A Christmas with My Father By Evan Massey


I took everything down by myself. Everything. I didn’t care. The lights on the outside of the house, the lights around the bushes. I cut my hand doing that. I took down the plastic reindeer in the lawn, the Santa hats on the porch, the candy canes that lined the walk way. I put it away. I put it all away. All in the basement where I put most of our decorations. I didn’t put them back in the boxes, I was tired and I finished pretty late.

I put on the radio and listened to Christmas songs to make up for the lack of decorations. Made eggnog. Adult eggnog. That’s pretty much all I drank the whole time my wife and the children were gone. In the morning, I had my coffee of course, but for the rest of the day I had adult eggnog.

They left in the morning. They left pretty early and my children asked why I wasn’t going to Grandpa’s and I told them my Dad was coming and we were having Christmas together, the two of us. They didn’t understand and I didn’t expect them to, but that’s what I had to tell them because the truth hurt me bad. It still hurts me.

What did you get the kids?” My wife asked me. We were standing in the kitchen. We had just finished dinner.

“We have to talk about that,” I said.

“Don’t spend too much.”

“That’s what we have to talk about,” I said.

“What is it?”

“Come sit for a second, please.” I walked over to the kitchen table.

Then my wife gave me this stare and I thought that maybe she knew. She had to know. I knew she was not suspecting the good. She came and sat at the kitchen table with me. It was pretty late. I remember when I looked out the window it was very dark and I saw my reflection and the reflection of my wife’s back as she sat across from me. I couldn’t notice myself. Nothing about myself I noticed.

I said, “I didn’t get the kids anything.”

She said, “Then, let’s go tomorrow.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not? The stores are still open. Nothing is closed.”

“I don’t have the funds,” I said.

She gave me that same stare when I first told her to sit. That kind of stare that looked through me. Maybe I was nothing. That’s how she looked at me.

“What do you mean?” She said.

“I don’t have it,” I said.

“Why not? What happened?”

“I had to get my Dad out.”

“You never told me he went back in,” she said.

“Found out a few days ago. He asked me if I could get him out.”

She shook her head. “And you did it? I can’t believe you.”

“It’s my father,” I said.

“These are your children,” she said.

She sat there shaking her head and I looked at her, my eyes watered just a little. I looked at my reflection in the window in our kitchen. She got up.

“Where are you going?” I said.

“We’re going to my parents. The children and me,” she said. “At least they’ll have presents for them. You didn’t get me anything did you? You probably didn’t. Why do I ask?”

I sat there looking down at my hands. My head started to hurt. My whole body started to hurt. I just sat there at the table. Just me. Not noticing my reflection. I heard her upstairs packing. I heard her moving around then I heard her tell the children to start packing and I heard them give her trouble so I went up.

I told the children to pack and they asked me why and that’s when I told them.

“My father is coming here for Christmas. It’s just going to be us.”

“Why aren’t you coming with us?” One asked.

“My father is coming here.”

“Come with us, Daddy,” one said.

“Yea, Daddy,” the other said.

I looked at them both and held them. “You’ll have fun at Grandpa’s. He’s got the place ready for you.”

I kissed them on their little cheeks and told them again to start packing. I went to the bedroom and my wife was filling up a second suitcase.

“You can take mine,” I said. “It’s bigger.”

She just shook her head and stuffed the suitcase. I sat on the bed. Then I laid down on my back. I watched her walk back and forth, back and forth with mounds of clothes in her arms and some fell on the floor.

“How long are you staying?” I asked as I looked at the bags.

“I don’t know,” she said. “A week or so.”

A week was a bit much for me, not seeing my children. But what was I going to say? I kept watching her walk back and forth. She had so many clothes. I watched her walk back and forth one more time when I faded to sleep.

I didn’t sleep long. I didn’t want to sleep that long. She didn’t wake me. The sun looked choppy as it came through the blinds. I turned over. My wife and her bags were gone. I didn’t put any pants on and I walked to my children’s room and they weren’t there either. Their beds were made. I hoped they’d be back for New Years.

That’s when I swallowed to hold the tears. I swallowed quite a bit, trying to get it all down. That nasty taste in my mouth. I went and brewed coffee. The pot wasn’t all the way done and I put in a bunch of cream and sat in the kitchen and tried hard to make the taste go away. I looked at the Christmas decorations outside and that’s when I did it. I put it all away. Everything. I didn’t care anymore.

