A Christmas Demon 2

Head and shoulders of black horse

A Rick Beck Story


Copyright © OLYMPIA50 2023. All rights reserved

Father’s Joy

It was a warm sunny day in the northwest of the country, and the horses frolicked in the main pasture where they’d been let out early in the morning, once they’d got their morning oats. Well fed and set free, the colts were frisky, the mothers hesitant, and the stallions ran and ran as far as they could see before returning, letting their powerful muscles test the earth under them.

Father Samuel parked his car off to one side and walked toward the pasture fence. He’d seen Michael’s blond hair flowing in the breeze. He was sitting on top of the black Arabian that had adopted Michael before the Horatio Arnolds had adopted both him and young Kenny Kelly five years before.

Michael was grown now, and he’d picked working on the Horatio Arnolds’ horse farm rather than more school. Father Samuel was sure it was the right choice for a spirited boy like Michael. He’d never liked being indoors and Major Wellington wasn’t getting any younger. Michael did most of the heavy lifting now while letting the major be in charge.

“My word, Father Samuel, you should have let us know you were coming over. We’d have prepared something for you. Come in for tea. I’ve got a marvelous new marmalade you can try.”

“Horatio Arnold,” Father Samuel said as he took the approaching man’s hands in his. “You’re looking fit. I decided I needed to check in on the boys. I keep so busy, and while I keep telling myself I’m going to come over, I’ve found I make appointments I then don’t keep. I won’t do that to the Horatio Arnolds. I made up my mind to drive over this morning without an appointment.”

“You’re always welcome, Father. We’d prepare something if you’d let us know,” Horatio said as the two men turned toward the fence.

“My God, he’s magnificent,” Father Samuel said.

“The Demon. He’s king of the walk, Father. Most beautiful horse flesh I’ve ever encountered,” Horatio kidded, knowing the man had meant Michael.

“Michael. Michael. He’s grown into such a magnificent man.”

“Oh, Michael, my son,” Horatio laughed. “Yes, they’re two of a kind, Michael and Demon. Both are magnificent.”

The two men stood side by side as Michael came trotting over. Demon jumped the fence with relative ease and Michael came off his back once he’d stopped beside the two observers.

“Father Samuel. Morning, Papa,” the regal young man said, heading straight for the priest.

Michael swept Father Samuel up in his arms to give him an affectionate hug.

“Father.” Michael nodded at his father, then looked at the other man. “Father Samuel, you are looking well.”

“Michael, he’s a priest. You don’t hug a priest.”

Horatio spoke with alarm in his voice.

“Nonsense. He was my father before you were, Papa. He needs to be hugged, and hugged often. Not easy, raising 30 sons.”

“You’re a handsome one, Michael,” the priest said. “I remember you as a scrawny little boy when you first came to me. The girls won’t be able to keep their hands off of you.”

“Not to mention the boys, Father, but all is fair in love.”

“You’ll never get in heaven talking like that, Michael.”

“I’ll have no trouble there. I’ll charm St Peter out of his sneakers, Father,” Michael bragged.

“Get on with you now. You always were an imp,” the priest said.

“And you’ve been neglecting us. Kenny will be delighted to see you. Brian and Simon are due in class as soon as Kensington arrives. He might let you say hello. They’d love to see you.”

“And where is Kenneth?” Father Samuel asked.

“He’d already been down to breakfast before I came down,” Horatio said.

“He’ll be in the library reading, Father,” Michael said. “He’ll go back to university in another week. Always with his nose in a book.”

“Who would have known that shy little boy would be a scholar? That’s your doing Horatio. You gave him a home and that’s all he needed to get his feet set under him,” the father said. Then he asked, “Brian and Simon? How are they doing? Maybe they can come by and say hello to the boys. They’re still remembered at the home.”

“You have the floor, Michael. You know your brothers’ minds,” Horatio said. “I can only guess what they’re thinking.”

“Brian would be cleaning out stalls with Wellington. Simon is probably still in bed. He’s still shell shocked from being here after he was where he was. Takes a bit of time to realize you’ve fallen into the clover, Father. Brian brothers him and he tolerates me because I’m bigger than he is. When the Horatio Arnolds take you in, you have time to adjust. Kensington will yank him out of bed when he comes.”

“I can’t get over how much you’ve grown, Michael,” the father said.

“We all grow up, Father. I couldn’t stay a runt forever.”

Michael stood six foot one and his shoulder length blond hair hung to his broad shoulders. He was slim and well proportioned. In his cutoffs with the slits up the sides, his strong thighs made it possible to sit astride Demon without a saddle. Demon walked behind the three as they moved toward the house, nibbling with his lips at Michael’s hair.

“Brian, look who’s here!” Michael yelled as the boy appeared out of the stable. Brian changed course to walk toward his brother.

“Father Samuel,” the seventeen-year-old redhead said.

