It’s Not Twitter, But…

I never could figure out how people could use just 140 characters to express themselves.  I tend to run on and on and on…well, if you ever read stuff I write you know that.  But one thing I found I really enjoyed was captions.  I love doing photograph albums and writing the captions.  Preparing family photo calendars for Christmas is one long giggle fest for me.  Then a few years ago I got cancer, a type with a very low survival rate.  Being the optimist I am, I decided the day of my diagnosis that the day they declared me cancer free I would get myself a teeshirt that declared “Grim Reaper Reject”.  I did, too.  Then one day I was driving with my sister past our favorite meat palace and got a face full of fragrant hickory smoke.  My sister sighed happily and remarked, “Man, if there’s no barbeque in Heaven, I’m coming back!”

Yesterday I was on the Teespring website reopening the teeshirt sales for those two sayings and my brain started cranking.  We have a Christmas sign on our front door we haven’t changed out yet that has annoyed me from day one.  “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” it says.  It annoyed me because it seemed to say that was the ONLY season He was there for.  Jesus is the reason for EVERY season! Huh, I thought.  That sounds like a teeshirt.  So now it is.

While I was doing that, my mind wandered back to a conversation I had about friendliness.  I have a running joke that I use to describe myself.  I call myself a social slut because I’ll talk to almost anybody.  Hey, I wonder…  Yup.  Another teeshirt.

Unfortunately, these are not open for long.  If you’d like one, check them out quick.  I may, if things work out, wind up getting an inventory of several sizes and sell them myself.  But you don’t have to wait if you don’t want to.  These shirts go up to 5X.

The place to look for them is http://teespring.com/stores/words-are-my-life.  I’ll probably be putting more up there as they come to me.  Sometimes they smack me in the face and sometimes they slip in when I’m not looking.  I hope they amuse, inspire, and just sometimes make you think.

Sit! Stay!

I just saw a terrific post from www.WritingSisters.com  about how to be a writer.  A dog sat before a computer keyboard, and the caption said “First rule of writing: Sit.  Second rule of writing: Stay.”  I have to tell my self that lately.  I’m beginning to think I’ve developed Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.  I’ve been so easily distracted lately it’s driving me crazy.  I wonder if it has to do with the weather.  Or my allergies.  Or my sudden desire to spring clean.  My sister/roommate/mortgage partner would scoff, but I have been doing more cleaning than normal.  I also have health issues in myself and my family to deal with.  I just haven’t been writing as much as I want to, and I need to sit and get words down.  (I can’t say ‘down on paper’ anymore, you know…)

There have been lots of words going through my brain.  Several stories have been writing themselves up there.  Maybe it’s a necessary step before I can get the fingers moving.  I have been talking to several people about writing, as well.  Hopefully they will spread the word and I will make more sales.  I have also been busy learning everything I need to do about setting up this website as a merchant’s page as well so that anybody can buy my books and other items from me easily.  I told my sister I might have to start taking night classes at the local college for business administration.

I have also been working through taxes.  It should be easy for me after thirty years of working there in the trenches, but everything keeps changing and often the most difficult challenge is trying to figure out if the word they use for something means the same thing as the word you’ve always used for it.  This happened at work all the time.  Most of my efforts in writing training materials was spent making sure the students understood the language used in the procedures.

You also have to be super organized if you are trying to reference anything that happened in previous years, and unfortunately, my years of too much work and not enough filing have caught up with me, so I’m trying to do it all now.  I do at least have some decent software to help with that.

Organization is also extremely important when it comes to writing, even if it’s fiction.  I base my Biblical characters’ stories on specific Bible verses, with background details on other research, and it’s vital to be able to look back to the research quickly.  I am so glad I spent the necessary money to get a computer that can handle what I’m asking of it.

Wow, my fingers are cold.  I’ll have to turn the heater back on.  It’s supposed to get warm today, but the sky is still gray and the wind has picked up.  It is Texas, after all, where the weather laughs at weather predictions.  I’ll go get warmer clothes on and try to warm the house up a bit.  I need to get some dishes and floors cleaned, which will help warm me.  But I swear I will be writing in my head, and will get back to the keyboard “toot sweet” ( apparently a phonetic spelling of some French phrase meaning ASAP) and get some more moneymakers done.

