A CHRISTMAS STOCKING FILLER TO REMEMBER
It was a simple update on a social media site suggesting that, after years of trying, he was, at last, finally, making his escape back to the big bad smoke of London, the newly-announced international city, from whence he had came some ten years earlier. He was through with this ‘no-good town’ and the torrent of old friends welcoming him back ‘home’ on the other side of the argument came silence. And that is how it remained on their collective part anyway until finally Jack just gave up on explaining what he’d really intended. He had planned to tell all of them, well the bar-staff would miss him, that woman who always seemed to serve him in the supermarket and the old grunger girl who worked in the 24 hour place which was always ripe for a late-night booze raid. Then again none of them were going to cry over his leaving and with the way people had treated him generally in this adopted home it would take some time to acclimatise to the pace of London life. He always chuckled whenever cars would allow you to cross in front of them in Brighton, in London he imagined them speeding up when they saw some fresh road-kill available but somehow it was this city he dreamed of returning too.
The simple problem came when he began looking at places to live. He couldn’t afford anywhere it seemed; in his time away it appeared that rents had not only doubled but trebled and in some cases quadrupled and had, as someone on the bottom rung of the housing ladder, priced Jack out of his simple request to go home, just like Judy Garland.
‘There’s no place like home’ his mind played over as he poured through thousands of rooms, studios, flats, garages for a laugh, and he suddenly realised that his only option was to buy a car and buy a parking space. Then he realised what a ridiculous idea that was and he had to announce that his last comment was not a statement of fact, it was merely a dream he had to one day return to his hometown. He would have to stay here, dreaming of London, dreading every shift at the only shit job he could get in this town and living like a derelict in a ramshackle rooming house direct on the seafront. It was a lose-lose situation; he wanted out but couldn’t afford it and all the time he stayed the determination to just get out grew and grew until one day it became clear that he would lose his mind once and for all if he didn’t simply make that escape. The next day though everything was to change for Jack, everything was suddenly better when a simple email dropped in his inbox. Susan had left Brighton some eighteen months before and Jack had missed her terribly but now she was writing to say that she was considering coming back. Could it be real? Could Jack’s dream of finally finding someone be on the verge of reality, he damn well hoped so. He hurriedly replied, telling her all the things she wanted to hear.
She had read that he was contemplating leaving and stated that it wouldn’t be the same without him if she did indeed come back and he knew. He knew this time, she’d got him good, and there was no way he could even think of leaving, not now, not even if there was the slightest possibility of her returning. She had raved about how much she’d missed him, their nights of crazy drinking and the antics they enjoyed but then came silence. It was that long stony now familiar silence that often came immediately after Jack had put his heart on the line and the black cloud returned and slowly plans were being hatched about a plan B, a new place to escape too, a place very far away from here. He poured through a veritable odyssey of websites, getting information and making plans and slowly a plausible plan was in place but was it really a life he could live. It was something that needed a lot of contemplation, a lot of thought, a mountain of information to ponder. He slumped on his sofa, set some music up to help him in to a good place in his mind and proceeded to smoke a joint of not inconsiderable strength to help stimulate any unusual insights. His mind raced; what would happen if he did leave? Would he be giving up on the idea of ever finding love or was staying here stealing him of a life that could make him happier; it was this duality upon which the argument swung and he knew it was this that needed answering. He needed to work out what was more realistic; happiness in a new life, far from here and forever alone, or with a woman who could love him without inflicting the usual round of heartbreak, insanity and loneliness that had come after every other woman he’d loved. It was a tough call and it took some time but the romantic won out and a few weeks later, and just in time for Christmas, his dream came true with her return. She looked even more beautiful, with her now blonde hair tight in a ball on the top of her head, a flowing dress that showed off her curves in all the right places and, most tempting of all for Jack a pair of fishnet stocking clad legs, that hinted at a night of wild passion. That first night he held her tight knowing he never wanted to let go, not in this lifetime.
Bradford Middleton was born in south-east London in the summer of 1971 and this is his second appearance at the Cavalcade of Stars. When he’s not writing stories about Christmas he writes poetry and fiction on a lot of other subjects. His debut novel ‘Dive’ was published last year by New Pulp Press and his debut poetry chapbook ‘Drink Drank Drunk’ came though Crisis Chronicles Press and will shortly be followed by a new one entitled ‘A Life Like This Ain’t For The Faint-Hearted’ through Holy & Intoxicated. If you wish to stalk him on Twitter try @beatnikbraduk