Last Chapter! Enjoy!
A Celebration of Life and Strength
“You look pretty, Frederica Breman,” Adam smiled as they walked around the gym floor at the party.
“This place looks wonderful,” Barbara said excitedly. “Do you two mind if Charlie and I walk around and see all the games?”
“Of course not, Barb,” Fritzy agreed. “We’re going to take it all in at our own pace, too.”
Kids played BINGO and won amazing prizes at one table, at least Adam thought they were. As they watched, he saw one boy win a new pearl-handled pocket knife and a friend of Fritzy’s scored a bottle of French cologne.
“Let me smell,” Fritzy asked. Then, she took a little whiff of the cologne. “The perfume smells amazing,” she said.
“This is great!” Adam said as he looked all around.
“The parents have gone all out to make the party special. The war is over. The dads and moms are home now. Many of them were gone for two or three years. Daddy said the party is so grand because the entire city of Middletown wanted to play for an evening—with all the lights on. They wanted a fun night, not for themselves, but for their children. They wanted them to have all the fun that had been denied them. The chaperon list had tripled as returning dads wanted to spend those precious hours with their children.”
“Well, you still look great,” Adam said again.
“Thank you, kind sir,” Fritzy blushed at Adam’s compliment. Then her eyes darted around the room in excitement. “Look, a scavenger hunt!”
Adam picked up a list to search for the first item in the hunt. “Find the female with one green eye and one blue eye.”
“What?” Fritzy puzzled. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I don’t know anyone with one blue eye and one green eye. Skip that one. Maybe we’ll happen on her later. Let’s look around some more.”
“Okay. Let’s go over there.” Adam’s eyes caught an amazing sight. “They put up a bowling alley—with three lanes.”
“How did they do that?” Fritzy ran over to the newly installed alleys. “They’re bowling in their stocking feet.”
Adam liked the sound the fabric in Fritzy’s red taffeta dress made as she moved beside him. If not for the Christmas holidays, he may have forgotten how special girls looked in party clothes.
“Well, what do you think?” Coach Breman burst with pride as the two got over to the lanes.
“About what?” Adam stumbled. His mind was still on Fritzy’s dress.
“How? Why?” Fritzy stammered as she looked at the glistening hardwood of the alleys.
“Sorry for the secrecy, Frederica. We were hoping to have the alley ready by tonight, but we had no guarantee. I didn’t want to disappoint you. Principal Sparrow and I decided to add bowling as an activity by rolling up old parachutes to make the lanes but no gutters. Sign up for your turn to play,” the coach beamed.
“If bowling isn’t your choice, people over there are shooting baskets. They are trying to win a prize for making three baskets in a row from the top of the key. There are folk dances in the corner near the cafeteria. Some kids over there are having fun painting Christmas ornaments,” he pointed.
“The room is full of stuff, all kinds of games and fun and . . . Fritzy, listen to the music. This is great!” Adam looked around every corner of the gym. “Wow, Coach, this is amazing!”
“I will leave you two young people to your own fun. There are hot dogs, cokes, potato salad, cupcakes and everything that goes with them in the cafeteria.”
“Let’s just walk around for a while and look at everything.” Adam took Fritzy’s hand as they cruised the room. They stopped at the dart board. A sign read, “Break three balloons and win a prize.”
“Look over there, Adam—a cake walk. Walk around the chairs until the music stops and win a cake,” Fritzy’s eyes flashed with excitement as she took in all the games.
“I could use a cake,” Adam started, but then thought he’d better drop the topic of food.
“Whatever you want, Adam. All the games are free and so is the food.”
“Free? I like those prices,” Adam laughed.
“Isn’t it wonderful that the Christ Child was returned,” Fritzy beamed. “The congregation didn’t even respond to the ransom demand. A note, actually stuck right in the baby’s hand, said, ‘The carving belongs to the people of the Church on Cranberry Street, not to me.’ It is a miracle, Adam. A real miracle.”
“I never believed in miracles before.”
“So many things have happened. So many things have changed.” He thought for a moment then remembered with excitement. “Did I tell you, the little hummingbird came back?”