Not So Slowly Slipping Away

I just looked at the clock and got a terrible shock.  It’s almost 11 AM as I write this, and I haven’t even had breakfast yet.  It wouldn’t be so much of a shock if I hadn’t got up as usual this morning with my sister at 3:30 AM.  As I stared at the clock, I tried to think of where my morning had gone and what had kept me so busy I forgot to have breakfast.  I had two cups of coffee before 5 AM, I remember that.  I wasn’t paying too much attention to the news since all they could chatter about was the Oscars, which holds zero interest for me.  I wasn’t reading a book, which can really kill time.  What was I doing?

Ah, now I remember.  I’ve been trying to clear a lot of email, so that takes a while.  Then I got tired of sitting around in my pajamas and went back to my bedroom to get into something warmer and wound up doing some cleaning in there.  Oh, yeah, that definitely ate up a big chunk of time.  It never feels like it, especially when you look around and see how much is still left to do.  I’m a slob, I know.  It drives my sister, who shares the house, nuts, since she is a lot more organized.  Generally, as long as I know the clean clothes are hanging up or are in my dresser drawers, I’m pretty satisfied.  I try to throw the dirty ones in the hamper as I pull them off, but well…

So breakfast – lunch? – brunch, maybe? is now cooking, meat is thawing for later meals (hot soup in freezing weather!), neatening of the house is gradually spreading, and I am working on my blog.  Sorry I haven’t got to it sooner.  Life got in the way, as well as some funerals and deaths of people I knew.

We also had a fire nearby that distracted us over the weekend – I had to call 9-1-1 twice because it kept springing back to life thanks to the unrelenting wind.  The second time was this morning at 4:30 after my sister took off for work and then called to say the flames were high as the car as she drove by.  I don’t think the firefighters wanted to particularly thank me for the call, since the windchill is around 20 degrees right now.  Sorry, guys, but since I’m only one house away across a narrow highway, I’m intent on keeping that thing under control.

Remember that song “Slowly, slowly, slippin’ away”?  When I was working (especially taking phone calls from angry taxpayers) time slowly slipped away with excruciating jerks and pauses.  Long, long pauses while somebody furiously shouts in my ear, swift jerks as breaks dash by.  Now I’m retired, and time seems to fly.  My friends who beat me to retirement mostly told me I would never seem to have the time to do what I wanted.  A very few told me I’d be bored out of my mind.  Can’t say that’s happened yet.  I’m having to make out increasingly lengthening ‘to-do’ lists.

There is the permanent list: Dishes, laundry, cleaning, cooking, shopping, etc.  Then there is the strike one, add three list: Taxes, filing, organizing, meetings, trips, marketing, lots of things done for other people.  Finding time to do my writing is becoming more and more difficult.  I’m having to schedule it, which I never expected.  I just want to get it all done.  I attended a funeral of a guy younger than me this past week, and discovered a friend died 5 days after her 102nd birthday, and two others who were very elderly but not so much.  You never know what will happen next in life, so do things while you can.

My bucket list that I wrote when I was in my early twenties is actually mostly done.  Oddly enough, only the top three remain, and at least one of them will never happen – have children.  Get married?  Maybe if he’s persuasive enough.  Since I’m not even dating, it’s still not likely. I enjoy being single and having a messy bedroom.  Write a best seller?  That’s more doable, and I’m doing my darnedest.  Wish me luck, buy my books, write reviews, and tell your friends!

Who knows, maybe I’ll be at the Oscars someday, watching the movie version win Best Picture.

The Library in the Waiting Room

I’ve been spending a lot of time in doctor’s waiting rooms lately.  Not because of my health, thank goodness, but because I have been providing transportation and companionship to various family members as they meet with their health care providers.  It is always a fascinating experience for me.  It was this morning I began to realize it was fascinating because it is like visiting a library.

