The idea for this story came to me from a casual conversation with a family member.
I’m sure most everyone knows my backstory, and that my late husband, Rick Sikes, was sentenced to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. So, in this conversation with a cousin, she said, “You know, I’ve often wondered if Bobby (Rick’s brother) really did the crime and Rick took the fall for him.”
While I know that isn’t a truth, it sparked a story idea and my imagination went into overdrive.
Then I had the story completely written, but wasn’t happy with the title I had chosen. I was riding in the car with my daughter, when we passed a pickup truck with a sticker plastered on the back window that read, Brother’s Keeper. That was it! I could hardly contain my excitement. I see things like that as signs from the Universe or as nudges. At that point, the story of Quentin Marks and his deadbeat brother, Rowdy was complete. None of the story is based on truth. It is a work of pure fiction.
My point here is to show how the creative process can work, and how it can take a tiny spark and ignite it into a flame. That spark and flame bring with them such an excitement that must be equal to skydiving or riding a bucking bronc. I don’t know because I haven’t done either of those things (nor do I intend to). But it’s an adrenaline rush and I am passionately in love with it. If you haven’t read “Brother’s Keeper,” I hope you’ll pick up your free copy today!
And, of course, I welcome a review after you’ve read Brother’s Keeper! Thank you and enjoy!
The inspiration for it came from a conversation with a family member. 🙂 You never know where they will come. As most of you know, my husband served fifteen years in a federal prison for a crime he did not commit. And, in a conversation with one of his cousins, she made the statement that she thought my husband’s little brother was involved in the crime, and that my husband took the fall for him. While that was not the case, it certainly inspired a story!
Quentin Marks covered the length of the eight-by-ten jail cell stopping now and then to punch the concrete walls that held him.
A mere forty-eight hours ago, he was resting comfortably at home ― before his brother’s frantic visit.
He replayed the conversation in his head for the hundredth time.
Rowdy Marks had pounded Quentin’s door with desperate blows. “Open the door, Quen!”
When Quentin had opened the door, his brother rushed inside in full-blown panic mode.
“What the hell, Rowdy? What have you done now?” Quentin had questioned.
“You gotta help me, man.” Rowdy grabbed him by the shoulders.
The pungent odor of whiskey and cigarettes assaulted Quentin’s nostrils. “You’re drunk, Rowdy. Go home and sleep it off.”
“No! You don’t understand. I’m in big trouble.”
“Since when is that news?” Quentin snorted.
“It’s serious this time. A man is dead.”
Quentin stopped in his tracks. “Shit, Rowdy! What did you do?”
“Pour me a drink, and I’ll tell you everything,” Rowdy whined.
“Another drink’s the last thing you need,” Quentin snarled. “Start talking.”
Have you picked up your copy yet? It’s only 99 cents on Amazon!
I have discovered that I truly love writing short stories. So, I look forward to this contest every year as it gives me the push I need to keep creating. This time I wrote a Western and that is a first for me. I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely.
War-torn drifter, Jack McClean is left with nothing but bad memories, scars, and a restless soul. When he stumbles upon a burning homestead, and an unconscious woman, beside the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, he stops to render aid. Grieving widow, Savannah Logan, sees no reason to live, and only wants to join her husband and children in their graves. But, Jack refuses to let her die. In saving her, he might somehow find redemption for himself and hope for a new tomorrow. Is it possible that both Jack and Savannah can find a new destiny in the changeable flow of the Brazos wind?
The second story I wrote for this contest came from a conversation with a family member that left me scratching my head. Two brothers – one responsible, the other not so much and family dynamics that twisted my heart as I wrote it.
Quentin Marks’ mother can only love one son, and from the day Rowdy was born, she makes Quentin, his little brother’s keeper. She demands that Quentin fix every problem for Rowdy and that he also protect him. The truth is, after a deadly snakebite, Quentin owes his very life to his little brother, a debt that will never be paid in full. Only now a man is dead, and once again, their mother calls on Quentin to make the problem go away and save Rowdy from prison. When is enough enough, and how much of his own life will Quentin Marks have to sacrifice?
