SHORT STORY

Let's Talk - - CONTENT - By Phyl­lis A Nor­rie

The Lion of Times Square by Phyl­lis Nor­rie

And do you re­mem­ber Mummy, in my dream the big green mon­ster was chas­ing me, then The Lion of Times Square ran across the rooftop and I jumped onto his back and he leapt off the roof onto the big glow­ing crys­tal ball. And the ball slid down a pole with the lion hang­ing on by its gi­ant claws and me hang­ing onto its back. And I wasn’t a bit fright­ened Mummy.”

Eleanor smiled. “And when I looked up, Mummy, do you re­mem­ber, you had your hands pressed to your face and you looked ter­ri­fied and I waved at you. And when we got down the pole there were masses of peo­ple at the bot­tom. A big man in a black over­coat put me onto his shoul­ders and ev­ery­one started cheer­ing. And when I looked around the lion had van­ished. But it saved me from the mon­ster. Then you came and took me from the big man and cud­dled me in your arms and we went back into the ho­tel. Do you re­mem­ber, Mummy?”

“No, dar­ling. I wasn’t in your dream.”

“You were, Mummy, you were. I saw you. You were on the rooftop and you cud­dled me bet­ter.”

“Well, that’s nice Daniel. But it was only a dream, some­thing that hap­pened inside your head. I wasn’t re­ally there. It’s a sort of make be­lieve.”

“You can’t say that be­cause I saw you. You were on the rooftop, watch­ing me.”

Daniel’s face was flush­ing bright red and his breath­ing was be­com­ing er­ratic.

“All right dar­ling,” said Eleanor, trail­ing her cool hand across his fore­head. “I think I do re­mem­ber. You were very brave, jump­ing on the lion’s back like that. Now, set­tle down and get some sleep.”

“Read me The Lion of Times Square again, please, Mummy.”

“No, Daniel. You need to get some rest.”

“Is there re­ally a gi­ant crys­tal ball in Times Square?” “You know there is.” “Tell me again.” Eleanor laughed at Daniel’s bed­time de­lay­ing tac­tics. “On New Year’s Eve, crowds of peo­ple travel to Times Square in New York. On

top of the big flag­pole in the square is a gi­ant ball made of sparkling crys­tal tri­an­gles. At six o’clock the ball is switched on, send­ing a star­burst of bright colours all over the square. At one minute to mid­night the ball is low­ered down the flag­pole and ev­ery­one counts down the num­bers un­til the ball reaches the bot­tom of the pole, ex­actly at mid­night. Then ev­ery­one cheers and they all wish one an­other a Happy New Year.”

“Can we go, Mummy, can we? Can we go to Times Square to see in the New Year with the crys­tal ball?”

“We’ll think about it nearer the time.” “Prom­ise, Mummy.” “Prom­ise. Now, time you were asleep.”

Eleanor tucked the glossy pic­ture book, with the lion slid­ing down the flag pole, un­der­neath Daniel’s pil­low se­cure in the thought The Lion of Times Square was Daniel’s hero, his com­forter.

On New Year’s Eve, im­mersed in his du­ties as Maître d’ of the Rooftop Res­tau­rant, of one of the tallest ho­tels in Times Square, Em­manuel chivvied his staff to com­plete the fi­nal touches for the New Year’s Eve Din­ner.

He turned to be con­fronted by a woman in a red dress with a mass of blonde curls. Her soft voice fil­tered through the noise. “Can you tell me how to get out onto the rooftop?”

“I’m afraid guests are not al­lowed on the rooftop.”

“I just want to take some photos of Times Square be­fore the cel­e­bra­tion be­gins and the New Year’s Eve Ball is low­ered down the flag­pole.”

“You can take your photos from the win­dow. It looks out onto Times Square.”

“No, I re­ally need to go out onto the roof. Please. There is some­thing im­por­tant I have to do for a very spe­cial lit­tle boy.”

“Oh, you want to take a pho­to­graph for your lit­tle boy?”

Eleanor bright­ened. “Yes,” she said, “his favourite book is The Lion of Times Square.”

Em­manuel laughed, “Oh, I read that to my son, over and over again.”

Eleanor pushed her ad­van­tage, “Yes, Daniel just loves that book. And a photo of the real New Year’s Eve Ball would be some­thing to trea­sure. All that beau­ti­ful flash­ing crys­tal.”

Em­manuel was now fully drawn in, “And you could su­per­im­pose a lion on the slid­ing ball on Pho­to­shop.”

