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Jingle Jangle

Posted: December 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

The howl of the wind outside caused Amelia to pull her bed-covers up to the bridge of her nose. Her wide, marble green eyes spied out over the edge of the quilt. Tracing the moonbeams, that crept through a nick in the curtains, she followed them to the far wall where they projected the shadows of the trees outside, dancing wildly amidst the rainbow pattern of her wallpaper.

She slowly brought the bed-covers back down to her chin revealing her cherubic, porcelain smooth face with its tiny imp-like nose and the biggest, widest dimple-edged smile that she could muster: Amelia was excited.

It was Christmas Eve night and her mind was racing. Thoughts thundered through her brain at a million miles per hour. Kaleidescope visions of tinsel, huge parcels wrapped with winter scenes and snowmen, pine needles on the carpet and colourful paper hats atop every head. The day was so close, yet so far. One more sleep away, that was all. But sleep eluded her; it hid itself away from her. She shut her eyes as tightly as she could and, as the moments passed, she willed the sea of slumber to spirit her away, but, almost as though some outside influence had taken control, her eyes opened. A ripple of frustration undulated through her belly.

Why can I not fall asleep? She thought. I want Christmas to be here more than anything else in the world, but if I can’t fall asleep now then it’s going to take ages!

Squeezing her eyes shut once again and holding her breath, she tried her very hardest to think of slumberous thoughts: gentle lullabies, fuzzy clouds, the swishing sound of the sea, but each time the dazzling call of Christmas day painted its magic over all of her imaginings. She bellowed out her held breath and sat upright.

“Mum told me that I have to be asleep before Santa Claus arrives.” she said in an irate, raised whisper. “I mustn’t let him see me awake or …”

She paused.

“Or what?”

She pondered that thought for a moment

“What will happen if he sees me awake? Will he be angry at me? Will I not get any presents? But that’s not fair, I can’t help it if I can’t fall asleep.”

A terrible notion occurred to her.

“What if I can’t fall asleep for the whole night? I’m terribly awake now. Might he not come at all?”

Amelia threw herself back with a thud! The pillow half-folded itself around her head, tossing her long brown hair all criss-crossed about her face.

She lay there, staring at the dancing trees on her wall that now seemed calmer, as the wind began to settle; it whistled gently, sighed, then silence …

Then …

Jingle jangle.

Amelia froze.

Jingle jangle.

She sat up and clumsily wiped away the tangle of hair from her face. She felt her blood run cold.

“He’s here!” she murmured.

She was overwhelmed with fear. Santa Claus had arrived at her house, but she was awake, more awake now than she’d ever been!

He doesn’t know! She thought. He hasn’t realised I’m still awake! What am I to do?

Jingle jangle. At the bottom of the stairs.

Jingle jangle. Halfway up the stairs.

Tears began to burst, silently, from the corners of Amelia’s eyes. Her Christmas was ruined. Santa would know that she was awake and would pass her by this year and all of her sleeping friends would have the best Christmases ever.

Unless! …

Again, she threw herself into her bed but this time she hoisted the covers up around her chin and closed her eyes.

He doesn’t know that I’m not asleep now, so if I pretend to sleep, he may come and go and leave my presents without ever knowing the truth!

Jingle jangle. At the top of the stairs.

Amelia laid as still as was possible and tried to control her breathing, but her heart was pounding away like a runaway train: she was about to be in the presence of Santa Claus.

Jingle jangle. Outside her door.

The handle turned. The door opened, scuffing along the carpet as it went.

Jingle jangle.

She half-closed her eyes and through her eyelashes she saw the shadow.

It juddered its way along the wall like a zoetrope animation . It was neither fat nor jolly, but tall, spindly and spider-like.

From behind the vestibule wall it came.

Jingle jangle.

Amelia’s stomach turned: this was not Santa!

The thing scampered, insect-like, across the floor and stopped by her bed. Amelia could not take her half-open eyes away from its grotesque form. It towered over her. As it leaned in, she could see that its face was completely covered in grey, matted hair, obscuring any features it may have had. It was skinny with loose flaps of colourless flesh dangling limply from its torso. Its arms were simply skin and bone but they were long, extraordinarily long, almost twice as long as the thing itself and they rested lifelessly on the floor. It wore a pair of red Santa trousers that looked so ridiculous, if Amelia hadn’t been so terrified, she would have laughed herself silly at them. Down both sides of the trousers, stitched crudely into the seams, were a series of sleigh bells. Jingle jangle.

