UKArchive ID: 16937Merry Christmas Mr. Stein by chrissytotoro
Originally published on August 14, 2006 in Fiction

Really unsure about this. I need to know if the 'voice' interferes with the story or if the story is no good even without the 'voice'.

Merry Christmas Mr Stein.

It's Christmastime,
there's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime,
we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty
we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
at Christmastime

"I've switched the radio off. It's no' the tune, that's fine enough, it's the hypocrisy I cannae stand. I'll bet nearly all o' thae bastards stan'in' up there singin' about starvation and death, spend enough on booze and drugs and sex tae keep thae poor bastards in Africa goin' fer years. I hate hypocrisy. I always have.
That priest, at Saint Mary's, I saw him what three days ago and he says tae me, 'Will you be coming to spend Christmas day at the church Mr Stein?' I asked him why he would want me there. He said; 'All people who live on their own are welcome in my church on Christmas day. We like to give folk a sense of belonging to the larger family of Christ.' I said, no thank you. If you want tae give me a nice Christmas, stop thea neds frae puttin' dog shite through ma letter box, stop 'em writin' filth on ma walls an' breakin' the windaes. You do that an' I'll have a fine Christmas all on ma ain.
I hated seeing his face. He'd been so bright, full o' good will and hope. His face crumpled, sagged, went sad and he sloped off wi'out anither word.
I do that tae some people. I destroy them. But they have tae know that it is no good treating me like a charity case. I don't want that. I jest want to be left on ma ain tae live my life the way I want tae.
I've paid ma dues, I've done ma time. I've come to terms with what I did. I killed a man. I'm no' proud o' that. I'm no' sorry, the bastard deserved tae die ten thousand times worse a death than I gave him, but I'm no proud of what I did.
You know it's odd how much and how little people know about you. I came here ... what ... must be five years ago now. I ken I wasn't straight out o' Barlinni. I went north for a wee while, tried tae find ma wife an' the wee boys but people who don't want tae be found can stay lost very happily. So I came back tae Glasgow, came here.
There was nae real chance of getting a proper job, no wi nine years in the Bar L behind me so I just wondered frae job tae job. Did a bit on the buildin' sites, then about three years ago somebody, one o' ma neighbours, started spreadin' rumours that I was a child molester, what thae psychiatrists call a paedophile. Odd word that. It literally means a lover of children. Well, I'm no' that. Paedophobe. That's one I'll admit to. If Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary came knockin' on my door the neet askin' fer a room, I'd say, Aye, fine, away in but I'd no' take the baby Jesus.
It's kids roond here that do the damage. I just cannae understand why, if their parents thought I was a child molester, why dae they let their weans wi' in a hundred miles o' me. It's very strange.
Some copper came and set 'em straight about who and what I was, what I'd done. Didnae stop the neds frae dog shitin' the letter box, but I didnae get beat up or spat on in the street any more.
I don't drink. Never have. Not a real Glescae man. No, one of those pre world war two mongrels that were’nae fish nor foul.
My dad was German a doctor, my mother Polish a teacher and, unfortunately fer me an' my wee brother, Jewish.
I can remember ma father trying to get ma mother tae say that she'd converted to Christianity when they married. If it wasnae fer being so sad it would be funny. He hardly ever went tae church a day in his life and there he sat, night after night, trying tae educate her in the ways of the church.
They did come for us of course and ma father went with us, to the initial interviews any way. It was fine fer a start. We really thought they believed us. They let us all go home with our papers all nicely stamped. Then ma father made the mistake of trying to get us out of Germany.
They sent for us again. An examination they said. Ma parents thought that it would be verbal, they'd prepared us, what we should say, what we should hold back.
There was a doctor there, a colleague of my father's frae the hospital. He examined us all right. My father tried tae say that it wasnae a Brit milha, that it was a straight forward circumcision for medical reasons. His colleague asked him where was it done, who did it, when was it done, why was it done.
I don't think the authorities believed a word he said.
That was the last time I saw him until after the war. My mother, my brother and myself were taken away and I can still see my father's face, hear his voice telling the story over and over until we were taken down tae a lorry and pushed inside. My mother kept on saying 'I'm not Jewish, my children aren't Jewish, please let my children go.' And then after that all she did was cry.
We were 'deported' to Poland, spent awhile in the ghettos. She found her father and we went to stay with him. There were about a dozen of us adults and children all in two rooms. It was friggin' awful but we survived.
My mothers' brother had married out, like her. His wife was a Polish girl called Lottie. She looked after us, my brother and me. My mother wasnae really capable. All she could do was sit in corner greetin'. Even when she had no tears left tae cry, she'd go through the motions. I always wanted to think of my mother as strong but she wasnae.
