‘Twas the night before Christmas in the small provincial town, soulless and starless with a dank reputation for brawls, bare bottoms and bakeries.
Not a creature was stirring except Jack the monstrous crow-black cat perched high on La Cuff Hill with a dead mouse in his mouth and small bell under his chin, for good measure. And Mr and Mrs Plum, the loneliest of lonely, who sit in their car on the very same hill and wait and wait with stirring anticipation for no-name lovers to bring them a small glimpse of windy pleasure. To this end, Mrs Plum hangs her stockings from the rear view mirror.
Look. See the houses in the estate sleeping darkest before dawn, with their dead lawns and pushbikes nibbled by foxes. Some children are nestled snug in their beds, in the jelly-filled, wide-hipped certainty that their every whim and wish will soon be served hot and sugary. And in the muffled, dull dreams and kiss-me-quick-resentful-lace-
Tomorrow she will take out her frustrations on Facebook.
Listen. On Cherry Walk, a baby cries colicky and awakes its red-raw mother who convinces herself that the nighttime wake up is a blessing, yet all the while dreams of tissues from a box infused with Aloe and a sit-down, slap-up meal.
Ivor Mallory, fidget, smoker (retired) chokes on his left lung and dies unseen in the middle of the open-plan, fitted-kitchen-melamine of his 1950s rented semi. A quarter of a million built in one year and not one with a damp proof membrane, he murmurs, before settling down to the final long winter’s nap. An Ashman by trade, he leaves behind three salbutamol inhalers and a house fit for refugees. His funeral will be held on Tuesday.
Soon, after the baby is fed and put back to bed we hear above the once more cotton-quilted, silk, black-talcum-covered night a quiet, whispered voice, which can only belong to one not long deceased:
“Remember me, my dears.”
And then we watch as Ivor Mallory departs out of sight to the great heave-ho dustbin in the sky leaving us in the dawn twilight with the tick-tocking of the clock of humanity, sounding out for all the other people for whom Christmas will not come this year: The fishers, the farmers, the nurses (not the doctors), the undertakers, the soldiers in their rat-a-tat bunker, the seamen in their salt deep Davy dark submarine, the sick, the poor, and up on Mill Street, the young policeman’s widow, reaching over for her husband, tall-as-the-clock-tower, taken from her all too soon.