Merry Christmas, fellow Coffee Drinkers. Regardless of what you hear from KT, if you read the blog, I consider you a "drinker" of the wordy liquid I have to offer. Becoming a "follower" only makes it official. Heck, I'm just glad you stopped by...
Catch Up on A Very Deuce Christmas Story
Installment One, featuring Parts 1 - 3
Installment Two, featuring Parts 4 - 8
Installment Three, featuring Parts 9 -12
Installment Four, featuring Parts 13 - 15
Installment Five, featuring Parts 16- 20
“That’s what happened to my mom,” Brit said.
Wookiee sat for a moment, and then quickly wiped a tear from his eye. No sense in letting her see the big strong beast cry. He sat next to her bed in a small chair, chin on palms, elbows on knees. He had been in this position for the last hour, chatting with this 7-year-old child. He marveled at her innocence of the world, he wished for the day when his biggest problems were getting his j and k backwards on a test in school and not coloring completely in the lines.
He also felt sympathy for her when she told of how her mother died of cancer a year before. He had a broken heart when she told him how her father hasn’t been to see her in the hospital in the three weeks she’d been there.
“He works a lot,” she had said about that, in a voice that indicated its okay, he’ll be here when he can. “The only who visits me is my sister, she comes when she can, but she has to work a lot. There’s really no one to talk to. But now you are here!”
He silently prayed for her as she said she loved Jesus, and that he would take care of her, no matter what. Wookiee fought back tears like he’d never done when she said, “Jesus loves little kids, because he said so in the Bible. My Bible even has a picture in it with Jesus and a bunch of kids.”
She pointed to the book lying on the windowsill. Wookiee got up, walked over and brought the Children’s bible to her.
She opened it, flipping pages for just a few seconds, stopping on a painted picture of Jesus surrounded by several children.
“She’s my favorite,” Brit pointed to a little girl in the front of the picture standing next to the depiction of Jesus. “I like her because she has curly brown hair like me, and because Jesus has his hand on her arm. I think it would make me feel really special if Jesus has his hand on my arm.”
“I’ll bet it would,” Wookiee smiled, leaning back into his chair. “It would make me feel special too. But you know what?”
“What?” she asked.
“Jesus always touches you,” Wookiee said. “He may not touch you on the arm like this…” he leaned over and poked her in the arm with his finger, causing her to giggle, then continued, “…but he always touches you here.” He put his hand over his heart. “He’ll always be in my heart, just like he’ll always be in yours.”
“That’s why Christmas is my favorite day because Jesus was born that day, and I like wishing Jesus a happy birthday. Have you wished Jesus a happy birthday yet?” she asked.
“Not yet,” Wookiee replied. Then, talking more to himself than to Brit, “It’s been a long time since I really said much to Jesus.”
“Let’s sing happy birthday to him!”
Wookiee laughed, and then nodded. “Okay, Brit. You start.”
As precious as a little 7-year-old girl could, she began to sing a completely horrible off-key version of happy birthday. Wookiee followed along in an equally off key tone, but they sang the song and both laughed and laughed.
We reached the yard of the house we had spotted from the highway, and the house looked so warm and comfortable. The blue truck sat in the middle of the yard. You could tell it had just been used, as there was very little frost on the windshield compared to the thick snow that covered the entire yard and roof of the house. I wanted to appreciate how pretty the entire scene was, but I was too cold. We walked by a mailbox on the right reading "Keller”, with the flag up. It was almost like a Thomas Kinkaide painting... well, except for the below-freezing temperatures, the darkness and piercing wind. Besides that.
Apparently, Michael saw it on the mailbox too, because I heard him mumble, “Keller? I hardly even…” and then he trailed off.
I stepped on the porch first, followed closely by Ginger and Michael. I carefully stepped up to the door, raised my hand to knock and then stopped. What was I doing?
“How do I do this?” I turned to them, whispering. “Do I just say ‘please help us’?”
“Pretend like you are in one of those Charles Dickens stories,” Ginger said, throwing on an accent, “Please halp us, suh, we want to be wahm.”
“This isn’t funny!” I said as she and Michael both giggled.
“Just knock,” Michael finally said. “With our luck, it’ll be some of the DeRamii clan, and they’ll come out with the gun and kill us all.” Michael referred to the people who lived on the first floor of Rollingwood Apartments, directly below The Deuce. Brook DeRamus was a marine biologist that we seldom had seen. At that moment, however, I would have given anything to be standing in front of the DeRamuses door instead of where I stood.
“We get shot, at least we’ll be warm,” Ginger added.
Taking a deep breath, I knocked. We stood in anticipation, waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. I knocked again, and a few minutes later, I heard footsteps inside.
