Ned’s eyes were still squeezed tight, his hand still pressing the
trigger, but the explosion hadn’t come from his gun. Several more quick
loud bangs exploded. Someone was pounding on the door. This was unreal,
he thought. Why now? Ned’s hands were shaking, but he was too distracted
to notice. Who could possibly be knocking loudly at his door? It was
probably some lost drunk or desperate strung out hooker. They had picked
the wrong place and the wrong time. Gritting his teeth in fury, Ned stood
up suddenly, put his hand and his pistol in his pocket and flew to the
He pulled open the door furiously. A wave of cold wet air greeted
him. The rain coming down sounded like bacon sizzling over a stove. In
the dim light he made out the figure of someone standing just outside the
reach of the dim light.
The figure thrust something towards him silently. Ned looked at the
figure and the item suspiciously. The person took a step closer and Ned’s
eyes grew menacing and dangerous.
It was Gabe.
He had to have a death wish. Ned was frozen in anger. He stood
glaring at the clerk in utter disbelief. The mild clerk was holding a
small red box with a bow on it, smiling while water dripped down his face.
“Merry Christmas from the Atlas Motel,” he grinned.
“Since so many of our guests are away from home on Christmas, I
thought I’d bring Christmas to them,” Gabe explained. He extended his
hands, putting the gift within reach. For awhile Ned just glared at Gabe,
but the clerk didn’t seem to understand social cues.
Finally, Ned grabbed the box roughly, tore the lid off without
looking at the package, his hard eyes riveted angrily on the hapless clerk.
He withdrew a white dove with a red ribbon around its neck. Gabe smiled
as Ned glanced down at the small ornament.
“It’s a dove,” explained Gabe tentatively. “Christmas is about peace
on earth, and the dove is a symbol of peace. Beautiful if you think about
it.” His warm brown eyes searched Ned’s face for a hint of appreciation or
Ned fixed Gabe with a dangerous stare. Gabe shifted uncomfortably,
his smile fading. Ned’s eyes were hard, cold, and emotionless. Dropping
the red box, he slowly raised the dove to Gabe’s face and with both hands
proceeded to rip the dove’s head off, dropping it to the ground and
intentionally grounding it into the carpet, his eyes never leaving the
clerks. He crushed the rest of the ornament with his powerful hands and
let the remnants fall to the ground.
Gabe grimaced as the scene unfolded before him.
“Why are you so angry? It was a gift,” Gabe said quietly.
“Christmas is a gift,” Gabe said gazing down sadly at the crushed ornament.
“That’s a lie!” Ned shouted, a fury rising within him. “Nothing’s
free in this life, Pal, nothing! You paid for that out of the profits from
Atlas Motel, from the cheap flea trap rooms you rent to hookers with their
Johns, drug users, and players from the town who don’t want their wives to
catch them with their mistresses.” Ned was livid. It wouldn’t have taken
much for him to cross the line and do great bodily harm to this stupid man.
At this point, he had no fear of society’s laws. They could not reach him
where he was planning to go. He was free of all consequences.
But for some reason, perhaps sheer stupidity Ned thought, Gabe never
looked frightened. He just slowly looked up into Ned’s eyes, and the look
disturbed Ned. The clerk’s large brown eyes were filled with sadness and
“No actually, Mr. Phillips, I didn’t,” he said, barely audible above
the rain. He looked down again at the crushed dove and then back into
Ned’s harsh gaze. Rain streamed onto his bald head, down his forehead, and
created a small fountain at the end of his nose.
“You’ve got to let go of that anger,” Gabe said, shaking his head and
looking down at the crushed ornament.
Unable to control himself, Ned slammed Gabe’s body so hard that the
clerk was sent careening backward into a car, bouncing off of it and
falling hard face first into a puddle. Ned slammed the door behind him so
violently that the lone picture fell off the wall onto the bed.
Ned wanted to end his life as quickly as he could.
Suddenly, the TV began buzzing loudly again.