“You’re looking well, Brian. So, you help the major?”

“Before school, Father. He tries to do it all himself. I do what I can. I love the horses. They treat me quite well here.”

“You’re treated no better than you deserve, Brian,” Horatio said.

“You deserve the best, Brian,” Father Samuel said. “And you’ll get the best here.”

“I know, Father,” the smiling boy said. “It’s hard to forget... before,” Brian said, pushing Michael when he got beside him.

The two boys playfully shoved each other. Michael was bigger but he was gentle with his brothers. He knew they came from difficult places. Being close to their ages, he was best able to help them adapt to the Horatio Arnolds.

“Father, come in for some tea. I’ll try to round up Kenny and Simon. They’ll be out of sorts if they knew you were here and I didn’t call them,” Horatio said.

“Yes, Father, let me get my shirt on. We’ll have tea and maybe Agnes will fix us muffins,” Michael said as they walked toward the house.

In the dining room they sat around the table with a combination of tea, coffee, and jellies and jams to slather on the muffins Agnes brought out on a platter. The boys dug in as boys do.

“Father, I wish you’d given us a chance to prepare for you,” Gen said, as she greeted the father. He had strawberry jam on his lips.

“Nonsense, Mrs. Horatio Arnold. I need no preparations when I come to see family. The boys are all so, so, grown.”

“Fine young men all,” Gen said. “Oh, Agnes, coffee with cream, please. Do we have enough muffins for this army?”

“Yes, ma’am. Baker sent two dozen yesterday. I think we can make it through breakfast. I’ll call and order two dozen more.”

“Kenneth, what are you reading?”

“The Great Upheaval. I never realized how important the American Revolution was that it was at the time Europe, England, and the Russians were all engaged in wars. The French were barbarians. Off with their heads,” Kenny exclaimed.

“That was the queen in Alice in Wonderland,” Michael said.

“That was also the French,” Kenny explained.

“And what did George III have to say about the Colonies?” Horatio asked.

“Papa, when George III heard, General Washington was retiring to Mount Vernon after the Colonies were set free. Georgie said, “If Washington does that, he’ll be the greatest general in history, and Washington did it. When George III heard President Washington was retiring to Mount Vernon after eight years of being president, Georgie said, “If Washington does that, he’ll be the greatest man in history.”

“My word,” Horatio said. “I knew Washington was the father of America. Little did I know our king thought so highly of him.”

“Papa, generals and kings didn’t relinquish power once they took it. Once a king comes to power, a man like George III couldn’t conceive of relinquishing power. Washington willingly gave up power. That set the stage for presidents to leave office peacefully. Up until then, monarchs left when they died or were deposed.

“George III was a creature of a system where royalty ruled. The idea he’d walk away from power wasn’t a thought he’d have had. It’s still that way today but there’s a lot less killing of kings.”

“Edward renounced power,” Simon said.

“Different time, Simon,” Michael said. “The royals were no longer all powerful, and Edward didn’t want the responsibility. Loving an American woman gave him the excuse to walk away from the throne.”

“My word,” Father Samuel said. “I’ve never heard such things. Horatio, are you aware of what your sons are reading?”

“The Church is like the royals in many respects, Father. It is burdened by the power it seeks to hold onto. The church will never willingly relinquish power,” Michael said. “Too scary for prelates.”

“It’s breakfast,” Genevieve said. “It’s too early for a donnybrook. Can’t we at least wait until lunch to solve the ills of man?”

“Yes, Father Samuel didn’t come to argue politics. I’m raising a bunch of anarchists, Father. They see the way things are and wonder why. I must say, I wonder that myself at times.”

“Kensington is here, sir,” Agnes said. “He’s asking for the boys.”

“Thank you, Agnes. Show him into the library. Simon, Brian, finish up and join Kensington in the library. Say goodbye to Father Samuel. He’ll no doubt be gone by the time your lessons end.”

“Oh, Papa,” Simon said. “Just a few more minutes. We hardly ever see Father Samuel.”

“Get real, Simon. No one is buying that baloney. Your time is up. Go do your lessons,” Michael ordered, smiling.

“Can’t blame a guy for trying, Father. Duty calls,” Simon said.


Father Samuel said goodbye to the Horatio Arnolds, and Michael walked him toward his car. Demon fell in behind the two, walking behind them as he waited for another go at exercising.

“How are the boys, Father? How many do you have now?”

“Three came to us last week. We have twenty-seven. At times I wonder how we’ll feed them all, Michael. You remember how everyone is away during the summers and our coffers go empty.”

“You didn’t mention money to Papa. You know he’ll make sure you have enough food,” Michael said.

“Your father does too much already. I won’t ask him for more.”

“Yes, but I will. You can expect help before summer’s end. He’ll likely need to come over to see what your needs are. Maybe I’ll come over and see how this crop of boys is coming along, Father.”

