Being consumed just now by poetry I took a holiday and came across a story I had written several years ago. Still having an affection for this piece of writing, which takes a short journey through my home town at Christmas, I thought I'd air this short story that is in keeping with the season - wishing anyone passing through here enjoyment of it!
The Eve of Something.
Sitting has become uncomfortable. Resolution washes over apprehension. This time can be better spent in the freezing town. Molly puts on an ill fitting coat and takes in the festive air. Her car is beginning to frost and the stars shine sharply.
Silent night. Foreboding night. Along the terraced street, door becomes door at a pace. Terraced cramps, seeping noise. Gardenless. Window upon window aglow, defying the blackness of midwinter. Molly’s footsteps patter on the tarmac. Christmas trees are shown off in plastic and green. Illuminating. Inflating the bills. Raised voices escape from above. Briefly, Molly absorbs someone else’s dilemma. A second glance is commanded by an upper crust wreath; tie-wrapped.
It seemed long, long ago when the summer had smiled and gifted the restless goddess with a consort, handsome and tall, bathed in laughter and warmth. A gift of Love, excited and brewed in wooded climes. A union arose as never before. The goddess had been awakened in the myrtle groves wore daisies in her hair sipped wine celebrated with singing and dancing. The summer turned the sun waned. It was said that the king must leave. But the goddess was assured she granted dispensation that the king must remain. This time no substitute would be taken. The goddess had resolved to relinquish matriarchy for constancy of love.
It followed that in yielding the goddess was betrayed.
Under the setting sun she revealed a secret. Something had been broken in her cycle. The king baulked. Marriage? too soon. Peevishly, winter had conspired to take the summer king. There was a distance between them, a need to return to their stations. The goddess had ceded and suffered rejection. The summer king was as deathstriken, surprised by the nature of fertility. Their tongues became fire. The goddess retreated. The king wandered. He promised an answer by the eve of the eve. The goddess had sighed, laid her powers of coercion aside: her king must be willing.
All lay frozen until midwinter.
Molly hears nothing coming. It is safe to cross the slippery side street that breaks the red brick row. The dominion of the terrace is interrupted by the neo-semis. Fritz’s bomb brought the builders in to fill that gap. Molly abhors the semis. Love and joy had been lost there. The war time bomb had killed a child. Seventy years passed, sleeping in heavenly peace.
Molly hurries past. On the other side, Mrs Wilde, number 73, is decked from ankle to neck. Does not wish Molly a merry Christmas. A woman of reputations, a twitcher of curtains. Can’t be seen to endorse.
And mistletoe proved by the science of entrapment, that woman, if she pleases, has complete dominion over man.
Ringless my dear? In my day… Yes, committed weren’t they. Molly remains calm, tender and mild. Mrs Wilde whispers that, as a teacher of children, Molly should know better. Illustrates the example of being naughty and nice. Deals Molly the badge of dishonour, without ever knowing...
None except the father. My god, have you forsaken me?
Son of a merrybegot.
At 86, Miss Reid, aged yet wiser, speaks from her doorstep, ‘do not dismay’ ‘come out in the wash’. Jollied in comfort and hope, Molly kisses the prophetess a very merry. Unwraps her wrist to tell the time. Has to keep onward, the station awaits. Eye catching those perfect lights. Endless windows. A candle burning. Holy night. What sylvan scene revealed? A family a couple a widow a single. So lovely to share the excitement, the planning, to look forward to
Spring from the greenwood.
The library squares up to the end of the street. Closed for Christmas. Knowing left unknown. Sometimes to the benefit of
Out of the darkness, a father cradles his tiny life protesting about its pram. The mother pushes, unburdened. Molly covets. Shames herself. The Penrith train will tell. Clickety, clickety.
It had been a greenwood wedding. Midsummer’s eve. They had been sun high. It followed that the ivy brazenly caressed the trees. Afterwards, glowing in contentment.
The summer king left in the fall. Blown away on an icy wind.
The Town Hall. Tactfully lit. Its nativity enclosed in iron bars. Chips on sacred faces. But the lights, such expenditure. And fag butts for the baby Jesus. The tree. How wondrous those bare branches. Pity to hide them, string them with lights. It is projected that no one will venture here, no effort to be made. Coins on the mind compose council manifestoes. Across the desert square a brass band sweetens the air. A-carolling. A collecting from the crowd.
The summer king, kindled, carried her to the bank of a stream brought gifts bathed her in the water whirling and singing.
Molly tugs the coat across her Santa belly. She walks in a crimson glow. The chilled night takes her pants in foggy bursts. Moving for two. The extra body warms her. Pushes alien-like below her left rib. Molly presses the hand or foot in greeting. Angelic. Toward town centre offices, denied the secure light of the square that does not extend to the edges. Molly glides past an argument. Give it a rest you merry gentlemen. Booze- bickering. Like children in the playground. Molly’s children are on holiday. For parents to manage their sleepless frenzies. Two whole weeks of rest. Next year…
The summer had a rival. Mounted on white, of old, he offered a wedding, deep and crisp and even.
The goddess remained bound to a bed of grass and herbs.
Through the coldness arises a distant buzz. Last minute shoppers, on the eve of the eve. Made to work late. Santa’s little helpers. Promises of tomorrow bringing an early leave.
The dimmed side street. A pub. The Lamb. Inside and outside, some spirits a-flowing. Suggestions of stepping out, to repent at leisure. Puffing and blowing, chancing cancer and pneumonia. Yearly resolutions to be made. Molly passes beyond. A bleak entry. Occupied. Pissing up the wall. Could do with a hand darlin’.