“That’s wonderful! I think he came back because you’ve changed. They say hummingbirds won’t stick around if there is hatred or ugliness around them. Maybe that has changed, too. Maybe you’re happier.”
Adam thought of the bitterness he had felt and the anger he had harbored toward his father. All the bad feelings were gone, and he hadn’t even realized when they left. Then he thought of the Christ Child in the manger and the freedom he has felt since he knelt there at the occupied manger and the infant occupied his heart.
“I am happier. I can feel joy all the way down to my shoes. Or, maybe I should say, Jim’s shoes. Thank your mother again for me.”
“Adam, they aren’t Jim’s shoes now, any more than they would belong to the Bon Ton if you had bought them there. They are yours now. Straighten up and own them.” She gave him a playful jab to his arm as she emphasized the point she was making. “Get over the woo-is-me complaints.”
“Thanks. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself, and I’m not going to be Mr. Woo any more. Self-pity only makes me confused and weak.”
From off to the side, two silly boys pushed and pulled at each other. They really didn’t watch where they were going.
“Look at those two. They’ve already made fools out of themselves to my thinking. What will they do next?”
Then the boys turned sharply, ran into Fritzy and nearly knocked her down. She stumbled into Adam who was happy to catch her before she fell.
“Hey, watch where you’re going,” Adam spoke firmly to the roughnecks.
“Says who?” One of the boys shot back.
“Me—you just heard me.” Adam snapped quickly. One of the boys turned so Adam could see his face. Then the other good-for-nothing turned as well.
“Well, well, look who’s here,” Adam smirked at the two. “I thought you two weren’t coming to the party.”
“Where’d ya get the idea we wouldn’t come?” Freddy growled out. “We’re just as good as you. We have homes. At least we don’t live in a belfry,” Buddy smirked.
“Never mind them, Adam. Let’s go on.” Fritzy took his arm and tried to nudge him away.
“Right, Adam,” Buddy mocked, “let the little lady lead you around by the nose.”
“At least I have a friend, Buddy. What do you call Freddy? Your litter-mate? You guys are always rolling around like little mutts.” Adam smiled sarcastically.
“Mutts are we? We have families and houses. I’ve heard you live in the rafters of the church on Cranberry Street. That’s where the Christ Kid was stolen. I think the robbery was an inside job,” Buddy yelled.
“Destroy him,” the shadows hissed with menacing delight. “Their lives belong to you. You know their deep secret.” The darkness oozed out of the corners and moved across the floor, inviting Adam to watch them, to let them in.
“No,” Adam protested.
“No what?” Fritzy questioned.
“No—nothing, Fritzy. I—see―.”
“See what? Two stupid boys?” Fritzy looked at the two, then she added, “The theft was an inside job. The carving was taken from the inside to the outside, moron.”
“Moron? Me? Looks like the resident bat in the belfry would have heard something that night,” Buddy insisted again.
“They deserve to be broken. They are lost to us anyway,” the shadows touched each boy on the shoulder. “They will let us in.”
“Shadows be gone!” Adam ordered and the shadows dissolved into the corners, always there, always waiting.
“Be gone?” Freddy laughed. “Are you trying to cast a spell on us?”
“If I were, you would have felt it by now,” Adam stated as one with authority.
“I wish you two―” Adam began then stopped. “No,” he stopped again. He would not wish.
“Adam, are you alright?” Fritzy asked.
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m just having an argument with myself,” he admitted.
“Let us touch her,” the shadows begged in chorus as they moved out of hiding. “She is beautiful.”
“No,” Adam demanded again. This time he stepped forward and put himself between Fritzy and the darkness.
“What is that smell?’ Fritzy recoiled.
“You can smell the foul odor?” Adam gasped. He would have to get Fritzy away from the dark corner quickly.
“Yes,” she held her hand to her nose and mouth. “Can’t you smell that?”
“Yes, Fritzy, I smell it, but I had hoped you wouldn’t.” Adam put his hand on her shoulder to lead her away.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Buddy demanded and pushed his fingers into Adam’s shoulder.
