Every seat at the registry office was taken, except one.
Michael sat next to the empty chair at the front and waited nervously for George, his husband-to-be. George was less than half his age, but Michael the entrepreneur was confident – it was true love they shared.
George lay on his bed and reread the solicitor’s letter. The surprise inheritance from one of his former elderly lovers suddenly made him a very rich young man. He tapped a few words into his smartphone and pressed send.
Michael’s iPhone peeped. He read the message with disbelief: “Changed my mind”, it said. “Goodbye”.
Julie was sorry for herself on this grey January morning. Her husband had recently left her and she had started smoking again. To make matters worse, the bus was late and a cold wind blew through to her soul.
Then she saw Valerie.
“How are you, dear?” Julie inquired.
“I’m just walking to the shops. Next week I’m going to visit my son in Australia.”
Valerie was ninety and blind but her hair and general appearance were immaculate.
Julie felt ashamed of her self-pity, put out her cigarette and made a late New Year’s resolution to be positive.
Imagine, on this night, many years ago …
The three kings made an incongruous sight. Little Shirtless reckoned he could ride anything, including camels. Blondie had fitted sat-navs. Baby-face had brought his toy rockets.
Their mission? To eradicate the opposition. Amazingly, they found Bethlehem. Pennsylvania.
“Where’s Cheeses?” Blondie yelled at a passer-by. Shirtless stared threateningly. Baby-face grinned and fondled his rockets. “Where’s Cheeses?” Blondie chanted.
Someone accidentally mentioned the newborn Iraqi girl. “That girl Shazia’s house is down the street,” she confessed.
“Shazia’s? Cheeses? Close enough,” said Blondie. But before he could say another word, Baby-face had unleashed his toy rockets, wasting them all, including – sadly – poor Shazia.
“Grandpa, my friend Jones told me his grandpa was a pilot. What were you?” little Jacob inquired.
“For 25 years I worked as a safety officer in textile industry.”
“So you used to save people’s lives like firefighters. How many people you saved?”
With a deep breath: “In my whole career there was only one fire in a factory; it turned every inch of fabric into ashes and blackened every wall and filled whole factory with smoke.”
“You must be rescuer of workers at that time?”
“I couldn’t save anyone.”
“I were on leave that day.”
“Eleanor’s here.” Mum shut the window with a bang, making sure it was latched and locked.
“Yeah, she sure is,” I agreed.
“Who? I didn’t hear the doorbell.” Gran shifted in her chair and moved her stick to her left hand.
“No, Gran. Storm Eleanor.”
“Don’t know an Eleanor Storm. Who is she?”
Mum took over. “The storm we’re having is called ‘Eleanor’; the previous one was Dillon.”
“Huh!” muttered Gran. “In my day, we just called them ‘a gale’ and you knew what they were. Didn’t have to name ’em, like precious little princesses.”
“You’re eating? I thought writers subsisted on coffee, wine, and cigarettes.”
“We do. But, you need something to catalyze the reactions?”
“What the what now?”
“Coffee isn’t enough; you must have a sugar or carbohydrate. The acidic nature of coffee reduces the food to produce participles.”
“Part of what?”
“The participles in turn break down the remaining caffeinated extract, tartar of wine, and nicotine, and create a plethora of nouns, verbs, and punctuation, which turns into books.”
“Are you crazy?”
“No, I’m hungry. You’re the one asking stupid questions.”
Entities from outer space delight in moving me from place to place. For a time, playing the harmonica offered an escape; temporarily lifting the curse of ending up in an alternate universe.
Standing on the balcony of a hacienda in Costa Rica with a pretty señorita, who pointed to a cloud that began to glow and from it descended a U.F.O.
I was about to flee when a bright blue light lifted me into that beast, where bug eyed aliens argued telepathically as to where next I should be.
I’m on a planet now, playing the harmonica in zero G.
It was an original black and white picture of a group of smiling youths of both sexes in a week-end picnic. The picture was taken not far from the atrocities taking place in near-by death-camps. Located among other Nazi-era documents, the picture was resting inside a glass display box in the museum Topographie des Terrors in Berlin.
Nazi-hunter Simon Weinberg adjusted his bifocals to read the date the picture was taken. His heart pounded extra bits. He learned that it was the same day that his parents perished in adjacent Auschwitz. He himself uncovered that record from another German archive.
… booked flights to Florida, walked the dog, drank leftover party nips, spent three hours online shopping at the café sipping Mexican hot chocolates, wore knitted hats in the bathtub, turned our oven on to broil, wore mittens to bed, emptied the fridge making stew, went to the mall and bought nothing, called the super again, learned the workmen weren’t getting overtime, put another cape on the dog and gave him a blanket, ran the hairdryer over our hands his paws, ate ice cream to warm up, made love under eight layers of covers, invented new words: fridigious, ice-is, colden daze.
Joey had taken all the precautions, set his defenses and fortified his perimeter. It wasn’t going to get him this year. No, this year he was going to emerge victorious.
He would not suffer the humiliation and pain of last year.
Prior to heading out into the dark night he ate a good meal and drank lots of water. He set his limit at 6.
Then Rose challenged him to go shot for shot. Seduced by her sparkling eyes and ruby lips, he succumbed.
The enemy had found his weakness.
The New Year’s hangover can be a terrible, sneaky beast.