Risen from sea-foam, myrrh scented, the goddess ate scallops and periwinkles,
burned for the god.
The High Street. Ablaze. Entering in isolation Molly beholds the town in its strumpet glory. Bling bling. Shop windows presenting, enticing, demanding. 3 for 2. BOGOF. But the people are blind, wrapped and blowing steam. Big Issue, big issue, big big big issue. Persistent with a festive twist. Thank you madam and merry Christmas. Where do they go? The north pole? YMCA. Drink, drugs or reformer? Molly’s legs ache with the weight. Last minute charity tins rattle and sing, squeeze a little more. Molly wades against the flow of eyes tracking pavements, playing Ebenezer. The class was not as enthusiastic about that classic Christmas story. Too ambitious? Imaginations dulled by the advent of surfing. Cut and paste, it’s a wrap. Molly wanted a reader, regardless of sex. She feels the quickening and slows. Rubs her side. Maybe you disagree? Tat spins and shouts from a battered suitcase for a pound. Pushing and thrusting through doorways. Juggling wanting needing, one more. Santa Claus is coming.
Into the stream.
The creatrix moved upon the face of the waters.
The Shopping Centre. Yellow lit. Molly’s eyes sting. Lanzarote, 2 weeks. 699. Glory to. 20% off diamond rings. Seduction glitters on a headless mannequin. Not for Molly. Chocolate extravagance since 1911. Mary craves the vanilla fudge. Browses. A man, skeletal, lifts four boxes and runs. That’s nearly £50. Probably get 10. Shouldn’t place temptation in doorways. Prompts concern for the future, un-born. Molly joins the excessive queue. These are the affluent, the patrons of good cheer. The Cratchits are left outside. Can’t afford to be organic or green. Theirs is just a Christmas turkey pumped with growth hormone never seeing the light of day. Bankrupting themselves. Molly could always tell those parents in January. Her job means safety, even if
The aroma of coffee makes Molly’s stomach gurgle acid. No caffeine in pregnancy. The draw is strong. Decaff would do. Molly queues to the counter and asks for a latte. Not Starbucks. Sharper. A tap on the shoulder. Carol Atkins, married with two, wife of a colleague, speaks highly of the church.
‘You look well Molly.’
Presumes to tummy-pat without permission.
‘No ring yet?’
The eyebrows spring heavenwards.
‘Nevermind, could be for Christmas.’
Satanic smile. Leans in closer, confidential-like.
‘Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out.’
Molly escapes, gives a best of the season. Of all the genuine, it had to be her, tonight. Molly is offered a space on the marble seating. The coffee tastes foul, is a reason to rest. Adjusts, to sit bolt upright, make room to breathe. What is to come at nine months?
The rivers run past and hoards form inconvenient islands. The bodies bottle-neck. Tut tutting. Holy night. Cackle cackle obstructing, go round! hurry up! would you believe! lips working in red and pink and orange. A back slapping reunion. Flashes of spirit scorned upon by impatience.
When he has wondered he shall reign
Beloved of the goddess.
Molly bins the cooling carton, rejoins the flow.
The Grotto. £3. Scream on a lap for a gift. Gold frankincense myrrh? Cotton wool snow. Bambi (motherless). Who in hell? Scarier than Halloween. Still a long line. Next year love, chuckles the six foot elf, Molly receives a belly flutter, she pats saying never.
Her: Six months of feeling.
Him: Three of thinking.
The wall of darkness at the arcade’s end looms black. Re-entering night Molly feels the chill. Advances to Central station on the promise of summer arriving at a decision of response. Clickety clack.
The Church. May God bless you and send you... Molly’s way is obscured by the travelling carousel. Gladness and light. The way will be clear for flocks tomorrow at midnight. Instead, painted horses are decked with antlers, a masquerade in musical rotations. Figures join the Christmas waltz. Waiting in line, babies awake, poor little mites much crying they make. All through the houses not a creature is stirring. Those alley gates are a good deterrent. Molly plods on with her heavy load.
St. George Street in sight. There lies culture. Deserted, grease stained. And due on the hour. Quarter to. Adrenaline harms baby. Clickety cl.
Mourning the Summer:
Beyond weeping and wailing. Will you arise no more? Have we parted? What is life without
if he rises not, if he rises not.
Taxi Rank. The black beetles, primed, vie for attention. Watch out mate. Christmas trees, tinsel, flashing Santas, the spirit of, the odour of, vomit. Is that a knife mate?
Flower Shop. Wreaths. Holly in circles and crosses, for doors and for graves. The uppercrust and the dead. Red roses, devoid of their scent.
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.
Newly Established Cultural Quarter. Erected Hoity towers. Masonic lodge captured by Le Frog. Vive la France. Muse-io lessons, soh fah la di da-o . Those yellow line piranhas. Number 20. They sold the best subs; fly on lettuce, on the house! ; hair biscuits (German), gag in the mouth. Still. You can frame yourself here.
Newly demolished. Blame the culture. Glass towns.
The Time. Uncovering her wrist Molly sees without knowing. It is imminent. The end?
The offspring had crowned the father and the Goddess had waited in her dark aspect.
The platform. The distant murmur diastoles Molly’s heart. Hope and fear rattles along the tracks. The brightest star. Wish upon. Night walking. Advent of the father?
The brakes. A carriage. A door. Opens. Alighting.
Good tidings of comfort and joy?
A jolt of recognition.
And softly, softly, wakes Molly’s heart.