Sie sind auf Seite 1von 82

Miracle at Coffeeville

And other legends of Christmas




Darrell Case








Createspace publishers
A division of Amazon
Seattle, Washington

2


If youre like me, you love the season of Christmas. The
festive atmosphere, the tree, the gifts, the feasting, the songs. People
seem to be kinder to each other. There are gatherings with family
and friends. However, there is a danger. We can become so wrapped
up in the celebration that we forget the true meaning of Christmas.
That Christ came to provide for us eternal life. That the babe in the
manger was just a prelude to The Savoir on the cross.

It is my hope this little book will help you recapture the joy of
the season. May God bless you and may you have a wonderful
Christmas.

Angels Dust

For postal worker Jeff Marlow, Christmas is just another time to
relive the heartache of losing his wife and daughter. It will all end
tonight but then he finds a letter from a lonely little girl. She asks
Santa Claus for only one gift. Can Jeff overcome his pain and fulfill
her wish?

A Gathering of Angels

Bessies life seems to consist of nothing more than existence.
Stuck in a nursing home, Christmas has lost its meaning to her.
Bitter and resentful, she takes it out on those trying to help.
However, God isnt through with Bessie. He shows her the meaning
of Love Thy Neighbor.

The Christmas Mirror

Steven and Mandy have a matchless love. They fell in love in
kindergarten and as husband and wife, their love for each other has
grown ever deeper. She promises to spend each Christmas Eve with
him yet a few days before Christmas, Mandy is taken ill and dies.
Can the love she had for Steven transcend even death? Will her love
shine through the Christmas mirror?


3



Miracle at Coffeeville

The people of Coffeeville are barely surviving the Great
Depression. When it seems nothing worse can happen, Samuel
Owens takes over the bank. His hostility and resentment causes him
to oppress the destitute. He unmercifully forecloses on their farms
and businesses with the only alternative being to come work for him
at starvation wages. The people of Coffeeville pray for a miracle.
Will God answer in time? How can He change the heart of one so
wrapped up in hatred?

Snow Angels

Abigail loves her little brother Buddy yet sometimes he is an
irritation. When he accidentally dies, she blames herself. Believing
Christ can raise him from the dead, she risks her life in a blizzard.
Her father and the men of their church search for her but will they
find her in time or will there be two caskets to bury?

Music of the Night

Music is Ruths life. When arthritis destroys her gift, she applies
for a job as a janitor. Now she is cleaning the very theater where she
once performed. Hiding in the shadows, she waits until the others
leave, then with twisted fingers, she begins to play. With her hands
aching but with joy in her heart, she plays the music of her
childhood. Christmas is a time of miracles and God has one for
Ruth.

Apples of Gold

Denver and Anna have a secret. For years, they have lived in a
small cabin in the woods. On Christmas Eve, they revealed their
secret to my wife and me. What they tell us changed our lives and
the lives of others. Tonight we found out that we really didnt know
them at all. Soon we discovered how much God truly loves us.

4





Also by Darrell Case

Live Life to the Fullest

Out of Darkness

Never Ending Spring

Sluagh

River of Fire
















5










Miracle at Coffeeville

Copyright 2014 by Author Darrell Case

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any
means electronic, mechanical, photographic (photocopying),
recording, or otherwise without prior permission in writing
from the author.

Printed in the United States of America
ISBN: 978-1502402332



Learn more information at:
www.writersofvision.com




















To those who sacrifice their
own comfort and resources to
make Christmas special for others.

2


i

Contents






Angels Dust...1

A Gathering of Angels.15

The Christmas Mirror....23

Miracle at Coffeeville.35

Snow Angels....45

Music of the Night...53

Apples of Gold....61











ii






ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


Every book is produced by those who give of their time and
energy to bring it into fruition. The author labors alone
bringing the stories to light. Making sure the dialogue and
actions of the characters is believable. Writing and rewriting.
Polishing until the book is complete.

Yet it is not finished for now the real work begins. The
editing, proofreading more rewrites. Just the right cover to
make the book presentable. Printed with ink or electronically.
Marketing, interviews performed by the author. Reviews good
or bad by readers.

Without each step, this book any book would never be printed.
To each of you who had and have a part in this process, I say a
hearty thank you.
1










Angels Dust



The darkness of the Sorting Room echoed the pain Jeff
Marlow felt in his heart. He worked alone, the clatter of the
machine bouncing off the walls. The rest had gone home hours
ago. It was as it should be; after all, they had families. A
husband or wife would be waiting with a welcome hug and
kiss. Children anticipating the morning would be dancing
around a tree strung with brightly colored lights.
Perhaps their parents would give in as he did so many
years ago. Each little boy or girl could select one present of
their choice to open on Christmas Eve. He closed his eyes; he
could almost hear their squeals of delight.
Jeff dumped another bag of mail in the sorter. As the
machine ran, he let his mind wander. After giving him a good-
bye kiss, Barbie smiled as she watched their little Joy kiss her
daddy. Barbie handed him a lace handkerchief to wipe off the
smear of peanut butter and jelly. How he wished for that lace
hankie now. He had searched the ruins only finding ashes.
2

I love you, daddy, she said, hugging him close.
Whispering in her ear, he said, I love you, too, Joy
Princess.
Itll be Christmas when you get home, wont it?
Yes, my sweet. They echoed in his mind the last
words he said to his wonderful little daughter.
One more kiss from each and he was gone. His last
glance of his wife and daughter on earth were from his
rearview mirror. He saw them standing on the porch waving
goodbye with their coats wrapped around their shivering
bodies.
As he turned the corner, they disappeared from his life
forever. Five blocks away, stopped in the late afternoon
traffic, he heard the explosion. The gas line jerry rigged by a
couple of employees rushing to get home for Christmas
erupted at 5:49 p.m. The blast blew out windows as far as
Kiddle St. The fireball rose 250 feet in the air, taking with it
all of Jeffs hopes and dreams. He abandoned his car in the
snarled traffic, running the five blocks, praying with every
step he took.
Please God, dont let it be them, dont let it be them.
But he knew with an uncanny certainty. The house where he
lived and loved was just a smoking pile of rubble. The
explosion dug a hole ten feet into the ground. They never
found their bodies. Jeff liked to believe the Lord took them
before the house blew apart.
He died that night. Oh, his body lived, or better,
existed. However, life held no happiness, no joy for him.
He thought he was through with tears. Still they came.
His heart felt as dry as a desert yet tears ran down his cheeks.
Forty-five. Why had he lived so long? Six years, long years.
Six years that seemed like an eternity.
In the restroom, he splashed cold water on his face and
stared at himself in the mirror. His face was too long to be
considered handsome. His eyes too squinted, his mouth too
wide. The constant lifting of packages and mailbags kept him
slim. He was not attracted to women. He saw nothing in them
3

he would be interested in. That suited him just fine. The only
woman he wanted was Barbie and she was six years dead. He
dried his face, blinking back the tears that threatened to start
again. He sighed. When would it ever be over? When would
he ever stop hurting?
At the dock, he lugged in the last five mailbags. He
moaned. Thinking of returning to his empty third floor
apartment slowed him down. Each Christmas morning he took
out the gifts he had hidden in the car, a diamond necklace for
Barbie, and a doll for Joy. He laid them on the table running
his hands over them. In his mind, he presented them to his
beloved wife and daughter. He saw the excitement on their
faces. He felt Barbs kiss on his face. He heard Joys laughter.
Afterward, he dried his tears and put the gifts away for another
year.
The second year after Barbies death, friends began
inviting him to their homes. He always refused, knowing their
intentions. Inevitably, there would be a single woman invited
to pair up with the lonely mailman. Some came right out and
told him he needed to forget about Barbie. They knew the
perfect woman; a sister, a friend, or someone they had met in
the supermarket. Finally, even the diehards quit trying. With
each passing year, Jeff became more and more withdrawn. At
last, he was alone. He didnt mind, he liked it that way. Those
on his mail route began complaining. His only comfort was
the pain wrapped around his heart. Finally his supervisor took
him off the route and transferred him to the Sorting Room. His
fellow workers tried to engage him in conversation. They soon
learned Jeff didnt want to be bothered and left him alone. Just
the way he liked it. He became so antisocial he was reassigned
to the second shift. There was a rumor that if Jeff didnt
change he would be let go.
Jeff worked steadily for the next hour. As he loaded
the last bag in the sorter, he made a decision: before the night
was done, he would join his wife and daughter.

Mommy, will Santa be here soon? Julie asked,
4

pulling the covers up to her chin. Carol Bennett stopped, her
finger on the light switch. Julies round face, blonde hair, and
blue eyes gave the eight-year-old a cherub-like appearance.
Carols heart sagged with sorrow.
Like I said, sweetheart, sometimes Santa gets lost.
The lie wasnt a good one. It left a bad taste in her
mouth. Julie was unmoved by her mothers denial.
Oh no, mommy, I asked God to have the angels guide
Santa to our house. I even put angels dust on the letter!
Go to sleep, honey.

Merry almost Christmas, mommy, Julie murmured
sleepily.
Merry almost Christmas, Carol said, barely able to
keep back the tears.
At the kitchen table, she sat staring at the balance in
her checkbook. It hadnt changed in the last hour. If only the
factory had kept her on until after the holidays. Tomorrow
morning other little girls would open numerous gifts but all
she had was a second-hand doll she bought at Goodwill.
Oh well, Julie will be happy with it.
But Carol wasnt. They couldnt even afford a real
Christmas tree, just one made from construction paper taped to
the living room wall. Turning the temperature down a few
more degrees, she pulled her robe tighter. Yet it wasnt the
cold house that made her shiver.
Outside the snow fogged as it had the night Davids
car had flipped on the interstate. That night she had put the
turkey back in the oven to keep it warm. David was over an
hour late. A worm of worry tugged at her mind. She quieted it.
It wasnt like him not to call. She smiled when she heard the
hesitant knock on the door. He liked to surprise them with a
last minute gift. The sight of the two police officers standing
on her front step caused her to almost faint. She knew before
they said a word. Her world crumbled.
At least he didnt suffer, became the byword at his
funeral. Carol soon became sick of hearing those comforting
5

words.
For the first time in the three years since her husbands
death, Carol gave up. Burying her face in her hands, she
sobbed quietly.

The letter lay on the floor beside the sorter. Jeff
switched off the machine. The silence was deafening. Picking
it up, he groaned; scribbled across the front in black crayon
were the words. Santa Claus North Pole,
The practice of giving letters addressed to Santa Claus
to volunteers began years ago. These wonderful people took it
upon themselves to fulfill the wishes of needy children.
However, the last one was given out days ago. It was too late
to fulfill this childs wish.
Jeff stared at the letter for a long time. Carefully he
slid his fingers under the flap,
It opened easily. As he pulled out the single sheet of
paper, a tiny bit of gold glitter fell into his palm. He brushed it
back into the envelope. Then unfolding the letter, he read,
Dear Mr. Santa Claus,
Hi, my name is Julie. Im 8 years old. I live in Indianapolis,
Indiana. But you know that. Mommy says sometimes you get
lost, so I asked God to send his angels to show you where we
live. I dont want any presents. My daddy went to heaven 3
years ago. I cried for a long time. Im better now, but mommy
is so sad. I was wondering since you go all over the world,
could you bring me another daddy? He doesnt have to be
handsome or rich. Just as long as he loves me and mommy. I
promise Ill love him forever. Ive put some angel's dust on the
bottom of the letter.

Thank you, Santa
Julie
P.S. Please wake me up when you bring him.

There followed a thumbprint stamped in gold glitter.
Jeff ran his thumb over the print. He quickly regretted the
6

action, some of the glitter rubbed off and fell to the gray tile
floor. He read again. An incredulous thought formed in the
back of his mind. He shook his head. What a crazy idea! One
that would get him locked away in a mental institution or jail.
He could picture himself knocking at Julies mothers door.
Hi. You dont know me, but I found your little girls
letter to Santa. Ive come to be your new husband and Julies
father. He would be fortunate if the woman didnt call the
police. The least she would do is slam the door in his face.
No. Becoming a father took more than a letter to Santa. Well,
he couldnt be her daddy anyway. The only little girl he
wanted to be the daddy to was his Joy, and Barbie was the
only woman he ever loved!
But maybe he could do something. For the first time in
two years, he thought of the people on his old route. Alex
Pierce owned a wonderful toy store. The IGA always had
several turkeys left over. Joys last Christmas she ran down
the stairs bubbling with laughter, her face shining with
excitement as she tore off the wrappings. He felt sorry for
Barbie. The time it had taken her to wrap each gift, laboring to
make each one special. He said something to her about it, but
she just laughed, reflecting the happiness in her childs face.
Later that night as they cuddled on the couch, Jeff thought his
heart would burst with love.
He sighed. All of that was gone now. Six years ago,
his heart died. Tonight his body would join it. He started to
put the letter in the lost letter box but he couldnt let it go.
Somewhere out there was a little girl so lonely she asked Santa
for a daddy. He laid the letter on the table by the sorter. He
couldnt help her but maybe someone else could.
As he opened the door, a cold breeze hit him in the
face. Snowflakes sifted through the air. The world was clean,
bright, and beautiful. But for Jeff, it was just lonely. The
tingling of bells sounded behind him. He wheeled around.
Someone was in the room. He saw a shadow. Jeff laughed a
dry humorless chuckle; it was his own shadow. The tinkling
bells were some tiny ones Marge Shotts had hung from the
7

ceiling.
In the glow of the street lamps, the glitter sparkled.
Angels dust, he reminded himself. He stepped out into the
cold snowy night. He started to close door. What if it were his
daughter? What if he had been the one to die? He couldnt
stand the thought of this unknown little girl being heartbroken.
Going back, he picked up the envelope; it felt warm to the
touch.
In the parking lot, he started his car, letting it warm.
He read the letter again. Jeff, this is really stupid, he said out
loud. You dont even know where this little girl lives.
Tomorrow morning would be Christmas. If he had
enough time, he would hire a detective. With the ten million-
dollar settlement from the gas company, he could easily afford
the best. Maybe it was up to eleven or twelve now, he didnt
know or care. If only he could have his Barbie and Joy, he
would gladly give it all back.
Suddenly an idea struck him. Of course! Why didnt he
think of it before? When Joy was three, Barbie took her to the
mall. The police were videotaping and finger printing young
children. He hated to think of his little girl being kidnapped
but agreed with Barbie that it was a good idea.

