All Is Calm, All Is Bright

Leave a comment

December 21, 2009 by markstani

Kaycee tosses a Mr Kipling’s Mince Pie off the top of the multi-storey. She leans out, watches as the butter-enriched-fluted-pastry-case-deep-filled-with-delicious-mincemeat shrinks to a crumb on the concrete. She tosses a second: it misses the bald dome of a man in a business suit by inches. He stops, squints up. Kaycee turns to Della, says, ‘I’d say the gravitational force of a Mr Kipling’s deep-filled Mince Pie is exceedingly good.’ Della smiles, rips open another pack. Kaycee whoops, ‘Merry Christmas!’
*
Kaycee swipes the Mr Kipling’s from the offer pile after having her way with Security Wayne. Kaycee’s way’s so good Security Wayne’s gone and got her name tattooed on his neck: Kaycee. Security Wayne thinks it’s him Kaycee wants, not the butter-enriched-flute of a Mr Kipling’s. Kaycee flirts, leans in, tugs at her denim mini. Security Wayne says, ‘you wanna go out?’ Kaycee flits out with her plaggy bag stuffed. She winks, ‘maybe.’ Heads up the lift to toss more butter-enriched-flutes.
*
Della doesn’t much care for Christmas. Says one day, she’ll follow the Mr Kipling’s off the top. Kaycee says, ‘if you go, I go too.’ They argue over who’d have the best downward trajectory. Previous experiments suggest the pies are more accurate, the slices prone to buffet. Della says her, on the basis that she’s squatter, more Cherry Bakewell-shaped. Kaycee, she’s more long and thin and nutty, like an Almond Slice.
*
One time, they tossed a whole Bakewell Tart. It frisbee-d out straight, cartoon-halted, then parachuted down. It landed same as toast, icing down on the slabs. Della said she’d seen some programme which explained why toast always landed butter-side down. Said she couldn’t remember why it was now, but it must be the same for Bakewell Tarts.
*
Della swings her legs off the edge, kicks her heels. Below, the streets crawl with last-minute shoppers. Della says, ‘we’re all out.’ Kaycee makes Della promise she’ll still be there when she gets back. That she’s not going to do a Cherry Bakewell while she’s gone. Della says, ‘I wouldn’t do it to you, Kayce.’ Kaycee heads back down the lift. In the lift, she primps her hair, tugs down the front of her top, pulls a tired sprig of Mistletoe from her knock-off Liz Claiborne. Gets herself ready for Security Wayne.
*
Della sits and stares out. She lights a Lambert and Butler and wonders if she’ll ever have the guts. Wonders if she might have had if Kaycee hadn’t panted up that day, plaggy bag brimming. If Kaycee hadn’t seen Della teetering, hadn’t pulled out a box of Angel Slices, of all things, told her, ‘chuck these instead!’ How stupid it had sounded, but Angel Slices! – how there was something about Angels and saviours that stopped her. Almond Slices, Country Slices, she’d have said thanks for trying and slipped off. Like she’d been struck by some crazy kind of confectionary fate. Same fate, perhaps, that dumped her on the hospital steps when she was four hours old. Swaddled in a Tesco’s carrier bag. When they found her she was blue as the bag stripes. Della wonders if her mother ever shopped there. If she ever took cakes from the offer pile.
*
Security Wayne slaps his face with Aspen, checks and double-checks the outline of the ring box in his trouser pocket. He thinks, today’s the day. He crunches Corn Flakes, still standing. He heads out of his flat, hits the sharp air, breathes deep, sparks a Benson. He floats to work, reeking Aspen and nicotine and festive spirit. He sees the tramp he roughed up for half-inching cheap wine. He grins out, ‘Merry Christmas!’ He strides in the staff entrance, up the empty, last minute-stuffed aisles. He feels the eyes of the help-yourself salad girl, smiles at a memory. Winks at the pair on the oven-roast chicken counter. Slaps the arse of the kinky old tart on customer service. He thinks, yeah, today’s the day all right. Today’s the day.
*
The bald man in the business suit raps the glass. Between his thumb and forefinger, he’s holding the remains of a butter-enriched-fluted-pastry-case-deep-filled-with-delicious-mincemeat. He spits: ‘what are you going to do about this?’ The car park guy sighs, glances up at the clock. The bald man says, ‘well?’ The bald man’s so angry he’s shaking. The car park guy flops down his tabloid, screws his eyes at what’s left of the pie. He says, ‘what do you want me to do about it, Sir?’ The bald man fits and puffs and swirls his shoulders and raises his voice: ‘WELL IT HARDLY FELL OUT OF THE SKY!’
