Jed slipped in the rough-hewn door and slammed it, shutting himself inside the rickety shack, though he couldn't shut out the frigid drafts of snow-scented winter air. The boy shivered and pulled his ragged, too-small jacket farther around himself, stamping and clapping and blowing on his hands in a vain effort to warm himself.
His older sister, Nancy, looked up from where she sat on the dirt floor, mending another shirt. A warm smile lit her pale face, giving her fragile-looking features an unfamiliar beauty.
"Jed!" She struggled to her shaky feet to greet him. "How was your day? Did you bring anything back?"
Jed shook his head dolefully. "There is no work for a boy like me, and no kind people to beg from," he complained miserably. "I have no food or money. Some Thanksgiving this will be."
Nancy sighed. Before their parents had died of yellow fever, they had always had a feast on this day. But now the two youngsters were alone in the world, and their stomachs were knotted with hunger.
"And I won't get my wages for this shirt until next week," she murmured softly, kneeling to pick up the article of clothing in question.
When Nancy started to stand, her head swam giddily, and she sank again to her knees with a sharp cry. Jed knelt quickly, his face drawn with concern. He tried to help her stand, but she was too weak. She shuddered, tears starting in her chocolate brown eyes.
"Oh, Jed, I can't!" she cried, beginning to weep. "My head spins so!"
"Shh, it's all right," Jed said in the most comforting tone he could manage. Nancy clung tightly to her brother as he helped her sit up again.
He wrapped his arm awkwardly around her. He wasn't good at being the gentle, comforting type, but he remembered how is father used to be, and tried to imitate those memories in a clumsy, boyish fashion. These sick headaches were coming more and more frequently, and they worried him. But he could nothing to change it, and that frustrated him to no end.
Nancy leaned heavily on her brother, shivering convulsively, her body shaking with cold and pent-up sobs. If only Jed could do something to help her!
Jed gently released himself from her grip and put his tattered jacket over her small, curled-up form. Two steps took him to the side of the cottage were he kept his tinderbox, and two more back to the fireplace in front of Nancy. He swiftly laid a fire, recklessly using the last of their pitiful supply of fuel, and lit it.
The tiny shack was filled with warmth, and Jed smiled in relief, ignoring the icy drafts that blew in the chinks in the walls and right through his shabby blouse.
Then he sat again by his sister, who had again moved to a sitting position, revitalized by the warmth of the fire. He put his arm around her shoulders and pointed at the red-and-orange glowing fire.
"I was beginning to think we didn't have anything to thank God for," he whispered in her ear. "But look! We have a fire now!"
Nancy nodded, encouraged. "And I still have customers who need my seamstress skills," she whispered hopefully.
He grinned at her. "And we also have a roof over our heads, though it's not much of one."
"And clothes--sort of."
"And each other, of course."
Jed looked thoughtful. "I was beginning to think He didn't care," he confided. "Since we don't have family, friends, warm clothing, decent shelter, money, or food. But I guess no matter what you have, you always have Him, and He is always enough."
Nancy smiled, a real, genuinely happy smile, the first truly bright smile he'd seen on her face in the months since their parents died.
"You know, Jed, you're right," she said. "We'll always have God. He never goes away or changes."
A loud knock sounded on the door, startling the two youngsters.
His face full of fear, Jed told his sister to stay where she was, then tiptoed to the door and opened it with a shaking hand.
"Y--yes?" he quavered.
There stood a large man in a policeman's uniform with a round, red face,.
"Do you own this property?" he boomed down at the boy, not unkindly.
"N--no," Jed stammered. "My sister and I just sort of moved in after our parents died. There was no one here, and we didn't know it belonged to anybody. We--we can leave, if-if that's what's wanted."
The portly man scratched his red chin and looked very uncomfortable.
"Now," he said in an apologetic voice. "I didn't want to throw two orphans out in the snow! I just thought anyone living in this old shack must be an escaped con-wahtchamacallems. I saw the smoke and thought-well, now, I'm the law, and I can't let two trespassers stay on private property!"
He sounded very sorry and pretty annoyed at himself. He was a kind man, fond of children, and altogether unsuited to the task that was now his duty to perform.
"I-I'm awfully sorry, officer," Jed said, twisting the mended shirt in his hands in anxiety.
"So'm I," the man sighed. Then his face brightened. "I know! I'll take you to that place, that, um, now, what's it called-the Salvation Army! They'll take you in for the night, at least, and maybe they'll need you to stay on for a while. When I passed the building earlier, they were serving Thanksgiving dinner. If we hurry, you may still get some!"
Jed's face broke into a big smile. So God did care! He had just taken His own time of showing it. "Just you wait, tummy," he thought at that growling portion of his anatomy. "You'll be filled soon enough!"
"Oh, but my sister!" Jed exclaimed aloud. "She can't even stand, officer, and I can't leave her!"
"A girl, did you say? Ah, I can carry her easily. I'm stronger than I look, eh?" And he shook his fat belly in an attempt to look manly.
Jed stifled a chuckle, and preceded the gentleman to where Nancy sat huddled under his jacket.
"I heard it all," she said, her face beaming with joy and renewed hope. "Isn't it wonderful?"
She swayed unsteadily to her feet, holding tightly to her brother's hand, then gasped as the gentleman scooped her up with a jolly chortle.
"Ah, you're no heavier than my little Marie!" he exclaimed, his deep voice rolling through the cottage. "We'll be there in two shakes of a lamb's tail!"
Nancy smiled feebly and desperately clutched Jed's hand and the gentleman's shirtfront as they exited the little building and made their way down the snowy street.
Much later, after being fed with leftovers from the dinner until they could hold no more, a doctor was brought in to look over the two new members of the Salvation Army 'family.'
After a thorough examination, the doctor smiled.
"Well, young lady," he said to Nancy. "There's nothing wrong with you that a few days bed rest, good square meals, and weeks of rest afterward won't fix. Private Andrews," he spoke to the kind lady that held Nancy's hand, "see that she gets it, and those headaches and fainting spells will vanish."
The lady smiled and nodded and squeezed Nancy's hand encouragingly.
But Nancy was dismayed. "But then," she protested, "how will I repay these kind people, who have opened their home to me?"
"Do not worry yourself with that," the kind woman said. "When you are completely well, your sewing skills will be put to good use. We have need of a seamstress here at the mission."
Nancy nodded, comforted.
"And as for this fine young lad," the doctor continued, putting his hand on Jed's shoulder. "I suggest he get plenty of rest and nourishing meals for a while, but other than that he's as fit as a fiddle."
"And can I help, here at the mission?" Jed asked eagerly.
"Of course, Jed," 'Private' Andrews answered. "A strong youth of fourteen-I suspect you will soon have too much to do!"
Nancy grinned and winked at her brother. "There's another thing to be thankful for," she said teasingly. "Plenty of work."
Jed smiled back. "This really was some Thanksgiving, wasn't it?"
Comments: This is a pretty old story. I wrote around Thanksgiving, strangely enough, 1997. I still kind of like it, but now, reading it, it seems kind of immature. Still, it was my first attempt and historical fiction, and remains my only venture into that genre. My sister Bethany likes this more than any of the other stories I've read to her. I haven't read them all though--wonder what she'll think of Darkrender.
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