Each person there has their own story.  Some will share them willingly, like a book on display.  Some hold theirs close to themselves, like an ancient manuscript in a climate controlled case, hiding from light and air and anything else that might damage them.  Some keep theirs quiet only to find their companions more than willing to tell it to anybody around, much to their dismay.  That situation reminds me a bit of gossip tabloids on display.

Some stories are mysteries, where the main character has no idea what is going on and can only hope the doctor is a good detective.  Some are comedies, born of foolish accidents, told with rolling eyes.  Many are tragedies, tales of pain and long suffering, and read with knowledge of the certain sad ending.  Some are stories of coming joy, read in the movement of a child trying to find room in their mother’s womb.  Some are suspenseful and full of fear, told with a parent’s fearful grip on their child’s hand.  Some are adventures, the ending unknown, each chapter full of twists and turns, but with the main character demonstrating determination and endurance.  Many are inspirational, despite bald heads, obvious exhaustion, and trauma evident in the body, but with smiles and lack of fear on their faces.

The range of reactions to problems is amazing, and a true example of human expression.  Fear, joy, confusion, bewilderment, sadness, grief, anger, guilt, compassion, tolerance, endurance.  Those and many more are found in these office spaces.  Some are found in other places, but there is nowhere like a doctor’s office to find so many in so short a time, often with no masks, no self protection, just a community of humans looking for company or not.

If you find yourself in a doctor’s office sometime, look around.  Strike up conversations.  This is the library of humanity.  Some stories are boring, some are interesting, some are riveting.  You will never know which is which until you can read the dust jackets, and if they are willing, to open the pages.

Complete Short Story

This is the latest Christmas story I wrote for the church ladies.  God is telling me to put it here instead of waiting to put it in my next book of Christmas stories.  Maybe somebody needs to read it.

TWINKLE, TWINKLE
By Peggy Perry @ 2014

“Wow, he looks…different,” the blond angel murmured as the next soul moved up to the front of the line.

His companion looked up from the book of newcomers to Heaven. It wrote itself as each new soul appeared at the Pearly Gates. “Apparently his soul was as tired as his body,” he replied. “According to the book, he has lived in a very chaotic time and place. He barely managed to hold onto his faith in the Creator.”

Most souls were bright and shining, joyful to be free of their bodies and earthly trials. This soul was almost gray, his eyes dull, his shoulders slumped, and his feet shuffling. He looked exhausted, hopeless, and uncaring of whatever might happen next. He was a shocking change to the other souls before and behind him.

“It will be interesting to see where he winds up in Heaven. Let’s get him into the Room of Choice.” The blond angel came to the soul and gently took his arm. “This way,” he said with a wave of his hand. The soul trudged beside him silently, head down, looking as if he still inhabited an exhausted body, just waiting to fall down.

The angel took him into the Room of Choice. The room was the entrance to Heaven just behind the Pearly Gates. It was a very plain white room with only a few objects on pedestals, a tall desk with a high stool, and a large door on the other side, currently closed. “This is the Room of Choice,” the angel began his usual speech. “Whatever you are drawn to will indicate your first assignment in Heaven. Some souls stay with that assignment, some move on to others, but this will determine where you go first. Now, what are you drawn to?”

He began to lead the still uninterested soul around the room. “These wings symbolize the position of messenger. The messengers fly to Earth and deliver messages from our Lord to mortal men. It used to be more common for humans to receive these messages through prayer, but men have lately been losing their ability to hear Him. He created messengers, and they stay busy. Do they look interesting to you?”

The soul seemed to be ignoring him, still looking at the floor. A tiny wrinkle appeared between the angel’s eyebrows. He had never had that occur, but he was beginning to be concerned. “The harp signifies music,” he continued, towing the soul to the next pedestal. “It can mean playing an instrument or singing. You will just be making music to glorify the Lord and make a joyful noise to add to the happiness of everyone in Heaven. What do you think?”

