In a blue park in London
The windows have fires on the other side
Stars lie still in their pitchy silt and listlessly swim
The ground is crusted over in white
And the way the day death light falls
It looks like blue frosting on a Christmas cookie.
There was me sitting on a bench in this Christmas blue park in London and I was wearing red socks. I heard the ice skate blades grind against the glass pond they had there, and I watched small people glide awkwardly, trip, then fall. Their tears added to the slickness, and it was a comical chain of events — the ballerinas in plaid wool coats and the shining knights in silver boots skimmed across the pond on their bellies like a stone skipped over the ocean.
I unwrapped the white paper and rubbed my hands together in anticipation. Chucky’s Super Fresh Fish N Chips was the best damn chippy place I’ve found after coming over here. I was eating painfully delicious deep-fried cold-water haddock and thick cut potatoes with the traditional salt and vinegar. It was kind of cold outside. I took another bite of the fish and shoved in a chip after it. I washed it down with sweet, milky tea from an on-the-run cup.
I looked around at the beautiful, peaceful world, and I thought about life and was wondering what it really was all about, and wondering why we are here on Earth and… Just where the hell is Earth? Seriously. Have you ever really thought about it? Where is the Earth? Maybe that question is just too much for our primitive brains to comprehend, and we probably shouldn’t attempt to.
And so there I was, sitting on a bench in a park and eating fish n chips, oblivious to the ways of the universe. Then the joy of the glowing and ponderous day was suddenly shattered with screaming. A young girl had fallen through the ice.
I got up and ran over to look, leaving my food on the bench for the birds or a wanderer to eat. There was a thin man stretched out on the ice and he was thrusting his arm out in an effort to reach the girl who was bobbing and struggling in the water. I hurried to the edge of the pond and gathered there with the others, looking over at the struggling child.
“Has anyone called for an ambulance!?” I yelled, frantically searching for an answer from anyone.
One man put his phone in the air, pointed and looked over at me.
“Yes! I’m doing it now.”
“Tell them to hurry or she’ll be dead!” one woman cried out.
It seemed like forever before I heard the sirens and saw the flashing red and blues splashing against the bruised cotton candy sky. The emergency vehicles came to a screeching halt and the men jumped down and pushed through the crowd. They pulled the dad in quick to get him off the ice and out of the way; then they sent out the smallest rescuer with a rope tied around his waist and he snatched the girl out of the hole, and he passed her to another, and she was limp in his arms as they rushed her to the waiting ambulance. She was carried to a gurney near the ambulance and she was soon smothered with blankets while the mom and dad wept over her and kissed her on the head. The gurney went up and into the ambulance and the doors shut with a rude thud and the tires spun and they tore off toward the hospital.
I read about the girl being dead in the newspaper. It was that cold and creamy Sunday afternoon when everything was still and quiet except the floors creaking as I gently walked about the old flat in a t-shirt and boxer shorts and a pair of reading glasses slipping on my face. The fireplace crackled with fire. I sighed at the table. I sighed about the dead girl. I glanced out the window. Not much was moving. The mists of winter crawled up out of the streets, over brown rooftops, and floated into the forests like gray syrup. I tapped at my teacup and then got up to throw another log on the fire. Somewhere far off I could hear the ringing of a handbell. Then I heard the caroling. It was nearly Christmas.
I sat in the chair near the hearth and watched the orange tongues of the fire lap at the sooty brick. An ember popped. The old clock on the mantel struck seven and chimed. My wayward mind drifted and I wondered about the ghost of Santa Claus steering his sleigh through another dimension. The carolers drew closer to my building and so I went to the frosty window, rubbed on it, and looked down at the old street. I looked at the faces there — bright eyes lit up by candlelight, steaming mouths moving open and shut as they sang. I could smell the bones of autumn’s leaves through the glass. Then there was the clop clop of the horses as the old-time carriage rolled by all lathered in garland and bells and shiny glass balls of red. The people inside were laughing and waving and crying out — “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”
I drew the curtains, but the bells still rang, and the voices still floated upward. But soon they got quieter and quieter until drifting away completely. I sat back down in my chair near the hearth. I opened a book all about Christmas in the past and started reading it. The doorbell rang and then there was a knock. I had nearly forgotten.
The young man at the door wore a coat over his uniform and a wool cap on his head. His shoes were covered in slush. He handed me the white bag from Chucky’s Super Fresh Fish N Chips.
“I’m going to give you 12 quid tonight… Since you’re having to work so close to Christmas.”
He tipped his hat at me and smiled.
“Thank you, sir. Enjoy your fish n chips… oh, and Merry Christmas.”
I closed the door and it clicked. I turned a knob and the deadbolt snapped in place and kept me safe from the outside world. I dropped the white paper bag on the table and reached inside. It wasn’t the fish n chips I had ordered. But what I pulled out was magical and amazing nonetheless — a little stuffed black bear about the size of a half-loaf of bread with a rubber face and a red plastic collar around its neck and a silver chain leash.
“How did they know? … This has always been my favorite.”
I had gotten one as a child in the gift shop at the place where the high bridge gapped the canyon in some western American place under the sun. It was right after when a cable broke and the bridge went smashing down into the canyon and there was so much dust and screaming — and I had stayed behind so I could set my bear on a rock and just look at him in peace. None of my family — father, mother, brother, sister, grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, two cousins — came back through the dust. They all got smashed against rock and then were dropped nearly 1,000 feet, down into the raging Arkansas River at the bottom. I waited and waited and waited through the chaos until a policeman finally took me away in his patrol car, and then I had a long and challenging life.
I sat the bear on the mantel over the fire and stood back and looked at him. I thought about the fact that Chucky’s Super Fresh Fish N Chips really knew how to deliver. The clock struck eight and chimed. I rummaged around in the refrigerator and made myself a different sandwich. I turned on some soft lights in the living room and plopped down on the couch and began to eat. The carolers were drifting by again. Santa’s magical dead sleigh swooped by on stardust, right near my window. I settled back, powered on the television, and watched all about the latest godless war for sale.