Outside The Goat’s Head he stops and spits, the ball of phlegm steaming on the frosted pavement. The bouncer eyeballs him, so Henryk pushes his tongue out between yellowed teeth. Raises a dirty middle finger, the nail cracked and bloody. A blackness swells around his heart. This is the true meaning of Christmas: drink, maybe a fight, his fists pummeling someone’s festive cheer into the slush. When they still lived in the old country his mother told him tales of the Krampus, the horned devil who punished those who were naughty, while St Nick rewarded the good little boys and girls. There is no question which list he is on.
He takes a deep breath, the sharp air pulling everything into focus. A party spills out of the pub, their laughter tinkling like crystal. Tinsel and cheap paper crowns. His hands drop, fumbling with his belt buckle. Jeans tumble down scrawny legs. He bends double and bares his arse to the cold night air, beer sloshing in his belly like an ocean. Take that, fake Western Santa. Take that, all you rich and merry bastards. It’s as he struggles with his trousers, tugging at the tangle around his ankles, that his foot slips on the ice. Without warning the world turns somersaults, his skull cracking against the pavement.
He can barely see the bouncer, a black iceberg, a phone pressed to his ear. Or the bearded man, kneeling, his words stuttering into the night. But, just for a moment, before he passes out, he thinks he spies a pair of horns and hears the rattle of chains.
Dan Coxon edited the award-winning anthology Being Dad (Best Anthology, Saboteur Awards 2016) and is a Contributing Editor at The Lonely Crowd. His writing has appeared in Salon, Popshot, Gutter and The Portland Review, and is forthcoming in Unthology 9, amongst others. He runs a proofreading and editing service at MomusEditorial.co.uk. Tweet him at @DanCoxonAuthor.
Copyright © Dan Coxon, 2016. Image © Jo Mazelis, 2016.