Saturday, December 24, 2016
Wings by Christmas
This is the revised edition of a heart-warming short story:
WINGS BY CHRISTMAS
Apparently, everybody wants to get their cars fixed before Christmas, but could anything or anybody fix my broken life?
Ruth found herself without car, not much food, unemployment running out, and soon—no home. But none of that mattered when she thought about losing her only daughter.
Her precious Tina was sick, very sick. Ruth put six birthday candles into a raisin bagel.
“I’m not hungry, Mommy. You can eat it.”
“But honey, you have to eat and make a wish.”
After the dinner, dessert, birthday party combo they watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time. What was it about little people watching movies over and over?
“How does an angel get to pick the person they want to help? To get wings.”
“I don’t know, maybe it’s somebody they knew or feel close to.”
“I’m going to die on Christmas Eve, so I can give you a present. I’m going to ask God if I can get my wings by helping you find a new daddy.”
Ruth turned her head away so her little girl wouldn’t see the impending flood. After she had learned Tina was dying of Leukemia, she ran through her savings grasping at half-baked dreams. All the accepted treatments had failed. Please God, save my little girl.
“Honey, the best way to help me is to stay with me.”
Tina stomped her foot, stubborn like her dad used to be. “You need a daddy. I’m going to get you one for sure when I get to heaven.”
“I bet you won’t have to go to heaven to get me one. I’m still pretty, right?”
“You are the most beautiful mommy in the whole world, ever.”
Ruth staggered through her words sobbing. “Well then, I’ll just take my pretty and go find a husband for me and a daddy for you.”
Was Winston, her daughter’s father, her husband a spirit up there now?
Doctor Max Fielding, head of research at CHOP, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, picked up the phone. “Hello.”
“This is Angel Winston. I need to get my wings. You’ve got an experimental Leukemia program. I’d like you to consider Ruth Trent’s daughter, Tina, of Philadelphia.”
“Your connection is weird, Angel.” It sounded like Angel was in the middle of a hurricane. “You mentioned wings, are you with the Air Force?”
“Never mind that now. Ruth lost her plant manager’s job. Lost her husband in Afghanistan. Her home is almost foreclosed. She’s taking leftovers from bakeries. Her car needs a new head gasket. And her daughter has chosen Christmas Eve to die. She’s stubborn.”
“Well, a number of things …”
“Yes, I know the 40 volunteers are confidential.”
“I have a heart, Angel, but we can’t be having this conversation.”
“Just check case number 17.”
“You are out of line. Who do you report to?”
“The guy on top. I take my orders from him.”
“Listen, sir. We must maintain hands-off fairness. I have to go.”
“I’ll send you their pictures and info. Take a look at her mother, ah, I mean the file.”
How did this person got his email?
Max’s cellphone chirped signifying texts:
My boss is all over me on this one.
This will change your entire life, promise.
Besides, there’s my wings to consider.
He must have been dealing with a madman. Still…
He picked up his phone and got his secretary. “Jamie, could you check number 17?”
His secretary reported 17 as just admitted to Saint Jude’s in fair condition.
Later, Jamie buzzed him. “Doctor, number 17 died 33 minutes ago. I am so sorry.”
“I know, a little boy, four years old. God awful. I’ll make the call, but I want you to run the lottery from the pool for a new volunteer, immediately.” He would never interfere with a blind and fair system, no matter how many Angel what-his-names called him.
More texts and emails came in. Max inspected them one by one, read all the very compelling info and then staggered when he saw a full-page image of the little girl’s mom, Ruth. He relaxed, now euphoric in reflection. Sweat on his fingers. This gorgeous woman used to go to the same gym. The most fantastic creature he had ever seen in his life. When they first met, she had to hold onto the weight bar to maintain balance and he would have caught her. She had exhibited signs of dizziness buit quickly recovered. This twisted his heart with the odd implication someone actually found him desirable without knowing he was a doctor. In fact, her physical manifestation of attraction had never been exhibited by any woman, ever, in his life. His looks were just okay, which made the incident surreal. Something incredible had happened between them, because, although he hadn’t lost his balance he felt like screaming yes.
Her empathetic heart, sweet disposition, overwhelming smile and their obvious mutual attraction had made them fast friends. He nicknamed her, Sunshine, to match her hair and life nurturing nature. The prospect of finding a cure for leukemia kept him in the lab, mostly. Then she disappeared by quitting the gym.