Drying her eyes, Carol stood up. Theres no use in
crying about it, she said, brushing her auburn hair out of her
face. Ill give her the doll. Shell be happy with it.
Donning her coat, hat, and gloves, she went out into
the cold night. A gust of wind pulled at her thin coat. Her
rusted Escort set at the curb. As she approached, she saw
something was wrong. Broken glass lay on the street. Her
heart beating, she ran to the small car. What she saw next took
her breath away. Gone, everything was gone. The doll, the two
dresses, even the broken radio was torn from the dash. The
glove compartment lay open. They had even taken the quarter
pound of chocolate stars for Julie. The glass crunched under
Carols feet. Putting her hands on the roof of the car, she let
the tears flow. She had failed as a mother.
8


I was wondering if you could help me, Jeff said
twisting his gloves in his hands.
Looking up from the Indianapolis Star, the desk
sergeant smiled. To be sure. Happy to if I can, he said in
thick Irish brogue. Surprised by the friendly response, Jeff
hurried on.
I work at the Post Office on Randolph Street, he said
opening his jacket so the sergeant could see his uniform. The
man nodded.
I found this letter tonight lying on the floor by the
sorter. We have volunteers who answer Santas letters, but it
was too late.
He handed the envelope to the sergeant. The police
officer removed the sheet of paper. A tiny bit of gold glitter
fell on the desk.
Angel dust, Jeff said.
Pardon?
She calls it Angel Dust, Jeff explained.
The man nodded again, reading the letter. And what
would you like us to do Mr. .. . . .?
Marlow. Jeff Marlow. I know its a long shot, but I
thought maybe you could find her for me. You may have her
thumbprint.
The officer frowned, his eyes still scanning the sheet of
paper.
Im not a child molester, or anything, Jeff said
flushing, his palms sweating. I just thought I could give her a
happy Ch. . His voice trailed off. The man was staring at him.
Suddenly a big grin spread across the sergeants face.
Sure, and I know you. he said standing up. Jeff
jumped back, sure he was about to be arrested. Youre the
millionaire postman, he said, sticking out his hand. You
gave my dear sainted mother - God rest her soul - ten thousand
dollars to pay off her mortgage.
Jeff took his hand. The sergeant shook it vigorously.
With his free hand, he snatched up the phone, holding it in the
9

crook of his neck; he punched in the 436.
Murphy, get up here and bring everyone with you.
Continuing to pump Jeffs hand, he slammed down the phone.
A rumbling shook the stairs. Thirty seconds later a
stocky man, his tie twisted, came charging down the hall.
Three police officers followed him, their guns drawn.
What is it, Penny? Whats going on? The man in
front eyed Jeff suspiciously.
Men, the desk sergeant said finally, letting go of
Jeffs hand. This is Jeff Marlow, the millionaire postman.
Over the years, Jeff had given away several hundred
thousand dollars. He had succeeded in keeping his identity a
secret until two years ago when somehow the media found
out. In a human-interest story, they dubbed him the
millionaire postman. They ran an old picture of him. Jeff
called in sick for three days.
Holstering their pistols the men gathered around Jeff
shaking his hand.
How can we help you sir? Murphy asked. Before
Jeff could answer, Penny spoke up.
He found this letter in the Sorting Room. He handed
the letter to the detective. Murphy studied the paper, the
writing and the gold thumbprint. Jeff managed a question.
Can we find out where it came from?
Why do you want to know? the detective asked, his
eyes pinning Jeff to the wall.
I just thought maybe I could help the...
Have you ever been arrested before, Marlow?
A fist gripped Jeffs heart. He stammered, at last
getting his tongue to work.
No, er, ah, no.
We can check.
Aw, Murphy, he just wants to help, Penny said.
Murphy silenced him with a look.
I can tell when someone is lying, Mr. Marlow. Its a
gift.
For the next thirty seconds he glared at Jeff. Scenes of
10

every prison movie hed ever seen flashed before Jeffs eyes.
After what seemed like an eternity, Murphy said, Follow
me. The detective led Jeff through a maze of hallways. At
last, he stopped before a half-open door.
Painted on the glass in fading gold paint were the words
Crime Lab. In the lab, Murphy introduced Jeff to a small
owlish woman. She appeared to be in her mid-thirties. He
explained the situation to her.
If anybody can find her, Mattie Burgess can.
Mattie examined the print with a magnifying glass.
She questioned Jeff cautiously. Where did he find the letter?
How did he open it? How long had it lain on the floor? Jeff
answered the best he could. Excusing herself, she left him
alone at her desk.
Jeffs thoughts turned to Barbie. The gentle touch of
her hand. The softness of her lips. The brightness of her smile.
Jeff didnt realize he was dreaming until Mattie shook him
awake.
Im sorry, Mr. Marlow, she said sadly, The gold
glitter preserved the print but it also distorts it.
Jeff nodded, suddenly very tired. Thank you for
trying. He shook Matties hand and she gave him back the
letter.
Outside, Jeff sat hunched over the steering wheel in his
car. He had failed the only mission which might have
redeemed him.

Debating on which one to call, Carol settled on the
non-emergency number.
Indianapolis Police Department. Sergeant Penny, may
I help you?
Yes, hello, Im not sure Im calling the right place.
What is it you be a needin, maam?
I want to report a robbery.
I can transfer you to Robbery, hold on.
Well, its just a doll I bought at Goodwill and a
quarter pound of chocolates for my little girl.
11

Doesnt make any difference what the value of the
property, maam.
Theres no way to get the doll back by morning is
there?
Penny could hear the tears in the mothers voice.
Im sorry, maam.
Its just. ..Its just, Carol blew a quick breath. Its
just that my daughter Julie wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking
for something special. She wouldnt even let me read it.
Pennys feet came off the desk with a thump.
Julie? Did you say Julie?
Yes, she was sure Santa would get her letter because
she put angels dust in the envelope.
Angels dust? Penny fairly shouted, jumping to his
feet.
Yes, just gold glitter, but . . .
Hold on maam.
Sergeant Penny ran out the front door. Jeff was pulling
away from the curb. Shouting, Penny descended the steps but
Jeff didnt stop. Grabbing his seldom-used radio, he pressed
the button.
Dispatch! This is Sergeant Penny. I need a car
stopped on Post Road.
Car 211 is in the vicinity.
Great, patch them through to me, Ill give them the
details.
Will do, Sarge.
With each turn of the wheels, Jeffs heart plunged
lower. He returned to his resolve of earlier in the night. Death
held a dark morose attraction for him. He contemplated the
methods of suicide. He wanted to make sure it was final.
Flashing red and blue lights in his rear view mirror startled
Jeff. He pulled into the parking lot of a 7-11.
Approaching Jeffs car, the young officer said, Mr.
Marlow, Sergeant Penny would like to see you back at the
station. Follow me.
When Jeff got out of his car, Penny was standing on
12

the steps waiting for them. He ran up to Jeff waving his
notebook.
I got it, I got it! he shouted. The angels are a
workin overtime tonight. Stein here is going to help you, he
said, indicating the officer Jeff had followed.
The next hour was a whirlwind of activity. Stein had a
friend who owned a toy store. The officer insisted the owners
prices were the lowest in town. He woke the man up
demanding he open the store. He complied, grumbling until he
saw the amount of toys Jeff piled on the counter. Next stop
was an all-night Kroger's. Jeff loaded three shopping carts
with two turkeys, three hams, and enough canned fruits and
vegetables to feed an army. At the checkout counter, Jeff paid
the three hundred-dollar tab with cash. Steins eyes almost
bugged out of his head. The back of Jeffs car was
overflowing when they pulled into Carols driveway. The
night had turned clear with the sun just peering over the
horizon.
Watching from the kitchen window, Carol hurried
outside.
Did you find my little girls doll? she asked Stein
hopefully.
No, Im sorry, Stein, said, but a wealthy gentleman
heard about the doll being stolen. He asked us to deliver some
things to you and your daughter.
A shyness ran through Jeff; he hadnt felt this way since high
school. Carol was more than attractive; her long flowing
auburn hair framed a heart shaped face. Jeffs heart, withered
and dead for so long, began to live again.
After helping carry in the toys and food, Stein excused
himself.
Would you like a cup of coffee, Mr. Marlow? Carol
asked, her eyes sparkling.
Jeffs pulse quickened. She looked so much like
Barbie, yet different. I should be leaving.
Of course, your wife will be expecting you.
Yes, I suppose she will, Jeff said, thinking of his
13

plan.
Are you my new daddy?
Jeff turned in the direction of the voice. A little girl in
maroon pajamas stood just inside the kitchen door. She looked
like her mother in miniature. Carols cheeks reddened.
Of course not, honey. Hes a postman delivering
some gifts from Santa.
Thats right, Jeff said, his heart falling. He knew
you and your mommy were good girls this year. He asked me
to bring you some toys.
Big tears rolled down Julies cheeks. Going to her
daughter, Carol knelt down in front of her, putting her hands
on Julies shoulders.
Whats wrong, honey?
I. . .I asked Santa for a new daddy, the little girl
sobbed, One who would love us like daddy did.
Oh sweetheart, Carol said, hugging Julie to her.
I even put angels dust in my letter to Santa, she
sniffled, rubbing the sleeve of her pajamas across her nose.
Couldnt you be my daddy? she said, her eyes on Jeffs face.
I promise to be real good.
Mr. Marlow already has a family, Carol said, getting
to her feet. God may give you a new daddy someday.
When? Julie asked, raising tear-stained eyes to her
mother, then to Jeff. Do you really have a family?
Yes, but theyre in Heaven.
Just like my daddy.
Did you have a little girl?
Yes, Jeff answered, tears stinging his eyes. She was
beautiful, just like you.
Then you could be my daddy, Julie said, smiling
now, My daddy in Heaven wouldnt mind.
How about that cup of coffee, Mr. Marlow? Carol
asked, rescuing him.
Jeff, he said, smiling.
Jeff, Carol repeated, returning his smile.
Can he have Christmas dinner with us, pulleeaase?
14

Julie asked, dancing around.
Yes, please do, Carol said with a wave of her hand at
the loaded table.
Please? Julie begged.
They looked expectantly at Jeff. His heart melted and
he felt new life rush through his veins. What time?
Is 1:00 okay? Carol asked, her face radiant.
Perfect, Jeff smiled.
Yeah! Julie shouted, jumping up and down.

Nervously Jeff shifted from one foot to the other. Was
he doing the right thing?
He had made a vow. Was he breaking it? He glanced
up as the music started. The guests stood to their feet. Julie
could barely hold herself back from skipping down the aisle in
her flower girl dress. Carol was a vision of loveliness in her
wedding gown as she fairly floated to him like a brilliant
cloud. Her smile extinguished all doubts in his mind and heart.
With every step, Julie spread Angels Dust before her mother.












15








A Gathering of Angels



A car passed the Westward Nursing Home, its tires
making bacon-frying sounds on the wet street. Glancing at the
clock on the nightstand, Bessie saw that it was 2 a.m. Sleet
peppered the window and wind shook the bird feeder, spilling
some of the seed. Ice formed on the windowpane, distorting
the street lamp.
A young nursing assistant passed Bessies door. Seeing
her awake, she said softly, Nothing to worry about. Just a
little ice storm.
Bessie wanted to tell the girl she had weathered more
storms than days the assistant had lived. All she said was
Thank you.
Over the next hour, more cars passed by, becoming
fewer as the ice thickened. Bessie wanted to scream, Stop.
Someone please stop and visit me.
Her chart listed her as N/R for `No Relatives. The
administration thought it kinder to put down the first letter of
each word, in doing so, possibly the resident would forget they
were alone. Of course, they never did.
How could you forget the wonderful husband with
16

whom you spent over 50 years? Or the precious little girl who
would be forever 10? After a pain-filled trip to the bathroom,
Bessie dropped down onto the edge of her bed. A tear slid
down her cheek, more followed.
On her wedding day, she felt life couldnt be better.
Coming down the aisle, her eyes on Edgar, she silently
mouthed I love you. Her mouth moved in silence now as she
said the words again. Gently, he held her hand as he
pronounced his vows to God and man. She still remembered
his strong clear voice as he promised to love, honor and
protect her until death. He had fulfilled his vows until the last
cancer-ridden days.
Almost three years after their wedding, Jennie was
born. Such a sweet little thing. She struggled with health
problems for the first few years. Finally, at seven she seemed
to overcome them. She began to grow, her face taking on a
healthy glow.
Bessie closed her eyes. She saw Jennies bicycle out of
control, bumping across the cracked sidewalk into the street.
The car going too fast in a residential neighborhood. The
squeal of brakes, Jennies little broken body lying in the street.
Her own screams as she held her dying baby girl.
A shudder passed through her. She relived the day of
the funeral again. Edgars strong arms around her, comforting
her. They comforted her again in the doctors office. The tests
came back negative; there would be no more children. Bessie
covered her face with her hands. The sobs came softly.
If Mrs. Santos heard her, she would insist Bessie take a
sleeping pill. She could refuse, but she wouldnt. She felt
powerless in this place. Drying her eyes, she lay back on the
pillow. The room suddenly felt cold. She pulled the blanket up
to her chin.
Jennie was gone 40 years. Edgar 5. Soon she would
join them. Oh, how she wished it was tonight.
She woke to the sound of a wheelchair coming down
the hallway. Turning her head, Bessie kept watch over her
small portion of the hall. Ken Walters rolled past her door
17

