Before

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As the man walked into the dark, lonely apartment, he relaxed. Looking around, he saw that the answering machine had filled up with customers. He dropped the fat wad of money on the food-stained sofa and fell into a chair. As he stared off into space, his mind drifted back to previous years, back to his childhood.
He could remember a time before the pain. A short time, but a happy one. When his family had gone to the pool together, had picnics in the park. When ‘mom’ was a word used frequently in their house. Before the smell of hospitals, the taste of tears, and the agonizing good byes. Before the funeral.

The man recalled one day at preschool. The previous night had been a bad one; daddy was real upset. There was a big purple bruise on his cheekbone; it hurt to smile. He had told his teacher he’d run into a doorknob. Why did daddy have to hit him? He didn’t do anything wrong. In his hands was a teddy bear; its button eyes began to bulge as his grip clenched tighter around its neck…

The phone rang, snapping him out of his trance. He slowly dragged himself out of the chair and reached for the phone. “Tonight? I’ll have someone ready for you…”





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