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Joyce McDonald Hoskins

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Gratitude
By Joyce McDonald Hoskins
Monday, August 16, 2010

Rated "G" by the Author.

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A short Christian story of 1,566 words.
A young woman, caught up in everyday problems, loses her joy and gratitude. God gently reminds her that He is always with her.

Gratitude

Cookie let out a small sob as she touched Jellybean’s yellow breast. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse. She went back to her tea and notepad. Fortified by a gulp of black tea she added Jellybean to her list. A dark line, hastily drawn down the middle of the page, separated two columns. Left side—problems. Right Side—solutions. She sighed. I need to pray.   

            Her phone rang. She automatically answered without checking the number, and was greeted by a bright voice. “How are you today, Mrs.Wheatly?”

            Cookie wiped a stray tear with her fist. Gallows humor quickly squelched her temper. “Not well. For one thing, I’ll not be Mrs.Wheatly much longer.”

            The too bright voice continued after a moment of silence. “I’m sorry, but this would be a good time for you to consider credit protection.

            “I lost my job yesterday.”

            “Then I have just the plan for you.”

            “My canary, Jellybean, passed this morning. Do you have a plan for that? Help with the funeral expenses, or the burial plot?”

            “Perhaps, I should call back at a better time?”

            “No. This is a good time. Nothing important on my calendar this morning. Just— Apply for unemployment. Update resume. Call divorce lawyer. Bury Jellybean.” Cookie paused a moment. “Do you think I should adopt another canary right away?”

            Ms. Bright Voice was silent.

“Thank you for listening. It really helped. I’ll see if I can find a bereavement group, a job, a man, and oh, I forgot to tell you, I have to move. My apartment building has been, what do you call it, eminent domain-ed?”  She laughed when she heard the dial tone, took a sip of tea and then picked up her pen. A circle and an arrow moved Jellybean to the top of her list.

            I should pray. The phone rang again. This time she checked the number. She smiled when she saw her brother’s name. “Hey, Gerald. What’s up?”

            “Going to take two weeks off and hike the Appalachian Trail—wanna go?”

            “Yes.”

            “Yes? Really?”

            “Yes. Really.”

            “Great.”

            Cookie laughed. “How many people said no?”

            “Man, I know a lot of non-athletic people.”

            “So, little sis was last on your list?”

            “Not last, but I was getting there. Didn’t think you could get the time off.”

            “Job’s been terminated. Budget cuts. Funny, isn’t it? Could never do without me if I wanted time off, and then I’m one of the first ones cut.”

            “Go back to school. Everyone else our age is.”

            “Might do that. Hiking will be a good time to think about my options. Oh, can I store some stuff at your place. In addition to everything else, I have to relocate.”

            “Move in here if you want—roommate got married.”

            “Oh, thank you. That makes my day—and so far, it’s not been going well. Poor old Jellybean died.”

            “Sorry, hon. I’ll buy you another one when we get back.”

            “We have catching up to do. And plans to make. Lunch tomorrow?

            “Okay. Chinese Gardens?”                                    

            “Fine.”

            She went to the cage, removed Jellybean and placed him on a paper towel. Unable to convince herself that it would be okay to wrap him in paper and put him in the garbage, she found a small box and put him in it. A spade couldn’t be located, so she took a serving spoon with her to the park. She was glad no one noticed as she buried him in the butterfly garden.

            Ten chimes from the community clock reminded her of the time. Her former colleagues would be having coffee at the Pot Bellied Pig. Join them? No. They would be talking gloom and doom. She decided to slip into the small outdoor chapel. It wasn’t really a chapel but the statue of St. Francis and the pew-like benches created an uplifting spiritual experience. For at least the hundredth time in her life, she hoped animals had souls. She pictured Jellybean singing in a heavenly choir. I really must pray.

            “Bury a small pet?” The voice startled her. She hadn’t been unnoticed after all. A young man sat on the grass, yoga style. He wore a black business suit, a briefcase rested beside him.

            She didn’t respond.

            He smiled. It was a wide, friendly smile. “I’m not gay.”

            She laughed.

            “Yoga. My acupuncturist recommended it. I said it would make me look gay.”

            She laughed again. “What did he say to that?”

            “She. She smacked me.” He got up and folded the newspaper, he had been sitting on. “Since she’s my cousin, she takes liberties. So, what did you bury? Stolen jewels?”

