"Yes, I can certainly do that. No, it won't disturb plans I'd already made. No, don't worry. And . . . I'm really sorry. Yes, until then, the afternoon of the 23rd.No, no problem in getting down there by then. Yes. Again, I'm really sorry about that. Yes, you're right; we've lost out on too much time. Until then.Good-bye." 

"No plans, did I hear you say?" 

I turned and looked at Thad where he reclined in the bed, his hand on his cock, obviously keeping himself up for what we'd been interrupted doing. "We have tickets for the Cirque du Soleil on Thursday. That's December 23rd, if you've forgotten." 

"I can't not go. That was my mother." 

"Down in Mississippi?" 


"You haven't been there in how long?" 

"Ten years." 

"Because your parents don't understand or accept, I had thought." 

"Not my mother. That was my father. The Baptist minister." 

"Ah.But why now? Why on such short notice? We have tickets for the Cirque for Thursday. Why can't your parent come here? You haven't seen them in those ten years, have you? They could have come here as well as you going there. It would have been their turn, wouldn't it? You have rehearsals to resume right after New Years." 

"My mother has cancer. She can't come here. She can't go anywhere." 

"Ahh.Well, then. I don't suppose I should come with you?" 

"No, I don't suppose you should. Sorry." 

"I would, you know, if you wanted me to. And I'd be happy to do it." 

"Yes, I know. And I appreciate that." 

"I understand. Just come back to me and I'll be happy. Then I guess you'd better pack and scoot out of here. It's going to snow. You've kept saying you were looking forward to snow in Philadelphia, though, haven't you?" 

"Yes, I did," I answered quietly, my mind pretty much elsewhere. "But I guess I really should pack now." 

"If you're not going to be here for Christmas, I think I need my Christmas now." 

"I thought we agreed that the iPad was going to be your Christmas present." 

"That's when you were going to be here for the holidays. We both took plays that would be closed from Christmas past New Year's so we could be together this year." 

"I know. But that was before my mother called. That was before she let me know she had cancer." 

"A little bit of sugar and then I'll let you go. I'll even help you pack." 

"Thanks for understanding," I said. 

"What I understand is that you are mighty sexy," Thad whispered. "Come here." He reached out to where I was sitting on the side of the bed and encased my waist in his arms, his hand going immediately to my cock. I shuddered in anticipation of him being inside me and turned and reclined on the bed, facing away from him. 

He gathered me in and whispered in my ear, "Give me your ass. That's all I want for Christmas." He started to put the tune of the two-front teeth song to "All I want for Christmas is my true-love's ass." He had the voice to make it sound like an opera aria. 

I almost laughed, but if I had, it would have come out in a shuddered hiccup as aroused as I was at the feel of his erection on my naked buttocks. I'd given him my ass four years previously-and at Christmas, as I recalled. We'd both been in one of those brawny Roman soldier epics, both having had to bulk up for the shoots, and he'd liked the way I'd worn my little Roman skirt. He'd taken me against a wall behind the set, and we'd been together ever since. 

I knew what he wanted now, as I lay on my side, pressed into his chest and loins.I raised my buttocks toward his reclining body and arched my shoulders back toward his pecs, putting my torso in a taut bow shape. I groaned, with him holding my shoulder blades into his chest with an arm laced under my armpit and crossing my chest. His hand gripped my shoulder, and he entered me, entered me, entered me. 

I ever marveled at the thickness and length of him, even after years of having the measure of him and having been reamed to the size of him. His hands went to gripping both of my shoulders, arching me hard back to him, and I bent my upstage leg up hard into my chest to open to him as much as I could. 

As he began to pump me, I lost all track of my mother's phone call-and the tension and consternation of the unavoidable-now prospect of returning to Holly Springs for Christmas. It's true that I had been excited about the good prospect of snow for Christmas in Pennsylvania. It seemed there always were good prospects for snow at Christmas in the Philadelphia region. There'd be no snow in Mississippi. It was marginally possible. I just couldn't remember it ever actually having happened. 

All there would be would be bad-tasting memories and that embarrassment about how it had all started-and the uncertainty that I had outgrown the need and the hold that had been exercised over me then. 

If only I didn't melt so to big cocks. 

We were both panting before Thad was finished with me. With a jerk, he'd pulled out of me and shot up the small of my back. A long time before then, though, I had creamed the sheets by my belly, thinking, I would have been shattered to have to reveal, about a bigger cock than Thad's. 