lifting a hand in silent greeting.
Each morning at six Ken listened to the Farm Report.
Recuperating from a broken hip, he was to stay in Westwood
two months, then he would return to the family farm. His
loving family visited Ken every other day. His son consulted
with him about the everyday running of the farm. His
daughter-in-law was always bubbling with news about their
new baby. Ken was the one resident who didnt have nursing
home eyes. Dullness like a thick fog. Eventually they all
developed them.
In the Activity Room, she heard him switch on the TV.
He turned the volume down to a whisper.
Westwood was above average as far as nursing homes
go. The staff was efficient and courteous. If any were found to
be abusing a resident, not only were they fired, but prosecuted
as well. Every room was spotless. No, sterile, impersonal,
Bessie thought sadly.
Nothing you did could make it your own. It was just a
warehouse for those waiting to die. The only room which
appeared halfway alive was the Activity Room. What a joke!
A bunch of old men sitting at a table shoving checker disks
around. That is until one of them bored out of his skull
hobbled out of the room mumbling about something back in
his room.
Bessie wasnt sure when the bitterness began creeping
into her heart. When she came to Westwood two years ago,
she handed out the songbooks for the church service. She
taught those wanting to learn how to crochet. She read her
Bible and prayed every day. Slowly things began to change.
Each Saturday, the residents gathered in the Activity
Room to wait for their visits. The ones confined to their beds
stared out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of a loved
ones vehicle. The first few months Bessie joined them. She
was sure someone from her church or her old neighborhood
would come for a visit. She watched as one by one, family or
friends came to collect them. Finally, after hours of waiting
the few abandoned ones gave up. They shuffled or rolled back
18

to their rooms to spend another lonely day of existence.
After Edgar died, she realized she couldnt care for her
home but she hated the thought of leaving her beautiful little
cottage. The place where Jennie spent the only years of her
life. So many memories. The house sold fast, way too fast for
Bessie. The sweet young couple who bought it promised to
care for her home as she and Edgar had for so many years.
They stood on the little porch waving good-bye as the
cab took her away. Their small boy playing at his dads feet.
Their infant daughter in her mothers arms. She watched
through the rear window of the taxi until that part of her heart
disappeared.
Bessie shook her head. She could never go back.
She pushed her walker into the hallway. Garlands were
draped between the walls. Pictures of Santa Claus, stars and
the Christ child were taped to the walls. O Holy Night,
played softly over the intercom.
Why, Ms. Bessie! Its grand to see you up and
around, Cathy Topping smiled up at her. Bessie endeavored
to drag up a smile. It was lost in the depths of her soul.
I just thought I would eat in the dining room today.
My room is so drab. She turned an accusing eye on Cathy as
if it were her fault.
Cathy faltered, her smile wavering.
I would be happy to decorate your room, Cathy
brightened, I believe we have some garland left over from
decorating the dining room. Would you like that?
No! Bessie said severely, Dont bother!
Oh it wouldnt be a bother, Ms. Bessie. The young
assistant said, Id love doing it.
I said NO, I dont want any leftovers. Bessie
shouted. And its MRS, not MSSSSSSS. She let the last
word drag out.
Im sorry, Cathy said softly. I never know what you
older ladies prefer.
Why dont you just say old women? Laboriously she
turned around, taking tiny steps and pushing the walker before
19

her.
Dont you want to stay for breakfast Mrs. Bessie?
No! Bessie shouted over her shoulder, You can
bring it to my room, and its Mrs. Connors to you. Mrs. Bessie
Connors.
Back in her room, Bessie climbed into her bed. A few
minutes later, she heard Cathy coming. She turned her head
toward the wall. She expected the young woman to say
something. To apologize for upsetting her. After a few
seconds, she turned over. Cathy was closing the door.
Anger surged through Bessie as she heard her run
down the hallway. Theyre not to run in the hall unless its an
emergency. She could run into one of us older women.
Bessie said, picking at her food.
After a few bites, she laid the spoon back on the tray.
She had lost her appetite. Lying back on the bed, Bessie closed
her eyes. Drowsiness took over. In her dreams, Edgar and
Jennie lived again.
She woke with a start, the tray still sat on the bedside
table. Bessie glanced at the clock. Quarter till eleven and the
oatmeals congealed. she said out loud. With no one to hear
her, she said it again. The oatmeals congealed and that lazy
girls not picked it up.
Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, Bessie
reached for her walker. That girl is in so much trouble, she
murmured. Shes about to find out what its like to be
unemployed.
Working her way down the hall, she brought the feet of
the walker down as hard as possible. She didnt see Cathy at
the nurses station. Mrs. Miller was busy filling medicine
trays.
Wheres Cathy? She was to pick up my
BREAKFAST tray hours ago. Bessie said sarcastically.
Mrs. Miller didnt seem to notice. She said simply,
Ill have one of the girls pick it up shortly.
Wheres Cathy? Bessie asked with a gleam in her
eyes. Did she get fired?
20

Startled, Mrs. Millers head sprang up. Oh my, no.
Cathy dismissed? Shes one of our most valuable workers.
Shes just taking some time off.
I heard her running down the hall this morning.
Bessie felt like a schoolgirl tattling on a chum.
Yes, I imagine she was, Mrs. Miller said tenderly.
Her mother fell and broke her hip this morning. She has
Alzheimers you know.
Her face flushing, Bessie turned to go. No, I didnt
know, she murmured so softly that Mrs. Miller didnt hear
her.
They will be bringing her here when she is released
from Mercy General. Would you like for me to give Cathy a
message? Mrs. Miller said, smiling sadly. Ill be seeing her
tonight.
Bessie hesitated. What message could she give to one
she had treated so horribly? Feelings long forgotten stirred in
her breast. Tears moistened her eyes.
Yes, please tell her that Ill be praying for both of
them.
Mrs. Miller smiled. Ill be happy to tell her.
Back in her room, Bessie searched the chest of
drawers. In the bottom drawer, she found it under her dresses
and underwear. She picked up her Bible, rubbing a hand over
the worn cover. Seating herself in the new vinyl chair, she
thumbed through the pages.
Its been a long time, old friend, she said, dabbing
her eyes, too long.
Letting it fall open Bessie read I was sick and ye
visited me. Her old resentment began to rise. Nobody ever
visits me. A small voice spoke in Bessies heart. When was
the last time you visited the sick? Who Lord, were all sick.
In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these
my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
I couldnt do much. Who, Lord? Slowly a list
formed in Bessies mind. 90 year old Allan Hoag, the poor old
guy hadnt been out of his room since his stroke last August.
21

He loved to play chess. Bessie knew nothing about the game
but perhaps she could learn. Nora Harkins lost a leg to
diabetes. She asked Bessie at one time if she would teach her
to crochet. Carrie Harliss son died in an automobile accident
last month, she is so lonely.
Excitement raced through Bessie. She reached for her
walker and found she didnt need it.
Two days later as Cathy came to work, she saw Bessie
waiting inside the front door. She sighed. This was all she
needed. She was dog-tired. She had tried sleeping in the
hospital room. Each time her mother moved, she woke up. All
she really wanted to do was drop into bed. She pushed open
the door ready for Bessies onslaught.
How is your mother, dear? Bessie asked.
Hearing the genuine concern in Bessies voice, Cathy
began to weep. Bessie hugged the young woman tightly.
There, there, dear, well face this thing together, she said,
patting Cathys back. Do you still have some garland left
over from the dining room?
Cathy dried her tears. She smiled. Well make your
room look real nice for Christmas.
And for your mother, too.
Oh, Mrs. Connors, are you sure you want someone in
your room? Cathy hurried on, afraid Bessie would get the
wrong impression. I mean, I know how you like your
privacy.
Nonsense, dear. How can I help you with your mother
unless Im close by? Its my Christmas gift to you.
Oh, Mrs. Connors, youre the best, Cathy said,
throwing her arms around the older woman.
Its Bessie.
Mrs. Bessie. Bessie laughed. It felt good to be able
to laugh again.

And Bessie was true to her word. She nursed the sick,
comforted the dying. Read to the blind, fed the helpless.
Played games with the lonely. Two years later on Christmas
22

morning, Bessie failed to appear in the dining room as she had
every day for the last two years. They found her in bed, a
smile on her face. Her tired heart quiet.
They held a state funeral for their friend in the Activity
Room. The mayor spoke of her dedication; he presented her
with an award for volunteerism. The minister who held
services each Saturday afternoon brought his entire
congregation. His closing words honored the elderly saint.
The greatest blessing we can exhibit in our lives is to
help others. This dear lady spread joy throughout this
convalescent center. Now the Lord has called his beloved
servant home. If the Lord would open our spiritual eyes as he
did Elishas servant, I believe we would see, surrounding this
building, a gathering of angels.





















23






The Christmas Mirror


Opening the door, Steven stepped inside the house he
had shared with Mandy. The walls reverberated with
loneliness. It was so. . . so. He searched for a word. Empty,
so cold. He felt like a stranger in his own home. He didnt
call out, why should he. No one was there.
After the last two weeks, Steven thought he would
never weep again. Yet as he thought of Mandy, tears
moistened his eyes. Never again would he hear her soft
footsteps coming down the stairs to greet him. Her radiant
smile was lost forever. He always looked forward to coming
home. Mandy would welcome him, smelling of lavender after
her bubble bath. She always applied fresh makeup, her hair
swept up the way Steven loved it and wearing a dress that
complimented her bright blue eyes. No matter what time of the
day or night, she met him with a hug and kiss.
Closing the door against the deepening twilight, he
leaned his back against it. Tonight she wore her best dress,
complete with her wedding band and the watch he gave her
last Christmas. The realization hit him. Never again would he
hold her. Hear her voice, share her secret dreams. He slid
down to the floor. Sitting with his back against the door,
Steven buried his face in his hands.
He let his thoughts drift back to the first time he saw
Mandy in kindergarten. Even at that young age, her beauty
24

struck him. Having arrived 5 minutes before, he was more
experienced than she. As soon as Steven saw her enter the
room, he pulled away from his mothers hand. Running up to
Mandy, he blurted out.
"Welcome to Tinder garden." Darting behind her mother, she
peered out at this strange boy. His smiling face and twinkling
brown eyes seemed to comfort the little girl. Soon he was
holding her hand and showing her around the schoolroom.

Over the years, their lives became intertwined. He endured
the teasing about being in love. Each time a grown up asked if
he had a girlfriend, he answered an enthusiastic yes. When
questioned further as to who was the lucky girl, he just smiled.
He would never dishonor Mandy or subject her to ridicule.
At the age of 16, they began to date. There was never a
question if they would go steady, it just came naturally. Their
parents suggested they date around to make sure they were
right for each other. However, they knew in their hearts no one
else would do. The year they turned 18, he asked her to marry
him. She said yes almost before the words left his lips.
They wed later that year on Christmas Eve. Thereafter
the day became doubly special to them. Each Christmas Eve
they spent the evening cuddled together in front of the
fireplace talking and dreaming of the years ahead. Let others
go on their round-the-world trips or dine out in expensive
restaurants. They just wanted a quiet evening together at
home.
And so for the last 16 years, they spent December 24
wrapped in each others arms before the fireplace.
As Christmas carols played on the stereo, they talked
of their love for each other. Their hopes and dreams for the
future. Little did they realize this Christmas Eve she would be
in her grave.
Sixteen glorious years as husband and wife were gone. Gone
forever. Tonight he would spend Christmas Eve alone,
thinking of her and only her.
25

Standing to his feet, Steven walked on wobbly legs
into the kitchen.
"Mandy, dear sweet Mandy," he groaned. "I miss you so
much."
With both of their families gone it was just the two of
them celebrating the holidays together.
He stepped to the small oak desk in the corner where
Mandy kept her recipes. Here it was where she figured her
household budget. Was it only last month she had sat at this
very table planning the menu for their Thanksgiving dinner?
Bending over he opened the middle drawer. He smiled
in spite of himself. It was just like Mandy to keep the
stationary, pens, pencils, stamps, and other items so neatly
organized. Mandy believed the old adage a place for
everything and everything in its place. Only one thing was
out of order. A small leather notebook partially hidden under
some receipts.
Sitting down, he gingerly picked it up. Opening the
cover, he read her delicate writing. He gently turned the pages.
In his mind, Steven could see Mandy seated at the desk
making notes about life. Wiping a tear from his cheek, he
sighed and read some of her entries.
There were grocery lists and reminders of upcoming
events including her notes for this very day: `Put pumpkin pies
in oven at 9 a.m. Bake ginger bread cookies at 1:00. Finish at
three and clean up, be ready when Steven comes home at five.
Steven quickly turned the page. It was blank as was the next
one, and the one after that. He was about to close the book
when he noticed her feminine writing on the last page.
December 10. `Take the money from the jewelry case
in the bedroom. Make the final payment on Stevens ring at
Levermans Jewelry. Steven will be so surprised; he never
suspected Ive been saving for his Christmas present from the
household budget. I can hardly wait. I have wanted to give
him a diamond ring for so long. This will be a dream come
true.
Steven stared at the page. Could it be true? Of course.
26

