Saturday, 13 December 2008

A CHRISTMAS TALE

I thoughtI would have a little break from my own story, and give you a Christmas present. Here is a tale written especially for the season. Enjoy XXX



A CHRISTMAS TALE
The old man sat in the corner of the ‘pull-in’ café, his hands wrapped tightly around the mug that had once held strong, brown, steaming hot tea. His eyes held a look that said his thoughts were a hundred miles away, and his fingers had yet to tell his brain that the empty mug was no longer keeping his hands warm.
“Come on Dad, you can’t stay there all night”
The café proprietor pushed a cheese roll that had seen better times across the counter.
“Here, for God’s sake, take this and go find yourself a place to settle for the rest of the night.”
It was Christmas Eve and so, perhaps, unwittingly, the gift of a stale cheese roll really was for God’s sake thought the old man. But he doubted it. However, he rose slowly and unsteadily to his feet, and shambled over to the counter where he picked up the offering and stuffed it into his over-coat pocket.
With a grunt that could have been interpreted as thank you, or sod you, he made his way out into the cold, bleak, night.
The wind cut through his thin coat like shards of ice, even though he’d tied a length of rope around his waist in an effort to keep it out. His feet were wrapped in old newspapers and stuffed into boots that were too large, and did little to keep him warm. Clutching a black plastic bin liner containing all his worldly goods, he shuffled along the street looking for a likely doorway to shelter in.
He must find somewhere soon. He was so tired, and his chest was playing him up again. Each breath he took rasped in his throat and then wheezed out again on a cloud of steam.
He recalled that around the next corner was an old disused entrance to a London Underground station. He’d once shared a bottle of dubious alcohol with an old tramp at that very spot. He wondered where the old fellow was now. How terrible it was, to be a tramp at Christmas time. Of course, he wasn’t a tramp, just a traveller temporarily down on his luck. Still, he knew what it was like to be without a bed or a good meal.
The railway entrance suddenly loomed up from the frosty darkness and thankfully ‘the traveller’ made his way to the back of it and huddled as deeply as he could into the corner. An old newspaper that had blown in on the wind was soon tucked around his legs.
He reached into the depths of his coat pocket and, rummaging for several seconds, finally pulled out the stale, and somewhat fluffy, cheese roll, which he proceeded to devour with much grunting and lip smacking. When the last crumb had been wiped from his lips he gave a long agonising sigh, and rested his head against the wall.
His mind began to wander as he tried to remember when life had been good. Back in his childhood days it had been very good.
Tom, (how long it had been since anyone had called him Tom), and his elder brother Will had lived with their parents Sarah and James, in a stone-built cottage on the Cornish coast. Such happy days! Will had been gone many years now. The war had changed their lives and broken his mother’s heart. But before that time there had been, oh, so many days of wine and roses.
Christmas was the best time of all. There would be a huge wood fire in the open hearth, and the logs would sing and spit as they burned and glowed in the candlelit room. The tree would have been dragged into the cottage on Christmas Eve by his father and, when Tom awoke on Christmas morning, there it would stand in all its glory. Tinsel and candles and chocolate shapes, sticks of striped candy-canes and glass baubles all a gleaming. Tom’s young hands trembled with excitement.
The wind changed direction and came whipping and whistling into the doorway where Tom lay. He was so deep in his dreams that he hardly noticed it. He stretched out his cold trembling hands to warm them at his imaginary fire.
There were many festive traditions in Sarah’s house, but the most important to Tom was the tradition of pulling the first cracker to welcome in the turkey. Each year it would be James’ task as man of the house, to carry the large turkey surrounded with roast potatoes into the dining room, but not before the given signal!
All Christmas morning Tom would eagerly await the removal of the first Christmas cracker from the box that stood on the sideboard. Every year it was the same. His mother would snip the string holding the crackers in place and remove just one.