Amelia could see that the trousers were held up by a black leather belt, and attached to that the belt was a large, filthy, threadbare sack that … Amelia gasped, mutely, in horror! The sack was moving, writhing.

Is someone in there? She thought.

Suddenly, through one of the many holes in the sack came a hand, a tiny hand; a child’s hand! The hand reached out for as far as it could and began to feel around in the darkness, hopelessly grasping at the air. The thing’s attention was caught by the hand and he lifted one of his elongated arms off the floor and swatted at it until, defeated, it wilted and returned into the sack. As it vanished, Amelia , briefly, saw a pair of wide glistening eyes peering out from the hole, looking back at her, desperate, scared.

The thing leaned in, close to Amelia’s head and seemed to be studying her. She remained as still as she could. Maybe the pretence of sleep would send this thing away.

Suddenly it spoke.

“Little girl. Little girl.”

The words came out in a whispered hiss and as each one ended, it’s inflection went up to a high pitched squeal that hurt Amelia’s ears.

“Little Girl. Little girl. Tell me, are you asleep? Your body lies silent and your eyes do not peep.”

Amelia fought hard against the urge to scream and cry and call for her parents.

“Little girl. Little girl.” The thing continued, “It’s Christmas Eve, and all that you do is dare to deceive!”

It moved closer to her and it’s voice became more of a whisper.

“But I never waver, I make no mistakes. I know when children are asleep or awake. So, no Christmas for you, no brand new New Year. Your Yuletide will be spent with these wicked children here!”

At that, the thing wrenched open the moth-eaten sack and inside there were hundreds of screaming, crying children, trapped in an impossible abyss.

The thing snatched Amelia from her bed. And threw her in. She tumbled down and fell into the tiny flailing arms of so many lost infants.

The thing continued. “But worry ye not! There’s no need to skrike, you’ll still see a Christmas, but not one that you’d like. You’ll be turned to a doll, for good children to keep. Good children who know how to fall fast asleep! And you’ll be a doll for the age of the world: do you feel sleepy now? Little girl. Little girl!”

THE END

© 2013 John Gallagher

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Been a While!

Posted: September 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

It’s been approximately 6 months since I became a full-time stay at home Dad and also 6 months since I last posted a blog. Could the two be connected?

So what occurrences have taken place since I last posted?

Well, I’ve lost a stone in weight, acquired a beard and turned 40! How the hell did that happen? Last thing I knew I was 22 and fresh-faced, then, BANG! I’m middle-aged and hirsute (I could say the beard was an intentional image change but I think it’s more truthful to say I simply haven’t had the time to shave in 6 months). I quite like the beard though, makes me look more like a Dad, so it stays.

The most important occurrence has, of course, been the pleasure of watching Austin, my little Jedi, metamorphose from a little baby boy into a little bigger boy. He turned 1 in June and his progress is thundering forward. He can say a few fundamental words such as “Hello”, “Ma ma” and “Da da”.

He can walk a few stumbly steps before crashing down onto his bottom and loves nothing more than grabbing mine or his Mum’s hands and going for a proper walk round the house. He’s also developed a very mischievous smile which makes it very difficult to be firm with him when he’s doing something he shouldn’t; you can’t help but smile at that impish grin.

On his 1st birthday we organised a humanist baby naming ceremony for friends and family to welcome Austin into the fold. It was a wonderful day and the ceremony was enjoyed by all: Sharon read out extracts from her pregnancy diary, family members got up and read poems, we had a night sky back drop where people could write messages for Austin on the back of silver star cards and stick them to it and I wrote a poem.

I include it here for folk to read if they so wish. It’s not brilliant but it is an accurate sentiment of how it feels to be Austin’s Dad.

Enjoy!

My Little Lad

My little lad.

My pride, my joy.

My golden sunbeam.

My baby boy.

 

To sit with you,

here, side by side.

To clap our hands.

To peek, then hide.

