By Ryan Moran, Illustrations by Joel Moran

I’ve always loved the idea of creating stories of, about, or in a city. A city’s mythos, so to speak.

Clearly, every city has its stories, but I’ve always felt like the mythos of Canadian cities, and Hamilton particularly, whether because of our size, our relative historical youth, or because of our characteristic self-effacing Canadian-ness, are an excessively far cry from say London or New York. Yet, we very much have a body of myths surrounding us.

The holiday season is a particularly great time for stories, myths or otherwise. Personally, my favourite Christmas stories have always been those that blend the real with the dark. Domestic and personal scenes in cities and/or those with hints of the supernatural, if not fully featuring a ghost, or two, or three. Not gooey, but still happy, maybe even comedic, with hints of melancholy.From Dickens’ Christmas Carol, to O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi, to Bill Murray’s Scrooged to the Pogues “A Fairy Tale of New York.”

This short holiday serial is inspired by all those, if not directly references them, such as in the case of “A Fairy Tale of New York,” my favourite Christmas song that I’ve always felt tells a story as relatable to Hamilton as it is to New York.

Below is part 1 of A Fairy Tale of Hamilton. To read the full story visit, where from now until Thursday, December 20th, a new instalment will be added. Enjoy and Season’s Greetings!

Part 1 of 4

“It was Christmas Eve, babe. In the drunk tank.  An old man said to me, ‘won’t see another one.’”

The classic Fairytale of New York, by the Pogues and Kristy MacColl.

But this wasn’t New York, it was Hamilton. It was still Christmas Eve though, and it was still a drunk tank.

“Well like I’m telling you I probably won’t be seein’ another one of these.” Said the old man, Pat.

Benj, drowsy, groggy and pained, booze emanating from his pores, struggled to sit himself up. “What? We were talking? Another one of what?”

“Christmas.” Said Pat. A gentle grin on his pockmarked face, red and bloated, a short layer of white fuzz adorning its lower half. He was framed with a walrus-moustache connecting to dishevelled wisps decorating his scalp as if a drunken spider was trying to catch the flies that should have been buzzing above him. “This is probably my last, hell, maybe won’t even make it to it at the rate I’m goin’, god willin’.” 

A couple of women began screaming at each other on the other side of the third-full, cafeteria-esque room, walls stained with what looked like decades of various fluids, bodily or otherwise.

Benj, unsure of which struggle he’d rather take up; the one to follow the drunk’s conversation, the one to figure out how to get out of there, or the one to just to ignore it all and not feel like death, involuntarily responded. “And what rate’s that?”

Ally slowly opened her eyes, the jarring fluorescent lighting on drywall and taupe flooring was agonizing. Her mouth was dry, her head was throbbing, and glancing down she could see an IV in her arm. “Am I in a hospital?” she said to the faint sense that someone was nearby to hear it.

“Yup,” came back a raspy, broken female voice.

She cautiously rolled over on her gurney, to make eye contact with the voice. Sitting up on her own bed, against a wall and across the hall was Carol, a heavy set, weathered woman with greasy, and inconsistently grey toned hair. She could have been a healthy 70, or a very unhealthy 50, Ally couldn’t tell.

“You been here about five hours, sleeping the whole time, a guy brought you in, haven’t seen him since.”

That brought some snippets of the night before roaring back to Ally, but still blanking on anything leading up to her being here.

The hallway was quiet, it was just the two, the tinny pagings echoing across the PA, and faint beeps coming from nearby rooms. 

“You’re ok though,” said Carol, “overheard the nurse say you just had too much to drink. Made me jealous really, I still don’t feel like I’ve had enough!” She roared with laughter at her own joke.  Ally winced.

Benj had his face buried in his hands. For the most part, he regretted asking Pat about “the rate he was goin’ at,” the only part of him that at all embraced it was the part that needed something to distract him from his nausea. 

For what felt like the last three hours, actually 30 minutes, Pat had rambled on about the glory days of Hamilton Christmas Eves, of all the parties and bars, halls and music, big bands and bright lights. Decorations and bulbs on strings adorning Gore Park on King Street. Deep snow and holidays classics at places like the Palace or the Capitol, big old cinemas no longer standing. Of how his parents owned a hall on MacNab north where brass bands would blow people away when he was a kid, the dinners and mock-Sinatra crooners at the Blue Grotto when he was a teenager, the late-night punk shows at Corktown into his 20s and 30s. Of how he dabbled in performing himself, singing in rock bands in the 1970s and 80s, inheriting his parent’s hall, and getting into arranging shows himself.

