The other story the villagers liked to tell was the one where Mr Salomon brought a golf club to the New Year’s Eve party, his bald head gleaming under the string of coloured lights strung across the square.
The New Year’s Eve party committee had arrived in the square that afternoon to scrub down the concrete blocks in the park, string up the lights, arrange the bistro table and chairs the coffee shop had kindly donated for the event, and fix speakers to newly planted poles. They argued over the sequence of songs, but it was a friendly argument a discovery of themes and likes and dislikes.
It was a hot afternoon. They wore shorts and t-shirts. Tom wore his fireman’s hat. In case I fall from the ladder, he said which made everyone laugh. They all knew what had to be done and who was doing what – they were a committee after all. The first job was to pick up all the litter and put it into the black dustbin bags the grocery store had donated.
Julie had brought her red dress covered in a special bag, her red shoes in a pouch nestled at the bottom, and hung it in a tree. After setting up she was going to Sally’s house to change for the party. Just before coming to the park Julie had modelled her red underwear for Tom who, at the time, was wearing his fireman’s hat and nothing else.
Mr Salomon wasn’t going to go to the party. Since his wife had left him two years ago, he had been angry with everything and everyone. Last week he had moved into a house closer to the square so he could walk to the train station and catch the express train early in the morning to his very important job in the city.
All afternoon Mr Salomon heard banging and rasping from the park, and that peculiar sound that metal chairs and tables make when dragged across concrete. The stop/start/stop/start of the music set his teeth on edge. The best thing he could do was put on his headphones and listen to his own music – soothe himself with the mellow string music of the Winter Band or listen to his favourite jazz quartet: The Jazz Quartet. And so, he did just that and fell asleep listening to a particularly haunting melody. He didn’t see his wife’s name flare up three times on his phone.
The villagers started arriving at ten that night. The committee had done a particularly good job of stringing up the lights over the dancing area and decorating the trees, The everyday park had been transformed into a magical setting. The scent of jasmine and lavender made everyone feel heady and light. The arguments over who had grabbed the last loaf of bread in the shop that morning forgotten, the lost sheep, the stolen chickens, the affairs, all the disputes left behind.
When Mr Salomon woke up after his nap and looked out of his window, he saw the lights and people talking and laughing. There was a jazz piece he particularly liked playing and families and couples, and even people on their own, were dancing and swaying to the music. Something in his heart opened. Maybe I will go, dance with Mary from the pub she always smiles at me.
On his way out he glanced at his phone on the occasional table in his hallway and saw his wife’s three missed calls, and her one message. He almost didn’t listen to it but there was still some hope that she would come back to him.
The music sounded strident and uncoordinated after listening to her voice berate his for not signing the divorce papers. He doesn’t remember grabbing the golf club or what happened in between listening to her message and being locked up in police cell.
He was wearing brown shoes, the villagers agreed on that. (He always wore brown shoes). His eyes were red some said. Other said his hair was on fire. Some said he was naked except for a long shirt that was on fire. Others said he had a tail. (It was the golf club he was swinging in his hand). They all agreed that they had seen old Mr Putman throw away his crutches and dance wildly to the music, and continue to dance even while glass was showering around him
The villagers stepped away from My Salomon as he barrelled up the path, He swung his club over and over, smashing through each light bulb, all one hundred of them, shouting It’s not funny, stop laughing, I hate her
No-one intervened. The villagers said it happened too quickly. Mr Salomon was like a whirling dervish – kicking up his legs and flicking his tail and smashing those lights.
Julie and Tom later admitted (only to the committee, and everyone agreed not to tell anyone else in the village) to spiking the punch and doctoring the brownies.
The next day everyone turned up, not just the committee, to clean up. Did you see his eyes? Did you see his tail? Did you see his high kicks? Did you see? Did you see? Everyone wanted to tell their part of the story.
Mr Salomon never apologised, but when the committee for the next New Year’s Eve party asked for donations, he gave them enough money to replace the lights. Newly divorced he went to the party and danced with Mary who didn’t like the feel of his hand in hers, nor his brown shoes.
(Image by Fred Heap on Unsplash)