The group members are busy writing Christmas Tales as you do and these offering are the first of them. A tale by Ruth Partis that has the ‘aaah’ factor – a thought provoking story. One by James Apps which is a little different. Another by Anthony writing under the name Karm Ager that reflects his sense of history – a touching story. Peter has added an essay on poverty which asked some questions.
A Christmas Story – Ruth Partis
A Christmas Fairy Tale – James Apps
A Christmas Tale -Karm Ager
Not Quite Scrooge – more Jacob Marley – Peter Apps
A Christmas Story
by Ruth Partis
In spite of his warm red coat and hood he could feel the chill as soon as he entered the house. If possible it felt colder indoors than the December outside air. It was darker too. Outside the moon had been full and bright stars filled the sky. Inside there was no lights, not even the glow from modern technology on stand-by that most houses had.
The house smelt awful. There was an overwhelming stench of damp mixed with the familiar smell of stale human body functions. There was silence too, a loud silence that made his ears ring with the effort of trying to hear something.
He pointed his torch around the room and found the light switch. He turned the light on and a bare low power light bulb showed him the room. Shabby didn’t really cover the state of the house. Clothes, washed and unwashed, covered most surfaces and dirty crockery and food was all over a small table in the middle of the room. An overflowing ash tray was balanced precariously on the edge of a stained and ragged settee.
Trying to ignore the state of the room, and the smell, he consulted his list. There should be two little girls living here, but the cold silent room had no toys or signs of them, apart from the little bags obviously containing used nappies. And the smell.
There was a battered door leading to another room and he went and opened it, quite fearful of what he would find. With that light on too he could see that there was a bed and an empty cot and a pile of dirty clothes on the floor. A movement attracted his attention and he could suddenly see a tiny tear stained face amongst the stained bedding. A child made a whimpering sound and he uncovered it to reveal that it was a girl wearing just a grey vest and pink knickers. Her hair was matted and her arms and legs stick thin. Tear stains marked her face and her huge eyes stared up at him.In her arms was what he thought was a doll, but when he touched the child’s cold skin, he realised that she was cuddling a baby. He picked them both up, sat down on the edge of the bed and gently put them on his lap. The child made the little whimpering sound again. The baby moved and he was so relieved that tears filled his eyes. He had thought that it was dead.
The girl started to cry and he held her close so that she could share the warmth in his coat. He wrapped the baby in too and held them both close.
He took out his mobile phone and dialled 999 asking for the police and an ambulance. He sat, rocking the children, and waited until the blue lights flashing appeared outside, their lights filled the rooms around some torn old lace curtains.
He gently patted each child to reassure them and then he open the front door so that the police and medics could get in. He placed two wrapped presents, a soft teddy for the baby and a cuddly dog for the child, into the children’s arms.
As the police entered he disappeared up the chimney to carry on with his deliveries, a little late, but feeling good. He picked up the reins and stirred the dozing reindeer into life.
A Christmas Fairy Tale
by James Apps
It was close to Christmas and the stock in the store was selling rapidly. The Santas and the Rudolphs disappeared at a steady rate and the pretty, slender, Christmas Tree Fairies were literally flying off the shelves. Except Diaphene who was examined, put back, mocked and generally verbally abused by potential customers. Diaphene was, to put it mildly, overweight. She was the fattest Christmas Tree Fairy anybody in the Pop Up Christmas shop had ever seen.
‘Pleasantly plump, if you please,’ said Diaphene.
She mumbled when a rotund child pointed to her with a fat finger and said: ‘Ooh look! A really fat fairy.’
‘I’m not fat!’ she shouted but the child didn’t hear her although she must have seen the ugly face she pulled.
‘Oh yuk she’s really ugly too!’
Diaphene could put up with remarks like that as long as somebody chose her for their Christmas Tree. She imagined the sight of all those Christmas goodies, the sweets, the chocolates, roast dinner, mince pies, sausage rolls, Christmas cake and delicious Christmas Puddings. Yum! Even the thought of them added a little weight to her already plump body.
She was not obese.
But when a customer suggested the shop run a ‘guess the weight of the Fat Fairy competition’ she emitted some extremely foul un-fairy like language. The row of chubby Santas looked amused and one even managed a chuckle.
‘Shut it you fat freak,’ Diaphene said.
‘I’m supposed to be fat,’ retorted the Santa and completed his reply with a sarcastic peal of ‘Ho, ho,ho, ho bloody Ho!’
That was followed by the chuckles of the other Santas, irritatingly tinkling giggles from the other Fairies and a few braying snorts of derision from the row of Rudolphs.
At closing time on Christmas Eve all the slender fairies were sold, most of the Santas and Rudolphs were gone and the Manager made up a box of goodies she had promised to send to decorate the Church hall for the charity Christmas dinner.
