A story a day until there’s a sleigh! This holiday season, I’m sharing a new flash fiction piece inspired by a holiday song every day of December until Christmas. Today’s story is inspired by Coventry Carol.
Hank sighed into the empty street. His breath filled the night air with a puff of smoke. It made him want another cigarette. He’d already had two. He could only put off the inevitable for so long.
From his front pocket, he retrieved the list of men killed in action. He’d already been to three homes that day and had ruined three Christmases by letting the families within know that not only would their son not be returning for the holiday, he’d never be returning. He didn’t know if he could take a fourth, but those were his orders.
He knew men overseas followed orders that plunged them into the kind of danger that landed them on his lists. They were called upon to take lives. Hank was called upon to break lives–to devastate mothers and wives and daughters with the sound of a knock.
Most of the time now, the wailing would start before he even said anything. The women knew him for what he was–the grim reaper standing at their door letting them know they were the unlucky ones whose boys had been sacrificed to the war.
When Jesus was born to Mary, King Herod, who ruled at the time, ordered all the boys in Bethlehem under two years old to be slaughtered in an attempt to preserve his power and eliminate the threat he thought Jesus posed. Christmas carolers often tried to capture the effect of the choir of angels singing triumphantly about the birth of Jesus, but Hank imagined another kind of choir composed of the wailing mothers of the innocents slain. He knew their chorus too well.
One more set of voices to add to the choir tonight.
Hank held his breath as he ascended the final set of stairs and knocked on the door once…twice.