In response to the Flash-Fiction photo prompt from Suzanne Burke this week, here is my contribution.
A FOREIGN WORLD
“Oh, the memories.” I sigh, and squeeze his hand a little tighter. The dried orange, brown and yellow leaves crunch beneath our feet as we shuffle along the sidewalk.
He smiles down at me. “Yes, my love. I remember when we sat on this very bench and I asked you to be my bride.”
Tears came unbidden and trickled down my wrinkled cheeks. “We had a pretty darn good life, didn’t we, Harold?”
“Yes. Yes, we did, in spite of the hardships.”
“But, I no longer recognize the world we live in. Where is everyone? Why are the streets empty? There was a day when this park would have held the laughter of children and young lovers strolling hand-in-hand.”
“Let’s sit, Margaret. My old legs are giving out.”
We shuffled over to the bench and Harold brushed away the leaves that covered it.
He blew out a long sigh and leaning on his cane, dropped onto the very bench where we started life together fifty-two years ago.
“I’m troubled, Harold. No, I’m more than troubled. I’m scared. Not for me and you. We’re pretty much out of here, but for the ones coming behind us.”
Draping an arm around my shoulders, he pulled me closer. “It’s not the same America that you and I grew up in. Soldiers on the streets, looting, killings and so much hatred exists. You know it’s not even safe for us to venture out.”
“I know, but I really needed some fresh air. Thank you for appeasing me.”
“Oh, my love, that is what I have lived for these past fifty-two years. My greatest joy is to make you smile.”
“What is that noise? Sounds like firecrackers.”
“I think we better mosey on back home, honey. It’s getting closer.”
He struggled to his feet, then leaning heavily on his cane, reached for my hand.
As we shuffled back toward safety, I turned to look back at the bench that meant so much, only to see a group of hoodlums spraying graffiti on it.
“Harold, we need to move faster. Trouble’s coming.”
“I’m going as fast as I can go. Don’t worry, dear. I won’t let anyone hurt you. It’s just a few more blocks home.”
That’s when it happened. A blow to the back of his head, took Harold to his knees. I screamed and turned to face our attackers only to see sneers and glowing hatred in the eyes of what should have been intelligent young men.
“You old people don’t need to be alive,” one of them growled. “You’re just taking up space and eating food that belongs to us. This is our country now. Old people like you are a nuisance.”
I kneeled down beside Harold and cradled his head in my lap. “You’ve hurt my husband.” Tears flowed uncontrollably.
One of them laughed. “So what? What are you going to do about it old woman?”
The first blow knocked me backward onto the hard concrete, and I frantically reached for Harold’s hand. The second blow brought oblivion.
Then, I was flying and when I looked down, I saw the shell of our bodies lying on the concrete, our blood mixing together and staining the sidewalk.
Harold floated up beside me. “We’re free now, sweet love. No more aches, pains or persecution. We’re free.”
He was right. I no longer had the familiar pain in my joints and his cane no longer had any use.
“What will happen to our once beautiful world?” I took one more glance downward to see the men who’d taken our lives strolling away casually as if nothing had happened. They laughed and joked and slapped each other on the back.
“I don’t know the answer to that. We may have to come back to find out.”
“I’m not sure I want to come back again. Maybe we’ll stay with the Angels for a while.”
“Whatever you say, dear.”
With his hand nestled softly in mine, we drifted slowly and peacefully toward the brightest light that you can imagine. Then we disappeared into it.
We were home.
I hope you enjoyed my contribution. If you’d like to participate or just know more about Suzanne Burke (by the way a fabulous writer), visit her website or better yet, pick up one of her books!
I am thrilled to share all of the blog sites where Jonah has visited this week! With only two more days to go on the blog tour, I hope you’ll take a look at each blog post and leave comments. If you do, your name will go into a drawing to receive an Amazon Gift Card!
Just a couple more hours and I’ll be able to rest my eyes. Been on this damn highway for what seems like forever. His head slowly nods until the rumble strip noise causes him to jerk awake. “I have been asleep,” he yells. He yanks the wheel, and the tires screech in protest as he swerves back on to the highway. He can feel his heart in his chest and pressure in his eyes. In an instant, he regrets being so weak as to give in to the physical need. He also becomes alarmed since now he knows that sleep could overtake him without notice. One second, his eyes could be open and the next closed. Thank God for the jarring and noise of the rumble strips since without its alarm, he is sure he would have ended up piled into a tree.
