a cautionary moral tale for all those who don’t believe….
Timothy Razzell was not a very nice boy. Perhaps he had been, once long ago, at a time when most small children are sweet and good. But by the time he had reached Year Six at Misery Lane Primary School, he was a proper little stinker. In school he bullied younger children, cheeked the Dinner ladies, stole things and damaged other kid’s propertyjust for a laugh.
Because he had somehow become a little twisted up inside, he did all this because he wanted the other children to like him. He thought it would make him a hero in their eyes. He was terribly wrong about that-it just scared them. This twisted him up a little even more, and so he spoiled their lessons, making their favourite teachers bad-tempered and grumpy. His mates called him “Razzer.” Except…well… he had no mates really. No-one liked him very much. He sat alone, most of the time.
Razzer hated Christmas, and he hated it especially badly at this exact moment. He was stamping home from school in one of his “moods”. Miss Goodwater had kept him behind to nag him because he’d torn up all the paper chains and put them in the bin. And to tell him off because he’d threatened to batter his little sister Keeley-Jo at playtime. She was going to get it again anyway, when he got home. For grassing him up. And then she’d get it again if she told Mum about it afterwards.
It was dark as Razzer got near his house ,but something seemed to be going on outside it. He couldn’t see too clearly, because some kids had bricked out all the street lights a few days ago. But some old bloke was lying on the pavement there, gasping. He was breathless and muttering to himself. Drunk, probably .
As Razzer got close, he saw that the old man had a white beard and a jolly picture-postcard sort of face, with plump, rosy cheeks. Razzer wasn’t the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer, so all this meant nothing to him, not even at Christmas time. Neither did the red trousers or the black boots.
- “ Ahhhh. I think I’ve sprained me ankle!” cursed the old Man.
“ So what? ” said Razzer. He was wary of Grown-ups. He didn’t like them very much. Only if they gave him money.
“ Oh come on son! Fair play! Give us a hand up here! Got to get up! Got a job to do!”
“ No way! ” said Razzer, carefully circling the old bloke, and opening his own front garden gate.
“Oh. You’ll be Timothy Razzell then!” said the Old Man, struggling to his feet, unaided.“ The Timothy Razzell. From Number 12, just here. Oh yes! I’ve heard lots about you. And all of what I’ve heard seems to be true!”
The old geezer hobbled around, picking up some…what,exactly? Was it shopping he’d dropped ? Parcels and packages, anyway.
“ Yes, I know all about you,” said the Old Man, sitting on the garden wall and rubbing his ankle.
“Big Deal!” sneered Razzer . (He wasn’t a clever boy , remember ,and when he was frightened, he tended to keep conversation very basic. And for some reason he could not quite explain, he was quite frightened now ).
“ You don’t know who I am then? “ sighed the Old Man. “ I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, nowadays.”
“ No I don’t. And I don’t care, either. But if you don't go away and get off our wall, I’ll tell my Dad, and then he’ll come out the house and batter your head in .”
But how did he know him? Razzer wondered. That was worrying. Perhaps he was a Wagman checking up on his attendance? Razzer bunked off occasionally, so he had a passing knowledge of Education Welfare Officers. But did they carry big sacks? Or stuff their trousers in their wellies?
“ You’re treading a downward path ,Razzer! “ said the old man sadly. Even in the darkness. Razzer could see his eyes twinkling.
“ Am I ? Whooo! ” Razzer made ghost noises. “ I’m really well scared! ”
But however hard he had tried to make that sound, he was scared, actually. Really, really scared. Of something. Had the Off Licence complained about him again?
“ I’m telling my dad about you now. You’ve had it! ” Razzer declared, not very convincingly. In fact, it came out as a bit of a squeak. He flounced angrily into his house, without looking back. His ears were hot. Someone was talking about him. And that was a lie about his dad. His dad didn’t live there no more. He hadn’t got a dad. Not one that he knew of, anyway. He scuttled inside, thrilled with his own daring at (once again) back-chatting nosey adults.
Inside the house, Razzer crept into the darkened front room without putting the lights on. He almost fell over the Christmas tree by the window. Cautiously, he eased a curtain aside. Outside it had begun to snow. He could tell that, from the white reflected glow of it on the pavements. It was beautiful stuff, snow but it wouldn’t last . It never did, where Razzer lived.
The old man had now faded to become merely an energetic silhouette on the other side of the road. There was a whistle and the clip-clop of hooves. A horse and cart or something, with bells on, began coming up the street. It stopped outside their house, opposite. The old man swung up onto the driver’s seat . It was all glittery and sparkling, like a....a..
“ Wow! Awesome! A sleigh!” breathed Keeley-Jo, having arrived silently at Razzer’s side , “Oh it’s a sleigh, Timothy!
Her breath misted up the window as she craned forward eagerly to see it better. Razzer cuffed clear the misted-up window, urgently. But the street was now empty. He pushed Keeley-Jo away, roughly.
“Loser! It was nothin’!” he snapped at her angrily . “ Nothin’ .”
Then it began to rain. The snow was melting already. Just as he thought it would. Keeley-Jo got an extra slap for that.
Next morning, Razzer had inspected the droppings piled high in the gutter outside the house. Like nothing he’d ever seen before. Grandad said they’d be good for the roses,but they hadn’t got any roses. Razzer didn’t tell anyone what he thought he’d seen last night. Because they’d just laugh at him and tell him he was stupid.
