Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas

Well another year is almost over, and in the spirit of giving, here's a free Christmas gift in the form of a short story. Hope you enjoy it, and Merry Christmas one and all.

Jim Bloor stared out of the grotto window at the shoppers ambling past outside, probably spending far more than they could afford in the pinnacle of consumerism, otherwise known as Christmas.
                There was no way Jim was going to get himself into debt in order to buy some crap that the recipient probably didn’t want and didn’t need in the first place. No, he had far more important things on his mind.
                “Santa, are you listening?”
                Jim stared at the kid standing opposite him. He looked about seven years of age, the centre parting in his hair giving him a quite severe expression. “Ho, ho, ho,” Jim said, “and who have we here?” He glanced at the piece of paper stapled to the wall at his side that listed the kids in the order they were lined up outside the department store grotto. “Oh yes, Simon. And what do you want for Christmas young man?”
The boy stared with wide eyed wonder. “I’d like a...”
Jim stopped listening. He nodded in all the right places, but if the truth be told, he hated all these greedy little kids. When he was young, he was lucky to get a piece of fruit and a wooden toy. But then it wasn’t the kids fault as much as the parents for buying him everything he asked for. He glanced at the boys Mum and Dad standing in the doorway, grinning from ear to ear. They pulled out a camera to take a picture, but a six foot elf (six fucking foot. The store couldn’t even be bothered to get that right) pointed out a sign that said photos were not permitted as Santa’s helper was the only one allowed to take pictures, which they could then purchase for five pounds. That was on top of the five pounds they paid for the honour of their bundle of joy meeting Santa and receiving some plastic piece of crap made in China for a few pennies.
Their smiles faded for a moment, but then the father begrudgingly pulled out his wallet.
Once the photograph had been taken, Jim reached into the blue sack and pulled out a gift that he passed to the kid. “Now be a good boy, Robin—”
The kid frowned. “Simon, my name’s Simon.” He glanced back at his parents, lower lip trembling petulantly. They stared back at Jim as though he had just murdered their little one.
“Ho, ho ...” fucking “ho. Of course it is. Simon. Santa makes a mistake now and again, you know the world’s a big place and there are a lot of kids’ names to remember.” He smiled at the parents in the hope that they would understand.
The kid’s father scowled. “Money we’re paying you think he’d do the job properly,” he grumbled to his wife.
The kid tore the paper off the gift, threw the wrapping on the floor and pulled his nose up at the cheap action figure that he held up between two fingers.
An itch started beneath Jim’s fake beard and the extra padding he was wearing made him feel hot and sweaty where it pressed against his stomach. If it wasn’t for the money he wouldn’t be doing this job. And the more he thought about it, the more he realised the money didn’t cover the grief he had to endure. A trickle of sweat rolled from underneath his Santa hat and he wiped it away on his sleeve. As he brought his arm back down, his sleeve snagged the fake beard and pulled it down.
The kid stared at him for a moment, and then his lower lip started quivering. Next second he started bawling his eyes out.
“Outrageous,” the father said. “I want to see the manager.”
“Come here, Simon,” the mother added, holding her arms out to comfort her son.
“Right, time to move along,” the six foot elf said, ushering the family out. The green tights accentuated his skinny legs and knobbly knees. He looked like a string bean. The kid’s dad glanced back and gave Jim a final withering glare as though it was his fault. Jesus, he was only doing his job. What did they expect for five pounds?
“He had to find out one day,” Jim shouted after them. He then sat back and snorted loudly. He wished to God that his problems could be so minor.
A few minutes later the manager stormed into the grotto. His face was as red as Jim’s coat. “I’ve just had my ear chewed by an angry parent. You’re fired. Get your things. Security will escort you from the building.”
“You can’t do that,” Jim said. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You spoiled a kid’s dreams. Probably scarred him for life. I think that’s enough.”
“But I need this job.”
“You should have thought about that before.”
“Before what?” Jim raised his hands in a questioning manner. “I didn’t do jack shit. It was one kid with some stuck up parents making a fuss about nothing.”
“That’s all it takes. Pack your stuff.”
Jim stood up and shook his head. “But I need this job for my kid.”
The manager shrugged. “I’m sorry. I know what you’re going through, but you’ve brought this on yourself.”
“You haven’t got a clue what I’m going through,” Jim spat, but he knew it was useless arguing further. Department store Santa’s were two a penny and stupid as it seemed, people would be queuing up to take his place.
“Well you can shove your job up your ass,” he said as he stormed away, tugging the beard off and flinging it to the ground. He thundered past the crowd of people waiting outside. “And what are you looking at?” he shouted. “Santa has left the building.”
Mum’s and Dad’s shielded their kids and tutted loudly. He heard murmurings of ‘disgraceful’ and ‘shouldn’t be allowed’ as kids started bawling.
Jim quickly changed into his own clothes and then exited the store. Outside he stared at the twinkling lights that adorned the street and the shop windows. He resented the fact that he was probably paying for them through his taxes when he could hardly afford to pay the bills for his council flat. If his life was a book, then it was a shitty read.
