Monday, December 20, 2010

The List

By Stephen D. Rogers

At about item fifteen, I stopped listening. With less than ten dollars in my pocket, I didn't have enough money to buy even one thing she wanted for Christmas.

Whatever happened to dolls and stuffed animals? My daughter was
only seven and I didn't understand half of what she was asking
for. Okay, so I understood "gift card" but I couldn't imagine
anything worse than telling her that the unwrapped piece of
plastic was worth a whole five dollars.

I interrupted the stream of unattainable dreams. "So I'll see
you on Christmas day?"

"I don't think so, Dad. After I open my stocking and Santa
present, we're going to the airport to visit Gram."

"You're flying on Christmas?" The thought interfered with my
rhythm and the back of the swing jammed my fingers.

"Not all day. I'll have presents in the morning and then when we
get to Gram's. She bought us the tickets."

I didn't doubt that. I didn't doubt Gram would pay the costs of
them moving down there. This was the woman who'd offered me
money to never see her daughter again.

"Dad, you have to push."

"Sorry, honey. I was thinking about something else. I've missed

"If you get me that phone plan we can text."

"Hmm." I connected with the swing this time and pushed her away.

"And if you drop off my presents in time, maybe Mom will let me
open them Christmas morning."

"Maybe we could get together on Christmas Eve."

"Mom's friend is throwing a party that night. We always go that
party. It's a tradition."

And so spending the night with strangers trumped spending time
with her Dad. There wasn't and would never be room in her life
to start a new father-daughter tradition. Her mother would see
to that. Her Gram would see to that.

As time went on, we'd see less and less of each other until she
considered me a stranger. The last bit of good in my life would
be gone.

"I have an idea."

"What?" She looked over her shoulder with a smile, still
believing that I could have ideas, a faith in me that her mother
was sure to squash.

"Let's go get your presents now, and then you'll have them."

"But it's not Christmas yet."

"Don't you want presents?" I gave as the swing came back and
then pushed with all my strength.

"Wee! Of course I want presents."

"Then now seems the perfect time."

"Do I get to pick out what I want?"

"You bet your bottom dollar." I pushed her away. "Doesn't get
any better than that, does it?"

"I just have to tell Mom first."


Because I can't just leave without telling her."

I pushed. "She knows I'm visiting with you. What difference
does it make whether we're in the back yard or at the mall?"

"Because she might come looking for me."

"If she knows you're with me, honey, she's not going to come
looking. Trust me."

"She might not want me to go to the mall with you."

"But it's Christmas. And you do want to pick out your presents,
don't you?" I gave another big push.

"You bet your bottom dollar."

So she did have a little of me in her after all.

I gave a final big push.

After we left here, stop at the apartment, grab my things,
retrieve the stolen charge cards I'd hidden under the mattress.

Stop at the mall. Let her pick out what she wanted.

She needed clothes, underwear, pajamas.

Visit Ramos and tell him I'd settle for half of what he owed me
in return for getting it now and in cash.

This was going to be our best Christmas ever.


Stephen D. Rogers is the author of SHOT TO DEATH
(Mainly Murder Press) and more than 600 shorter pieces.
His website,, includes a list
of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely


Alan Griffiths said...

Another super story; no wasted words, sharp dialogue and flowed all the way through. Thanks for that, Stephen.

pattinase (abbott) said...

What a great story!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Took my emotions a couple different ways. Nice job capturing the divorced dad / ex, and father /daughter relationships

Joyce said...

Great story. Sad, with hope trying to force its way through. Strong characters and very emotional piece all the way through. Makes you really hope he never gets caught...

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

You can bet your bottom dollar I liked the swing to this one, Mr Rogers. You had me on the moving musings and then my heart smiled large with ~ "She looked over her shoulder with a smile, still believing that I could have ideas".

Nice crime @ ChristmasTime.
~ Absolutely*Kate

seana graham said...

This reminds me a bit of Dennis Lehane's latest, which in my book is a compliment!

Al Tucher said...

"Noir equals screwed," even on Christmas. Good, tight job.

Naomi Johnson said...


R L Kelstrom said...

Good stuff. Tight writing. Believable dialogue. You did a lot with so few words.