‘It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.’
The boy, Jimmy Stack, of Kingsway, Ossett, climbed up on the sofa that was in the living room, peered out of the big window, and perused the morning activity of the street. He then frowned, put his head in his hands, and just for good measure, delivered a tearful distraught moan of anguish that bounced off the walls, echoed down the hall, and almost hit the Richter scale. Little Jimmy Stack was in such a state of despair that he wasn’t even concerned about the advent calendar (December 22nd, potential ‘Mini Mars Bar’). This strange, amplified, prehistoric noise that came from Jimmy caused such a concern in next doors kitchen, that their toast (granary, Waitrose) nearly burnt to a cinder. It may be of interest to note that Jimmy’s next-door neighbors were a bit posh (lot’s of corduroy) and were ok mostly. They did have a daughter though, and she was not ok at all. Her name was Judith Miller Fulton, and she was in Jimmy’s class at school. Judith knew everything about everything (the members of the Conservative government, the complete back catalogue of 80's pop band, Haircut 100) and was very popular with the teachers. But, if you put Jimmy on the spot (and some of his friends too), he would say that he did not like Judith Miller Fulton because she was very stuck up. We will get to know a lot more about Judith Miller Fulton a little later on. But for now, this is Jimmy’s story. Are we all au fait (au fait means agreeable) with that? Good. Then we shall continue.
Hang on, where were we exactly with Jimmy’s story? Sorry about this. Oh yes! We were discussing his ridiculous and overwrought groaning at the big window weren’t we. Well, the reason for all this silliness is a bit pathetic. You see, in the persecuted imagination of Jimmy Stack, this December morning was without doubt the worst day he had ever encountered in his six-year life. Good grief! It was a day of such catastrophe that the only possible resolution that might appease him for his disappointment would be to play his Xbox alone for at least three hours (Call of Duty 2, his Dads, pirate copy). But lets face it, the chances of this happening today would be rare, and you would get good odds at the local bookmakers in the town centre if you were that way inclined. He knew if he asked his Mum if he could murder enemy soldiers in cold blood, she would get all mardy as usual and demand that a book must be read, (something about a fire engine and a bloke called Sam) and in silence too. Jimmy loved his Mum very, very much. But sometimes, well you know. Mums eh. Its all me, me, me. Little Jimmy missed his Dad. He hadn’t seen him for over a year. That’s another story though and none of our business.
Oh! Sorry to distract you again. There is yet another important thing to note (it might not be important at all). Jimmy has a dog, named Max. Max is a white poodle with black thoughts and ideas that are way above his station. For example, whilst Jimmy was in his theatrical torpor of disappointment at the big window, Max jumped up next to him on the sofa in the process of a covert operation. Max was looking for his daily altercation with next doors pussycat, but then discovered a sploge of breakfast jam that was smeared on jimmy’s sweater. It became a distraction. This jam (ginger) was very tasty indeed, and frankly, much more interesting that that stupid (also ginger) pussycat. Max could wait a while more for his rival to appear (the cat was named Chloe, obsessed with Greek mythology, liked the early work of the Velvet Underground, possibly psychotic) and play the long game. You see, Max thought of himself as no ordinary poodle. Max likened himself to his hero, James Bond. Max considered himself to be silent, patient and deadly. 'Call of Duty 2' was nothing but a game for amateurs to Max. Max was a bit of an idiot if the truth were told. But he might be important. We’ll see.
We are drifting away from the story again. We must stop doing that. We need to discuss at last the reason for Jimmy’s anguish. It was quite simple, rather stupid, and a bit childish to be honest. Jimmy was furious this morning by the fact that it wasn’t snowing yet. That’s all it was, Ridiculous really. The man on the telly (Paul the weatherman in the pink shirt) had been saying that it would happen for at least two days now, a blizzard apparently. But nothing was falling or swirling out of the sky at all. Nothing except for empty crisp packets and Co-Op shopping bags.
Jimmy had saved up eight pounds of hard earned pocket money and small change odd jobs for exactly this moment (leaf sweeping, tidy bedroom, cups of tea for his mum) to buy a sledge. He only needed two more pounds to secure the deal, but was convinced he could get a discount if he sang a song and affected a limp to the shopkeeper (the slightly cross-eyed Mr. Smyth who owned the hardware shop (the shop that sold everything, including a ukulele!). If push came to shove, Jimmy could even encourage Max to deliver a poorly whimper for extra value. This would only happen though if negotiations began to break down. Max could never be relied on to do anything. But as Jimmy looked out big window again, he sensed that all his hard work and planning was now a waste of time. His new scarf, gloves and bobble hat remained on their pegs in the hallway, waiting, like him, for that first flake. Max the poodle thought that snow was overrated. He sucked the last of the jam from Jimmy’s sweater and continued his secret pussycat surveillance once again. Idiot.
Have we mentioned Jimmy’s Mum, Carol? Only briefly at this point of this story. Well, here she is. Flapping and getting things organised. Wearing odd socks as usual, one green, one blue (her big toe poking through).