“What about you?” Pat finally offered.

Dreading the moment when he might have to contribute to this conversation himself, Benj simply replied, “I’m in a band.” 

This was true, but he also spent his days getting fired from any number of menial jobs for being consistently unreliable. The latest being a few weeks ago as a busboy, at a place his friend owned on Hess. The resulting shortfall in money kicked-off a series of events that climaxed in his selling his furniture on Kijiji, which itself had a big hand in why he now found himself where he was. 

After dropping out of Mac some years ago, Benj periodically bartended or took jobs working at any record shop between Hamilton and Toronto, with the aim of supporting himself enough until the band took off. The problem was that the unreliability he came to be known for at these jobs also carried over to his artistic relationship with bandmates. Officially he was now on shaky ground trying to start band number four due to what he defined as creative differences but was actually a blend of flaking on practices and his own unjustified ego.  

Instantly likeable and able to hold a room, he had an unbridled energy for life that many would take for authentic interest. Although, it was also deeply rooted in personal self-indulgence, and his need to be entertained and pandered to. As such, he was both never short of new opportunities and new people or the need for new opportunities and new people. 

However, more recently he found himself often oscillating between periods of increasing substance abuse – which he decidedly remained all but oblivious to – and moments of sober clarity, which brought about a sense of depressive self-awareness. 

He had become particularly insecure, about himself, about the reality of his situation, about the little that he felt he made of himself and his talents, and about the diminishing likelihood that he would.     

He was six years too late to join the 27 club, something he would bemuse out loud but lament in private. The sense of desperation he now felt at trying to be anything better than what he has blurred the lines of selfish ambition and self-absorption, all through a funnel self-destruction. 

The only bright spot was that recently he had fallen ass-backwards into carpentry. Through parties and late nights, he had met an owner of a business that specialized in reclaimed carpentry, furniture and renovations. He had started assisting him regularly for money, and from there, small seeds of interest had been planted and were beginning to sprout. However, he felt stalled by the blended fear of failing who he wanted to believe he was, and the intimidation he felt by the amount of work required to be anything different made him feel like spiralling into nothing.       

Pat had not stopped talking since Benj said he was in a band. Excited to find a “fellow” musician he continued to go on about his “old-lady” the singer and how he’d see her soon, mistakes he had made in life, and faults he could never go back and fix. 

“As long as you ain’t dead, you can just choose to change your lot,” Pat extolled, “changing your life looks hard but choosin’ better can be easy. And that’s all change is, a bunch of better choices brought together. Easy.” 

Benj’s name was just called.

“Yeah you,” said the Officer, standing at the door at the far end of the room. 

He got up to leave when Pat called after him “Hey! Can I look you up on the outside?” 

“Uh… sure.” Said Benj, dozily replaying their conversation to make sure he hadn’t given Pat any information that would allow him to do that, as Pat started singing Good King Wenceslas. 

Benj was processed out. He was given his personal belongings back – his phone, wallet, the keys to his truck, his coat – and information on paying his fine. 

As he left the detention centre he turned up the coat collar in a weak effort to conceal his identity and contain his shame. 

This helped little, as parked outside nearby, Officer Ahmad clearly saw the young man he had brought to the intoxication detention centre earlier that morning and watched him walk off down the street.

Carol finally stopped singing.

In a hushed tone that clearly had the intention to still be heard and including everything from Billie Holiday to Stevie Nicks – the latter being particularly grating to Ally, as she lay on her side, unmoved since she woke.

“I was a wonderful singer,” said Carol, in a way that made Ally feel as though she was both informing her and reassuring her that it could ever possibly be true. “My man and I used to play halls, and he’d set me up with shows or bands to play with, he had all the connections. This time of year was especially the best for it.”

A twinge of anger and remorse flashed through Ally, she didn’t want to hear another word about Carol’s man. “Why are you here?” She quickly interrupted.

“Oh, I walked into a bus.”

The carelessness with which Ally had initially asked the question, looking to just change the subject, immediately dissolved into shocked concern for Carol.

“What? Are you ok!?”

“Oh yeah! I am now, was a bit messy earlier, but hey, look at me! How about you? Do you sing?”

“Again with the singing,” thought Ally, shifting slightly back to carelessness. 

Ally did sing, as a matter of fact, and well. Yet, it wasn’t her passion, nor her interest or pursuit. In general, she had a hard time answering what any of those were.

