Snowy Fingers

By Joe Paoli

Eb felt not but vexation towards mankind. His one shining quality was prudentiality regarding pecuniary affairs. Around his neck, an iron chain served as a memento of his last, late friend. Robert, his new assistant, was a drunk who considered his children to be immigrants in his home. The day before the birthday, with a contrived smile on his visage, Rob croaked that he wanted to spend the next day at mass. Looking up, his nose pointed like a cutlass, Eb spat, “Do you think me so naive to believe you pious? If relinquished, you would inebriate yourself such that you liver should crumble. Now, fetch me a cup of Lipton. I tire of your worthless presence.”

As the tea spilled into the mug, an odious idea grew in Rob’s mind. He would put some milk in Eb’s drink, as he preferred; milk of the poppy. He removed his crudest opium and slipped it in the brew. Lips curled deliberately over his rank teeth, Bob returned the drink.

The deceived man’s gastric walls burned, the heat exponentially rising. Night had fallen by the time Eb felt genuinely disconcerted about his health. Composing himself, he closed shop.

As the shadows fell, something seemed abhorrent. Eb’s sight was warped and effulgent with gaudy hues. Gusts reddened his schnoz and the ground bit his boots, but Eb perspirated in rebellion. These symptoms diagnosed a panic-attack, yet his heart lacked palpitations.

Clumsily making his way home, he caught the image of lovers in a bakery, whose candle-lit corpses seemed a branch of oak, writhing in the autumn tempest. The sight triggered a voice, one which he thought was buried. “Belle, with all my soul, I love you. I…” The old man strained to remember, but was fruitless. The exclamation he heard was from a different person. The voyeur looking through the window was a marksman blinded. He could remember the happiness he once wielded, but not how to find it. In that moment, Eb felt all his regret for how far he fell, yet was so awash with nausea he confused the feeling for his illness. He trekken on.

On his homeward march, at Present Street, he feel across a bungalow which expelled a familiar voice. Peering through a gap where glass should have been, there laid Rob, flushed. Only incoherent mumbles escaped from him. Before Geezer turned to leave, a tremor was detected. A youth, limp-legged, had entered the room. He only wore a dusty piece of burlap. His skin was ridden with hives. His eyes, balls of blood, were irritated and untreated. Eb tried to yell, but his voice was ensnared in his constricted airway. He struggled to breathe, then fell.

Eb was incapacitated for some time. As he arose, a blanket of snow slipped off his coat. His head vibrated. Snowy fingers had turned violet from oxygen deprivation. Geezer twitched and throbbed. He would die, but now? He never learned the point. He needed one year more!

He reached the cemetery, and like a suckling, crawled on his hands and knees, since his balance gave way earlier. This failed him though; his fingers were broke and cut clenching the gravel. By his elbows, he slugged. Worn, he hadn’t seen the hole he had slipped into. He hadn’t noticed the cloaked figure tailing him. He hadn’t fought to escape from the dirt piled on him. He closed his eyes. But when Ebenezer Scrooge opened them, it wasn’t soil, but satin engulfing his corpse. Christmas bells rang. He was spontaneously hopeful and well. He was cured alright. He’s been that way ever since. The sole alarms that have clued him thus far have been his ineptitude finding the fateful cemetery, and inability to remove Bob Marley’s chain, weighing him down.