“We will give you the power to break them. Their lives will be ruined beyond repair. You know what happened that night in the storage room. We were there,” evil’s argument grew in strength with each dark thought.
“My Son,” Shaddy whispered even though he was not called. “You will have what you need when you need it.”
Adam smiled and brushed Buddy’s hand from his shoulder like an unwanted fly at a picnic. “I need to talk to you two.”
He turned to Fritzy and apologized. “The boys and I will step into the hallway. I want you to go find your dad and I’ll meet you there.” He squeezed her hand and pointed the way out of the room.
“You’ve been caught now, haven’t you, Belfry Brat,” Freddy giggled as they bounced into the hall, expecting an easy win in the game they were playing.
“I heard Pastor Silverman say something interesting you guys would want to know before you carry this prank any farther.” Adam smiled and moved in closer to the two wimps who only cowered and slunk back.
“What do we care?” Buddy asked sheepishly.
“Will, I think you guys will care a lot. The Navy duffle bag the carving was in had a few smudges of fresh yellow paint on the outside. I am sure, if the police wanted to, they could go from house to house and check for freshly painted walls and maybe even used paint cans—maybe out in the garage.”
Buddy and Freddy closed their eyes in unison, like they had both seen the last scene of a bad movie. “Are they going to?” Freddy questioned.
“Shut up, Stupid,” Buddy jabbed at his cohort in crime.
“They will, if this streak of burglary and lies doesn’t stop. I happen to know some of the policemen, and they are descent guys. I think they’d like to let all of this go away. Do you think you’re done with this mess?” Adam stepped a little closer and got in their faces. “Well?”
“I’m done with it all. It wasn’t―”
“Freddy, are you going to shut up?” Buddy demanded.
“No, I am not. Do you want me to talk more, Buddy?” Freddy’s back stood a little straighter, and he grew a little taller.
“I thought you might decide to do the right thing, Freddy.” Adam turned to leave. He heard Buddy smack Freddy again. “Freddy, if he gives you any trouble, the officer’s name is Overton. He knows me. Oh, and, I think you lost your pocket knife, Buddy. The one with the B.P. initials on it. It was nearly swallowed by a rat. I would hate to think that someone was responsible for putting all those rats in my friend’s basement.”
Buddy said nothing more, but took two steps away from Freddy.
Adam smiled again and went back into the gym, leaving the two hoodlums to fight out their own power struggle.
Adam felt that he had been brought back from darkness into the light. He too had refused self-serving greed. He had chosen truth.
Back at the bowling alley, Adam took Fritzy’s hand for a moment. “Fritzy―”
“Adam, what was that all about? I’m confused,” she confessed.
“Let’s talk about something else.” He took a deep breath and cleared his thoughts. “I have some great news. This spring—I’ll be gone for a while. Right before school is out for Easter vacation, I’ll get my driver’s license. I’m going to go find my Pops. Over Spring Break, I will follow up on some leads.”
“How do you know where to look?”
“The VA hospitals are the only clues I have right now, but I will write some letters through the rest of the winter and try to get a trail on his whereabouts. A Sergeant Smith has made contact with us.”
“Adam, that is so exciting. Are you going to fly? You’ve flown before,” she chuckled.
“Ha ha,” Adam mocked.
“Seriously, I’ll really miss you, but I know you can do this.”
“Now, how do you know I’ll be able to find him?”
“The Indians say that a hummingbird symbolizes timeless joy and the Nectar of Life.”
“That’s what the Indians say?”
“It is,” she agreed. “The hummingbird is a symbol for accomplishing things which seem impossible.”
“Accomplish the impossible? Another miracle?”
“Some say, the hummingbird will teach you how to find the miracle of joyful living from your own circumstances. Your life, Adam, is filled with miracles, if you’ll just recognize them.”
“I am beginning to see them. I’m beginning to see them everywhere.”
For This New Year -
I wish you peace to share
Those who care
A song to sing
And hummingbirds in the spring.