in from the dead cold wind to the near empty service centre,
the ruckus from the Pakistani youths blaring dance music
stanched as the door swung shut. He sniffed. No warm donuts
or fresh coffee. Damn cats had even taken that away from
him. Merry fucking Christmas.
One customer stood
before the Tim Horton’s cash. Davis popped his last Claritin
and swallowed dryly before lining up, twirling a toonie coin
in his fingers like a casino slug.
“Whoa!” A blond
teenage girl in red and white pajamas and heavy make up dodged
by him, ski boots trailing loose laces.
said. She ignored him and strolled off to the darkly lit
end of the centre where the food court lay.
“No,” said the
guy in line as Davis approached. “One decaf, double double,
and two regulars without sugar. God.”
Behind the cash,
a rake of a teen with scruffy black hair poking under the
brim of a Santa hat yawned. He looked as dead as Davis felt. “Right.
“Just hurry up,
He flipped the
coin. Merry fucking Christmas. The pill slithered its way
down his itchy throat. Maybe he was allergic to assholes
outside his family. He swallowed again, just to be sure,
and rubbed his eyes. Stupid things took forever to work.
“And six donuts.
Apple fritter, chocolate glaze . . .”
The teen moved
like he had a five-alarm hangover. “Fritter—”
God, this isn’t rocket science.”
“Just make it
six chocolate glazed.”
the blond shuffled toward the man before Davis. “Aren’t we
going yet? God.”
“Would you like
a tray?” said the teen behind the counter.
flinched at the exasperated tone, echoing in his ears.
“A tray. For the
drinks. Might help.”
The man sighed. “Yes.
He said nothing
as he finished the transaction and took his coffee and donuts
and daughter away. Davis had seen better service in slum
“Can I help you?”
“Just a small
coffee, milk and sugar,” Davis said, rolling the coin across
his fingers. The teen took his time with the milk, the steaming
pot, and the single teaspoon of sugar until it was just right.
Then he laid the lid on tight. “Buck fifteen.”
the coin into his hand. “Keep the change. Merry Christmas.” He’d
like to see his sisters see this, as if he was a cheap ass.
The skinny pale
face scrunched. “What? We can’t take tips.”
“Oh.” He got Davis
his change then left the counter to go laugh with his buddies
behind the Employees Only door.
to hit the restroom before gassing up, but the ones in the
Tim Horton’s were locked for maintenance. “Please use the
washroom at Wendy’s” said the sign.
He walked in the
slushy path made by the blond teen pajama-queen and entered
the dark eating area. Everything was closed. All that flashed
was an electronic poker box at the far end of the court.
His hand was in his pocket before he knew it. He stepped
in weak moonlight that came through the glass walls of windows
when the creature caught his eye at the centre of the room.
Dead centre, where
there used to be a fake garden, sat a giant twenty-foot polar
bear, complete with Buddha belly, Santa hat and green and
red scarf, surrounded by ceramic, sealed, and sparkling presents
that sat in a shimmering moat filled with coins.
Not Santa. Not
a menorah. Just a giant, powder blue carnivore dressed like
a poor toddler who couldn’t afford a snow suit. No helpers.
No elves. No reindeer. Just a lonely pagan god left to guard
the empty dinning room, coal black eyes staring at nothing.
“Hi,” Davis said.
The poker box’s magic tunes thrummed in the background. “Guess
we’re both alone tonight. Except you’re standing still and
I’m on the road.” He inhaled his coffee and smelt nothing. “Goddamn
cats. Every year my sisters seem to buy more of them. A hundred
clicks behind and they are still killing me. And they say
I ruined Christmas. Like breathing was my problem.” He closed
his eyes before the feeling swelled, then pinched his nose. “Fuck,
I’m tired. Better get a large.” He put his coffee down before
the bear, and the change.
But the change
wasn’t enough. His fingers itched. Maybe, maybe he could
score enough for a meal, maybe enough to get some decent
The coins shook
in his hand, staring at the presents before the bear.
He tossed them
all in the moat. “Watch over my coffee, ok?
He went into the
washroom and pissed for what seemed like hours. Feeling ten
pounds lighter, he glided out, ignoring the sirens of the
The coffee hadn’t
budged. But the change in the fountain was gone. All of it…Freaking
teens. “Guess you didn’t like my gifts either. You’d probably
bite my head off if I got you gift certificates.” Or just
barely hide your contempt with your eyes on the floor, a
phony smile on your face, and a quiet thank you.
He grabbed the
cup and headed for the cash. And sniffed. His swollen nose
eased. Hazelnut and mocha ran up and cleared his sinuses. “Damn,
Claritin doesn’t suck.” He inhaled deep. Then he trembled.
They didn’t make
this kind anymore. No one did. Just Mom. Just Mom on Christmas.
Before it all went to shit.
The powder blue
polar bear remained motionless, but across his scarf were
three simple words in green and red that vanished as he read.
# # #
Port Hope Christmas by
published in the Winter 2010 print edition