The soul made an unattractive grunting noise. The wrinkle on the angel’s forehead became a crease. He hurried the soul along. “The sword is for those who become the warriors of Heaven, fighting evil throughout Creation. Do you – ?” The soul recoiled from the sword with a horrified sound, and the angel recalled how the soul had been released from his body. It should not have mattered, though. Many who had died violently had become warriors protecting the innocent from the evil that had killed them.

The angel looked around. There weren’t too many other pedestals left. Some held cleaning tools. Heaven did not get dirty, but there were actually many souls who enjoyed keeping their area neat and tidy. They happily spent millennia polishing and straightening everything in Heaven. This soul really didn’t look the type for that, and he was not looking at the tools. The angel raised his eyebrows as he followed the soul’s gaze.

He followed as the soul moved slowly toward the desk. “Um, that’s not actually one of the choices. That’s just the desk we sometimes sit at while waiting to take our shift at the Gates…” He trailed off as the soul climbed onto the stool, wiggled a bit as he got comfortable, and placed his hands on the desk.

The soul finally raised his face and stared at the angel. “This is it. This is what I want. This is my assignment.  It says so right here.”

Bewildered, the angel went to look over his shoulder. There had never been anything on the desktop before. Now it held a book just like the one on the desk at the Gates, except this one had different wording. Instead of a brief description of the souls arriving in Heaven, it held notes of their assignments. The latest read: “Finn Morgan. Assignment Supervisor. Job description – Aid newly arrived souls in choosing their assignments and calling the correct escort to take them to their assigned area.” A small hand bell sat beside the book.

“But…” The angel was interrupted as his fellow angel from the Gates led another soul into the room.

“Hasn’t he chosen yet? It’s time for the next soul to make their choice.”

Finn held up his hand. “I’ll take over now. This is my job from now on.”

Both angels stared at him. “But you’re not even really in Heaven here. Don’t you want to go in?” the blond one demanded.

“No. Now go away and let me do my job.” Finn pointed at the new soul, a woman who was stroking the harp. “You like that harp?” She nodded, and he continued, “Good. Go over to the door and wait for your escort to the Hall of Music. They will instruct you from there.” He picked up the bell and rang it, and the door opened silently to reveal a smiling angel who took the hand of the soul and led her away.

Finn looked at the two astonished angels. “Don’t you two have a job to do? Who is welcoming the new souls?” He flapped his hands at them, shooing them out. “Go. Leave me to my assignment.”

Without the passage of time in Heaven, there was no telling how long Finn spent behind the desk. He loved his job. He didn’t even have to leave his stool. With no demands of a human body, he didn’t have to eat, drink, sleep, or even go to the bathroom. He didn’t have to come into personal contact with the souls, either. He just directed them around the room, explained what each object meant, and rang the bell when they made a choice. He didn’t have to talk to the angels, even though they looked in on him occasionally.

He did the same thing over and over. It was such a wonderful change from the chaos of his life on earth. He didn’t have to worry about someone attacking him. He didn’t have to worry about loving someone and having him or her suddenly die of plague or accident or attack. He felt calm and comfortable for the first time in his existence. He didn’t want to go through the door into the main area of Heaven. He had looked through the door and shuddered at how many people and angels were dashing around in there, moving, always moving. It was too close to what he had left behind.

No, he was quite happy to sit alone behind his desk and avoid talking to anyone but the occasional soul and angel for eternity. He was content. Too bad it wouldn’t last.

Finn looked up from his book as an angelic hand rapped noisily on the desk. Glancing around, he saw no new soul wandering among the pedestals. “What is it?” The book was blank, too, not mentioning any new souls to supervise in their choice.

“You have a, ah, a, well, I guess you could say special soul to supervise. She’s going to need some help.”

“Well, where is she? Why does she need help?”

The angel looked down at his side before bending over and lifting. Finn heard a grunting noise he was sure the angel didn’t make, then a pair of small pudgy hands grabbed the top of his desk and a small head popped into view.

Finn’s mouth dropped open. He recognized the moon shaped face, the almond shaped eyes, the flat wide nose, and the thick lips with the thick tongue partially protruding. Several souls with the same appearance had come through, but they were always glowing with joy and happiness, with huge billowing wings and a bright halo. One of the angels processing them had told him they had wings and a halo already because they had been messengers of God’s love on earth already. Most chose another area and went to learn something new, often musical.