I tried calling my father after some glasses of eggnog and he finally answered on the fourth try. I told him he should come. He said he’d think about it.

“It’d be good for you, Dad.”

“How so?” he said.

“Been a while since we had Christmas together,” I said. That made me think. Damn. That was the Christmas that Mom winded up in the hospital. No presents that Christmas.

“I can’t get the kids anything,” he said. “I can’t get you anything.”

“That’s fine. They’re not here. Just come up. It’d be good for you.”

“She left you?” He asked.

“We’ll talk about that. Come on, Dad. Please.”

He breathed a really long breath and cleared his throat. “Pick me up from the bus station. Be there in the morning.” He hung up.

The next day was Christmas Eve. Though, it didn’t feel like it. I guess that’s because of the decorations I put away. Glad I did. I threw on whatever I laid my eyes on first.

I drove the pickup that I hadn’t driven in quite a while to the bus station. The roads were riddled with melting snow. The bus station was packed and I waited for several minutes. A bus pulled up and many people got off. Then I saw my Dad. He looked better than I expected. He didn’t have a bag with him though. He walked down the line of cars. I noticed the woman next to him was walking with him. She was looking around. I realized she was with him. She didn’t have a bag either. I didn’t think he knew my truck so I honked and put my arm out of the window. He saw me. The both of them rushed to the truck.

“Boy, its cold,” he said when he opened the door and he rubbed his rough hands together. “This is Mina,” he said.

She hopped in first and I halfway smiled at her. She was a brunette, but the bottom of her hair faded into blonde. Her teeth didn’t look all that good. Under both her of eyes it was dark, almost purple. My father sat on the outside. The truck was tight.

“Good to see you, Dad.”

“Yea,” he said.

I looked at my father before I pulled off. I hoped he was alright. There’s no telling with him. We all rode back to my house. We entered the neighborhood and Mina talked about how nice everyone’s decorations were. She pointed at the Smith’s house. They always had so many things in their yard. Too many things. The grass could barely be seen. Then she pointed at the Lewis’s blow up Santa which my wife hated. Said she would deflate that thing once. Man, I missed her. I missed my wife and my children. I hoped they’d be back for New Years.

We got to my house and I pulled in the long driveway. Mina didn’t speak a word. Our decorations were in the basement. I didn’t care. She woke my father.

“We’re here,” she said.

“Home sweet home,” he said.

I saw the wreath on the front door. I forgot about the wreath. The small red ribbon that was tied to it blew in the wind.

We went in through the backdoor.

“You all are more than welcome to sleep in the guestroom,” I said.

I pointed to the door across the hall from the dining room. I watched them walk to the room and open the door and go in. They came out several minutes later without their coats. I didn’t realize how skinny Mina was.

I poured myself eggnog. They wanted some. I poured them some. They drank it and told me how good it was and we all had more.

“She left you?” My father asked.

“She went with the children to her parents for Christmas.”

“Why didn’t you go?”

“I wanted to spend it with you, Dad.”

“That’s sweet,” Mina said. She smiled. I didn’t look at her teeth.

“I never thanked you for getting me out,” he said.

I said, “You don’t have to, Dad.”

“You got both of us out,” said Mina. She smiled again.

I looked at my father and he took a sip of his eggnog then scolded her.

“You got one big mouth,” he said. “I told you about that mouth.”

Mina got quiet. Everything about her got quiet and she looked down at the table.

“It’s okay, Dad.”

“No, it’s not. She’s over here rambling and talking. I told her about that mouth of hers.”

“I promise, it’s fine,” I said. I looked at her. Mina kept her head down and her hands under the table. My father sat there shaking his head.

“Just wait,” he kept saying. “Just wait. I told you about that mouth.”

“Dad, seriously. I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re both here.” I hoped he couldn’t tell I was lying.

My father shook his head more and flexed his jaw. “To Mina and her big mouth,” he said and he held his glass of eggnog in the air and threw it back and down his throat. He got up and walked to the guest bedroom. The door slammed then Mina jumped.

She swallowed and swallowed again. I could see she was holding back tears. “Thank you for getting us out,” she said. “We’d still be in there if you hadn’t.”

“It’s fine,” I said.

