Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit Mad Utopia or the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!
Salvation by Grace is rated PG according to my standards.
Salvation by Grace, by Deanna Schrayer
The blaring phone jarred Morgan awake. She answered with a deep worry stuck somewhere between her stomach and her throat. It was a Salvation Army volunteer calling to tell her that a woman and her two sons had been left homeless after a house fire. It was Morgan’s responsibility to offer whatever assistance was needed, immediately.
Less than an hour later, the family waited in the car while Morgan shopped for necessities. As she stepped into the cereal aisle she saw a man stooped in the floor, pleading with his daughter. It was three AM. The little girl, (about six-years-old Morgan guessed), was crying. Morgan watched the man open a pack of cereal bars and take one out, tearing open the plastic and handing it to the girl. He sat the opened package back on the shelf.
Morgan cleared her throat and made a spectacle of moving cereal boxes around. The man, startled, stood quickly and spoke loudly to the girl, “I know you’re hungry sweetheart, so you go ahead and eat that one while we pay for the rest.”
“But Daddy, you said you left your wallet on the dresser. You said you didn’t have any money.”
“Hello,” Morgan addressed the girl, “I get hungry this time of night too,” she said, “Cereal bars are a lot healthier than what I eat!”
The man lifted his face and Morgan saw the reason for his secrecy. His dark brown eyes were heavy with insomnia. What looked like a cat’s scratch swelled his right cheek with a noticeably throbbing pain. She was accustomed to working with women in this situation, not men. Obviously Morgan didn’t hide her shock well enough, for he dropped his gaze to the floor again.
For the first time in her twelve year career, Morgan didn’t know what to say. But the man wasn’t about to speak first. She proffered her hand and introduced herself, “I’m Morgan Farragut.”
He glanced up at her, and shook her hand, “Steve, Steve Adams.”
They all jumped as a parade of shopping carts went sailing by, an unseen young boy’s “Whoop!” echoing through the store. “Gosh, I wish my night job was that much fun.” Morgan said.
“What do you do?” Steve asked.
“I’m the Assistant Director of Transitional Living for the Salvation Army.”
Steve looked confused, as everyone did when she told them her title.
“It’s a fancy name for the person who helps people caught up in disaster find temporary shelter, or whatever they need.”
“Oh?” his thin eyebrows raised a tad.
“Do you need a place to stay?” Morgan had always been blunt, whether she intended to or not.
Steve glanced around, as if looking for someone. “Aren’t you already helping someone?” he asked.
“Well, yea,” Morgan said, “But I’m not overwhelmed or anything.” She smiled.
“Well,” Steve hesitated, “I’ll be all right on my own, but my daughter here, Grace,” he ruffled her papery blonde hair, “I, um, I need somewhere safe for her to be, just for a couple of days.” He hung his head again; shame painted his face like a scar.
Not wanting to embarrass him further, Morgan talked to Grace, “Do you want some more of those cereal bars Grace?” She knelt down to the girl’s level and took the opened box off the shelf.
“Yea,” she spoke so softly Morgan barely heard her. But she stopped crying.
“Let’s get going then!” Morgan started towards the register unexplainably feeling as if she’d just had two cups of coffee.
Steve half-heartedly argued with her about buying the cereal bars, but gave in easily enough. He couldn’t let his daughter starve because of his absent-mindedness. “I wasn’t sure where we were going,” he admitted. “But we have a car,” he said, as if trying to make up for his ineptitude.
“Oh? That’s great,” Morgan replied. You can just follow me.”
When they arrived at the Salvation Army headquarters Morgan guided the children to the playroom across from her office. It was equipped with windows so she could see in at times like this, when no volunteers were around to help. She led the homeless mother into her office, leaving Steve to sit in the lobby between the rooms.
Morgan had given Steve a cup of coffee and a muffin, but he didn’t want it. He sat them on the coffee table and leaned his elbows on his knees while he watched the kids play. The older boy picked up a book and shoved himself into a corner on the floor, even though several chairs were available. Grace sat with the younger boy, a tiny fellow who couldn’t have been more than four.
Grace and the little boy were playing with a Barbie Townhouse, Grace guiding Barbie in the kitchen while the boy laid Ken on the sofa and put the TV in front of him. Looking on, Steve thought of the excitement in his wife, Belinda’s voice when they’d bought their first house together. She’d been such a loving person then, before she’d picked up that first bottle of vodka. He absentmindedly stroked his sore cheek and just barely held back the tears as his mind flit through the years – happiness, depression, happiness, depression, happiness, depression. It was like a bad song played over and over again.
He heard Grace scream “No!” and realized he’d let his mind wander away from the children. He stood and walked to the threshold, watching the argument unfold.
“I said I get to play with Barbie now, and you get to play with Ken!” the boy demanded, jerking Barbie out of Grace’s hands. He thrust the Ken doll at her as she stood up. Steve looked on, seeing Grace’s exact movements before she even got started. He almost felt sorry for the boy.
As expected, Grace planted her fists on her hips, slung her left foot out at an angle and tilted her head to the right. But she didn’t speak. Steve was surprised; normally her cutting words began the seoncd her fist pounded her hip. The boy continued playing with both dolls, oblivious to Grace.
Steve saw the tension fall from Grace’s shoulders as she stepped around the townhouse. She knelt in front of the boy and Steve almost shouted a warning – watch out! – but what he witnessed made his heart lurch.
Grace bent over and wrapped her arms around the boy, pulling him close to her and squeezing tight. “Let’s not fight,” she said, “Barbie’s not all that important anyways, and besides,” she fanned her arm as if modeling a showcase, “there’s lots of toys in here. We can both have what we want.”
The boy looked at Grace suspiciously. He looked at Barbie, then back to Grace. He handed Barbie back to her, “I want to play together.” he said.
Steve felt proud and ashamed at once – proud of his daughter, ashamed of himself. Here was his spitfire of a little girl, helping a complete stranger, a bully no less, while he didn’t even have the strength to get help for his alcoholic wife.
“Just walk out to the lobby and they’ll be here in a few minutes,” Morgan told the homeless woman as they stepped out of her office. The woman thanked her profusely and went to gather her children.
“Now, Mr. Adams, if you’ll come on in we’ll see about finding a place for you and Grace.”
Steve smiled at Morgan, a real smile she noted, “That’s all right,” he said, “We’re going home.”
“You get what you give, so give love” ~ Schrayer Family motto
I wrote this story about this time last year, with the intention of posting it as a Christmas Friday Flash. But I didn’t like how it sounded, so it was set aside. Throughout this past year I’ve pulled Salvation by Grace back out several times – this is actually the seventh draft. I’m still not sure about it. I like the story itself but there’s something “not right” with it that I can’t put my finger on. Therefore, I appreciate all constructive critique.
I hope you all have a beautifully blessed Thanksgiving! And remember, it’s important to give more than thanks.
Click here to subscribe to The Other Side of Deanna.
Click here to visit my nonfiction site, The Life of a Working Writer Mommy.