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Author Name: Freebarbinar 2 Comments
Date Added: August 01, 2010 06:08:14 Average Score: (Needs 2)
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Category: Prose Add To Favorites | Text Only
 
A Choir of Fifty-One

The old woman approached the rear door of the little church building with halting steps.  Shifting the bulky shopping bags from one hand to the other, she raised sore, frozen knuckles and rapped gingerly on the thick wooden door.  She waited, then tried again, wincing with the pain as the sound echoed.  She was just turning away in despair when she heard a metallic click and the door swung slightly open.  Inside stood a heavy-set man in work clothes.  She could barely make out the lines of his face in the dim evening light.
"Yes?", he questioned in a gruff voice.  "What is it?"
The old woman swallowed hard then spoke hesitatingly. 
"Sir, I...   You see, I have need of...." 
She stopped.  How does one beg for food and shelter?  Are there prescribed words and phrases that one must know to tell of hours spent in a frozen rain without benefit of nourishment for days past?  She didn't know, this was all new to her, but she had to try.
"Sir...", she began again.
But the man interrupted her roughly. 
"Lady, I'm just the janitor here.  There was a late choir practice for the Christmas program tomorrow, but everyone has gone home except me.  I can't do anything for you.  I have to lock this building up tight.  It's my job."
The old woman gasped as the door thudded shut and the sound of a bolt sliding into place made her wince, taking her last hope with it's finality.  Any observer would have seen despair forming on her features and a new paleness on her cheek where icy winds had pasted a false blush just moments before.  This had been her last chance.  She knew she lacked the strength to move on in search of help.  It was cold and wet and she was starving.
Slowly she sank down on the frozen step, the heavy bags dropping onto the pavement at her feet.  She wrapped thin arms around an equally thin waist and began slowly, methodically rocking back and forth.  It would be painless, she thought.  Just drifting off into a final sleep, embracing a fog of oblivion.  She continued the rhythmical rocking.
Near the front of the building a car engine growled in protest of the stiffening cold, then reluctantly jumped into action.  But the old woman didn't hear.  The janitor put the car in reverse, backed out of the parking lot, and headed home to a nice Christmas Eve dinner with his family.
Suddenly the old woman jumped and opened her eyes.  For a moment she was totally confused.  Then icy drops from the overhanging roof brought her abruptly back to reality.  But something was different.  It took her a moment to realize that it was singing she heard.  And it was coming from inside the church.  How long had she slept?  Not long, surely.  The sky was still inky black. 
Slowly, painfully she pulled herself to her feet.  Turning to the heavy door she had been leaning against, she dared to lift a timid hand to the latch.  She had barely touched the cold brass when the door swung noiselessly open.  She leaned on the door frame for support.  She drew one breath of absolute astonishment, then seemed to stop breathing all together.
She was standing behind the choir loft, and as she blinked in unbelief, fifty robed figures once again raised beautifully blended voices in a new hymn.  Each set of shoulders was draped in shimmering cloth, and the back of each head was circled with a crown of light.  Immediately the old woman became aware of a delicious warmth stealing over her whole being.  She glanced back at the heavy door through which she had recently stepped so cautiously, only to find it had securely closed, barring the icy night.
As the hymn ended, the old woman stood riveted to the spot, for one of the choir members was turning to speak to her.  She saw golden hair framing a gentle face full of love and heard a soft voice speaking.
"Won't you join us?"
After what seemed long moments, the old woman found her voice enough to answer.
"I couldn't..., I'm not..., you see..."
She halted in confusion and helplessly, hopelessly gestured to her tattered and beaten appearance.
But the choir lady just smiled.
"It doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter at all", she repeated gently.
 And somehow the old woman understood that it did not matter, and she found herself in the midst of the heavenly host singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!"

 

 
Author's Notes:
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'A Choir of Fifty-One' Copyright © Barbara Carleton
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Comments:
Comment By: PremiumHOPE on August 1, 2010 08:22:53 AM Report
Barbara

A beautifully moving story.  Very well written. Christmas shouldn't just be in December, it should be in our hearts all year long.

Tina

Comment By: FreeRobert on August 1, 2010 07:59:15 AM Report
A beautiful Christmas story I can understand your reluctance to wait until the "season" to tell it. It needed to told and told now!

"It doesn't matter" when it is told it still warms the heart regardless of the "season" Truly this made my heart warm thanks for sharing it now.





 


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