In his time on earth, such children usually died early, unable to thrive and care for themselves, and the parents had no time or energy to care for them. Sometimes they left the children in the wild for predators, removing the problem from the parents’ mind.

This child looked as if she were about ten years old, and her wings were stunted and unmoving. Her dull halo sat crookedly on her head instead of hovering above her like the others’. Her white robe was actually almost grimy and looked like she had been wiping her hands on it. She was a mess.

He looked up at the angel. “What happened to her? She looks terrible! Why does she need help?” He slapped at the pudgy fingers reaching for the bell. “Don’t touch that!” He scowled as she ignored him and reached for the bell again. She grunted and frowned as he held it out of her reach. She began working her way around the desk holding on to the edge, heading for the shiny bell.

The angel shook his head. “Her wings don’t work. She can’t fly, and for some odd reason her feet don’t touch the ground. If you don’t tow her around, she just sort of hovers. Why she looks like that, I don’t know. All I know is, she doesn’t talk, doesn’t seem to be able to hear, or if she can, doesn’t understand, and she can’t move around on her own.”

Finn scowled and moved the bell back to the other side of the desk just as the little girl reached for it again. “Whatever, just take her around to the pedestals and let her make her choice and get her out of here! Hey! Stop that!” He swatted at her hand again as she turned her attention to the book and grabbed at the pages. Some of them started to tear before he worked her fingers loose.

He looked up to see the angel heading back for the Gates. “Where are you going? Get back here and help her make a choice!”

The angel looked over his shoulder and past his wings. “No, no, you’re the supervisor of choices. This is your job. I’ve done mine.” He skipped out the door and it closed firmly behind him.

Exasperated, Finn slipped reluctantly from his stool and towed the little girl behind him. Shreds of the pages were still gripped tight in her hands. He pulled her over to the harp. “Here! You like music, don’t you? All the others like it.” He remembered she couldn’t lift herself and raised her up to get a good view of the harp.

Her eyes went wide and her mouth opened further. She grunted rapidly and reached toward the instrument. Satisfied and relieved at the quick solution, Finn headed back to the desk to ring the bell. There was a nasty twanging noise behind him and he spun around. To his horror, she had broken several strings and was making happy noises as she ripped more strings loose. He leaped for the bell on his desk and shook it fiercely. He stopped and stared at it as he realized it was silent. Upending it, he discovered the clapper was gone.

He hurried back to the cheerful little vandal and towed her back to the front door. As he reached automatically reached for the handle, he discovered it was gone. “What? How? Why?” he sputtered, wondering if he were somehow having a nightmare. He pulled the little girl partway to his desk, then remembering, left her hanging in midair as he moved swiftly to look at the book to see if anything had been written about her.

The book was to the point. “No souls may go back through the front door. Processed souls may not leave the presence of the Supervisor of Choices until an assignment has been made.” Finn grabbed his head and groaned.

Setting his jaw, he went back to the child and towed her to the pedestal holding the sword. “You’re destructive enough to be a warrior,” he muttered to her. “Look, it’s nice and shiny! You like shiny things, right?” She certainly did. Unfortunately, when she reached for the shining object, she only managed to knock it off the pedestal and it landed across Finn’s foot. Without a body, it didn’t hurt, but he was startled into knocking the pedestal over and could only watch helplessly as the pedestal broke into several pieces.

His mouth worked, but no noise came out. He hastily pulled her back as she tried to reach for the sword and pulled her to the wings. He made a helpless sound as she swung past him as he stopped and sank the fingers of her free hand into the white feathers of the enormous wings. Of course, they came loose in her hand, leaving a gaping hole in one.

A gurgling noise escaped him as he pulled her back. Looking wildly around, he noticed the door handle was still present on the inner door that led into Heaven. Desperately he pulled her over to it and flung it open. The same busy crowd was hurrying by there. He had stopped thinking by now and only wanted to rid himself of the destructive guest who had introduced chaos back into his life. Grabbing her arm, he put everything he had into flinging her into the crowd intending to dash back inside and slam the door shut. Instead, he went right with her.