“Oh, I’m not re­ally that au fait with com­put­ers.” “I could do it for you.” “Thank you,” said Eleanor, “That’s very kind of you. But I need a re­ally good photo first.”

“All right,” smiled Em­manuel, “I’ll es­cort you onto the roof now and you can take a photo. Then if you come up be­fore mid­night you can take an­other photo from inside. We can’t let guests out­side at mid­night for health and safety rea­sons.”

“I un­der­stand,” said Eleanor. Em­manuel led the way, Eleanor took some shots, thanked him and left the res­tau­rant.

At five min­utes to mid­night, Eleanor took the el­e­va­tor to the floor be­low the res­tau­rant. She climbed the stairs and tip-toed into the res­tau­rant, keep­ing close to the wall, feel­ing guilty for trick­ing Em­manuel into show­ing her the way onto the rooftop. But she had to do this one thing.

The res­tau­rant was buzzing with the roar of cel­e­bra­tion; ev­ery waiter en­gaged dol­ing out cham­pagne ready for the mid­night toast. Eleanor pushed on the heavy fire es­cape door.

Em­manuel felt some vague pres­ence be­hind him and turned to see Eleanor half­way through the open door. He flushed with anger. She was throw­ing his kind­ness back in his face. He yelled: “Hey lady, stop.”

As Eleanor leant side­ways onto the door Em­manuel could see she was clutch­ing some­thing to her chest; prob­a­bly her cam­era and what looked like its holdall dan­gling from her hand.

Some­one shouted to Em­manuel: “The New Year’s Eve Ball is about to start its de­scent.” He raised a fin­ger and nod­ded. Fear fizzed through him. What if Eleanor stum­bled in the dark and in­jured her­self?

Em­manuel rushed onto the rooftop but was stopped in his tracks. There was Eleanor who should be shiver­ing in the spiky

headed for the door but caught his foot on the grat­ing.

Star­tled by the noise, Eleanor turned.

“I’m sorry, so sorry,” called Em­manuel. “I wasn’t spy­ing but health and safety, I …”

“No, It’s me who should apol­o­gise,” said Eleanor. “I know I could get you into a great deal of trou­ble.”

Em­manuel shrugged. Eleanor’s face crum­pled, “My lit­tle boy, Daniel, he had cere­bral palsy. He died just be­fore Christ­mas. He loved The Lion of Times Square and it gave him so much joy. Scat­ter­ing his ashes as the crys­tal ball made its de­scent is such a won­der­ful trib­ute for him.”

Em­manuel nod­ded, his eyes glis­ten­ing, as he gen­tly ush­ered Eleanor back inside the res­tau­rant. cold of the New York win­ter, yet seemed to be sur­rounded by a strange, warm pres­ence. She was pulling the top off some­thing which wasn’t a cam­era. And as she walked to­wards the waist-high wall en­cas­ing the rooftop, snow sud­denly be­gan cas­cad­ing down.

Em­manuel stood, mes­merised. Eleanor lifted what he could now see was a mar­ble jar and hurled hand­fuls of dust into the mid­night air in the di­rec­tion of the New Year’s Eve Ball, slowly descend­ing the pole, its myr­iad colours glow­ing through the snowy haze.

“Well, here I am my beau­ti­ful lit­tle boy,” Eleanor called in a calm clear voice, “and here you are too. I think this is the best place in the whole world for you to be.”

The wind rose and as the dust drifted out through her slen­der fin­gers it be­gan to piggy back on the snow flakes drift­ing down into Times Square.

“Good­bye, my brave dar­ling, I love you so very much,” she called, as each furl of dust took its turn on the snowflake ride. She blew into the jar and the last few dregs floated up around her face, tick­ling her nose and caus­ing her to sneeze.

Then Eleanor’s voice swelled into the air, “Happy New Year, my beau­ti­ful Daniel. You see, I kept my prom­ise to bring you to Times Square to see the count down of the crys­tal ball on New Year’s Eve.”

As the noise and bustling en­ergy of the crowds rose up to the rooftop and the video screens flashed out their gi­ant-sized pic­tures, Eleanor opened a small plas­tic bag. “I know, my lit­tle dar­ling, you would want The Lion of Times Square to be with you, wher­ever you are now, so here he comes.” Then she cast the glossy cut-up squares of the book out into the mid­night sky and watched them swing down. “Hurry, You’ll just catch him,” she called.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the crys­tal ball reached the bot­tom of the flag­pole, mark­ing mid­night, and noisy cheers rose from the crowd. “Right on cue,” cried Eleanor.

Em­manuel was seized with guilt wit­ness­ing this very pri­vate moment. He turned qui­etly and

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