I'll Be Home for Christmas--
by Sue Kite
was finished Christmas Eve, 2007, and posted on a Voyage list on
This is a story of hope and Christmas miracles, ones that come from honor and integrity of spirit. I hope you like it. I sure enjoyed writing it.
Seven-year-old Neera hugged her knees close to her chest and suppressed a sob. She sat on the front steps of the small but cozy hide-away cabin rocking back and forth in her agitation. It was cold enough to see her breath, but she didnít pay attention to that. Snow heaped just below her feet, but it wasnít the fun it was when it first fell. Now, it all was so horrible. She wished Papa and Mama were here. Even Lalin, her teacher, or 'Uncle' Kroshna. She looked up at the sky. The clouds seemed to almost touch the roof of the cabin and it felt like there would be more snow coming down.
She shivered violently, but didnít go in. There was only she and Grandper. And Grandper was so sick. There was nothing she could do for him. As the moaning inside the cabin became louder, she rocked harder. "Please, God, Papa does not believe in you, but I do. Grandmere always said there were angels watching over us. Please, send an angel, God, please. Please send one for Grandper. He is so sick and I donít know what to do," she moaned between sobs. The sound inside the cabin softened and then rose again, almost to a cry of pain. Neerah felt the tears wetting her knees. "Please, Maryjesusjosefgodthefather, donít let him die," she intoned over and over again, rocking in time with the cadence of her half remembered litany.
The cold wind sharpened, making the wind chimes above her clatter in a sound that was not soothing. It was not supposed to happen, that terrible storm. This near the ocean, it wasnít supposed to get this cold, or this snowy. Grandper told her so. Grandper was always right. Except this time he wasnít. So when the storm came and the lights went out, the phone went out and the heater stopped working. It was so scary. It will be fine, boomed Grandper even after everything quit working. Uncle Wu-jin said it would be fine. He said that as he left in the big truck they had come up in. As uncle left, Grandper patted her on the head and said it would be fine.
And it was fine, sitting in front of the fire, Grandper telling stories of when he was a little boy, both of them drinking the hot cinnamon tea. It was fun until Grandper tried to cut some of the big logs and cut himself instead. Now, Grandper was so sick, Uncle Wu-jin had not come back. There was no heat, no way to call anyone. The wind blew the little wind chime into her lap. With a sharp cry of fear, Neera jumped up and ran inside the cabin slamming the door shut. It was a little warmer inside, but not much. She had put the wood in the fireplace that she could carry. But that was all gone. The rest of the logs were too big for her to pick up, much less put into the fireplace. It was that wood that had hurt Grandper. He had been trying to cut it with the ax, break it into smaller pieces. Now the fire was dead. She shivered again, even though it was a little warmer inside.
She walked over to her grandfather and reached out to touch his cheek. He continued to moan, not even aware of her presence. His whiskers were rough and prickly, but she didnít care. All Neera wanted was for him to wake up, get better, stop moaning. Not die. She pulled her hand back and sniffed. Wiping her nose on her sleeve, she could only continue to stare at her grandfather. Looking around at the small transmitter on the table, Neera wished for the millionth time that she could use it to call Papa. But she couldnít. Uncle Wu-jin had left to get help and had left the transmitter in her care so he could find her and Grandper again. But Uncle Wu-jin hadnít come back. No one had come. It had been so long and no one had come. Neera gazed at the swollen leg with blood-stained bandages and sobbed. What was she going to do?
She heard clumping on the porch and sucked in her breath. "Uncle Wu-jin?" she asked, her voice tremulous. The doorknob rattled even as the wind shook the frosted glass in the windowpanes. The clumping moved away from the door and Neera felt new fear. Uncle would have just come in, wouldnít he? She saw shadows on the window. Someone was looking through. After a moment the personóor was it an animal, moved away. The doorknob turned and the door opened. A figure clothed in almost white clothes stood briefly in the doorway and then came through, quickly shutting the door behind him. He shook the snow from his body and then looked around the shadowed room. Neera hadnít realized that it had begun snowing again.
"You are not Uncle Wu-jin," Neera said in a small voice. Then she remembered her plea. An angel? Could this be an angel? The figure stopped and stared at her and Grandper. "Are you an andjenóan angel?"
The figureís face was covered with goggles and something that looked like Uncleís ski mask, but still she could feel his eyes light on her again. After a couple of heartbeats, he reached back for the doorknob.
"Please, donít go away. Grandper will die without help. I asked God to help us. PleaseÖ."
