Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Deborah Tubb

Once upon a time in Bohemia

A blizzard blew round the two men who stood in the windy little entrance to an alley off a road sloping down to the town and the sea.
Further up the street, a hooded boy slid a skateboard up and down disconsolately. He was a very wet and snowy boy.
Chav Hat, whose démodé woollen hat was his emblem, and Tiny Tim, who was quite big, sheltered from the blizzard. They had drunk together through Christmas day – but this was the day after.
“Where are we?” said Chav Hat. Smearing his hand partway along the snowy wall, Tiny said “Onger Passage.”
“Isn’t that in Essex?” Chav asked. Tiny ignored this.
“It’s not that late – we can still make it to the YMCA – if the snow stops.” The snow continued to fall.
“I can hardly see,” said Chav, “and my boots hurt – I need a drink.”
“We had all of it last night,” lamented Tiny.
“You won’t feel your boots when they’re frozen. We’re safe enough here, no-one around at all. Just wait till the snow stops.”
Then Chav, gazing down the passage, shouted “There’s a man there coming towards us!” The man came up. It was hard to see his face and his beard covered in snow, his face and figure indeterminate. He carried a Co-op bag slung over his shoulder.
“Merry Christmas!” said the man.
“Likewise,” they said. Then they looked at the bag and each other. There were two of them; they were freezing, skint and quite thirsty.
“What’s in the bag?” they both said at once.
“Boxing Day presents,” said the man with a slight foreign intonation. “There is an old man I must see. Near the trees and the water.”
“He means down by the park,” said Tiny. “Loads of trees there, it’s mostly trees and water in fact.”
“Well, he doesn’t mean the Dripping Well, which is shut,” sighed Chav.
The strange man opened the bag freely and showed them dumplings and a sausage (‘From the Baltic Shop’, said Chav – ‘very reasonable’) – and a half of Lamb’s Navy Rum (‘An English brand are very popular in my country’, said the man).
“It’s very popular here too,” said Tiny, transfixed by the bottle. Tiny and Chav took a small step forward. The man looked at the two of them, his dark eyes burning through the frosty air above his snowy beard. They could not hold his gaze, and looked down, abashed. “And I have this, also”, the man said, flourishing an electricity key card.
“It won’t work,” said Chav Hat .
“Yes it will,” said the man. “It works every year for me.”
The snow still fell, but not so thickly.
The man picked up his bag, threw it over his shoulder again, and stepped out up the road, into the drifts.
“He’s going to turn left at the top for Park Road,” said Tiny.
“The snow’s stopping,” said Chav. “Let’s go, too.”
“I’ll have to go slow mate, ‘cos of me boots.”
“Oh just this once then – grab my hand.” He led Chav, limping in his footsteps, downhill towards the town, and a free meal.
The man plunged into the snow, struggling uphill. The boy with the skateboard, by now very wet indeed, flipped his board up and caught it, tucked it under his arm, and followed slowly behind the strange man up the slop, step by step.
As they all travelled in different directions, a full moon came out from behind the snow clouds, and shone – brightly.

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