A Call From The Garrigue.

When You Wish Upon A Star.

The little fella had all his stuff spread out on a plank of wood. There was an old pen-knife with a chip out of the blade, Two Golf balls, a blue and yellow Ferrari racer. a cap gun that wouldn’t stay shut and a bike lamp.

He had a look at the battery in the lamp. The gungy stuff was coming out through the side of it. He took it out and had a look inside the lamp. It looked alright.

He took the tobacco tin out of his pocket. He kept his winnings from playing pontoon in it. Maybe there was enough.

He put his things away out of sight and walked down to the place where the man repaired bikes. The man was alright he had once given him a wheel with no spokes, to use for a hoop. For a long time he never went anywhere without his hoop.

He walked into the garage. The big picture of a black fella on a bike racing a lion was still nailed to the wall and the place still smelt of the stuff they use to stick on patches.

The fella remembered him. “How are you?” he asked.

“So, So, you know what I mean?”

“What are you looking for?”

He showed him the lamp. “I need a battery for this.”

“Have you got the money?”

” I’ve got me winnings.”

“Your winnings, are you doin’ the gee gee’s now?”

” No I always win at pontoon. No one can beat me.”

” Have you got a bike now?”

“No.”

“So what are you doin’ with the lamp?”

The little fella fidgeted a bit and then he said.

“I’ll tell you if you promise not to laugh at me, OK?”

” Yeh YEh I wont laugh. go ahead.”

Well a fella I play with at marbles and sometimes we mitch off school and go off along the canal and climb trees and stuff like that you know what I mean?”

“Do you not get into trouble for that?”

“Nobody knows. anyway his mother said I can come to his place for christmas dinner and you can’t go somewhere for christmas and not take a present can yeh? So i thought if i cleaned the old lamp up a bit and put a battery in it, it’s no good if it doesn’t work, I could wrap it up and give it to him. Do you think he’ll guess that it’s an old one?”

“Let me look at it. Not at all, he’ll never know the difference. I’ve got a rag here and a drop of turps, I’ll shine it up a bit for you. Have you got paper or a bag?”

“No I got nothin’.”

“why are you not stayin’ at home for christmas?”

“I’ll be on me on if I stay there and I’ve got nothin’ to eat anyway.”

The little fella waited while he went off to get the rag and the battery and when he came back it was all in a Christmas bag and he had a little label on it and he handed the little fella a pencil and told him to write his pal’s name on it and Happy Christmas.

He took a couple of coins out of the tobacco tin and said “That’ll do keep the rest you might need it for pontoon.”

The next morning all the bells were ringing and all you could hear was the noise of the marching feet as they all walked off to Christmas Mass. He knew he was too late to get inside, he always was but it still counted.

It was the long Mass for Christmas, the one where they sang a lot and splashed holy water around and they made the smelly smoke. It started to rain. It always rains when you’re stuck outside.

A few of the older ones that stank of beer started to go home out of the rain.

He asked one of them if it still counted if he left to get out of the rain with them.

“of course it counts, you came didn’t yeh?” you’ll catch a cold if stay here in the rain, go on, go home.”

He left, and skipped off to where his pal lived and knocked on the door. His pals mother opened it and said, “ah! There you are. Did you go to mass? Get in out of the rain.” She saw the present in his hand and told him to put it with the rest of them under the tree.

Inside was like going into the place where santa claus gives things away to kids in the big shops? there was a tree with shiny balls and coloured paper and christmas Crackers all over the place and the smell of dinner and the fire in the grate and his pal coming out happy to see him. He couldn’t remember a Christmas like it.

Later his pals Dad came back with two little girls and their mother and father, they were all going to eat together he could hear that jiminy cricket fella singing “when you wish upon a star” on the radio, this was heaven, he said to himself.

They decided to eat dinner before they opened the presents.

there were glasses of lemonade for the kids and a cracker to pull by your plate. Both of the men wanted to cut the turkey up and the women gave out the vegetables and gravy. There was stuffing and cranberry sauce and all sorts of stuff like roast potatoes and boiled potatoes and cabbage and carrots and everything.

Then the sweet, Christmas Pudding and mince pies and bits of fruit all mixed up with prunes and dates and figs, all with cream. he was bursting.

he went to the toilet to have a wee and he started to cry. “stop crying you idiot.  Why am I crying everything nice here?” He didn’t want to cry, some times when he cried it left clean tracks on his face if he was a bit dirty. One of them would spot that if he wasn’t careful.  

when he got back they’d cleared the table and they were all around the fire waiting to open the presents. The women passed them out. They looked at the name on the parcel and gave it to them.  The two girls got one and then his pal then they called his name. They even had a present for him. It was a long time since anyone had given him a present.

he opened it up. It was a warm navy blue pullover with long sleeves, he was delighted. Then his pal and the two girls started to sing the silly song “we three kings of orient are two in a taxi one in a car” and they each handed him a present. he  didn’t know what to do.  He thanked them all and sniffed very hard to stop himself blubbering.  

they gave him a pack of things to write letters, with envelopes and a pen and a pair of warm socks and a book to read about Tom Sawyer.Then the woman handed his present to his pal, he couldn’t bear to watch.  But The lamp looked fine. Rag and turps its like magic. he looked hard at it, he had worried about nothing.

His pal was pleased, he thanked him a lot. he said “you must have used all your winnings to buy this.” The little fella said nothing but he looked more closely and he could see that it was too good to be his lamp. The man in the bike place must have put the wrong one in the bag. I’d better keep me mouth shut or I’ll have to tell them the truth. I’d better go back and see him just in case it’s a sin.

After that they all played games like musical chairs and pass the parcel and statues and then it was time to go home.  His pals mother gave him a bag with his presents in it and some stuff to eat later that was left over from dinner. He said thank you very much to everybody and they all said thank you very much to him and off he went.

he had to be careful now, if anybody saw him they’d take him away.  He’d just found a little place where they were knocking the houses down and there was a little place that was still all right. There would be no more work done there until after Christmas.

He put on his new pullover and warm socks and covered himself with the old coats and lay down to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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