“Your wife left?”

“Just to go to her parents.”

“You have children, you said?”

“Yes. Two. They’re with her.”

“That’s nice,” she said. Her hands were on the table now and her fingers played on the rim of her glass. “Your daddy is a good guy. I know he has a past, but he’s a good guy. A lot of people don’t think so, but I do. Caring and gentle, if you can believe that. But when he drinks he puts that side away. He puts that caring and gentle side all away.”

I watched Mina. Her fingers playing with her glass. She looked up finally. I could tell she was looking at her reflection in the window behind me. I wondered if she noticed herself.

Evan J Massey

Banner Image: Pixabay.com

The Siege (a novel excerpt) by James Hanna

Tom Hemmings, a college dropout restless for adventure, had hired on as a guard at The Indiana Penal Farm—a medium security prison covering 20,000 pastoral acres, most of it farmland and sycamore forest. He had not expected the job to include a manhunt, but a month later he was deployed on one. Assigned to a two-man shotgun team, he was ordered to pursue a pair of escapees along a bounding stretch of whitewater while dog handlers kept pace on the opposite shore.

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In Five Years Time by Hugh Cron – Warning: Very Strong Adult Content.

Steven opened the door to the two men.

“We spoke on the phone Mr Clark. I’m Eddie Freeman and this is my photographer Charlie.”

“Come in. Sit down.”

Eddie pointed over to the ashtray.

“Do you mind?”

Steven shook his head.

“I’ve been chain smoking since all this came out…Bastard! He started me smoking again.”

“I will ask you once again Mr Clark…”

“Steven, call me Steven.”

“…Okay Steven, are you sure that you want to do this?”

Read more…

“I have to. We’ll be fucked if we don’t because of that sick little bastard.”

“What about your wife, lawyers, police?”

“As the case is by, I can speak to you. They’ve all advised against it. But we have to. It is the only way that we’ll get any peace. Linda will not participate. I would ask though, can I see the draft before it goes out?”

“…Sorry but it’s out of my hands when I pass it on to the editor.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t be censoring. I will tell you everything and answer anything that you ask. I just want to see how it reads.”

“I can’t promise but we’ll see.”

The door opened and Linda brought in coffee.

“Are you sure Mrs Clark that you don’t want to say anything?”

Her eyes filled up, she shook her head and hurried away.

“She can’t handle it. But she agrees with me doing this.”

“Right Steven, I’ll switch on the recorder. I’ll ask you to tell me your story in your own words and if I have any questions or anything I need clarified I’ll ask as we go along. But I’ll try not to interrupt too much as you speak. If you need a break just hold up your hand and we will switch it off. Okay?”

Steven nodded.

“In your own time.”

“…We thought he was a good boy. There were no…Signs? Nothing! He was a normal kid and a moody teenager, so we thought that was normal too. But…Fuck! It all began when we took Sandra in, that was Linda’s mum. She was diagnosed with dementia at sixty. By sixty five, she was in her own world. I mean, you could still have a conversation with her but hell knows where that would take you…Is it okay if I add in what we know now, from what the police have found out?”

Eddie nodded, “Is this from before or after Ian’s conviction?”

Steven shuddered at the mention of his son’s name.

“Both, what they know and what they have found out since.”

“Sure, please go on.”

“I haven’t spoken to him. Not since we were told that there was no doubt.”

Eddie held up his hand, “Try and put it in as much of the order that it happened as you can.”

Steven nodded and took a drink of his coffee. He stubbed out the cigarette and lit another.

“Everything seemed fine. He had always been fond of his gran. Fuck! That’s an understatement! He helped us, he sat with her when we were at work. We had carers coming in to help out and give us a break but he was happy to take his turn. No fucking wonder! It must’ve started from there. How it started and any details, I don’t fucking want to know! The police have got recordings and the duvet can be seen. That was Sandra’s own duvet, we brought it from her house. They took it away and well, there were signs that he had been there. We never saw anything, they had to test it. That fucker was also cleaning up his own mess while we were out.”

Steven laughed and wiped a tear.

“I didn’t even think he could do laundry. No wanking into a sock for our boy! Oh no, he had his gran and the use of a washing machine!”

Eddie switched off the recorder.

“Give yourself a moment. Trust me, the sympathies will be with you.”