As his heart settles down, he concentrates on the road
ahead. There’s someone at the side about a half mile away. A hitchhiker by the
looks of a backpack. A sign in the person’s hand is not readable at this
distance. The thought occurs that It would be a good thing to have someone else
in the car to help him stay awake. Of
course, there are dangers in picking up a stranger. As he gets closer, he can
see that the hitchhiker is not a guy like he thought. It’s a young woman about
his age. She is wearing some kind of
overalls, but the distinctive female form still comes through. He decides to
slow down and assess the situation. A girl makes all the difference in trying
to reach a decision for or against a pickup. After all, who knows where this
could lead? He does know that in all probability, she is not likely to stick a
knife in his ribs and demand his wallet after a couple of miles down the road.
He eases the car to the shoulder and can’t help kick up some
dust in the process. The sign is facing him even as the person turns away to
avoid the dust storm he has created. Kansas City in black marker on cardboard
is all it says.
He opens the passenger door and waves her over. “I’m going
to Kansas City. Want a ride?”
The young woman looks back at him, and he can tell she is
doing an evaluation on the safety prospects of accepting a lift. She slowly
hoists her backpack on to her shoulder and walks with hesitant steps toward the
car. She puts her hand above her eyes to cut the glare of the sun and stops
short of the door. She leans in. “Did you say you’re going to Kansas City?”
“Yes. Yes, I did. I also asked if you would like a ride.”
“That all depends on your intentions?”
“Yeah. You are offering a ride. How much will it cost me?”
“Cost you? I’m going to Kansas City. Your sign says Kansas
City. Why would it cost you anything?”
“Just want to make sure is all.”
“No charge. I’ve been on the road forever, it seems, and I
would welcome the company. My name is James.”
“Sorry, James. I know I sounded a little ungrateful, but I
have also been on the road and have met several guys that think I owe them
something for a ride.”
“I can understand that. Let’s just say you can ride or not
it’s your choice. No other decisions to be made.”
“Fair enough. I accept your offer. My name is Sarah.” She
slides in and slams the door.
“Nice to meet you, Sarah. You want to put your backpack in
“No, I’ll just keep it here in the front with me. You can
“When I’ll have to bail. Everything I own is in this pack,
and I sure wouldn’t want to leave it behind.”
“I get it. No use trusting someone just cause they say you
“Right. I think I like you, James.”
“Wainwright. My last name’s Wainwright. How about you?”
“Not sure I have a last name. I go by Sarah.”
“No last name? How can that be?”
“You going to start this car or is my fear well founded.”
James flushes as he turns the ignition. “Yeah, here we go.”
He looks in the side mirror and signals as he pulls back on the highway.
“You are a cautious one. There’s no one for miles.”
“I guess it’s a habit from city driving.” He keeps checking
in the mirror until he is up to highway speed
“Where you from, James?”
“New York. You?”
“I think I was originally from down south somewhere.”
“You don’t know?”
“Well, it’s been a long time.” She pauses.
James glances at her and sees that she is lost in thought
somewhere. Her skin is fair, and she has the high cheekbones and lips of a
runway model. She looks vaguely familiar, and he compares her looks to Joni
Mitchell. There is that innocent, fragile look that makes you want to take care
“I’m sorry. What did you say?” She is back.
“I didn’t say anything. I’m amazed you don’t know where you
“Well do you remember where you’re from or is it someone
She has a point. James only knew he was born in Chicago
because his parents told him so. He lived in New York for twenty years so
unless clued in he would have thought he lived there his whole life. “I guess I
should rephrase the question. Where did you last live?”
“Yes, James. That makes a little more sense. I last lived in
“What a coincidence. I am driving from Dubuque. Do you
“I can believe that. Someone once said there are only six
degrees of separation of everyone on Earth. You and I traveling from Dubuque at
the same time certainly falls into that realm.”