*
Security Wayne’s day is not the day. Security Wayne is no longer Security Wayne. He’s Santa Wayne. He’s handed an over-sized Santa suit, told to yo-ho-ho it up and down the precinct. He’s told they can’t take the risk, not today. They’ve beefed up security, bussed in a bunch of heavies. They want Wayne to head out, charm in the customers with that festive spirit of his. Santa Wayne pleads, ‘no, no, no.’ He tells them today’s supposed to be the day. His boss points at his suit, at the precinct. He says, ‘get that shit on, and get the shit out there.’
*
Sometimes, they recognise him. ‘Hey,’ they say – the early middle-agers, the newly soft-bellied. ‘Hey, is it really you?’ They double-squint through the pay-glass. ‘It can’t be,’ they say. Then they say, ‘The Executioner! It’s really you!’ They have him sign their parking tickets. They tell him they were there in Great Yarmouth. Now, they take camera phone pics. They say, ‘how ya doing?’ He force-smiles back. He doesn’t tell them about his busted shoulder, the arthritis daggering his hips, the angina, the bed-ridden wife, the kids who drop-kick his front door and chant paedo rhymes. He force-smiles long and hard, and says, ‘I’m doing just great.’
*
Kaycee’s phone chirps. She takes the call, says, ‘huh?’ She says, ‘I’m on my way.’ Then, ‘no, really I am. I promise.’ She knows what her nan’s thinking: ‘it’ll take more than a few sodding cakes to put things right.’ That’s what she said last time – ‘it’ll take more than a few sodding cakes to put things right’ – when Kaycee showed up two hours later with a stack of French Fancies for the little ‘un. Well, sod you nan, the little ‘un seemed to like them at least. He scoffed a whole box-full, and, even better, spent the whole night spewing bright pink up over nan’s new lino. You can still see the stain. Kaycee heads in the store, hopes the mistletoe’ll convince Wayne to help her bag something bigger, something for the little ‘un. She scouts around, sees heavies lurking, no Wayne. She thinks of Della on the roof, ready to jump if she doesn’t get her Mr Kipling missile fix. She cradles a tower of Mince Pie boxes in her arms, lingers till she reckons the coast must be clear-ish. Then she saunters out the in-way, all casual-like. She hears a voice call, ‘hey!’ She legs it straight for the lifts.
*
Santa Wayne’s done enough yo-ho-ho-ing. He’s been at it for hours. Has a front spilled with fag-ash and canteen lunch special. Got laughed at by the help-yourself salad girl. Took enough abuse from snot-nosed kids. Even the old tramp seemed to find it funny. Santa Wayne trudges, bumps shoppers, thinks of Kaycee. Mothers frown, swerve their pushchairs away. Santa Wayne thinks things can hardly get much worse. A butter-enriched fluted pastry case meteors out of the sky, splats delicious deep-filled mincemeat over his forehead, knocks him to the flags.
*
Della scores a direct hit on Santa. She says, ‘I guess bang goes my Christmas list.’ Kaycee whoops, flings another. It strikes the stricken Santa’s mid-riff. A circle forms, mothers with pushchairs hung with heavy bags. Their cackles rise up storeys.
*
The car park guy stubs the lift-up button and waits. A shopper pants out of the stairwell, laden with stuff. She sees his name-badge, her face tightens. ‘It’s broke. It stinks.’ She flicks her head back at the stairwell. ‘On Christmas Eve, of all days.’ The car park guy thinks of home: his wife upstairs, a single slug of tinsel. The estate kids waiting to mock him. Thinks of the glory days – tag-teaming King Kong Kirk; taking a speaking part on Big Daddy’s ‘This Is Your Life’ (Michael Aspel: ‘what was it like being on the receiving end of a Daddy Splash?’ Him: ‘Michael, it was like being the cake on the bottom of a trifle’). He inhales the fug of stale urine, draws breath, starts up the stairs.
*
Santa Wayne reels to his feet, plunders his gift-sack for missiles. He strafes wrapped tat around the precinct. He screams, ‘Merry fucking Christmas! Merry fucking Christmas!’ He tears at his Santa beard so it hangs skew-iff. Passing kids cry, are pulled away. He rips at his tunic. He raises his eyes, sees two stick-figures in the sky.

