Hey, Barbecutie

Posts Tagged ‘christmas

A winter chill whipped through the castle. Bing, tired of the day, tired of the unstoppable march of time and how festive revelry reminded him of it, resolved to head to the nest in the cellar where he made his bed. The ornate decorations made him feel ill, garish colours mocking him. As he entered the hallway, the doorbell rang. Bing paused as he contemplated ignoring the disturbance, but curiosity provoked him. He opened the door to a waif, sickly in pallor, inadequately dressed against the harsh winds.

‘Hello. You the new butler?’ the stranger asked, stepping inside, his arms tightly crossed to preserve heat. He glanced quickly at the surroundings, all old money and tacky artefacts. Bing stood out awkwardly amongst it, a different type of antique. More at home at the golf course, the stranger thought.

Bing laughed politely, unnerved by the sudden intrusion. ‘Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve been the new anything.’

The stranger tore off his scarf, his body suddenly molten now that he was indoors. Old people’s houses were always so warm. ‘What happened to Hudson?’ he asked, testing Bing’s mettle. He was eager to prolong his stay.

‘I guess he’s changing,’ Bing replied, trying to sound confident.

‘Yeah, he does that a lot, doesn’t he?’ the stranger said. Just as he suspected. The old man was as much a vagrant as he was. He’d be damned if Bing hadn’t snuck in through some rusting grate round the back. Stepping further into the old house, he introduced himself. ‘I’m David Bowie, I live down the road.’ He allowed himself a secret smile. It was almost true. The old man seemed to believe him at least. ‘Sir Percival lets me use his piano if he’s not around,’ he continued, weaving his web, ‘he’s not around, is he?’

‘I can honestly say I haven’t seen him,’ Bing said, suspicious of his visitor’s claims. Bing himself had lived life hard on the circuit, and knew by the teeth and the nervous stance that this poor bastard was in dire straits. ‘But come on in,’ he insisted, ‘come in!’

Bowie was hesitant, but the home comforts were too alluring. He could easily take the old man if he needed to, he supposed. Together they edged past the crudely decorated Christmas tree, stepping on the tinsel as it dripped to the floor, neither certain of where the piano rested, neither able to admit it.

The silence made Bowie anxious. Perhaps there were other old tramps about the castle, ready to strike. He kept his head down, trying to fill the silence. ‘Are you related to Sir Percival?’ he asked. Bowie hoped that by keeping the pressure on the old man’s story, he would be subdued.

‘Well, distantly,’ Bing said, trying not to be drawn. As time went on, he found it more difficult to keep track of stories. It wouldn’t be safe to be caught in a lie.

Awkwardly the pair leant on the piano, unsure of how to proceed. Bowie’s toes were soggy, defrosting from the snowy streets. He fought to resist his paranoia. He was not there to face some mad old geezer, Bowie told himself, but to escape the weather. ‘You’re not the poor relation from America, right?’ he said, his words jumbled, but hoping the old man would participate in the tale.

Bing had been studying the vase of flowers, trying to think up a believable background. Hearing Bowie’s question, he laughed, relieved to receive a lifeline. ‘Gee, news sure travels fast, doesn’t it? I’m Bing.’

They shook hands, feeling the goodwill of the season.

‘Oh, I’m pleased to meet you,’ Bowie said, almost sincere. Looking back to the piano, he added, ‘You’re the one that sings, right?’

‘Well, right or wrong, I sing either way.’

Bowie smiled. ‘Oh well, I sing too.’

‘Oh good! What kind of singing?’ Bing kept a steady demeanour, but was confused by the conversation’s path.

‘Mostly the contemporary stuff,’ Bowie replied, hoping the old man wasn’t up to date. ‘Do you, uh, do you like modern music?’

Bing inhaled sharply. If he deflected enquiries, he would be safe. ‘Oh, I think it’s marvellous! Some of it really fine. But tell me, you ever listen to any of the older fellows?’

Bowie relaxed, noting the old man’s vagueness. ‘Oh yeah, sure,’ he teased, ‘I like, uh, John Lennon and the other one with uh…Harry Nilsson.’

‘You go back that far, huh?’

‘Yeah, I’m not as young as I look,’ Bowie said, pleased that Bing’s retorts were sharp. It had been a while since he had engaged in conversation not relating to alms or criminality. It made him feel close to human again. Almost alive.

‘None of us is these days,’ Bing said, laughing in that gentle manner once more, belying his sadness.

A pall of melancholy befell the pair. Bowie’s eyes glazed. ‘In fact, I’ve got a six year old son,’ he began, feeling able to confide to this empty old man in this empty old house, ‘and he really gets excited around the Christmas holiday thing.’

‘Do you go in for anything of the traditional things in the Bowie household, Christmas time?’

Bowie walked behind him towards the keyboard, concentrating on the sheet music as he choked down regrets. ‘Oh yeah, most of them really,’ he said, pausing to clear his head. ‘Presents, tree, decorations, agents sliding down the chimney…’

‘What?’ Bing asked.

‘Oh, I was just seeing if you were paying attention.’

Bing laughed again. Smug bastard, he thought.

‘Actually, our family do most of the things that other families do,’ Bowie said, his lies interweaving with his dreams. ‘We sing the same songs.’

‘Do you?’

‘Oh, I even have a go at White Christmas,’ Bowie explained, his fractured memory struggling to find a more traditional carol.

‘You do, eh?’ Bing said, willing to let the young man have his moment.

‘And this one,’ Bowie continued, tapping one of the manuscripts, ‘this is my son’s favourite. Do you know this one?’

Bing smiled. There was something about seeing his own isolation reflected back in Bowie’s strange delusions that made him feel kind, almost fatherly. He had not been so different at Bowie’s age. So many mistakes. ‘Oh, I do indeed, it’s a lovely theme,’ he said.

Bowie leant down to the keyboard, pretending to play a few notes as an instrumental chimed from the radio in another room. Bing watched, filled with pity. Bowie moved away, and the radio’s song played on. The two men stood side by side, mimicking each other’s position, resting on the piano with one arm, the other bent at the elbow, so they were almost but not quite touching. The music filled the room, overwhelming the howling winds outside, washing away each man’s loneliness and selfish intent. Separately they were swept up in the melody, lost in reverie, seeing past moments unfurl before them, not observing with regret but with understanding, all but forgetting a stranger stood next to them. Together, they began to sing, not for each other, or for an audience, but for themselves, a song to remind them that unity was possible, that mankind could still extend a kindness to lost men on cold days. A song that said two men alone are at least alone together.

I don’t know where September went. I’m missing that month entirely. I know things have, if I may get personal here, slightly gone to shit, cookie-wise, and I can only assume that at some point between a trip home at the end of August, and my return to London in so-called, swiftly-passing “September”, something truly awful happened and all the things that once were good are now bad.

And now it’s Christmas! Perfect time for my favourite and unfairly forgotten Christmas song, “Things Fall Apart” by Cristina. It’s called “Things Fall Apart”, for a start, and also contains the line he licked me like a candy cane. It’s just super.