“Come along Tom, time for you to herald the start of our feast. This is a very important job for a very important lad”.
So saying she would hold out the first cracker of the season and they would pull it together. As the cracker exploded, Tom’s father would strut through the door holding the turkey aloft, and they would all cheer.
In his dreams Tom could feel the soft crepe paper of the cracker in his hand. He looked up into his mother’s beautiful smiling face and knew he could never be this happy again. He pulled on the cracker; saw his father coming towards him. His mother took his other hand in hers as they waited for the joyous Christmas happening.
In the cold crisp light of Christmas morning, Constable Blakely walked his beat. A few homeless souls still snoozed in their cardboard boxes, but most had already made their way to the ‘Sally Army’ hostel to hopefully cadge a Christmas dinner. He spotted Tom still curled up in the corner of the old Underground station doorway.
“Wakey, wakey! Dad, it’s Christmas day.”
Tom didn’t stir. Constable Blakley leaned over him and carefully nudged him with the toe of his shoe.
“Poor devil, he’s dead! What a miserable and cold way to go.”
The newspaper had blown onto Tom’s face during the night, and as PC Blakely gently removed it he was amazed to see a serene smile on the old man’s lips. One of the old man’s hands was stretched out; palm uppermost, and clutched in Tom’s other hand was half of a pulled Christmas cracker.


A very merry Christmas and a truly happy, healthy, and peaceful 2009 to all my blogger friends

Leeta X




18 comments:

weechuff said...

Oooh! That made all the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. What a good story, albeit sad:0( There must be so many people living just like that over this Christmas. We are so lucky....
Have a lovely Christmas, and most importantly, a healthy New Year!

granny grimble said...

WEECHUFF
Glad you liked it. I try to have a story for every occasion! Yes we are lucky to have a warm roof over our heads, and loved ones near-by at this time of the year. Mind you, if I don't get over this cold soon, here's one household that won't get a Christmas dinner!

Babs (Beetle) said...

I suppose you could say that the story had a happy ending :O) I used to see so many of people just like that at the Elephant & castle station. They used to stand holding the grating where warm air came out. It was very sad.

Your cold will go soon. Mine was gone within a week :O)

Croom said...

Oh what a beautifull but sad story Leeta. It must be so very cold for the homeless in England. It is pretty cold at nights here in Spain too. I would not like to be out over night in it I can tell you.

Did you write this story Leeta?

Thank you.

granny grimble said...

BABS BEETLE
Yes, I reckon London is probably more populated with the homeless, than most places. We don't think about it too often I'm afraid.
I've had this rotten cold for over a week now. It takes longer to go when you are a wrinkly! :0)

CROOM
Yes Tina, I wrote it. I write all the things that I put on my blog.
How can it be so cold at night in Spain when it is still so warm in the daytime? Mind you, it's like that in the desert isn't it?

GoldAnne said...

What a super but sad story Leeta,
it makes one think!!!
Do hope you get rid of that cold soon ,,, Take care.

love Anne xxx

Swubird said...

Granny:

I don't know what to say. That was a sad story. I kind of thought he was going to die. But you know, down deep you what the guy to pull himself out of his problem and live happily ever after. But were did that cracker come from?

Well done.

Happy trails.

Anne said...

I am so glad he died happy. And thank goodness for all the 'soup kitchens' and kind helpers who offer food, clean clothes, a bed for the night and make Christmas special too for the homeless.

granny grimble said...

SWUBIRD
Unfortunately, life doesn't always have a happy ending, but in a way, this story did.

ANNE

Yes, thank the goodness of so many lovely people who give up their Christmas to help those much less fortunate. I know one such person.

Kate said...

That was a lovely story - thank you!
Kate
www.iramble.co.uk

Jay said...

Ah .. Granny, that was a sad one. Beautifully written, though!

Poor old Tom - and all the real Toms out there living rough in this cold weather.

Sandi McBride said...

Oh damn now you've made me cry!
I loved this
Sandi

granny grimble said...

KATE
So happy that you liked my Christmas tale. I like to throw in the odd bit of fiction now and then!

JAY
I'm ashamed to say that it's easy sometimes to forget the 'Toms' of this world when you get so excited and busied with the festive season.

SANDI
My sisters always reckon my stories make them cry! I'm sorry and will try and find a funny one for next time

Kate said...

My Christmas morning this year will be spent accompanying my daughter on her calls as a social carer for elderly and not so elderly people who need care. I am looking forward to it, making mince pies as gifts and a full dinner for one man who otherwise will not get one. Its a good feeling..

granny grimble said...

KATE

How kind and generous of you to spend Christmas morning like that. I bet it makes you feel so good for the rest of the day, but not half as good as the folk
you visit feel. Christmas is such a joyous time for most, but it can be a very lonely and depressing time for those that have been overlooked, or have no family and friends. God bless you X

Swubird said...

Granny:

Please stop by my site and read all about A Christmas Mystery.

Happy trails.

suzanne cabrera said...

Best wishes for 2009 Granny Grimble!

Lynne Chapman said...

This is a lovely bitter-sweet story.

Not heard anything new from you for ages though - get typing!!