This tale of woe first appeared on the Internet under the The Wanderer by-line, (copyright 2006).
I thank my LadyCibelle and Techsan for their assistance in preparing the original version for posting. A few minor changes and additions have been made to the text during the intervening years. I'm afraid that I cannot recall whether those modifications have been proofread by anyone else or not.
Note; although this is a Christmas story, it contains some rather "strong" language in parts. It has been my experience that angry people, do tend to use such language. Very often, rather repetitively!
Well, there I was, sitting on my usual stool staring down at my half-empty beer glass. When the background 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 though, I must have voiced my feelings out loud, I hadn't intended to. But ... that was what I was thinking.
"Yeah. What's everyone got to be so effing happy about? Disturbing my peace, that's bleeding what!" I replied, without even 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 then, and saw a short, rather rotund old man -- complete with shock of 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 that evening, the bleeding Queen could have walked in and no one would have noticed her. Bugger they wouldn't have been 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 f$%k have I got to be happy about?" I scowled back at him.
The cheeky old bugger was getting right up my nose, so I decided to give him chapter and bloody verse. After he heard my f$%king 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 f$%k sight more money than I ever had. So when it came to the bleeding divorce court; they give the bitch custody of not only my three kids, but my bleeding dog as well.
"What did the effing bitch do then? I'll tell you! She made it very difficult for me to get access to the children for the next eighteen months. I was in and out of court like a bleeding yo-yo trying to pursue the bastards to force her to give me the access to my children that I was supposed to have. The effing family courts don't give a shit for the fathers.
"Then the effing CSA (the Child Support Agency) ... those effing wankers' came down on me like a ton of bleeding bricks. The bastards took most of my bloody wages in child support for the next effing year or so. The effing bastards took my wages at source from my bloody employer, before I even saw it. So I couldn't afford to buy the kids much in the way of Christmas presents that year. I wouldn't have minded so much if the cow and her f$%king 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 sodding week, than I make can make in a bleeding year.
"Do you know what the bastards did that Christmas? Well, I'll bloody-well 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 appear to have a very 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 year, the bitch ... and that bleeding git, took the children away for the Christmas holidays. They went skiing over in France. But one night they all went out for a meal somewhere and that arsehole must have had himself a bleeding skin-full. On the way back to their hotel, the bastard put his bleeding Merc into a lake!
"Oh, he made sure that 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 effing lake the following morning. That bastard killed my kids!
"So now you see now, 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 to move on with your life. You really must try to forget the past and make a new life for yourself in the future. 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. If I'm being honest with myself I have to admit that my kids didn't really want to know me anymore. They were spoiled rotten. I only got to see them about once a bloody month anyway; 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 f$%k-off and leave me alone. But there were so many people jammed into that pub that night, I doubt he could have moved away from me if he had wanted to.
"What you tell me is very upsetting to hear, my friend." 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. I was still pretty pissed with the world in general, but towards the end I had begun to warm to him a little. Most likely because he appeared so interested in me, and my life. Only I couldn't understand why he should be. I think he was truly concerned about me and he was trying to convince me to try to forget the past, and look to the future.
He left the emptying 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. It was lucky that 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 or something and kill myself, which was what I really wanted to do.
But once I got outside the pub, I found the old man slumped against the wall. He had undoubtedly consumed far more alcohol than he could handle that evening.
"Damn," I thought, "I can't leave the old bugger there. If it turns any colder, he could freeze to bleeding death."
So I made my way over to the old bugger. "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 on my feet. 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 the old boy suddenly appeared to know my name; I never have worked that one out. Perhaps he heard George say it?
We made off in the direction of his home. Which, much to my relief, 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 can't recall a single word of what the old bugger said. I just wanted to get him home, then get back to my own bed.
We hadn't got a third of the way to the street he said he lived in when 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 boy exclaimed.
.... There is more of this story ...