“Paul?” “Paul?!” “PAUL!”
The first thing Paul noticed was the sensation of someone slapping him around the face. He then heard the sound of a man shouting at him as he slowly opened his eyes. It took a while for Paul’s eyes to focus on the room when he first sat up, but as soon as he was back in the room, his head throbbed like a red hot poker was being rammed into his skull.
Paul groaned as he held his head in his hands. He then noticed a pair of legs in front of him; someone had broken into his house. He looked up to see who the person was; it was John; the local Publican, he’d clearly come to get some wine for the pub and instead found him passed out on the living room floor.
“Yeah, I bet you have one heck of a hangover after what you drunk last night,” John remarked. He then saw the empty bottle sitting on the table next to Paul’s armchair. “Half the bloody bottle. You seriously need to get better at controlling yourself around vintage wine.”
“You don’t understand,” Paul groaned as he slowly stood up whilst trying to ignore the most painful headache he’d ever had. “The wine’s-”
“1720″, John mused to himself as he looked at the bottle. He then looked at Paul. “You said you’d bought some red from Tesco, I don’t remember seeing anything in Tesco that was 300-years-old.” “
“I lied,” Paul admitted as he sat himself back into his armchair. “I found that bottle in the cellar, behind a 6-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon. I just couldn’t resist.”
“You can say that again,” John said, noting the half empty bottle and the state Paul was currently in.
John then examined the bottle.
“We could’ve made a lot of money from this,” John said.
“I know. But it was New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Eve 2020 at that,” Paul explained.
“We still lost a fortune because you drunk it all,” John responded, “we could’ve done with that money what with the loss I made, and failing that we could’ve given it to Sarah for her 50th on Sunday.”
LI know, and I’m sorry,” Paul apologised, “but that bottle was hidden at the back of the cellar, there might be more.”
“Well, if you do find any more, let me know before you drink it.” “
“Ok, ok. Sure,” Paul replied.
John then looked at the clock. “I suppose I should say it since I’m here,” John began, “happy new year, Paul.”
“Oh yeah, happy new year,” Paul replied. But then his face turned white and his eyes bulged.
“You ok, Paul?” John asked.
“Happy new- We’re out of the EU. WE’RE OUT OF THE EU! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” Paul panicked.
“Calm down, Paul. No one’s going to die. Well, at least not us,” John said, comforting Paul.
Paul calmed down as John helped him into an armchair.
He then placed a laptop in front of Paul.
“I’ll see you on the Zoom, Paul. Goodbye,” John said as he left the room.
“Zoom? What Zoom. No one told me about a Zoom?” Paul asked.
“You know, it’s the quiet New Year’s Day service where we listen to the scripture whilst nursing our hangovers.”
“Oh, right, yeah,” Paul replied. With that, John left the house.
A little while later, the New Year’s Day Service began. Everyone was slouched in front of their laptops. Only Will and Eleanor were wide awake and attentive because they were too young to drink.
“Jesus said….” Simon, began, hoping those two words alone would jog his memory, but it wasn’t helping.
“What did Jesus say?” Simon said aloud to himself, angry because he couldn’t remember.
“Jesus said…. ‘hello’?” Robert asked.
“Yes, Jesus said ‘hello’, or at least I think he did,” Simon replied, “but who did Jesus say ‘hello’ to?”
“JUDAS!” Dave shouted, mainly because Judas was the only name that was in his head. “Judas is in the bible, isn’t he?”
“Yes, I believe there is a man called Judas in the bible. Yes there is, it’s coming back to me now,” Simon replied. “Jesus said ‘hello’ to Judas and….” Simon continued, not knowing what happened next.
“Jesus was crucified.” Dave responded.
“Yes,” Simon replied. “Jesus said ‘hello’ to Judas and then he was crucified. No. Wait. That’s April. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here.”
“Isn’t now when the Three Wise Men visit Jesus?” Eleanor asked.
“Errrr, yes. I think so,” Simon replied, and finally decided to refer to his 2021 diary which was next to him. “Well, according to my diary, that’s next Wednesday. But who cares, why don’t you tell us about that, Eleanor?”
“OK, then,” Eleanor replied and so she and Will took over the service because they were not nursing a hangover.
After Eleanor and Will’s impromptu sermon, Simon tried to think of a way to end the service.
“As Jesus taught us,” Simon began, knowing that something was meant to be said after those four words, “no idea. What did Jesus teach us?” Simon thought to himself.
“Love thy neighbour?” John asked.
“Yes, but there’s something else that Jesus taught us, that I usually end the service with. I just don’t remember what it was….” Simon answered.
“Oh well, I’ll probably remember it by Sunday. See you then. Bye!” Simon then ended the Zoom meeting.
Paul sat in his armchair. His headache was still painful. It was New Year’s Day, the only thing he’d need to do was give a bottle of wine to Sarah for her birthday on Sunday as he did every year and also get something for Eleanor’s 11th birthday on Monday. Both of those things could wait.
“I think I’ll go to bed,” Paul said to himself as he got up from his armchair and went up to his room.
“The Lord Prayer! That’s what it was!” Paul said to himself as he got into his bed.
Paul then fell asleep once again, as the sun- and 2021- rose over Lower Strangling outside with the dawn.