He stomped along the pavement, muttering underneath his breath at the unfairness of it all. Christmas. It was a crap celebration anyway. How could any responsible parent fob their kids off with such lies? They were only setting them up for heartache when they found out the truth. And they were instilling in their kids the belief that it was alright to lie. That’s it was okay to believe a fat old bastard broke into their house each year and left presents. The reality was that if anyone broke in, it would be to take, not to give. Christmas was a joke, but he wasn’t laughing. It was no wonder the world was in such a mess. Parents lied about so many things. The tooth fairy, Santa Claus, compatible organ donors. A tear rolled down his cheek. He pictured his daughter, Rebecca, still believing that a heart would be found in time.
Jim was doing his best to help, but it wasn’t easy.
He spotted the family up ahead that had just resulted in him being sacked from his job. They were standing on the corner of the street. The father was talking on his mobile phone. Anger coursed through Jim’s veins as he watched them. After the father put his phone away, he kissed his wife on the cheek, looked at the watch on his wrist and said something to her before nodding and walking away.
Jim followed him at a discreet distance. The man walked past the shops and entered the multi-storey car park at the end of the road. He walked through the doorway and started up the stairs. Jim jogged after him, the smell of piss tainting the air. Half way up, he caught up to the man and without hesitating, he pulled the extendable baton from his coat pocket and whacked the man over the head as hard as he could. The resultant shock coursed through his arm and he watched as the man collapsed and tumbled back down the stairs. Jim jogged after him and crouched beside the fallen man and struck his head again for good measure. Then he checked he was still breathing. Satisfied that he was alive, he searched the man’s body for his wallet and took out a credit card. He then pulled out a prefilled organ donor card and pen from his own pocket and copied the man’s signature as close as possible onto the card and then put both cards back in the man’s wallet before exiting the building and heading for a callbox where he rang for an ambulance.
He knew that if the man wasn’t registered on the organ donor registry they might not take much notice of the card, but if it was pointed out to the family that he was carrying the card, then hopefully they would acquiesce with his wishes. But all of this was dependent on the man making it to hospital while still alive, and then being pronounced brain dead so that his organs could be harvested. Then there was the issue of compatibility. It was all a long shot, and so far, none of Jim’s attempts had been successful.
But it only took one, and he wasn’t going to stop trying. Of course, some of the victims had died after being struck, so their organs were useless, and others had survived without severe brain damage, but he had slowly honed his skill of judging how hard he needed to strike the victim to produce the results he required.
After making the anonymous call, Jim hurried home.
When he arrived at the flat, he hung his coat up behind the door and walked through into the lounge. His wife, Tracey looked up. “You’re home early,” she said.
Jim didn’t have the heart to tell her that he had been sacked, so he shrugged. “It was a slow day so they let me go early.”
Tracey frowned. “A slow day at Christmas?”
“How’s Becky?” he asked, changing the subject.
“She’s okay.”
“Any calls?”
“No, should there be?”
Jim shook his head and stared at the small, artificial Christmas tree in the corner of the room. A set of LED lights twinkled away on the branches, the glow reflecting from a few sad looking baubles and lengths of tinsel. It looked pathetic, and they only erected it to try to maintain the festive spirit that none of them felt.
Jim walked across the room and knocked on his daughter’s bedroom door and then entered. The curtains were partially drawn, and grey light filtered through the gap, illuminating his ten year old daughter’s face, accentuating her pale skin. She sniffled as he entered, and turned her head on the pillow to look up.
“Hi Dad.” She produced a faint smile that faded on her lips.
Jim sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over to kiss his daughter’s forehead. “How you feeling, sweetie?” He squeezed her hand. She felt so cold.
“I’m okay.”
She started panting slightly and Jim stroked her hair.
He sat with her, praying to hear the phone ring, but it remained tauntingly silent. After a while he left the bedroom and picked up the receiver, just to check that it was still working. He contemplated calling the hospital, but he couldn’t question them about new possible donors without giving away his misdemeanours.
He collapsed onto the chair in the corner of the room and stared at the window. Darkness pervaded the grey sky and the temperature had dropped. All across the city, lights twinkled in myriad houses, where happy families sat preparing for the big day. Jim knew that if a donor wasn’t found soon then his daughter probably wouldn’t see Christmas.
 Raised voices attracted his attention, and he realised there were Carol singers at his door. He listened to the words as they sang Joy to the World.
Tears rolled down his cheeks. Tracey came across and squeezed his shoulder.
“It’s not fair,” he said. “Why us? Why our Becky?”
“I don’t know. It’s just the way it is I guess.”
“No God can exist that would let this happen. She’s just a baby.”
The carollers stopped singing and there was a knock on the door. Tracey walked across the room and opened the door to give them some money.
Jim contemplated the lyrics he had just heard:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
Well they were certainly cursed. How many more people was he going to have to kill in order to try to save his daughter?

