Art of Being Grateful
This is a short-short story included in Prude Reads. You may read the entire story here, as a freebie :)
The Art of Being Grateful
A Short-Short Story
By Dannis Cole
Chiquita Perez has a bad boyfriend who expects her to cook a turkey for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner. A fall on the sidewalk, and she misses her bus and fears his anger. But Paul, a Zheien diplomat, invites her to the Atlanta Zheien Embassy with his secretary, Laura, and they give her a reason to practice the art of being grateful, which is what Thanksgiving is all about.
Originally published in Digital Dragons eZine, No. 06, Nov 2009
Featured This Month
by Dannis Cole
by Kersley Fitzgerald
Updated on 11.01.09
Editorial by T.W. Ambrose
Serial Fiction by Becky Minor
fiction by G.K. Fields
Thanks to Digital Dragon for publishing my Thanksgiving story! This family-oriented magazine offers a lot of good reading, and food for Christian thought :)
I ran after the bus. Rain began, and people crowded around it. My ankle gave. I went down on the sidewalk, hard. Too spent to get up. I looked at my target. Crowd's gone. MARTA is gone. Not enough money for a taxi. Tears mixed with the rain, and blood from scrapes.
I cried, because if I called my boyfriend, he'd tell me how stupid I was, how the brown color of my skin somehow made me beneath him, because he was white. I loved him. I sweated in the long sleeves. He insisted I wear tight-fitting dresses, and the bright red dress had a slit up my thigh despite the mid-calf length. I hated the low neckline. My father, a good Catholic, raised me to dress modestly.
A man dressed in a white suit knelt by me. Offered me a twin-fingered hand. “Maiden, are you injured?” The twin-fingered people that came out of the Peachtree Plaza were diplomats from a number of planets. None were White, which made me smile. All Zheien are geniuses. It gave me hope that maybe being brown wasn't all bad. This man had deep orange skin, which paled as he looked at me. “Ejis nae! There is blood on you!”
I flinched. I didn't expect him to cuss. Roddy hit. But, the rectangular finger touched scrapes on my ankle, forearm, chin, knee-he didn't look-and the blood absorbed back into my now-unbroken skin. Strength poured into me, and he helped me up. “Thank you! You're like a superhero or something!”
He turned very orange in his face. Looked down. “Eae mah! I merely use the gifts given to all with telepathy, gifts that flow from Father of All. Did I mislead you, that you thought I healed you? Maiden, you are yet unwell.” The man pulled me against him. “Please, come to the Embassy. It is upstairs. You must rest, and I fear you need your healer.”
“If I had a Zheien Healer, I couldn't afford trade to pay him. My job still pays in money. I can't even afford to go home--” My voice broke, and a sob got away before I bit my lip.
“O, I can help you. Fear you to walk with me?” His blue eyes filled. I had seen Zheien, but never spoke to one. Was it safe?
Then, I glanced down, and my neckline was lower. Involuntarily, I clutched the torn coat against me, and it just gapped more at the neck.
I felt warmth as the man waved. My dress, my coat, were repaired, but my neckline had lace that made it modest to my standards, not to Roddy's. The shoes didn't hurt. He escorted me into the revolving doors, and I emerged, dry and my mouth tingled with a pleasant taste, as if I just brushed. He ran hygiene on me! That's expensive. Part of me felt that he'd want something, like Roddy always did.
“Thank you.” Tears escaped again. If Roddy saw, he made fun of the way I cried, although if he beat me up, he always did something spectacular, like tonight's concert. Tomorrow's Thanksgiving. He expects me to bake a turkey. I don't know how!
The man put an arm around me. “Maiden, your thoughts are loud. Come with me. I think your home is nae safe.”
They're telepathic. I felt naked. Cried openly. He led me into the elevator, up to the 125th floor.
