The visitor

It had been a long slow start to summer. Father Warm had put off visiting as long as he could, had dallied in the Cyclades and quite confused the birds, who had migrated in and right back out again, stung by the chill of the water. And then, in danger of pushing decency to its limits, he had swooped upon the country with grand gesture, laden with gifts and apologies and air kisses, and the frosty atmosphere had thawed.

Everyone knew his ways, but for a few frolicksome days they forgot their fears and deceived themselves he would stay forever.

The visitor

It hung in the sky. Everything moved around it, caught like a twig in congealing water – not frozen, but in slowest descent.

The people on the ground stared. They held parties for it and wrote about it in their newspapers. But the sky did not change, and after a while they forgot it was there. It became a piece of their furniture.

For three years it floated in the corner of visions, until a damp Friday in November, when it made a sound like an overstretched waistband and went. The world had changed, but its people were not sure how.