Water Like A Stone by Fiona J Mackintosh
There’s never any actual snow at Christmas, not round here. Sleigh bells, reindeer, the bloody Snowman on the telly, it’s all just propaganda for this one dismal day.
I’m invited to daughter’s house as per. A good kid, but her posh friends witter on about wine and talk in special voices to me, like they’re on stage. I want to say you’ll be old too one day, you know.
On the way to the bus stop, I nip into the Paki shop for some smokes. You’re not supposed to call it that anymore, but old habits die hard. The young fella says, “Happy Christmas, mate” as he hands over my change, and I want to ask him, “Is it all as meaningless to you as it is to me?” But no voice comes out.
The cold outside’s a punch in the chest. There’s a crushed lager can in the dead leaf pile in the bus shelter. No one’s about, all indoors with their Yule logs and tinsel. It’s like a piece of plywood over a broken window, this day. The real world’ll still be there when the sherry wears off.
The driver’s wearing a Santa hat. I doze, head against the window, almost miss my stop. Get off, still groggy, and light up a ciggie, that delicious surge of warmth in my lungs. The slag-heaps, I call them. Strangely beautiful on the x-ray, like wings. Coal-black frosted with scatterings of white. Not good news of course, no surprise there.
Sitting on daughter’s garden wall, fighting to catch my breath before knocking, I see a dusting on the pavement, flakes swarming round the streetlights like midges, settling on my sleeve. Well, call me a liar, but there’s a first time for everything. And there’s also a last.