“Moment of truth,” I said as I heard the door unlock from the inside, and the doorknob turn. The door creaked open about three or four inches and I made out the face of an older man on the inside peering through the crack.
“We don’t want anything you have to sell, boy,” he crackled from the inside.
“No, sir, we aren’t selling anything,” I said. “We are stuck in the cold, and wondered if you had a barn or something we could get warm in.”
“Or maybe if we could come inside or something,” Michael added, standing behind Ginger and myself. I threw my elbow back to get him, and accidentally hit Ginger. I could tell she had flinched, but held it nicely.
“Let you come inside so you can rob me, huh?” the man replied. “No thank you. Get off my porch before I call the police.”
With that, the door abruptly slammed. I turned to look at Ginger and Michael and shrugged my shoulders.
“Well, there went that idea,” I said.
“At least he didn’t shoot us,” Michael said, turning to walk off of the porch.
Michael stepped onto the icy ground, and Ginger was walking down the steps when I heard the door open again. We all three turned from where we were, and saw the door standing wide open, this time with an elderly lady standing at the door.
“What was your problem again, young man?” she asked.
“Oh ma’am,” I quickly walked back to the door to where she stood. “We had an accident, and we were supposed to be picked up by a friend of ours, but he didn’t make it. Now we have no place to go, and we are all freezing.”
“You aren’t one of those pesky phone service salesmen, or Amway people, are you?” she said with a laugh.
“No ma’am, we just want some heat,” I smiled.
“Please come in,” she smiled back. I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked into the house. Suddenly, every part of my body that had been exposed to the cold was hit with a blast of warm air.
“Oh my gosh,” Michael said as he walked through the door. “It feels so good in here!”
“And who are you?” the older lady asked.
“My name is David,” I stuck my hand out to shake it.
“I’m Ginger,” Ginger also stuck her hand out.
“Oh, hi, I’m Michael,” he said as unzipped his jacket.
“Nice to meet the three of you,” she said. “My name is Linda Keller. You’ll have to excuse my husband Roger, he’s paranoid about everybody and everything. I told him we couldn’t let you freeze, that just wouldn’t be very Christian of me, now would it?”
The house had an old feel to it, like a typical grandmother’s house you would find. Although the power had gone out, I could make out older pictures and paintings on the wall, and different decorative Christmas items scattered about the living room we stood in. The tree was in the corner, standing tall, but dark because of the power loss.
I could only guess the warmth was caused by an alternative source of power, such as gas, and the roaring fire in the fireplace across the room didn’t hurt. The fire in the flue combined with the candles glowing in the window must have given the light I spotted from down the road.
“Do come in the kitchen and have a seat,” she motioned to us, leading us into an adjacent room. “I’d like to find out more about your plight.”
The kitchen was lit with candles placed all over the room, providing more than enough light to find our way around. Michael and I walked behind Mrs. Keller into the room, keeping Ginger instinctively between us, just in case.
As she walked by the table in the kitchen, we each had a seat. In the candlelight, I couldn’t truly see her face, but I could watch her silhouette move to the stove. I heard a click, and then a little row of blue flames popped out. She grabbed a pot and filled it with water, then placing it above the flames on the stove. Our eyes watched her as she walked to another doorway that I only noticed when she went to it.
“Roger, come out here and meet our guests that you so rudely spurned!” She turned back around to us, slowly walking to the counter. An elderly man appeared in the dark doorway, which I could guess was our greeter a few minutes before.
“Roger, I’d like you to meet David, Ginger and…” she turned to look at Michael. “…I’m so sorry, what did you say your name was?”
“Michael,” he said.
“Yes!” she turned back to Roger. “And meet Michael. They are stuck in the storm, and they have come to us for help.”
“Why don’t you just go to the Waffle House? It ain’t but about four miles from here. If ya’ started now, you could make it in an hour.”
“Roger, settle down. They’ve been in the weather since mid-afternoon. I’m not going to make them go walking in it again.”
“Ah, Waffle House got some stupid new guy waiter anyways. He looked like one a‘them gays or something.”
“You weren’t mean to Claire again, were you?” She turned to us. “She’s just the nicest young lady, putting herself through school and all. Roger is so rude to her, makes her cry sometimes!”
“Where you kids from?” he looked at us and grunted.
“Birmingham,” Ginger answered.
“You all on drugs? You all high up on that pot stuff?”
“No sir,” Ginger held back a smile. “We don’t do any drugs.”
“You have to be on something to be in this kind of weather and ain’t got nowhere to go.”