Ally studied sociology at Ryerson, not because she specifically wanted to get into public policy, or social work, or anything that would directly come from her degree. When asked why, she would simply shrug. University seemed like the next natural step in her life and that degree seemed credible-enough. Of course, she would express interest in the topic, and maybe even out loud discuss the possibility of careers related to it, but it was never serious. 

Serious came after, when she made one of the first real decisions showing commitment to herself, enrolling, excelling and completing culinary school at George Brown. However, following that she just unambitiously languished in a few Toronto kitchens before coming back to Hamilton to initially do the same, before settling into a service representative role at a Service Ontario centre. She hated it but reasoned that it had benefits and paid her bills and debt.  

She was smart, capable, and highly personable with a slight shy streak, but she was also inconsistent, particularly in service to herself and her own wellbeing. Much of this had to do with a contempt that she held for herself. An unreasonable insecurity rooted in the belief that though she was worthy of better things, she could neither accomplish them herself nor was she necessarily deserving. She would never admit it but her devotion to her relationships, though very much a selfless interest in the wellbeing of others, was also very much an evasion of her own self-care. A comfort in being with or surrounded by others, rather than just being in her own company. 

Somewhere along her way, she misplaced herself. She put herself second, not because of generosity, but because she didn’t believe she can deserve first, and surrounding herself with messes to take care of, people or otherwise, became a balm. This led to a faceless, deep seeded resentment that lacked an outlet until moments of anger with others or self-destruction with herself.

“No.” Replied Ally after a long pause. “But oh my god, you walked into a bus? Like were hit by it?”

“What? Oh yeah! It was a while ago though, I’m fine now and will be leaving soon. My man and I had a fight, and I wasn’t thinking when I walked away from him, and it just happened. Really though, I’ve had plenty of time to think about it. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an idiot. But it’s also so like me to be consumed more with being pissed about him than to focus on myself and my own way. To expect him to be better more than I just expect me to be better for myself.

I’m mad, I hate him, but I forgive him, I always do. But if I could go back I’d damn well make choices for me and based on me, not through him and dependent on him. See where those chips might land.”

Ally’s name was suddenly called, with a jolt she leaned up on her elbows and looked to where it was coming from.

“Ally?” calmly repeated the nurse coming down the hall. “Oh good, you’re up. You’re fine, it just looks like you drank a bit too much, we’ll just have the IV taken out of you and then you can go.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.” Replied the nurse.    

Part 2 of 4

Benj stumbled down Barton St., began walking for what felt like hours.

It had been 8 am when he left the drunk tank, and was creeping into the early afternoon when he felt his phone vibrate.

His heart beat faster as he fumbled for it out of his pocket. It was a message from Ally, his girlfriend.

It read simply, “Whatever.” Hardly a calming reply after the sorry-not-sorry diatribe he had sent her that morning.

As soon as Benj had been released from the police station he made his way towards the John Street Diner to feed his hangover and try to feel remotely human again. He ordered his standard bacon and eggs, a litre of coffee, and began to ruminate non-stop over the events of the night before.

He and Ally had stopped to watch a friend’s band at This Ain’t Hollywood before they planned to make their way to a big Christmas party at a warehouse near Ottawa St. While watching the band play, Benj had been feeling gregarious and free with his money, buying countless drinks and a few bumps for himself, Ally, and the other opportunistic acquaintances that recognized the opportunity to take advantage of his unusual generosity.

“Merry Christmas!” He kept shouting, “Fucking welcome to fucking Fezziwigs!”

Hanging his head over his coffee the next day, Benj remembered how Ally questioned him about the money as they left the venue and headed towards the night’s main event.

He told her he had sold some things to afford studio time, he winced as he remembered her becoming angry. She began accusing him of being selfish and said he was probably just going to use the extra cash on booze and drugs.

“That’s fucking crazy, when have I ever done that?” he said, booze on his breath, drugs in his nose.

He couldn’t understand how she could think so little of him. This was a selfless move, afterall. It was to help him and his band; it was to help better his and Ally’s future.

Benj was taking ownership of his life. He was stepping up, being “the man” in the relationship. He wasn’t going to use her money for anything – something they both recognized had increasingly becoming a habit. This was something she should be proud of, it was a step forward.

“I thought you’d be happy about it!”

She became uneasily quiet as he shakily drove towards Ottawa street. He shouldn’t have been driving, but did his best to steady himself while adjusting to the silence. He hated this tone, the “nothing,” answers when he asked what was wrong.