“You’re always welcome, Michael. The boys like it when you come. We don’t get a lot of visitors,” Father Samuel said.

“I’ll see you soon, Father,” Michael promised.

Father Samuel watched as he put his arm around Demon’s neck and swung himself up onto the horse.

“You’ve never heard about saddles, Michael. How do you stay up on him?” the priest asked.

“We’re the same animal, Father. You can take us individually, but we are only complete when we are together.”

Father Samuel shook his head. Michael guided the stallion away from the fence and the priest. Once he’d gone far enough away, he galloped the black beauty straight toward the fence. At the last instant the horse took to the air and soared over the barrier taking Michael with him.

The priest turned his car around and started home.


Major Wellington stood at the top of Demon’s stall. He watched Michael wiping down the big stallion. Demon glistened as his head stayed in the bucket of oats he’d been provided.

“You take better care of that horse than you do of yourself,” the major said.

“He does all the work. He deserves to be treated special. He is special.”

Demon whinnied approval and he took a drink from a second bucket before eating more oats. “Damn horse is almost human,” the major said, going back to feeding the other horses.

Michael finished with Demon and secured the door when he left the stall.

“How’s the father, Master Michael? I saw his car over by the fence.”

“Having trouble keeping all those boys fed. He won’t ask Papa for more because he gives so much to the home all ready.”

“Children need to eat. I can mention it to Horace if you like. He’ll want to help,” the major said.

“I plan to mention it but you can mention it, too. Yes, he’ll send something over. Maybe we can go to town and get things I know the father uses. Take it to the home. Save the father some work.”

“Good idea, Michael. I’d enjoy saying hello to Father Samuel. Haven’t seen him in awhile.”

Two days later, Major Wellington and Michael unloaded food from the back of the Land Rover. There were hundred-pound bags of oatmeal, flour, and sugar. Michael drank a glass of iced tea Matilda handed him, while the major got a five pound bag of coffee out of the Land Rover that he’d bought with his own money. He carried it toward the office and knocked on the father’s door.

“Yes,” the father said, swinging the door open. “Major, how lovely to see you. How are you?”

“I’m fine, Father. We brought a few things for your kitchen, and I bought you this.”

“My word, Wellington, you shouldn’t be spending your money on me,” the father said, “even if I do enjoy a morning cup of coffee.”

“Nonsense, we all need our morning coffee. You’re no exception just because you’re plugged into God. I’m sure He has His morning coffee. Hard to start a day without it. It’s the last thing you’d buy when times are tight. I bought it for you.”

The two men walked together and found Michael putting the big bags in the pantry for Matilda.

“Master Michael, I wasn’t begging for food. You shouldn’t have bothered Horatio.”

“He didn’t. I did once he told me your situation,” Major Wellington informed the priest. “The children need to eat. You can’t be waiting around for someone to offer to help. People are all on vacation this time of year, Father.”

“Horatio does so much already,” Father Samuel said. “Praise the Lord he does.”

“He isn’t about to let these boys go hungry. He has the means to help,” the major said.

“He wouldn’t have it any other way, Father Samuel,” Michael said.

“It’s tight everywhere, Father. Even Horace talks of the cost of everything being on the rise.”

Michael stood next to the Land Rover watching the boys flooding out of the school to play. He remembered when he was among them. He’d been adopted by the Horatio Arnolds and he now lived a fine life, but he remembered the boys and how each wished someone would come to rescue them. In the meantime, Father Samuel took care of them. They were well fed, and adequately clothed, housed and schooled. Most boys knew their circumstances were no fault of their own, and they had more than many children had.


It took Michael a while to get the sleigh out of the top of the barn. He’d been looking at it for several years, but he hadn’t known what to do with it. The snows in the northwest weren’t predictable, but snow was long overdue. It might snow in time for his plan to work.

He contemplated putting wheels on the sleigh, but that wasn’t how he wanted it to go. He’d pray for snow. They’d use the Land Rover if it failed to snow in time.

When he’d told Horatio what he wanted to do, his Papa’s right eyebrow had risen a bit as he calculated the odds were against a white Christmas this year.

“How many bags of oatmeal, Michael?” Horatio asked, as he looked at the bags in the barn.

“Three, Papa. Can’t fit any more in the Land Rover. With you, Mum, and the boys in the sleigh, we can carry the gifts in the back. That will leave room for Kenny, Brian, and Simon.

“Wellington shall bring the Land Rover around to the kitchen, and we shall come up the driveway in the sleigh,” Michael explained.

“You do know there’s no talk of snow, Michael?”

“It’ll snow, Papa. God wants the boys to have a happy Christmas,” Michael said.

“You have more faith than I have,” Horatio lamented. “We’d better get to the house. Agnes was taking the goose out of the oven when I started down. It will be cool enough to serve by now.