It was just like Mandy to think of others. Putting their wants
and needs before her own. Still holding the notebook, Steven
walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs. In a daze, he
stumbled down the hallway. As he approached the door to
their bedroom, he hesitated.
For the last three nights, he had slept on the couch. He
couldnt bear the thought of seeing this empty room. This
room where he and Mandy had shared their love and life.
Reaching out a trembling hand, he pushed the door
open. Hesitatingly he stepped into the bedroom. On his left
stood the bed he had shared with Mandy for the past 16 years.
His legs began to tremble. He forced himself to walk across
the blue carpet. Baby blue, Mandy called it. Last year she
bought the drapes and bedspread to match. He felt lost in a
daze.
Remembering the ring, Steven stood before the vanity,
his haggard face looked back at him from the oval mirror. He
picked up the heart-shaped jewelry box, the one he had bought
her last Christmas. His fingers caressed the red rose stitched in
its top. He trembled as he tenderly opened the box. He felt a
surge flow through his fingers. `Love Song drifted in the
room.
Laying Mandys earrings and necklaces aside, he
removed the bottom tray. A hundred dollar bill and several
slips of paper lay under it. He picked up one of the white
pieces of paper. Squinting in the dim light, he read, Received
of Mrs. Amanda Beckett $100 for ring #345 June 10.
He counted four more receipts, duplicates of the first,
all with different dates leading up to November. Each one was
signed by John Leverman. Switching on the bedside lamp, he
picked up the phone book. Finding the listing, he sat down on
the bed and punched in the number. He glanced at the clock.
Almost five; surely it was too late.
"Levermans Jewelry," a tired voice answered, "How
may I help you?"
"Yes, this is Steven Beckett, my wife; Amanda has -er
- had a ring on lay-away." Steven said, his voice sounding
27

hollow.
"Oh, yes Mr. Beckett, I remember your wife. A very
nice young lady" Mr. Leverman said, "She came in faithfully
on the 10th of each month. Always paid with a hundred dollar
bill. The last installment was due on the first of this month."
Stevens heart quickened. The last gift from his dear
little wife was only blocks away. He desperately wanted that
ring, a token of her everlasting love for him.
"Ill be right down to pick up the ring. I have the final
payment. He needed this ring; it would be a lifeline to his
beloved Mandy.
"Im sorry, Mr. Beckett. When the final payment
wasnt made, the ring was returned to inventory."
"Then bring it out of inventory, Steven said, losing
patience.
"Unfortunately I cant, the ring was sold this very
afternoon," Leverman said. "When Mrs. Beckett didnt come
in, we assumed she had changed her mind."
"Did it ever occur to you to call? Steven said, his
voice rising. "Couldnt you just pick up the phone and call?"
"We tried several times, Mr. Beckett but there was no
answer," Leverman said wearily. A kind man, he hated dealing
with angry customers. "We waited until today hoping your
wife would claim the ring."
"She cant, shes dead," Steven said flatly, tears
squeezing from his red-rimmed eyes. "We held her funeral this
afternoon. Can you believe they bury people on Christmas
Eve?"
"Oh Im so very sorry, Mr. Beckett. I had no idea."
Leverman said, his voice creaking.
"Perhaps if you could tell me who bought the ring, I
could purchase it from them." Steven said, his voice losing
strength.
"Im very sorry, one of our temporary salespersons
sold the ring while I was at lunch. The customer paid cash so
theres no record of the sale." Leverman said.
"Dont you have a warranty form for your customers to
28

fill out?" Steven asked.
"Yes, normally we do, unfortunately the sales girl
forgot and the customer didnt mention it."
"So just like my wife, the ring is gone," Steven said,
his heart sinking.
"Im afraid so, Mr. Beckett. Of course we will refund
your deposit or let you choose another ring."
"No, no other ring will do," Steven said. He hung up
with Mr. Levermans apology ringing in his ears.
Exhausted he stretched out on the bed and closed his
eyes.
Was it just two weeks ago that he came home to find
Mandy lying on this very bed? It was so unusual for her that
he instantly became alarmed.
"Its just a bad headache," she said with a weak smile.
"Ive taken some aspirin; itll be gone soon."
He kissed her cheek and closed the door. Going down
to the kitchen, he put two frozen dinners in the microwave.
This was the extent of his culinary skills. After checking his
email, he prepared a tray complete with a silk flower. Nudging
the bedroom door open with his knee, he set the tray down on
the bedside table. Gently he touched her cheek; she was
burning up with fever.
"Mandy, Mandy," he cried. When she didnt respond,
he resorted to shaking her. He still couldnt wake her. Picking
her up, he carried her, blankets and all, down to the car.
Weaving in and out of the afternoon traffic, he raced to the
hospital.
Reluctantly, he released her into the care of the
emergency room staff. Unable to sit down, he paced the
waiting room and hallway. The hands on the clock dragged.
They seemed stuck. An hour passed, then two. His heart
quaked as he waited to find out the fate of his precious wife.
Finally, he saw the doctor coming, white coat flapping,
eyes downcast.
"Mr. Beckett, my name is Dr. Miller, Im the Chief
Neurosurgeon here at Mercy General," the physician said.
29

Taking Stevens arm, he guided him to a nearby couch. Sitting
Steven down, he said, Im afraid I have some bad news for
you."
"Is she going to all right?" Steven asked.
The doctor grimaced as if in pain. "Your wife has
suffered an aneurysm of the brain. If we dont operate
immediately, we will lose her. If she does survive the surgery,
her chances of living a normal life are only about 1 in 5."
"Please do what you can to save her, Doctor." Steven said,
tears running down his cheeks.
The next few hours were pure agony. At 4 A M, a tired Dr.
Miller came out of surgery to find Steven waiting just beyond
the double doors.
"Shes alive," Dr. Miller said with a weary smile. "Shes a
fighter."
Mandy remained in a drug-induced coma. With each
passing day, she became stronger. Steven read to her
constantly from her favorite books. He slept in a chair by her
bedside, not even leaving her side for meals. His heart soared
when Dr. Miller said she might be home for Christmas.
Then three days ago, another aneurysm left her helpless and
dying. Preparing the house for her homecoming Steven rushed
back at the hospital. As he came out of the elevator, the floor
was in chaos. He hurried to her room in time to hold her in his
arms as she died. Just three days ago, three of the longest days
of his life.
Pushing up from the bed, he walked across the room to
Mandys side of the closet. Sliding open the door, his eyes
searched the racks. Way back to the left, almost to the wall, he
spotted it. The little black evening gown. Each time they went
out, this was the one he asked her to wear.
"Sweetheart, you know I do have other dresses," she
said, hands on hips, pretending to be upset."
"Of course dear, but you look like a princess in this
one," he would say, holding it out to her.
"All right," she said pointing her finger at him, "Just
this once."
30

She couldnt hold the false expression long, her mouth
began to twitch. Then like the sunrise on a beautiful spring
morning, her smile would break through.
Carefully removing the dress from the wooden hanger,
Steven buried his face in the fabric. He breathed in her scent.
She had worn the dress so many times the fragrance of her
perfume was woven into the cloth. He felt as if he were once
again holding her in his arms.
Dancing across the room, he bumped into the vanity.
The dresser quaked, knocking everything to the floor.
Kneeling, Steven carefully picked up each item placing it back
on the vanity, the antique hand mirror lay on its face.
Steven, you stupid idiot, he said to himself. Ill
never forgive myself if its broken.
With trembling hands, he touched the silver frame. It felt
strangely warm. Mandy prized this mirror so highly. It was
one of the last things she touched before he rushed her to the
hospital. Slowly he turned the mirror over and breathed a sigh
of relief. The mirror was intact.
Lovingly he held it in his hands, remembering that day
several years ago. Mandy enjoyed visiting antique stores.
However, this was one they never knew existed.
Following the signs, they found it nestled in a small
valley miles from the main highway. The blacktop road turned
into gravel road, then into something resembling a cow path.
The store looked like a dilapidated shack. Her face glowing
with anticipation, Mandy leaped out of the car and ran to the
building.
The creak of the hinges announced their entrance. The
proprietor, a scraggly gray-haired woman in her mid-70s,
welcomed them with a gap-tooth smile. As if drawn to it with
a magnet, Manny began rummaging in an old wooden box.
Less than a minute later, she held up an object so tarnished it
appeared moldy green.
"Look at this," she whispered, her face glowing.
Steven grinned as he glanced at the hand mirror.
"Looks like a refugee from an algae farm."
31

"No, no, look at the date."
Squinting at the numbers, he read aloud, "1789. What
are the markings under the date?"
"The craftsmans symbol. Steven, this mirror is
priceless."
"That thar mirror is magical."
Startled, Mandy and Steven gazed up into the old
womans toothy grin.
"Magical? Mandy clutched the mirror to her chest.
Bending close to her ear, Steven whispered, "Come on,
Mandy, dont fall for this."
"Yup, was owned by the Countess DeMarco. She had
it made from nuggets from her daddys mine. Legend is she
mixed drops of her own blood in the molten silver."
"Oh come on," Steven said.
"It be true, alright, leasten thats how the story goes,"
the old woman shrugged, lighting a pipe she took from the
pocket of her ragged sweater.
Mandy ran her fingers over the frame. "Why is it
magical?"
The old woman puffed her pipe for several seconds,
blowing smoke up at the ceiling as if lost in thought. Steven
was ready to repeat the question when the woman spoke.
"It be said ifn you gaze into this `ere lookin glass, on
Christmas Eve, youll see your true love."
Steven almost laughed out loud. "A good tale to raise
the price of a moldy piece of junk.
"The Christmas mirror. Mandy gasped, How much?"
Through clenched teeth, Steven whispered, "Come on,
Mandy, dont fall for this garbage.
"Taint no garbage, it be the truth. With a raised
eyebrow, the old woman pointed the stem of her pipe at
Steven, "you just gotta believe."
Mandy turned to Steven with pleading eyes.
"How much?"
"Fur you deary," the woman said, scratching her head,
"$20"
32

Did she hear right? "How much?" Mandy asked again.
"You are a believer in things you cant see. There be
things more valuable than money."
Pulling out his billfold, Steven took out two $10 bills.
"I got it."
"I want to pay for it, please dear," Mandy said, her
eyes pleading.
Steven pushed his billfold back in his pocket. Something was
at work here. He would not interfere.
And so the mirror became one of Mandys most prized
possessions. She spent hours polishing the frame until it
glowed with a high gleam. Each morning she used it to brush
her hair. Steven pointed out there were other mirrors
throughout the entire house. She just smiled and said, This
one is special.
Now, holding it, Stevens fingers traced the angel
design carved into the back of the mirror. Somehow it felt as if
he was touching Mandys silky smooth cheek. A sudden peace
came into his heart and an unexplainable joy overwhelmed
him.
Cautiously holding the mirror and dress, he walked
down the stairs to the living room. Carefully he laid them on
the coffee table. Igniting the gas logs in the fireplace, he threw
hickory chips into the fire. Then putting a CD of Christmas
carols into the stereo, he hit the play button. The first notes of
Silent Night floated through the room. The melody quiet and
soothing.
On a sudden impulse, he held the mirror up to his face. Then
he turned it to the side. The reflection of the room was
different. It seemed to shimmer in the light of the fire. Smoke
rose taking on a familiar shape. A hint of lavender scent hung
in the air.
As the haze cleared, Steven blinked. Whirling around, his
heart leaped in his chest. Mandy stood in front of the fireplace,
wearing the black dress. His hand holding the mirror trembled.
However, he felt no fear.
"Merry Christmas, darling," she said, smiling.
33

"But, but, youre, youre," Steven stuttered.
"Remember what we promised each other on our first
anniversary?" Mandy asked, touching Steven gently on the
cheek. Her fingers warm and inviting. "I said I would spend
each Christmas Eve with you."
Taking the mirror from his shaky hand, Mandy laid it
carefully on the coffee table. Drawing Steven to her, she
kissed him, her lips tender and loving.
"The moment I saw this mirror I knew it was the one I
read about years ago."
Steven stared at her too stunned to speak.
"The countess was about to be married to a man she
didnt love. Her father had arranged the marriage for political
reasons. On the night before her wedding, she looked into this
mirror and saw her true love. She refused to marry the man he
had chosen for her. Her father became furious disowning her
and throwing her out. She went to live with an aunt. One of
the few possessions she took with her was the Christmas
mirror. Six months later she met her true love .They were
secretly married on Christmas Eve and ran away to America
bringing the mirror with them. The mirror was passed down
for centuries until it was lost.
So each morning I used the mirror, storing my image
for this night."
"Oh Mandy," Steven said, taking his wife in his
trembling arms. "Ive missed you so much. Stevens heart
leaped in his chest. The thrill he felt exceeded the joy of his
wedding day.
That night they danced, hugged, talked, and laughed as
the hours flew by. They shared their hopes and dreams as they
did each Christmas Eve. At midnight, the grandfather clock in
the hallway struck 12. Sighing gently, Mandy turned to him.
She held out her hand. In her open palm rested a small velvet
box.
"But Mandy, sweetheart" Steven said, "I dont have
anything for you."
"Steven, youve given me the greatest gift of all, your
34

love," Mandy said, her face glowing. "Please open the box."
Gently, Steven lifted the box from her hand. Opening it, he
gasped. Encased in folds of velvet was a ring. Embossed in
gold inside the lid was Levermans Jewelry. With delicate
fingers, Mandy took the ring from the box and placed it on
Stevens finger. "Remember, dear, each time you look at this
ring, that Ill always love you." She leaned in, gently touching
her lips to his.
A brilliant gleam flashed from the ring, blinding him.
Steven blinked his eyes. "Mandy, I"
The room was empty. The mirror and black dress lay
once again on the coffee table. He searched the house calling
out for her. A horrible ache filled his heart. Mandy was gone.
He balled his hands into fists.
"A dream," he cried, clenching his fists in the air. "It
was all a dream."
The hard ridge of the ring bit into his fingers. Taking it off,
Steven held it up to the light. His eyes caught the markings
inside. Engraved within the band were the words, `Ill always
love you."











