Saturday, 24 December 2011

Abigail's Gift Part 3

Her hands shook as she placed the last buttons in the drawer. Abigail went to the corner and pulled out the broom. With careful steps she made her way outside and began sweeping the front walk. Dust billowed up mixed with the small amount of snow that had fallen. She coughed and leaned against the window. A tear trickled down her cheek.
“There, there child,” Mrs. Van Berg whispered, drawing Abigail to her side. “There, there, everything will be okay.”
“Why did he have to die?” Abigail whimpered. “Now Lucy and her little brothers won’t have presents for Christmas.”
“I wish I could offer the poor woman a job here but she needs to take care of her children and we already have you.”
Abigail looked up at Mrs. Van Berg. “Lucy wants a job. Maybe she could work here too.”
Mrs. Van Berg smiled sadly. “I would love to hire Lucy but I’m afraid that we can’t afford to pay another girl.”
“Then… then…” Abigail paused. Could she really? Could she give up that doll she so wanted? “Give her my job.”
Mrs. Van Berg took a step back. “What? Your job? But what will you do?”
Abigail shrugged. “Daddy still has a job. I’ll get something for Christmas. Lucy won’t without this job. Please, Mrs. Van Berg, please let me do this.”
“But Abigail, you almost have enough money for the doll you wanted. Are you just going to give up on that?”
Abigail shook her head. “No, but right now Lucy needs the money more then I need the doll.”
Mrs. Van Berg stroked Abigail’s cheek. She drew Abigail back to her side. “Alright, if it means that much to you, I will give Lucy the job.”
“Thank you, thank you.” Abigail reached up and planted a kiss on Mrs. Van Berg’s cheek.
She ran down the street to the Walsh’s house. Without knocking she burst in. Mrs. Walsh and Lucy both looked up from the dress they were repairing. Two of Lucy’s brothers dragged sticks inside and poked them into the small fireplace.
“Abigail, are you okay?” Lucy asked jumping up and hurrying to her friend.
“Yes, yes. I’m fine,” Abigail said. “I found a job for you. At the Van Berg’s store.”
“But you work there,” Lucy protested. “That’s your job.”
“Not anymore,” Abigail smiled. “It’s yours. You need it more than I do. The doll will wait.”
Lucy stared at her. She looked towards her mother who had nothing to say either.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Mrs. Van Berg needs her windows washed and the front step swept. Go on, go do it.” Abigail pushed Lucy out of the door and waved her down the road.
For one moment Abigail wanted to call Lucy back. She had been waiting so long for that doll and now she would have to wait longer.
Abigail turned to Mrs. Walsh. The woman was still seated at the table but now her hands where still. A tear glistened on her eyelashes. Abigail slowly walked towards her stepping over the blocks that littered the floor.
“Yes, Mrs. Walsh?”
“That was a brave thing to do,” Mrs. Walsh said. “I know how hard that must have been for you.”
Abigail thought about denying the pain but couldn’t. “It was; it will be. But you and Lucy need the money more then I need that doll. Buy something for the little ones.”
Mrs. Walsh stood and for the third time that morning Abigail found herself being pressed close to someone. “You are an angel. Like the widow with her two mites you have given all you could. Thank you.”
Abigail smiled. “I’m glad I could help. Merry Christmas.”
Abigail walked down the road and waved at Lucy, who swept cheerfully at the front of the store. Lucy waved back and Abigail suddenly felt better.
Lucy’s smile was present enough and Abigail knew that come Christmas morning there would be something special for her. And she still had her father.
As she walked towards her house she remembered something the minister had said just that Sunday.
“God gave His only Son as a gift for all mankind. He didn’t have too, but out of His great love He did. What can we do this Christmas season to thank God for His precious gift to us?
“Do not make light of Christ. Without His birth we would never have the peace we have. Give out of all you have this Christmas and see what God will do for you.”
With a light heart Abigail entered her own yard. She had given out of all she had and the world seemed a better place for it. It was the season for celebration and she would celebrate the gift of Christ with all her heart.
  Stepping into her house she was embraced by the light of her family. She had all she needed in them and Christ’s gift of life.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Abigail's Gift part 2

Sara was waiting in the front yard when they arrived. She was the teacher at the local school.
“What happened?” she asked. “Johnny, are you alright?”
“Mr. Walsh died in the explosion,” Mary said quietly. “He made Johnny leave before him.”
Sara covered her mouth with her hand. “The brave man. How is Mrs. Walsh doing?”
Abigail shook her head and followed Mary inside.

That night Abigail lay beneath the blankets on the bed she shared with her sisters. She tried to sleep but every time she closed her eyes she saw Mrs. Walsh kneeling beside her husband. And the five children, so young and without a father.
She struggled to her knees, trying to keep from waking Sara and Mary. “Dear God, help the Walshes. Be with them, keep them safe. If there is anything I can do for them let me know. Amen.”
She laid back down and closed her eyes.

