The Gifts

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Macon grimaced as he peeled the tattered shirt open. No matter  how he tried, he could never get used to the pain. Or the smell of  blood. In the mirror, he could barely see his purple, swollen face.  The slightest touch brought another whimper from his lips that he struggled to suppress. Muted cries, breaking glass, thumps, and smacks sounded outside the  bathroom door. A shiver passed through his body, and Macon squeezed his  eyes shut. Or tried to. That simple action caused him to wince and feebly wipe at the snot bubbling from his nose. Tears streamed down his face.

“You fucking whore, I—” His father’s voice cut off as a blow landed.

“Stop, please, stop,” Macon’s mother whimpered.

“Shut the fuck up, bitch.” Another blow followed by a crash.

Macon covered his ears, but the beating would not stop. Neither would his mother’s wailing. Then, as if hearing the pleas within his mind, her voice cut off to a choking sound.

Heavy footsteps stamped through the house, every few followed by a dull bump. From the  sounds, his father was dragging something. Macon eased the door open and  peeked.

Booted feet disappeared into the entrance to the cellar down the hall before he could tell who it was. Oh God, did he kill Mommy? Oh, God, Oh God! Loud noises and bangs sounded from below, too much like gunshots. His father kept his hunting rifle down there. Oh, God! Footsteps headed back upstairs.

Macon wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go. Not out here at  his father’s lake house near a secluded corner of Norway’s Lake Jostle. He knew what he’d find if he cleared the cloudiness and frost from the bathroom’s tiny window. Darkness and a white blanket that stretched unbroken for miles. The snowstorms had been constant the past week, dropping at least six feet of snow. His father always seemed to know when they would be the worst, and chose then to come to the lake house. Macon inched the door closed, again hoping his father did not hear the click from the lock. No such luck.

“Macon,” yelled Joseph. “Get your ass out here, boy.”

“C-c-coming, father.” Macon gently slid his shirt back over the cuts  from the thick leather belt his father beat him with earlier.

“You should’ve told that bitch not to interrupt when I’m wrapping  your Christmas gifts,” his father shouted from down the hall. He broke into a cackle. “Should’ve seen her face. Get the fuck out here boy. It’s time  for dinner. I got your gifts all ready. Eleven days left after tonight. We’ll open one up every night as usual.”

Macon didn’t wish to keep his father waiting any longer so he  shuffled outside. A trail of red, like a viscous sauce, marred the wooden floor along the hall.  Trying his best to avoid the blood, Macon limped to the dining room.

The soft tinkle of music drifted to Macon. Despite the way he felt, he couldn’t help humming the tune. Carl Orf’s, Carmina Baruna. O Fortuna, to be exact. Mother loved playing that while she cooked. She always said it soothed her. When Macon entered the dining room, his father was sitting at the head of the thick, oak table, lips curled into a rabid smile, his dark eyes twinkling. Dinner was  spread before him. Baked chicken, quail, a few slices of deer, several types of fish, vegetables, salad, and Macon’s favorite fiske pudding, just like his mother used to make. The aromas of food overpowered the stench of unwashed bodies in the room. Macon retched, barely stopping himself from spilling the contents of his guts.

“Sit, boy.” His father gestured with his sausage-thick fingers to a chair at the table’s opposite end.

“Thank you, father.” Macon pulled out a chair and sat.

“You see the gifts we have for Christmas?” His father pointed over  to the tree, its red lights blinking like the eyes of some demon. “Are they what you asked Santa for?”

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