He doesn’t move as well as he used to. Not that he was ever athletic or graceful, mind you. Even in his prime, he’d been a skinny little sod, awkward and homely, and now that the stiffness of age has set in, he barely shuffles along. He’d be jiggered if he’d let that stop him, though, so every morning, he wraps himself in his favorite thick coat, pulls on his red yarn cap, and braves the December rains to sit in his little wooden box and sell newspapers and souvenirs.
The old man always makes sure to arrive long before it’s time to open to customers. It’s a bit of a stretch to get the shutters open, especially when the breeze is up, but once they’re latched back, the rest is easy. He sets out the display stands for the postcards, hangs the racks and lades them with the latest issues of the Mail and the Sun - always the best sellers despite the tosh they peddle as news - and straightens the Union flags above his head. He serves his Queen, God bless her, in his own little way.
His daughter had been against this from the start. She’s getting on herself and won’t have her elderly father sitting out in the cold for hours at a time, doing a seasonal job no one with any sense would take. But he insisted, and though most would call him a sweet, gentle man who was content to watch the world swirl around him, this was something she couldn’t sway him from.
Things haven’t been good, after all, not for a long while. It’d started with his granddaughter’s almost-wedding, which had ended in disaster. He’d been laid up at the time, but from what he’d been told, she’d vanished from the church - right into thin air, they said - been attacked at her reception, run off with her fiance to who knows where, and returned the next morning - Christmas morning, mind you - with him lost and her dismissed from her job. She never said what really happened, but she’d been drifting since. Almost a year, she’s been out of work, except for a few days here and there. Three of them now, living on his daughter’s wages. If nothing else, this news agent job’s helping keep food on the table. Even she couldn’t argue that necessity.
Besides, he gets to meet all kinds of people, out doing their shopping and eager for the holiday season. An old man that mostly stays housebound - except for those occasional jaunts out with Minnie and her posse and the few times he gets to sneak out to the pub - well, he loves a chance at a natter with someone new now and then.
“Now and then” is more accurate than he likes. As he settles into his chair and unscrews the cap of his thermos, he glances up and down the empty street and sighs. The last shopping day of the season was never so silent. Normally the pavement’s not half packed, but this year, the crowds are gone. Sometimes a straggler dashes past, out for a last-minute gift and eager to return to the dubious safety of home. He knows it’s ‘cause of them up above, that them that could have headed out of the city for a country holiday, expecting another alien Christmas invasion like the past two years. Funny how aliens seem to like Christmas. Almost like they’re tourists, come all the way to see Earth’s traditions and, oh, might as well conquer whilst we’re here. Don’t matter to him, though. Her Majesty’s staying put, and so’s he.
He flips on the portable telly, then pours a bit of hot tea into his cup and settles back, warming his creaking fingers through the mittens. Ah, well. A quiet, uneventful day’s welcome as well.