"Merry Christmas," I whispered, as I turned toward Thad and was pulled into his body. We kissed, and then he said. "Just be sure you come back to me for New Year's." 

I told him I would, even knowing that I couldn't promise that. 

** * *


"Are you going to visit your father while you're here?" 

It was almost the first thing my mother asked me when I entered the antebellum house on Airlee Street in Holly Springs, twenty-five miles southeast of and a good century removed from Memphis. It was just one of five dozen old mansions like it in the town, all as well preserved now as they had been when I'd left in the middle of the night ten years previously. That was the problem with Holly Springs-and why I left. It couldn't get out of the mid nineteenth century. 

As I'd driven into town and made the circuit around the town square, I checked off everything that hadn't changed since I'd left-and that certainly wasn't going to change for me: Phillips Grocery, Booker's Hardware, Tyson Drug, the Greek Revival courthouse, Christ Church, my father's own First Baptist Church. All just the way I'd left them. Unchanging. Unchallenged. Unyielding. 

"I don't know, Ma. I just got here. I don't know what I'll have time to do. I came for you. What can I do for you? I see you have a tree, but it isn't fully decorated yet. You sit down over there on the sofa, and I'll finish with the tree. Is there anything I can get you? Are you in pain?" 

"Hill Crest is just up the street. I think you could manage the trip," she said, not giving ground. An exemplary resident of Holly Springs. Not giving an inch. 

But that wasn't fair. She hadn't condemned or criticized me, even though I could tell she'd been distressed and conflicted. It had been a shock, though, although there had been a few things I could have said about that that I didn't-things that would rock the foundation of the town if I'd told. But it hadn't been Ma who had lit into me. 

Of course, I couldn't say it had been my father, either. I could tell that he seethed, but he was quiet. Deadly quiet. And I could tell immediately what he thought. Just as I had been able to tell when I'd declared music and drama as my major down at Ole Miss University down in Oxford. He'd always wanted me to go into law and to be on the football team like he had been at Ole Miss. I was on the swim team and played varsity tennis. That was the closest I could come to his dream. Couldn't he have told any time in my life that I'd never be big and beefy enough to play football at any university? 

My mother went to the sofa and more like collapsed into it than sat down, but she persisted in what she'd wanted me to do. "Someone needs to clean the weeds from the grave, Clay. I haven't been able to go up to Hill Crest for more than a month. The weeds grow fast in the cemetery." 

"Couldn't you have Willie do it when he comes to mow the lawn?" I asked. 

"Willie's been gone for nearly two years, Clay. A lot has changed since you were here. I have a lawn service do it now." 

I wanted to scream that not much could have change-not enough for me to have come back before. Or even to come back now, except that it wasn't fair to my mother to totally desert her. She hadn't totally deserted me. She'd just let Holly Springs trump everything else, any possible change in attitudes. Holly Springs and my father. 

"We'll see," I said, not wanting to look at her, because she'd be able to tell that I wouldn't willingly go anywhere near my father, even though he'd been dead for four years. 

"He loved you, Clay," she said, almost choking on the words. "He showed it as much as he could-as much as was possible at the time as a Baptist minister." 

"Showed it? How did he show it, Ma?" 

"He never gave up on you." 

"Never gave up on me? You mean he continued to pray that I would come to my senses and be reborn a full, heterosexual man?" 

"No, I mean he accepted you in his heart, and although he couldn't take a strong stand and continue to minister to his flock, he never again-not after that night you told us-let a word of condemnation of . . . your people . . . leave his lips. And that was not easy to do in Holly Springs, and especially for a Baptist minister." 

I had to admit that she was right there. It would be very hard to do in the Baptist community in Holly Springs-ten years ago. Or even now, in Holly Springs. But was it enough? My heart said it wasn't. 

"I was his son, Ma. What did it mean for me what he did to try to live within his comfort zone in Holly Springs?" 

"That's not really fair, Clay. This all was your choice, not his. He had a life of his own and faith to follow. But he did try. He tried to speak with you. Even after you left, he tracked you down and called you. But you hung up on him." 

"I knew what he had to say to me, Ma." 

"Do you, really?" 

I turned and looked at her. Her voice had hardened a bit. It was stronger, had more conviction behind it than I'd ever known it to have. "You feel OK, Ma?" I asked, genuinely concerned. "Is there any medicine or anything I can get for you?" 

"Bearing with me here is the medicine I need, son. Don't close down on me like you did on your father-by making assumptions." 