35






Miracle at Coffeeville



At the sound of her husband coming through the
kitchen door, Rainey Stuart turned from the cook stove. She
swallowed hard before she said it. The news that had been
burning in her all day felt like a burden on her chest.
"The hens have quit layin'," she said, her face revealing the
tragedy she felt in her heart. There, she had said it. Tears
formed in her eyes. She would not let them fall again. She did
her weeping in private. Buel had enough on his mind.
"That's it then," Buel said, dropping his lanky frame in
the rickety wooden chair. Rainey was surprised it didn't break.
Many a time, she cautioned the children to be careful. Her
maw gave her the chairs for a wedding present. It wasnt just
the sentimental value. With the depression riding them hard,
they just couldnt afford better. She held her tongue, not
wanting to add to Buel's misery. The patches on his threadbare
bib overalls were tearing loose again. At least his feedsack
shirt was holding, although the elbows looked ready to break
through
"No Christmas, not even for the little ones."
Two tears trickled down Rainey's cheeks. She wiped
them away with the back of her hands. Each year it got worse.
No money for Christmas. Barely enough for vittles. At first,
36

they didn't mind. They had the farm and each other. Then five
years ago, Toby came, a loud, red-faced little bundle of joy.
With little material goods, they shared their love for each other
and the land with him. Violet followed two years later, now at
three, she followed her mother everywhere. They took little
comfort in the fact the rest of the valley were suffering too.
Matty and Jackson Hurtt owned Hurtts General Store.
At least what was left of it. With each passing day, the shelves
became barer. When Matty or Jackson faced a sufferer across
the counter, they could not turn them away. Grandparents
themselves, they felt as if each child was their own. At night
they retired to their living quarters above the Store. They
talked about the good old days when prosperity flowed in the
small village.
On Sundays, they met with their customers in church
and prayed for better days. Proud men with no ability to pay
had trouble looking them in the eye. Jackson shook their hands
as if they were still his best customers. When Matty saw a
child with holes in their shoes or no coat, she insisted the
mother bring them by the store on Monday.
Mothers with tears in their eyes promised vegetables
and pies in the summer or cash as soon as their husbands
found work. Matty just hugged them assuring them that would
be fine.
As good as the Hurtts were, Samuel Owens was the opposite.
Samuel owned the bank and hardware, the feed mill and just
about every other store in Coffeeville. Sam never extended
credit. If a farmer wanted seed and didn't have the funds
Samuel would take something in exchange. If he had nothing
to trade, Sam would employ the man to work on his ever-
growing farm.
As the depression deepened, the number of Samuels
workers increased. He raised the prices of his goods while
lowering the wages of his laborers. It was rumored that
Samuel's heart had been broken by a woman back east. All
anyone knew was that he arrived in Coffeeville one afternoon
37

in the spring of 1933 with a seemingly endless amount of
cash. Within a week, he purchased the bank.
The next day, he raised interest rates and foreclosed on
five farms. A tremor of fear ran through Coffeeville and the
surrounding countryside. Some came into his office to plead
their case but all left distraught, speaking of his cold heart and
the large portrait of a beautiful raven-haired woman. The
painting seemed so life-like they expected the woman to step
out of the frame.
Sam never spoke of her and those who saw her were
afraid to ask. By his very presence, Sam made Coffeeville
more of a close knit community; if Sam threatened to
foreclose on a farm or home, neighbors came to the familys
aid. Pooling their meager resources, they bought the
beleaguered soul one more month. Sam came to the farm
expecting to take possession of the property only to be turned
away.
Shaking his fist in the air, he shouted, "Go ahead and
fight me; I'll get it all in the end!"
Turning to his automobile, he shouted over his
shoulder, "Next time, I'll bring enough men to run you out of
the country." It was rumored Sams goal was to own the entire
valley.
One Sunday Reverend Leo Simpson called for a time
of prayer. Joshua Creton spoke up.
"Preacher, prayin' is good, but what we need is
money."
"What we need, Joshua," Reverend Simpson said
gently, is the provision of the Lord. And with that they
prayed. Each time the kind pastor ended his prayer asking God
to bless their tormentor. Several of the people complained
quietly about the minister's prayer, feeling the Lord had
blessed Owens enough and themselves too little.
Thanksgiving came and passed with scarcely a notice.
The people of Coffeeville hunkered down, hoping the spring
of 1934 held a better promise. Men searched the surrounding
forest for wood and food. Those working for Samuel Owens
38

begged for more money. One cold winter night, they
approached him in his big house on top of Sugar Hill.
Setting by the never ceasing fire, he watched them
enter his mansion, a smirk playing across his face.
"Wes families ain't got nothing to eat," Buel said,
holding his hat and clenching and unclenching his work-worn
hands. His eyes wondered over the richly appointed room. The
grand piano, the statues, the painting of unfathomable value.
Furniture not available even from the Sears catalog.
"I pay you a good wage. Sam said, cutting a thick
steak. He put one piece in his mouth, chewing while he cut
another. The smell of the well-seasoned meat made the
farmers mouths water.
"By the time we'uns make your payments, we ain't got
nothing left," another ventured.
"If you're tired of working for me, I'll put someone in
your place," he bellowed at the trio of men standing before
him. "Now get out of my house, your boots are staining the
carpet."
As they left the house, Buel said, "Well I reckon things
can't git much worse." The others nodded in agreement.
However, he was wrong. The next week, Sam
foreclosed on the general store. Hearing of the impending
predicament, the people came together as they had in the past.
Sam just smiled. They sent the elderly preacher as their
representative.
Opening the collection bag, Reverend Simpson said,
"How much do they owe you, Mr. Owens?"
"Two thousand dollars," Sam said, his grin widening.
Reverend Simpson stared at the banker in shock. With
everyone, even the children, contributing, they had gathered
only fifty dollars.
"How much to tide their loan over until next month,"
the Reverend asked, his mouth dry, heart breaking for his
people.
39

"A thousand dollars, and unless you have that amount
in the bag this conversation is ended. Now you must excuse
me, I'm very busy."
As Reverend Simpson turned toward the door, Sam
called, "Since youre here, let me give this; it saves me the
expense of having it delivered." He handed him a folded sheet
of paper.
With trembling hands, the elderly pastor read the
foreclosure notice for the church.
He stared at the tyrant, his eyes filled with pity and
dismay. This was the end; soon Sam would indeed own the
entire valley including the church.
Ill wait until after your Christmas service but not an
hour more.
Simpson, knowing the people would agree, offered
Sam the contents of the bag just to redeem the church for a
few weeks. The banker refused. His harsh laugher rang in the
Pastors ears as he left the bank.
As Christmas approached, Sam's wrath increased and
he drove his men without mercy. The joyous season became a
time of drudgery. Each evening, men drug themselves to cold
homes now belonging to the banker. The dreams of the
children died as they looked into their parents faces.
The Hurtts continued working at the general store, now
however as Sams employees. Sam kept the shelves stocked
and set the prices. It broke Mattys heart each time she saw a
child with holes in their shoes or a hungry look on their face.
And now they could do nothing about it. Then Matty and
Jackson did something which would have horrified them
before. They began falsifying the books. In the storage room
they stacked empty boxes which before contained shoes and
coats. They put empty cans back on the shelves filled with
pebbles for weight. To the eye, the storage room appeared to
be well stocked. In reality, it was half empty
The end was coming; each of them knew it. It was
inevitable that Sam would find out and what he would do was
anybody's guess. Jackson said the least he expected was to be
40

driven from the store his grandfather built. If Sam got the law
involved, they would be looking at a stretch in Grandville
prison.
The end came on Christmas Eve at five in the evening.
All day, dark clouds rode the sky low and threatening. Snow
was coming; you could smell it in the air. Matty was sweeping
up and preparing to close; behind the counter, Jackson was
working on the accounts.
Sam strove in through the front door, setting the bell
jingling. Without a word to the two former owners, he headed
for the backroom. Matty looked at Jackson, both aware their
deception was about to be discovered. A passerby heard Sams
angry shout all the way out in the street. He charged out of the
storage room with what was purposed to be a can of peaches.
Upending the can, he threw the stones on the counter. Pebbles
jumped and bounced off onto the floor.
Youll pay for this!" he shouted, shaking his fist in
Jacksons face. Both of you are going to jail.
He returned to the backroom, his rage increasing with
each can or box he found empty. Matty and Jackson watched,
shedding tears not for their own fate but that of their
neighbors. Like a madman, Sam tore the storage room apart,
his curses ringing in the air.
Enjoy your last night of freedom, Sam shouted as he
ran out into the gathering dusk. Matty and Jackson sat down
by the potbellied stove in the middle of the store. With sinking
hearts, they awaited the arrival of the sheriff.
As night fell, the heavy clouds turned loose their
burden of snow. Yet somehow, the air seemed to grow
warmer. Unbothered by their ragged clothing, children played
outside: building snowmen, having snowball fights. The air
felt warm and pleasant like a fresh spring day. Parents
watched from their porches in amazement. The sky glowed as
if lit by a full moon, yet no moon appeared.
In the church on his knees, Pastor Simpson prayed, his
eyes misting with tears for his people. Suddenly he felt a
comforting hand on his shoulder. He looked up expecting to
41

see his dear wife and then remembered she was home with the
Lord. The church was empty.
The only cold in Coffeeville on the night of December
24, 1933 was in the heart of Sam Owens. Many tears were
shed that night, most of them by loving parents. Another
Christmas would pass with nothing to give their children.
Their hearts crying, their prayers rose to The God of the
universe asking for a miracle.
Walking in the woods behind the barn, Buel was the
first to hear it. The horn pierced the night like the trumpet of
God. Then he saw the light on the engine flashing steady and
true like the Star of Bethlehem. Turning in the direction of his
home, he ran, his feet pumping and snow flying in all
directions. Coming around the house, he saw Rainey and the
children standing on the porch.
It be a comin up the old line to Coffeeville, Buel
said, his breath coming in spurts.
Whats it mean, mamma? Toby asked, turning his
face to the two people he trusted most in the world.
Can't no train run on that track, Rainey said,
bewilderment filling her face. They done took up the rails last
summer.
Well, I dont know how she adoin it, but she's a
comin anyhow, Buel said, watching the freight train cross
Blackmans Gap.
Ain't never seen one run so fast, must be doin a
hundred mile an hour. The train seemed to glow with an
inner light.
Shell never make the bridge; itll never hold her,
Rainey said with alarm in her voice.
Buel and Rainey braced themselves to witness a
tragedy. The train crossed the rickety wooden trestle with
scarcely a tremor.
That be her signal she's agoina stop in Coffeeville,
Buel said as the horn gave two long toots and one short.
Running into the house, Rainy blew out the lantern
while Buel banked the stove. The family hurried through the
42

deepening snow to the small village. The same urgency drew
people from their homes all across the valley. Having heard
the train, everyone in Coffeeville and the outlying farms
gathered at the abandoned depot.
Dozens of heavily muscled men in snow-white
uniforms were unloading boxcars at astonishing speed. The
peoples amazement increased at the stacks of goods laying on
the platform. There were cases of food, farm tools, and
clothing in every size, even sacks of feed for the animals and
all kinds of toys. Standing in the shadows, the people watched
their eyes filled with bewilderment. Who could have ordered
so many supplies?
Soon the platform and the surrounding area were
covered as the supplies piled up. Surely even Sam Owens
couldnt afford what this would cost. A man in dazzling white
clothing stepped down from a passenger car the people hadnt
noticed before. With hesitant steps, Buel dared to approach
him. His face radiant, the man smiled at the ragged farmer.
Holding his old tattered hat in his hands, Buel hung his
head, his heart burning.
Aher sir, kin you tell me who all this belongs
to?
The man laid a gentle hand on Buels shoulder. A
surge of hope ran through the brokenhearted father. Faith and
hope for the future, his children, and a life beyond this one. He
looked up into eyes searching his soul, eyes displaying a heart
overflowing with love. He felt as if he had known this man all
his life.
Hey, whats going on here? I didnt order all this
stuff! Sam Owens shouted, running up to the train. Load it
back on, I am not paying for any of it.
Dropping his hand from Buels shoulder, the man
turned to face Sam. Owens slid to a stop. He opened his mouth
to speak and then fell silent. The compassion in the mans
eyes touched Sams stone cold heart. The look awakened
feelings he thought he had left behind years ago. Suddenly
Sam gasped. The people stared in astonishment.
43

Standing on the steps of the passenger car was the
woman from the portrait. The man extended a hand to the lady
helping her down. It was then the people saw the scars on his
hands, long, jagged marks that seemed to go all the way
through. As though in a trance Sam drew near the woman,
then they were in each others arms. The womans tears
spilled down her face falling onto the back of Sams coat.
Sam moaned as if in pain.
Im sorry dear, Im so, so sorry, he murmured into
his wifes hair.
Oh, I love you, Sam. Ive missed you so much,
Victoria Owens, said hugging her husband tightly.
Smiling, the man with the scarred hands nodded to the
men who had unloaded the train. They climbed back on board.
Then the train, as if on a coiled spring, sprang forward into the
night and disappeared. Stunned, the people approached the
piles of supplies. Each item carried a tag, which read:
To the people of Coffeeville in answer to your
prayers.
From your loving father.