“Jim lad. Stop looking out of the window and get your coat and hat on. We are going to the shops.”
“Stop calling me ‘Jim lad’ Mum. I’m not a pirate. What’s the use of going out anyway? It’s not going to snow.”
“Well really. Who needs snow? Come on. I want to go to the charity shop. See if there are any bargains. If you are lucky, I might even get you a sausage roll.”
“We always go to the charity shop. Can Max come? I love sausage rolls’
“Only if you hold him tight. You know what he’s like. The monster.”
“Can Max have a sausage roll?”
“No. It’ll give him wind and that’s the last thing we need.”
So here they are. Jimmy, his Mum and Max. Standing outside their front door, bobble hats and mittens. Max is pulling on his lead, nearly chocking, barking like a…like a.. erm.. barking like a dog. Max wishes he had a Jimmy’s stun gun because Chloe the pussycat is sitting on the windowsill, still and staring, trying to hypnotize Max into a robot. It won’t work. Chloe is a rubbish hypnotist. Totally deluded. Her claws are lethal though.
Jimmy struggles but manages to pull Max away, and the three of them start their journey down Kingsway to the town centre. The sky is low and grey. No snow. Jimmy sighs and puffs. Carol sings that song again that she has been singing for a year, and Max has found a stick. He carries it in his mouth and thinks that it will be a good weapon. He can hide it with the rest of his arsenal of stuff in the back garden (his prize possessions: a golf ball, a wellington boot, and two pairs of pants). Max has to be prepared for any mission, and his collection of weapons was becoming more diverse and intriguing. Only he knows how they work, classified information for the likes of us. Max Stack is Secret Agent 0090. He really is an idiot!
They are in the town centre of Ossett now. It’s not very busy as usual. The last time it was busy was when they had the sheep parade in the summer. Jimmy had made a massive one with his mates at school. That was a great day, not like now though. Jimmy is sitting by the town well (no one knew why the town had a well) in the freezing cold, waiting for his Mum to come out of the charity shop. Jimmy was really enjoying his hot sausage roll until Max jumped up and took it out of his hands, (though Max was an idiot, he was a fast one, especially where food was concerned) and now he was proper fed up.
Jimmy was about to get even more proper fed up, and this is why. Walking towards him, dressed in a pink duffel coat (Gap), blue mittens (Next) and yellow suede boots (Shu) was Judith Miller Fulton. There was to be no escape for Jimmy, he was stuck. He could run into the ladies hairdressers with Max, but that would only make things worse, (ladies hairdressers were not the place for little boys and poodles) so he’d have to stand here and listen to her stupid talk. Hurry up Mum!
"Hello young Jimmy Stack. How are you on this fine morning?”
“Erm. Hello Judith. I’m ok. “
“I’ve done all my homework. Did it before breakfast. Have you?”
“Err. No. I’ll do it when I get home.”
“It’s very easy. Well for me anyway. It’s going to snow you know.”
“No its not. It’s never going to snow.”
“It is. I’m telling you!”
“I don’t want to talk about this Judith. Can you go away please?”
“IT WILL SNOW!. I’ve written a snow plea and everything. Do you want to hear it?”
“A snow plea. I bet if I say it loudly. It will start snowing within a minute.”
Jimmy put his head in his hands again and repeated the same groan as the one at the big window. Max started licking Judith’s boot. Max even thought of doing a wee. Max did not like Judith either.
“Here goes Jimmy. You must close your eyes and hold my hand as I say it.”
“Oh yes! Come on.”
Judith grabbed Jimmy’s hand tightly. Jimmy reluctantly closed his eyes, (Max closed only one eye, because you never knew when spies were lurking. Idiot) and waited, and waited.
“Oh Jack Frost.
Please at any cost.
Let it snow,
let it snow,
let it snow.”
This was pathetic. The sooner Jimmy’s Mum came out of that charity shop the better.
“You can open your eyes now young man. Look! It’s snowing. I told you.”
And it was. Jimmy could not believe what he was seeing, neither could Max, who was barking and howling (Max was actually singing ‘Jingle Bells’. Grown ups would never be aware of his unique talent) and had to blink a few times.
“Yippee! Yippee Judith. How did you do that? This is amazing.”
“Never underestimate the power of Judith Miller Fulton young man. For I have special powers. Now, I must go. There is an interesting piece in today’s Guardian about the Eurozone. My Mum’s in the newsagent getting it for me now. Make sure you do your homework.”
“Oh I will Judith. I will. Look at all this snow!”
“Can I whisper something in your ear?”
“Ohh go on then.”
“I’ll love you forever Jimmy Stack. Merry Christmas.”
And then Judith was gone. Hopping away in the snow, her Guardian waiting.
Max was still singing as Jimmy’s Mum came out of the charity shop. She was carrying bags of who knew what. Stuff that was always useless Jimmy thought.
“Well Jim lad. You got your wish. Look at this snow. Did you enjoy your sausage roll?”
“Max ate most of it. He nicked it. And don’t call me Jim lad. I’m not a pirate.”
“Oh no! How many times have I told you not to feed him that kind of thing? You know what it does to his wind.”
