Christmas tales season.., p.1
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       Christmas Tales - Seasonal stories, poems and greetings from the Coventry Writers' Group, p.1
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           Michael Boxwell
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Christmas Tales - Seasonal stories, poems and greetings from the Coventry Writers' Group
s Tales

  Seasonal stories, poems and greetings

  from the Coventry Writers’ Group

  www.greenstreampublishing.com

  Published by Greenstream Publishing 2011

  Copyright for the individual pieces is retained by the original authors and they assert the moral right to be identified as the authors of their work.

  Kindle: ISBN 978-1-907670-17-6

  Copyright for this book edition is held by Coventry Writers’ Group.

  A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

  Contents

  A Merry Christmas

  Supporting Santa!

  Snowflakes

  A Christmas Wish

  Carol: A Ghost Story for Christmas 2012

  Christmas Break

  The Beginning

  When Santa got stuck up the Chimney

  Making a Meal of It

  Letters to Santa

  I’m Just Going Out

  Last Chance

  Santa

  About the Authors

  Also from Coventry Writers’ Group

  A Merry Christmas

  Michael Boxwell

  I’ve been an hotelier all my life. It’s a funny old job – and not for everyone. You get to meet all sorts of people and, all too often, the customers treat the place like a dump. Bedclothes strewn over the floor, rubbish everywhere, petty thieving... I’ve seen the lot. There’s plenty of tales I could tell you.

  The worst of all happened a few years back now. During the census – a great time for us hoteliers. The inn was packed, and at three times the usual room rate too. Anyway, along comes this shifty-looking couple, turning up without a booking. I didn’t like the look of them and was all for sending them on their way with a flea in their ear, but it turns out the woman was in the family way and the missus felt sorry for them, so she let them stay in the stables for a bit to dry off.

  I didn’t like it. There was something about them I didn’t like. I reckoned they were trouble. You get to know them after a while. You get a group of disreputable travellers. They get the young, vulnerable-looking ones to come and get booked in, with some sob story about long journeys, the donkey breaking down, dressing up the woman so she looks heavily pregnant – the next thing you know there’s a dozen or more of them, ripping the joint apart and pinching everything that isn’t bolted down.

  Anyway, it gets to midnight, it’s all quietened down and I’m beginning to admit that, well, maybe I was wrong. The missus and I are in bed, all the guests are settled and then it all kicks off. There’s this right ruckus out in the barn. This couple have invited in the whole neighbourhood and are having a party. There are about a dozen dirty, drunken shepherds down here shouting, singing and making an awful racket. They’ve even brought sheep with them, upsetting the other animals and causing a terrible din.

  I goes down there and tells them all to belt up, but they’ve all had too much to drink. They won’t stop singing at the tops of their voices and shouting about angels and kings. I’m all for kicking them all out, but when there’s only one of me and a dozen of them... well... you’ve got to know when to cut your losses. I go back in, triple-lock the doors, apologise to all the other guests and open up a free bar by way of compensation.

  Anyway, it all calms down eventually and we all get off to sleep. Then at five o’clock there’s another banging on the door and these three blokes with camels turn up. There’s me all bleary-eyed and trying to wake up and they’re talking about stars in their eyes and asking where the king is. I’ve no idea what they’re smoking, but by the sweet smell, it certainly isn’t legal. I slams the door and go back to bed. Next thing I know, they’ve gone into the barn as well and are shouting and cheering and it all kicks off again.

  Next morning, I have an inn full of irate guests all demanding their money back and leaving me with an empty hotel. I boot the couple out sharpish. Flippin’ troublemakers. It turns out the woman hadn’t been kidding about being pregnant though. In amongst all the noise and the partying, she had given birth that night.

  Poor kid. What a start in life. Wonder what became of him?

  Supporting Santa!

  Martin Brown

  This Christmas will be different,

  For Santa’s out on strike.

  The government’s cut his pension,

  So he’s told them, “Take a hike!”

  For years he’s worked for peanuts,

  Including Christmas Eve,

  Delivering lots of presents

  To all those who believe.

  He’s ready for retirement,

  But the government says, “Get lost!

  Your pension’s too expensive,

  We can’t afford the cost!”

  So Santa is protesting,

  He’s put away his sleigh,

  And plans to march on Parliament

  At dawn, on Christmas Day.

  So please show your support

  For Santa and his plight,

  By filling up those stockings

  Yourselves on Christmas night.

  Snowflakes

  Elinor Reid

  Snowflakes dance through the shattered ruins.

  I stare, wondering what happened here,

  Stumbling numbly from one charred stub of a building to the next.

  It almost seems like screams still linger but it is only the cold, cold wind.

  Running my fingers over one shattered scar blending into the next,

  My throat closes up with upwelling tears.

  I bleed tears for hope abandoned,

  Dreams shattered and wishes cruelly tossed away like so much chaff.

  A snowflake kisses my face and I smile painfully, suddenly glad they are here.

  Fall faster, cover these ruins, let them never see light again!

