Short story from Colin R. James. His literary anthology, A Potion Peddler’s Almanac, will be available soon! A full-throttled bullet ride through imagination and beyond.
By Colin James
The radio squawked in the background, its pale green glow illuminating the recesses of a dusty dashboard. The disembodied voice excitedly broadcast the sentiments of the season; the holly and jolly of his enunciation hard to connect with the mood within the vehicle.
“It’s Friday, it’s Christmas and it’s festive; the Xmas hol’s are here. For all you lucky buggers stuck in the snow and slush here’s something to take your mind off that endless traffic in front of you. It’s Chris De Burgh and Driving home for Christmas.” The voice faded, the music began.
“I’m driving home for Christmas; can’t wait to see those faces…”
“Only two shopping days left until Christmas day and so for all you perennial procrastinators, what are you waiting for? Go and get that little something for your little something.”
“Top to toe in taillights. Oh, I got red lights on my mind,” sang Chris.
“The weather out there is frightful people so drive carefully,” said the DJ from the comfort of his centrally heated studio. “There’s more snow on the way. It looks like we’ll finally get that white Christmas the Met office has promised instead of the usual drizzle.”
John pushed the button on the cigarette lighter, waited for it to click then lifted the glowing element to the pregnant cigarette caught between his lips. Snow speared through the windscreen, despite his cautious 20 mph on nearly impassable country roads, turning the snow flurries into an effluvium of Agincourt arrows.
“Driving in my car, driving home for Christmas.”
It’d been the last day at work. Not the last day end-of-year-go-home for Christmas sort of last day, but the last day. The kind of last day where a contrite boss orates from behind the safety of two minimum wage security goons the reasons why the letting-go of 20% of a dedicated work force has to happen; lower orders, global slow-downs, Chinese competition and the fact that the red line on the graph projected onto the factory wall started in the top left hand corner and sloped inexorably towards the bottom right. A bobsleigh ride of industrial minimalism ending in the inevitable. A surfeit of reasonable excuses why try as they might, “with as ‘twere a defeated joy; with mirth in funeral and dearth in marriage,” fired John’s arse. But “Hey-Ho” what was that to him? With a mortgage, an expectant wife and a child already in the manger the only thing that could make the Yuletide even merrier would be the advent of three Christmas ghosts and a small crippled boy with rickets. Dickensian remembrances were in vogue if the brightly lit windows of the city department stores were to be believed; however, in the garrets and tenements of breadline Britain the festive fireside warmth of Christmases of long, long ago was bone chillingly absent.
Peering through the murk he saw the sign he’d been looking for. He indicated and spun the wheel, half steering, half gliding the vehicle like a Nascar Santa. How he didn’t hit the post office box that stood scarlet sentinel was a minor Christmas miracle and in all probability the limit to which divine intervention could be expected.
“Driving in my car. Driving home for Christmas..,” warbled Chris undeterred despite his lack of seatbelt.
The jingle-jangle of sleigh bells and the plink of well-fingered guitars strings accompanied John as he made one last slip and slide into the car parking space he’d roughly been aiming for. The lights were on. The sparkle of festive decoration and decked Christmas tree could be seen through frosted windows alongside the shadows of family and friends who’d already begun on pre-match indulgences: sherry glasses and paper crowns would be the order of the evening. John switched off the engine, opened the door and stepped out into the soft crunch of freshly floated flakes and walked up the driveway.
The Mercedes, the universal symbol of a comfortable life, stood pinking and hissing as falling snow extinguished in silent exhale on its still warm body work. It was surprising that the latest advertising campaign that expounded the virtues of German engineering didn’t extend to its tires. The knife flashed in John’s hand, its chromed blade reflecting the reds and greens of neighborhood decoration as he buried it again and again in the black rubber. The boss’s car pathetically lost air as it sank ever lower to settle in the drifting snow no longer supported by the pneumatic perfection of radial reliability. “Merry bloody Christmas,” spat John as he pocketed the blade.
The sudden noise caused John to turn quickly; the fight or flight of an immediate adrenalin fueled reaction to once more tighten his fingers around the handle of the pocketed blade. A doggy-door swung listlessly; the black and white face of a silent observer framed in its opening. Undeterred, the small Boston terrier sniffed its way towards where John stood petrified. Never one to miss an opportunity, John scooped up the animal, slid to his car, fumbled the door and put the puppy on the passenger seat. If this didn’t put a smile on the face of his son nothing would; and given his current situation and his obvious lack of good will to a certain man, justice would be served.
“Driving home for Christmas, with a thousand memories.”
John climbed in and turned the key; time to go home and celebrate with his own family.