Diaphene found herself included in the gift box.
At last! She was wanted.
The Church Hall was bright with lights, tables were set out with clean cloths, cutlery, festive sprays, crackers and glasses. Paper chains and tinsel brightened the ceiling and in pride of place beside the stage was the Christmas tree bedecked with baubles, more tinsel, flashing lights, and mounted on the top was Diaphene the overweight Fairy. Roger, the volunteer who had fixed her to the tree tied her firmly with lashings of tinselled twine, a little lower than the very top but still allowing her to gaze over the revellers.
The reverend Wallace of St Agnes in the Wold looked on pleased with the scene and started the proceedings off with a grace fitting for Christmas Day.
The Christmas dinner was as lavish as a charity meal could be and those who were in need enjoyed the food, the company and the chance to feel wanted and cared for by the volunteers and the members of the Church.
Diaphene watched in delight as the revellers enjoyed the feast, a simple starter of soup and bread, a full roast with turkey, a portion of Christmas pudding with custard and the final scoffing of mince pies; each course adding to her pleasure, and it has to be said, her size.
First her dress became uncomfortably tight. Next the twine that tied her to the tree strained and stretched but thankfully Roger was not so good at knots and it loosened as she grew ever larger.
‘Oh dear, I think I have eaten too much,’ she said, and burped.
This was at the turkey roast stage when potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips and stuffing was disappearing rapidly inside the diners. It got worse when the Christmas Pudding began to be devoured.
Her dress split and I am afraid she not only burped but she also farted, which was most un-fairylike.
The reverend Wallace wandered from table to table, giving a blessing here, a kind word there and joining in with the joviality often at his expense. He was an essential part of the revelry and Diaphene felt that she too was being drawn into it. Actually she appeared to be getting closer to the nearest table and wondered what in Fairydom was happening. Underneath her something creaked.
‘Ooh, what’s that?’ she said.
The something creaked louder, and the tree shifted toppling with a crash bringing an immediate halt to the party. Spoons on the way to mouths, or dipped into dishes, and glasses were held suspended in surprise by hands that were suddenly stopped in mid movement and the diners,servers and helpers fell silent.
His Reverence had disappeared.
The volunteers rushed to see what had happened to their patron followed by some of the more curious diners. Laying on the floor unconscious in the wreckage of the fallen Christmas tree was the reverend Wallace, floored not by the tree but by Diaphene the overweight Fairy which he was clutching to his bosom with a beatific smile on his face.
It was a sad Christmas Day for the Reverend Wallace who sped, hopefully, joyously to his maker, and a sad day for the volunteers and diners who would miss their jolly patron. Like everybody else Roger was sad at losing his patron but he was also puzzled by what happened when he retrieved the Fat Fairy from the reverend’s clutches. As he lifted her obese figure from the supine body he thought he heard somebody burp, let off a sharp but quiet fart and a voice quite nearby that said: ‘Oops, pardon me!’
A CHRISTMAS TALE
(in four parts)
The small 13th century church lay in a remote part of the English wetlands. Built out of local stone, the mediaeval masons had cleverly bound them together with lime mortar. Their final coats of white lime wash paint made it look exquisite. Though tiny, it was still a beautiful church.
Santa Claus came early that year, in 1943. Normally, he would have been expected to arrive only in the second or third week of Advent but this time, for some unknown reason, he came during the first week. It was a great occasion – as always. Father Andrew set aside the small Lady Chapel for Santa where the children could visit him.
And the little ones came bubbling with excitement. It was a Saturday. Mothers and adult relatives were accompanying them, holding fast their hands. The children formed an orderly queue outside. Then one by one they traipsed into the mysterious grotto to meet Father Christmas. They knew he loved them all. You could see that from their faces. They also knew he was capable of fulfilling their wishes, whatever they were. Every single child that left the grotto afterwards had a radiant smile on his face.
General Sir Hugh Willoughby-Grant was in his office. He was drawing up the fine details for the coming offensive. Nearly a million soldiers were earmarked to take the field in that massive invasion. He had left strict orders he was not to be disturbed. Nevertheless, there was a knock on his door. His aide, Major Moreton entered the room quietly and waited.
“Yes, Stanley? It had better be something important!
“Sir, there is…you have an urgent call…
“Father Andrew – says he knows you…
“Yes. My stepson. Put him on.
Major Moreton went out of the room. Almost immediately, the yellow telephone on the general’s desk rang once.
“Dad, Santa Claus has just been in my church. He saw our Little Marjorie. Her mother Mrs. Williams is seriously ill in hospital. Not expected to survive. The child is inconsolable. Is it possible for you to find her husband and…
“Service, name, rank and serial number Andrew?