He could feel his anxiety ramping up and he became defensive, boldly objecting to her claims of him being ‘selfish,’ a ‘user.’ She was partaking in everything he was doing anyway, wasn’t she? She hadn’t turned any of his offerings away. He spit excuses at her, doing his best to poke holes into what he feared might have been the truth as they walked in one-sided silence towards the warehouse, handing their tickets to at the door. They pushed their way through the crowd and headed straight to the bar.

He couldn’t remember what it was that finally did it, but eventually she finally blew up back at him. Even over the overwhelming bass and the roar of hundreds of conversations, he could hear the irrevocable insults they hurled at each other, “pathetic,” “loser,” “piece of shit,” “trash,” “bitch” and so on.

They lost each other in the crowd to a haze of faces, dancing, drinks, and drugs. He would see her throughout the night, dancing closely with guys he knew she used to date, and she would see him plying himself with substances and talking to girls he knew she hated.

When at last the lights came on, he was wandering out with a crowd that was headed to an after party. In what now occurred to him as an out-of-body type blur, like a scene from a movie he might have once seen, he saw her sitting on a chair near the door, looking half-conscious, but with a guy who’s face Benj vaguely knew but knew he didn’t like.

A rush of both fury and over-protective concern washed over him. With fire coursing through his veins, he bolted towards them and in piecemeal detail Benj:

Punched the guy.

Shouted at her – who was all but unresponsive.

Cabbed her to an emergency room – he forgot where his truck was.

Admitted her to the ER – watched her get taken away.

Made to leave – looked cockeyed at a cop outside.

And was arrested for public intoxication.

It all felt like another world now.

After leaving the diner, Benj decided that if nothing else, he needed to head towards Ottawa Street and find his truck. He made a mental note to stop into the Centre on Barton to finish – or more correctly start – his Christmas shopping. He stopped and thought of the limited family and friends that he could, if not should, buy presents for out of a vague sense of obligation. Unable to shake the feeling of the night before – guilt perhaps, he paid his bill, and set back out, into the cold.

As he wandered down Barton, a scatter of thoughts, shame, forgiveness strategies, unused rebuttals, and a faint essence of gasoline echoing through his sinuses, he felt as though he identified with the street. A sense of glory, now gone. Faint glimpses of redemption but also at the risk of losing something that felt like it belonged. For the street, the people that called it home. For him, a sense of who he thought he was, rooted like a home. Both now excessively rough around the edges, he and the street felt like they were on the outside, watching world that was either leaving them behind or replacing them outright.

He looked up to see the old Oakwood Place sign, the one-time home of Hamilton racing bets. He had made it to Ottawa street.

Finding his truck at the public lot behind a row of shops, he jumped in and headed immediately towards the discount box stores.

The inherent sense of productivity and generosity that accompanied the commercial act of traditional Christmas gift-giving somehow made him feel better.  It was as though going through the motions would return him to some state of normalcy. He saw the Walmart, the Dollarama, and then the big, bright, glorious, LCBO sign, and relief washed over him.

“Hair of the dog,” he muttered to himself. “Then I’ll feel better and get on with this day.”

Ally stared at the nurse’s lanyard as her IV was being removed. Her name was Sarah Ahmad.

She slowly climbed down from her bed and put on her coat. Nothing felt quite real. physically, she felt like she was covered in a layer of cotton balls, with some stuffed into her head, eyes, and brain. She felt like she floated down the hallway and offered a haphazard wave to Carol – who had resumed singing. Everything felt dull, numb, and like it was happening independent of any effort.

As she reached the ER’s exit, she froze. She didn’t want to go home. She didn’t want to stay, but she also didn’t know where to go. She looked to her side, to the vinyl seats and beat up People magazines of the waiting area and sat down.

The details of the night before were quickly coming back to her in pieces, each unlocking another block of memory, like sections of a puzzle being connected.

Benj, her boyfriend, had sold their living room furniture. They didn’t have much furniture to begin with, but what they did have she was happy about, if not proud of. Buying it had made their home feel like a real, honest to goodness home, and made their rocky relationship of two years feel like an honest to goodness relationship. As though the semblance of something healthy, whether in their home or relationship, would somehow mask, or better yet, erase its absence. A thought that secretly crept at the back of her mind.

While she had been at work, he had posted their couches, their coffee table, and their TV stand to Kijiji without her knowing. He must have moved it out and made the sale during the day, something she wouldn’t have known since she had met him straight from work.

“All we need is a bed!” He said in defense, trying to make it sound as if it were a romantic decision.

