[Throwback Thursday — Originally published November, 2013]

Hands in Handcuffs

Photo Credit: Douglas Pearl

When he awakes at 4:00pm, his medication is scattered on the floor. Two of his three children, a boy and a girl, have gotten into it again. His third child hasn’t arrived yet, but will soon. He slowly rises from bed, his body full of aches meant for a man twice his age. That familiar feeling of anxiety creeps into him, so he stands and collects a small cylindrical silver tube and ten tiny circular blue pills, counting each one twice to make certain the children have not taken any. He will be sure to check their eyes throughout the night just in case. The man takes one pill and puts the remaining nine back where they belong; then dumps them all out, takes another, puts eight back in the tube, and screws it onto the lid attached to his keychain.

He can smell snickerdoodle cookies baking, see the glare of red and green lights beneath his bedroom door, and hear his children singing along with the nanny to Christmas carols. The man calls his wife, who is visiting relatives two hours away, to make sure she is coming home tonight.

“Tomorrow,” she says. He takes another pill.

He makes his way around the obstacle course of toys to the living room and his children rush him in a fit of excitement. He hugs them and kisses them and listens to their stories. They make gingerbread houses out of old candy and stale crackers they find in the back of cupboards. They put up gold, red, and green tinsel, wrap presents for Mommy and Baby Brother, and dance and dance and laugh. At 9:00pm, the man reads his children bedtime stories and rubs their backs, and tucks them in and kisses their foreheads, and tells them he loves them more than his arms can stretch.

Once they’re asleep, he opens his new tablet; an early Christmas present to himself. It doesn’t work. He takes another pill. He tells the nanny is he going to return the tablet and buy some last minute gifts. Businesses are open late this time of year. He’ll stop for a quick drink after.

The man takes his usual route home from town through the cemetery at 1:45am. His phone died at the bar right before last call, so he thinks he left around 12:45. He must have taken longer than normal because he’s a bit tipsy. He is humming to himself as he clumsily hops the stone wall dividing the cemetery and his street. He falls and cuts his hand, then wipes the blood on his pants as he balances himself.

“Get down!” he hears from behind him.

He suddenly realizes his hat and bandana are not on his head. He looks toward the ground and sees the bloodstain on his pants; it seems far too big to have come from one little cut. The bulge of his phone, normally in his pocket, is no longer visible; instead there is an unfamiliar washcloth sticking out, light brown with a red stripe.

“Don’t move!” someone shouts. Bright lights blind him and he falls to the ground once more. At 2:00am on Christmas Eve, the man is arrested.

“We got him,” an officer reports to a walkie-talkie.

A voice over the radio responds, “Bring him here so we can get a positive ID.”

He is driven to a house on the opposite side of the cemetery. A woman is being taken to an ambulance, blood dripping from an area of her abdomen hiding behind bandages. There is a large kitchen knife on the ground, its handle wrapped with an unfamiliar washcloth, light brown with a red stripe. Two children are clutching their father, who looks the man in the eyes and says, “That’s him.”

When the police inspect his belongings—the evidence—they open the silver tube. It’s empty.

Two years later, at 4:00pm, the man remembers.

(This is based on my personal experience. This is based on Nate’s story. This is not, however, a true, completely fact-based account of what has happened, or is happening, or will happen. Some of what is written here is true; some of the information is factual, but some of it is completely made up as well.)

*  *  *  *  *

[Also published in Rewrites Literary Magazine]

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3 thoughts on “Unfamiliar

    • Sadly it’s very largely based on mine and Nate’s real life, and there’s not much more to tell other than what I’ve already been sharing.

      You did give me an idea to try to turn this into something more, though. Thank you!


  1. Ouch! As a short story this already works extremely well, but then to read it as even in part an autobiography of someone I’ve grown to admire, it hurts, to think of you each having to go through any of this. What you’ve earlier offered us of your life and experience give this all the more punch of reality.

    I’m sorry, but I also thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

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