in the palms of poor hands


in the palms of poor hands…

Guest post by Tanya Cliff.

Grace exists in the palms of her poor hands –shack-born, free-form, always riding the waves, because her town was a private beach. A little girl whose family can’t afford a plot of sand learns to tread water. Once a year those waters froze over, and her holey shoes slid and twirled over the ice; the beautiful, little, bully-bait knew how to make the best of each run. Had it not been for the taunts of the children in her class – boxed-in, beach dwellers, always soaking up sun, because they owned the private beach – Maddie would have found little complaint in life. She was a happy child in spite of…

In her first year of school, Maddie learned a few things: move toward the hand of a hair puller, turn to the side quickly to block the shin kicker, dodge the spitters when you see their cheeks draw in to gather saliva in the front of their mouths. Oh, but the names…a girl couldn’t move, turn or dodge to avoid those. “Pea Pocket” bothered her the most of them all. It wasn’t the most creative or the most offensive name they called her; but it drew attention to the secondhand, dull green, adult-sized, canvass coat that she was forced to wear. The jacket was only supposed to come to the waist. On Maddie it dragged the ground, and there was enough extra of its material to wrap her two times around.

Maddie learned about Santa Clause that first year of school. Her teacher read at length about him, producing an excited buzz among the five-year-old children and fantastic recollections of last year’s haul. For a shack-born, free-form girl, the idea of a jolly, fat man in a red suit who brought toys freely to all the good girls and boys held great promise. She was always well-behaved. Her teacher assigned the letter to the class, easing the poor girl’s plotting, and promised to mail them, even providing the stamp.

Dere Santa,
I’v been good all yere. Pleez bring a new cote. Mine dosen’t fit.
Love, Maddie

School closed for the Winter Break, and Christmas Eve arrived. Maddie carefully placed a small, hard biscuit – cake of dull gods and pauper kings – secretly reserved from her dinner plate on top of a wooden crate by the front door and waited up all night.

Maddie returned to school a few days later, a tiny pea stuck in an enormously ugly pocket. During lunch break all the other kids talked all at once about all the toys they had all received from Santa. Some of the girls had even received clothes. Delilah – the blond girl with the mansion on the biggest plot of sand up the hill from all the other plots – returned to school in her new, elf-given, beautiful, puffy, pink coat that fit her to perfection. Maddie thought, “My house is small, really it is more of a shack. Maybe Santa missed it.” She was a happy child in spite of…

The story repeated year after year. Maddie’s spelling improved. By fourth grade, she could spell “Plasma Brain Puke Booger” perfectly. It had replaced “Pea Pocket” midway through the second grade. Maddie had also grown quickly and was now the tallest in her class. Hair pulling, shin kicking and spitting had been replaced with ignoring, mocking and stealing. Even poor girls bring pencils and pennies to school now and then. Whatever she brought, they took when she wasn’t looking. Her life had improved in one drastic way: Her cloak of booger-green canvass now only came down to her thighs. The bottom edge was all frayed from a year of dragging on the ground and a few of the buttons were missing; but, all-in-all, it was in good shape. Homely, military grade coats are made to last.

Maddie hadn’t given up on Santa either. Each year, when her heart should have been darkened with jealousy toward the children he favored with toys and clothes and new coats, her hope grew that one Christmas Eve she would be good enough to earn his love too. And, after all, she did live, treading water free-form, in a small house on the very edge of town that really was more of a shack. She supposed that it would be easy for him to miss; no one else ever found it. That year of her fifth grade, the teacher no longer collected letters for Santa to send before Christmas. Maddie purchased the stamp herself out of coins that she had earned watching a neighbor’s cat over the summer while the neighbor was away. It was a beach-dwelling cat.

Dear Santa,
I haven’t given up on you. I know my house is hard to find. I’ve been very good this year. I’ve even helped take care of my brother. Jackie is a very good boy. Could you please bring him a ball? And if you could, Santa, please, my coat is wearing out. It doesn’t fit me at all. I don’t need a fancy coat. Just something that fits. The other kids call me names. You know the kids. You bring them toys. I just really need a new coat. We have no money.
I love you,
Maddie Gleekenhall

On Christmas Eve, poor Maddie could no longer stand the suspense. She knew Santa would visit all the other children, especially Delilah, who would also receive her annual new coat. Once the house was quiet, Maddie snuck out the front door. She walked the sands of the town all the way to the Delilah’s mansion. There, she hid behind a bush outside the front door.

That’s when she saw him and his reindeer and sleigh. Maddie could hardly contain herself, but she waited. He disappeared, that fat man, down the chimney with glee. She could hear him laughing. “Ho, Ho!” and “He, He!” and then “Whee!” Maddie climbed up a trellis and onto the roof. She jumped into the sleigh, ignoring the smell of sweaty reindeer. She opened one of the large bags in the seat behind her. It was filled to the top with toys and clothes and rainbow-colored candy.

“What are you doing in there?”

The baritone voice from behind her resonated deeply, causing a shudder from down in her spine. Maddie turned to face him, flashed a quick smile from her flushed face and said, “Don’t be angry, dear Santa, please. I just wanted to know if you were real or not.”

He chuckled a bit, and his big belly shook. “And?”

“I can see that you’re real. Santa, please don’t be mad. I’m normally good. But you see this old coat of mine, falling apart. For six years now, I’ve written to you and asked from my heart if you would replace it. The other kids tease me. You bring them so many nice things.”

He chuckled some more. “Plasma Brain Puke Booger? Isn’t that what they call you?”

“Yes, Santa,” she said, with a tear in her eye. “Why?”

The fat, jolly old man grabbed hold of her arm, inspecting it closely. He let go and looked deeply in her eyes, nodded his head up and down with a satisfied air and motioned her to move out of the sled. Maddie complied.

“Why?” she repeated softly, her tears flowing freely.

Santa took up his seat in that ancient sleigh and picked up the reins; but, she reached out now, the brave, young girl, and grabbed hold tightly of his crimson robe.

Santa sighed and looked toward her. “There’s still flesh on your bones. There’s a spark in your eyes. Maddie Gleekenhall, I know where you live. I’m no dotard, you silly young thing. I know all the children. Santa? Yes, some call me that. Others have other names. But, I’ll tell you the truth, little Puke Booger, and then I’m off. I was born of a lie. I give falsehood away. I make little ones greedy and selfish today. I distract from the Truth. I break hearts. To the rich, I give much. To the poor, I give just a smidgen. To the pathetic like you, I give nothing. You want to know who I am? I’m the Collector of Skeletons. Now get out of my way!” With that, he took off, up and up and away, smelly reindeer and all; and he never looked back.

Maddie wiped her tears dry and wondered, there, on the roof for a time. Finally, she pulled her pea-pocket coat back around her, buttoned it up, smiled and then laughed. Her flesh covered hands she raised triumphantly high up toward the dark sky; and the shack-born, free-form, bully-bait girl, from that perch on the rich roof, breathed a prayer into the night, “Thank you, dear God, for the coat on my back.”

Grace exists in the palms of her poor hands. She was a happy child in spite of… Tanya

—Visit Tanya at   storytelling in all its wonderful styles

inspired by “collector of skeletons” by the trashcanbard

“So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.” (Jer 7:16-18, NIV)  (my note: Queen of Heaven, also known as Ishtar and, less commonly, Mylitta)

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’ “

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ “ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army. (Eze 37:4-10, NIV)

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 25-27, NIV)

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