The angel paused, murmured something she couldnít understand and then pulled off the goggles, the ski mask and the hood of his coat. He was dark-haired like Uncle, but taller and much more slender. He had dark eyes like her Grandper but a little different. The angel didnít say anything, but jerked his gloves off, stuffing them inside the pocket of his coat, and approached the bed where Grandper lay. He knelt beside her and Grandper. She wondered where his wings were, but didnít ask. Neera could only be grateful that he had come. How else could anyone come now, with all the cold and snow?
"What happened?" he asked, his voice low and soft.
She understood the words, even though they didnít sound quite right. It was like he didnít know them all that good. "There was the storm. Everything quit working. Uncle Wujin went for help. Grandper tried to cut wood and hit his leg with the ax. I couldnít help him much and now he canít talk to me and tell me what to do. I could only ask God and Ö."
"I understand," the angel said, cutting her off. He began to gently pull off Grandperís bandages, then glanced at her. "I need more . . . more cloth like this. I need water."
She nodded and went into the bedroom where the little closet was that had all the tablecloths, sheets and other things like that. She dragged out the last tablecloth and rushed back to the man, who had pulled off his coat. He had on a regular shirt underneath, like what the farmers wore. Neera was astonished that an angel would wear the same thing farmer workers or gardeners wore.
"Do you haveÖ." he began. Then he made a motion with his fingers and she understood at once.
"Scissors?" He nodded. "Yes!" she replied and ran into Grandperís bedroom where he had a desk in one corner. On top were the scissors she had used with her grandfatherís instructions when he was still awake. She knew what the angel wanted her to do. She ran back with the tablecloth and began cutting it in strips, just as she had done before Grandper became so sick.
"Good!" the angel said with a smile. He turned back to Grandper, who moaned at the andjenís every touch. When the last bandage was gently pulled away, Neera almost gagged. Blood mingled with something that smelled horrible. "Water?" he asked, as he tossed the old bandages in a nearby waste can.
She pointed to the sink and he frowned. "I am sorry, Andjen," she said with a slight sniffle. "I tried to help Grandper."
He studied her again, seemed to decide something and then shook his head. "No. You did good." The andjen studied the room again and then turned to her. "Watch your Grandper. I will . . . make a fire. Get water."
She nodded, glancing at the horrible wound before turning quickly away again. Neera sat closer to Grandperís head. With quick efficiency the andjen found paper and then he looked for wood. She could have told him that there wasnít any; nothing but the logs that sat by the door where Grandperís blood had pooled and then dried. But he saw it himself and saw the bloody ax. With no hesitation, he grabbed the ax and laid one log on top of another. He took a moment and studied the logs and then with a great swing of the ax he split the log. He laid the halves, one at a time on the larger log and split them, too. Andjen did that several times and then carried the split logs to the fireplace. Neera watched his every move. He seemed to do everything quickly, almost frantically. "Andjen?" she called out softly. He didnít seem to hear her, but kept studying the room. Finally he moved to a wooden chair in the kitchen that was part of the big room that included the living room. It had woven seat and back. Grandper had told her it came from America and was very old.
Before she could say anything, he had picked it up and then slammed it against the floor. "Andjen!"
He stood stone still with pieces of the chair in his hand, staring at her. "What . . . what are you calling me?" he asked in his halting words.
Neera turned to her grandfather and seeing he hadnít moved, got up and moved toward him. "Andjen," she said softly. There was dust in the hearth and she drew a picture of what her grandmother had described as an angel. He looked at the drawing, then at her, his eyes wide. "Do andjen have names?" she asked.
Finally he mouth quirked into a bit of a smile and then he shook his head. "That name is . . . good." He looked down at the broken pieces of chair and added, "I needed some small wood to help start a fire."
"Oh," Neera said in a small voice. "It was Grandmerís chair." Then her voice lowered even more as though someone might be listening. "It was from America."
He smiled reassuringly and nodded. "I know." Then he took all the pieces to the fireplace and built the fire. Neera was amazed at how quickly he did it. The only thing he had to ask her for was matches, which she got for him without hesitation. Soon the fireís warmth began to fill the room and the sound of crackling wood comforted her.
Andjen found a large pot and carried it to the door. "I will be back," he told her and opened the door.
Neera wasnít sure what he was doing but she stayed by Grandperís side. It was a very short time and he was back with a pot filled with snow. Andjen moved the crackling logs around and placed the pot as far into the fire as he could.
Then he turned back to her. "What is your name, child?"
Again he studied her. It was only for a brief moment and she wondered at the strange look in his eyes, but then he nodded. "Neera, I need . . . medicine for your Grandper. Things to cleanÖ." he pointed to grandfatherís leg.
She nodded and began to walk down the short hallway.
"No, Neera. Tell me where. You stay with Grandper."
"Down there. The bathroom is where everything is." She pointed.
