A Needed Hug (Flash Fiction)

It’s Christmas in July! Now, here me out . . . most churches have a grumpy old lady. We wouldn’t call her the church mascot, but she’s a staple. She might be grumpy, but she cleans like any sensible woman of her generation and she prays hard. What if she found herself looking at a little face smeared with chocolate and a broken heart? Under that hard (and sometimes grumbling) exterior, she would share God’s love, wouldn’t she? Maybe it’s the spirit of Christmas, but little children often unlock the love in our hearts.

Warm, gooey chocolate dripped down the little boy’s chin. He stared at me with huge eyes as he crammed the rest of the cookie into his mouth. Chocolate and crumbs fell to the kitchen floor. In the spirit of Christmas, I decided not to fuss about it, although my hands twitched with the desire to clean it up.

The boy held out his empty palms. “More?”

“How do we ask nicely?”

“Can I have more, please?” His voice was tiny in the echo of the large kitchen.

With a sigh, I handed him another cookie. The smell of the chocolate coupled with the roasting ham and fresh rolls I’d just pulled from the oven made me think of my Gran’s kitchen every Christmas. If only I were a little girl again, sitting on her knee as she peeled potatoes to make Souvlaki. I missed her most at Christmas.

The boy sat down on the floor, his legs splayed out. If he weren’t so little, I’d suspect him of trying to trip me.

“Didn’t your mother teach you to sit criss-cross?”

“Don’t have a mother.”

I looked down into the solemn face covered in crumbs. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

He shrugged. “My pa is a good man.”

“Good. Little boys need good papas.”

“We also need mamas.”

Pausing in moving the last few cookies to the cooling rack, I looked back down at my visitor. “I suppose that is true. But sometimes God doesn’t give us both, does He?”

“Do you have a mama?”

“I’m far too old to have a living mama.”

“Am I too old?”

For the first time in nearly forty years, I found myself without an answer. Again, I paused my repetitive motions, but this time to think. The Christmas music that the choir sang filtered down to the church kitchen where I and the boy were. I wondered if his pa was listening to the choir and when he would notice his son missing.

I, at the ripe age of eighty-three, was alone now, but I’d had a mother and grandmother to cuddle me on Christmas in years past. I couldn’t promise this boy that he’d have a mama one day.

Slowly, I knelt on the kitchen floor. Crumbs and chocolate were sure to be squashed in my newly ironed pants, but I pushed that to the back of my mind. Instead, I thought about what my Gran would say.

“You’re not too old. You’re the exact right age God made you to be. It might not make sense to us, but I promise that God does everything perfectly. He sees you and He loves you.”

To my surprise, the boy threw his arms around my neck, his sticky face pressed against my cheek. Hugging him back I felt just like I did when I would hug Gran after scraping my knee. Placing a peck on the top of the boy’s head, I whispered, “Now then. I could use some help with these cookies.”

The end.

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