 

Your laughter rings,

and then resounds,

throughout my heart,

Your joy, abound.

 

You ask me only

for my time,

a guiding arm,

a trust, sublime.

 

But there is nought,

I wouldn’t do,

to keep that smile,

to care for you.

 

To see you safe,

to see you warm,

to hold your hand

amidst the storm.

 

Through Christmas lights,

and birthday cakes,

seaside days

and tummy aches.

 

And though our tale

has just begun,

remember this,

my little one.

 

The future is

not written down,

it has no plan,

our time is now

 

We spin our yarn

as we whizz by,

so, little one,

It’s time to fly.

 

From now ’til then

we’ll roam afar,

we’ll sail the seas,

Traverse the stars.

 

And all the while

It’s me and you,

I’ll help to guide

To see you through

 

Those battles lost

and battles won,

my little lad,

my world,

my son.

© 2013 John Gallagher

Image

 The Naming of Austin Sagan Gallagher

Pic by Ron Firth Photography

“This baby thing is a doddle!” I whispered to my wife as we peered into his cot.  Austin was sleeping contently with his arms and legs stretched out like a starfish, damned if he was going to share this comfy space with anyone.

He’s the epitome of a bundle of joy.  A glowing, gurgling, laughing, crying, crapping, snotty, dribbling, gummy bundle of joy!

I don’t feel that there has been any colossal upheaval in our lives.  On the contrary, things, so far, seem pretty blissful.

Our animals are beginning to piss me off, though!

Now, that sounds a bit bad, but it is pretty accurate.

It’s nothing major and is probably more attention seeking than anything else, I mean, Austin does take up quite a bit of our time, but now it’s getting to the point where I think that they’re doing it out of sheer enjoyment and spite.

The dog, for example, has turned up his jealousy dial to 11.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s always exhibited some form of jealous streak: jealous of the cats, jealous of other animals, jealous of house-guests, hell, he even gets jealous of the fridge if you stare in to it for too long.  But it now seems that every moment Austin is sat, bouncing on my knee, like a baby should, the dog forcibly ensconces himself right next to me, and with a face like an RSPCA appeal, all downcast and dejected, drops his pathetic, weather-worn tennis ball at my feet.  I half expect a lonesome violin to start playing Bright Eyes.

Then we have two cats who are a real pair of moggys. One is three and the other thirteen.  We rescued them both as abandoned kittens when it looked like there was no hope for them in this cruel and bleak world.  Despite that, they are ungrateful little shits, the pair of them.  Upon rescuing them, my wife and I appear to have unwittingly submitted ourselves to a life of servitude.  The elder of the two uses a litter tray, which, if she cannot access it, she will use the upstairs carpet as a toilet.  This isn’t because she is elderly and incontinent, oh no, this is because she is a bastard!  Harsh?  Maybe, but it’s not as if she has no access to the outside world, she has a cat-flap for Christ’s sake, plus, the area of upstairs carpet she has chosen to regularly park a turd on is the area in and around my desk!

The most joy we all have together, however, is at meal times.  I feed them all at the same time for my own convenience.  It makes life easier.  Or does it?  If left to their own devices, the younger cat will start to steal the elder cat’s food, then the dog will snaffle both the younger cat’s and elder cat’s food, leaving two very hungry moggys.  Therefore, in the interest of fairness, I have taken it upon myself to police their feeding times.  So, while the rest of the world could be partaking in some exotic carnal jamboree, I’m leant against the sink like a bell-end, ensuring a happy, liberal, democratic kitchen.

Having said all that, I do like them.  They have lovely idiosyncrasies and wonderful, unique personalities.  As well as this, I want to teach Austin that animals are important and deserving of respect, compassion and empathy.  It is widely understood that an individual’s ethics towards non-human animals is correlated to the ethics inherent towards their own conspecifics.  The trouble is, at the moment, Austin is going to grow up thinking that an animal’s place in life is to be shouted at and moved.

So I promise to try harder.  I promise to set a good example for Austin.  I promise not to berate the dog when he releases a “silent but deadly” guff during meal times.  I promise not to kick the cats when they decide to weave a dance through my feet and try to kill me whilst I walk down the stairs with an armful of washing.  I promise!

John