‘BEHAVE,’ Mum growls.

‘So you gonna turn this into one of your little fuckin essays?’ Baz goes, from out of nowhere.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘A story,’ Mum goes, wiping the accusation from her lips with her napkin. ‘A narrative describing our unforgivable transgressions. At least in the callous way you’ll likely describe it.’

I put down my knife and fork and place my palms on the table. ‘Guys, honestly, what the fuck, you’re my family? I’m not gonna, like, skewer you just to, like, impress some literatti.’

‘Fool me once,’ Dad laments, frowning down, hacking his meat into cubes.

‘ExCUSE me, Dad? You’re gonna copy some cliché and not even use it properly?’  


The spotlight’s on me. They’re all staring, knives clenched in their left hands.

‘Let’s talk about you, for once,’ Laura begins. ‘You’ve become a real cynical piece of shit over the years. Fucking armchair psychologist, diagnosing everyone, telling Mum and Dad they’re dicks for atoning and Baz is somehow bad cause he runs a business and here’s you. Uncriticisable, apparently.’

‘Correction: uncriticisable is not a word, methinks. I’m soooo buying you a dictionary for Christmas, sister.’

‘On that note, bitch, exactly what did you get me for Christmas?’

I gulp.

‘You’re only here so you can write some David Sedaris-ripoff and sell us out for like two hundred bucks to some snobby-ass literature magazine.’

‘Wouldn’t be the first time,’ Dad mutters.

I shunt my chair back. I can storm out dramatically. Hold the moral high ground. Write about it on my laptop in the waiting lounge at the airport.
Or maybe one more night here in the thousand thread count sheets.

I try return to the fight.

‘What am I supposed to do with my god-given talent, huh? D’you know how fucking hard it is to stand out from the pack as a writer? D’you know how many bloody writers there are in Melbourne and-and-and Auckland? D’you know how many in New York?! There’s fifty thousand writers in New York!’

‘So stop writing. Stop turning the people who care about you into cartoons.’

‘Mum, honestly… .’

‘Nah, serious,’ Baz goes. ‘Do what I do. Get yourself a franchise. Turn a little profit on it. Stop with the fucking character assassinations. That’s no way to live.’

‘Um, I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who said When writing a novel a writer should create living people soooo… you want me to contradict the Master?’

‘We don’t like the way you write about us. So quit it.’

‘It’d really be helping a lot of people if you were to stop writing,’ Dad adds, looking up from his carefully carved mouthfuls. ‘You’re hurting a lot of feelings.’

‘STOP WRITING,’ Laura goes. She’s doubled the decibels. She grabs her knife and fork in her fists and begins thumping the table, chanting. ‘STOP WRI-TING! STOP WRI-TING! STOP WRI-TING.’

Everybody begins chanting against me. Mum leans under the noise and says behind her knuckles, ‘You’d be doing us all a favour, dear. You need to stop.’


‘What am I gonna do?’ I wail, ‘Just, what, bail out now?’


‘Immediately’s best,’ Mum goes. ‘Now. Stop writing now. you’re losing friends, you’re hurting the people you love. I mean it. This instant. Just sto–