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Rated: E · Fiction · Holiday · #2137701
A blanket and thanksgiving on Christmas Eve
approximately 1000 words

The Graceful Knitter
Max Griffin

With apologies to Anatole France and Le Jongleur de Notre Dame.

        The scent of coffee lured Pastor Dan to the basement of the Graceful, Nevada Whole Gospel Church.  Muffled strains from upstairs of the choir practicing "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" made him smile.  He took in the women's knitting circle as they put the finishing touches on their contributions to tonight's Christmas Eve service. 

        "Hello, ladies," he boomed, pouring coffee and waiting for the faces to turn to him.  "Praise the Lord, it's so good to see you this fine day." 

        The elegant Susan Knightly simpered and fluffed her bouffant hairdo. The corpulent Mrs. Willey, who always made the coffee, tittered and averted her eyes.  The others nodded and smiled their greetings.

        He paused behind Maggie Gould and her unfortunate son Bobby.  "Bless your heart, Maggie. It's so good to see you and Bobby here this morning." 

        She returned a serene smile.  "It's a blessing to be here." 

        Bobby squatted at her feet, his tongue protruding from one corner of his mouth. A yellow and purple tangle of yarn twisted from his knitting needles. 

        Maggie ruffled his unkempt hair and asked, "How are preparations for tonight going?"
        Dan let his smile broaden.  "We're putting the finishing touches on the sanctuary."  He beamed at Susan.  "We owe a special debt to the Knightlys. Their donation made the alabaster Madonna in our nativity scene possible." 

        The circle murmured its "God blesses" and "Hallelujahs." 

        Susan flushed and raised her needles to display the lush crimson-and-gold fabric she'd created. "It's a baby blanket for tonight.  I special-ordered Koigu yarn from California."

        "We're twice-blessed, then." Dan rushed to share the rest of his good news.  "Forrest Cheever called. He's joining us again this year." 

        Mrs. Willey let out a little gasp.  "Will he sing 'Oh, Holy Night?" 

        "Yes, indeed."  Satisfaction swelled in him at her reaction, but then Bobby squirmed and broke the spell.   

        "Mommy, I gotta go," he whispered.  One stubby fist balled in his crotch. 

        Dan clenched his jaws. A stony silence fell on the room. 

        Maggie gave her child a reassuring smile.  "That's all right, dear.  You know where." 

        He scampered away under the disapproving eyes of the women.  Susan tsked. "I swear, Miss Gould. It's not normal for a teen-aged boy to act like that."

        Maggie flushed.

        Dan decided to intercede.  It was Christmas Eve, after all. "Now, Susan.  We're all God's children."  He paused.  "Even Bobby."  Maggie chewed her lower lip, then gave him a tentative smile. 

        The Lord's work done, Dan said.  "Well, ladies, I must be off.  We'll see you this evening."  He hurried away, determined to make tonight's service one that would make his parishioners proud.

        Late that afternoon, he stood in the sanctuary admiring the Nativity Scene.  Susan's lush blanket swaddled the Baby Jesus. The alabaster Madonna's serene smile glowed. 

        The doors at the back of the sanctuary crashed open. A dust devil whirled in and deposited a haze in the church. He scowled at this desecration of his immaculate sanctuary. Maggie and Bobby stood in the doorway, silhouetted in the glow of the setting sun.     

        He forced a smile to his lips and waved them forward.

        Bobby scampered ahead, clutching a fistful of yellow and purple yarn. "Pathtor Dan," the boy lisped.  "I made a blankie for the Baby Jethuth."  He thrust it into Dan's reluctant hands.

        "A blankie?"  Dan fingered the gift.  Sure enough, Bobby had managed to knit enough stitches to hold the mess together. 

        "Yeth, Pathtor Dan. It'th tho He won't get cold."

        Maggie squeezed Bobby's shoulder. "I know it's late to bring another decoration."

        Dan didn't cringe at her hopeful smile.  This would take quick thinking, but Dan knew he was up to it.  He knelt to face Bobby.  "This is beautiful, Bobby.  Thank you."

        "Do you think the Baby Jethuth will like it?" Bobby's wide eyes shone with pride.

        "I do indeed. It's so warm, and it gets cold in here at night. We'll need to save it, to use after the service. It'll keep Him snug in His manger tonight while he sleeps."  He hugged Bobby, whose face glowed. 

        The hurt in Maggie's eyes speared Dan's heart, but he couldn't bear the thought of Bobby's blankie ruining tonight's service. 

        Two hours later, townspeople began to trickle in, and Dan gave the sanctuary a final check.  Lights glittered from pine garlands.  Forrest Cheever perched in the choir loft warming up.  The Baby Jesus rested in holy perfection, swaddled in Susan's blanket.  The alabaster Mary hovered lovingly over Him.  Dan had hidden Bobby's dreadful blankie in his office.  True to his promise, he really would put it in the manger after the service when no one could see it. He strode to the doors to welcome his parishioners with a handshake and a blessing.

        At last, all settled in their pews, and Forrest Cheever began his signature rendition of "Oh, Holy Night{", sending prickles skittering down Dan's spine.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth

        Dan's attention wandered to the manger. Bobby's twisted, ugly web of yellow and purple had somehow replaced Susan's perfect blanket. 

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.

        Humiliation chilled his core, then anger heated his face. He scanned the congregation with a hawk's eye.  There they sat, Maggie and Bobby, lurking among the righteous.  She must have somehow slipped that horrifying mess into the nativity scene.  Disgust twisted his mouth and he looked back at the Baby Jesus.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

        Wonder struck then, along with awe.  The alabaster Mary came to life. With a gentle touch, She caressed Bobby's ratty coverlet.  Her fingers left a golden trail on his gnarled stitches.  Her eyes glowed in thanksgiving as her gaze sought out Maggie and Bobby.  Then she fell still once more.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born

Lyrics for the hymn are by John Sullivan Dwight as quoted in the Wikipedia article.  .
© Copyright 2017 Max Griffin πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ (mathguy at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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