Author Topic: Christmas Oratorio  (Read 333 times)

Andre Jute

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Christmas Oratorio
« on: December 24, 2019, 08:12:02 PM »

Christmas Oratorio
a tiny tale
by André Jute
extracted from his work-in-progress Scenes from a Bizarre Life
1050 words

In the early hours of the morning I finish a novel that has been eluding me for two years, with six substantial discarded drafts, and crash into bed. When I rise in the early evening, my family are putting up flowers on the windowsills of the landings in the stairwell, something we do only at the nativity because our house is four floors tall, a surfeit of stairwell windowsills.

Holy Moses, it’s Christmas and I missed it.

I drink a cup of coffee, sit for a bit with my pipe in front of my computer gloating over my book, then decide to view the lights on my village.

First I move boxes containing about 5000 CDs to bring out Schutz’s Christmas Story which I want to play in my discman as I walk. By the time I find it, I’m in such a sweat from the exercise, I take the wrong disc. (Motets by Schutz, under Herreweghe.) By the time I realize my mistake, I’m downstairs and Roz, holding a warm shirt for me, says she’s serving dinner at eight sharp.

I come out of my front door buttoning up my shirt and my coat around it, reflecting that I’m too old to stop being disorganized, if young enough to recognize that making a New Year’s resolution about it would be dishonest.

I walk through the quiet village in the dusk. I walk up a footpath through trees and a field to the Catholic church on the hill over the town to watch the lights on the town’s three churches and the heritage centre.

A digression. The lights on the heritage center is a cause for a parochial storm in a pisspot. It is a deconsecrated church, the oldest protestant church in the land. The other vicars didn’t want it lit up, only their three churches, so they kept it out of the grant application for a quarter million to light their own churches. Someone gave an anonymous donation to have the deconsecrated church lit; I made my small donation openly and defiantly, and used words like ‘petty village tyrants’ to the faces of members of the committee.

The lights are pretty. A young woman, about thirty, of too fine a sensibility to be stuck among farmers and tradesmen, is also there, watching the lights. I know her from speaking to her at the library and giving her concert tickets I get FOC and won’t use. But I don’t even know her name. (I’m bad on names; I travel with people who when strangers join me introduce her and other decorative ladies who stand in my circle at concert intervals and parties.)

She says, ‘You’ll strangle yourself on the cord of your discman.’ The cord is behind my shirt, tied into my scarf and my coat. She unbuttons the coat, unties the scarf, unbuttons the shirt. She’s high on Christmas cheer of course. She’s about to fall when I catch her and she flings her arms around my neck.

When people come out of church, there are a few pursed mouths at the top of the church steps where I stand with my shirt unbuttoned to the navel, holding my pipe and the offending discman behind the head of a young woman with her lips glued to mine.

One couple I’ve known for twenty years between them says the second amusing thing I’ve ever heard from the pair of them.

Digression. Hey, this is my Christmas story. I’ll tell it any way I want.

Back when I threatened to close down the local private school for the endemic bullying, this woman, call her Mrs Jones, stopped me in the street to hiss at me that in a small community people would remember that I am not a team player, adding that the bishop (ex officio chair of the school committee) was disgusted with me. I called a nearby policewoman, told her Mrs Jones was offering me personal services.

Mr Jones, another pompous prat, had to leave work to come fetch her at the police station where they were threatening to charge her with soliciting unless some solid citizen vouched for her.

(Before the case progressed further, I explained that in personal services I include gratuitous advice on how to conduct myself. The police, whose ranking members of a late summer’s afternoon sit on my garden wall and drink my poteen out of enamel mugs, laughed and told me not to do it again.)

Now, still in this digression, shortly after that, in the middle of one night, about seven in the morning which is when you have to leave here to catch the first plane to London, I came out of my house barefoot, holding up my pants with one hand because I still needed to button the shirt and tuck it in before pulling up the braces, while my driver carried my jacket and my shoes and my briefcase behind me.

Mr Jones (not his real name but definitely the husband of the equally prissy Mrs Jones), passing on his way to the office, stopped his car, climbed out, and told me, ‘It is an abuse of a good suit to appear in it in public in such a state of unbutton.’

That was the first funny thing they said between them. Here comes the second:

Back to the church steps where I’m standing in a state of dishabille with a woman young enough to be my daughter draped around my neck, with props: pipe and discman, four gloves on the ground at our feet.

The Jones couple pass in the crowd. They loom large, not so incidentally, on the committee that didn’t want the deconsecrated church lit, whose overinflated self-importance I stepped on with a few apt words.

Mrs Jones, primly covering piano legs to the last, says in outrage, ‘She’s fondling his silk scarf!’

Funny thing is, when I bring the dreamy young woman’s hand from behind me, she is indeed rubbing the scarf between her fingers.

‘Congratulations on understanding what Daisy in Gatsby’s dressing room is about,’ I say to Mrs Jones, knowing that she will worry it until next Christmas without discovering what I meant.

It’s the season of goodwill to all men, even the Joneses.

Heyho, a merry Christmas, and in our village Scott Fitzgerald’s reindeer ran over Mrs Jones.


© André Jute
« Last Edit: December 24, 2019, 10:34:35 PM by Andre Jute »