"Okay, children, time to settle down a bit," Adele said. “Soon your father will be back in to have his supper and kiss us all goodnight."
“We're going to eat tonight also, aren't we?" Mary, the oldest girl asked.
“We're all going to have something to eat," Adele said.
“Where has daddy gone?" Nathan asked.
"He didn't say where he was going," Miranda said. “Most likely to beg drinks at the tavern."
* * *
Sleet blew at a slant across the muddy, barren cemetery alongside the church. Efram coughed and wheezed as he pitched shovelfuls of dirt from deep in the grave onto a mound along its perimeter. At last there was a clanking sound as the shovel struck the outside of a wooden casket. Efram sat the shovel aside and using his bare hands dug around the casket until he found a latch, and then opened it. A female corpse dressed in fine satin lay on silk padding, her hands crossed over her shriveled breasts. Around her rotting neck was a gold necklace and on one of her withered fingers a ring with a small blue sapphire. Efram removed the necklace and ring and put them in his shirt pocket and closed the lid.
“Now my children will eat," he said.
He climbed out of the grave and shoveled the dirt back on top of the coffin, patted it down, then headed home, his head down against the wind and sleet.
* * *
As Efram sat at the dinner table, Miranda raised the lid from the pot and stirred the brackish water with a large wooden spoon. The children sat around the table with their father, with the exception of Jack, who stealthily walked up behind his father and hit him in the back of the head with a wooden mallet. Efram slumped unconscious head first onto his empty bowl. When he awoke a short while later his hands and legs were tied and he was lying on the table.
* * *
“What's happening?" Efram said, struggling and unable to free himself.
“We're going to eat proper-like tonight," Miranda said. “Nathan, you won, so you get the first cut."
Adele handed the child the butcher knife, then kissed her husband on the cheek. “This is goodnight forever," she said.
Nathan sliced off his father's hand and threw it in the open pot. Then each child took their turn.
Before cutting out his beating heart, Miranda said “I've made a shirt for your bones to be buried in." She held up the one she had been sewing and tossed aside the bloody shirt he had been wearing. The jewelry fell out of the pocket and onto the floor.