A non-traditional Christmas Story.
Kurt rolled over and tightened the duvet round his neck to keep out the cold. ‘Has he been?’ he asked himself the traditional question silently, knowing the answer. He looked at the bedside alarm clock. It told him it was six minutes past three. ‘Such exactitude from such a small piece of kit,’ he thought and smiled for just a second.
He could feel Florence at the bottom of the bed pushing against his legs. He lifted his head just as she looked up at him. “Are you cold, old girl?” he asked. “Come on then, come snuggle under the duvet for a bit.” Florence needed no more encouragement and wriggled into the tunnel Kurt made for her by lifting the duvet beside him.
“That’s perfect, snuggle up tight, my gorgeous little hot water bottle,” Kurt said leaning back and rearranging the duvet to keep as much of the warmth in as possible. He slipped his arms back under and stroked Florence’s long fur. In other years he would have found more pleasure stroking himself, or… but not this one. Florence was his lifeline and he hers.
Lying there Kurt’s mind wandered from one thing to another as quickly as a bullet train. He knew sleep would no longer be his. Three hours had been his record recently. He tried to turn his mind off, but thoughts constantly pushed his efforts away, especially thoughts of previous years. He closed his eyes and begged for dreamless sleep, or even endless sleep.
” … all your kisses…” the radio alarm boomed out. Kurt opened his eyes a fraction. It was seven thirty, and he had forgotten to turn off the auto-alarm. He stretched and realised he must have fallen asleep for the last half an hour or so. Florence snuffled beside him and licked his leg. He, in turn, tickled her ears.
On the radio the music was annoyingly chirpy, and when ‘Jingle Bells’ started to play Kurt leaned over and clicked the machine into silence.
“Shall we get up, girl?” Kurt whispered. Florence’s head was immediately above the duvet. Further down he could feel her tail wagging.
Kurt threw back the duvet and slipped his legs over the side onto the cold floor. Florence bounced to the ground and watched his every move.
“The three S’s first,” Kurt told her, “Then we’ll go walkies.”
Florence followed Kurt to the bathroom and watched each of the ablutions. All the while Kurt chatted to her and from time to time she tilted her head to listen and wagged her rear end.
On the way back to the bedroom Kurt stopped by the tree. His decorating had been a bit lax this year he decided. The tree definitely looked sad. Most of the decorations were still in the boxes. He just couldn’t… There were four presents under the tree, none with his name on, he already knew, for he had been the only Santa this year. Florence sniffed one of the packages. “Walkies first,” he told her. “then you can open them all.”
Although outside it was bitterly cold Kurt hardly noticed as he threw sticks for Florence over and over again. He loved to walk through the fields in the morning, and this day was no different. Meeting a couple of his neighbours they exchanged Christmas greetings, although Kurt felt none of the cheer of previous years. ‘Merry Christmas?’ he thought.
Finally, with Florence panting, Kurt put her lead back on and they returned home. He shucked off his outdoor shoes and slipped on his sandals. He hung Florence’s lead back up on the kitchen hooks and put the kettle on, popping some toast in the toaster at the same time. Florence watched, with her usual intent interest, as she always did. Kurt reached up and pulled her bowl and food out of the cupboard. She didn’t miss anything and started jumping up and down excitedly until he put the bowl in front of her, when her focus changed to the food.
Kurt made his tea and put some butter on his toast. As he passed the heating thermostat he switched it to a higher setting and slumped onto the couch. In the kitchen he could hear Florence crunching away on her biscuits, and smiled just at the thought of her.
As he crunched himself, on toast not dog biscuits, he considered the turns his life had taken over the last year. The toast got stuck in his throat. He washed it down with a gulp of tea. He’d lost any appetite again, and setting the cup and plate aside he closed his eyes and softly cried. Florence ran in from the kitchen and climbed onto the couch beside him. She stuck her muzzle under his elbow and edged closer as Kurt sobbed.
“Sorry, old thing,” Kurt told her “Stupid old bugger aren’t I?” Florence stared at him then lowered her head onto his lap. “Fucking Cancer,” he said bitterly.