Archive for christmas

Friday Flash: Where’s Kate

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on December 17, 2010 by David Robinson - Freelance Writer & Novelist

“She’s sitting in my chair.”

There’s no sign of Kate so I address my complaint to our daughter, Sally.

She and her daughter, Leanne, a couple of Leanne’s friends, young Sam and his girlfriend, are crowding the living room, taking up all the chairs, wearing silly, paper hats, drinking beer and cider. One girl, Cheryl, is in my chair, by the fire, facing the TV. None of them take any notice of me.

Cheryl is not to blame. Sally hasn’t told her that it’s my chair. No one has. You’d think at least one of them would realise. I might as well talk to myself. Nobody listens to me any more. Senile. That’s what they say. Only it’s not senile these days. It some fancy name. Al someone or other.

The Queen is on telly. Kate always insists we listen to what Her Majesty has to say. Respect. That’s what it is. Kate believes in respect.

This lot don’t.

“Turn that crap over, mother,” says Leanne. “Twilight is on one of the Sky channels.”

I look upon my granddaughter and my lips curl in contempt. She’ll shut up when Kate gets here. She looks like a tart, showing all that leg and cleavage. And drinking, too. Sixteen? Six-bloody-teen and knocking back the cider like it’s lemonade. Kate will deal with her: make her dress properly and stop the drinking.

They haven’t bought me anything for Christmas. They think I don’t notice. They’re wrong. I know what’s going on. They spent all their money on foreign holidays and new windows, and now they have to cut back. Cut back on my bloody present.

“Just wait ’til your mother gets down here,” I say to Sally. Kate was always better at dealing with them than me. “She’ll have plenty to say.”

I don’t know why I’m wasting my breath. They’re taking no notice of me.

Where is Kate? Not like her to miss the Queen on Christmas Day. She must unwell again.

Strange. I can’t remember speaking to her this morning. I must have done. Married for nearly half a century, and I’ve never left the bedroom without bidding her, “Morning Kate.”

Old age affects your memory. You forget these little things.

I look to the stairs hoping to see her coming down, but there’s no sign. I’ll take her a bite to eat and a glass of sherry later. Kate’s always liked her sherry.

The door opens and Ben comes in. A good lad is Ben. A better husband our Sally couldn’t have asked for. I knew his dad. We both worked for the Gas Board when we left school.

“How are you, Ben?” I ask.

“Bloody cold out there,” he says, dropping two packs of lager on the cabinet by the window.

I tut. Even he ignores me these days. Can’t remember the last time I had a decent natter with him. Or our Sally. It’s like I don’t exist.

I wander into the kitchen and study the spread on the table. Dishes full of bites and nibbles, biscuits, pies, and strange, foreign concoctions we’d never heard of in my day. What is an onion bhaji?

I notice lots of sweets for the kids. Kids! Ha! Sat there washing the booze down like sailors on shore leave. Do they still eat chocolates and toffees? Kate does. Likes the fudge. I’ll save one for her and take it up later.

Cheryl comes in and helps herself to handful of Quality Street. She shivers. Not surprised wearing so little clothing in the middle of winter. Disgusting.

“Leave the fudge,” I warn her. “I want it for Kate.”

She has a mouthful of chocolate and can’t answer me. I notice the greedy little bag has taken a fudge.

Shivering again, she goes back to the living room and takes my seat by the fire. “Your kitchen isn’t half cold,” she says to Sally

“It wouldn’t be if you dressed properly,” I shout.

“Cold?” Sally speaks as if I haven’t said a word. “Shouldn’t be. Ben, have you turned the heating down?”

In the act of pouring a can of lager into a tall glass, Ben stops and checks the thermostat on the wall. “Still on full.” He disappears into the kitchen and returns a moment later to pick up his can and glass. “Radiators are on in there, too.”

“It’s granddad,” Leanne says, giggling drunkenly.

“Granddad?” Cheryl asks.

“Take no notice, Cheryl,” Sally says. “Our Leanne’s just winding you up. Her granddad, my dad, used to live with us. You’re sitting in his favourite chair.”

At last, someone has told the little tramp.

Cheryl looks nervous. “Used to live with you?”

“He’s dead, luv.” Sally says. “Passed away on Christmas Day, two years ago. Sat right where you are, nodded off after his dinner and never woke up.”

Leanne laughs at Cheryl’s obvious fear. “He’s still with us, though, haunting the place. Specially at Christmas.”

