From “Once Upon A Christmastime”

THE ANGEL TREE
Peggy Perry
Copyright 2013

Vodka. Check.

Sleeping pills. Check.

Funeral instructions. Check.

Will. Check.

House cleaned. Check.

Front door unlocked, so her body could be found without damaging the cabin door. Check.

Christie went on down the list, checking off everything she had been able to think of that needed to be taken care of. She depended on her lists. Her friends said she had become a little OCD, but she needed something ordered and logical in the howling chaos that had filled her life in the last year.

Her eyes moved over the cabin her family had always used for their Christmas vacations. It was a big log cabin, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a big kitchen. The living room was L-shaped, and had an enormous fireplace against the end wall. The front porch opened to the short leg of the L, which helped keep cold winds from blasting through the door and filling the room. Her husband had built the cabin to her specifications, and had become the family’s favorite vacation spot.

This was the first year the cabin had no decorations, no cinnamon and spices filling the air, no tree surrounded by a huge pile of brightly wrapped gifts. Last year it had been a wonderland filled with love and laughter and joy. Then her husband had taken the children down the mountain to see the lights in the town below on Christmas Eve while she wrapped all the gifts she and her husband had previously delivered and hidden in the cabin.

They never came back. The officers came instead; telling her there was nothing anyone could do, except to identify the bodies. That had been her Christmas present; a trip to the morgue, to verify what everybody already knew. Her New Year’s Day was spent burying her reasons for living.

She had gone to grief therapy. She had received counseling. But she had nothing left, no reason to live. She had sold their home, had sold all the furniture, and given away the clothes she had once so carefully chosen for the people she loved. There was nothing left in the world for her, and she was ready to leave it.

The church her family had been members of believed that suicide was a sin, and that those who committed it went to hell. Christie didn’t care. She only wanted relief from the screaming in her head, and an escape from the well meaning platitudes of friends who thought words could ease her pain.

Now it was Christmas Eve again, and her plans were set, her lists checked off, and she was ready to turn off the lights and fall into the darkness in her soul. Moving to the entryway of the cabin she glanced through the window blinds by the front door, absently noting the wind was howling and the snow blowing so that nothing outside could be seen. It was a good night to die.

She jerked back as she reached for the light switch next to the door. The pounding on the door sounded again over the howling wind. “Open the door, for the love of God! My children are freezing to death! Please, please, let us in! Oh, God, help us!”

Christie gasped and yanked the door open. A man staggered in, holding a small child, followed by two other children and a woman. She urged them toward the living room. Just as she was about to slam the door shut on the snow blowing in after them, a horn sounded. She shielded her eyes against the snow and wind and saw headlights pulling up to her porch next to the car already there. And then another pair of lights!

Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the family who had come in getting out of their coats, the woman frantically checking the children’s faces and hands, brushing snow off their hair. Christie held the door almost closed as she looked back out to see an elderly lady making her way carefully up the porch steps, fighting the wind. As she almost fell through the door, Christie caught her and pulled her in, depositing her in a chair beside the door.

“The thermostat is on the wall there!” she told the man leaning against the wall. “Turn it up, and you can turn the fireplace on as well. It’s gas, with a pilot light. Just turn the ignition switch on the mantel. That should warm it up in here faster.”

A young couple staggered in as Christie held the door. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” The woman sobbed as the man with her helped Christie slam the door shut. “I was so sure we were going to wind up freezing to death before we found shelter! There was no way we could stay warm in that car!”

The young man nodded. “We had the heater up as high as it would go, but we were still freezing. If we hadn’t seen your lights and been able to make it up the road, we would have met Jesus for Christmas.”

The elderly woman laughed. “I was following the tail lights in front of me. That’s all I could see through that snow. Thank God you were here. I couldn’t go another foot, I think.”

The man with the children came over and shook Christie’s hand. “Have to second that. Mack Williams, ma’am. These are my wife Annabelle and my kids, Jody, Ricky, and Susanne. Thank God your light made it through that blizzard.”

Christie looked around at them shrugging off their coats. Her forehead wrinkled in confusion. “How could you see any lights? My porch light is off, and the blinds are over the windows. And this cabin can’t be seen from the road. We designed it that way.”

They all stared at her. “Then maybe it’s just a Christmas miracle!” the elderly lady finally said with a laugh. “My name is Edith Morton, my dear. And a very merry Christmas to you.”

Christie sucked her breath in, but before she could say the angry words trembling on her lips, the little girl Susanne announced in a loud voice as only a four year old could, “I gotta go potty!”

Her mother looked alarmed. “Oh dear, all the children need to go. Please, where’s your bathroom?”

Distracted by mundane problems, Christie pointed to the doorway. “Down the hall, past the kitchen door.”

The children rushed to the door, the young girl bellowing, “Me first! Me first!”

Stroke! Stroke!

