Saturday, January 14, 2012

THE LITTLE MATCH BOY ~~~~ a re-telling of H.C. Andersen's poignant tale part XXII

One of the workman came out a little later to take a piss. The alley was closer than the latrine. And nobody was out there, 'cept for the drunk and the little boy. So after his urine stopped steaming, he fastened up and took a quick hop over to the tiny fella. Tapped the tip of his shoe with his toe. The dog growled a bit. She looked real hungry. You could see it in her face.  Spaniels always look sad, but she looked even worse. The guy reached into his pocket and tossed her a hunk a short bread left over from lunch. She tried to grab it in mid air, only she couldn't. So he picked it up and gave it to her. You should see how fast she gobbled that up. The man said something to the boy, but the little bloke was sleeping. And the drunk laying a ways off started moaning  and gurgling. Workman figured they were together, father and son maybe. So he just turned 'round and went inside. Told a shift-mate about it. The shift-mate told him to worry 'bout himself and not get involved. Still, a half hour later, he went back outside and threw a piece a canvas over 'em.

Two hours later, when it was dark and the cooperage was all closed, it started snowing. But the tarp kept in all the heat. And the kid did have a fever and all. You know how it is with the little ones. Fevers don't run continuously. They come and go. Now it was time for 'the comin.'  So he starts whimpering in his sleep. Not a real sleep. More like a delirium. So the drunk jumps up. He hears it, but can't tell where it's comin' from. See the snow dusted the top side of the canvas and it just blended in with the pile of sawdust. He starts mumblin' somethin' 'bout ghosts and haunts and stumbles off. Napoleon stuck her nose out, she did, but 'cept for a fast outing to take a dump, she wern't gone nowhere. Funny how starvin' dogs still heed the call. The little fella was beyond all that. Guess the sickness effected his kidneys. 

Not long after they started gatherin' 'round him. The spirits, I mean. Who am I? Oh, I ain't no spirit. I AM a ghost. But I don't bother nobody. Just mind me own business, walkin' up and down the streets, lookin' into windows, things like that. Sometimes I slip through a wall, peek in a bedroom. I get curious. I used to be human too, you know. And believe me, I did not mean to give that man no hearty-tack. But he come outta the bathroom (fancy that...'bathrooms') and ketch me standin' over his wife. I get scared, shoot up through the ceiling and he falls down dead on top a her. She kept right on snorin' and sleepin'. Not exactly sure how that scene played out.

But I did want to see what happened to the little one. A lady there was. I figured her to me the ma. She sat down on the cold ground right next to him. Didn't move the tarp. Maybe that was beyond her capabilities? I don't know. Then a big fella comes by, crouches  down and just sighs. I knew he was the daddy right away. They looked so worried. Maybe it wasn't a done deal yet. Still they came to be with him.

And I knows how it goes with folks at times like that. Them what is passin', I mean. Part of 'em still lays sufferin' in the 'hard' world, but another part rests somewhere's else. Do I know what it's like over there? No, I told you. I'm a ghost. Ain't never been nowhere but Prague. Well, once I went to Pilsen, but that don't count. But I know..... I know. Sometimes when I sit real still  (People can be walkin' all around me. It could be bright daylight. The sun could be shinnin'. I don't care) I hear things. I hear little bits a magic from the next world. That's how I know. Maybe I'll go there one day? Who knows?

Little fella moaned a bit. Ma moved in close. She starts singing a quiet song. Then the dog drags herself out from under the tarp and just stands there.  Oh, she could see them. I know that. Must a known I was there too. Canines is smart that way. Could be cats are too, only they don't care. Little boy must a seen over to the 'next place.' I could hear a sweet, little, childlike chuckle. That's how I know. Them what loves him were startin' to ease him through. Dog comes right over and lays down close to the pa. He pets her. Don't know if she felt it or not. But she acted like she did.

Then I heared the chimes from Saint Vitus. You can hear them all around these parts. Don't remember what time it was. That ain't important. The pa puts his arm around the ma. I see her shoulders movin', so I know she's cryin'. Funny, think she'd be lookin' forward to the reunion. Guess she wanted him to have better than this. A few minutes later, steam starts risin' up from the tarp. Just like from a hot rock. You know them saunas they got up in Finland and over in Russia? Well, it was like that. Then the parents get real still. Everything gets still, even the air. The sky was clear. That I remember. You could see the stars. You could see the moon. The cold, little alley was all shiny with a dark and silvery light. And I felt something. Not a ghost. Not a spirit. It was like that, but it was different. Warmer. Sweeter. Now I'm gonna tell you it was an angel. But there's no way I can know for sure. 

I looked back down at the ma and pa. That's when I saw him. She had him. She was holding him. The little one, I mean. And he puts his head on her shoulder and snuggles close. The pa helps her up. Guess they ain't been dead long and still move like livin' folk. Then he leans in close and kisses the little fella. 

That's when they started to disappear, just like mist evaporating with the dawn. Dog starts whining. She must a wanted to go too. So she stands there for a few heartbeats, looking, like she can see them movin' off through the still, cold air. Then she comes back and lays herself down over the little body. You see the body was still there. 

In the morning, when the workman came back, they found him. His cheeks were still rosy. Well, flushed was more like it. A bloke goes runnin' off. Then he comes back with two men. A few crowns change hands. Might a been Austrian shillings. I don't know. The plain dressed man reaches down and picks up the little body. Somebody else hands him the canvas tarp and he uses that to wrap it up. Then the other one, his boss, I reckon, says something and they leave.

So I drifts off after 'em, wantin' to see where they was headed. Could a been to an undertaker's, but it wern't. Them two blokes ducks into a side door goin' down  to the cellar of some high falutin' medical college. Didn't have to go in. I could see through the window.  Oh, them what worked there took good care of him they did.... at least for now. Cadavers come dear, you know........

And the dog? She went with. Followed 'em the whole way back. See? There she is now, layin' down right by the door...

Wonder if she'll smell it when they start to cut him up?

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1 comment:

Jon Snow said...

Kudos on a sweet ending that also managed to have a creepy epilogue of sorts.

Of course, because of what this blog is called, I kept waiting for the match boy to grow fangs and stuff ;-)