Look at this, Pastor Simpson said, pointing to the
ground. The people stared in amazement. Some began to
weep, others to laugh, others to shout praises. Except for the
marks of shoes and boots, the snow was unbroken. There was
no sign a train had come through Coffeeville.
The people gathered in the church that night in
thanksgiving to Him who supplies all our needs. And to
celebrate the birth of their Saviour.
Where we gonna put it all? We'uns can't get that
much tonight. Buel said.
Trembling, Sam Owens stood to his feet. Holding fast
to his wifes hand, he said, Good friends. I have treated you
terribly. Yet tonight, God has given me a great gift. My wife
44

and I were separated many months ago because of my
foolishness. Now God has restored her to me, what else could
I ask for? Please feel free to use the general store to stow the
goods and if theres not enough room, use myerour
home.
Smiling, Victoria Owens rose to hug and kiss her
husband. Tears flowing down his cheeks, Pastor Simpson led
the congregation in a rousing rendition of Joy to the world.
And Sam was as good as his word. The people of
Coffeeville came through the Great Depression with
everyones farm or business intact. Sam tore up the
foreclosure notices and gave back the farms and homes he had
foreclosed on. He restocked the general store selling goods at
his cost. No person in the community ever went hungry or
needed clothing.
Victoria Owens never could explain how she came to
be on the train. On the night of December 24, 1933, she felt a
compelling urgency to go to the railway station in Chicago.
The next thing she knew she was stepping off the mysterious
train into her husbands arms.
Passed down from generation to generation, folks still
talk about the miracle at Coffeeville. The Christmas Eve when
God answered the prayers of his people.












45







Snow angels










Abigail crept quietly up to the open bedroom door.
Mommy was sitting on the bed, daddy's arm was around her
shoulders and both their heads were bowed. Tears fell from
their eyes. Abby could see the wet spots on mommy's blue
dress and daddy's dress pants. Watching them made Sarah cry
but she didn't make a sound.
"Why, Michael. Why?" Elizabeth Maxwell asked with
her head still downcast. "I know we're not supposed to
question the Lord's doing but I gotta ask."
"I don't know, Lizzy," Michael Maxwell said,
squeezing his wife's hand. "I know the Lord'll work it all for
good; He said He would and we just gotta trust Him."
"I know, but it's so hard," Lizzy said. "I waited for so
long for him, then to have him fall into the horse trough and
drown." Elizabeth Maxwell began to sob anew.
46

Abigail hurried past the door into the parlor hoping
mommy and daddy didn't see her. In the parlor, she pushed up
the footstool. Climbing onto it, she looked in the tiny casket.
"I'm sorry, Buddy," she said, tears running down her
cheeks, "I should have let you come play with me." The four-
year-old boy appeared to be sleeping.
Abby reached out a hand to wake him as she did most
mornings. She drew back her fingers as they touched his cold
flesh.
Yesterday, she was annoyed with him. He kept
following her around. She wanted to go see her new pony in
the barn, but the snow was too deep for Buddy's short legs.
"Buddy, you stay here, I'll be back in a little while."
"I wanna see the new horsey," Buddy, whose real
name was Adam, said. His mouth turned down and his eyes
began to moisten.
"You can't this time," Abby said impatiently.
Buddy sobbed, "But I wanna come with you."
"Well, you can't," Abby said. Then softening, she said,
When I get back we'll make a snowman.
"Really? Can we put Daddy's old hat on him?" Buddy
said, smiling through his tears.
"Sure," Abby said distractedly. Turning, she hurried
across the barn lot leaving her little brother on the porch.
In his stall, she patted and rubbed the pony. She still
couldn't believe daddy actually bought him for her.
Yesterday morning he and mother took her to the barn.
Daddy led her by the hand and mommy carried Buddy. They
made her keep her eyes closed.
You can open them now. Mommy said.
Abby squealed with delight.
"We thought you would like an early Christmas
present. Daddy said, smiling.
Ill call him Champ, because he looks like a
champion to me. Abby said, beaming. That night, she begged
to be allowed to sleep in the barn. They laughingly refused.
47

Now she stayed in the barn feeding lumps of sugar and
apples to the Shetland pony. The minutes passed quickly.
On the porch, Buddy became impatient. He played for
a while with his wooden soldiers, then he shivered. He wanted
to go inside where it was warm but what if Abby came back
and he wasn't there? She might build the snowman by herself.
Buddy strained to see the entrance to the barn better. He didn't
want to miss seeing her.
If he only had something to climb on to make himself
taller. There was the horse trough, it was a foot higher than the
porch floor. Buddy climbed up onto the edge. Balancing on
the slim boards with his feet spread wide, he swayed slightly.
He felt himself slipping and he reached out for something to
hold onto but there was nothing. The ice-cold water took his
breath away.
Currying the pony, Abigail heard a bone-chilling
scream. Buddy! Had something happened to her little brother?
She ran out of the barn, her heart racing. Buddy wasnt on the
porch. She ran around the house but he wasnt anywhere to be
seen. Then she noticed something in the horse trough; Buddy
was floating face down. She screamed and banged on the door
bringing mommy on the run.
Bud...Buddy... in horse trough. She sobbed, finding
it hard to breathe.
Horrified, her mother leaped off the porch. Plunging
her arms into the icy water, she dragged out her drowned
child.
Water soaking her clothing, Elizabeth carried Buddys
icy body into the house. Stripping him down to his underwear,
she laid her son on the kitchen floor. Jumping to her feet, she
stoked the stove to a cherry red. Then taking off her drenched
dress, she hugged Buddy against her breast.
"Run, Sarah, run and get your father," her mother
shouted, tears covering her pale face. Struggling through the
deep snow, Sarah came to where her father was cutting fire
wood. Out of breath, sobbing, it took Sarah precious seconds
to relay her tragic message.
48

Daddy's face turned white and he ran across the
pasture, slipping, falling, getting up to run on. Sarah followed,
fresh tears freezing on her cheeks. It was too late; Buddy was
gone.
Tomorrow they would bury Buddy beside grandma
and grandpa's graves in the cemetery behind the church.
Now with trembling hands, Abby reached out and smoothed
Buddy's one and only suit. Just last week, she overheard
mommy tell daddy Buddy was growing so fast he was
outgrowing all his clothes. Daddy jokingly called him his little
weed. Buddy just grinned. Now Buddy wouldnt need a new
suit or anything else. New tears moistened Abigails eyes; her
little brother would never be any older than four.
Last Saturday night, they had decorated the tree daddy
cut and brought in from the south pasture. Mommy made hot
chocolate and they sang Christmas carols. Buddy sang so loud
he almost drowned out mommy playing 'Silent Night' on the
piano.
Suddenly a fantastic thought came to Sarah. Last
month, Pastor Thompson preached about hind's feet in high
places. He said it was on the mountains where God answered
our prayers. Sarah's heart sank for there were no mountains on
the flat prairie.
Shadow Ridge; it wasnt a mountain but maybe God
would overlook that and answer her prayer. She remembered
how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. If He could do it for
Lazarus, he could do it for Buddy.
Buddy looked like he was sleeping, waiting for Abby
to wake him up. She touched her brother on the shoulder.
Sleep, little Buddy; when Jesus wakes you up, we'll make a
thousand snowmen."
Carefully she looked out the front window; daddy was
on the porch with Pastor Thompson and two neighbor men,
Mr. Wilson and Mr. Miller. Their heads were bowed and she
could see the preachers lips moving. Quietly she opened the
door. A blast of cold air hit her in the face. Carefully she
closed the door and tiptoed by the men on the porch. If daddy
49

or mommy knew where she was going, they would stop her.
She just had to go. It was her fault Buddy died. Knowing this
made her insides hurt.
In the barn, she saddled Champ just the way daddy
showed her. She led the pony to the back door of the barn, the
one hidden from the house. Quickly she opened the door and
slipped out into the gathering night. Dark clouds covered the
setting sun. The looks of them scared her and she almost
turned back. No, if she could just make it to Shadow Ridge,
Buddy would live again. At the corral fence, she climbed the
rails and scrambled onto Champs back. Urging him forward,
she headed into the setting sun and the coming blizzard.
For the next half hour, Abigails absence went
unnoticed as the people of the church prepared for Buddys
wake. Carrying a platter of ham into the dining room,
Elizabeth suddenly stopped.
Have you seen Abigail? she asked Michael.
No, I thought she was in the kitchen with you?
A quick check was made of the house. No Abby.
Dont panic, maybe shes in the barn, Michael said
unconvincingly.
Oh, Michael, you know she wont go near the barn
since Buddy died, Elizabeth said, tears already misting her
eyes. In her mind, she pictured the parlor with two coffins
instead of one.
Im going to check anyway, Michael said, hurrying
out into the night. He was back in minutes. Shes not there
and
And what, Michael? What is it? Elizabeth said, fear
making her voice moan.
Looking his wife in the eye, Michael said, And her
pony is gone.
Sobbing Elizabeth covered her mouth.
Michael took her in his arms.
She blames herself for Buddys death, she said with
new tears on her cheeks.
I know, I know, he murmured into his wifes hair.
50

Pastor Thompson spoke up. Now dont you folks
worry. We got enough men here to find her before the storm
hits."
After a short prayer, the men scrambled to unharness their
horses from buckboards and wagons. Not taking time to return
home for saddles, they would ride bareback tonight. The
women packed food and comforted Elizabeth. No one wanted
to voice the inevitable. Everyone knew a blizzard on the
prairie was deadly.
With prayers on their lips and fear in their hearts, the
men started searching.
Abby was confused. She was half way to Shadow
Ridge when dusk settled. Now she couldnt see a thing. She
hadnt expected the night to be so dark. Each time she thought
of turning back, she remembered Buddy laughing and playing.
She was so cold and her fingers were numb. She tried putting
them in the pocket of her coat but each time she did, Champ
turned back toward home. Fresh snow began to falling. At
first, it was just a few flakes. Then it came faster and faster
until the air was white. Abbys heart thumped in her chest.
Each year daddy stretched a rope between the house and the
barn. The first time he did this, Abby thought it strange, then
one day a blizzard swept across the plains. The snow became
so thick that she couldnt see the edge of the porch. When
daddy went to feed the horses and cows in the barn, he held
tight to the rope. Each time he went to the barn, mommy
waited at the door with the shotgun. She told Abby if daddy
didnt return in a half hour she was to shoot the gun in the air.
The noise would guide daddy to the house. Abby kept
watching the porch steps. She didnt relax until she saw his
snow-covered figure appear through the white wall.
Now ahead of her, she saw a wall of snow coming at
her. It scared her so bad she jumped off Champ. Freed at last,
the pony turned and trotted for home. Calling his name, Abby
tried to run after him but her legs were so tired she fell down.
Fresh tears came to her eyes for she knew she had failed. Now
she would never make it to Shadow Ridge. Jesus wouldnt
51

answer her prayer and Buddy would stay dead. The wall of
snow enveloped her. She was so tired. She lay down in the
snow; she would just rest for a few minutes. An unnatural
warmth come over her as she closed her eyes in sleep.
Snow was falling at an inch every ten minutes. They
struggled on, five men praying with each step of the horses. If
they didnt find her soon, they would have no choice but to
turn back. Michael couldnt risk the lives of these men. If need
be, he would continue the search alone.
Look, Reverend Thompson called, pointing to a
glow off to their left. Reining his horse up beside the pastor,
Michael Maxwell squinted in the direction he indicated
Cant be a fire, he said as the other men joined them.
Come on.
Digging his heels into the horses side, he urged it
forward.
Some say that what they saw next is legend; others
swear it is fact. Each man with Michael that night insisted it
was true until their dying day.
Two huge men in shining garments hovered over the
prone body of Abigail Maxwell. In their hands were jeweled
swords and on their backs, enormous wings covered the
sleeping girl. With flaming eyes, they watched the men on
horseback draw near.
A strange sense of peace flowed into each mans heart.
The next instance the shining men disappeared.
Swinging out of the saddle, Michael ran to his sleeping
child. Scooping her up in his arms, he noticed a strange
phenomenon. Though snow was piling up all around them,
there was none where Abigail lay. Inside the circle, the air was
warm and pleasant. Handing the little girl to Pastor Thompson,
Michael climbed into the saddle. Then taking her in his arms,
they headed for home. They found Champ a mile away totting
in the direction of the barn. Amazingly, Abigail never woke
up until she was carried onto the porch. As they approached
the front door, screams broke out inside the house.
52

Too troubled to rest, Elisabeth was in the kitchen reheating the
mulligan stew on the wood cook stove. Realizing that she
wanted to be by herself, the women stayed in the parlor. The
soup had just started to bubble when she heard a loud gasp and
then screams coming from the front of the house. Her heart
leaped in her throat. Looking out the window, she saw lanterns
bobbing in the yard. Fearing the worst, she hurried on
reluctant feet to the front hallway.
What she saw almost caused her to faint. Buddy was
setting up in his coffin. Her husband, daughter, and the search
party were standing in the doorway to the parlor, eyes wide,
mouths open.
I smell stew, I hungry, mamma, Buddy said, smiling, his
eyes shining. Abigail was the first to break out of the trance.
Running to her little brother she hugged him.
Jesus did it, He answered my prayer. Even though I
didnt make it to Shadow Ridge, He did it.
Some will deny it was a miracle. That God never
raised the little boy from the dead. Buddy had probably hit his
head and been knocked unconscious. The water drove his
temperature down. Maybe, but I think not. However, the real
miracle that night was in the heart of a ten-year-old girl. That
night on the Kansas prairie, Abigail gave the greatest gift of
all. Risking her life for the one she loved. Greater love hath
no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.