Eventually, when they decided tae clear the ghettos we found oursel's on a train in the Winter going ... I don't know where.
It's odd what time does when you try to look back at things, get events intae some sort o' perspective. In my mind everything sort of concertinas taegether so that events separated by years or months all seem tae happen at once.
One minute we were with the family, the next there was me, my mother and brother and Lottie standing in a compound with snow falling on our bear heads and my mother shaking with the cold and the fear and then time does that evaporating thing and the next thing that's clear is the last time I saw my mother. I suppose when the days and nights are so unbearably awful you tend to lump 'em all taegether.
We were moving on somewhere else. I remember Lottie had hold of Joshua and I was standing next tae her. Mother was just by the huts. We were waiting for the gates tae be opened.
Then I saw my mother fall down. It's a clichΓ© I know but it was like she was a marionette with strings cut. I remember wanting tae run over tae her and help her up but there was a tension in the guards that Lottie had picked up on and she hung ontae me so tight it hurt.
There was a guard, German, tall, thin, narrow faced bastard. I remember he wore a long grey coat with a fur collar. He shouted at ma mother tae get up and bless her, she tried but she was too weak.
He kicked her. I heard his shiny boot make contact like kicking a sack o' rags. I saw her blood on the snow.
Lottie tried to put her arm over my eyes but I bit her with what teeth I had left. And then there was a shot. It sounded so loud and so long but it didnae put the birds up out the trees. They were too used tae the sound o' gunfire.
Just before the guard turned around fully, Lottie grabbed ma heid and turned me tae face the fence, the way she was facing, the way everyone was facing.
She saved ma life. Hmm. She definitely saved ma life.
I donnae remember a great deal after that. It was the one thing I kept seeing, day and night, ma mother, the guard, the blood, the fence, endless.
Ma brother died. I don't know when, I don't know where. And then Lottie died and I was on ma ain. Logic, chronology, history all tell me it was just the end of the war and the camps were opened up. There was no way a wee boy could survive long on his own.
I remember the guards running, terrified because the Russians were coming. I was frightened of the Russians. I was a blue eyed blond German boy and we all knew what happened to them when the Russians came. But someone gave me chocolate and I ate it so fast I was sick. And someone else gave me some bread and a hat to wear because I had no hair and my head was cold.
We were documented, questioned fed and watered, treated fer lice and then we were taken by some uniformed women to a place of safety.
That's when my father found me. He'd escaped from Germany. He thought we were all dead. He'd gone to his brother in Edinburgh and then started working with the Red Cross. That was how he found me.
I didnae get on well with ma father. I blamed him for leaving us, he blamed me for letting my mother and brother die.
When I was eighteen I left him. He died about five years later. I did not mourn him.
I got a job on the docks and that was where I met Bill who became my father in law. He was a real hard original Glascae man. He got pisht of a Saturday, stayed a bed of a Sunday and the rest o' the time he worked his bolocks off.
By the time I'd met and married his daughter, Gena, I'd finally, I thought, confronted ma demons, put ma past well behind me. I could sleep of a night time and not dream of ma mother.
We were happy, Gena and me and ecstatic when the weans came along. Two wee boys. Jack and Finlay. I felt nothing could hurt me.
Then just afore one Christmas Gena's mother died. She had cancer but she told no one and by the time we found out, it was too bliddy late.
Bill couldnae cope at all when she died and Gena, well, all she could do was sit there greetin'. So I said I would take care o' things and I thought I could.
I went into town and down tae the undertakers, went in and then I saw him. I couldnae quite get a handle on where I'd seen him before just his face looked so familiar. He came towards me and held out his hand. I looked directly into his face and I recognised him. He was older but unmistakable. I looked into his eyes but there was no sign that he recognised me just that pseudo sympathy.
I gave him my mother-in-law's details and when he spoke, when I heard that accent, I knew who he was without any doubt. I was shakin' hands with the man who killed my mother.
I remember going outside and throwing up in the wee alleyway next to the funeral parlour. I knew I should leave it. I knew in ma heart that I should go home and be there fer ma wife and the boys but I couldnae. I went and got a drink in a nearby pub but I'm no drinker and I didnae finish it, just left it there on the bar.
I went back and waited in the alleyway. I had no idea what time he closed up but I jest stood there. Eventually I saw the back door open and then the next thing I knew he was lying on the ground, the back of his head stove in and I was aiming a kick at him.
Somebody saw me, called the polis. I didn't deny it. Why would I? I'd done it. I'd killed a man. I told the polis why I'd done it, who he was, what he'd done.
Didn't make a lot of difference I still got sent tae prison.
Gena didnae wait around long, took the wee boys away. I came here, after I got out and tried finding her.
So Christmases come and go an' all I get is older. Nothing changes.
The bloody door again. If it's thae bliddy neds ....