“Well, it is clouding up some,” Horatio said as he and Michael stepped out of the barn.

“It’ll snow, Papa. It must.”

“Hasn’t snowed the past two years at Christmas,” Horatio said.

“Remember the night Kenny and I met you, Papa? It sure snowed some that night.”

“That was New Year’s Eve,” Horatio said. “One of the best nights I can remember.”

“Yes, it was,” Michael agreed. “It’ll snow, Papa. It has to snow, or we’ll need more than the Land Rover to carry everything. Maybe in two trips we could carry it all. I do want everything to be perfect for the boys.”

No one was all that happy as Agnes began bringing dinner to the table.

“Mr. Arnold and Michael are coming. They’re walking up from the barn,” Agnes said.

Michael, Wellington, and Simon were studying the sacks filled with gifts in the study.

“Gentlemen, you can look at the gifts after dinner. Agnes has the food on the table,” Genevieve said from the doorway.

“We can use the farm truck, but that thing won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s Christmas. It’s a farm truck,” the major said. “Too late to do anything about that.”

“We’re late for dinner, Major. Agnes always prepares a feast on Christmas Eve.” “I hate to stall dinner a minute longer, but there’s something you gentlemen need to know.” Kenny said, “It’s snowing. It’s snowing.”

“It’s snowing,” Simon said. “Look at it coming down. It’s snowing.”

Michael danced in a circle grabbing his mum by the hand and, dancing her around the study. “My word,” Horatio said. “It is snowing. Fancy that. Michael said it would snow, and just look!”

“It is snowing, sir,” Agnes said, delighted. “It’s snowing. I’ve been praying for snow all day.”

“You would be,” Horatio said. “You’re a good woman, Agnes. Your prayers saved the day.”

The dinner was wonderful and the food and drinks were happily devoured with the joy everyone felt. One or the other of them got up to watch it snow harder and harder as they ate.

Stanley helped Michael load the last sacks of gifts into the sleigh. Michael backed Demon up to the sleigh and affixed the harness to him, speaking softly to him the entire time. Demon trusted Michael and didn’t do more than shiver a couple of times.

When Wellington brought out the bells he’d been saving for last, Demon wasn’t that happy about the jingling sound the bells made when he moved. Agnes and Stanley got into the Land Rover, and the Horatio Arnolds and their boys got into the sleigh.

Michael started Demon off at a slow pace. The bells jangled and Demon tried to see where the noise came from. He realized that he could make them louder, or softer, according to how he moved. As they left the driveway, Demon began to canter, and as he moved to the sound, he danced along the road leading toward the boys home. The boys and Father Samuel heard the jingling of the bells before Demon pranced into view.

He proudly pulled his family through the falling snow.

As the sleigh came into the driveway, the boys flooded out of the doors. They were singing Jingle Bells.

“Jingle Bells. Jingle Bells. Jingle all the way...” They ended with “... a one horse open sleigh.”

The visitors left the sleigh to go stand beside Father Samuel who was delighted to watch his happy boys. The snow turned Father Samuel’s black hair white.

The boys gathered around Santa as he removed the sacks of presents from the sleigh.

“Ho, Ho, Ho. Look what Santa’s brung you. Ho, Ho, Ho,” Santa said, handing gifts out to the eager boys.

Demon nibbled with his lips at the back of Santa’s long blond hair.

“Matilda has been preparing her spicy cider for the Horatio Arnolds. Let’s go in and let the boys and Santa celebrate together,” Father Samuel said.

Kenny, Brian, and Simon helped Santa give out the gifts.

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all, a good night,” Michael sang. “Ho. Ho. Ho.”


And a Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night. RB

Not wanting to step in anyone’s turkey dinner, I saved this for last:

If you think homeless kids are homeless without a lot of help, you’d be mistaken. Forty percent of homeless kids are LGBTQ. They are homeless because of many factors, but most are a product of good Christians who have been brainwashed into thinking that throwing away gay kids is a good idea.

Jesus Christ—you remember him, the guy who gave the Sermon on the Mount and spoke the words that appear in Mathew 25—never said, ‘Throw away your gay kids.’ Jesus was an advocate of brotherly love that extended to your kids.

This Christmas, yes, Christ mas, homeless kids, 40% of whom are LGBTQ, will probably go hungry for the most part. They’ll be cold because there are few safe places for them to get warm. We live in a harsh world. It doesn’t need to be this way, but people insist on it.

Would Christ be proud of them? No, Jesus wouldn’t like them using his name to preach hatred for anyone. His love for us is unconditional. He walked with ‘the least of these’ for a good reason.

“Go forth and sin no more.”

Paraphrasing: “Go forth and throw away no more of your LGBTQ children, Dude.”

No, he never said that. He didn’t think he needed to. He made himself quite clear on love.