That brought me up short. "Assumptions, Ma?" 

"Yes.You assumed he disowned you because you didn't live up to his expectations, didn't you?" 

"It was fairly obvious, Mother. It wasn't just being gay and saying I was. It was all the other things in life. Not being what he expected, not what he wanted." 

"Not being what he expected or wanted? Are you still living under the misconception that your Grandmother Clayton paid for the training you got to be what you wanted? You never asked her? You just assumed she paid for it because she'd once said she'd see you set up in life?" 

"What are you saying?" 

"Your father didn't just pay for your college education, Clay. He paid for those voice and drama lessons too. And he attended every play you were in at the university-and kept a scrapbook of all the programs and the reviews." 

"Neither of you ever-" 

"You weren't exactly receptive in those days, Clay. You told us why later-that night you finally left. You didn't want your father or me to know. To know about your preferences. You judged us, but you didn't give us much of a chance. It was a shock, yes, but your assumptions closed down the communications between you and your father. He was slow to work it out, yes, but you weren't there even half way." 

"I didn't-" 

"And do you know why we don't have the scrapbook he pulled together anymore?" 

"He threw it away?" 

"No, Clay. Your father didn't throw it away. He went to your drama coach at Mississippi after you'd graduated and he got her to help him put it together in a portfolio to send to agents in New York. You thought it was just luck that got you an agent in New York-or that your drama professor did it. Well, your father did it. He was so busting with pride in you and your talent that he did what he could to let it shine. You can go down to Ole Miss and ask Ms. Danbury what's what on that, if you want." 

"I didn't know." 

"Of course you didn't know. You wanted to believe what you believed. You wanted to believe that no one here could accept you as you chose to be. It wasn't easy to do, of course, but your father was working at it. But you turned off and walked away." 

"But he never-" I was going to say that he never came looking for me in the six years between when I'd left home for New York and then Philadelphia and when he died. Well, five years, to be fair. But there were the phone calls I wouldn't take. Before I could say anything or work out what I was justified in saying, the doorbell rang. 

And going to the door, I found the other reason I'd had to leave Holly Springs abruptly ten years ago standing on the welcome mat on the front porch. 

** * *


"Milo's been a real help to me since your father died, Clay." 

I'll just bet he has, I thought. 

"He's always asking about you too." 

I'll just be he does, I thought. 

We were standing in the foyer where I could clearly see out onto the porch through the windows running up the side of the door. My mother had come across to let Milo Decatur in the house. It was turning gloomy outside. If I didn't know better, I would have said those were snow clouds forming up there. I had just stood there, knowing who it was, while my mother walked past me, turned on the porch light, and then let him in. 

Milo was from one of the First Families of the town-of the state, really. The family's origin was from the French who settled New Orleans and then migrated north from there. He was a man of tall stature and broad shoulders. He'd been quite handsome when young, with sultry dark looks and wavy black hair. He still was good-looking, although the hair had gone salt and pepper and he had thickened a bit around the middle, but no one would accuse him of having gone to fat. He was just more substantial, looking more one of the town's most prominent bankers which, indeed, he was. He lived in the more imposing house next door and had done so since before I was born. He was of the same generation as my father, if a bit younger. 

He didn't go to my father's church; he was a Catholic. I knew him primarily from mowing his grass and doing odd jobs around his house-even into my college years when I was home. He knew me intimately. 

He had never married, even though most of the daughters of the wealthy class in town had set their caps for him to strike a marriage-and most of the young women from across the tracks had made themselves available to him. The scuttlebutt was that he enjoyed the latter too much to be shackled by the former. I knew otherwise. 

"Do come in, Milo," my mother was saying. "Milo asks about you so, often, Clay, that I invited him to come over and visit while you were here. We just about have the tree trimmed. You could sit and visit with us. I have eggnog, and I could spike it with the poison of your choice. Clay, look on the bar in your father's study and see what we have in the way of-" 

"I thought that perhaps, since I'm still bundled up-it's turning cold and it smells like snow in the air, although it would be a miracle for us to get that here-that Clay could come over first and see what I've done inside the house in all those years he's been gone." Milo's smile was all for my mother. He didn't have the balls to look at me. 

"I don't think . . . I'll go check on the liquor supply," I mumbled. 

"Oh, that's a great idea," my mother said, beaming. "You should see the inside of that house, Clay. You wouldn't believe the changes Milo has made. Not that you saw much of the inside of the house, since you spent most of the time over there behind a mower." 