“He nicked it Mum. Honest!”
“Come on then. Let’s go home. I’ve got some lovely things from the charity shop. A new coat for you and a lovely dress for me.”
“Oh Mum! Why do I have to wear these things?”
“Because buying things from charity shops always helps other people who need help the most. It’s simple.”
“Ok Mum. I think I understand. But Mum, before we go home. Can I go and get my sledge? I’ve got the money on me and everything.”
“Oh Jim lad. It’s freezing. Do we have to? Oh come on then. Hurry up.”
“Don’t call me Jim lad. I’m not a pirate. How many times do I have to tell you?”
So they walked across the town of Ossett. Past the memorial, towards the hardware shop (the shop that sold everything, even a trumpet). Max was keeping his eyes out for double agents (probably Russian), singing Frosty the Snowman, and wondering where he had left his stick. The idiot! Little Jimmy Stack was counting snowflakes as they fell. He was nearly at 900. More children had come out to play in the snow, and the first balls were being thrown. There was a little queue at the hardware shop. A run on sledges. Jimmy had better be quick.
“997, 998, 999, 1000. There done it! A thousand snowflakes. Mum you wait here. I won’t be long. I promise.”
“Ok. Hurry up. Give me Max.”
“No, no Mum. Max must come in with me. It’s important.”
“Go on then, but hurry up!”
They both waited in the queue (Max now singing ‘White Christmas’). Jimmy was holding the money in his little hand, getting nervous. Sledges were flying out of the shop like erm.. sledges. He hoped there would be one left. Mr Smythe was a nice man and would always have plenty, he always stocked up well.
“Now then young man. What can I do for you?”
“I’d like to buy a sledge Mr Smyth please.”
“Well you are in luck. I have only one left. That will be ten pounds please. Look it’s a red. Only the best for you young man.”
“Mr Smyth. I only have eight pounds.”
Mr Smyth looked at Jimmy intently (or did he? Mr Smyth was slightly cross-eyed remember. He could have been looking at anything).
“I could sing you a song though Mr Smyth. To make up for the two pounds difference and that.”
“Well, you know young man. I don’t usually do this kind of thing. I’ve a business to run, and if I did this to all my customers, I would not have business at all..”
“PLEASE MR SMYTH.”
“Ok, ok calm down. Sing us your song. If it’s any good, we can come to an arrangement.”
Jimmy Stark cleared his throat. Looked down at Max (who was busy looking at domestic walkie talkies £12.50) and began to sing.
“It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”
As Jimmy sang. Max stood up on his back legs and, and began dancing around the shop floor, (He’d seen that dog on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. How difficult could it be?). My Smyth clapped with delight. One eye on Jimmy, and one eye on Max (or was it the other way around, who could tell).
“What an excellent double act! You should be on the telly.”
“I can sing some more of the song if you want me to.”
“Go on then.”
“He tried hard to help me, he put me at ease
He loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees.”
“Hmm, that singing was nice too. But the words were not really seasonal.”
“I don’t know what the words mean My Smyth. My Mum sings it all the time. Oh here she is now.”
“Have you nearly finished Jim lad. It’s freezing out there.”
“Ahh Mrs Stack. Young Jimmy here and your little dog have just been entertaining us with song and dance.”
“And now it’s my time to entertain you.”
Mr Smyth reached for the ukulele that was hanging on his wall and proceeded to play and sing ‘Winter Wonderland’ (beautifully. Mr Smyth was an excellent musician. Max recognised this immediately and sang along).
“Well done Mr Smyth. How lovely.”
“Thank you Mrs Stack. And Jimmy here is your sledge. No charge. I don’t think I’ve had such fun in a long time.”
“Oh thank you Mr Smyth. Anytime you want us to perform for you again.”
“Of course. But I would cut out the second verse. It’s a bit rude.”
“What on earth did you sing Jimmy?”
“Oh nothing. Just that song you sing all the time.”
“Good grief Jim lad.”
“Don’t call me that. I’m not a pirate.”
And so they walked back up Kingsway in the falling snow. Max sat in the sledge and was pulled along by Jimmy (this was the best way ever for stalking pussycats, thought Max. Brilliant!). When they reached their front gate, there was a shock. There was Jimmy’s Dad, waiting. Jimmy’s Mum, (Carol. We did inform you of her name, didn’t we?) dropped all her bags and ran wildly to him (the poor lady nearly fell on her bum) and there was a big cuddle (and some necessary over emotion). Jimmy slid to him like a professional and was lifted in the air. While all this business was going on, next doors pussycat, (Chloe, if you remember) climbed into the sledge and stared at Max ('You a robot. You are a robot.'). Max did not know what to do. He felt very odd and strangely happy with the world. He started to sing ‘Fairytale of New York’ but got the words mixed up (idiot).
In next doors big window, Judith Miller Fulton was watching all this from a hidden cushion. She had a tear in her eye and the biggest of smiles. A few hundred yards away, the bells of Trinity Church. Ossett, peeled and chimed.
And it snowed, and it snowed, and it snowed.