Kaycee says, ‘shit, it’s Security Wayne.’ Della howls laughter, reaches for more. She says, ‘that creep?’ Then yelps, ‘he’s coming.’ Kaycee says, ‘good thing I jammed the lifts, huh?’ Kaycee grins, hands Della another mince pie.
*
The car park guy stop on the fourth storey, rests his hands on his knees. Stops again two storeys later, bends so sweat drips from his forehead onto concrete. He strains on upwards.
*
Santa Wayne marches into the supermarket. He punches out products down the chocolate aisle, sends Quality Streets spinning. He roars, ‘I quit.’ He lurches left hooks at the new security. He lays two out, sends one crashing backwards in the cereal section. He shouts, ‘I quit, I quit, I quit.’ He grabs for weapons in the kitchen aisle, waves cake slicers and slatted spoons. He heads straight for the lifts, kicks dents in the jammed door. He starts stomping up the stairs.
*
Della kicks her legs off, says, ‘you got him owt special?’
Kaycee shrugs, stares out a little. She takes another Mince Pie, hurls without aiming.
*
The car park guy hits the last storey. He wheezes expletives. He pushes the door and the cold wind bites him. He sees the girls draping bare limbs. He shouts, ‘hey!’ He hopes they’ll quit and run. Shouts, ‘hey!’ again. The girls don’t hear. The car park guy feels a wrench in his chest. His voice is a croak. He slumps to the concrete.
*
Blue lights swirl below. Della says, ‘you hear that, Kayce?’ Kaycee’s peering down. Kaycee says, ‘they’re taking him, Della. They’re gonna take him away.’
Della says, ‘shit, Kayce.’ Then, ‘SHIT, KAYCE!’ louder – Kaycee spins, sees the car park guy fall.
Della says, ‘he dead, Kayce?’
Kaycee says, ‘fancy mouth-to-mouth?’
They stand over him, stare down. He groans, retches nothing. The girls jump. His chest starts to heave.
*
They sit till the sky goes dark. Kaycee snuggles deeper in Santa Wayne’s red tunic. Her head rests on his Kaycee. His arm wrapped tight round her shoulders. The car park guy bites at air, gazes down at the last-minute ant-people scurrying below. Della kicks her heels off the concrete, says, ‘you ain’t gonna die on us, huh?’ Street lights beam. Straps of baubles pulse from shop-fronts. Kids point and whoop at window displays. Snow starts to fall. Slow first, then thick quick. A brass band strikes up, trumpets gleaming gold in the gloom. The first bars of ‘Silent Night’ throb the air. They listen awhile. Kaycee proper cries, says, ‘it’s beautiful.’ The lift groans back to life. The floor-lights creep upwards. There are shouts from the storey below. Della reaches for the final box of Mince Pies. They take one each. Della says, ‘on three..’ They pelt the band. They bawl together: ‘Merry Christmas!’

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: