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12/4/11

A Christmas Carol - by Richard Porter



“Throw in the towel,” someone yelled, “he’s bloodied pretty bad.”

They had me in a corner - the lot of them - pummeling me over and over again - till I was black and blue. What a scary sight I had become but perhaps apropos given that Halloween had just passed. And so I sat alone in my vulgar apartment with nothing to do.

But then later still I found myself again standing outside your door; soft-shoeing and humming a Cole Porter tune under my breath; rubbing my hands together in a futile attempt to keep warm; in the cold wintry night.

It was Christmas time and not even a lump of coal in my bare stove. An undulating wave of nausea and panic filled my stomach cavity and my only wish was to throw-up any and every where – to rid myself of the demons inside me. A catharasis or an expurgate would have been helpful. A ringing in my ears and a well founded fear of base and coarse people had caused my anxiety to register off the richter scale. And now I'd become immobilized, unable to carry out even the most basic of human endeavors - such as eating and sleeping and that other thing which I just can't bring myself to repeat.

Sweat poured from every available pore - and I have pores the size of dixie-cups! A consumptive pock-marked pencil mustache wearing wretched soul I had become - a product of dissembling nature no doubt.

And then, there you were: standing in your doorway, eyes furrowed, hair in curlers, cigarette dangling from your mouth, hand on one hip, the other cradling a drink. Feral, flea, worm-infested dogs yapping and barking about your thick ankles. The smell of boiled cabbage and stale ale, when you said condescendly out of the corner of your mouth: "What the hell do you want?"

"A lump of coal," I replied sheepishly, "It's freak'n cold!"

I entered your home uninvited and unwanted and gravitated toward the fireplace; to warm my weary bones beside the fire.

Spent, smelly, hungry and cold, I fell upon a chair next to the hearth. And with a death rattle beginning in my throat and spittle forming at the corners of my mouth and a skeletal frame resembling a small primate's I did raise and clasp my hands together in the manner of a pious monk and said using a haunting raspy voice: "Please, honey, sweetheart, sugar-pie, for old times sake, can you spare a little something to eat - and a lump of coal, please, if you could?"

But by now you had turned your back on me and began speaking with your new beau – ‘Paul.’

"Honey," Paul said, "Who is that at the door?"

"It's no one," you said, and poured yourself another stiffner.

And in between fits of coughing I implored you again, "Please, one lump of coal and I'm out of here. If I don't have coal I probably won't make it through the night. And perchance, do you have any cough syrup, I've developed this horrible cough?"

By now your attention was entirely focused on your new husband - touching and covering him with all of your attention. And I, in a break-through moment, came to the painful realization, that despite all expectations, and despite my numerous pleas to god and any other deity worth their salt, that everything had now become finalized and nothing would return to the way it was before, in short, there was no turning back. And while you yammered on to your new husband I did spy in the corner of the room the thing I had came searching for - a bucket of coal. Black and matte and beckoning me to come over, I stood up and hobbled over to the giver of life. And secretly placed two pieces in my pocket and immediately excused myself for you see I had partially found the thing I had come looking for.

I returned to my flat, relieved that I would probably live to see another day, and placed the two lumps of coal into my stove and put match to paper. And for a short while I was warm and content and happy and even contemplated recovering lost time and missed opportunities. But of course it was all just dangerous dreaming. And later still the fire extinguished itself, and I found myself again outside your door soft-shoeing and humming a Cole Porter tune under my breath searching for another lump of coal, in the cold wintry night.