JD and Coke
Henry usually hated the white stuff, bad for business, but not if it fell on Christmas Eve. Last minute shoppers drifted in and out of the tube station as he strapped on his guitar. He knew if he played seasonal songs, with added snow as a bonus, more money would be gifted to him. He glanced towards the leaden sky. Bring it on. This could be pay day.
Not everyone was full of good cheer. An elderly man, in a well-worn overcoat, jabbed at him with a walking stick. ‘You bloody scrounger, why don’t you get a proper job like I had to?’
Henry ignored him, rubbed the palms of his hands together, sang something about the weather outside being so frightful. He carried on with a few more cheesy tunes before switching to an old rock ballad.
‘Oh, I love this song. It takes me right back to when I was a teenager,’
Shocked by the enthusiastic voice, Henry nearly fell off his fold-up stool. At any other time of the year, commuters didn’t normally stop to make complimentary comments. Most of them hurried past, turned their heads, or dropped some loose change. This one remained in the same position, with a puzzled look spreading across her face.
In front of him stood a middle-aged woman; laden with bags of various colours. She moved closer to him. ‘You sing it well. Your voice is so like the original, just a little deeper perhaps.’
Henry gave her his best smile; this one should be good for a couple of quid.
The woman snapped her fingers as if she had discovered something remarkable. ‘You are him. Those blue eyes of yours will always have the same twinkle.’
He stopped playing and scratched three days of white stubble on his chin. ‘You’re getting me mixed up with someone else, love, and no I’m not Santa Claus.’
‘I remember seeing you on Top of the Pops in the nineteen seventies. You came on last after Rod Stewart and David Essex. Number one in the charts for two weeks you were.’
He remained silent, twisted a tuning peg.
‘I had pictures of you on my bedroom wall. I bought all your records until you vanished off the radar, so to speak.’ She paused to catch her breath. ‘I remember that Christmas concert you did. I’d loved to have gone. I never got to see you in the flesh . . . well, not until now of course.’
Henry stuffed his hands into his pockets.
‘I’ve always wanted your autograph.’ She found one of her till receipts then fished around in her pockets for a pen. ‘Can you sign this for me, please?’
He sighed, took them from her, and scribbled something down.
‘That’s your real name. When I watched you on the telly, you weren’t called that.’ She gave him another scrap of paper.
He tried again.
‘I knew it. You’re the one and only, Bobby Balsamo.’ While pressing a ten pound note into his hand, she frowned and peered closely at his face. ‘What happened, Bobby?’
He shrugged his shoulders. ‘I just got caught up in a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Some can handle it, others . . . well, you know.’ When she pulled out her phone, he added, ‘Please, no selfies.’
‘OK, no problem, but will you do me a favour?’
He raised his eyebrows. Even though he hadn’t started playing his guitar again, a few more coins rattled by his feet. He mouthed a ‘thank you’ towards a man who had made the donation; grateful he had more compassion than that miserable one earlier.
‘Bobby,’ the woman said, ‘will you play your number one single again just for me?’
‘Haven’t you got any more shopping to do?’
‘Please, it will be the best Christmas present ever.’
He shifted in his seat; avoided looking at her. A few flakes of snow descended; sticking on anything in their way. The grimy cityscape was about to turn white.
For the first time in nearly forty years, he no longer felt like Henry Smith. Snow began falling heavier. Umbrellas were raised; scarves wrapped tighter. Bobby Balsamo stood up and looked straight at his audience of one. He hesitated then strummed the opening bars of his most famous song.
* * *
About the author:
Alan has been writing short stories for ten years. In 2011 he made the short list for one story and a prize winner for flash fiction. He also won first prize, of £100, in a poetry competition in 2013. The three accolades were awarded by the best-selling UK magazine for writers. His work has been read out on Internet radio and published in hard copy magazines and e-zines.