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The Woman In The Christmas Window

The Woman In The Christmas Window.

From the Pen of Thurles Author & Poet Tom Ryan ©.

Graphics: G. Willoughby

Mrs Deborah Price-Parkinson was forty seven years old, and until this Christmas week had never taken a drink in her life. This, of course, does not quite explain why she was now sitting in an armchair singing ‘Silent Night’ in the front window of Price-Parkinson & Co’s Boutique, in Main Street.

Now, dear, gentle Deborah had never been one for demonstrative behaviour. On the contrary, her Wednesdays at the Chess Club, her hour of voluntary service for the Girl Guides and an occasional visit to the Writers’ Group indicated that poor Deborah was quite the small town’s ‘dullsville’.

Perhaps had she not occasionally taken to engage in quiet strolls down to the seashore, the overwhelming majority of the people might not even have been aware of her presence in this great big world of ours.

But let’s go back to the store. She is still in the chair? But, of course, would anyone dare dislodge the owner from such a position?
She had been politely asked to withdraw from her position of prominence, by the store manager, one polite Mr Anderson, but this invitation had been declined and in the process, she had despatched a nice cup of tea and a slice of Christmas cake; in the general direction of ‘Lingerie’- Special Offer‘.
She lay reclining in the chair, half asleep, but alert enough to foil any attempt to dislodge her.

Had dear Deborah been fully in tune with the Christmas parade in Main Street, she would have observed a number of bemused citizens gaping through the window, against which a driving wind, from the east, was hurtling seasonal snow.

This curious community comprised ‘corner boys’ glad to see a human touch added to the local big wigs of commerce; a Garda who felt that at Christmas some things are better neither seen nor heard, and a ‘wino’ who gave a jolly thumbs-up to one whom he thought was a fellow traveller with Bacchus.

All stared in wonder at the strange, if not sorry spectacle of Deborah Price-Parkinson lolling about in the chair with a fixed look of defiance on her face and her once lovely dark locks; now with whispers of grey, spread against the back of the bamboo armchair.

Some men, not too easily shocked, looked on with much amusement at poor, dear Deborah. But in their male way put down the ludicrousness of the situation to the menopause.
They had found it easy to stare at Deborah. She had always kept her figure
well with her walks and special vegetarian diet.
And her essentially deep and sensitive nature which had attracted her to poetry readings at the Writers’ Group also now manifested itself in an aura which, despite that fixed look of defiance, almost shone through the by now darkening window behind which she sat.

So, despite the attentions of those in town, it emerged now that nobody was particularly over- bothered whether or not dear Deborah would spend Christmas in a shop window.

And that’s life and the way it is. And isn’t it amazing that you can put your whole self in a shop window and somehow nobody really cares… But on with our yarn.

And now this Christmas week it’s maybe an hour later, up in the
other world in the window of Mrs Price Parkinson.
She is stretching a little now, yawning and staring in puzzlement at her strange surroundings in the darkness of the window. By this time all the customers and staff of the boutique have gone home with a strange tale to tell their kin on this Christmas.
Only the manager, polite Mr Anderson, a long-time and loyal employee, remains as a companion for the lady in the window.

Outside it’s still snowing and it’s been too cold for anyone to be standing around open- mouthed at the window. Anyway, even in small town in Ireland, you get used to even miracles.
Deborah Price Parkinson sighs and groans with an unaccustomed headache. She groans because she realises her problem of problems has not gone away and anyway it is harder to think with a hangover.
She accepts the proffered hand of polite Mr Anderson and descends with a little wobble from the elevated stand in the window.
“Better?” Mr Anderson was as patronizing as ever.
“That man is unflappable”, thought dear Deborah.
“Oh, Mr Anderson. How long … oh dear”.
She sat down in the chair in the office now. Then taking the glass of milk proffered by Mr Anderson she thought about what she could have done while drunk, if only momentarily, and again resumed her uneasy state which had propelled her into her first bout of unmitigated drunkenness.
“I did a stupid thing, Mr Anderson.”
Mr Anderson was infuriating.
“Indeed, Mrs Price Parkinson”.
Deborah felt, however, that she owed some sort of explanation, some gesture. … But all she could say was: “Isn’t it a little funny how you follow a charted course all your life and then for no apparent reason you throw maps to the wind…”
She sensed his dutiful interest and decided to go no further. Again she felt that feeling of fury for the over accommodating boutique manager. But she spoke with fine dignity and composure.
“I have two children, Mr Anderson, and in all my life, I never …my husband… and never… Christmas Eve and my little dears, Alan, Tracey, grew up and …now in America… It’s too late, I thought. Isn’t it? I mean ever… so dreadfully late. Do you understand?”
Mr Anderson didn’t, but nodded in the affirmative, “I mean it’s so sad…”. The tears came to her eyes. “So utterly, utterly…”
She stopped and cried for a moment into her handkerchief.
“Does the world really care? Oh, I think not, Mr Anderson. I hope not”.
The telephone rang and Mr Anderson lifted the receiver. “It’s for you, madam.”
Deborah Price Parkinson hesitated, then took the receiver from the outstretched hand of Mr Anderson. “Yes…. Oh! Tracey!, Oh Alan… at the airport. In NewYork? Hello…the line is gone dead, Mr Anderson.
Oh, isn’t it marvellous; my children are coming home! And I worried so much that they might not”.
“I am happy for you, madam”, polite Mr Anderson informed her coldly.
“My children are in New York and about to leave for Shannon and we will be a family again. Oh, I have not seen them for years and oh…” she bursts into uncontrollable tears.

Some hours later Mr. Anderson, over a beer in the only hotel in town, was anything but polite in his comments. “She’s an unmerciful witch, that woman. Every Christmas it’s the same bloody story. A bloody charade. “Oh, Mr Anderson, I have a little fantasy I want to act out for my forthcoming short story for the magazine”. She got drunk and had me spend two hours looking at her in the window of the boutique. On the busiest day of the year! That woman is mad, I tell you. Utterly nutterly”.
Mr Anderson helped himself to a glass of Christmas spirits proffered by an understanding hotel manager. The hotel manager asked: “Has she really got a son and daughter in America?”
Mr Anderson scowled darkly. “Don’t you start. As a matter of fact I was not even aware she was married”. He chuckled at this as if a preposterous idea. Then: “As for the fictional Tracey and Alan, I have not a clue. Utterly nutterly that woman”.
He assumed a pose, “Oh, Alan, oh Tracey’. Every Christmas the same for the past twenty-one years, and this year the drunken amateur dramatics in the window thrown in for good measure. Utterly nutterly”.
He sipped at his glass and repeated his allegation, “Utterly nutterly.”

The handsome couple on flight 28 over the Atlantic seemed as excited as young marrieds. Although obviously very close, one sensed, however, they were not young lovers. They held hands but again, not as lovers, but as if sharing a great moment. Which, indeed, it was. For it was their 21st birthday and even more marvellous moments lay ahead.
Now both wondered just what the woman in the small town would look like and how she would react to their presence. Both she and they had spent many years tracing one another, since she had abandoned them as babies in New York.
“I’ll bet she’ll really go wild when she sees us”, said Alan.
“Pure out of her mind”, said Tracey, twin sister of Alan Price Parkinson.

END

Tom Ryan, “Iona”, Rahealty, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.


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