He nodded and headed down the darkened hallway. Neera heard the noise of Andjen digging through the cabinets. When he came back, he was carrying an armful of bottles and packets and small boxes.
With a reassuring smile, he laid all the things down in front of the fireplace and began looking through everything. He put some things to one side and then picked up the smaller pile and brought it over to Grandperís side. Andjen looked at Grandper on the couch and frowned again. He got up again and went into the bedroom, then he came back. "Where is your bed?" he asked, surprising her.
Neera pointed to a room at the end of the dark hall. He nodded and went down the hallway. In a moment Andjen was coming back, pulling her narrow bed. He had it turned almost sideways, but it still didnít take long for him to get it in the main room. When it was sitting on all four legs near the fire, and the sheets and blankets were back on the mattress, he came back over to Grandper. Carefully, he picked Grandper up and carried him to Neeraís bed. Blood began to ooze out of the wound and the girl gave a small cry. When Grandper was on her bed, Andjen motioned for her to bring the bandages over to him and lay them on the bed next to Grandperís head. The angel picked up several of the bandages and carried them to the pot on the fire. With great care, he dipped them in the pot and then wrung the excess water from them. Bringing the bandages back to the bed, he began to gently clean the injured leg.
Grandperís moan turned into a shriek and he jerked his leg back.
"Neera, talk to your grandfather. Sing to him. Tell him it will be all right."
Neera did as she was told and also rubbed his bristly cheek. Andjen began again and again Grandper cried out and tried to pull away. Andjen finally sat on him and continued cleaning the horrible mess of Grandperís leg. "Are there more sheets or things to use to wash his leg with?" he asked in the middle of his cleaning.
"I will go get something," she told him and ran to the closet.
Several times the angel had to get up and get fresh cloths to continue the cleaning. Each time he would dip the fresh cloth into the hot water and then wring it out a little before continuing to wash the wound. It looked better when he had finished, but still looked red and ugly. Next Andjen poured something from a bottle that foamed and bubbled. Again Grandper screamed. Andjen wiped away the foam after it had finished bubbling, put something else on the wound that must not have hurt as bad. Grandper didnít do more than moan. Andjen finally got off her grandfather and sighed. Then he placed a folded bandage on Grandperís leg, which was bleeding only slightly now and had none of the horrible pus and stuff. He began wrapping the other bandages round and round the wound. Finally he tied a strip around the bandages to hold them and sat back on the edge of the bed.
"I think that will do for now," Andjen said.
Neera gazed at her grandfather, looking hot and sweaty, as though he had been outside in the summer running up and down the path from the lake. Then she looked at the angel. Maybe he wasnít an angel; maybe he was only a man. But God had sent him. In all this huge forest where no one else lived, He had sent someone to help her. So maybe that made Andjen a real angel. When Grandper was well, she could ask himÖ. Then a horrid thought struck her. "Will he get well?" she asked.
He nodded. "I think so. He needs a doctor. Someone better than me."
"How do we get a doctor?" she asked.
Andjen nodded toward the transmitter. "When the storm is finished, people will come here." He looked sad. "It might take two, maybe three days." Now he looked at the door, as though he wanted to go outóas though he wanted to leave. Looking back at Grandper and then at her, Andjen sighed.
"But you will take care of Grandper, wonít you? Please?"
He looked deeply into her eyes and then nodded. "I will stay and help you take care of Grandper."
She had been right. He had been thinking of leaving. Neeva laid her hand on his. It was strong, like Grandperís had been before the accident. "Thank you. I love Grandper. I thought he was going to die."
"He is not well yet. He still has a fever. But I will do what I can for him."
He smiled and looked at the fireplace where the pot of water was now steaming. "I would say that now we should fix something your grandfather could drink and eat." Looking down at the girl, he added, "For you, too. And while weíre having dinner, you can tell me what you were singing to your Grandper. It was very pretty."
She looked astonished. Maybe he didnít believe in God either. "It was a Christmas song that Grandmer used to sing to me. I had forgotten it until today."
"Christmas," he said, looking startled. "When? I mean, how many days?" He sighed. "I have lost track."
Neera did some quick mental math. "I think less than three weeks if it is December 6th."
Andjen raised an eyebrow, then his mouth quirked into a smile. "I donít know what day it is either." He chuckled. "So we say it is December 6th."
"How can we say it is that day? Maybe itís not," Neera said, puzzled.
"You did say I was an angel, didnít you?" he asked.
She nodded, trying to figure out if he was teasing or not. She couldnít tell.
"Then it is December 6th. We do need to fix some food," Andjen said, his smile fading. "Your Grandper has to have something to drink."