He passed me in the street / woolly winter boots on his feet / a cloak and beard to make the image complete / long scythe snagging in his trailing pleats
Hey? / Are you okay? / I said
He sighed and shook his head
‘No’ he said / I’m not okay / What can I say? / It’s New Year’s Eve / and would you believe it? / I’m not looking forward to it one little bit
I’m sorry to hear it / Would it help to talk? / Or would you rather just be alone and walk / instead?
Neither, he said / But if you insist / It’s pretty much the end of the shift
So we sat down together / on a damp wooden bench in the shopping centre / nobody paying us much attention / rushing last minute in every direction
So….. are you Old Father Time, or Death?
The former, he said
Thank God for that, I replied / Only I worried a bit when I saw the scythe
Yeah – a lot of people do / if they happen to see me passing through / It’s pretty annoying / I mean – we’ve recently been toying / with some consumer-friendly tweaks / but the creative team are notoriously picky / Rebranding’s tricky / They’re hamstrung by the Greeks / and some God called Cronos / who you see in all the promos / waving this hokey piece of agricultural shit / like a vicious-looking hockey stick / Y’know? / But hey-ho / That’s how the business of personification goes / The reaping of souls! / The passage of Time! / So don’t worry – it’s fine / The only thing you’ve got to remember / you only see me the end of December / Death, on the other hand, / Whoa! Death’s The Man! / I have to admit he’s much more in demand / running around from Chile to Greenland
I get it, I said / If it’s you it’s a celebration and if it’s him I’m dead
Pretty much, he said / There are only two things to keep in your head / When I come, it’s party antics and Auld Lang Syne / When he comes, it’s paramedics and flatline / Anyway, he leered / he’s all boney and I’ve got a beard
Thanks, I said / pulling my beanie snugly down on my head / That explains a lot / You’re similar in some ways but in others you’re not
There was an awkward silence
From across town – sirens
See what I mean? said Time, looking grim / I’m sat here chatting but look at him
In an effort to steer the conversation / and get some inside information / I asked his view of 2020 / now his timer was almost empty
Oh – I could tell you plenty! / he said / using the scythe to scratch his head / As years go, someone seriously blundered / It wouldn’t even make my top one hundred / and I’ve seen shitty years unnumbered / It’s totally redundant / repugnant / Take it from a professional calendar consultant / as shitstorms go it was superabundant
Agreed, I said / Least said, soonest mended / But otherwise not to be recommended
We sat on the bench a little while longer / and the tock of a clock grew stronger and stronger / and I thought about the year as a socially-distanced conga / all round the world, two metres apart / through lockdown streets in a surgical mask / pushing an empty shopping cart
Old Father Time tugged on my sleeve
Jeez! I cannot believe / you’d just fall asleep / on me! / So this is the kind of company I keep / on the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve! / Couldn’t you try a little bit harder…?
and he went on in that vein, yadda yadda yadda
I made my excuses
Apologised for being so useless
But just before I walked / I thanked him warmly for our cosy talk / and, wishing him well for 2021 / put my hands in my pockets and hurried home
Happy New Year to all my readers!
Thanks so much for all your support through the year.
Here’s hoping 2021’s a little easier for us!