Sky One, 8.00-10 PM, 24-25th December
"The beggars stopped singing, except for Arnold Sideways, who tended to live in his own small world.
‘- nobody knows how good we can live, on boots three times a day…’
Then the change in the air penetrated even his consciousness.
Snow thumped off the trees as a contrary wind brushed them. There was a whirl of flakes and it was just possible, since the beggars did not always have their mental compasses pointing due Real, that they heard a brief snatch of conversation.
‘It just ain’t that simple, master, that’s all I’m saying-’
IT IS BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE, ALBERT.
‘No, master, it’s just a lot more expensive. You can’t just go around-’
Things rained on the snow.
The beggars looked at them. Arnold Sideways carefully picked up a sugar pig and bit its nose off. Foul Ole Ron peered suspiciously into a cracker that had bounced off his hat, and then shook it against his ear.
The Duck Man opened a bag of sweets.
‘Ah, humbugs?’ he said.
Coffin Henry unlooped a string of sausages from around his neck.
‘Buggrit?’ said Foul Ole Ron.‘It’s a cracker,’ said the dog, scratching its ear. ‘You pull it.’
Ron waved the cracker aimlessly by one end.
‘Oh, give it here,’ said the dog, and gripped the other end in its teeth.
‘My word,’ said the Duck Man, fishing in a snowdrift. ‘Here’s a whole roast pig! And a big dish of roast potatoes, miraculously uncracked! And… look… isn’t this caviar in the jar? Asparagus! Potted shrimp! My goodness! What were we going to have for Hogswatch dinner, Arnold?’
‘Old boots,’ said Arnold. He opened a fallen box of cigars and licked them.
‘Just old boots?’
‘Oh, no. Stuffed with mud, and with roast mud. ‘s good mud, too. I bin saving it up.’
‘Now we can have a merry feast of goose!’
‘All right. Can we stuff it with old boots?’
There was a pop from the direction of the cracker. They heard Foul Ole Ron’s thinking brain dog growl.
‘No, no, no, you put the hat on your head and you read the hum’rous mottar.'
‘Millenium hand and shrimp?’ said Ron, passing the scrap of paper to the Duck Man. The Duck Man was regarded as the intellectual of the group.
He peered at the motto.
‘Ah, yes, let’s see now… It says “Help Help Help Ive Fallen in the Crakker Machine I Cant Keep Runin on this Roller Please Get me Ou-”.’ He turned the paper over a few times. ‘That appears to be it, except for the stains.’
‘Always the same ole mottars,’ said the dog. ‘Someone slap Ron on the back, will you? If he laughs any more he’ll- oh, he has. Oh, well, nothing new about that.’
The beggars spent a few more minutes picking up hams, jars and bottles that had settled on the snow. They packed them around Arnold on his trolley and set off down the street.
‘How come we got all this?’
‘ ’s Hogswatch, right?’
‘Yeah, but who hung up a stocking?’
‘I don’t think we’ve got any, have we?’
‘I hung up an old boot.’
‘Does that count?’
‘Dunno. Ron ate it.’
High over the city Albert turned to Death, who seemed to be trying to avoid his gaze.
‘You didn’t get that stuff out of the sack! Not cigars and peaches in brandy and grub with fancy foreign names!’
YES, IT CAME OUT OF THE SACK.
Albert gave him a suspicious look.
‘But you put in the sack in the first place, didn’t you?’
‘You did, didn’t you?’
‘You put all those things in the sack.’
‘You got them from somewhere and put them in the sack.’
‘You did put them in the sack, didn’t you?’
‘You put them in the sack.’
‘I knew you put them in the sack. Where did you get them?’
THEY WERE JUST LYING AROUND
‘Whole roast pig does not, in my experience, just lie around.’
NO ONE SEEMED TO BE USING THEM, ALBERT.
‘Couple of chimneys ago we were over that big posh restaurant…’
REALLY? I DON’T REMEMBER.
‘And it seemed like you were down there a bit longer than usual, if you don’t mind me saying so.’
‘How exactly were they just inverted comma lying around inverted comma?’
JUST… LYING AROUND. YOU KNOW. RECUMBENT.
‘In a kitchen?’
THERE WAS A CERTAIN CULINARINESS ABOUT THE PLACE, I RECALL.
Alber pointed a trembling finger.
‘You nicked someone’s Hogswatch dinner, master!’
IT’S GOING TO BE EATEN, said Death defensively. ANYWAY, YOU THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA WHEN I SHOWED THAT KING THE DOOR.
‘Yeah, well, that was a bit different,’ said Albert, lowering his voice. ‘But, I mean, the hogfather doesn’t drop down the chimney and pinch people’s grub!’
THE BEGGARS WILL ENJOY IT, ALBERT.
‘Well, yes, but-’
IT WASN’T STEALING. IT WAS JUST… REDISTRIBUTION. IT WILL BE A GOOD DEED IN A NAUGHTY WORLD.
‘No, it won’t!’
THEN IT WILL BE A NAUGHTY DEED IN A NAUGHTY WORLD AND WILL PASS COMPLETELY UNNOTICED.
‘Yeah, but you might at least have thought about the people whose grub you pinched.’
THEY HAVE BEEN PROVIDED FOR, OF COURSE. I AM NOT COMPLETELY HEARTLESS. IN A METAPHORICAL SENSE. AND NOW – ONWARDS AND UPWARDS.
‘We’re heading down, master.’
ONWARDS, AND DOWNWARDS, THEN. "