I saw plenty of the inside of the house, I thought. And spent a whole lot of time in there. 

"Let me take Clay over to my place first; then I'll come back for the eggnog and a visit." 

"That sounds like a plan," my mother answered. 

Yes, that's sounds just great, I thought. But then, I guessed it was inevitable and my body was working from memory and indicating approval. So, why the hell not.I'd come at least partly to exorcise the demons. 

"Really opened up the downstairs and have me a gourmet kitchen," Milo said breezily, as we entered his house. The downstairs tour seemed to conclude then, though, with just a sweep of his arm. Still a well-muscled arm, I thought. He may be a banker who spent his working hours behind a desk, but he still kept himself in remarkable shape for a man his age. The kind of man I gravitated to earlier in my life. 

"What I really want you to see is upstairs," he said, pulling me toward the massive staircase going up both sides of his wide foyer. 

I'll just bet you do, I thought. 

Two things came back almost immediately to my mind in his master bedroom upstairs.The first was the sound of the heavy, towering mahogany headboard as it rhythmically bumped against the wall behind it with the rolling movement of the old, creaking bed frame. The other was another sense of massive-the massiveness of Milo's hard cock. 

Milo was flat on his back in the middle of the bed, his arms raised above his head, his fists gripping a rail of the headboard. Looking intensely at me with those black, brooding eyes under the bushy eyebrows almost meeting in one streak of curly hair across his face. His expression was one of heavy concentration behind a half smile of victory and remembrance as he arched his back, centering all power at his slightly raised pelvis, and worked to get his monstrous cock as far up into me as possible. 

Knees bent, with my folded legs on either side of his hips, I straddled his pelvis, my buttocks raised just a bit to let him control the thrusts, as I remembered he liked to do. My torso was arched back, my hands cupping his knees behind me.My attention was concentrated on two spots-his impossibly thick and long cock working inside me and a water spot in the shadows of the corner of his bedroom ceiling that somehow hadn't been included in all of the renovation work he'd done in the ten years I'd been gone. 

I moaned involuntarily at the working of this magnificent cock. I couldn't deny I had dreamed about it frequently over the last decade. He revolved his pelvis, screwing himself ever deeper inside me. 

He laughed. "This is what you came back for, isn't it?" 

I murmured something that he could take either way. I had thought that I'd come back because my mother had cancer and it wasn't fair to leave her hanging when she asked to see me. But was it really this cock I had come back for? My first cock? The man who had seduced me and used me, who had put my life on the road it was on? 

Or had I come back primarily to exorcise this particular demon. I knew my mother wanted me to come home to make peace with my father. But did I really come home to cut Milo Decatur out of my system? 

He moved his hands, gripping my waist between them. Raising and lowering me on his cock-ever more rapidly. Impossibly, going even deeper with each pull onto the cock. 

Tired of thinking what I was doing here-here in Holly Springs; here in this man's bed again-I blanked out my mind from anything but concentrating on that monster cock that was sending me up the ladder into heaven-as he fucked and fucked and fucked me. 

He laughed when I came in long strings up his belly and allowed himself to come inside me soon thereafter. He pulled me down, close, onto his torso with his arms wrapped around me, as his hips and cock jerked and the cum spurted once, twice, three times deep up into my channel. I moaned as he withdrew but then, still holding me fast to him, slowly moved up inside me again and remained hard for more minutes of thrusts before he relaxed under me and started going flaccid. 

"You've kept it open," he murmured in my ear. "Remember how long it took you to be able to accommodate me?" 

I took that just as bragging that didn't require an answer. But, yes, I indeed did remember. It seemed to have taken that whole summer to totally erase my innocence. A summer of glorious exploration for me after that first erasing of my virginity to men. 

Later, he was still lying on his back in the center of the bed, smiling a satisfied smile and smoking a cigarette. I was sitting on the side of the bed, facing away from him, only knowing he was smiling because I remembered the little self-congratulatory smile he always smiled after fucking me and because I heard it in his voice. 

"You home for good?" he asked. "I can get you a job." 

"I have a job-in Philadelphia. I don't think there are any theaters around here that could afford me." I spoke to the wall across the room, the wall with the door leading into the master bath, not wanting to look at him directly. I trembled at the thought of that bathroom-the times Milo had fucked me against the shower wall, the water running down our steaming bodies, my knees hooked on his hips, my back sliding up and down the slick tiled wall to the rhythm of his upward thrusts. I was getting hard again-in spite of myself. 

