Walking Backwards for Christmas: Serenading the Ghost

Walking Backwards for Christmas : A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall. Chapter 5, Part 6: Solihull,  Christmas Eve Day 1960 : Serenading the Ghost

Walking backwards for ChristmasThe wind suddenly picked up, making a noise vaguely like the eerie “angelic” chorus in the middle of The Goon Show song “I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas” that we’d sung during the ride down.

[Note: The featured picture is of (drum roll please) Reggie, as Robbin and I finally agreed he should appear on the book cover.]

Perhaps that accounts for why Stan began to sing:
“We’re walking backwards for Christmas,
Across the mud and muck.”

“Howzat?” I asked, perplexed.

“Well, we’re about as far inland here as a body can get in England,” he replied. “Not exactly by the Irish Sea, are we?”

“Fair point.”

“So the usual lyrics cannot apply. I’m improvising.”

“Oh. Carry on, then.”

“We’re walking backwards for Christmas,
Hoping that our shoes won’t get stuck.
Take the next part, Reggie.”

So I improvised:
“We fink we’m clever, but down in our guts,
We knoo th’ punters –
Mus’ fink we’m totally nuts.”

“Totally nuts?” he asked.

“T’ troy this? Stark raven bonkers—bats—barmy—completely ape.”

“If you say so. Carry on, then.”

“We’m trapesin’ abec fer Christmas – ”

“‘Trapesin’ abec’?”

“Om improvoisen – in Brum. Y’wan’ RP too?”

He sighed, rolling his eyes. “Carry on.”

“ – Justa prove that we love yow,” I sang.

“‘You,’” he corrected.

“You,” I sang again, adding a parenthetical, “Sorry.”

She turned and began to walk back the way she came.

“Oh crap, now weev offended ’er,” I moaned quietly. “Yow!” I called after her.

“‘You,’” Stan corrected again.

“You!” I called again. “We love you, Bethany.”

She stopped for a moment and looked back over her shoulder at us.

“She doesn’t look offended to me,” said Stan. “In fact, I think she wants us to follow her.”

So we did, moving our way gingerly along the riverbank. Neither one of us was suitably dressed for this kind of activity. She stopped periodically so we didn’t get too far behind, but she never did so long enough or often enough that we could catch up with her either.
She led us past the place where she’d first appeared. Within 15 seconds, Stan and I were both enveloped in mist, with no sign of her, the bridge, the river, or anything else. I felt defeated – and a bit worried.

“Great!” I sighed. “Wot d’ we do now?”

© 2014, 2015 G.H. McCallum and Duvanian Press. All rights reserved.

Special Announcement: Over the next two Thursdays, I’ll be taking a break from posting passages from this novelette to post a Sneak Preview here from the fifth Reggie Stone novel (due out in 2019). Flash forward four years to 1964 and southern California. Reggie, now 12 and trying to adjust to his new home, has a newfound friend, a pretty, but rather odd, 12-year-old girl named Gilbertine, On Halloween night, they find themselves, among other places, inside a grand, but mysterious, Victorian house. A children’s party is going on in the ballroom, where Reggie & Gilbertine find that the party goers resemble –-
well, you’ll just have to find out.

Another, even more special announcement, to follow next week as well. Stay tuned.

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G. H. McCallum

G. H. McCallum is author of the Reggie Stone series, the first of which, Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall, was released on 12 December 2014; look for the second, The Bluebottle Boys, in late spring of 2016. He blogs principally on the 1960s, Victoriana and magic realism.