“Aw come on, Sarah. We are both going from Dubuque to Kansas
City. That has to be more than a coincidence.”
“I never said I was going to Kansas City, James.”
“Wait. You have that sign that says Kansas City.”
“Doesn’t mean I’m going there.”
“What does it mean?”
“You think I know?”
“I’m getting a weird feeling here, Sarah. Like you aren’t
telling me something.”
“Do you remember swerving after you ran off the highway?”
“What? Back there. Yeah, I remember almost falling asleep.
Hey, wait a minute. How would you know about that?”
“Think a minute, James. How do you think I would know about
“Sarah I’m too tired for guessing games. What is this all about?”
“Do you feel okay, James?”
“Yeah, just tired.”
“Look around. Do you see any other cars?”
“No, but I haven’t for a while. What are you trying to tell
“You fell asleep, James.”
“When did I fall asleep? I know I nodded off, but when did I
“Just before your car went off the road and you hit a cement
“Now, you are joking. Right? Right, Sarah?”
“No joke, James. Look ahead. What do you see?”
“Uh, up the road, you mean?”
“Yes, up the road.”
“Nothing, but what looks like a sandstorm.”
“It’s no storm, James. It is nothing.”
“Who are you anyway?”
“Do you remember that little girl who went missing in the
“Yeah, what does that have to do with you?”
“Does the nickname Jimmy Jeans mean anything?”
“That’s what Sarah called me in the second grade.”
“How did I know that?”
“You wouldn’t unless.”
“Unless I’m Sarah.”
“Oh My God. Sarah. It is you. Where have you been?”
“That’s not important. What is important is you were broken-hearted when I vanished. You prayed for my return and made promises to God if only I would come back.”
“I never got over that either. I think of that little girl. I mean, I thought of you almost every day. Why didn’t I recognize you?”
“’Cause I’m all grown up. There would be no way.”
“Where have you been, Sarah. I have missed you so much.”
“Don’t cry, James. I’m here with you now.”
“Can you tell me what happened to you?”
“No, James, it’s not worth the time.”
“So why now? Why are you here now?”
“To help you, James.”
“To help me. How?”
“To understand what your life is like now.”
“Now? What do you mean?”
“You were in an accident, James. You ran off the road, and I
am sorry to say your body didn’t survive. You are now going with me on an
“You are saying I’m dead. I can’t believe that. Look at me. I’m just as alive as you.”
“That’s right. You are.”
“You are dead too?”
“Yes, James. A man took me from school and killed me. They
never found my body.”
“Don’t think about that now. Think about the future. Because
you prayed so hard and missed me so much, I was given the honor of escorting
you to the other side.”
“Other side? There’s a future?”
“A wonderful one. You
and I for all time.”
“I would like that.”
“Take my hand then. Let’s be off.”
“I have more questions.”
“All in good time, James. All in good time.”
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I can’t tell you why men write and I have
been thinking pretty hard on it these past few hours. It could be a man finds
something inside of him so damn beautiful that he wants to get it down on paper
before it slips away. I guess it could be that a man stumbles onto a thought so
damned earth-shaking he figures just about everybody should get a chance to
hear it. Who knows? Not me. I ain’t no writer. I’m a cowboy…
But, here I am writing!
It all started last night. You see, when
the whistling West Texas wind drives chariots of tumbleweed across this
God-forsaken plain, a man finds his body creeping closer to the fire as surely
as he finds his mind seeking the warmer memories of his past… and last night
was black ice, raw and bitter… and as surely as my fire drew me to its warmth,
one of my memories drew my soul… until… like a Roman Candle exploding in huge
darkness, I saw that memory in a new light… and I was wanting to write it down…
so I could share it… earth-shaking or not…
So, here I am, sitting on my saddle, with
a pencil in my ol’ paw and an empty stomach, doing two things I ain’t never
Missing breakfast and writing a story!
But, sometimes a thought can feed what a
meal can’t. Depends on a man’s hunger I reckon.
I know the thoughts in the Good Book used
to feed my mama, and I can remember a teacher I had once, years ago. They fed
me so much poetry that my heart was filled to bursting because I couldn’t let
it out for fear that my pals would laugh me to shame.
