Something collided with the cell bars above him and reverberated against the crown of his head. Paulie scurried away from the sound and covered his now aching skull with crossed arms to protect it from further damage.
“Get your lazy ass on your feet if you want anything to eat,” the blurry man in uniform yelled at him. “There’s a cup of coffee and oatmeal there by the door.” The baton that rang out the metal tune on his head moments ago pointed in the opposite direction. “Serve yourself. This ain’t the Holiday Inn.”
Waking up on a cold slab that hung from a concrete wall at Jefferson County jail was a helluva way to spend Christmas morning. The bed felt as flat against his back as the empty wallet in his pocket. Paulie knew good and well his kids were at home expecting to open presents Santa Claus hadn’t brought from the North Pole this year. The coward in him was glad to not witness their disappointment.
Growing up, Paulie’s family ofttimes had its own lean years. His mom would find a way, some kind of hustle, to get his sisters and him a little something. Even if she had to stoop to making them all angels on some charity’s tree. The siblings enjoyed plenty of welfare dinners none the wiser.
Paulie would not only perpetuate the stereotype this year but do it one better. No money for gifts should’ve meant no cash for drinks, but he spent what he had regardless. All the bender did was land him an overnight stay in lockup. Not the best place to be when he should have been putting out cookies and milk for the fat man and carrots for some flying reindeer.
The tree he’d chopped down after dark at the nature preserve would still be there when he got out three days later, dried out and bound to start a house fire. A single strand of tinsel hung listless from a parched branch, and the ornaments still remained, but the spare presents were all gone. Along with his kids and wife. She must’ve taken them to her mother’s before Paulie got released. He figured as much would happen.
He opened the otherwise empty refrigerator and retrieved a beer before collapsing into the threadbare recliner. No cheerful carols rung out or kids’ laughter greeted him. Paulie reached over and plugged the cord for the Christmas tree lights into the outlet anyway.
*Our Write Side writing prompt – ofttimes