Winter Storm- Short Story
What could you possibly say or do when someone like Felder turns up at your door roaring drunk and putting his one good eye, all damp and rheumy, to your spy hole. “I know you’re in there!” he shouts as he braces the door frame trying not to over pitch himself into the snow that is heaped on your front porch. It’s too cold to be out anywhere, it’s too close to Christmas for excuses so it is with reluctance that you open the door and smile wide and feign delight. “Felder!”
It takes a little while to get the coat off of him. It’s damp and cold from the weather and he’s pivoting on the balls of his heels trying not to fall over in the hallway, a bottle of Corona in one steak blue mitt and a clump of your laurel wreath in the other, except this hand is gloved. Who knows where its partner is. He becomes placid for a short while and sways by the banister smugly looking at Katie, self content in the warmth of your home. The three of you stand silent for the briefest of moments before you herd him further into the house. “Just sit him down in the living room! For God’s sake!”, spits Katie under her breath.
So he settles on the corner chair goggled eyed and staring about the room in wonderment at “your splendid trinkets and baubles” and “your opulent manor”. Brief respite will inevitably come when your children rush down, hair all downy with slumber excitedly rushing forth across the room towards him. They hesitate when they smell the whiskey and the schnapps on his breath. “It’s all they had in the garage Aden, it’s all they had”. You picture the look of the fifty year old attendant behind the counter looking grimly on as Felder stumbles through the aisles towards her. It’s Christmas time and she gave the kids the holidays off- she prefers it that way. It’s quiet and she can think. She observes Felder leaning in close to the labels on the bottles. He should have grown out of this she thinks. She remembers him as a boy who used to play trumpet in the school band. The teachers thought he showed promise. He was such a nice boy.
The children move away now and go find Katie in the kitchen. You went to school together and he played a mean trumpet in your band when you were sixteen. But he looks old beyond his years now. Tired and dead in the eyes. “It’s just a few drinks; it’s Christmas!” You recall the last time you saw him, April, drunk on the playing field. “It’s just a bit of fun. Live for once in your life!”
Katie brings a cup of tea which he drinks slow. He’s got a gig, he knows a contact, a man in fact, down south who has promised to hook him up with some mean players who are looking for a new trumpeter. He just needs to get a trumpet and he’ll be made. “Ha! You should have stuck with it Aden, hard work and dedication!” He sold his last trumpet, the one he bought with the money he earned from his Saturday job and a little bit of cash from his aunt before she died. He had never got enough cash together to buy another after he sold that to pay rent back in ‘03.
He finishes the tea and Katie gets up to see him out. It’s awkward and he’s oblivious. He closes his eyes and for a moment you see the boy, your friend, full of youth and love and laughter and you feel like crying. You want to put your hand deep into the past and pull him back, you want to pull the whole bloody thing back, your life, his, the joy, the times you spent spilling out onto the street at night like speckled fish looking for the sea. Crazy, reckless. Pull the bloody tarpaulin over this life, cover this house and these kids and this existence in the middle. Live for the moment, live like you never lived in your life. But you never will. Sometimes life calls time on your chances and the carnival must move on to the next town leaving nothing but imprints in the grass.
You see him to the door. Katie kisses him lightly on the cheek. “We have a Christmas present for you!” you say cheerily moving into the next room and scouring the festive bounty for something, anything. You hand him some sugared almonds and a fruit cake. He smiles and is genuinely pleased. The night is cold and crisp and quiet. He fumbles for his missing glove, consternation on his face. He forgives, he forgets. “Merry Christmas!” he shouts as he follows the path to the pavement. He produces another Corona from his coat pocket and moves down the street.