Short story depicting the life and love of Stanley Grice, his trials and tragedies, and his demise. We see Stanley as he sees himself, a symbol of something he has never been able to understand or come to terms with. And when he does find someone to give meaning to his life, he loses her…
On what turned out to be Stanley Grice’s final Christmas Day, he decided to eschew electricity in a demonstration of how far his life had declined. It was a symbol, and Stanley liked symbols. If he chose to measure the merit and meaning of his life through his individual experience and enjoyment of Christ’s birthday (and clearly he did to a degree), then his decision was only fitting. And so it was that he filled his living room with candles to see him through the evening, their somewhat soft and romantic light in strong juxtaposition to how he actually felt. What was perhaps more surprising and certainly unpremeditated was – when he accidentally kicked one of the candles over and it caught the newspaper he had recently been reading – his decision to just let the paper burn and to passively submit himself to the conflagration that quickly ensued. Not only had it been his last Christmas Day, it had been his last day, period.
Stanley Grice hated his name. It offered him no comfort and no options. Even the usual sobriquet failed to inspire him. If asked “What do you prefer: Stanley or Stan?”, over time his response became the same: “Grice”. And that was how he became known, by that single – if unusual – label. It was a harsh word, ‘Grice’. It escaped from your mouth a little like a curse, and it seemed to lack any kind of warmth or positivity; you spat it at people in a challenging, almost aggressive way. Yet this was not a parallel with the man himself. Indeed, far from it. It was simply his reaction to the curse that had been placed upon him and from which, sadly, he lacked the imagination to extricate himself in any other way.