 The next morning the sun shone but even the brightness of its glory couldn’t erase the horrors of the day before. Abigail’s father and Johnny went to work as they always did. But there was no whistling from her father and Johnny shuffled along.
School had been cancelled until the Christmas season was over. Abigail wandered the house struggling to find something to do.
“Mama, what are the Walsh children going to do for Christmas this year?”
“I don’t know, honey,” her mother replied. “Sweep up the breakfast crumbs and spread them out for birds.”
Abigail took the broom and moved the crumbs into a pile. She scooped them up in her hand and went outside. As she scattered the crumbs she saw Lucy Walsh shuffle by.
“Lucy,” she called. “Wait for me.”
Lucy was the same age as Abigail and they played together at school.
Lucy looked up at Abigail and tried to smile. “Hi.”
“Are you going to be okay?” Abigail asked wrapping an arm around her friend.
Lucy shrugged. “I’m trying to find some work so I can help Mama buy some Christmas presents for the little ones. They deserve some happiness.”
Abigail nodded. “I’ll keep an eye out for jobs. I hope you find something. It doesn’t seem like Christmas without presents.”
She waved goodbye to Lucy and then skipped off to the store. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Van Berg, smiled at her as she stepped into the warm room.
“And how is Miss Abigail this morning?” Mrs. Van Berg asked, sweeping her into a hug.
“I’m okay,” Abigail replied. “Do you have anything for me to do this morning?”
Abigail helped out at the little store when she could and when there was work for her. She was saving up to buy the pretty doll she had seen in the window of a store in the city.
“A new order of buttons came in this morning,” Mrs. Van Berg replied. “You can sort them.”
Abigail nodded and hurried to the button drawers. She opened the box and ran her fingers through the cool buttons. Scooping up a handful she began to drop them into the proper drawers.
“Abigail,” Mr. Van Berg said. “We will be closed for Mr. Walsh’s funeral tomorrow.”
Abigail didn’t say anything. What could she say? The buttons made dull clinks as they dropped into the drawers. Was that how the Walsh’s house sounded? Empty without Mr. Walsh’s laughter and jokes? Was it dull there now?
Whenever Abigail visited the Walshes she had laughed along with the family at the funny stories Mr. Walsh told. He always seemed to be laughing. Now his laughter would be missing from parties and family gatherings.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Abigail's Gift Part 1

School was over and Abigail was playing on the floor with Timmy when it happened. The block tower fell over and so did Timmy. Abigail grasped the table leg as the small house shook. The water in the pan on the stove sloshed over and hissed as it hit the hot metal.
Abigail scooped Timmy of the floor and hurried to the door. She squeezed in between her mother and older sister Mary. High in the sky above the entrance of the coal mine was a large black cloud. It was coal dust, the same dust that coated everything in the small town.
“What’s happening?” Abigail asked.
Her mother shook her head. The shouts and cries of the men reached their ears. Children and women began to run towards the mine. An explosion like that was never a good thing. And so close to Christmas, it was a tragedy.
Abigail wrapped a blanket around Timmy and hurried after her mother and Mary. They pushed their way through the crowd. To Abigail’s relief she saw her father and brother, Johnny, standing by the office.
“Johnny, what happened?” Abigail asked as her mother flew into her father’s arms. “Is anyone hurt?”
“It was the gasses. Someone dropped a lantern. It all went up,” Johnny said staring glassy eyed at her.
Mary came over and propelled her brother to the far side of the large crowd. Abigail felt Mary tug on her arm but she was too shocked to move. She felt Timmy being lifted from her grasp. Her hands fell loosely to her side. Gas explosions were the worst.
A cry of grief rose from the crowd and the people parted as Abigail’s father stepped through. Abigail followed close behind him. On the ground by the entrance to the underground mine was the blackened body of a man. A strange smell came up out of the ground and Abigail wrinkled her nose. Flames crept along the wood of elevator. Four young children and a woman holding a baby hovered around the body. He wasn’t moving and Abigail turned her head. She had witnessed the destruction of an explosion in the mine last year. Only this time she knew the man very well. It was Mr. Walsh.
Abigail’s her heart sank. Mrs. Walsh had just had another baby and her husband had been promoted which meant more money for the family. But now Mr. Walsh was gone and so was the money.
“Mama, can you do something?” Abigail asked softly.
“No, child, there is nothing I can do,” her mother replied. “Go find Mary and Johnny and take them home. Sara should be back from school by now.”
Abigail nodded. She trudged slowly away from the crowd. What would Mrs. Walsh do now? Johnny was leaning against a coal cart, his dust covered cheeks streaked from the tears falling down his face.
“He made me go up before him,” Johnny whimpered. “It should have been me.”
“No, Johnny. We need you,” Abigail said. “Come, let’s go home.”
Mary hugged Timmy to her and turned from the destruction. Abigail grasped Johnny’s hand and led him towards the small hovel they called home.