A Christmas Evening
“A Christmas Evening” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Rishal Pandey Chettri, Holy Cross School, Tadong, Gangtok, India.
A Christmas Evening
It was around two thirty pm on Christmas Eve 1997 when the brown envelope and its festive travel companions cleared the letterbox and fell onto the hall carpet. Audrey Milner; on hearing the letterbox rattle, entered the hall and picked up the four envelopes which were all addressed to her husband. She looked at the handwriting on the three birthday cards trying to guess who they were from. The brown envelope appeared to be from The London Bridge Heart Hospital. It was most probably the result of the recent tests carried out on his last cardiology appointment.
At that moment; the intended recipient of the letter and cards Rob Milner, was leaving his office colleagues who were partying in the West End Griffin bar. He had spent the last ten minutes shaking male hands and air kissing the females, before finally escaping. He turned out of Long Acre then decided to meander through Covent Garden via Henrietta Street to soak up some of the Christmas atmosphere before going for his train home to New Malden.
The Garden Piazza area never failed to delight him at any time. No matter what time of year, It could always be relied upon to produce street activity and decoration that was always appropriate to the occasion. He slowed his brisk walking pace to stroll and noticed that some small flurries of sleet had started to fall. He smiled to himself and turned his coat collar up, hoping that maybe this might be an indicator of a possible White Christmas.
Wreaths of Ivy and Holly hung above most of the doors. Christmas decoration of every description festooned the streets. Colored lights twinkled haphazardly in nearly all of the windows, and festive music could be heard from most every open door.
Glorias, Noels, Hallelujahs, Hosannas and other once holy nativital utterances were overriding most everything else musical, as the Salvation Army band and Choristers belted out their Yuletide programme.
“Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing oe’r the plain.
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their glorious strain.”
The brief intermission between Carols, allowed snippets of commercial Christmas music to infiltrate into the street. Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ and Roy Wood’s ‘I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday’ joining ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas’ as the most repeated commercial tracks.
He cut through Garrick Street onto Bedford Street heading south towards The Strand, when a very tall black man dressed in a Father Christmas suit and shaking a hand bell suddenly headed towards him. He shook his collection box menacingly in front of Rob saying:
“African Children. Help the starving African Children.” He noticed that the collection box didn’t display any insignia, nor did the collector seem to be adorned with any noticeable ID or other authority to collect money. Rob sidestepped him and carried on, thinking it would only be a short matter of time before the police or some other authority put a stop to his hardly legal charitable intentions. By this time the background music had changed to Paul McCartney’s ‘Wings’ who appeared to be ‘Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime’.
Rob couldn’t get enough of Christmas. He absolutely wallowed in all the commercial hype that the festival generated. From childhood it had been ever so. He was born on 24th December 1957, so Christmas had always been a very special event for him. The fact that it diverted attention away from his birthday had never been a problem for him. The midwinter celebrations had always more than made up for the early disappointments he’d experienced as a child when many people including family, frequently failed to remember his birthday. Invariably though, this often resulted in some early January bonus presents. So he was now more than accustomed to the fact that there was nothing to do about it.
The air was pungent with the smells of roasting coffee and fried onions which seemed to blend in seamlessly with the aroma being emitted by a roast chestnut cart. The unlikely combination evoking the seasonal feeling that had by now fully engaged him. As he approached The Strand and Bedford Street intersection, where black cabs were inching along impatiently tooting their horns in unintentional chorus. A lanky, noble looking Rastafarian; playing a guitar, rolling his skinny hips and mouthing a pretty poor rendition of the ‘Boney M’ Reggae song ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ suddenly approached him.
Hark now hear de Angels sing, Listen to what they say
And man will live forevermore, Because of Christmas Day.
At least this was a genuine busker, he thought. He dropped a fiver into the guitar case which was doubling as a cash drawer and was supervised by a very pretty West Indian girl who stood over it also swaying her ample hips. This earned him a beaming smile from the Bob Marley wannabe and a “Hey! Merry Christmas Man!” from his female assistant.
He crossed The Strand and carried on to The Victoria Embankment Garden area.
He stood for a brief respite from his long walk and then decided to sit down on one of the benches that looked out over the river. As late afternoon approached and the light quickly deteriorated; he smiled, marveling at the beautiful patterns of colorful light that were being reflected from the quietly flowing river. He still appeared to be marveling thirty minutes later when the paramedic team found him.
As the ambulance raced from the scene all lights flashing, it entered The Strand to the strains of Kirsty McColl and The Pogues performing ‘Fairy Tale of New York.
The boys of The NYPD Choir, still singing ‘Galway Bay’
And the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day.
Some miles away in New Malden, Audrey Milner placed the three birthday cards alongside others around the fireplace. She picked up the brown envelope and placed it in the drawer of the old bureau at the bottom of the hall. It would keep until after Christmas.