Saturday, December 24, 2005

Wet Christmas

It is mid-afternoon, December 24, and the wet streets are eerily quiet except for an ambulance splashing down Montreal Road to the Montfort Hospital. The air smells of melting snow and car exhaust. It's not exactly drizzling yet, but there is a mist over the city that hints at ghastly weather for later.

A few hours before closing time, the stores are strangely sane and orderly, as if the last-minute Christmas shoppers had suddenly realized the need to conserve energy if they're to get through the next week alive. At the drugstore, a fortyish man in a Senators jacket is examining a box of outdoor lights with obvious skepticism, as if not at all convinced that one or ten extra strings of lights are going to make his dripping front yard look any more festive. At Bissonnette's supermarket, women and couples are picking up an extra carton of egg nogg, another box of freezer cookies and a few more bags of barbecue chips. Obviously these people already have the turkey in the oven back home and this is just one last formality.

Me, I'm here for microwavables.

Out by the Beer Store, the men at the Christmas tree trailer are grimly smoking in the mist, counting the left-over tightly-wrapped spruce trees leaning against the fence and waiting for 5:00 o'clock so they can pack up and go home. No one will be buying a last-minute six-footer this year.