“Leading Aircraft Man Reginald David Williams No.884332167909…
“Got it. Contact you later.”
Sir Hugh got up and moved away from his desk. He took out of his cabinet one of his treasured cigars and carefully lit it. After two deep satisfying puffs, he walked over directly to his red telephone.
“Get me General Arnold of the 9th US Army Air Force,” bellowed the general. There were a few inexplicable clicks on the telephone. Then he was through.
“Red, this is Hugh…”
LAC Reginald David Williams did not like the Maltese weather. He came out of the hangar where he had been servicing a Mark IX Spitfire. At the other end of the field stood an American Liberator aircraft which had landed a little while before. Its engines were still running. A Jeep roared up to him braking violently to a stop.
“Get in,” shouted the corporal.
“What the f…
“Get in and don’t ask questions…” LAC Williams obeyed at once jumping in and doing up his unbuttoned shirt.
The tyres screeched as the Jeep roared away.
Much to his disgust, General Sir Hugh Willoughby-Grant found he had no choice but to enter the Hospice of St Agnes for his final farewell. Aged over three and ninety years, his physical faculties were rapidly fading as was his strength although his mind remained alert. It was the feeling of tiredness that was the worst – that never seemed to leave him. He sat in his big rocking chair looking towards the lake where the swans competed with the ducks and seagulls for scraps of food.
“Tired…Lord I’m so tired,” he muttered to himself. He thought he sensed the presence of others around him. Yes, they must be because he could hear them whispering. A firm grasp of his arm. The sharp pinching sensation as the needle went in. He felt someone holding his hand. His wandering mind returned.
“General Sir Hugh, I’m Dr. Marjorie. Do you want to be put to bed?”
“Bed? What on earth for? Who? Dr. Marjorie? I knew of a little girl called Marjorie once. Marjorie Williams. Her father was serving in Royal Air Force. Yes…I had something to do with them. But a long, long time ago.” Sir Hugh was clearly recalling memories from the distant past. His mind was going again. It was his stepson Andrew who had telephoned him. And he mused…Santa Claus! Who? Marjorie? Marjorie Williams?
“Thank you Red for not letting me down. You were a great chap…a…great…ch.a.a..pppp…”
The General breathed in deeply once. Then, no more. Dr. Marjorie Williams, the consultant geriatrician leaned over to examine him.
“He’s gone,” she said. “I’ll miss him.”
The nurses standing by never really understood why Dr. Marjorie Williams was crying.
Not Quite Scrooge – More Jacob Marley
by Peter Apps
I’m not in a creative mood at the moment but I thought that I should write something for tonight even it was only worthy of Facebook.
I’ve said before that I’m not a great fan of organised religion and as a rule of thumb the higher the church the lower my interest. However, I do have a soft spot for the Church of England because of its history for turbulent priests at Canterbury.
Now the Church of England is very much a state institution, with the state involved with its appointments while its bishops sit in the House of Lords. In return the state hopes that its priests confine themselves to flying the Cross of St. George from the tower, encouraging the congregation to sing ‘Jerusalem’ and remembering poppy day. The reality is that Thomas a Becket set a precedent and the incumbents of Canterbury do not always toe the party line.
It was the recent furore over a report on poverty that prompted this piece. Justin Welby the present Archbishop of Canterbury commented that although less serious, the plight of a family who turned to a food bank in Britain shocked him more than terrible suffering in Africa – because it was so unexpected. The keywords of course are that ‘it was so unexpected’.
It’s difficult writing this piece without showing political bias, and yes, my politics are well to the left of the present day Labour Party.
However, since the eighties, successive governments have tried to create the notion that only the idle need benefits. Today, pundits condemn food banks because they encourage scroungers. It seems that the consequences of those attitudes are becoming more noticeable and in true C of E tradition, Archbishop Welby has spoken out against them. Consequently, he has been dismissed as a crank, not understanding the difference between an African state and the UK, or as an opportunist.
Now, obviously this is not a Christmas story but it is relevant and an extract from Dickens Christmas Carol might tie it in. It’s where visitors arrive asking for charitable donations:-
“At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
“Are there no prisons?”
“Plenty of prisons.”
“And the Union workhouses.” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
“Both very busy, sir.”
“Those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Again the situation today is not as bad as it was then – yet, but the attitudes are the same and, maybe I am developing a story.
Archbishop Welby uses his influence with the Almighty and sends a host of Jacob Marleys to parliament. They arrange for the spirits of Christmas to show its members the consequences of their decisions. The twist in the plot would come afterwards. How many MPs would prefer to keep the chains that Joseph Marley displayed, ignore the warnings and denounce his efforts as a socialist attempt to undermine capitalism?