Down by the old colliery buildings there were no street-lights and, with tonight’s bright moonlight, eerie shadows were crossing the broken concrete slabs of the old access road. The hard frost made Ernie’s steps crackle. As he hit the frozen remains of a small puddle, an even sharper crack as it split and shattered under his size eleven boot. Showing the same stubbornness he’d always done down the pit, and despite being desperate not to slip, he carried on at his usual forceful pace. The pit might be shut thanks to Thatcher’s axe, but until they redeveloped the site it was a really good short cut home.
As he rounded the corner by the old washhouse he noticed something odd, a weird collection of packages piled in orderly rows. Puzzled he first slowed and then, as he got a better look at what was in front of him, wondered if his drinks down at the pub had been stronger than usual. He stepped back a bit so he could just peer around the corner but not be seen. Oddly dressed characters were milling around, checking lists, making odd adjustments to the piles of packages. They even had a small bag of coal.
What it looked like just wasn’t what you expected to find on the way back from the pub, this was Yorkshire not a Hollywood film set. More to the point in that weird fancy dress get up how the heck were they keeping warm? None of the women he knew, and from a colliery village these were hard women, would be daft enough to be out in just their tights and a weird waistcoat on a night like this. Geordie and Mackem birds maybe, but then everyone knows they are just daft up that way. Neh lad he thought to himself, you are seeing things, there just aren’t any elves in Barnsley. But the more he lurked watching on the more he became convinced either he was dreaming, and it was too cold out here tonight to fall asleep, or summutt extraordinary was up.
He glanced at his watch, a few minutes to midnight, he’d wait and watch for just a bit longer. It couldn’t be true, could it. He’d thought Santa wasn’t real since he was about eight, but if these really were elves then just maybe. The whistling roar of something airborne coming in startled him even more but there it was, suddenly, right in front of his eyes, a chuffing great sleigh, with a bloke in a red coat and a team of harnessed reindeer and all. It paused for just a moment, the reindeer steaming gently in the cold night air, then a bell rang, the parcels flew into the back, one of the Elves blew a whistle, and off into the sky swept the sleigh.
Maybe it had been the drink, maybe he had seen Santa re-stocking the sleigh but as a distant church clock chimed out midnight and Christmas Day began he finally moved on home. As he walked on through the still, and bitterly cold night Ernie was convinced of what he’d seen, but no way was he ever going to tell any of his mates.
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From a writers group prompt – No street lights.
Minor revisions Christmas Eve, 2022.