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  • Writer's pictureSimon Howard


Updated: Mar 14, 2020

My uncle, Len Hammer, was nearly moved to tears on Christmas Day.

‘This is the first Christmas in years that all me sons have been out of prison at the same time.’

A round of applause from the Hammer boys and their mum, my Auntie Doris, who was training to be a probation officer. Uncle Len went on sternly:

‘And I don’t want to find that any of the presents have been nicked from somewhere else.’

I was only eight, but even I realized this was a bit optimistic.

The handing out began. When it came to my present from my uncle and auntie, I was excited to see a large, round bowl filled with water – and something darting about inside it.

‘What’s that?’ I squealed.

‘A catfish,’ said Auntie.

‘Oh!’ I said. ‘I’ve never heard of that – what does it eat?’

‘Cats!’ shouted one of the Hammer boys, who’d been locked away for a long time and had only recently been let out.

I ran from the room, dashed into the kitchen, grabbed the elderly tabby cat and tore upstairs with it. I opened the bottom drawer of an old chest in Uncle and Auntie’s bedroom and thrust the cat in, pushing it closed in the fraction of a second.

Phew, I thought, hardly noticing the miaowing coming from inside. I sat there for ten minutes, till I realized the cat had gone silent. I pulled open the drawer and saw the old thing was barely conscious. Another Hammer boy appeared in the doorway.

‘It’s not good to put things away for too long,’ he said.

He came over and lifted the cat out of the drawer.

‘Come on, let’s go and feed him. It is Christmas, after all…’


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