A Christmas gift from Still contributing writer Jan Woolf.[hr]
‘What’s that, babe?’
June’s lips hardly closed on the ‘b’ as she looked up at the sky, thickening above the spires and turrets spiking into the dusk.
‘Can’t see anyfing, doll.’
‘Yes, Eddie, look.’ So they both looked. Something was there, and it was coming down, getting closer. They almost forgot the jingles blaring from the shops.
You better watch out,
You better not cry,
Better not part,
I’m tellin’ you why,
Christmas time is coming for you…
They’d been together forty years – June and Eddie – and as they peered upwards they recalled their Rupert Bear Christmas annuals; the fogs and scumbles of air on the horizon of Nutwood Hills, blowing in pixies and elves and strange weather. They felt as Rupert must have, anxious and excited at the same time. Bit like Christmas really, what with austerity – and Jennifer and the gran’kiddies coming this year. They’d never seen such a mist. Not quite grey, certainly not white. But a clotted mass of air.
‘Funny,’ said Eddie. ‘Nothing was….’
‘Forecast,’ finished June. Now the shops crooned
Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky little lamb,
Do you hear what I hear?
‘June what is it?’
‘Dunno babe but we’ve got to get two more things for Dwayne and Carlotta and the money’s all …’
‘Gone,’ supplied Eddy.
‘Yeah I know.’ As June rummaged in her purse clinking a few pound coins together, she thought they might get away with the free toys from their burger meal deals. Carlotta wouldn’t notice – Dwayne, now four, might. Jennifer was bringing them up nice and she did like a bit of quality, especially at Christmas. What to get Jennifer?
The power of lu -huv,
The power of…
They’d had so many Christmasses they didn’t know how to be in them anymore. It’s as if they’d got to the end of their own Christmases – with Morecambe and Wise on the telly – then they’d met, had Jennifer and had to start all over again. They got to the end of those and the grandchildren came. It felt as if the Christmas trees were spinning round and round like whirling Dervishes and those songs…the same every year, burrowing into your brain. They were drunk on Christmas really. Just when you’d got over one, another was on the way. Like that clotted mist. But they could always eat the dinner – could always do a posh roast. Except this year it had to be a processed turkey crown.
June looked up again. The mist had lowered. She imagined them both flying through it hand in hand, seeing the tops of the buildings peeking out like the lost islands of Xanadu. She looked fondly at her husband. Thick and thin they were.
You took your dreams from me,
When I first found you,
Merry Christmas you arse,
I pray God it’s our last.
‘That mist is coming down fast.’
‘Oo – er, so it is Junie.’ As it shrouded their faces they could see there was something in it. Like it was MADE of stuff. Not quite glitter but an iridescent porridge. Grey but pretty.
‘I love you.’
‘What’s brought this on, Ed?’ It’s not as if he’d even had a drink, thought June. As she stroked his arm it started to melt away, under his coat.
‘I just do,’ said Eddie as the mist ate June’s hand.
‘You soppy date,’ she said, and the mist enveloped them entirely.
The crowds shopped on, some of them stepping over two dull piles of clothes on the pavement as the traffic slithered down Poxford Street like a drowsy dragon.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light,
From now on your troubles,
Will be out of sight.
© Jan Woolf, December 2012.