Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Winter’s Tale

It was Christmas Eve and the only sound that broke the evening silence was the faint sound of whips cutting into reindeer flesh. Large flakes of snow parachuted to the stony earth and then lay still, as if they’d broken both legs on landing. High, high above the clouds, a troup of celestial angels quarrelled furiously over who should sing the soft parts of “Oh Come all ye Faithful.”
Oliver O’Bituary took one final glance out of his bedroom window and drew the curtains. Then he rubbed them out and drew them again. Laying his sketchbook down, he gazed wistfully at the large empty stocking tacked to the fireplace. “If only Santa would come this year,” he said to himself, which was a rather odd thing for a 43 year old tax consultant to wish for. Then he pulled the covers up under his nose, flatulated loudly and fell asleep.
Oliver lived in a large house in Clonsilla with his two airedale terriers, both also called Oliver. There was also a money spider who lived on the kitchen window and who was known as Ollie to distinguish him from the Airedales but, as he only enters fleetingly into this story, we won’t dwell on him.
O’Bituary had spent a large amount of his spare time trying to get his two dogs to mate, showing them diagrams and playing cheesy Lionel Richie songs late at night, until he had been informed by the window cleaner that they were both, in fact, female. He had thought about renaming his dogs Olivia, but decided that this might induce a crisis of confidence in his canine house guests and decided to let sleeping bitches lie.
However, the window cleaner, a large uncouth man with sideburns and a hatred of lattice windows, had taken great amusement in relaying the story around the neighbourhood, which resulted in the unfortunate dog-owner gaining the sobriquet “Two Bitch Ollie.”
“Here comes two Bitch Ollie,” the local children would yell excitedly whenever Oliver’s puffing figure approached with the two Airedales. “There goes Two Bitch Ollie,” they would shout, whenever he was travelling away from them. Who says children have no imagination nowadays?
The first rays of the Christmas morning sun angled through the partially closed curtains in Ollie’s bedroom and struck his sleeping face. “Ouch!” he yelled savagely and rubbed his cheek. Then, realising, the day that was in it, he dashed to the window and flung open the curtains.
Outside was a picture postcard winter wonderland. Young children were sleighing happily down Shelerin Road. Rosy cheeked carollers, bedecked in fur hats and scarfs, were linking arms lovingly and wishing one and all a merry Christmas in perfect harmony. A fat little robin warbled cheerily on a yuletide log until it realised its feet were completely frozen to the wood. Lost penguins trailed around in single file asking people for directions.
Oliver flung open the window excitedly. “A merry Christmas to one and all!” he yelled at the top of his voice. Then, realising he was completely naked, he pulled the curtains hurriedly and went back inside to check his stocking.
There is something in it, he whispered to himself, as he approached. He knew Santa wouldn’t forget. Already he could see a slip of paper and something green. This was just going to be the best Christmas ever.
Actually, if the truth were known, Santa’s presents turned out to be a trifle disappointing. They consisted of a single sprig of holly and a bill for a pair of bifocals that Ollie had purchased from the local opticians. Still, it was a start, and Ollie verily skipped downstairs, humming “The Holly and the Eye Fee.”
He gave Oliver and Oliver their presents – a pair of musical slippers each, which they gnawed at contentedly - and then prepared to go out and join in the frolics. He put on a pair of moleskin trousers and then slipped on a pair of rubber boots, bruising his hip quite badly as he fell. Fully dressed, he pulled on his mittens and stepped outside his front door.
The first snowball playfully broke his nose while the second one caused a deep gash on the side of his head. “Kids!” he thought lightly, as he groggily peered through the film of red that coursed down his throbbing face. Bending down, he scooped up what he thought was a handful of snow, but was in fact a pool of battery acid. The acid seeped through his gloves and then started to burn the skin from his hand. In pain, he staggered backwards onto the upturned prongs of a rake which pierced both his feet and caused him to yell and career wildly into the path of a sixteen stone ice skater who was thundering up from the direction of the railway station at a hundred and forty miles per hour.
It was perhaps somewhat unfortunate that the runaway steamroller, albeit bedecked in festive bunting, should have passed by at that very minute that Ollie bounced off the stocky ice skater. Certainly, Ollie felt that somehow the festive celebrations weren’t quite turning out the way he’d anticipated them, as he crawled in excruciating pain through his open front door and kicked it shut behind him. The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was a Christmas tree-shaped web adorning the kitchen window. “Gosh, that’s clever!” he thought, as blackness descended.
“We must go and call on Oliver O’Bituary,” said optician Dr. C. Cleerly to his wife a couple of days after Christmas. “We must go around and wish him the spirit of the season.”
“He owes you money, I take it?” replied his wife, fetching her new boa from the wardrobe. She wrapped it tightly around her neck and admired herself in the mirror. “Should it really be squeezing me like this?” she asked, breathlessly.
At Oliver’s gate, Dr. Cleerly left his wife still struggling with the snake and marched up the front path to the door. He rapped peremptorily, causing a large chunk of snow to shudder off the roof and fall on his head. The next time, he rang the doorbell, but the call went straight through to ansaphone. Peering in through the lattice window, he spied the comatose figure of Oliver lying in the hall. “Oh my God!” he yelled and, pausing only to comb his hair, eat a packet of crisps and rearrange the folds of his underpants, he put his shoulder to the door and barged in.
What struck him immediately was the smell of disease. Lying there for two days, Oliver had developed bronchitis, double pneumonia and treble Legionnaire’s Disease. His head had turned gangrenous and he would undoubtedly lose it before he got better. The stench of illness, germs and rotting flesh pervaded the air, and Dr. Cleerly drew a handkerchief from his breast pocket and staggered backwards out onto the path.
“What is it dear?” asked his wife worriedly, as she stabbed an accurate stiletto through the boa’s head. Her husband retched violently over a startled hedgehog, gasping for words to explain the situation.
“’Tis…’tis…’tis disease an’ Two Bitch Ollie,” he gasped finally, to which his wife responded, “Tra-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.”

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