“Do you think? We’ve had a few phone-calls and paint thrown over my car already. This is why we need to do this. We need to distance ourselves from that freak.”

He nodded and Eddie switched it back on.

“I know this is difficult Steven but you will need to tell us exactly what he was doing.”

“…The thing that was my son was having sex with his gran and putting it on the internet. The old lady didn’t know what she was doing.”

“Surely there was no issue with it being consensual?”

“Well that is where his lawyer was a total star. That was why it was so difficult on all of us. They tried to say that it was consensual and she should have had to answer to an incest charge as he was fifteen at the time.”

Steven shook his head and began to sob.

“Go on Steven, this is important.”

“…Consensual, that’s a fucking joke! The poor old soul didn’t know what planet she was on. She was living her life of thirty years back when she did have sex, I don’t know, she maybe recognised Robert in him. Sorry, Robert was her husband, his grandfather and he was using that fucking memory to get a blow-job off his gran!”


“Oh it gets worse. You think of the most intimate things that you can do with your wife or partner…And yep!! That’s my boy!!”

“We’ll come back to the court case but first tell us how he got caught.”

Steven sighed, “I am not clued up on how the internet works but basically he was posting these images on…’The Dark Web’…There’s a fucking thing I now know of!! Then the entrepreneurial side of him kicked in and he decided to go live as it were. But that wasn’t what got him. The police caught him, either whilst he was trying to set-up a payment system or actually when he had, as I say, I don’t know how it works. I heard it all in court. Oh…if you need any permission to access the transcripts or proceedings or whatever they are called, I’ll do that for you if I can. All I know is he was unlucky…There’s a fucking laugh!! Unlucky!! You see, The Police have a few officers who work on sting operations to catch all types of illegal pornography and he just happened to get on their radar. The little cunt thinks he is so clever but he wasn’t clever enough to go unnoticed.”

“Tell us about the arrests.”

“That was the worse day of our lives. There was a chap at the door at around six am. Weirdly it was all very calm. Isn’t it strange what you notice. I saw the patient transport outside and that was what confused. I actually thought they had came to the wrong house, I stared at the warrant as Linda screamed. Social Services bundled her mother into the patient transport. That confused me even more. I began to wonder if one of the carers were in trouble. Then their ‘Charges’ began to sink in.”

Steven leaned back, “Do you know the one thing that I was grateful for and that was at least she was out of it. There was enough history and records that there was no-way anyone believed that she was participating voluntary, that was for the lawyer bastards to come up with later on!”

“I read that Ian wasn’t arrested immediately?”

“Well, yes but no. Another car turned up and it was more Social Services, they wanted to take Ian away. Fuck knows how that had come about! There was one CID Officer who simply shook his head and said, that he was going with them. They cuffed him and he was taken away in a different car from me and Linda.”

“How did The Police treat you?”

Steven smiled, “Actually not too bad. But I know why, well now I do. They’d already been investigating us and they knew about our work, the carers and they had that bastard’s time lines on the internet. When they checked, we were always at work, nothing tied into any time that we were there. One of the officers told me later on that they had suspected from day one that it was all about him.”

“Ian also stated that you and Linda knew nothing, didn’t he?”

“Oh yes!! We should be so grateful!!!”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean that to sound as if you owed him anything, please continue about your time with The Police.”

“They called it right. We knew fuck all and basically, we were there as witnesses for the P.F. And do you know what, looking back, it was the best twelve or so hours that I have spent as he was finally held accountable for what he did.”

“And Linda?”

He lit another cigarette and swapped it for the one in his mouth.

“…What do you think? She was in pieces, sedated, now on medication for depression. She will never get over it, never! Please don’t ask me for any other specifics, can we just leave it at that?”

Eddie nodded, “Of course.”

“Thanks. I worry about her enough.”

“I don’t want to spend too much time on this as it has been well documented, but what are your thoughts on the case?”

“Lawyers are cunts! That bastard gave himself up to the cops. He admitted that it was all about him and then the lawyers started whispering in his ear and that was where the consent question arose and if that was the way they went, then it could’ve been Sandra who had to answer. It was all bullshit, but the fuckers were for playing that hand. I suppose there is a God as Sandra died before all that shite could be played out. There would’ve had to be an independent competency hearing and fuck knows what else.”

“That never came out so how do you know?”