“All you need is a fucking brain!” She shouted back, her anger uninhibited from the booze and lines he was freely sharing with those around them at This Ain’t Hollywood. All of which she felt that she shouldn’t have been doing at the time, but she had been swept up in the moment.

She continued staring at the ER’s tiled taupe floor, as her phone buzzed in her pocket. She had been in such a daze she forgot it was even there. The time was now 10:30 am, and there was a message from Benj, she opened it right away.

“Hey! Are you okay!? I brought you to the ER and then got arrested LOL! I hope you’re ok. I’m sorry for selling our living room furniture! It was stupid choice and I thought you would be proud of me for taking the initiative, you know, because it means I can afford the studio time and help our future!  Like you’re seriously not happy about it? No, you’re right, it was a fucking shit move by me and you don’t deserve that. You’re right. But honestly you don’t get why I did it?? Anyway, I hope you’re ok, I need to find my truck LOL, like where did I park it? I’m such a fucking goof. Can we talk? Hope you’re ok babe!”

“What the actual fuck.” She muttered to herself. “What a fucking garbage text.” The little adrenaline she still had begun to spike.

She felt a kinship with and almost comforted by her current surroundings. Like the waiting lounge she felt empty, hollow, liminal. As though she was always waiting for something better, always on the edge of glory, like it was supposed to happen to her but without her intervention. As if it would just come to her. And yet, like the room, in the meantime she would allow whatever to enter. To come in, take a seat, be taken care of and be discharged. At least the presence of someone in that room or in her life would distract her from its emptiness, if not disrepair.

Whatever mask the living room furniture provided in her home, in the back of her mind the secret question of if she knew what to do if something came in to take care of her lingered, let alone if she needed something at all.

“Ma’am, do you have somewhere to go?”

Ally looked up, it was Nurse Ahmad.

“I’m sorry but you can’t stay sitting here if you’ve been discharged.”

“Oh, yeah, sorry. I’ll uh, go, just texting to um, meet a friend somewhere.”

Nurse Ahmad nodded and walked away.

“Can I join?” Carol interjected from out of nowhere.

“What the hell!?” Ally said with start, looking her up and down as though she just materialized a few seats away, still in her gown. “Uh, yeah sure why not?” She said sarcastically as she stood up and walked through the sliding doors without looking back.

Once outside, the light hurt her eyes; it was cool, but the sun felt warm. Things slowly came into view, she was at St. Joseph’s, but still had no clue where she would or wanted to go. All she knew was that she needed coffee and began heading up James to Red Crow.

After ordering a big black mug and a muffin, she sat down at an empty table and pulled out her phone to reply to Benj.

“Perfect spot!” Came a voice from above, it was Carol, fully dressed.

“Where the fu… Hi!” Stammered Ally. “Fuck.” She thought.

Benj walked out of the LCBO, paper bag of rye in hand, blinded by the sun, and with the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I don’t want to fight tonight)” playing from the store behind him, when he walked right into Pat.

“Buddy!” Pat exclaimed

“Fuck!” Benj muttered.”HEY!”

“What’re you doing!?”

“Uh… Christmas Shopping!” Benj said, trying to mask his absolute discomfort by matching Pat’s level of positive energy.

“The best kind!” Pat replied, indicating the bottle in Benj’s hand. “Let’s go Christmas shopping!” He gestured for the bottle.

Hesitantly, Benj glanced around and unscrewed the top. He handed it to Pat, and together they started walking towards Walmart. Pat a step behind, quite publicly raising the bottle to the sun, and shouting “Cheers!” before taking a long pull.

“Take it easy with that!” Benj pleaded. “And hide it a little, would you?”

“Why bother? Hey, if there’s one thing I learned long time ago, it’s …uh …well …I don’t know, I learned a lot of things, but one of them is definitely why bother.” He laughed and took another drink.

“You know, I never really got the whole gift giving thing,”. I mean, I never really wanted to anyways, it was a huge, damn hassle to get out and figure what people wanted, when I had people to buy for at least. And, I mean, it was my hard-earned money, why should I have had to? It’s all a big bloody scam, save it for yourself and make your own life better, or blow it all and have some fuckin’ fun!”

Benj made for the bottle, Pat made to hand over, but stopped, held up his index finger, and made another long pull.

“Oh fuck, Oakwood Place, look at that,” he said loudly. “I haven’t been there in ages, used to go there all the time for the ponies, get in on the lucky ones, last time I was there I almost made it huge, 18 to one, it was a Christmas Eve too! ’88, Christmas Eve 1988!

