A Christmas Tale

(this is the blindest part of an utterly blind novel I wrote when I was in my early thirties. I was compelled to write it, but I have no idea what it means. Perhaps you can tell me.)

(Scene: winter. A barren snowscape.)

Characters: Jack, Jill (late twenties), Father Christmas, traditionally dressed.

Jack and Jill are sitting on a bench, Father Christmas is standing a little way off.

JACK: I spy with my little eye

JILL: What?

JACK : I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…

Jill: With what?

Jack (looks around) With T!

Jill: Idiot!

Jack: What?

Jill: Idiot!

Jack: Who?

Jill: What do you mean, who? You!

(Jack looks down and begins to brush imaginary specks of dirt off his trousers. He whistles a few notes of something unrecognisable, then stops. Jill looks at him briefly, then looks away. Her gaze settles on the middle distance. After a moment, she closes her eyes wearily.)

Father Christmas (approaching): A tree!

Jack: What?

FC: A tree! It’s a tree!

Jill: Where?

FC What he spied with his little eye.

Jack: How did you know?

FC: I didn’t know. I guessed.

Jack: Oh. (pause) Isn’t it lovely?

FC: What?

Jack: The tree

FC: Hmm.

Jack (in a false tone) Look at the pattern the branches make against the sky

FC The what?

Jack: The sky

FC: Oh. Hmm.

Jack: Of course, it’s cloudy now…

Jill (snorts. jack ignores her)

Jack: If it was sunny

FC: Hmmm?

Jack: It would be… (he searches for a word and brings it out without mucn conviction) lovely!

(pause)

Jack: Don’t you think?

FC: Hmm.

(another pause, during which Jack again tries to whistle a tune and fails. Jill stares straight ahead, and Father Christmas, seeming to come to life a little, comes nearer and stands by the bench)

FC: But don’t you think?

Jack: Hmmm?

FC Dont’ you think we’re forgetting something?

Jill: (Snorts)

Jack: What?

FC: Well – we’re forgetting – something important.

Jill: What kind of something?

FC: Well – it’s time for – (he attempts a dramatic build-up in his voice but fails, and makes a half-hearted gesture instead as he opens the sack) presents!

Jack and Jill: (groan) We had presents yesterday!

FC (looks in the sack) Oh yes, so we did. (He takes off his outfit to reveal a convict suit complete with arrows pointing upwards.) Well, that’s that then.

Jack: I didn’t know you were a convict.

FC: (only half-listening, putting the Father Christmas costume in the sack) Didn’t you?

Jack: No. What did you do?

FC: (reddens) Oh, nothing much.

Jack: But what?

FC: Just – a small thing, really. I’ll tell you all about it later. Now – what did I give you both for Christmas?

Jack: Snow.

Jill: And ice. And it melted.

Jack: We weren’t very satisfied.

FC: People never are, these days. Too materialistic. Now, in my day, people were grateful for anything at all: snow, ice, icicles, windstorms – anything really. I remember I once gave someone an avalanche – that was in a good year, of course. There haven’t been so many of those.

(Jill is looking at him curiously, but says nothing)

Jack: (sarcastically) So – if you were so good to people, what did they put you away for?

FC: (gives a bitter laugh). They? That’s a laugh. “They” put me up to it. (Looks hard at them both). That shook you, didn’t it? Oh, yes – they put me up to it. But who takes the rap? Yours truly – that’s who. Not that there’s any of them left – still, you never know – they might have go away in time. Thy might all be down there somewhere. Isn’t that a horrible thought?  All down there, sipping their sherry, waiting. (Jack is thunderstruck, unable to speak, gazing at the convict in fury).

Jill: But who did you talk to? Who hired you?

FC: Ah, well that’s just it, isn’t it? You never know. Some faceless bureaucrat, some pen-pusher. Probably wasn’t even the one in charge. Probably doesn’t even know who’s in charge.

(Jack is gazing from one to the other, unable to believe his ears.)

FC: Anyway, they tell me it’s just a little job, no manual work involved – well hardly any, only pressing a button, and you could hardly call that “manual work”, can you?

Jill: Hardly.

FC: No questions asked, and then the pay-off. Then transportation to (he looks around him) safe quarters.

Jill: I see.

Jack: (He has just recovered his voice) But – didn’t you – I mean, what were you, what did you… (he falls silent as, looking at the convict, the possiblility occurs to him that he knew all along what he was doing. Finally, he finds his tongue again, and does something which seems at the time the wittiest thing he has ever done. He gos up to the convict, stares at him and says:

Ho, ho ho!

(well that’s it. When I wrote that possibly not even god knew what it meant.)

Something for the rest of your life, sir?

The last couple of days, I’ve been working in the library, hence no blogging.  I have reached a firm decision, which is to write my novel and get it published.  Enough messing around!  Yesterday I imagined what I would do if I had only 4 months to live.  Of course, it is impossible to “live as though” you are going to die soon, but it is essential to make the most of your time, since we don’t know how much of it is left.  I fondly imagine I may have 40 years if I’m lucky (51 now) – but even if that’s so, those 40 years will disappear more and more quickly and seem like 10 in my childhood.  So I’d better get a move-on.

I have also decided to read Proust in French.  This may well take me the rest of my life, hence the title.  This was originally a joke:

Mark – I think barber’s ought to do operations, like they used to.

Me- what sort of operations?

Mark – well, they could offer vasectomies

Me – so after the haircut, they could say, “Something for the rest of your life, sir?”

PS in case you don’t get this, barbers always used to sell condoms, swinging from tree to tree (sorry, a different sketch got in there by mistake) and they would ask, “something for the weekend, sir?”

PPS Maybe I’ll enter the All-England Summarise Proust Contest next year