Funny, ain’t it… how one thought leads on
to another? And that brings me to the memory I discovered last night.
I grew into manhood on a rocky Texas
ranch. Pa died early. Ma still lives on the place. The soil ain’t good for
nothing but cactus and windstorms on that place and it weren’t no different
when I was growing up. But, we had some times on the old place worth
remembering, and I find it’s true the older I get, a few things happened there a
boy had to grow into understanding. My story’s about one of those things.
There was an old billy goat on our place. He was wild and wicked, crafty and cantankerous and smelly and scrawny. He was also lonely. His smell would gag a buzzard and he was so scraggly looking that the horned-toads paraded their ugliness past him like it was finery. Pa used to say, when we’d catch a glimpse of that ol’ goat, he was so poorly looking that he’d force a train to take a dirt road. I always smiled and nodded.
Pa died in the winter of my fourteenth
year. Later the same year, April I think it was, I came up on a sight which I
didn’t give much thought to ‘til last night. I was with our hired hand and his
boy, Junior Bascomb.
Junior was my best and only friend growing
up. He was two years older than me and I always thought of him as a kind of god.
I guess he must’ve known the answer to every growing-up question I ever wanted
Anyway, we rode up on one of the prettiest roses a man could ever want to see. Right next to that rose, laid out and dry, was the bones of that ol’ billy goat. I can remember Junior Bascomb saying, “Well, now, ain’t that the purdy’est rose you ever seen?” And his Pa answering, “It surely is.” I can remember how we all noticed the skeleton of that ol’ goat and sort of laughed when Junior’s Pa said the old billy would’ve eaten it sure.
Junior wanted to pick the rose for a
little gal he was seeing in town, but his Pa told him to leave it where it
grew. When Junior asked why, his Pa said, “Well, son, I think it’s kinda nice
for old Billy, onery cuss he was, to have such a purdy flower growing there by
And we rode on…
And I’ve been riding on ever since.
I’ll be fifty come June.
But, somewhere between then and now, I’ve come to look on that long ago day with a different view… and I guess my story is a little more than the story of an old billy goat and his rose. Just as a man sees things a tad different than a boy… because in my man’s soul I can almost see that old, lonely billy goat wandering through his empty days. That lonely little rose was solitary but splendid; nourished by a tiny stream and hemmed in by a few weeds.
I can see the old billy goat coming up to that little rose, and I can see him wanting to eat it, but he didn’t because he felt something just in looking at it that he hadn’t felt in years.
He felt younger, richer and less lonely.
So, he grazed all around the area and he
fell in love with the awesome intensity only an old creature can feel. The
sight of the rose made him spry and the scent of the rose put him in a romantic
mood. One day, he became so jealous of the weeds growing around his rose that
he tore them from the ground and gobbled them down in a frenzy that he hadn’t
felt in years. They tasted terrible in his mouth, but seeing them gone made him
feel pure in his soul. He had never been so happy. At night, the warm breeze
blew the fragrance of his rose softly into his nostrils and he slept well.
The summer passed well. Every day began
with the sight of his lovely, dew-kissed rose, and every day ended with perfume
But as summer ended and the rose began to
fade, the old goat began to eat less and less and worry more and more. When the
frost came, chilling and killing his love, it killed something in the old goat
too. One by one, the petals dropped from the rose into the dust and the old
goat followed soon after.
Every year, around spring the rose returned to bloom beautifully, beside the bleached bones of the old billy goat. Eventually, the sands shifted, covering both Billy and his rose…
But what is covered is not always
what truly matters finds a way to bloom again.
Even in the heart of an old cowboy.
For more about the life, times and music of Rick Sikes:
April kicks off two separate short story writing competitions for me. So, I started going through my folder of ideas and characters and it struck me the varied ways stories come.
It made me wonder. Which comes first for you, as an author?
The story idea?
Or the Characters?
For me, it has come both ways. For my short story, “Maggie,” the characters came first, then the story idea followed.
For “Obsessed,” the story idea came first and the characters followed.
