Christmas, that most magical time of year, when little children wake up and say, ‘Is this all I got?’
Well, if they come crying me about it, I’ll soon give them something to cry about. What, me, cynical? No way, I think cynics are playful and cute; whenever something good happens, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But there was one time I almost felt the fairy dust.
‘I want you to have this painting, for Christmas,’ said Joe.
I looked at it.
‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ I said. ‘I dislike you enough already.’
‘But I painted it myself,’ he said, casting his eyes down modestly, like a little furry creature hoping against hope to be petted but expecting instead the all too familiar slap of a calloused and cruel hand.
It was a painting of yet another Traditional Irish Cottage, although a pack of rancid hyenas had apparently vomited over this one; admittedly the Sky satellite dish was a nice modernist touch.
I was surprised and rather touched, and somewhat ashamed that I had misjudged him, what with it being Christmas and all.
How had I become like this, I asked myself? How had I lost the child-like innocence, the vocation to help my fellow-man which had sustained through the ordeals and humiliations of medical school?
I’d metamorphosed into something dark and unlovely, mean-spirited, suspicious, humbug, unwilling or unable to see the good in others and accept the generous gifts of a honest heart.
I felt ashamed, the ghost of Jacob Marley tap-tap-tapping at my door; was that Sleigh Bells I heard in the distance, the horns of Elfland faintly blowing? Let’s pull the crackers, I thought, roast some chestnuts, blackmail some farmers, discriminate against homosexuals, bury myself headlong in all the rich and time-honoured traditions of the Northern Irish Christmas.
I’m sure the world would come to an end if I were allowed to feel a sense of benevolence and goodwill to all mankind for any length of time, so then, inevitably, the other shoe… the laws of human self-referential behaviour, having fallen asleep, woke up and reasserted themselves
‘And I can get you a good deal on the frame,’ said Joe.