“Me and the old lady, we were doin’ a bunch of junk at that time, losing money on it but trying to get out. We weren’t able to book that many bars anymore an’ my hall closed long before, so we were pretty screwed. So’s that’s when I saw the chance to take care of a bunch of problems in one fell swoop, right? ‘Course, she’s all pissed that I got her money from some gig she did to make the bet. We get in a fight outside and I miss the bet! So’s I went back inside to get ripped, think I got myself in the drunk tank that night too. What a mess she caused, I was gonna solve our problems too!”

Cocking his head back, Pat took another swig while Benj made another attempt for the bottle, Pat swiveled to the side, keeping the bottle to his lips at a perfect 45-degree angle.

“That’s life though, eh? Kicks in the balls, an’ only sometimes do you get to kick it back. Choosin’ better though, for you and others, an’ those small choices. They’s like, bonus kicks if you make the right ones.”

He took one last pull as Benj lunged and finally grabbed the bottle back, it was empty, his pulse picked up.

“At it already? That didn’t take long.” A voice that echoed familiarity said a few feet away.

Benj looked up, he vaguely recognized Officer Ahmad – standing near the Walmart entrance – as the cop who took him to the drunk tank earlier that morning.

“No!” He protested, “It’s not mine! This guy was drinking it!” He pointed beside him to implicate Pat but to his absolute astonishment, Pat was gone.

Benj’s head was spinning, literally, desperately looking in every direction to find Pat but with no luck. All he could see was a trail of spilled rye, leading from the LCBO to directly beside him.

“Must have bolted,” he thought. “Selfish bastard.”

“What kind of muffin did you get, Muffin?” Carol asked.

Ally, shuddering at being called muffin, replied “Morning Glory.”

“Oh, those are packed with good things, carrots, wheat germ and all of that stuff, used to love those, you must be a health-nut, those are really good for you!”

“I’m not, and I’m pretty sure they’re not either.” Ally was frustrated, of all the things she did know in that moment, it was that she really didn’t want to be around anyone, let alone a Homeless-Cher. To drive her away, she asked “You were hit by a bus, shouldn’t you be going home or something?”

“Oh, I’m fine, not a scratch see? I can just watch you eat that muffin – I’m keeping the pounds off anyway – it’s such a beautiful day I don’t mind sitting here with you, I feel like I was in that hospital forever.

“Say, it’s Christmas Eve, isn’t it? I love this time of year, Christmas songs are some of my favourite to sing, my old-man and I used to book ourselves into all sorts of shows around this time, he had all the connections. I’d be singing White Christmas between punk bands at Corktown, or crooning Blue Christmas, and Kenny and Dolly for the steel workers at the Galley Pump.”

“Used to like the feeling of him taking care of me, taking me out for fancy steak dinners at Shakespeare’s, and me taking care of him at home, like it was an old-fashioned fairytale, and we’d have ourselves a merry little Christmas.”

She took a chunk of Ally’s muffin and tossed it back, Ally stared at her chipped nails and flushed, swollen fingers, and shuddered yet again.

“’Course, then things got pretty tight for a lot of people, especially the Stelco boys, so tips weren’t as good. And my old man and I were getting into some pretty nasty stuff with some pretty nasty people and bouncing from place to place, and not always together. The old man was always into gambling, so between that and the other stuff we were doing he got the bright idea to take all we had and place a ‘bet to end all bets’ like he called it.  ‘Course, I believed him, and believed that that the money alone could make all the difference in the world.”

She took another chunk.

“I had a change of heart on it though, seeing how much he had lost already, and knowin’ it was our last few pennies. So, I stand up to him, probably one of the only times I did, get in a huff and storm off. I should’ve stood up to him more before then, hell, shouldn’t even have been about standing up to him really, should’ve stood up for me, made sense of what I was doing with myself.

“Anyway, that’s enough about me, I think I’m gonna step out for a second into some fresh air.”

She abruptly got up, leaving crumbs everywhere and quickly moved to the door. She turned back to smile at Ally, sliding her finger beside her hooked nose and winking, like Santa in Night Before Christmas. This made Ally shudder for the third time, as she looked less like a jolly old elf sliding up a chimney, than an old woman picking her nose as she left a coffee shop.

And with that, she was gone, slipping unnoticed past Nurse Ahmad, who had just stepped in.


To be continued… Part 3: Thursday December 13Part 4: Thursday December 20