Is there any right or wrong way? Absolutely NOT! It is exactly the same concept with songwriting. Sometimes the melody comes first and the lyrics follow. Other times, the lyrics come and the melody follows. But, on rare occasions, both the melody and lyrics come together hand-in-hand.
That’s when there is magic!
And when the magic happens, the readers feel it. Or, in the case of music, the listeners.
In the first Creative Writing class I ever took, the professor asked the question, “What does every human have in common?”
Of course, the answers were that we breathe air, we drink water, we have to eat and require sleep. He agreed with all those answers, but he said the one characteristic that every human being possesses is the innate desire to feel something. The answers to “feel what?” are as varied as there are individuals. But, the desire to feel is present in everyone in some form or fashion.
As writers, it is our job to make sure that happens with our stories.
But, I’m curious. Which comes first for you? The story idea? Or the characters? Or, like with me, does it vary?
I’m still looking back at 2018, and one thing that stands out for me, in the literary world, is the number of short stories that were published.
Part of the reason for the large surge was a 90 Day Alpha/Omega Beginning to End Short Story contest sponsored by the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB.
While I didn’t read every entry, I did devour a good many and was completely amazed at the writing talent!
I’m going to list a few of the top reads I found and hope you’ll check them out.
I have to start with some shameless self-promotion. “Two Shorts and a Snort” won the GRAND PRIZE in the contest! Needless to say, I was speechless.
This book consists of two short stories and a poem. The first story, “Obsessed” is a story about a man who will do anything, even commit murder to win a lady’s hand in marriage. The second story, “Maggie” is about a baby found in the snow. Could it be that Frank and Mary prayed this baby up? The poem is one that is all-too-familiar. When friends of the opposite sex cross lines and become lovers. “Well, I think I liked you better when we were friends instead of lovers.”
It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of Wendy Jayne Scott’s writing. And this short story grabbed me from the first page!
Here’s a short excerpt from my review: “When Tequila Rose wakes up one morning with a hangover and no memory of the night before, things get even more complicated as a strange man is there with coffee and soup. Who is this incredibly hot and handsome man?”
Here’s an excerpt from my review: “When a man falls in love for the first time and she is married to an abusive man, it can’t possibly end well. But, what happens next shocked and surprised. Is he an angel of mercy or a cold-blooded killer? You decide. Well-written and easy to read in thirty minutes or under.”
Another short story I read that was absolutely fantastic was “Open, Shut” by Nonnie Jules. It tells such a compelling story of the power of faith.
Here’s an excerpt from my Review: “This is an easy-to-read short story you can finish in around thirty minutes. It shares of one girl’s unwavering faith and the ripples of that faith long after she’s gone from this life. I loved the way so many people were deeply affected and changed in the short duration of this story. “
Here’s an excerpt from my Review: “Many stories have been told about the mythical Bigfoot, but in this short story, D.L. Finn presents a different twist on every theory out there. With only a few characters, the author manages to weave an entire story including some backstory. Could it be that Bigfoot was from another planet in our galaxy? I don’t know. Read this short story and find out. This is a quick read and can easily be done on a lunch break. It will leave you wondering.”
An excerpt from my Review: “I loved, loved, loved this short story! It has a bit of everything in the mix from magic to shapeshifters. When Cassidy finds herself with a big problem, she is determined to find out who has put this damnable hex on her and what she can do to reverse it. Warlock, Hunter Rutherford, wants Cassidy. He’s courted her for months and is no closer to getting intimate than he was at the beginning, but why? He can see the desire in Cassidy’s eyes.”
That’s six short stories you can read in a short period of time and be thoroughly entertained. I hope I interested you in at least one.
This has been a short story based on a true incident that occurred to one of my older siblings and passed down from my mom. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as I wrap it up today.
When we left Ella, Walter and the children, they were in the doctor’s office where the doctor had removed the shards of glass from baby Charlie’s mouth. He is about to give them home care instructions. We’ll join them to see what he has to say.
Dr. Davis scrubbed his hands then pulled up a metal chair and sat across from Walter and Ella. “Even though I got all the glass I could see out of his mouth, we don’t know how much he might have swallowed.” He sighed. “And therein lies the problem.”