Well, that does surprise me. It wasnae the neds, it was the priest, said he'd had a word wi' the boys an' their parents an' he thought he might hae done some good. Bloody amazin' that.
I was gaunae ask him in but, well, it's Christmas, I'm sure he's got a lot tae do. I did wish him a merry Christmas an' he says; 'And a very peaceful Christmas to you Mr. Stein.'

Here's to you raise a glass for everyone
Here's to them underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again

Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again

© chrissytotoro (chrissy on OLD UKA)
UKArchive ID: 16937
Archived comments for Merry Christmas Mr. Stein
e-griff on 14-08-2006
Merry Christmas Mr. Stein
Well, you'll obviously have tae find a body frae the Isle of Man to check the old accent willanyenae? πŸ™‚ G

Author's Reply:
Thanks for taking the time to read and for the insightful and constructive comment. πŸ™‚ chrissy

e-griff on 14-08-2006
Merry Christmas Mr. Stein
It's just i started reading it according to your request, and it immediately occured to me - you being Welsh etc - that what you really wanted was an opinion from someone of the appropriate national persuasion rather than a sassenach/saesneg like me. πŸ™‚ sorry if it sounded flippant. G

Author's Reply:
Sorry John, didnae mean tae snap. A bit confuddled this morning when I read your reply.
chrissy πŸ™‚

teifii on 14-08-2006
Merry Christmas Mr. Stein
Well, I thought it was Scots and it sounded so real I gave up as I never could read Scots on the page. It gives me the same laborious feel as trying teo read transliterated Russian.
I'm sure the story is good though for them as can understand the dialect.
No offence meant to either Scottish or Isle of Man speakers.

Author's Reply:
Glad it had the reality thing but if that stopped you reading that sort of defeats the object.
Perhaps I should delete it and put up the English version on Friday. Oh, I don't know. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Bother!
chrissy πŸ™‚

e-griff on 14-08-2006
Merry Christmas Mr. Stein
I think you have to ask yourself what the added value of making this bloke a Glaswegian is, and does it add more value than the undoubted difficulty of reading an accent takes away. In fact it's not him being a Glaswegian, it's trying to make him talk like one - does that add owt? (I mean, there's no reason his thoughts and words couldn't be reported in plain english, but I see that what you have done does add character and flavour to the story. I can't really say yea or nay. But then I'm someone who is fairly comfortable with accents of all kinds. (You should hear me singin' in the bath).

Author's Reply:
I would love to say that there was some grand reason of style or intellectual content that made me make him Glaswegian but in all honesty I can't. It was just the voice he took on in my head when I was working the story out.
I did write in English, I mean straight English without any accent but it just seemed a bit flat when I'd been thinking in an accent.
Mayhap I overdid it a tad. I dunno. Oh botheration! In my head it sounded really so much better.
I do so dislike being in a confused state over my writing.
Never mind. I shall resolve it.
Thanks for the input.
chrissy πŸ™‚

e-griff on 14-08-2006
Merry Christmas Mr. Stein
I may not have been clear. I too, (for no apparent reason) felt the Glaswegian accent added to the story. I think an accent (and it could be any 'common' accent - although it could also be a wavery 'posh' bloke down on his luck) is adding to the isolated, parochial sense of the situation - ie you're on your own kiddo, central authority ain't gonna bother with you, one: because you're in an alienated place, two: because you're poor or poorish (which an accent denotes).


Author's Reply:

Claire on 17-08-2006
Merry Christmas Mr. Stein
This is excellent. Love the voice, I think it's spot on, didn't stop me from reading it, it kinda reminded me of Zen's works. I wouldn't alter a thing. The story is moving. Yup, as I said spot on hun!

A fav read from me.

Author's Reply:
Claire, many thanks for reading and for the generous rating and making it a fav. I'm really glad you enjoyed the story.

Bradene on 20-08-2006
Merry Christmas Mr. Stein
Chrissy for what my opinion is worth I thought the voice was great My late friends both came from Glasgow and still had strong accents until they died The voice reminded me of him. As for the story I thought it was so very good, very convincing.Cannot for the life of me understand why it didn't get a nib. Well done chrissy Love Val x

Author's Reply:
Val, thanks muchly for taking the time and trouble to read and for the most generous rating.
The voice dilemma seems to have resolved itself now as all who have read and commented seem to agree that this is the 'right' voice and that it adds rather than subtracts from the piece.
As for the nibbing well I think the nib fairly must be on her/his/its annual holidays or maybe just didn't think it was deserved either way I'm more than happy with the comments I've had.
Very glad you enjoyed it.
chrissy (not in charge of nibbing during the nib fairy's absence)

expat on 06-05-2007
Merry Christmas Mr. Stein
I didn't know you wrote fiction as well as poetry, Chrissy! I ran through your home page and see you've written quite a bit.
I like the voice in this piece, both the style and the accent. I had no problem understanding the vernacular and I think the 'harshness' of it portrayed/amplified the protagonist's bleak existence.
The opening dialogue was very effective and it immediately let us know what we were in for, although I'm not sure that the Band Aid lyrics added to the story.
A good read.

Author's Reply:
Steve, glad you enjoyed this and that you've been to my site. There's all sorts of my rubbish there!
I started off writing poetry about fifty years ago, that was when I had my first poem published in a children's anthology, but I did get second prize in a national competition when I was fifteen and that was a 'short story' (they called them essays then, I think) I like writing short stories but I love writing anything at all. Stage plays, screen plays, television scripts. I've done all sorts.
Many thanks for reading and commenting.