53










Music of the night


Pain shot through Ruths gnarled knotted hands. Hands
twisted by arthritis. Hands that once made audiences weep as
they flew over the keyboard of the Steinway. Hands which the
New York Times once called the hands of an angel.
Now she was the one weeping. She thought of her
wasted life, her gorgeous silk dresses replaced with rough
clothing. Now she wore garments more appropriate for
cleaning the concert hall where she once performed. Her
dreams were gone, dashed on the rocks of reality. She had
taken this job just to be near the stage that had once brought
her so much joy.
Tears misted her eyes and obscured her vision. Never
again would she hear the thunderous applause or experience
the standing ovation of thousands. Those days were past.
When she would come on stage, the audience held their
breath. Even in the largest concert hall, you could hear the
smallest sound. If someone coughed, those seated around that
individual would turn frowning in their direction. You could
54

almost hear an audible sigh at the first note. Audiences set for
hours mesmerized by the reverberation emitting from the
grand.
Groaning, she painfully picked up the cloth and
polished the brass handles on the main doors. Through these
doors, thousands of excited people once rushed to hear her. It
seemed a lifetime ago.
Yo, Rosy, Ralph called. What you doin? Yous
spost to be done with these doors hours ago.
Sorry Ralph, some kid upchucked in the third row .It
took a while to clean it up, Ruth said, answering to the name
that she had adopted for her new life.
Well, yous better hurry it up. Mr. Wheelerll be here
any minute to check the place. He wants everything to be
perfect for the Christmas concert this Sunday.
Ill be done. Ruth assured him.
Fifteen minutes later as Ruth was cleaning the glass on
the ticket booth, a limo pulled to the curb. John Wheeler
stepped out. Two years ago, he had called her agent, pleading
for her to perform the Christmas concert. Now he roughly
brushed by her.
Make sure that glass is clean. Last time there were
smears right at eye level, Wheeler sneered. At the doors
leading to the hall, he turned, Hey, dont I know you?
No sir, Ruth said, turning her face away. I just
started here last week.
Well, if you want to keep your job, make sure this
place is gleaming. The last one didnt and thats why you got
her job.
Yes sir, Ruth said, keeping her head down. For the
next hour she worked, polishing the glass until it sparkled.
Then on her knees she scrubbed spots from the carpet.
Twenty moments after he arrived, Wheeler left without
even looking at her. Two years ago he paid her twenty
thousand dollars to perform at the holiday gala. Now he paid
her minimum wage. It was a fantastic concert. She became
lost in the music as she always did, her fingers flying over the
55

keyboard. The orchestra performed superbly. As the last note
died, the audience set in astonished silence. Then the hall
erupted in thunderous applause. Everyone exited the hall in
almost revered silence.
Back then, she played almost every night. Her tours
took her to every large city in America. Each day, her agent
called with new offers. Booked a year in advance, she
sometimes felt as though she couldnt drag herself on stage.
Weariness overwhelmed her. Yet it was always the same. As
soon as the music began, a surge of energy flowed through
her. She forgot her problems; she closed her eyes, lost to this
world. Heaven seemed open to her. At the end of each piece,
she reluctantly opened her eyes.
It was custom for the performer to rise to receive
applause at the end of each piece. In Denver, she broke with
tradition. Instead of rising, she remained seated. Unsure what
to do, the conductor started the next piece. The newspapers
reviews tore at her, calling her ignorant, snobbish, and
unclassed. She didnt care; she came from the stage refreshed
and ready for the next concert. Backstage, she would stay in
her dressing room for hours, resting, trying to sleep though
sleep never came. When she was sure everyone had left, she
emerged from her dressing room to a darkened theater. In the
dim shadows, she would play, starting with Beethoven,
Mozart or Bach. Soon however she reverted to the hymns of
her childhood. In her mind, she saw the little white clapboard
church setting on the knoll between the pasture and cornfield.
One day when she was six, her father left her to her
own devices as he spoke to the old minister outside the
church. Bored, she wondered into the sanctuary where the
antiquated grand piano seemed to beckon to her. Climbing
onto the bench, she gently ran her fingers over the yellowing
keys. Her mother loved classical music and she remembered a
piece she heard from the radio that afternoon. Lovingly, she
touched the keys. The melody flowed through her mind. She
closed her eyes and let the music take her away. At the end of
the hymn, she opened her eyes. Her father and the minister
56

stood in the center aisle. Her father had a bewildered
expression on his face and the old preacher was smiling.
For the next ten years, her parents sacrificed greatly,
saving every penny for lessons from the best teachers. It hurt
her to see them going without. This knowledge caused her to
practice extra hours each day. Others attended parties or other
functions. She studied, her only diversion the services at the
little clapboard church. She was twelve when the pastors wife
suddenly passed away. The next Sunday, she stepped into her
role playing for the worship services. She dreamed of the day
she could repay her parents for their sacrifice.
She applied to Julliard and was awarded a full
scholarship. She was so excited, now she could do what she
loved. Now her mother and father would be relieved of their
financial responsibility.
Then six weeks after she arrived at Julliard, her parents
were killed in a tragic automobile accident. She made it
through the funeral in a trance. Returning to school, she stayed
in her room and wept for three days. Now she had nothing left
but her music. Drying her eyes, she threw herself into her
lessons. Her teachers remarked at the change in her playing.
Before, she was detached, clinical. Now she played with a
passion unmatched by anything they had seen before.
She played with her eyes closed, the scenes of her
childhood running through her mind. She played for hours on
end, unwilling to return to a world of pain. The other students
attempted to be friendly. She was polite, yet she didnt
participate in any activities. Finally, they gave up trying. They
left her alone with her music, the one thing which meant
everything to her.
Even before she graduated, the worlds stage opened to
her. Offers poured in from all over the globe. She had
everything she ever wanted, yet she wasnt happy. The only
time she felt at peace was late at night when she played to an
empty theater. There her heart soared and her mind returned to
the old church. She was still the small child straining to reach
the pedals. Finally, she would raise her eyes to the darkened
57

stage. Returning to her hotel room, she forced herself to sleep
for a few hours.
Hurrying to the next city, she did it all over again. The
money meant nothing to her; only the power of the music to
sooth her soul. Keeping only enough for expenses, she gave
most of her income away. This she did anonymously through a
firm specializing in contributions to charities. All she cared
about was her music.
It started one morning while she was making coffee.
Just a little stiffness in the fingers of her left hand. She
contributed it to extra practice, to performing, and to her late
night playing. She tried to ignore it but it persisted. The
stiffness rapidly spread to her elbow, then to her right hand.
The stiffness increased to a dull ache. Then one night
in Los Angeles, a sharp pain caused her to hit a sour note. She
struggled to continue but she only ruined the piece. She fled
the stage in tears. The next morning, she made an appointment
with a prominent physician. Setting in his office, she shivered
in fear. He came in, white coat flapping. Dropping down
behind the desk, he sighed. His diagnosis terrified her:
rheumatoid arthritis.
Im afraid there isnt a cure, however we can attempt
to arrest its progress with medication, he said, his voice
tender. There is also pain management.
My performing, what about my playing? Ruth
sobbed, the tears flowing down her cheeks unchecked.
With medication and pain management, many people live
very productive lives, he said, avoiding her question. She
persisted. Concerts? No. However there is always teaching.
She dashed from his office and fled the city.
Back in New York, she hid in her apartment only
coming out at night. Turning off all phones, she shut herself
off from the world. When anyone knocked on her door, she
hid in the bathroom. Her mail went unanswered. Three months
later, she took a tiny apartment on the Southside. Then,
wanting to be near the life she loved, she applied for a job
with the cleaning crew for the concert hall.
58

Now she pretended to be a cleaning lady just to be near
the piano she loved.
Finishing vacuuming the dressing rooms, she hid
behind some unused props. If Ralph found her, he would fire
her. It was worth the risk. She just had to touch the Steinway
one more time. She pictured herself once again seated before
the audience. Men and women dressed in their finest attire for
the holidays.
She could hear Ralph yelling by the front door. She
tried to melt into the wall.
Yo Barb, wheres Rosy?
I dont know boss, I guess she left.
Ralph cursed.
Muttering to himself, he passed within two feet of her.
Alright, lets go wes done all we can. Ifn Wheeler
dont like it, well blame it on Rosy.
Barb laughed. Yeah, its always good to blame it on
the new one.
She waited a full hour before coming out. She searched
the theater to assure herself she was alone. The exit lights
caused an eerie shine. On the balcony, there was a glow that
she couldnt explain. She investigated and found nothing. As
she approached, the light seemed to disappear. Returning to
the stage, she sat down on the bench. The glow was back but
she decided it must be a reflection.
Gently, she let her fingers run over the keys. They felt
so good, like the tender touch of a lover. She tried a few notes.
It sounded bad, worse than a child just learning chopsticks. Oh
well, she was the only one who was going to hear it.
Closing her eyes, she played Silent Night. Her hands
throbbed, the pain bringing tears to her eyes. To her mind, the
sour notes became sweet. She felt warmth envelop her. Once
again, she was a child playing in the old church. Other hands
covered hers. Instead of being alarmed, a magnificent peace
surged through her. Her fingers ceased hurting and slowly the
pain melted away. Unafraid, she opened her eyes; all she
could make out in the beginning was a dazzling light. Then the
59

shape of a man appeared out of a circle of radiance. He spoke
to her, his voice as soothing as gentle rain.
Oh, Ruth, my dear sweet child, how I love you. His
voice was as comforting as a mothers touch.
Somehow, Ruth found herself on her knees in front of
The Man. She leaned into Him and He embraced her. The
tears fell from her bowed head. Reaching out a scarred hand,
He took her deformed fingers in His wounded hands. Her
fingers straightened. Hope, strength, and healing flooded her
soul and body.
How long she lay there, she wasnt sure. Rising, she
resumed her seat at the piano. The man was gone, yet some of
His radiance remained. She felt the warmth of His presence.
Seated at the piano again, she played as she never had
before. A new energy surged through her. Her heart swelled
with love. A love for her Lord, her fellow man, and the music
of the night.
The melody drifted over the theater and she lost herself
in the wonder of it all. Her pain vanished; her depression a
past memory. Scenes of her childhood played before her
closed eyes as her mother and father lived again. The Lord
took them by the hands and led them to heaven. Tears of joy
trickled down Ruths cheeks. Smiling, her parents vanished
into a dazzling light.
Her fingers flew over the keys, the music becoming
sweeter and clearer with each note. For hours she played, the
moments flying by, untiring. The stiffness was gone. She felt
not a hint of pain in her fingers.
Finally, she opened her eyes and her heart lifted in
thankfulness to the one who healed her spiritually and
physically. A peaceful hush filled the theater and her soul. She
bowed her head as tears of joy fell onto the lap of the soiled
dress.
Then the theater erupted in thunderous applause.
Confused Ruth looked out on a standing-room-only crowd.
The soundman had accidently left the outside speaker on.
Alerted by the police, Mr. Wheeler was the first to arrive.
60

Passersby on their way to work were attracted by the music.
The hope, joy, and tranquility flowing from Ruths fingers
seemed to pull at their hearts and give them hope. They filed
into the theater for this unexpected concert. When the seats
were filled, they stood in the aisles.
Ruths music is different today. Oh, she can still
mesmerize audiences, yet there is a pleasing excellence about
her performances. She plays with an obvious passion. As with
all who feel the touch of the Masters hand. In the night, His
song shall be with me. Psalms 42:8



























61








Apples of Gold



I walked through the early darkness, the trees standing
in stark contrast to a cloud-laden sky. My nightly trek to check
the deer in the north woods took longer than I had anticipated.
After the heat of August and September, I now welcomed
November and Decembers cool days. A few flakes of snow
drifting through barren branches promised more to come. I
hurried along, crunching dead leaves underfoot, their scent
rising like perfume. Tomorrow was Christmas. I had never lost
the excitement or the wonder of the day. The expectation of
Christmas still made my heart beat faster even if I am a
grownup now.
The chilled air was refreshing, however the
temperature had fallen ten degrees in the last hour. The chill
was beginning to penetrate even my thick clothing. The stream
over the hill rushed along as if to escape the ice forming at its
edges. A race that it would soon lose. In April, the water
flowed fast and furious. Today it was a fast trickle. I crossed
cautiously, the water just covering the soles of my gumboots.
62

On the hill to my right, a coyote howled at the unseen
moon. His brothers countered from my left. Both were
concealed by brush. Even though I knew coyotes rarely attack
humans, the hair rose on the back of my neck. I quickened my
steps. Dipping below the horizon, the sun assured me of a fair
day with its rising. The north wind told another story, its
breath heavy with snow. Maybe tomorrow, we would wake to
the sight of a pristine white world. There is nothing as
peaceful as a silent snow storm, its flakes gently floating down
to cover the flawed earth. Each one, like people, of a different
design.
At the back of the house, the birds were huddling
around the feeders. Several years ago, I built platform feeders
to provide for birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and an occasional
coon or possum. Tonight, several Cardinals, a couple of Blue
Jays, some Finches, and a Titmouse or two were taking
advantage of my contribution. The birds were grabbing a few
last bites to keep them warm throughout the hours of darkness.
If it snows, the feeders will be loaded by morning.
Tonight the birds would roost in the fir trees
surrounding the house. We planted several in hopes they
would seek shelter in their branches during the winter. Also,
the trees around our home formed protection from the cruel
north wind. Tonight, everyone sought shelter from the
freezing blast. The chipmunks and squirrels had gone home
hours ago but they would return at first light to munch on our
holiday fare.
The Aikmans would visit tonight as they have for the
last 15 years. Denver and Anna were an elderly couple with no
children.
Many years ago my wife suggested that we invite them
for Christmas Eve dinner. I must admit in the beginning I
didnt like the idea. Now dont get me wrong, Aikman is a
very pleasant gentleman; he and his wife are among the
highest respected couples in our community. Nevertheless, I
like spending this special evening with my wife. Yet as time
went on, I began to look forward to their visits. The Aikmans
63

