The night before last I went to the Xmas Show of a Brit named Daniel Kitson. It was the 10pm show, which is past my bedtime. I heard I was going to be read to, so I rationalized it would be a bedtime story. Mr. Kitson is a friendly, if bossy, unprepossessing type. He first makes sure everyone knows that getting up to pee during the performance will be disturbing to all assembled, then he goes up onto the stage and rearranges a clump of six vaguely illuminated christmas trees into a semicircle, revealing a school desk. He changes from schlubby street clothes into a shirt and tie and leather shoes and an uncool wool cap, bantering all the while in a tone that walks a fine line between jolly and facetious. It is a walking tone, all right.
The story he tells concerns a very strange and British Christmas. A not-young, young woman attempts to rent a car on Christmas Eve to pay a visit to her Mum. None exist, however she prevails on the counter agent to scour the books for anything, Anything. All there is is a mid-sized motorhome for £3,000. The agent stages a noisy row which captures the attention of the manager, who apologizes and lets the woman take the motorhome for a week free of charge.
The woman is tootling the motorhome out of town, when, distracted, she hits an old man crossing the street who bounces up and off the windshield. He’s not hurt, or even rattled, it seems. She offers him a ride, because he says he is headed ‘north’ just as she is. It then begins to snow fiercely and the motorhome becomes stranded on the shoulder of the road. She will not get to her Mum, so she and the old man, who’s name is Nicholas, make the best of it.
As Mr. Kitson reads from an orange notebook seated at the school desk, the story unfolds with melodramatic gusto. Occasionally he is self-interrupted by a series of phone messages, which appear to be non sequiturs at first. They are from the year previous. I was rapt, yet snoozy. The chairs in the theater were brutally painful, or it was just my bony ass.
Who is Nicholas? A smelly, voluble weirdo? He leaves the young woman with a package he pulls from his rucksack. The phone messages she has been leaving on her mum’s answering machine. Mum has recently died. It all comes together as a brilliant story should. I won’t forget it.