And the winner of the 2015 Flash Fiction Flurries is… “The Christmas Messenger” by M-A Gautreau. Congrats M-A!
“The Christmas Messenger”
Flash Fiction by M-A Gautreau
(995 words, 5 of 5 bonus words)
Life on the Logan farm was sweet for Billy. He followed Grandpa everywhere and learned to be helpful when Grandpa was mending fences, milking the cows, and brushing the horses. Grandpa told him it didn’t matter that he wasn’t really big; he was a darned good worker.
Seven-year-old Billy and his mom had moved in with Grandpa six months ago. Mom had told him that if being a good boy and loving someone and being so loved in return could guarantee they’d have each other around forever, Dad would never have gotten sick and gone to Heaven. Being together on the farm had helped all three slowly learn to live with the loss.
It was three weeks before Christmas, and Billy was helping Mom decorate. Hearts still heavy with sadness, the adults probably wouldn’t have bothered, but they felt it would be good for the boy if they tried to celebrate Christmas with all the fixings. Grandpa was even stringing lights around the barn. He said for a special holiday treat he’d dust off the old sleigh. It would be giving a Christmas gift to the two oldest horses in the stable, because Freda and Henry were still strong and had always loved pulling the sleigh around the farm.
Mom asked Billy to go ask Grandpa where the star for the tree was; she couldn’t find it. Billy ran outside, his mom’s voice following him with a reminder to “zip up that coat.”
There was snow on the ground and some flakes falling. It was a little windy but not terribly cold. As he made his way across the yard towards the barn, where he could see his grandfather on a ladder, Billy spotted something off in the distance. With all the fluffy white stuff covering the yard and the fields, the dark “something” really stood out. It was moving! What was that? Billy stopped in his tracks and watched it get closer and closer.
Billy crouched down as the black dog slowly came directly to him. The dog didn’t seem afraid. And he didn’t look mean or scary. He held his head high and seemed to give Billy a big smile. Was this guy lost?
Grandpa had seen the dog nearing Billy and had made his way to the boy, but he could see immediately that the animal posed no threat.
“I wonder who this handsome guy is. I’ve never seen him around here before.”
“He doesn’t have a collar, Grandpa. Can he live with us?”
“Well, we’ll have to ask around to see if anyone’s missing a fine-looking dog. There could be a family really sad because they don’t know where their dog went.”
Billy knew, of course, that they’d have to try to find the owners. But maybe Mom and Grandpa would let him get a dog of his own. Boy, he’d give up all other Christmas presents if he could get a dog! The dog licked Billy’s face, and the boy felt warmth spread through him as he gazed into the dog’s eyes.
Mom looked over in surprise as Grandpa and Billy entered the house followed by their new houseguest. Billy wanted to name him Jake, but Mom reminded him it wasn’t his dog to name and that they had to try to find the owners. But she and Grandpa did say they’d go into town before Christmas to look for a puppy. Both thought a dog on the farm was a great idea. Billy told the dog that if they couldn’t find anyone missing a dog, he would be living here.
Grandpa made calls to neighbouring farms and to several stores in town. He found no claims about a lost black dog. Days went by and it seemed that Jake was right where he was supposed to be. The new addition to the family settled right in. Wherever Billy went on the farm, Jake was right by his side. And he was waiting patiently by the road each day as the school bus dropped Billy off.
Early on Christmas Eve, Grandpa harnessed Freda and Henry. Around their necks, Mom put strings of cockleshells, hand-painted silver by Grandma so many years before. The ride in the gently falling snow was perfect, with Jake perched right next to Billy as Freda and Henry hauled the sleigh through the winding farm roads.
After the sleigh ride, Mom made hot chocolate. They had Christmas music playing and Billy and Jake sat in front of the fireplace while Grandpa and Mom sat in big chairs near them.
“Mom, do you believe in magic?”
“Yes, I do. Why do you ask me that, Billy?”
“Have you ever looked at Jake’s face?”
“Of course,” Mom replied, laughing a bit and glancing over to Grandpa, wondering where this was going. “I’ve been seeing his face for a couple of weeks now.”
“Have you looked at his eyes, Mom?”
Mom got down on the floor, held Jake’s face gently between her hands. Tears ran down her cheeks.
“What? What’s wrong, Angie?” asked Grandpa, getting concerned.
“See for yourself, Angus,” and the old man, too, crouched down in front of the fireplace. He took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his eyes and nose. He saw it, too.
Jake had one blue eye, one brown, just like Billy’s dad.
“Billy, you know this isn’t…” started Mom.
“Mom, I know it’s not Dad. But maybe Dad sent him to us so we wouldn’t be so sad. Maybe it’s supposed to be that when we look into Jake’s eyes that are just like Dad’s and we see Jake’s happy face, it’s to tell us that Dad is okay, that Dad is happy.”
The grownups chose to believe in the faith of the little boy. And that Christmas Eve, three heavy hearts were made a little lighter. From then on, the joke they shared was that “Jake” was the dog’s nickname. They felt his true name was Magic Jake, the Christmas Miracle.
M-A Gautreau is Atlantic Canadian, born and raised. A lover of books, especially mysteries and thrillers, she is currently trying her hand at creating her own.
After retiring ten years ago, she found she preferred the company of her computer to that of her treadmill. She admits the treadmill is great for some things, like drying clothes, but her PC helps her perform mental exercises.
Recognizing that regular exercise is vital, M-A works out at her PC for a minimum of thirty minutes three times a week, as recommended by experts.