Happy New Year
It’s 23:17 at least that’s what my phone says. People don’t wear watches these days, do they? It’s pretty busy in here tonight but what do you expect on New Year’s Eve. I’ve been waiting at the bar for an age now. There’s people everywhere. I wish it was just me and the barman from The Shining. You know, at The Overlook Hotel. Lloyd could be lining up twenty martinis for me to down while we have this weird, philosophical debate about Edgar Allan Poe’s work. Mostly rhetorical. The papers say there’s an asteroid coming close to the Earth. It will pass nearby; it may crash into the surface wiping out all of humanity – like the incident with the dinosaurs. It’s happened before; many times. There were shooting stars falling through the atmosphere in Russia recently; cars were destroyed, buildings set on fire. And what about that meteor in 1908 that flattened 80 million trees over 830 square miles of Siberia? Tunguska.
23:31 Just old friends having a drink at a table. Julia’s engrossed in conversation with my friend Mick. His wife Tammy is staring at the dance floor. The music’s pulsing with disco hits intertwined with Christmas records (It’s not too late to play them still). Janet Kay’s “Silly Games” takes me back to Sam Wellers bar on Hurst Street, Birmingham. “You’re as much to blame, ‘cause I know you feel the same”. How does she hit those high notes? Things were simpler then. I heard it’s just bus drivers from the terminus that use it these days.
23:44 Mick’s taking Julia’s hand and leading her to the dancefloor. They are laughing. Tammy’s downing her drink and looking absent. She’s drinking a pint. I once told her that ladies used to only drink halves when I was growing up. She said I was a wanker of the misogynist variety. This may be the time to tell her. It’s all in my head, though. I can see the texts on my other half’s phone. I can read what they say – exchanges with my best bud; illicit intentions. She’s been hard to pin down of late, disappearing, always with some half-arsed excuse when she got back. It wasn’t that hard to work out. We live together, after all. I should tell Tammy that her husband is fucking my wife. How about the size of them apples? That would wake her up. She’s so fucking dozy. Dozy fucking bitch. That celestial fireball should be closer by now. I reckon it started its descent a while ago. It would make for perfect symmetry if it struck on the chimes of midnight.
23:55 One more round of drinks. Mick’s offered to go but I’ll get it. I wouldn’t want to miss all the fun. I’ll be sitting on my stool, looking out, casually smiling, knowing what’s about to happen. I can feel the heat. It’s so close. Those not already on the dance floor are shuffling along, crowding into the action. They’ll all be holding hands and belting out “Auld Lang Syne”. It always tails off after the first few lines; people don’t know the words. The fireworks from the banks of The Thames will be on the telly. They always put on a good show. Then it’s back to Jools Holland and his Hootenanny or some lame gig resuming on BBC1. Does anybody watch any other channel at this point?
23:59:50 “Ten, nine, eight, seven….” Party hats and streamers, gleeful celebrators of the advent of a new year. My mom said it was customary to go through the front door and enter again through the back; all whilst holding a lump of coal. For good luck, she said. I think that’s how it went. I should close my eyes. That may lessen the impact of imminent oblivion. I close them. Sounds are muffled in my head. It’s like being under water. I hope Mick dies first.
00:05 Maybe the papers got it wrong. Everyone’s still celebrating, dancing, shouting. Raucous.
00:07 I am standing in the middle of the room. There is screaming and shouting, revellers are scrambling for the exit. Blind panic. There’s a body lying prone. I look down and see a gun in my hand. Blood is fanning out from the slain figure, wide-eyed shock on his face. I had to do it; Mother Nature let me down. I should take a picture on my phone. Everybody does.
I can feel light slapping on my face. My name’s being called, over and over. My eyes drift open and the fuzzy shape of a man comes into focus.
“You OK mate? How much have you had to drink? You haven’t been mixing it with your meds have you?”
Mick looks worried as the bartender asks if everything is OK. My mate reassures him that it’s just a case of falling asleep at the end of the bar. The girls come over and everyone decides it’s time to leave. We check in at the cloakroom on the way out. The female attendant is chewing gum, looking vacant; oh so pretty vacant. I put on my coat and squat down, reaching for my leg. I can feel the cold barrel, the trigger, the hand grip safely ensconced in the holster on my calf. It’s never too late for a Happy New Year.
*Image from Wikimedia Commons – no known copyright issues
Link for Silly Games by Janet Kay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugDeBlFfy5o