That afternoon, they sat on the carpet in the classroom as Miss Goodwater read them a story. Razzer eventually tired of kicking Tajvinderpal Singh in the back and began listening. Some soppy stuff about Santa Claus. Father Christmas. Whatever. Patron Saint of kids.The only Santa Razzer had ever met had a cotton wool beard and smelt of beer and fags.
But something about the description she was reading out in the story suddenly touched him like an electric shock. The boots ! The sack ! The red hat ! ..The reindeer?
On the way home from school he fretted about yesterday’s encounter outside their house. In fact, he fretted about it all the way up to that year’s Christmas Day. In case he didn’t get the Megadroid Death Ray Killer Gun that Grandpap had promised him. But it was all there, as usual ,on Christmas Morning.
* * *
Razzer had forgotten that whole incident until another cold December night, several years later. It really had snowed then, heavily this time and it settled. Razzer's gloveless fingers were almost blue with cold. So cold that they were having some trouble breaking the lock on the door of the local corner shop. Razzer had put this coldness down to the sudden drop in temperature at first, but then there was a scuffling noise on the roof above him. He peered upwards, half expecting to see a black uniform there. Instead, a pattering of fluffy fresh snow powdered gently onto his upturned face. A familiar figure was beaming down at him.
“Ho Ho Ho! It’s our Razzer again!” the old man chuckled. “ A bit taller perhaps and unsuccessfully trying to grow a moustache!”
“ And as talkative as ever, I see !” The old man tutted, and shook his head with mock sadness. Razzer could still only see him vaguely. His image was fuzzy like a busted television set or a buffering download.
“ Breaking into Mr. Datwana’s shop?” asked the old man. Razzer tried to quieten his chattering teeth.
“ It’s me uncle’s shop,” he lied, “ He’s lost his keys.”
“ Oh ho! And still fibbing ,eh? Badly,as usual! But you can’t lie to me ,boy! Don’t you know that?”
Razzer squinted upwards.
“I ain’t your “boy! An’ come to that, what you doin’ up on a roof at this time of night?” Razzer challenged, accusingly.” Trespass, that is.”
“ Pahhh!! You mean you still don’t recognise me?”
“ I seen you once before, yeah. You threatened me when I was a little kid. You want to watch it,mate. Old blokes can get put away for picking on kids. ”
“ So they can, Razzer and rightly so .But good children have nothing to fear from their Patron Saint,” answered the old man. “And you are still a child, Razzer. In mind if not in body. Look! I’ll tell you what! You’ll regret it if you break into there tonight. Go home! Go home to Keeley-Jo and your Mum.”
“ What?” Razzer squeaked, incredulously, “ You are gonna stop me ,are you? Er....duhhh!!...How does that work then? ”
“ Goodness me, no! I’m far too busy. I’m just offering you a warning.”
“ Well I’m going in,” sneered Razzer.” I told you, it’s me uncle’s shop. I gotta get some, er... stuff for him,see? And if you’re still on his roof when I come back out here, you’ll get a right good seeing to. I can promise you that ”
The old man sighed.
“ We both know I won’t be here when you come back out,” said the old man. He sounded like when Granddad used to talk about Grandma. As if he was going to cry. Just for a second , Razzer hesitated.
“ Look……I….I….gotta get me uncle’s coat,” he whimpered feebly .
A large whump of snow landed at Razzer’s feet as the old man rose and waddled back up the roof towards a chimney stack. Had he..had he thrown a snowball at him? Razzer half thought of chucking one back.
“ Your Uncle,” echoed the old man ,mockingly, stepping nimbly across the ridge tiles and clasping a chimney stack expertly. “Your uncle! Another fantasy Razzer! You live in it permanently! And as you do so, why can’t you accept who I am then? Eh? Tell me that! Laddie, If Mr. Sarbjeet Datwana really is your uncle then I’m…I’m….”
Razzer’s hand was turning the broken door handle now .
“ Yeah , yeah! I know!,” he muttered, as the lock finally gave, allowing him to enter the darkened shop, “ You’re Father Christmas. And I’m Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer .”
* * *
All that too, had been quite a few Decembers ago now. Razzer had left home since then. He was now sleeping rough, holed up like an outlaw, in a shed on Grandpa's old allotment, He’d decided he wasn’t going to spend another Christmas in the Tower Blocks. He had collected a few bottles and some rags, and he planned on giving one or two people who had crossed him that year, a Christmas box they would never forget.
Then he heard…what? Sleigh bells? Nahhh! Bull Terrier with a fancy collar on maybe. He buttoned up his jacket and reached for a fag to calm his nerves. But then he heard…..what…hoofbeats? Like a stampede in a cowboy film. And a whiplash. And loud, merry, defiant laughter, but way up high, way above the bristling Mobile phone masts on the nearest block of flats.
“ Yah!” Razzer sneered, “ You again! Who believes in you! What can you do to me?”
Striking the match in that confined space catapulted him through the flimsy shed walls with the flying debris. Aflame, like a Christmas Pudding soaked in Brandy. Keeley-Jo, Mrs. Goodwater, Grandpa and Mum all seemed to flash past Razzer,as he sailed over a disused cabbage plot and into the street.
Lying there, on his back, in the rain, Razzer stared blearily up at the sky. He glimpsed .pretty, winking coloured lights. A low flying jet, appeared fleetingly through the breaks in the cloud. Bound for Heathrow. Or Gatwick.
No...hold up! Was it....a sleigh?