“Roger,” Mrs. Keller said. “I’m making them some hot tea. Now, in a moment, David and Michael are going to go outside with you and chop some wood. Ginger will stay here with me and help me clean up the kitchen. And in return, we will allow them to stay in our living room for the evening. Roger, how does that sound?”
“Fine. When you wake up tomorrow and everything is gone, don’t complain to me. I’ll just ignore you and go to the Waffle House for some breakfast like I always do.”
Mrs. Keller turned back to face us. “Now, does sound like a fair deal? We need the wood chopped, and you need somewhere warm to go. You can’t take much from the living room even if you wanted to, because anything of value is not in there. But first, you need to warm up before going back out, and the hot tea is almost done.”
I looked over at Michael, and then Ginger, who sat between us.
“Ginger,” I leaned over and whispered in her ear. “How do you feel about this? If Michael and I go outside, you’ll be inside by yourself.”
She leaned back a little and whispered, “I think it’ll be okay. If she tries something, I can take her. I think she’s okay.”
“Now, tell me your story and how you ended up on my front porch,” she asked, setting down cups in front of Ginger, Michael and myself.
I looked over at Michael and Ginger, and Michael piped up “Dave, you tell her. My lips are still thawing.”
Drew worked his way through every Christmas song that came to mind, and then doubled back and repeated some. He figured by nine o’clock, there couldn’t be that many people that were in here when he started two hours ago.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” he sang, as he had done a few hours before.
Tom sat down with his meal after two hours of cooking, and Justin sat down to eat his waffles. Tommy came out a few minutes later with a plate of food.
“Merry Christmas, Tom,” he smiled, taking a bite of his food.
“You too,” Tom laughed. “It’s been an interesting day, hasn’t it?”
“Yeah it has.”
The crowd had slowed quite a bit from an hour ago, so much so that Bethany was the only waitress walking around. Claire still sat with Jenn in the corner.
“So, let me get this right,” Claire said. “No matter how long it’s been since God and I last spoke, it doesn’t matter?”
“No, it doesn’t. When you speak to God, whether you last did it ten minutes ago or ten years ago, he listens to you like the two of you had never stopped talking in the first place.”
“That’s so awesome, Jennifer,” Claire whispered softly.
“Check it out, it’s Christmas! You won’t find a better time to spark up a relationship with God than around his son’s birthday.”
“I really could use some of God’s grace right now, with mother being gone, my sister in the hospital and my dad never around.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Well, our mother died of cancer a year ago, and my sister is showing signs of leukemia already. She’s been there three weeks now for tests and such. My dad kind of lost it when Mother died, and so he drinks a whole lot. But to Britany, Daddy is the world to her, and can do no wrong. He hasn’t been there once to see her since she’s been there. Because of that, she hasn’t said more than two or three words the entire time she’s been in the hospital. I guess she doesn’t say much because she feels like there’s no one to talk to.”
“Does she have anyone to look after her besides you?”
“My aunt works there, so she checks on her all the time. But Brit and my aunt were never close, so she doesn’t open up to her at all.
Jennifer took a deep breath, knowing that this is where the conversation had to go. She prayed silently that she could step aside and let God speak through her. She gave a slight pause, took another breath and then spoke.
“Listen, Claire, I have to tell you that a relationship with Christ won’t make everything all better instantly. You won’t say Amen and suddenly find yourself at Harvard with a sober dad and a healthy sister. A relationship with Christ is not easy by no stretch of the imagination. But you will have someone to turn to. I can promise you that God will always be there for you.”
“But religion is so foreign to me.”
“No, Claire, you aren’t listening,” Jenn spoke very sternly. “I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about a relationship, a one on one relationship with the Creator of the entire universe. He huge enough to have been here before time existed and will be here long after there is no concept of time, but He is small enough to want a relationship with stupid sinner me and stupid sinner you. All He asks of you is that you admit you are a sinner, and you accept the fact that God sent His Son to die for you to be forgiven. That’s not a religion… that’s a relationship with Christ.”
Jennifer held her breath, not knowing if Claire would get up and walk away, or just coldly reject everything she was saying.
Instead, Claire looked up at Jenn and had a tear trickle down her cheek.
“Jennifer,” Claire said as another tear fell. “Can you tell me how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ? My sister has one. She talks about how much Jesus loves her and even though she never sees her dad, and her mom is gone, and she’s lying in a hospital bed with possible cancer, she talks about how Jesus will take care of her. I have been passing it off as a naïve child not knowing anything, but secretly I desired to have that much faith in something. In anything. Can you tell me how?”
Jennifer reached over and grasped Claire’s quivering hands on the table.
“Yes,” Jenn smiled, wiping her own tear away. "Yes I can."
PARTS 24 - 29