Could I do it? Could I break with this man? I'd have to. My eyes went to the floor by the door into the bathroom. A small pair of navy-blue bikini briefs. 

"Yours?"I asked to the wall. 

"My what?" 

"Your briefs on the floor by the bathroom door." The room otherwise was as neat as a pin. 

He snorted. "Do I look like I wear skimpy blue briefs like that?" 

"So, you have no trouble getting young men?" I was working at giving him up-helping him to realize that, at twenty-nine, I no longer was one of the young men he liked to spike. 

"I don't have any trouble, no. But none have been you. Remember that first time?Popped your cherry, I did. And you didn't even know you wanted it. But I knew you did, yes I did. And you discovered it fast. Did you quickly. Came down off the porch after watching you mow shirtless. Just pulled you into the bushes, slapped your legs apart, and did you hard right there. Fucked you like a dog with your arm pulled up high on your back and you whimpering until what was done was done and then you were pushing back on me and asking for more of it.Learned fast enough, though. You asked for it again. Surprised me, you did. I figured when you went away to Ole Miss for that first year before that summer, you would have found your natural calling-what with all those big, randy bruisers they had roaming around that campus. But, no, you had saved yourself for me. Won't ever forget you giving your cherry to me." 

Yes, I remembered. Quite a revelation, although "take" was more the way to describe that first time than "give." It had explained a lot; I had, indeed, been in agony that first year of college, increasingly knowing what I wanted but too timid to seek it out-or to accept the offers I did get. And knowing that Milo had already offered it to me, even telling me that he knew I wanted it and would come to him one day for it. The wild fuck in the bushes by a big-cocked older man simplified a lot. But it made other things more complicated. 

"God, the thought of popping your cherry makes me horny again," he growled in a low, hoarse voice. 

It did me too. But this would be the last time. 

He sat up on the bed, his legs encasing mine, his hard cock pressing at the small of my back. I didn't fight him. He threw a beefy arm around my waist and lifted my body, tilting my buttocks toward his crotch. I bent my torso over and grabbed my ankles with my hands. 

He settled my channel on his cock, using his free hand to position the staff at my hole. I groaned and moaned as he pushed his cock up into me and pulled my channel down on him with the arm wrapped around my waist. His free hand went to my cock, and he began to stroke me off. 

I didn't fight him. I helped with the pumping action by leveraging off my feet while he thrust his cock upward. 

It was over too soon-but in the greater context not soon enough. 

"It was good for you," he said in that self-satisfied voice of his, after I'd pulled off his cock, stood, and turned. 

"Yes, it was good for me," I said, as I bunched a fist, drew it way back, and popped him one hard right to the mouth. He fell back onto the bed, both hands, one slathered with my cum. going to his face in surprise. His eyes were wide-questioning and hurt. 

"It was good for me, but it's the last time you are even to lay a hand on me." 

** * *


I sneaked back into the family home-it certainly wasn't the first time I'd done that from the mansion next door-and went directly to take a shower and to spray disinfectant on my knuckles and scrounge around for bandages. I had split the skin on three knuckles. I felt good about that. And I thought it just that it should hurt. I'd left Milo right where I'd put him, flat on his back on the bed and looking up at his bedroom ceiling with a confused look on his face. 

After dressing again, I came back downstairs and went into my father's study, looking for that liquor my mother had mentioned earlier. I wasn't a heavy drinker, but if this wasn't the time for a good slug of bourbon, I didn't know what time would be. 

After pouring myself four fingers, I wandered over to my dad's desk. All was neatness, just like my dad would have left it. He had been the neatnik in the family. The very "everything in its place" order on the desk led my eyes to an envelope laying in the center of the desktop. 

I recognized it as a letter, and I picked it up, my heart doing a flip as I also recognized it as a double-canceled letter from Hot Springs addressed to me-in my father's handwriting. The envelope was still sealed, and I recognized it as one that had come to me when I was in New York and that I had sent back unopened. Just one of a few. From the date, just four years ago, this would have been the last. 

My mind went to what my mother had rounded on me about earlier in the day, in as angry a response as I had ever heard from her. It was when she had said that my father hadn't been the one to give up on me. I'd acknowledged at the time that I hadn't taken a phone call from him. I had failed to acknowledge-and this envelope reminded me-that I also had sent letters back unopened. 