Cheryl’s fear is nothing at the side of my fury. I scream at Sally. “What the hell are you talking about, you idiot? I’m not dead. I’m right here. Standing in front of you.”

I look up into the mirror above the fireplace. I have no reflection. An icy cold grips my heart.

I feel a presence beside me. I turn and Kate is there, reaching out her hand to me. She looks as beautiful and radiant as she did on the day I met her in 1955. Some distance behind her, a brilliant white light shines like a beacon.

“Come on, Arthur,” she says. “We’ve had our life.” She nods at Sally, Leanne, Ben and the rest of them. “It’s their turn now.”

“Kate …” It’s all I can say. “Kate …”

“I’ve been trying to get through to you for the last two years, love. Now come on. We’re together again … forever this time.”

I take her hand and together we walk off into the light.

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Friday Flash: Tis the Season To Be Jolly

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 10, 2010 by David Robinson - Freelance Writer & Novelist

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Tra-la-la-la-laa-la-la-la-laa.”

The chirruping of choristers niggles as I wander the icy streets. Why holly? Because it is a perennial. I am perennial, too, so why not lily?

“Tis the season to be jolly.
Tra-la-la-la-laa-la-la-la-laa”

I am jolly when at my work and I am at my work now. As I amble along the crowded pavements, I carry out my work with the same good cheer I have displayed since … how long? Forever?

Here’s a jolly one coming towards me. Jolly and drunk, bidding everyone a gurgled, “Happy Christmas.”

Does he wish the same for me? Like most of them, he doesn’t even see me. They never realise I’m there until …

There’s a bus behind him, filled with more seasonal revellers. The driver takes his time negotiating the narrow street where shoppers and partygoers spill from the pavements into the road.

It’s so tempting. One nicely timed nudge and the jolly drunk will be …

I cannot. He is not the one. I never know who is the one until we meet. Then I know instinctively. Then I carry out my work. Then I am jolly, at peace in the light of a job well done.

“Merry New Year,” warbles the drunk as he passes me.

His greeting is not directed at me but at a crowd of young men and women outside the entrance to a busy bar. They return his compliment and laugh at his inebriation. Others will laugh at them in a few hours when they have drunk themselves into a stupor.

A brass band stands on the street corner. They play O Come All Ye Faithful. I scan their faces, red with the cold and respiratory exertion of producing the music. She’s there. I recognise her immediately. The one. She plays the flugelhorn, the notes resonating sweetly in my ears. Perfect pitch. More soothing than the warbling of the choristers further down the street.

She is young and pretty; slender, curvaceous, and I guess she would be alluring if it were not for the dour navy blue and gold braiding of her band uniform. Her fair hair sweeps gently over the collar of her jacket, her fine boned fingers, so delicate, deftly manipulate the valves in a manner that is at once skilful yet arousing. The baby blue eyes focus on the music, scanning the scales left to right, down, left to right, down.

Long buried memories of passion stir inside me. I want her. I want to possess her, let her possess me.

But I am beyond such lust. She is the one. I must carry out my work. It is the only medium through which I can be jolly in this season of joy.

All I need is the instrument. I study the flugelhorn. Could I? The inevitable pun strikes my mind. The flugelhorn is the instrument of …

A crowd of merrymakers are coming towards her. The young man at the head of the crowd, worse for wear from alcohol, staggers and leaps about in a bizarre imitation of jollity, showing off to his friends. He is not watching where he is going.

The instrument.

I cannot touch him. I can only walk by, let the chill of my passing divert his course. And as he sways to one side or the other, he bumps into her. His friends and other passers-by shout warnings. One man tries to put himself between the reveller and her. Even if he does, he will only be cannoned into her and the inevitable will take its course.

The push in her back thrusts her forward. She loses her footing on the icy pavement and topples, face down. The survival instinct removes the horn from her sensuous lips. She puts out a hand to save herself. It’s too late. As she falls, she lands on the trumpet, its stem striking between those fine breasts. She let’s out a cry, quickly stifled to the wheezing of breath forced from her tortured lungs. Her ribs are crushed in exactly the right place, and her heart is ruptured. Blood trickles from her mouth, stains the pavements a pale pink.

They turn her over. She looks up and she sees me. I smile and as she drifts into terminal shock, I move on.

My work is done and I feel jolly but the joy in my soul at a job well done will not last long. I have to be elsewhere to meet the next one. The thought takes the edge off my jolliness. Death’s work is never finished.

“Deck the halls with boughs of lily.
Tra-la-la-la-laa-la-la-la-laa”

It has a certain ring to it.

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