  In the precious perfection of each tiny unique snowflake I find solace

  And know that even ruins can be made beautiful...

  A Christmas Wish

  Mary Ogilvie

  Christmas wishes can be special,

  Christmas wishes can come true,

  And if you wish a Christmas wish

  That is specially for you,

  Make sure you keep it secret

  For it's then that you will find,

  That the wish you made for Christmas

  Will be a lasting kind.

  Carol: A Ghost Story for Christmas 2012

  Rosalie Warren

  Carol Gentle studied the classifieds in the back of Private Eye and thoughtfully composed her own.

  Conscience for sale, £750.

  Surplus to requirements.

  Can you make use of it?

  Bank details follow...

  She didn’t really expect a reply. Anyone who wanted a conscience would presumably already have one. Still, you never knew. Christmas was approaching and perhaps one of the Eye’s wealthy readers would happen upon her advertisement and transfer the money to her account. Just how she would deliver her conscience to him (or her, though she somehow saw her respondent as male) was another question. But she had no doubt that, between them, they would find a way.

  Carol’s house was cold. A fierce wind battered the windows and seeped in round t
he edges of the panes. It would be good to have new windows or even to turn up the heating by a few degrees, but the former was a pipedream and the latter was too risky. Stevie, Carol’s sister, was in trouble again and any spare money Carol could find would have to go on making sure her small nephews had some presents around their tree.

  She shivered and ran upstairs to get herself another jumper, which she pulled on over the first two.

  A week or so later and a hundred miles away, Hogworth Shreddie hurried out of his workplace in London’s financial district, pushed his way through the crowds and headed for the tube station.

  A postal delivery van turned the corner just as Hogworth stepped into the road. The scream of brakes rent the frosty evening air and a hand – the hand of a stranger – grabbed Hogworth’s arm and pulled him out of the path of the red van, just in time.

  Hogworth lay sprawled on the pavement for several seconds – dazed, confused and rather surprised still to be alive. No one seemed to be aware of him, though he heard the distant sound of an ambulance siren as he picked himself up and resumed his tracks to the station.

  Later, sitting in First Class and still feeling rather shaken, Hogworth took out his new copy of Private Eye and turned straight to his favourite section, the classifieds.

  As always, Hogworth glanced over the mature, middle-aged women declaring their love of fun and their desire to travel, eat well and go to the theatre. Hogworth had never been able to imagine sharing his life with a woman. Or with a man, come to that. His sexual stirrings were amply satisfied by the internet. Less frequently, he’d noticed, of late. He must be getting old.

  Carol’s offer caught his eye. This was a first in his experience – someone offering their conscience up for sale. Why would anyone do that, he wondered. Hogworth had never been troubled by a conscience of his own, though he’d heard they could be tricky things to manage.

  Just some gimmick on this woman’s part, no doubt. Perhaps it was a scam.

  He dismissed the classifieds and turned instead to Pseud’s Corner, his second favourite section of the magazine.

  Hogworth did not sleep well that night. He woke in the early hours, shaking all over, heart thumping fit to raise the dead. Vague memories of a nightmare clung like wisps of fog – a man crossing a road? Of course – his near miss in the city yesterday. Who can the person have been who’d pulled him out of the way of the red van? Someone quick-witted, no doubt of that. Strong, too. A young man of some description. Perhaps even an employee of Hogworth’s own bank.

  Would have been nice to be able to thank him – but by the time Hogworth had gathered his wits, his saviour had disappeared.

  Lying there in the dark, Hogworth became slowly aware of a kind of glimmer – a ‘sheen’ was how he put it to himself – at the end of his bed. Silvery, gently luminous, perfectly still. What the hell?

  He shut his eyes and opened them again. The sheen had gone.

  Hogworth turned onto his side and settled down to sleep.

  It happened again the next night. This time the sheen was more in focus and had a vaguely human shape. Hogworth sensed that it was waiting, in some way, for him.

  Feeling idiotic but unable to help himself, he said: ‘Hello?’ His voice emerged hesitant and unassertive – wholly unlike his usual tones.

  “Hello.” The reply was quick and uttered in exactly Hogworth’s voice. It could almost have been an echo.

  “Can I help you at all?” Hogworth’s heart was thudding again.

  Not, he told himself, that he was in any way afraid of ghosts. He couldn’t be, seeing as he didn't believe in them. This creature was either a nightmare or, just possibly, a hallucination of some kind brought on by an unwise combination of painkillers (he suffered from mild arthritis) and whisky.

  “No,” the sheen replied. “You can't help me. There is nothing you can do for me.”

  “In that case,” said Hogworth, “Would you kindly remove yourself from my bedroom and let me go to sleep.”

  He closed his eyes and opened them again.

  The sheen had gone.

  On the third night, he awoke, as was becoming a habit, at five past four. This time, the sheen had a face. A face that was familiar to Hogworth but brought him no pleasure at all.

  It was his uncle – the man who’d brought him up. Uncle Stafford.
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