I didn't like receiving these revelations about the way I had acted in the confrontations with my father-or, rather, lack of them-over my having come out. 

It was only right and just that I listen to him now-if only to confirm what I had thought all along about his rejection of me for my choice of lifestyle and partners. 

I slit open the envelope and extracted the one large stationery sheet. I involuntarily teared up at the recognition of my father's tight, very correct and legible longhand script in flowing ink. I don't think the man had ever used a ballpoint pen in his life. It was part, I realized, of my belief that he was a man of a previous century-and of Holly Springs-a man who couldn't possibly understand and accept my choice. 

I am giving you warning, son, as I think that it's only fitting, that I'm coming to you in the next two weeks. Your sister has told me how to get to your place in New York. She's also told me about the young man you are with and that she likes him very much. I will tell you straight out that I am pleased that you have found someone to love as I found your mother. And beyond that, there need be nothing said . . . there need be nothing beyond that at all. Your mother and I love you, son-equally-and we only want you to be happy. We also want to feel that our family is whole, though. 

I was putting together a sermon the other day. One on the prodigal son. Have you ever looked "prodigal" up? One definition is "one who gives lavishly or foolishly," and another is"one who has returned after an absence." I thought about that in forming my sermon, and it occurred to me that the lesson to be harried in a sermon-and you know how I love to harry lessons in a sermon-was giving lavishly or foolishly. I thought upon that from the standpoint of my own sins, and I surprised myself to have the revelation that what I've lavishly and foolishly given was far too much of my time to silence between the two of us. The sermon I ended up with, which set the congregation to buzzing, I can tell you that, was that the son in the parable had come back after a long absence and all was fine in that situation-at least between those two-but what if time had been lavished for too long and the son had died-or the father had-before they came together again? That is the sin, I think, that the parable is getting to down deep. And it is a message to me as much as it is to you, I think. 

I believe we should stop lavishing time to silence and any hint of discord between us. Time is short. I am coming to see you, and I hope you will be there to receive me. Not the prodigal son, but the prodigal father. Nothing matters but that you are my son and I am your father. All else matters little. Perhaps your young man will be there too and we can meet. Or you can bring him to Holly Springs someday. Maybe this Christmas. 

I found I could not read further, other than glances down to the salutation and finding what I ached to see: "Love, Dad." 

I folded the letter and gently inserted it back into the envelope. Then I put the untouched glass of bourbon down on the coaster on the desk, left the room, and went and rummaged around in the mud room off the back porch. 

My mother rose from the sofa in the living room and met me in the foyer. I stuffed my skinned-knuckles hand in my pocket, needing more time to form an explanation for it. 

"You're going out?" she asked. "Are those your father's boots you have on?" 

"Yes, they are. The letter on the desk in dad's study. You put it there, didn't you?For me to find and to read-at last." 

"I thought it was time. Beyond time." 

"Did you know what was in the letter?" 

"I can guess. He told me what he was going to write." 

"And yet he didn't come." 

"He wrote that the week he died, Clay. He had his heart attack upstairs as he was packing his bag." 

"I never knew." 

"If you had come to the funeral, I would have told you. You and your father haven't been the only ones harboring hurts. Now, about those boots. They are a bit big for you, I think." 

"I think maybe dad's shoes will always be a bit big for me to fill. But I can use these. And I can try." 

"But why are you wearing them?" 

"I thought I'd go up to Hill Crest and clean the weeds off the grave. I trust I can find the tools I need in the shed out back. But, you look tired, and you shouldn't be straining yourself. Go back and rest." 

"There's nothing wrong with me, Clay. Oh, maybe a bit of a cold. But I feel tons better now than before you came home." 

"But your illness. The cancer." 

"Would you have come home if I'd said anything less than cancer was involved? And in a way, what has been belaboring this family has been a form of cancer. I decided it was time for a bit of surgery." 

Before I could say anything, she changed the subject. "There's a potted poinsettia plant in the dining room window you could take with you to lay against the headstone. I'm sure your father would like that." 

When I went out on the front porch, I could smell it in the air. And then I could see it. It had started to snow. Maybe miracle of miracles we'd have a white Christmas in Mississippi this year after all. It's something I would have liked Thad to see. 

My thoughts went back to the sentences in my father's letter: "Or you can bring him to Holly Springs someday. Maybe this Christmas." 

Why not this Christmas? Thad had said he would come if I wanted him to. It was only the 23rd. He had plenty of time to get here for Christmas.



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