They crashed together against a solid body. Finn slid to the ground and then tried to protect his head against the child’s pumping feet. He looked up as he grabbed her feet and swallowed hard as the unmistakable features of an archangel met his gaze. Finn began babbling an apology, but the archangel only shook his head. Angelic arms wrapped the child up securely and prevented her from reaching for his halo, wings, or sword.

“Did you forget the rule in the book, Finn? A processed soul cannot leave your presence until she is assigned to an area. If you want her out of the Room of Choices, you have to stay with her.” He gazed down at the child, who had grown quiet and was nestled into his chest. “I suggest that if you want her to be less destructive, you keep her close to you and restrain her arms.” Before Finn could blink, the archangel transferred the child into his arms and positioned his limbs in a secure hold.
Stepping back, he snapped his fingers and another angel came up beside them. “Finn is not familiar with this side of the Gates,” he said calmly. “Guide him wherever he wants to go.”

“My pleasure!” the angel said with a beaming smile. She looked at Finn. “Where would you like to go first?”

“But what about the other souls who need to be assigned?” he wailed.

The archangel, who had started to rise as his wings began to stroke the air, paused. “There are angels to take care of that, just as before you arrived. She is now your assignment. No matter how long it takes.” With a crack of split air, he shot straight up and disappeared from sight.

Finn sagged and then straightened his shoulders as the guide looked at him inquiringly. “I guess maybe we can show her the musicians and singers. She was very, um, interested in the harp. I thought that was her choice, but I wasn’t able to call for an escort, and well, ah, shall we go?”

He wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard the angel giggle as she led them away.

The little girl absolutely loved the music. She loved one of the angel’s harps to death. Well, to destruction, maybe. Finn marveled that such a small child was so skilled in destroying such a sturdy object. The angel only laughed, and with a few motions of his hands, turned the mess of wood and strings back to a thing of beauty.

Finn sighed with relief and resolved to hold the child tighter. He was cautiously optimistic when she relaxed against him and cuddled as they listened to glorious music ring out. But after a while, just when he was feeling almost cheerful, the guide approached him and whispered in his ear.

“I’m afraid there’s a small problem, Finn. Could the two of you please come with me?”

Curious and anxious, he held the little one tighter as she tried to return to the music. When they were out of hearing range of the music (which, Finn thought later, was rather odd, since he had always been able to hear the music, even sitting at his desk), the angel shifted a bit uncomfortably. “Normally, the music director would love to have you in the audience. However, her glow is very distracting since it’s so concentrated in a small person, and the angels were starting to lose their places in the music. The director asked that you not come back until you can teach her to control her light. Is there somewhere else you would like to try?”

Finn frowned as he looked down at the child. “Glow? What glow? What are you talking about?”

The angel’s eyes widened. “You didn’t notice the way she lit up the music hall? Did you have your eyes closed?” She looked back and forth between the man and child and finally shook her head. “Why don’t we go see if she’s interested in something else?”

It was not a successful journey, although Finn grudgingly admitted later that it was very…interesting. He saw a great deal of Heaven, and observed all that went on. The child was interested, too, but Finn learned to hold her close and tight. Who knew an archangel’s sword could break? Weren’t those supposed to be even demon proof? He still wasn’t sure if even the Creator Himself could fix what she had done to several messengers’ wings when they ignored his warnings and treated her to a toss back and forth between them. And oh, my, what she had done with the cleaners’ tools…

Nobody minded. They just laughed, fixed what she broke, and patted her on the head or kissed her cheek. They started calling her Twinkle. When he asked why, several mentioned the way she glowed when she was happy. He still couldn’t see it.
He had no idea how long they wandered around Heaven, observing everyone at work, meeting numberless angels and souls. They finally found themselves back at the door into the Room of Choices, and Finn said farewell to their guide. He looked in the room cautiously, and felt relieved to see it fully restored. He wrapped up Twinkle before she could launch herself off the doorway and aim for the pedestals again. Carrying her over to the desk, he blinked as he saw the desk was wider and a second stool next to his. A smile began to stretch his face as he noticed the straps that would hold Twinkle firmly in place.