Tracey was watching the television when the call came. She immediately rang a taxi and then rushed into Becky’s room. “They’ve found a match,” she said, choking back the tears.
                Becky stared open mouthed. After a moment, she said, “Where’s Dad?”
                “It’s Christmas Eve, so he’s at work. I’ll ring him now and he can meet us at the hospital.” She proceeded to ring Jim’s mobile number, but it rang through to the answering service. She guessed he was busy playing Santa, so she left a message.
                By the time they reached the hospital, she still hadn’t managed to contact Jim.
“I want him here,” Becky said.
“So do I. But don’t you worry. He’ll be here by the time you come out of the operating theatre.”
“Of course.”
                She watched them wheel her daughter away, and then proceeded to the waiting room. She sat and stared at the door, then tried ringing Jim again. Still no answer. Magazines decorated a table top, so she picked one up and thumbed through it, but she couldn’t recall anything she read, so she put it back down. Her heart was racing and her fingers tingled. She couldn’t think about anything other than her daughter.
Movement caught her eye, and she noticed a nurse and a police officer walking towards her. “Mrs Bloor?” the nurse asked.
Tracey frowned and nodded. “This was delivered to reception for you.” She handed across an envelope.
At the same time, the police officer started to speak: “Mrs Bloor, I have some distressing news.”
Confused, Tracey tore open the envelope and pulled out a sheet of paper. As she read, tears filled her eyes, the police officers words fading into the background:
                My darling Tracey. You’ve got to believe me when I say that everything I did, I did for Becky. I love her with all my heart.
Merry Christmas, Jim. XXX


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Keep on running and writing.


Well a month ago I participated in the JCB Mud Run. While I had great fun, and the event raised over £30,000 for the NSPCC, I ended up spraining my ankle. #*%$ So the accompanying picture is not an elephants foot, but mine the day after.

This put me out of action for a couple of weeks, but I’m back to training again now, albeit slowly as the ankle still hurts and it's slightly swollen four weeks later. I need to continue training though as I’m entered for another couple of races next year, Hell in the Middle in February: Wild Warrior in March: I never imagined myself taking part in obstacle/trail races like these, but I have to say they are great fun and I’d recommend anyone who fancies it that they train for it and then enter one to give it a go, but just make sure you tread carefully, otherwise that might be your foot too!


Signs and advertising hoardings, they can be found everywhere, but they don’t always stand the test of time, as shown by these old ones I came across. The first one makes me think that there must have been a mad rush to train as a boot maker, and the second one is either a serial killer advertisement or the next fad in food!


I’ve just finished the first draft of a crime novella called The Heist. I haven’t done as much writing this year as I would have liked, but I hope to remedy that next year, and The Heist will be my first release of 2013. Further details will follow in the New Year.


Finally, here's a couple of books that I'd like to recommend. The first one is a short story collection by David Riley called, His Own Mad Demons. This collection of five stories has a central theme of devil worship, but the stories go much deeper and are well worth reading.

Next up is Tim Lebbon's Coldbrook, where a group of scientists lift the lid on a Pandora's box when they open a gateway to a parallel universe, but what comes through is not what they are expecting.