As usual I thank my LadyCibelle and Techsan for their patience, proof reading, editing skills and of course encouragement. As always I have to add that we don't always see eye to eye with each other, I can be one cantankerous old bugger when I want to be and I've been playing around a little with a story since they have read it. Consequently I take full responsibility for the content and any cock-ups in this tale.
I was sitting on my usual stool staring down at my half full glass, when the noise reached a new crescendo; yet another group of happy partygoers had obviously entered the bar.
"Shit, I hate this time of year!"
"Sorry, I'm not sure I heard you correctly. Did you say you hated Christmas?" a voice beside me enquired.
Bugger, I must have voiced my thoughts out loud, I hadn't intended to. But it was what I was thinking.
"Yeah. What's everyone got to be so fucking happy about? Disturbing my peace, that's bleeding what!" I replied without looking at whoever had addressed me.
"Now, come on, my friend, that's not quite the attitude you should have. It is Christmas, you know. A time for happiness and good will to all men; they're all just trying to enjoy themselves," the voice from beside me commented.
I turned now, and saw a short but rather rotund old man, complete with white hair and what could easily be taken to be a false beard, sitting on the barstool beside me. To be honest, he looked like one of those shop Santa Claus's, who had stopped for a drink on his way home from work.
'Where the hell did he come from, ' I thought to myself. 'I don't remember noticing him arrive. Mind you with the crush there was in the Rose and Crown bar that evening, the bleeding Queen could walk in and no one would be able to see her.'
"Look, my friend, I come into this pub almost every night, for a nice quiet drink and to drown my sorrows. Maybe I will have a little chat with George the barman or a couple of my friends. None of us has anything in particular to be happy about, we all live alone with our own demons and to be honest with you, we prefer to have our bar to ourselves. We don't like it when all these idiots come running round wishing everyone Happy Bloody Christmas." I scowled in the old man's general direction.
"We've all got our problems in life, my friend, but you must try to lighten up some times; this is the time to forget your problems and be happy." The old sod smiled back at me.
Why do people think they can understand your problems without knowing anything about you? I got annoyed with the old boy.
"You just tell me what the fuck have I got to be happy about?" I scowled back at him.
The cheeky old bugger was getting right up my nose, so I decided to give him chapter and bloody verse. After he heard my fucking story, he would see that I'd got nothing to be happy about.
"Look, three bleeding years ago, after years of what I thought was a happy marriage, I came home from work sick one afternoon to find my so called loving wife shagging her boss in my bed. I do my bleeding nut and then the bitch ups and runs off with the arsehole. He had a fuck sight more money than I ever had. So when it came to the bleeding divorce court; they give the bitch custody of not only my three kids, but my bleeding dog as well.
"What did the f-ing bitch do then? I'll tell you. She made it very difficult for me to get access to the children for the next eighteen months. I was in and out of court like a fucking yo-yo trying to pursue the bastards to force her to give me the access to my children that I was supposed to have. The fucking family courts don't give a shit for the fathers.
"Then the f-ing CSA - the Child Support Agency - those fucking bastards came down on me like a ton of bleeding bricks. The bastards took most of my bloody wages in child support for the next f-ing year or so. The f-ing bastards took my wages at source from my bloody employer, before I even saw it. So I couldn't afford to buy the kids much in the way of Christmas presents that year. I wouldn't have minded so much if the cow and her fucking stud needed the bloody money. But the arsehole she's living with owned the company she'd been working for. He makes more money in a fucking week than I make in a year.
"Do you know what the bastards did that Christmas? Well, I'll bloody tell you, they opened my presents to the children before Christmas. Then the buggers went out and brought more expensive versions of what I'd brought for the kids and they gave them to the kids first. Oh, I wasn't allowed anywhere near the children on Christmas day. Next time I saw my kids my gifts had been forgotten, whilst the children were playing with the more expensive toys."
"Ah, I see you have a vindictive ex-wife. But remember my friend, as they get older your children will know that you loved them."
"Now, that's one thing they will never be able to do, mister. Last Christmas the Bitch and that Git took the children away for the holidays. They went skiing over in France. But one night they all went out somewhere and the arsehole got himself a fucking skin full. On the way back to their hotel the bastard put his bleeding Merc into a lake. Oh, he made sure he and the whore got out of the car all right; but my kids were still strapped into their seats when the car was dragged out of that fucking lake the following morning. That bastard killed my kids.
"So now you see why I don't like Christmas. It holds no joy for me, just bad memories!"
"My friend, I'm sorry you have had such an unfortunate couple of years, but you have to try and move on with your life. You really must try to forget and make a new life for yourself. Just try to remember the good times you had with your children."
"Look to be honest there wasn't any good times. Once they had moved in with that arsehole, they got everything they ever wanted. The kids didn't really want to know me anymore. They were spoiled rotten. I only got to see them about once a bloody month; they were just forgetting me."
This old boy was still smiling at me. I've got to say it, I really felt like telling him to fuck off and leave me alone. But there were so many people jammed into that pub I doubt he could have moved away from me if he had wanted to.
"What you tell me is very upsetting to hear!" he went on "But there must have been some good times before your wife left home. And now surely you have to accept that your old life is gone. Perhaps you should try to make a new one for yourself."
The old man and I sat in the bar talking until closing time. Towards the end I had begun to warm to him a little. I think he was truly concerned about me and he was trying to convince me to forget the past and look to the future.
He left the pub just before I did and I watched him make his way somewhat unsteadily out the door. After he had gone, I finished my pint, said "Good night" to George and began making my own way home. I don't know whether it's lucky or unlucky that I didn't have a car that night. Its lucky I couldn't drive home in the inebriated condition I was in because I might knocked someone down and killed them. But it was unlucky because I couldn't drive into a tree and kill myself which was what I really wanted to do.
Once I got outside the pub, I found the old man slumped against the wall. He had undoubtedly consumed much more alcohol than he could handle. 'Damn, ' I thought, "I can't leave the old bugger there. If it turns any colder, he could freeze to bleeding death.'
"Come on, Pop, where do you live? I suppose I'm going to have to walk you home."
"That is kind of you, Graham. I am feeling a little unsteady. I should be alright after I've been in the fresh air for a little while."
It didn't strike me at the time. But this old boy knew my name; I never have worked that one out. Perhaps he heard George say it?
We made off in the direction of his home. Much to my relief it wasn't too far out of my way. The old boy was leaning against me and chatting on about life. I must admit, I wasn't really listening so I don't remember a single word of what the old bugger said. I just wanted to get him home, then get back to my own bed.
Suddenly the old guy stood up straight, as if he wasn't drunk anymore. "Fire!" he shouted.
A little confused, I looked in the direction he was pointing. Sure enough through the windows, blackened with smoke, of a nearby house I could just make out a Christmas tree in flames. Then with a god almighty bang the picture window exploded outwards. The next second the whole room was a roaring inferno and flames were licking up the front of the building.
"There's a woman and three children in that house," the old man said.
Suddenly I was as sober as a Judge! I pulled my mobile phone from my pocket and unlocking the keypad, passed it to the old man. "Call the fire brigade!" I instructed him as I began running towards the house.
They say that people do brave things because they don't think of the consequences of their actions. Well, I must tell you that, as I threw myself at that front door, I knew that there was a bleeding good chance that I wasn't going to be seeing the morning, and in my heart I don't believe I really cared.
.... There is more of this story ...