All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

The Old Man by Scott Sharpe



Rust-orange scales litter the ground beneath the pine – sign of the squirrel’s search for the sweet seeds found tucked beneath the cone’s thorny lobes.  The scales fall like heavy snowflakes, twirling and seesawing to the forest floor.  As I raise my eyes to the bushy-tail sitting astride a pine limb, I’m thankful he’s ignorant of my presence and his certain death.  He’ll feel no pain, for I don’t miss.

Not anymore.

God’s truth, I haven’t wasted a shot since I was seven and the old man’s hard fist dropped me to the dirt.  “Missed.  That was my damn supper, boy.”  He’d said it as if he were commenting on a gnat flitting about his face.  I reckon that’s how he thought of me, a nuisance to swat aside, a trifling irritation.

I’d spit blood into the dirt.  Risen.

True, that was the last time I’d missed, but it wasn’t the last time he had to straighten me out – or the first for that matter.  It was as natural to him as breathing or drinking.

Now and again he had to straighten out my mama too.  He’d take a willow cane to her backside with us watching.  Mama didn’t say much, just cried a bit, real quiet-like.  One evening, while he was out drinking and tomcatting about, she packed up and left – Greenville or Spartanburg most likely.  Anywhere but here.  She just looked at my sister and me then walked out the house, screen door slamming, her disappearing into the gloaming.  I don’t blame her for hightailing, not truly.

The old man never mentioned her again.

With my mama gone, he mostly just straightened me out because I was there.  Didn’t need much of a cause.  By the time I was fourteen or thereabouts, it wasn’t nothing to me anymore, same as working a plow or splitting kindling.  A chore.  Long as he let Callie be, he could beat hell out of me much as he pleased.

My sister cooked and cleaned for him, all the while trying to make herself small so he wouldn’t notice her.  He’d come in the door like a storm.  “Where’s my supper? Damn stupid girl.”

After supper one evening, Callie was clearing the table.  She was taking up his plate of gnawed squirrel bones, just staring straight ahead, like she wasn’t looking at nothing at all.  No light left in her eyes.  I looked down and saw his hand slide down her leg from beneath her skirt.  She just stacked the dishes in the washtub.  Walked to her room.  The old man followed.

Sun’s just rising over the pine tops when I step out of the woods, the squirrel swinging at my belt.  I stop behind the old hog pen, next to the unmarked grave with no stone, no cross, no epitaph.  Untying the bushy-tail from my belt, I drop it onto the pile of rotting and rotted carcasses heaped atop the grave.

“Here’s your supper, old man.  I didn’t miss.”


Scott Sharpe

20 thoughts on “The Old Man by Scott Sharpe”

  1. Hi Scott, this is certainly a dark and sinister story of revenge that leaves a haunting resonance for the reader. Well done on building the tension. James McEwan


  2. Hello Scott, This is a very gripping tale. It tore at my heart for all children who suffer
    the terror of abuse whether it be verbal, mental or physical. I was glad that the so called
    dad was tossed out with the trash.
    Do you plan on writing a book soon? If so, let us know, we’d love to read it.
    Patty, Jen, Meg, Kate, Haley and Abby

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Patty and gang! I appreciate the encouragement and lovely words. I am indeed working on a couple novels and many more stories. Stay tuned. Happy Thanksgiving!


  3. Hi Scott. Thanks for sharing this story with us – it’s tragic that this kind of everyday horror is so prevalent. Your matter-of-fact style conveyed the desperate sadness of the situation very powerfully. Cheers, Nik


    1. Thanks, Nik. It is indeed tragic that so many suffer at the hands of such hateful animals around the globe. It is far too commonplace. I appreciate your comments. Thankful regards.


  4. Hi Scott, this is difficult subject matter that you have dealt with. You have built up the tension to a distasteful reveal. Very well written.
    Good stuff.
    All the very best.


    1. You’re very kind, Hugh. I’m thankful for Literally Stories and its editors. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to share my own little piece. I hope it resonated with readers. Fond regards.


  5. A very powerful story, Scott, so realistically told that the reading made me shudder inwardly. The matter-of-fact tone of the narration only adds the tension. Very, very much impressed. Thanks for writing it. Best regards, Victor


    1. Thank you so much, Victor, for your kind comments. It’s so encouraging to hear from such a talented writer. Thanks for sharing The Product with LS2014 – a terrific read for us all. Best wishes!


      1. Our teacher read this to us and I wanted to know if the old man done this to her many other times because she had no reaction


      2. Hi Drema,

        Thanks for your question.

        When I wrote this story, I felt that she had endured this for a while, and yes, she had no reaction – something had died within her (“No light left in her eyes.”).

        If you care to read another of my stories, I’d be happy to email you (or your teacher) a link.

        Best regards



  6. Hi Scott,

    It’s brilliant to see this one back up.
    This was published in the first few weeks of Literally Stories. When I look at the quality that we have now I can see that with this one of yours, our standards are the same. You set quite a bench-mark!
    Loved the tone of this!
    Hopefully we will see more from you one day.
    All the very best my friend.


    1. Thanks Hugh!

      I’m so happy to have this one back up as well. I’ve been busy publishing my first novel, but I’m taking a break to write some short stories now. Would love to send something in soon.
      Best wishes,



  7. Reminded me of the hillbilly characters in the movie “Deliverance.” I could hear that old Flatt and Scruggs tune “Wildwood Flower,” while reading. That’s a lot of dead squirrels…. the event has haunted the MC his whole life.


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