            “My canary.”

“Sorry.”

“Thanks.”

He took a card from his shirt pocket and handed it to her. “Jonas Bradfield.” He extended his hand. “Coffee?”

“No. Cookie.” She laughed. “You look confused. I’m not Coffee, I’m Cookie—nickname.”

“Do you joke a lot?”

“All the time.” But I was going to pray.

“And what would be your real name?”

“Sara Wheatly. Soon to be Sara Sanders. I’m taking my maiden name back when my divorce is final.”

“Would you have coffee with me, Sara? I’ll even throw in a cookie, if Cookie wants one?”

“Chocolate chip?”

“Deal. Pot Bellied Pig, okay?”

“No. Anyplace, but . . . oh, never mind. That’ll be fine.”

Several of Cookie’s friends were leaving as they entered. They smiled, said a few words of greeting, and sized up Jonas.

They took a corner table and Jonas went to the counter for the coffee and cookies.

Cookie’s former supervisor stopped by the table and told Cookie to be sure and call, if she needed anything. “Anything at all, Cookie. Reference, letter, whatever you need.” She smiled as Jonas returned and placed Cookie’s coffee in front of her. “Gotta go.” She patted Cookie’s hand and made a quick departure.

Jonas handed her a large chocolate chip cookie.

 “That was my supervisor. Those people that spoke and looked you over were my former coworkers.”

He sighed. “The old downsizing, budget-cutting axe?”

“Right. Social worker and person with the least seniority.” She took the cap off her coffee. “Your card tells me very little. What do you do?”

“Lawyer, but it’s not as good as it sounds. I’m a street lawyer.”

“I understand—glorified social worker with slightly higher pay. I’ve met a few street lawyers in my profession.”

“Got a lot of connections. Can probably help you find a job. Low pay, long hours, probably in a high crime area, of course.”

“Of course.” She broke off a bit of her cookie, but didn’t eat it. “I’d appreciate it. I still have that burning desire to make a difference.”

“That’s good. Some lose it pretty fast. So, there are jobs.” He took a large bite of cookie and washed it down with coffee. “It’s okay to tell me it’s none of my business if you want, but I’m wondering about your divorce.”

“I supported him for two years, while he wrote a play. He went to New York to sell it. He didn’t come back.”

“Oh.”

“It’s a bad play He never let me read it until it was finished.” She laughed. “I didn’t tell him, but it’s terrible.” She took the bite of cookie and savored it, letting it melt in her mouth. “He probably found someone who can support him better than I did. Wouldn’t be hard.” She took another bite. “Hm, this hits the spot.”

“You seem to be over him.”

“Pretty much.”

He looked at the clock over the door. “I’m due in court. Okay if I call you tonight?”

She wrote her number on a napkin and handed it to him. “Oh, by the way, what’s wrong? You don’t look like you need acupuncture and yoga.”

“That’s what my cousin said. She said I was stressed. That I should improve my posture, and I should exercise more. She also thought I should find some new friends and interests.”

“Sounds like a good prescription for all of us.”

“I’m glad she suggested the yoga. I’m especially glad she suggested the park. I’m sorry your canary died, but I’m glad you were there.”

Cookie smiled. “Pleased to meet you, too, Jonas. I’ve never known anyone named Jonas before.”

“We’ll talk more tonight. I’ve got to run.”

For the first time she noticed his scuffed running shoes. She pointed at them. “Do you change for court?”

“Naw. The suit is the only concession I make. Otherwise, I work in jeans. I’m a pretty casual guy. Talk later.” He ran for the door.

I like casual.

As she entered her apartment, she glanced at her list. Wow. What a day. Guilt swept over her. And I never prayed. She opened the worn Bible her grandmother had left her. She had been Gram’s favorite—the oldest granddaughter and her namesake. There was a list of Gram’s favorite verses written inside the cover. She had personalized the scriptures, substituting and underlining her name for every impersonal pronoun.

Matthew 6:8. My God knows what Sara needs before Sara asks.

Philippians 4:19 Sara’s God will supply all of her needs according to His riches.

Psalms 46:1 God is Sara’s refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

            Cookie folded her arms and hugged the Bible. Thankful that God had given her a grandmother who taught her about a personal God, she cried tears of gratitude.

 


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Reviewed by Donna Chandler 8/19/2010
A very uplifting story well written. I enjoyed the read.

Donna

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