were a couple of indefinite age; all he would say is that they
were south of 80. They lived in a little hollow a mile back in
the woods in a small cabin made of pine. They seldom made
the journey out. About once a month, I would go to their small
home and Anna would give me a list for the general store.
Each time Anna apologized because the list was large.
When I returned, Aikman tried to pay me for my gas
and time. And each time I refused, he said the same, You
cannot do a good deed without being rewarded. Some day,
God will reward you and then you cannot refuse. His accent
was European though I cant identify the country.
Opening the door, Im welcomed by my smiling wife
and the aroma of a wonderful meal. How fortunate I am. I
have a beautiful loving wife, plenty of food, and a pleasant
home. The love radiating from her heart and the hearts of my
friends keeps me warm even on the coldest night.
Knowing Denver and Anna are never late, my wife has
timed it perfectly. She removes the golden turkey from the
oven at 5:50. The table is set with our best china and
silverware. The dinnerware gleams on the backdrop of her
best linen tablecloth. The table itself seems to groan under the
weight of the food. The scent of candles mingles with the
aroma, a treat for the nose as well as the heart.
Promptly at six, there is a gentle knock on the door.
We open it to a rush of cold air and the Aikmans. We greet
each other with handshakes and hugs. Once we have relieved
them of their coats and hats, we gather around the table.
After thanking The Good Lord for the wonderful meal
and good friends, we dig in. Denver and Anna compliment my
wife on her cuisine. As the meal progresses, we reminisce
about old friends gone and sadly missed, the passing year, and
our plans for the new one.
After the meal, we settle in a half circle by the
fireplace. After filling each cup, my wife sets the hot carafe of
spiced wassail on the table.
Settling back into the overstuffed chair, Aikman says,
Now you know Christmas is a time of miracles. Taking a sip
64

of the wassail, he smacks his lips and carefully sets the cup on
a coaster and folds his gnarled hands over his chest. The story
was about to begin and my wife and I leaned forward in
anticipation. Denver is a wonderful storyteller. My wife and I
look forward to his stories each time they visit.
Many years ago in a country far away from here lived
two young people. James and Sarahs lives first became
intermingled in a remote orphanage at the tender age of six.
James parents were killed in a boating accident, Sarahs
mother and father simply ran away. She was brought to the
orphanage on Christmas Eve by the landlady of the rooming
house where her parents had been staying. It was Christmas
Eve and too late to buy Sarah a gift. Also the couple in charge
were poor with no money to purchase one. On Christmas
morning, she stood back and watched with sad eyes as the
other children opened their gifts. Picking up his one and only
gift, James traded it to a girl for a doll.
The girl already had two so she readily agreed. Taking the torn
wrapping paper, he covered the doll the best he could and
presented it to Sarah. She looked at him with big eyes and
smiled for the first time in weeks.
Sarah was too shy to play with the children until James
invited her. As the years passed, the two became inseparable.
They ate, played, and studied together; to see one was to see
the other. They could not remember when they fell in love. It
seemed as if they had always loved.
It was only natural when they became eighteen that
they would marry. James and Sarah chose the setting which
seemed appropriate: the orphanage. Also, for them the only
proper time of the year, Christmas Eve. The old pastor who
ran the orphanage was delighted and agreed to perform the
ceremony. They left with a promise to return and adopt a child
in a year or two when they had established a stable home.
Aikman paused and reached for his cup. With unsteady
hands, he drank the reminding liquid. Always the considerate
hostess, my wife refilled his cup, refreshing ours and Annas.
He thanked her, then folding his hands, he continued the story.
65

A happier couple were never known. James secured
employment with the local locksmith. They found a tiny
apartment above the stable. Sarah sewed lacy curtains hanging
them at the drafty windows. James painted the walls and
stuffed the cracks with old rags. They dined on the simplest
fare, yet their lives were a continual feast. Their love knew no
bounds. Each evening, James rushed home to his lovely wife.
Sarah greeted him with a hug and a kiss, bubbling over with
the events of the day, the people she met in the shops, the new
baby down the walk. He listened to her with a smile, saying
very little. The locksmith was a very cruel man. He drove
many employees away with his hardhearted ways.
As spring turned into summer and autumn to winter, he
found fault with everything the young man did. Each morning,
James found it more and more difficult to leave his bride, yet
he endeavored to keep the harshness of the shop owner from
Sarah.
Here Aikman paused again, pulling a white
handkerchief from his back pocket, he wiped his eyes and
blew his nose. He stared out the window; snow was falling at a
rapid pace. He paused so long I started to rise, disappointed at
the end the story. My wife, more perceptive than I, put a
restraining hand on my arm.
Aikman started again his voice trembling and low.
There was but a few days before Christmas and very
little money in the home for the buying of gifts. Sarah had
managed to save a few pennies from the food budget. She
counted, and then counted again. Just thirty coins, not enough
to purchase even a cheap gift. She had failed her loving
husband. She threw herself on the bed and dissolved into tears.
Unknown to her, for weeks James had worked through his
lunch hour. The shop owner had promised to pay him extra.
However, the man did not intend to fulfill his promise.
The locksmith was envious of the young couples love had
devised a plan to full his coffers and destroy their marriage.
Early on Christmas Eve, he treacherously crept into the bakery
next door and killed the owner. Taking the bag of money from
66

under the counter, he secreted it away. When James came into
the shop a short time later, he slipped a few coins into his
lunch pail. When the bakery didnt open, the police were
summoned and a search was made of the premises. They
discovered the baker dead beside his oven. Going next door,
they requested permission to search the shop. The owner
happily agreed, having secured the bag of money in his home.
Within a few minutes, they discovered the stolen coins hidden
in the bottom of James lunch pail. They arrested James and
took him in handcuffs down to the station.
The interrogation lasted all day and into the night with
James still maintaining his innocence. The constable
dispatched a team to his home to search for the rest of the
money. Three men entered the small apartment tearing it
asunder. Sarah watched horrified as they went through the old
chest pulling out her meager lingerie. Finding nothing of
significance, they left her in tears to repair the damage.
However, even they could not shake her faith in her husband
or her God. As soon as the door closed, she fell to her knees
weeping and praying.
She was still on her knees when there was a knock at
the door. Thinking this was the answer to her prayers, she
leaped up. Running to the door, she flung it open.
Here Aikman paused. His wassail had grown cold. He
again blew his nose and wiped his eyes. The snow was falling
heavier, turning the stark world into a land of beauty. The
elderly man laid his head back and closed his eyes. He
appeared to be asleep. This time Anna stopped us when we
started to get up.
He will finish in a moment, she said, her voice faint
and shaky as though she had run a long distance.
Aikmans voice began again but he spoke slowly as if
under a great burden.
There stood an old woman clothed in rags. She had a
crooked walking stick in one hand and a filthy bag in the
other.
67

Please missy, I have no place to sleep tonight, she
said, looking hopefully at Sarah.
Sarahs heart broke when she thought of herself on that
long ago Christmas Eve when she came to the orphanage.
Come in and welcome. I dont have much, but what I have is
yours, she said, swallowing her disappointment.
Opening the door, she welcomed the crippled old
woman into her shabby home. The elderly womans winkled
face broke into a smile. Once inside, she lifted her nose.
Sniffing the air, she said, Ah, that stew smells good. I
havent had a bite all day. Would ye have a bit fer a hungry
old woman, deary. She looked expectantly at her hostess.
With no appetite herself, Sarah dished all the stew into
her best cracked bowl. The old woman ate with relish, wiping
the bowl with the last piece of bread in the house.
Thank ye, deary, God will reward ye beyond your
dreams, she said with a toothless smile.
Sarah dismissed the old womans speech as idle talk.
After she had eaten, the woman threw her sack in the corner,
curled up in front of the fireplace, and promptly went to sleep.
Her heart too full of anguish to sleep, Sarah set in the rocker
praying. The old womans snoring seemed to shake the small
apartment. Covering the woman with a blanket, Sarah stoked
the fire. Eyeing the bag lying in the corner, she carefully
opened it. An unpleasant odor assailed her nose. The clothing
in the bag seemed to her shoddier than what the old woman
was wearing. An overwhelming sadness stuck Sarah; here was
one worse off than she. Tiptoeing to the cabinets, she took
down the small jar of coins. Opening the container, she poured
the few coins she had saved for a Christmas gift into the bag
among the garments. Behind Sarahs back, the woman
watched. A smile tickled her face as she saw the young girl
secret the money among her clothing. Carefully setting the bag
back into the corner, Sarah resumed her seat. The woman
closed her eyes. Sarah had taken the test and had passed.
In a jail cell, James spent a cold lonely night, looking at the
stars through the barred window as he prayed for a miracle.
68

He thought of the story the elderly pastor in the orphanage told
each Christmas Eve.
As the children set on the floor surrounding the tree, he
told how God sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. He
remembered the pastor saying Christ came to set the captive
free. On his knees, James prayed for the miracle only God
could perform. Emotionally exhausted, the young couple fell
asleep, one in a shabby apartment, the other in a lonely jail
cell.
Secretly God began His marvelous work.
Here Aikman paused. Smiling, he lifted his cup and
finished the cold wassail. My wife protested, asking if she
could warm it for him. Politely refusing, he continued the
story.
As the sun topped the horizon, James awoke to the
rattling of chains. Pushing off the stone floor he stumbled to
the bars. Supported by two constables, the locksmith staggered
down the hallway, his hands, and feet manacled. After they
secured the man in the end cell, the officers returned. Opening
Jamess cell, they told him he was free to go.
It seemed that in the night, the locksmith woke to find
the baker leaning over him. In the mans hand, he held the
very knife with which the locksmith had killed him. Jumping
from his bed, the locksmith ran through the house with the
baker close behind. The phantom caught him in the front
room. With the point of the knife prodding his throat, he
leaned into the locksmiths face. The smell of death on him,
the baker said one word. Confess.
The locksmith didnt bother to dress but ran all the
way to the police station in his night shirt.
The officers would have dismissed his story as a dream
if not for the small cuts on his throat.
Released, James raced home. Bounding up the stairs,
he found the door locked and bolted.
Pounding on it, he startled Sarah awake. Jumping up,
she ran to the door. Throwing back the bolt, she flung it open.
Tears streaming down their cheeks as the two young lovers
69

fell into each others arms. Babbling, each tried to tell their
story, finally James said, You first.
We have a Christmas guest, she said smiling. Grasping his
hand, Sarah turned. Then a look of bewilderment covered her
face. Lying on the floor was the empty blanket.
Where did she go?
Who?
Quickly, Sarah told James about the old woman. A
search of the small apartment proved fruitless.
Where could she have gone, heres her b...
Sarah stopped and stared at the corner. Gone was the
filthy bag, in its place was an elegant silk sack. In awe, James
and Sarah approached the corner. The bag seemed to be spun
of the finest silk. Opening it, they stared in amazement. Inside
were eight apples of gold encrusted with rows of jewels. In the
bottom of the bag were 30 gold coins and a note.
And so they lived happily ever after. He finished
abruptly.
It is time to go, Anna, Denver said. Slapping his
knees, he stood to his feet.
Wait a minute, you cant leave us hanging. What did
the note say? I protested.
Laying his hand on my shoulder, the elderly man said,
You will find out soon enough my friend.
No amount of prodding would make him reveal what
was in the note.
Anna seemed more reluctant to leave than in years
past. She and my wife had always had a special relationship,
more like mother and daughter than friends. To give them
more time together, I went out and warmed up the jeep.
Aikman accompanied me; looking back on that night, he too
appeared hesitant to leave. Sarah hugged my wife one last
time before climbing into the back seat.
As I drove them home, Denver and Anna were quieter
than usual. At the cabin, I helped him carry in firewood.
Waiting until they had a roaring fire going in the old stove in
the living room, I left with a promise to return the next day. I
70

can still see the elderly couple standing outside their front
door waving.
I found my promise impossible to keep.
All night long the snow continued to fall. At daybreak
the wind kicked up and the roads were closed. My wife and I
spent a quiet Christmas at home, the roads being impassible
even for the jeep.
Three days later, I drove through the woods to check
on the Aikmans. Coming around the curve I sped up, no
smoke came from their chimney.
Banging on the door and receiving no response, I
pushed the door open. The house was as cold as the inside of a
tomb. Denver set at the table, his head bowed as if in prayer. I
touched his shoulder; from the cold and stiffness, I surmised
he had died on Christmas day. Anna lay in bed, fully dressed,
also gone. The coroner confirmed their deaths to be of natural
causes and that they had died within minutes of each other.
On the table in front of Denver lay a note addressed to me, his
hand still gripping the pen.
My dear friend:
Last night you asked me to conclude the story. I couldnt at
that time, however today I can. Hidden in a secret
compartment in the back of the bedroom closet you will find
the silk sack from the story. Use it wisely, my friend, and God
will bless you.
Your friend,
James Denver Aikman

As instructed, I found behind the clothes, boots, and shoes, a
loose panel in the wall. Hidden there a beautiful silk sack.
Opening it, I stared in amazement. With trembling hands, I
reached in and pulled out an elegant golden apple. Rows of
diamonds, emeralds, and rubies surrounded it. Several more
golden apples shone from inside the bag. Laying them
carefully on the floor, I counted eight apples and thirty gold
coins. Sitting back, I looked at my surroundings. The cabin
was adequate; however, nothing in it spoke of wealth. Yet
71

even to my untrained eye, I knew the apples had to be worth
millions. Why did the Aikmans live in a cabin in the middle of
the woods and not in a mansion?
Then I saw the note.
After reading it, I understood. For years, someone had
given anonymously to charities, homeless shelters, and
destitute individuals. Every investigation always came to a
dead end. A conserve estimate surmised the donor had given
somewhere around twenty million.
My wife and I continue the philanthropy James Denver and
Sarah Ann Aikman started in 1910. Each year we take out one
apple and sell it through a private organization. The money
then is given as instructed in the note. At this time, we have
given away several apples, yet there are still eight in the sack.
And so once again God has proven His word to be true.
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto
The Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him
again.
Oh, and the gold coins? Through we have spent more than a
hundred, there are still thirty in the bag. Our reward for doing
what The Lord has asked.
















72








Dear Reader:
I hope you enjoyed this little book and each Christmas you
will reread the stories. I wish for you, your family and friends
to have a great Christmas filled with joy and happiness.
May you always remember the reason for the stable was the
cross.

Merry Christmas,
Darrell



















73


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Darrell Case is the author of several books. He and his wife
Connie live in central Indiana.