We’ll Take a Cup o’ Kindness Yet

Nicole Willson
4 min readDec 31, 2020
Image by kalhh from Pixabay

An ivy-covered cottage sat on a hill that overlooked a dark and shimmering sea. Faded letters on the sign out front read The Cottage at the End and the Beginning. The sounds of water lapping the banks and owls hooting from the trees were all that disturbed the moonlit evening.

But then an old man with wild white hair and a beard to match headed up the hill, carrying a lit torch and muttering to nobody. The air around him seemed to warp as he drew closer, perhaps from the heat of the flame — or perhaps from whatever blazed inside him.

“I’m going to burn it all down.” He waved his torch at the cottage and cackled. The words echoed across the water and shattered the darkness.

“Burn it down. I will be the end of all things!” Screeches of laughter erupted from his body with such force they might have been mistaken for sobs.

But as he took a few more steps towards the cottage’s front door, a rope snagged his ankle, toppled him, and hauled him upward until he dangled upside-down from a sturdy oak.

In the tumult he dropped his torch, and the dried grass where it landed caught fire at once.

Ba ha ha ha!” The old man swung from an ankle and howled as the flames began to spread. “Might catch me! Can’t stop me!”

And then a hooded figure emerged from a clump of trees. The person passed a scythe over the flames several times and the fire went out, leaving odors of scorched grass and smoke behind.

“You!” The old man raged as blood rushed to his head. “Not fair! You haven’t the right!”

The hooded person stared up at the old man and shook his head.

“I have rarely had to interfere in this process, which is as old as I am.” His voice was as low and thoughtful as the other’s was high and frantic. “But you have left me no choice.”

He raised the scythe and sliced through the rope, and the old man dropped to the ground with a bone-rattling thud.

“You can’t do this!” The old man tried struggling to his feet but stumbled over the rope still looped around one ankle.

“Enough,” said Father Time. “Everyone has their day, and everyone dies. Even you.”

With that, he seized the rope. The old man thrashed, swore, and dug long furrows in the ground with his fingers as Father Time opened the front door and dragged his quarry inside the cottage.

“Please. Spend your last moments in dignity and comfort, rather than making a spectacle of yourself.” Father Time gestured to a plush velvet armchair by a crackling fireplace that filled the room with warmth and the pleasant scent of burning wood. A bottle of brandy sat on a nearby table next to a large hourglass.

“Won’t! Won’t, won’t, won’t!” The old man kicked at the armchair and pounded his fists against the blue and red rug.

Father Time shook his head in resignation. “Then I have no choice but to fulfill your final duty myself.”

He moved to the table, watched the hourglass until the sand ran completely out of the upper bulb, and turned it over.

“No!” The old man’s baleful howl shook the windows of the cottage as Father Time placed the hourglass back on the table.

“You…YouI’ll…” He jabbed a dirt-caked finger at Father Time, but he no longer had the energy to finish his sentence. He coughed. His eyelids sagged. His trembling hand dropped to the rug. At long last, he lay still.

Father Time closed his eyes, listening to the raucous sounds of celebrations and fireworks sweeping the planet. But there were many howls of anguish and grief as well. Those were not for the passing of the old man, he knew, but for the souls he had taken with him during his lifespan. He allowed all the sorrows of the world to wash over him for several moments before opening his eyes again.

“You can come out now, my dear,” he said at last, addressing a heavy velvet curtain. “It’s time.”

The curtain rustled. A child, little more than an infant, stepped out into the room, her hazel eyes enormous and questioning. She glanced at the old man’s sprawled body, shuddered, and looked up at Father Time.

He bent down to little 2021 and gave her his most reassuring smile.

“It’s all right, dear. 2020 is gone at last.”

For everyone who’s given me support in this dreadful year. May 2021 leave us all in a better place than we were when it first found us.