- Vol. 02
- Chapter 05
Mark’s here. I can’t believe she brought him. I can’t believe he’s wearing a suit. I take a few pics of Becky in her tinsel halo with my phone. Did he come in his car? I bet he did. Old biddy next to me sidesteps to her left and scans down to my trainers. That is not church appropriate footwear. Becky sings a song about heaven and babies. I think she’s wearing a pillowcase. Mary and Joseph encircle the stage. Christ, is that a real baby in that crib? Is that allowed? Wait, it’s a doll. I think. Shepherds arrive with tea towels on their heads. One is wearing Crocs. I pretend to hum along to the carols. I can’t see Becky anymore, just a tuft of blonde curls as she’s blocked out by a king wearing a crown from Burger King. The children stand there for a moment and stare at baby Jesus. There’s a donkey. Not a real donkey.
The service finishes and Lou takes Mark up to talk to the minister. They stand there arm-in-arm with Becky at their sides, sharing jokes, smiling. That was me once - in a suit, Becky wasn’t there but that minister thought I was their man. He gave us our blessing, told us God would look over us or some bollocks like that. I had church appropriate footwear, I had love, I had the world.
I don’t get the chance to talk to Becky but I sit there for a while. I drink out of a Sprite bottle filled with something else and listen to panpipe carols filter through that cold building. People leave. Kids’ heavy footsteps thunder down that aisle towards promises of hot chocolates in front of the telly, away from grandparents’ cameras. I wait. When it’s just me, I head for the front of the church and lie myself down on the fake hay. Hello, little donkey. Well done for getting that pregnant lass to that stable in time. I pat him on the head and take a selfie with him. He’s not furry like a donkey should be. Solid, shiny. His tail lifted slightly like he’s about to take a dump. I like this donkey.
I wake up the next morning on concrete surrounded by fag ash and an empty bottle of JD. A man stares at me from beyond the railings. ‘Excuse me, sir? You and the donkey have to leave, please.’ The donkey stares me down. How did you get here? ‘Where am I?’ ‘This is private property...and it’s frigging Christmas day. I don’t need this shit today.’ He leaves. The donkey and I are left staring at the vacant carcass of an off-season hotel, an empty swimming pool, a silent blue sky. Little bucked teeth grin widely at me. I have a donkey, a little donkey. I bet Mark doesn’t have a donkey. I put an arm under his belly and we leave.