Steven laughed, “I doubt if any law firm would sue me after what has happened, but you are the media and they might go after you! So I’ll tell you and you can do with as you wish.”

Eddie leaned forward and switched off the recorder.

“I may ask you to repeat this.”

Steven nodded.

“I am reading between the lines from what I heard…Oh and I am not telling you the source. But seemingly the leak came from his lawyers office. Someone close to the case was so disgusted that they passed it on to the person who told me. I know that is clear as mud, but it is all I am willing to say.”

Eddie smiled.

“I’ll leave that for now. I’ll talk to my editor. But I can quote you that you heard it second hand?”

“Be my guest.”

“Okay, back to the court.”

“Well after Sandra died I take it that there was no point in them dragging it out. We had all the Social Work involvement etc to say that she was incompetent and she wasn’t here for them to TRY and prove otherwise, so they coped out for a deal.”

“…And the sentence, how do you feel about the sentence?”

“Fucking sick and disgusted. Five years and most of that will be in a secure residential unit for boys. I doubt if the fucker will ever see the inside of a prison.”

“What would you say to Ian?”

“I have nothing to say to him!”

“What would you say to anyone who will be reading this?”

“If I’d known what he would become, I would have drowned him at birth.”

“What about your wife?”

Steven looked over his shoulder.

“…Same! Leave it at that.”

Eddie nodded slowly.

“Just before Charlie takes your picture, are you sure that you want your photo published?

Steven shrugged and held his hands out, “I can’t fucking hide, so I need to be obvious.”

“I understand and I think you are right, but a couple of last questions…These are the hardest for me to ask.”

“Go on.”

What now? And what in five years time?”

Steven took the last cigarette from his packet.

“Now? Clichés! I will do everything I can to help Linda get better. And I will involve myself in working with families who are victims, like us, I have to. I can’t be disgusted with what others do anymore and think that the families were involved. Let’s be truthful, that crosses all our minds. So I want to help with that.”

“…And the future?”

“…Well in five years time I’ll be the man who takes my son into my local pub to build some bridges. I will lock the door behind us and shout at the top of my voice, ‘That is Ian Clark, he rapes old ladies! And much later, if he turns up, I will console my wife”

Eddie leaned forward and switched off the recorder.

“…But you have just given us a potential confession.”

“I don’t give a fuck. Let me ask you something. Have you seen the images?”

“…Well…Yes…They were…”

“We all know what they were. They were a beginning.”

“It’s horrific. I can’t begin to imagine what you have been through.”

“You don’t have to…

But do what you think is right…

As will I.”

Hugh Cron

In the Diner by Fred Skolnik

Vernon looked at the menu. He saw

Breakfast Special


in a box in the lower left-hand corner. That included orange juice, eggs, grits, coffee and a pastry. But he was in the mood for a proper chowdown. A matronly waitress came over and said, “What’ll it be, sweetie?” Vernon said, “I’ll have the pancakes, then the eggs and sausages. Fried eggs. What kind of pie you got?” The waitress said, “Apple, cherry, blueberry, pecan, lemon meringue.” Vernon said, “Yeah, give me blueberry – no, no, make that lemon meringue.” The waitress poured his coffee and brought him the pancakes with a small pitcher of maple syrup and a few pats of butter in a dish.

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Profiteers of the Second Chance Saloon By Titus Green

I shiver in the darkness and clasp my precious cigarette in my fingers. It is the last of a carton bartered the hard, humiliating way and purchased with filthy favours given to foreign men with sweaty skin and dark complexions in the twilight shadows of the prison latrines. I dropped my self-respect into a volcano long ago, where it burnt to cinders. I have no possessions, and no assets to bequeath the wife and children I don’t have. Time is the only property I have left, and it is soon to be foreclosed. Days are the only currency I hold, and they are wasting away like the British pound. Time is just an empty word, drained of its relevance. Getting to the end of each day is my raison d’etre now, because I am a death row prisoner waiting for my summons.

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Watan By Matthew Richardson


Ah sir, you come upon me just as I am closing for the night. No no, it is not a problem to remain open whilst you make your purchase. Come in, I insist! I would not have you come out all this way on a night such as this and leave empty handed. Commutes are soulless enough endeavours, without being denied sustenance for the sake of an old man closing his establishment five minutes early.

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