Ginger Nuts of Horror
Christmas is coming, the decorations are up, Christmas tunes are playing on repeat, and the eggnog is chilling in the fridge. Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes the festive season. And as a thank, you for all of your support for what has been a fantastically successful year, Ginger Nuts of Horror in association with Charlotte Bond, brings you 13 For Christmas. For thirteen days in the lead up to Christmas, we bring you a special festive themed piece flash fiction from Charlotte. Grab a hot drink and find a nice warm place and please enjoys these festively creepy tales.
Today's story is titled The Christmas Ham....
'Are you looking forward to this?' Michael asked his sister, Susan.
She grimaced. 'Not at all. But it could be worse. We could be going to Dad's.'
Michael frowned. 'Yeah, maybe. But I'm going to reserve judgment until I've met Mum's new bloke. I mean, a butcher?' He pulled a face and couldn't stop a shudder going down his spine. 'Her standards have fallen, don't you think? Merchant banker to butcher.'
'Yeah, but Dad's an arsehole. You didn't stay with him while he was recovering from his hip operation. He was a nightmare. I don't know how Mum stood him for so long. But if she's happy now, then we should be happy too. Now shush,' she chided him as she lifted the knocker and rapped hard three times.
The door was opened a few moments later and Michael was surprised to find a tall, thin and surprisingly handsome man on the other side. The man's face instantly lit up at the sight of them.
'Ah! You must be Michael and Susan. I'm Shaun.' His voice had a pleasant Irish lilt to it. He hugged Susan then held out his hand to Michael.
Michael gritted his teeth as he shook it. He half-expected Shaun's skin to be moist and sticky with blood, but in fact his hand was warm, his handshake firm. Yet when he let go, Michael reflexively wiped his hand on his trousers. With horror, he realised that his mother's new boyfriend had witnessed this. He tried to defend his actions.
'I, just, well, I didn't mean--'
'Don't worry, kid,' Shaun said with a chuckle. 'You're not the first. It comes with the job. Come on in.'
Despite Michael's initial reservations, he began warming to Shaun very quickly. The man was easy, relaxing company. They sat in the living room, talking and drinking tea, until Michael and their mother went to finish off preparing dinner. It was only then, with a stab of guilt, that Michael realised he hadn't thought of his father at all since they'd arrived. He glanced at his watch.
'I'm going to call, Dad,' he told Susan. His sister was reading the paper and merely shrugged noncommittally.
Michael made his way to the kitchen. Shaun turned round, a large plate with tinfoil on it in his hands. When he saw Michael he beamed. 'Ah! Do I have a treat in store for you, my boy. Now, I know we'll all be sharing turkey in a week or so, but in my house, there was always the tradition of the Christmas ham. It whetted our appetite so to speak for the coming feast, and it carves up beautiful for sandwiches.'
'Smells delicious,' Michael commented with a grin. He looked towards his mother. 'Can I use your phone just to quickly call Dad before we sit down, Mum? I want to check how he's doing. He doesn't get about much after his hip operation.'
Michael didn't fail to notice that the question caused his mother to pause. He glanced at Shaun, wondering if he'd said the wrong thing. The man's smile had indeed slipped slightly, but when he caught Michael's eye, he widened it again.
'Er, of course, dear,' his mother said, not turning round.
'Thanks.' Michael made his way into the hall. He dialled his father's number and got no response. He waited five minutes and tried again; still nothing.
'Dinner!' cried his mother from the kitchen.
Susan overtook him on the way to the dinner table. 'Smells fabulous,' she said as she sat down.
Shaun beamed. 'Old family recipe, lass.'
The ham was indeed delicious, moist and full of flavour. They ate and talked and laughed. Michael genuinely couldn't remember when he'd enjoyed a family meal so much. After it was done, he and Susan insisted that Shaun and their mother, as the cooks, should go and rest while the two of them tidied up.
As Susan sat down to carve up some ham for tomorrow's sandwiches, Michael went back to the phone. He called his father again; still no answer. He wandered back into the kitchen, feeling unaccountably glum.
Susan was sitting just where he'd left her, but now she was as white as a shroud. 'What's the matter?' he asked, hurrying over to her.
Wordlessly, Susan held up an item. It was a few inches long, covered in bits of ham. Michael felt nausea grip hold of him as he recognised it. Susan was holding a pin, one that the surgeon had shown to them, right before they put it in their father's hip.