On the desk next to his book was a drawing pad, pencils, and crayons. Since time had no meaning in Heaven, these objects from a time far distant from his were not out of place. He just hoped she didn’t try to eat them. Twinkle seemed to know what to do with them. Grunting, she reached for them and was drawing all over the pad before he could get her completely strapped in.

Before he could take his seat, she tore off a colorful sheet and waved it at him. When he took it, she pointed at the white blank wall behind them and grunted some more. “You want me to hang it up there?” he asked, and blinked as light flashed in the room when she smiled. The light went back to normal as she turned back to the pad.

He looked at the colored lines and shapes but could make no sense of them. He looked up at the white wall and shrugged. The walls did look rather plain. Wondering how to attach the picture, he held it up to a likely place and dropped his hands swiftly as the art suddenly attached itself to the wall. “Heaven!” he muttered, and went back to his stool.

When a new soul entered the room from the Gates, he looked at the bell on the desk suspiciously. Sure enough, the clapper had returned. The book now showed the soul’s name. After a short trip around the room, the soul chose the harp, and Finn rang the bell with a feeling of relief. Just as he was about to direct the soul to the inner door, Twinkle ripped a page off her pad and grunted urgently, waving the paper at the soul instead of Finn.

The soul looked bewildered. “She wants you to take the picture. Is it a picture of them, Twinkle?” Finn asked. He and the new soul blinked as light flashed in the room again. When the light died down, Finn handed the paper to the soul. “Do you want her to hang the picture on the wall?” He had learned the hard way to ask very simple yes or no questions. When Twinkle smiled and bounced in her seat, the light flashed again. “Just pick a spot on the wall and hold it to it,” Finn told the soul. “It attaches itself.”

The soul smiled at the picture and picked a spot near the first. “Looks good. Go to that door now, and an escort will take you to your destination. Welcome to Heaven.” Finn waved the soul along and waved at the angel, one he had met at the music hall. After the door closed, he looked at the picture Twinkle had first done. There were two objects in the picture, unlike the second, which had only one. “Hey, is that a picture of the two of us?”

Light flashed so brightly he had to rub his eyes. “Wow. I can finally see why they had to ask us to leave the music hall. Can’t you dim that down a little?” Light flashed again, just as bright. When his vision came back, he saw that she was silently laughing. “Guess that answers that question.”

He discovered he enjoyed chatting to the new souls now, explaining the picture that Twinkle drew of each of them and helping them choose a spot on the wall. He got used to the flashing as Twinkle expressed her happiness. The room became a busy place as angels dropped in through both doors to chat with him and visit with Twinkle, and post their pictures on the wall as she drew them. The once serene, featureless room became a riot of color as Twinkle’s artwork covered the walls.
His own spotless robe became as messy as Twinkle’s when her waving hands swiped him with the colors and pencils. He just shrugged when newcomers looked at it. “I’m an artwork in progress,” he told them with a chuckle.

His cheerful new world suddenly crashed when two archangels with solemn expressions appeared in the room in the midst of a laughter-filled conversation with several angels and a new soul. “We have come for the soul called Twinkle,” one said gravely. Twinkle’s light flashed at the sound of her name, but Finn barely noticed. He didn’t like the expressions on the archangels’ faces. Was that pity?

“What do you mean, come for her? She can’t leave; she hasn’t made a choice yet! She has to stay with me!” Glancing around for support, he discovered the other angels and the soul had vanished.

“She has no ability to make a decision,” one archangel said quietly. “It has been made for her.”

Finn’s heart would have stopped if he still had one. “Made for her? Why can’t she stay here? She’s happy here! I’m happy to have her here! Why can’t that be the choice made for her? Where are you taking her? What can she possibly do?”

“She is to be a messenger.” Angelic fingers waved toward Twinkle, and her straps and stool and art supplies vanished. She floated up and toward the archangels, but Finn grabbed her robe and clutched her to him desperately.