Ella leaned forward, cradling the now sleeping baby. “What can we do, doctor?”
“You may think this sounds crazy, but I want you to get some potatoes and boil them up. I’ll give you some cotton balls to take home with you. Tear off little pieces of the cotton and wrap the potato around it to make tiny balls, and make him swallow it. Do this several times a day. The cotton should grab any slivers of glass and he’ll pass them in his stool.”
The nurse had stood in the background, but moved forward. “Do you folks have potatoes?”
Walter shook his head. “But, I’ll get some.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to drop by your place later today to check on the baby,” Dr. Davis said.
“Thank you, sir,” Ella said quietly. “We’ll find a way to pay you.”
The doctor waved his hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s Christmas time and the least I can do.”
With a box of cotton balls in hand, Walter, Ella, and the children left the doctor’s office.
Inside the ragged old car, Ella let fresh tears fall. “Oh, Walter, I am so sorry. I only let him out of my sight long enough to hang out the washin’. He just can’t die.”
Walter touched Ella’s arm. “Pull yourself together. We’ll do whatever we can. We need to buy a few potatoes.”
Ella nodded and held Charlie close to her heart. She was grateful that Walter didn’t seem mad at her for not watching the baby closer. She didn’t think she could carry any more guilt.
Over the next few hours, together, Walter and Ella managed to get several potato cotton balls down little Charlie’s throat along with a few sips of water.
True to his word, the good doctor stopped by to check on him, promising a return visit the next day.
Ella sat rocking Charlie as the sunlight faded into cold darkness. “Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve, Walter. And, all I want is for our baby to be okay. If we can have that, it’ll be enough.”
Walter nodded. “I know.” He ran a hand through his thin hair. “It don’t seem to matter what we do, we can’t never get a break.”
Jane and Celie had been quiet since they’d left the doctor’s office. Jane sat in the corner with her doll while Celie sucked her thumb.
“Mama,” Jane said. “I’m sorry. I shoulda watched Charlie better.”
“Come here,” Ella said. “Now you listen here, Jane Smith. You are just a little girl. I shoulda never put that responsibility on you. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“But, Santa won’t think so. He knows and he won’t bring us nothin’.”
Ella met Walter’s eyes over the top of the little girl’s head. Sadness crushed her heart. It was true. They had nothing for the girls and no hope of getting anything. Sadness turned to anger and she resented the folks that seemed to have more than enough. They worked hard and didn’t waste anything and yet nothing changed.
Throughout the night and the next day, Ella and Walter continued to poke the potato cotton balls down Charlie’s throat. He’d remained lethargic, only opening his eyes now and then and letting out a whimper.
Early on Christmas morning a car rolled to stop outside their tiny house. When Walter opened the door, he gasped.
“Merry Christmas!” Dr. Davis’ nurse said as she pranced through the door. “I brought you folks some things.” She sat down a large bag that included a ham and fresh vegetables.
Ella moved toward her. “Oh, dear! You didn’t have to do that.”
“I know I didn’t. But I wanted to. I’ve got a few things here for your girls too, if it’s okay with you.”
Jane and Celie rushed forward. The nurse passed brightly wrapped packages to them and they tore into them like ravenous animals.
Squeals of excitement filled the small space, as they unwrapped new dolls, a set of jacks and a ball and a coloring book along with crayons.
Ella fought against more tears. In the midst of the chaos, Dr. Davis arrived.
He strode to Charlie and picked him up. The baby opened his eyes and smiled at the good doctor. After completing an examination, he turned to Walter and Ella. “I do believe we have a Christmas miracle. I think your little Charlie is going to be just fine. You folks did a fine job of doctoring him.”
And, so Walter and Ella along with their three children had a Christmas to remember.
For once, they filled their bellies with as much food as they wanted, and the future held hope…hope for a brighter day…hope for prosperity and hope for happiness.
As I told you at the beginning, this was a true story passed down through the family. Above you can see Ella and Walter (my mom and dad, Marian and I.V. Smith).
I sincerely wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas! If you need a Christmas Miracle, I pray that you receive it. For, it is truly a magical time of year!