A kind selfless journey
Being this close to Christmas you wouldn’t think you’d be able to find a bar where you could catch a quiet drink, yet here in the heart of Derby, Robert found just that. There were the obligatory Christmas classics playing on the stereo but they were fortunately confined to nothing more than mildly irritating background noise.
The bar top was an impressive size, joining the front of the building to the back. There were no corners, it was simple and straight with padding along the front edge for the customers’ comfort. The shelves were stocked full of downturned glasses and bottles of spirits, with the top shelf hosting a set of Christmas tree lights running from one end to the other. There were only two people in the place, a barman and an old man wearing a dated grey pinstriped suit.
Robert heaved himself onto a stool at the other end of the bar. It sighed under the pressure, mirroring the release of frustration Robert showed with his drooped shoulders. The barman walked nonchalantly towards Robert, picking up a shot glass and a bottle of whisky on the way. He placed the glass in front of Robert and poured him a drink.
“You look as though you could use this,” the barman said.
“Thank you. You don’t know how much!” said Robert. He downed the drink in one and cupped it with both hands when he returned it to the bar top.
The barman poured another.
“Are you that famous actor?” the barman asked.
“I was, yes.”
“It was all over the tv that you were dead.”
“It’s true. I died last week.”
Robert downed the drink and the barman refilled him again.
“So, you're a ghost? A —” the barman winked and pointed to the whisky, “a spirit?”
Robert forced a smile.
“Something like that.”
“What brings you here Mr Something Like A Ghost.”
“I just want to drown my sorrows before I go off to heaven.”
Robert sipped his drink.
“And you’re sad because you’re dead or because you’re going to heaven?”
“I’m sad because I failed to become an angel.”
“An angel? Okay, you’ve got to tell me this story now.”
Robert sighed and polished off the rest of his drink and held it up so he could look into it for courage.
“When I was alive I gave away a lot of money to charity and karma gave me a lot of great movie roles in return. The guys at the pearly gates commended me on my charity work because it did a lot of good. They offered me a position as an angel if I could complete a simple task by midday.”
The barman looked at his watch. It was five minutes past midday. He looked back at Robert.
“And you didn’t do it? What was it?”
“I had to perform one selfless act. They gave me three things to help. Ten thousand pounds in cash, a virtual reality headset and a kirby grip.”
“That’s a random combination. With it being Christmas, surely you could give them away? That’d be selfless?”
“You’d think. I gave the ten grand to the Salvation Army singing carols outside the station, but nothing happened. I saw this man crying because the shops had sold out of the headsets his son wanted, so I gave him the headset. It left me with the kirby grip. What the hell was I going to do with that?”
“I can’t believe that didn’t work. You still have the kirby grip then?”
Robert pulled it from his pocket and laid it on the bar.
The barman gave a little smile.
“What is it?” Robert asked.
“Do you know that’s also known as a bobby pin?”
Robert looked curious. He picked it up and looked closely at it.
“That’s weird. I was called Bobby as a kid. Coincidence?”
“Is there really such a thing as a coincidence?”
“So, I should have concentrated on the hair grip instead? The least worthwhile of the lot. What was I meant to do, find a little girl and pin the hair out of her eyes?”
“Thinking about it,” said the barman, “they set you up to fail. You were only giving away those things because you wanted to get your wings. It would never have been a selfless act.”
Robert’s face dropped.
“I was never going to be an angel,” he said holding his head in his hands.
The old man at the other end of the bar got up from his seat and made his way towards the exit.
“Good luck today Gerald,” the barman called across the room.
Gerald smiled at the barman and nodded. He had beads of sweat forming on his forehead and his neck and his hands shook sporadically.
“Poor guy. He’s so nervous,” said the barman.
Robert turned to watch Gerald push open the door and step out onto the pavement. His foot caught the lip of the door frame and he tripped over. Robert and the barman ran out, picked him up and brought him back inside.
“Are you okay?” Robert asked.
“I think so,” Gerald said as he wiped himself down. His trousers were torn.
Robert could see the distress forming on Gerald’s face.
“Hey it’s okay. You can have my trousers. I won’t be needing them.”
Robert dropped his trousers and handed them over to Gerald. Gerald looked shocked, stared at Robert and then at the barman. The barman nodded to him.
“Thank you,” Gerald said.
He removed his own trousers and put Robert’s on. They were a bit bigger around the waist and wouldn’t stay up.
“Hold on,” Robert said.
He went to the bar and picked up the kirby grip. He pinched the waist band of the trousers together behind Gerald’s back and slipped on the kirby grip to keep them in place.
“That should do it. Your jacket will hide that,” Robert said.
Gerald’s face beamed. He shook Robert’s and the barman’s hand and left avoiding the lip of the door frame. His nerves had gone.
“He’s going for his first job interview in 20 years. He’s homeless, this could change his life,” said the barman.
“I wish I’d known, I’d have wished him good luck.”
Robert felt his shoulder blades twitch.
The barman grinned like a Cheshire cat.
“What?” Robert said, as he squirmed under the discomfort of his back.
“You passed the test, there was no deadline. Who’d have thought a simple thing such as a bobby pin could help change someone’s life? You’ve just done that. Thanks to you, Gerald gets that job. You selflessly helped someone help themselves.”
Robert’s wings ripped through his shirt and extended to full length. He could feel their power as they shook themselves straight. He looked at the barman with great joy.
The barman began to glow brighter and brighter, forcing Robert to cover his eyes. As the light dimmed Robert removed his hands to see a beautiful woman in a white gown standing before him. Her wings were folded behind her back.
“We should go now Robert. But before we go and see the boss, I think we’d better get you some more trousers!”