“No! She can’t be a messenger; her wings don’t even work! All she can do is hover! And she can’t speak! How can she be a messenger?” His frantic hands suddenly held empty air, and the archangels held Twinkle’s hands between them.

“There is a purpose for the existence of all of God’s creations.” The words echoed in a suddenly empty room. Finn fell across the desk, crying out in despair. The little girl had made him finally feel alive for the first time in his existence and they had taken her away! How could he go on?

He was rubbing his hands over his face wondering where the joy of heaven everybody kept talking about had disappeared to when the door to the Gates burst open and the two angels handling the processing dashed in. They snatched him out of his seat and headed back to the door. “Come on! You have to see this! It’s fantastic!”

They ignored his protests. Sullenly, he fell silent and tried to block the music swelling through the air. What was so special about beautiful music? They wouldn’t even let poor little Twinkle listen to it because they couldn’t deal with a little light. His eyes clenched shut in renewed pain, but the sudden flare of light burned through anyway, making his eyes water furiously. Everyone around him was exclaiming and cheering while rubbing at their eyes. He finally managed to get a little sight back and shaded his face as the light continued.

“What happened? What is that?” he demanded.

“It’s Twinkle, of course!” an angel nearby shouted joyfully. “Haven’t you been paying attention to anything? The Messiah has been born to man and the Star shines over Him to show the world where He lays!”

Finn stared, open-mouthed, toward the light. Very dimly, within the glare, a smiling, moon-shaped face appeared. Her arms were out wide to her sides and her almond shaped eyes were wide with excitement and joy. Finn thought he could almost hear her joyful grunts.

One of the archangels appeared beside him. “She was an obvious choice,” he murmured. “She couldn’t move except to hover, and she shines when she’s happy. Apparently she likes babies as much as music.”

The other archangel appeared on his other side. “She brings a message of happiness and hope to everyone, even you. You were never supposed to be isolated, but you chose to be alone rather than move on and mingle with the family of God. Dealing with her taught you that being around others could be a good experience, and chaos is only bad when you are alone in the midst of it.” He looked down at Finn. “Don’t waste what she gave you, Finn. Don’t go back to hiding from everybody. Twinkle won’t be there in the sky forever. Don’t make her dig you out of your hole again. Cherish what she taught you, and teach it to others. There are many others like Twinkle you can visit as well.”

Finn blinked hard several times. “Will I be allowed to keep her pictures?” he asked humbly.

Both archangels smiled. “The pictures will remain on the walls. They do brighten the place up, don’t they? Almost as much as she brightens the heavens now for humankind. Go, Finn, and spread her light to everyone you meet. Show each new soul you meet what heaven really is before they even enter in; a place where love abounds and joy and peace are a daily gift. Someday the Messiah will bring that to earth, but until then, humans will find fulfillment here. Just as Twinkle did, and I think, you finally have.”

Finn looked back at the new star shining over an earthly stable, and imagined he could already see humans being drawn to the light. He smiled at the archangels. “I probably can’t light up the Room of Choices like Twinkle, but maybe I can make it brighter for new souls.” He looked at Twinkle’s bright glow once more. “Shine on, Twinkle,” he whispered, and blinked as the light flashed.

The End

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.

Shameless Plug Time!

I am now taking orders for personal sales of my second book “Standing Next To A Miracle”.  If you want to buy it from me, it is $5.00 plus whatever it costs to mail it from my zip code to yours whether first class, library rate, or whatever else you like.  The same book on Amazon is $8.00 plus shipping and handling (unless of course you have Amazon Prime).  The ebook version on Amazon is $1.99.  Remember, if you don’t have a Kindle e-reader, Amazon has a free app that allows you to buy the book and download it to your computer, pad, or smartphone.

I also still have copies available of my first book, “Once Upon A Christmastime”, for $3.50 plus postage.  The ebook version on Amazon is $.99 and the paperback is $5.50 plus shipping and handling.

I do hope you not only enjoy the books but feel moved to leave a nice review and tell everybody you know they should take a look.