Move Over Dickens

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

When we were little, three quarters of a century ago for some, a decade or two more for a few of the hardier souls, we listened to Christmas stories. But they were different from the stories parents read to kids today – or read themselves on whatever their folks bought them for three times the price I paid for my first car. There were no zombies or space creatures to worry about; if there were, you would never tell a child about them. I know it sounds hard to believe but our stories were for all little boys and girls. There were no side issues, no protests, demonstrations and no parades – how naive we must have been back then.  

This is just such a tale: keep the Kleenex handy.

The Little Match Girl Person

(Above all we must be politically correct)

Once upon a time there was a little match person of the feminine variety. She didn’t sell matches really, since they are made of wood and the environmental folks went ape and closed the plant down. The little match girl person sold butane lighters. Come to think of it, she didn’t sell many of them either. With ‘No Smoking’ signs all over Orillia and everything with a roof being smoke-free under a penalty of life imprisonment, (death for repeat offenders) the little match person sold zilch even on a good day.

The poor little starving tot stood on a street corner from dawn to dusk and except for the odd businessman asking her if she wanted to come up and see his etchings, she got no action at all. That is why on this particular Christmas morning she was lined up at the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen to have a nourishing breakfast of lukewarm gruel and a day-old doughnut from Tim Hortons.

It was bitterly cold that year. The red stuff in the thermometer dropped far below freezing on the first of December and never came back up. That was only partly to do with the weather. A street person high on crack cocaine thought it was a quality Merlot, drank it and later died in screaming agony. (You may want to leave that last part out if you read this heart-warming tale to little children It’s a tad gruesome)

There was no one on the streets that Christmas morning. The wealthy people were snug in their mansions and high-priced condoms, the middle income folks were in their little bungalows watching children open gifts as they totalled up their Visa receipts. The poor had died during the night when the temperature hit –45 without the wind chill factor and it was blowing like a son-of-a- _____, well it was blowing anyway.

The little match girl person looked out the window of the Sally Ann Soup Kitchen and sighed.

As I said before, business was bad. She had already reduced her butane lighters down to $9.95. They cost her $8.50 and she might have cleared $1.45 each had not the City of Orillia charged her $25.00 a day for a peddlers license, plus she had to put a quarter into the parking meter every 15 minutes.

As if it wasn’t bad enough, Wal-Mart dropped their butane lighters down to a buck fifty and every cheap bozo in Orillia was waiting at the door at 4:30 in the morning. But I digress.

The clock struck 9:00 and it was time to leave to make way for the next 200 starving souls. The nice Salvation Army lady gave the little match girl person a handful of change from her own purse to cover her parking meter costs for Christmas Day. Out she went into the bitter cold to face unafraid the plans that we made, walking in a winter wonder… I’m sorry wrong story.

Out she went into the bitter cold. Her little coat was threadbare, or thread-bore, I don’t know what the past tense of threadbare is, but she had been wearing it forever. It was also two sizes too small. Not only that, it was only a jacket. Her bottom hung out and every time the wind blew, her dainty little bum got all goose-pimply or geese-pimply depending on the amount of snow that settled under her second-hand underpants. She was freezing her tail off. I can’t make it any clearer than that.

Like the good citizen she was; she deposited her first quarter into the parking meter and of course it didn’t do anything. It was frozen up like an Inuit person’s bum. (Can I say that, John?)

In desperation she put in another quarter and then another. But it was no use. She had to move to the next one because the meter person would never believe her. Every time a meter person puts in a quarter it always works. Myself, I think keeping them in a heated bag has something to do with it.

The little match girl person tried the next meter, and the next and the one after that. Before you know it she was flat broke and had travelled all the way down the main street and was standing on the town dock. She was flat broke rather than just plain broke because she was only seven and couldn’t afford a training bra.

The little match girl person was despondent, as you would be too if you were half frozen with your bum hanging out and no knockers. She decided to end it all right then and there by throwing herself off the dock. She turned for one last look up the main street, looked over to the Legion and saluted the Maple Leaf fluttering lazily in the 90 mile an hour gale. She may have been poor without a pot to tinkle in or a window to throw it out of, and too stupid to know not to end a sentence with a preposition, but she was above all a Canadian and proud of it.

Turning sharply she sang O Canada, first in English and then in French, then she jumped.

Perhaps you think she drowned in the frigid waters of Lake Couchiching. But no, my friends, she did not, because a merciful God had been looking out for her and the lake was frozen solid right to the bottom. She hit the ice about 20 miles an hour and broke both her legs.

Isn’t that a nice story? Well it isn’t over, because a Good Samaritan just happened to be driving by. No it wasn’t the mayor, he was in Florida or someplace warm. It was the Premier. He saw her jump and quickly pulled over, rushed out to the end of the dock and climbed down on the ice.

Now most people think Doug is a money-grubbing bureaucrat but he is not. He is basically a kind man who knows his duty as an elected official. He gave her a $100 ticket for swimming off a government dock and stole her shoes.

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