Gabriel is staggered, upon overhearing two old dears declare that only 21 shopping days remain ’til Christmas. He hadn’t even noticed that December had dawned, far too busy being grim ‘n’ grumpy to be bothered. This, after losing his job—again—leaving him too fed-up of enforced thriftiness to differentiate days that did not. Let alone recall the date on the calen— A thought that sends Gabriel scuttling off the bus, in a belated bid to secure his favourite part of the festive season…an advent calendar. If they have any left. Upon clattering into the nearest shop, he finds himself coshed by the most splendid sight he e’er did see. A Christmas Feast for the eyeballs so sublime, it seemed—for a hectic heartbeat—that they’d all come at once. As the latter was an improbable feat in said company, they definitely had not.
Dylan is much dismayed by the ramshackle litter of limbs and belongings that trips into the off-license, halfway through his shift. It being way too early for the drunk and determinedly irritating to come staggering in. In the wake of arriving too late to audition for a role he’d set his heart on, Dylan is no mood to deal with a human hatstand—doe-eyed and demented—intent upon purchasing a bloody advent calendar. On the third of December. For himself. Strewth. Could fate have dumped a less welcome portent of doomed to disaster festivities on the doorstep...?
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Dylan’s trip down misery lane was rudely interrupted by the teeth-gritting jangle of the bell that heralded the entrance of each customer. Reason enough to want to bolt the bloody door to ensure that no one could set the damn thing off.
“Oh, bugger…”READ MORE
Christ, no. It was way too early for the pissed-up and perennially irritating to start staggering in. Dylan glared at the ramshackle onslaught of limbs and belongings that clattered into the shop. This, with a godawful racket reminiscent of a one-man band, created by what appeared to be: one person, a single guitar, and some plastic bags. The latter were either full of saucepan lids, tambourines and stray cats…or, the customer could cause chaos in a broom cupboard. On his own. Neither of which boded well for the duration. He would no doubt browse for fifteen minutes, knock Dylan’s painstaking display of colour coordinated decorations off the shelf—then insist on arguing about fuck-all—before finally purchasing a cheap lighter, some Rizzla papers and a Snickers bar.
Dylan had, clearly, been working in an off-license far too long. This had been true about an hour into his first shift, despite the fifteen percent staff reduction that had clinched the deal in the first place. Dylan watched, incredulous, as the litter of limbs and baggage rearranged itself into something that resembled a human figure. Albeit, a far too…extravagant one. Then, he lifted his head.
How simple that sounded. The customer’s face had formerly been obscured by the brim of his hat; a battered black trilby, barely a shade darker than eyes as bottomless as they were huge. Framed by excessive eyelashes and skin so pale, he could have played Pierrot, sans make-up. A fact not helped by lips so wind-chapped, they looked kiss-bitten. Or, he’d earned enough to buy more than a packet of bloody Rizzla and a Snickers in the very recent past. If he hadn’t already blown it on his next fix. Get a grip. Who the hell would cart a guitar around, while out pulling punters? Punters... f'fucksakes.
“Hiya.” His little-boy-lost features lit up in a smile as startling as his voice; coming from a body comprised of far too many corners. Dylan had expected clipped cockney tones or a harsh estuary drawl. The ‘hiya’ had scarce classified as a word, it had been but a wisp of melody. This particular nugget of nonsense was followed by the belated awareness that Dylan was standing like a lemon, dumbstruck. Ensnared in the dark spotlight of a gaze akin to a steel-jaw trap…COLLAPSE
After missing an important audition, all Dylan, of ‘Full o’Festive Spirits’ by Zakarrie Clarke, wants is to finish up his shift and go home. Before he can, an offbeat beanpole of a man with the most angelic eyes saunters in, wanting to buy an advent calendar. As annoyed as Dylan pretends to be, he’s inexplicably drawn to this caricature of a man, who is a mess and a vision all at once. He’s never had this reaction to a man before. What makes this guy so irritating and so charming all at once? Gabriel worries that he has missed his opportunity to enjoy his favorite part of the holiday season, the Christmas advent calendar. Without it, Christmas will not be the same. Upon seeing Dylan, he’s bedazzled by the god standing before him; but, his attitude toward the handsome store clerk changes with the scowl he’s wearing on his face.
Gabriel asks to purchase an advent calendar; Dylan assumes that it’s for Gabriel’s child. When he learns that the calendar is for Gabriel, it sets off a bantering session of snippiness, sarcasm, kidding, and flirting that is a surprise to Dylan, who has never been attracted to a man as strongly before Gabriel. Dylan accuses Gabriel of not being able to withstand the temptation to eat the chocolate behind every door, rather than the three he’s missed since it is December 3rd. Gabriel leaves the shop, determined to only eat three; Dylan is just as certain that Gabriel will scoff up the whole lot as soon as he’s out of sight. A few days later, Gabriel or as Dylan thought of him, “the eight-year-old rent boy, moonlighting as a hatstand”, comes waltzing back into the shop to show Dylan that he was, indeed, able to resist the temptation to open all the doors.
Dylan is wondering if he’s seen the last of Gabriel, yet, at the same time, hoping he hasn’t, when Gabriel, Christmas tree in tow, graces his door once again. A friend, whose wife didn’t want it, gave it to Gabriel rather than throw it away. It is Gabriel’s intention to drag the tree all the way home. When Dylan asks Gabriel if he can help carry the tree home, Gabriel wonders if he means it, but he accepts his help. All the way there, Dylan has a battle going on in his head. He’s never been with a man before, but Gabriel has bewitched him. As much as he is considering that he’s just helping out a friend, but “rent boy” or not, he wants to shag him. Will Gabriel even want him to?
This is a delightful holiday story with quirky, interesting characters who won my heart immediately. The lyrical, very British way in which Zakarrie pens her words spins an exceptional reading experience that is hard to resist. Thank you, Zakarrie, for the endearing, quirky tale.