Ex Con , Rerry and Bickers staggered out the door, a little bit drunk , festive, and happy to be going home to their kith and kin on this enchanting Christmas Eve. It had started to snow and the sounds of merry revelers drifted up from the streets below. I was sitting on the desk, sipping my Laphroaig, Few was thrown back in his leather clubman, belly hanging out, sucking on a big Havana.
“Brick, run along like a good fellow, don’t want to keep the kids waiting on tonight of all nights.”
“And you Few, you going over to Imelda’s as usual? Kids must be excited. Ours are up the walls.”
“Eh, well you know Imelda has this new French squeeze so they’ve gone to Paris for the festivities. I’ve actually got a lot to sort out you know….OH FUCK IT – look , look at me now, all my genius, my empire, my money, everything I’ve done and for what ? For fucking what? To spend it alone on Christmas Day, alone and unloved…how did it come to this Brick? I mean people love me, I’m a magnet, a chick magnet, a person magnet, a talent magnet, you name it and I attract it. Shit!”
Oh Jesus, this is all I needed – a maudlin Few, when I’m trying to get home. I change the subject. “So, Few – I mean you’re getting on a bit. You were a kid once, so I hear – what was, what do you remember about Christmas where you were young?”
“What do I remember? 1974. I remember quite well. May, I remember being told my father had died. I remember my life being thrown into the deep freeze. I remember the chair I was sitting in, where it was. The kitchen, it could be right now. It’s that clear. Afterwards, I don’t remember afterwards. For a while anyway. There must have been a lot of pain. A lot of not wanting to remember. I can’t say. Then things thaw, slowly – a winter thaw, I guess that’s unusual. We moved – up to the hill, where the poultry market was – every December on the 13th. The geese were right bastards – hissing hate machines with beaks that could break your arm. Evil. The turkeys were ok, considering. Every time I eat a goose now I smile, oh yes you had it coming you honking fuck. Funny? You think I’m funny? Funny how?
Then the lights, the rainbow 60-watt bulbs strung across King Street – to my 6 year old self they were the most exotic sight on earth. One evening in the bakery, after everyone else had gone, my mother and I designed a chocolate church, replete with carol singers and snowstorms. We sat in the half-light for hours and it really was a thing of beauty. We put it in on display in the shop window. It wasn’t for sale but next morning someone offered 25 pounds and then it was. We walked home together hand in hand, in the gathering dark. Later, there were people round and big flat boxes of Milk Tray and minerals and Perry Como and it was going to be alright, for the first time in a long time I thought it was going to be alright. That’s what I remember.”
“Too, you’re coming home with me – I’m sure the kids will love having their Uncle Few round for Christmas dinner.”
As we lock up, the streets are quite Dublin, spires sparkling under winter skies. We shuffle down The Lotts, snowy tracks following us, our shadows long and frosty in the moonlight.
Few’s phone rings. Jingle Bells. Tastful. I overhear a few words.
“Darla, Hi baby ! ……two ounces? Jacuzzi…Bolly…”He hangs up and turns to me.
“Well Brick, change of plans old thing!” and he’s off, half running, half falling down the quays.
As he reaches the Ha’penny Bridge he turns and roars “Merry Christmas!” and then he’s gone. A jolly old elf indeed.
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