Last night, I was asking a buyer of my first book if he wanted a copy of my second.  He asked for a description of it and after I told him he told me he’d take one.  His wife, sitting beside him, apparently caught that and turned to ask him what he was getting.  He told her I’d published a second book and she immediately said,  “Oh, yes, yes, yes!”  She’d read the first and didn’t even care what the second was about, she just wanted to read it.  Talk about stroking my ego.  I’ve had several others say the same thing.  They don’t care what it’s about, they just want to read it.  I’m especially glad because the stories fighting their way out of my head are all different.  I want people to look at my name on a book and just say, “Doesn’t matter what it’s about, it will be good, because I know she tells a good story.”

Now if I can just get some of them to write a review online somewhere, so others who haven’t read my first book will see it…or just tell their friends.  Word of mouth is wonderful, and often yields more results, because the emotion of the reader comes across.  One of my favorite all time series was brought to my attention by way of a casual conversation in the hall at work when a coworker mentioned her mother’s favorite author.  I read one book and bought all the rest as fast as possible.  (Free plug: C. L. Bevill, the Bubba series – humorous murder mysteries.)

I can bore people for hours about my favorite books, and do.  (My sisters keep threatening me about spoiler alerts.) I can at least natter on about them on Goodreads and Amazon.  Hopefully someday I can be compared to the likes of my favorite authors like Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Laurens, Linda Howard, Max Brand, and I won’t even start with my favorite science fiction writers because I’d run on forever and ever.  I don’t have a particular favorite Christian author.  I don’t actually read a lot of Christian fiction; I’m too busy writing it.  Right now I’m collecting various books of Christian fiction by various authors to see if any particular one strikes my fancy.

I don’t mind stroking other authors’ egos.  I go to science fiction conventions whenever I get a chance and if I run across one whose work I read a lot of, I’ll let them know (if I can get close to them…).  If I ever get to go to other conventions, I’ll tell those authors too.  They deserve lots of kudos for bringing so much pleasure into my life.  My childhood had a lot of hard times in it, and (though it may shock some who know me now) I was a very introverted child who was terrified of being noticed.  Books kept me sane, kept me hopeful, kept me optimistic, and let me exercise my brain.  When I spent decades in a dry, technical world of numbers and regulations and angry people on the phone, my breaks spent with my books got me through.  One book even saved my life.  I had stepped on a nail and got a blood infection, and had no idea because it stopped hurting.  Then I recognized the symptoms of blood poisoning I had read in a story and got to a doctor, who said if it had gone one more day, it might have been too late.

If some writer got you through tough patches, brightened your worldview, inspired you, and/or exercised your imagination, thank them however you can.  They deserve it, and it might inspire them to keep writing and brightening the world in general.

Trials, Travails, and Those Who Help Us Triumph

Posting stuff on the Internet is always fun.  My sister was going crazy trying to change her Facebook profile photo on her smartphone, and I was trying to help her by looking mine up on my computer and changing it.  She finally discovered she was just working with a slow change, and because she tried several times, her photo was updated the same amount of times.  I was trying to start a new page on this site, and post an item on it, and boy, was it fun.  Hope it has finally settled the way I want.

I am now working on book 3, “Give Me A.I.D.! (Angelic Intervention Department).  Some people think of angels as sweet, warm, huggable beings who brighten the lives of everybody they come across.  No, not me.  Even as a child, I found the angel with the flaming sword at the gates of Eden, Jacob’s wrestling opponent, and various others of their aggressive type more fascinating, and God has given me several stories about several like them that I am dying to get written.  Fighting the good fight against evil is one of my special interests, and more will be coming down the line about that.

Do I believe in angels myself?  I not only believe, I’ve met my guardian angel several times.  He always has the same physical type, although not the same body, and always shows up exactly when I need him the most, when no human is around to help.  Once when I was broken down in the middle of nowhere, he got my vehicle running and me back to town before vanishing.  Another time he got me out of my car after it was in a head on wreck, the door was jammed and me choking on fumes inside.  He pulled me out, leaned me against my car, and vanished before I finished blinking smoke out of my eyes.  Another time a friend of mine was present, but neither of us could change a damaged tire and dark was coming on with miles to the next house and it was long before cell phones.  He showed up as a little white haired gnome of a man half both our sizes who removed the damaged tire without even tugging and replaced it without pause.

Another time he took the form of a man I actually knew already, but I could tell he was not the same man.  He dealt with a little boy who had cold evil showing in his eyes as he tried to kill another smaller child.  After his private interview with him, the little boy seemed like a normal child again, and the elderly man went back to the gruff old man I was used to.  Don’t think that was an angel?  You weren’t there.  It was like some people who can tell identical twins apart.  They may look identical, but some people have no trouble knowing which is which.

I have written about angels in my first two books, but these will be different, not least of which is because the stories are all set in the present day.  Angels are found in grimy city streets, suburban parks, a neighborhood bar and grill, and a small rural town.   But they all work for the same boss, in the Angelic Intervention Department.  Desperate for help no human can give?  Call for A.I.D.!