by David Armand

Christmas morning and you’ve already opened up all your gifts: the accumulation of a meager year, but still you’re glad for this airtight ammunition box made of industrial plastic, even though you have no shotgun shells to put in it yet and your .410’s locked away in your father’s closet.

You’re looking at this camouflage-green box and imagining it filled with rows of ammunition, and then chambering one of those red plastic shells in your gun’s dark barrel in hopes of killing a duck or a squirrel or a rabbit.

This is when your father comes into your room. He looks down at you looking down at  that box and he asks you how much money you got for Christmas that year. You tell him (it’s really not that much since you’re only nine and your family’s poor anyway) and then he asks if he can borrow it.

Although he doesn’t say, you already know what it’s for, but you tell him “Yes” anyway. What else are you going to say? “No?” He promises he’ll pay you back. With interest. As if that makes handing over your Christmas money so that your dad can buy beer with it a better deal.

You open your Velcro wallet—the sound like tearing a sheet of construction paper in a quiet classroom—and you pull out the crumpled ones and fives. He takes them without ever looking directly at you.

“Thanks, babe,” he says. “I’ll pay you back. Don’t worry.” But you know he never will.

Then he leaves your room, head down and headed to whatever dark place would be open on Christmas morning, serving alcohol to men without families as well as to those, like your father, who left theirs at home beside a wilting tree spackled with blinking white lights and cracked ornaments. And it is then, as he shuts the door behind him, that you know you’ll be spending the rest of your life paying off your father’s debts.

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David Armand
David Armand was born and raised in Louisiana. He now teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also serves as associate editor for Louisiana Literature Press. He has published three novels, a memoir, and collection of poetry. His website is: www.davidarmandauthor.com

8 thoughts on “Wallet

  1. This brief story packs an emotional punch. I’d make one suggestion that you rework the last paragraph and leave out most of the last sentence from “that you know…paying your father’s debts.” End with a snapshot like “I watched blankly as he shut the door before me.” Or something like that. Let the picture convey the emotion of the situation.

  2. I agree with George that the story packs a punch. I agree, too, that it’s impact would be heightened by tightening the telling. Consider: In para 3, dropping the parenthetical phrase; in paragraph 4, drop the first phase, starting the paragraph with “You know what it’s for..;” and dropping the last sentence; end the last paragraph “He closes the door and you hear the click.”

    Pardon the intrusiveness of the suggestions. It’s your story to tell. But gems are worth polishing. AGB

  3. Your wonderful opening creates a powerful foreboding. Why not let that work for you in the end? Milk that image of the ammunition box a little more so that it has a reason for being there in the first place. I agree with AGB that gems are worth polishing and this is definitely a “gem”.

  4. I loved this. There’s a lot packed into a very short story. I suggest leaving out the last sentence and replacing it with her ruminating about the gun and what (or whom) she might kill with it.

  5. Good things do come in small packages. Nice descriptions and naration. Made me feel I was in the room, watching.

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