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Giving Away a Manger

Coming out of the nursing home, Jess felt the tension so strongly that he wondered if his spine might snap. Flipping the collar of his coat up, he lifted his face to let the icy rain pelt his face; hoping it would wash away the poison inside him.

Poison that his father had spewed during the visit had seeped into Jess. When the young nursing attendant tried to reassure Jess that some times Alzheimer's patients often became mean and vicious, he just nodded his head and walked away. Jess didn't trust himself to speak; he knew that this had always been who his father was. He also knew that if he was to go home, the poison would fester and come out in what Ken termed as self destructive.

Ken took a dim view on Jess's self destructive thoughts and actions, and that dim view led to Ken destroying Jess's ass with a paddle. It may be the season of peace, Jess thought, but in their relationship, the decisions that Ken made still were in effect.

"We don't take a break from us. Or from what works for us." Ken had made that fact abundantly clear.

Walking toward his truck, Jess saw that the nursing home had tried to make the outside festive; the Virgin Mary, Joseph and a baby Jesus were situated on the lawns leading up to the front doors. Poor baby Jesus, Jess thought. The rain was dripping from his mother's bent head and splattering on his face. Getting in his truck, Jess started the engine and making a quick decision, turned toward Ken's shop.

Driving through the traffic put Jess even more on edge. Wet roads, close to Christmas, night time just setting in; he was glad to see the dark windows of the shop come into view. Wes must have closed the shop for the holidays, so Jess would have the shop to himself.

Striding inside, Jess took off his coat, found some discarded boards and went to work.


"I don't think that'll shelter Tippy too well," Ken said, startling Jess.

"Fuck! What are you doing here?" Jess snarled. Tippy plopped her butt down at the tone of Jess's voice. Jess cleared his throat as Ken leaned against a workbench. Deceptively casual, Jess thought. Ken's body was relaxed, but the look in his eyes was intense. "Ahem, what time is it?"

Jess shifted again as Ken stared into his eyes. Finally when Jess dropped his shoulders, Ken replied, "It's my shop and it's after 10. Tippy and I were getting....concerned."

"Shit, Ken. Sorry. Time must have gotten away from me."

"Ya don't say." Ken's sarcasm was light, but Jess knew not to push too hard. "I had Wes give the men their Christmas bonus and closed the shop for a week. Did we miss a job?"

"I had a last minute one, and decided to do it up myself," Jess said and then thought to himself, please don't ask me about it.

Obviously Ken didn't read minds as he asked, "What's the job? Why the rush to get it done?"

Feeling a bit foolish, and not liking the sensation, Jess snapped, "It's a manger. It's raining on Jesus's face."

"Is it done?"

Jess steamed at the lack of curiosity from Ken. "Yes."

"Let's load it in your truck, then."

The two men wrestled the small manger into the back of Jess's pick up while Tippy sat safe and dry inside the shop.

"Let me get the mutt, and we'll ride with you."

Jess wanted to tell Ken to take the dog and go home, but he knew from experience what a stubborn son of a bitch Ken was.

Tippy curled up on Ken's lap as Jess drove in silence to the nursing home. Suddenly Jess had an instant of awareness: Ken trusted him. That's why Ken hadn't asked any questions. Ken trusted him to know when the time was right to talk to him, he trusted Jess to ask for what he needed.

"After visiting Dad I noticed the Virgin Mary, Joseph and the Baby didn't have a manger," Jess explained. "I thought I'd make one and set it over them."

"That was nice of you," Ken said casually.

"No, I'm not nice. Not tonight. I've a lot of poison inside me," Jess admitted.

"Wanna talk about it?" Ken asked.

Jess felt the rest of his tension melt away. "Not now. Later?"

"Whenever you're ready, I'm here."

Turning into the driveway of the nursing home, Jess smiled at Ken. "Let's give away a manger first."


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