A new text came in: Ruth’s been eating too many donuts, lately.
Would this guy ever quit? He had to allow the lottery to proceed.
Jamie buzzed him. “The new and local volunteer is on your screen, doctor.”
“Thanks, Jamie, I’ll take care of the call. This time there is no time for me to wait for a nurse. Prepare the paperwork, shots, extraction-pac, and cross-matched RBC for transport.”
The secret lay in infusing the child with cancer killing T-cells. The patient might exhibit AIDS-like side effects. The mother needed to give consent.
It was no small miracle that Ruth Trent’s child, Tina, had now been chosen and they were close, living just off 54th and City Line. Considering how much he was excited to tell her in person, Max knocked his knee jumping up. His chair spun. Unfazed, he sprinted for his coat.
Just 33 minutes later, despite snow flurries, he pulled up to an old three story Victorian badly in need of repairs. The place loomed, perfect for Halloween, but, hopefully, without a scary ending.
Ruth had tried on her man-catching outfit when the doorbell rang.
“Oh my God, it’s you.” Max had always been polite, giving her space. She never gave him her address, email or phone. Perplexed. She smiled broadly while delivering a prickly line. “Well come on in, stranger. You haven’t turned into a stalker, Max? Have you?”
“No, not ever, Sunshine. I’m here to deliver a little good news.”
A little duplicate of her mother came running down the stairs.
“Are you my new daddy I’ve been praying for?” She shook his hand while nodding her head seeking a yes answer. He squatted for an eye-to-eye.
Aside from being stunned by his remark, Ruth really never knew who had the worst case of infatuation. She wrote off his remark as an effort to placate her daughter.
It worked out great, bagels and coffee, quite chic, if he only knew, that’s about all she had in the house. He explained that he was a doctor, his position at CHOP, and the experimental trials. She gladly signed every paper he slid over to her.
“So by some minor miracle the completely blind lottery picked you, Tina, to hopefully get well. I know nobody likes needles and shots but I’ve got little medical miracles inside this bag and brand new blood too. Would you like to see what I’ve got in here?”
“I’ll take the needles and blood, Doctor, if you’ll marry my mommy.”
“One miracle at a time, baby,” Max said. He looked into Ruth’s eyes, as if searching for a yes. Sure they had chemistry, like never in his life, but a life together?
He chatted up Tina with whimsical stories to divert her mind from the needles.
Entranced and unflinching, Tina sad, “So maybe I won’t have to die on Christmas Eve. Doctor, will you stay with us, on Christmas Eve, so I don’t kick the buckets? You see, I made a promise to my daddy that I would help him get his wings, starting that day.”
“I’ll be there.” A tear fell from Max’s eye. “If your mom says it’s okay.”
What could she say? She’d dare dream for her baby. Maybe he was miracle number two.
“I love your outfit, Sunshine. I’ve missed you like you would not believe.”
“Me too. You still make me giddy.” The first time she met Max, she had to grab hold of the weights rack being light-headed. It had been a sign and she screwed it up, until now.
“It’s a good start.” He said his goodbyes with hugs, and kisses on their cheeks.
Three solid weeks of stolen minutes and hours from his work brought them closer.
On Christmas Eve, the three of them decided to hang bells Max had bought. It was fun and with the initial medical results encouraging, appropriate. He had never had a better Guinea piggy. Her progress might break every record.
“It’s encouraging but she’s not out of the woods yet.”
Ruth, staggered by hope, wept.
Max gathered the girl and woman into a group hug. He had an instant family. Thanks to Ruth’s deceased husband, Max’s life would change forever. If only he could convince a certain someone that her angel husband, Winston, his mystery caller, believed they belonged together.
Tina tucked in and sleeping, Max casually maneuvered Ruth under the mistletoe.
“As your child’s doctor, don’t you think I deserve a kiss?” He pointed up.
“Well, I guess, it’s the least I could do.” He stared down into her wide-eyed blues, wistful smile, read her excitement, and knew she was his.
He kissed her, sweetly. What sounded like a crescendo of chapel bells rang in his head.
“Did you make the bells ring?” She tiptoed into another kiss.
They weren’t close enough to the tree to jostle the bells.
“I think, Winston, got his wings.” He wrapped her more tightly into his arms. “Would you consider marrying me? I mean if…”
She shut him up with another deeper kiss, promising everything.
With a beaming smile and breathless voice, she said, “Maybe.”