Excerpt from Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
As if throwing some lights on a few trees is gonna make the world’s problems go away, Jack thought, then growled at himself. Truth was he’d enjoyed the lights for the first two or three nights. Then again, he’d been on a good buzz then, and a few hits off a bottle hidden in a brown paper sack made everything look better. No, the world didn’t get any kinder, nor the people in it, but the slow burn of alcohol in his guts made him just not care.
Tonight he was too ripping sober to think anything in the world was good or kind. The painful truths of life came into sharp focus when he actually had the mind to think about them. That was probably why he’d stayed pretty well sloshed for the last fifteen years. Right this minute, all he could think about was how to get his hands on another bottle of anything that could be called ‘rot-gut,’ and sink himself back into the comfortable, hellfire pit of drunkenness.
A couple strolled hand in hand down the sidewalk and Jack held out a shaking hand. They were both well-dressed, well groomed, and from the names printed on the sides of the shopping bags they carried, they obviously had money.
“Got any change you could spare?” he asked, the words grating on his soul. Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, he’d actually had some pride. He’d almost forgotten what it felt like, but every once in a while—usually when he was forced into involuntary soberness—that pride reared its head to torment him. Once, way back before the current ice age, he’d had a life with all the trimmings.
The young woman leaned closer to her companion, who gave Jack a dirty look, pulled his wife closer to his side, and hurried past. Three steps on the other side of him, they stopped, and the young woman leaned her face close to the young man’s ear. The man turned around, leaving her there, and stepped toward Jack, pulling his wallet from his pocket.
“Merry Christmas,” he said, slipping something into Jack’s hand. Saying nothing more, he turned back to the woman who smiled broadly at him. They walked off arm in arm, no doubt happy with themselves for their Christmas generosity.
Let ‘em be smug. Jack didn’t care, especially after he unfolded the bills and found three twenties in his hand. That would buy a nice bottle or two.