We stepped out of the golden elevator and I hadn't even looked at the view, high over Atlanta. A worried-looking secretary held the glass door open. “Paul, who's this?” She had long, wavy red hair and a pretty figure, not overweight like me. Not black-haired like me, unruly curls always in my face. Her pretty nails said, days in the salon. Mama taught me to cut my own hair. And, not to wear makeup. She'd grown up Primitive Baptist, in a church that didn't believe in makeup, wearing pants, or dancing. We didn't go to church growing up because they didn't want to fight over religious differences. Roddy seemed to give me freedom, but I just felt shame. Both of my parents were good people, and they taught me to be good. Taught me to read my Bible, but I didn't.
“Laura, help me! She is unwell, and I nae know how to help her!” He escorted me into the first room to the right, which had a gigantic round bed. Then, the man very gently propped me on something soft that held me up, and pulled a white blanket over me.
Laura stifled a giggle. “Paul, I think she's able to sit up by herself! What happened?”
I heard a flood of thoughts, from his point of view. He saw me fall, and couldn't get to me until a crowd of people rushed by. It seemed like a long time, but it was only a min. Did I look stupid, all red-faced and puffy-eyed?
But, this stranger, Paul, wiped my tears with his suede-like fingers, and his touch left warmth that made the ache vanish. His deep blue eyes studied me, as if I were dying. Paul's eyes stayed on my face. Laura kept telling him I was okay.
Paul took my misshapen wrist and pulled my sleeve up. Her eyebrows pushed up, for a split second. “My healer would ask me if she worked in mines, as a slave! Maiden, I worry for you. Your friend is nae well for you. Will you eat? You are very thin.” Very gently, he smoothed the sleeve down again. Waved up a menu in holo that included just about every expensive restaurant in Atlanta! When Roddy took me, it was a drink and dessert. He expected me to cook before we—then I realized—he's going to be furious! The menus brought a flood of terror, fear that I'd order the wrong thing--
“Ejis! Do I frighten you, Maiden?” Again, I flinched.
Laura touched my wrist. “Zheien don't cuss. 'Ejis' is kind of like, 'oh, no!'” Then, she lightened up on her touch. It was that wrist.
“Is it?” I looked down. I can't even act normal or be social. Was I ever? Not in high school.
Paul sighed, and it rumbled on me. “Perhaps I should leave. I frighten you.” I grabbed his hand as he stood up.
Laura giggled. “Paul, I think you've got a friend. Go on, sit down. I'll stay. Zheien always want someone to chaperon. I thought he'd never meet any ladies. You're the first visitor up here!”
Paul returned the gentle squeeze, and sat down. His face turned deep orange. “I nae know what to say to maidens--” He looked at his twin-toed feet, in white socks that outlined them below the flared legs of his sparkling white suit pants. The suit coat was almost like a business suit, but instead of a tie, he had a diagonal sash with a few pins that outshone the material. My eyes couldn't stay off the pretty jewels for long.
“I don't know what to say to men, either!”
Oh, that sounded dumb! But, Paul smiled at me. “Eae?”
“Then, may I ask your name, Maiden?”
I hated giving my name, as if I'd gotten it in Mexico. “Chiquita Alhandra Benita Maria Perez' Quito.” Why did I have to give all of them?
All the menus had Thanksgiving items for tomorrow. I had forgotten, in my stormy life. Paul waved up exactly what I wanted, a chicken burrito and Spanish rice. And, pink lemonade to drink. Paul stretched his wide fingers across all our food, and bowed his head. I did, too.
He sang it. Paul used my full name and asked Father of All to bless me, and His Son to strengthen me, and asked for Roddy to be blessed that he might get healing and turn from evil. The prayer went on for mins. I felt as if he knew me, really knew me, then it hit. That warm feeling was from the Lord. Just as my parents told me, that feeling I hadn't felt since I was a teenager.
As we ate, since Paul had telepathy, we talked, and I asked him about his religion. The more we talked , the more I realized he was right. Roddy wasn't who I needed. That day, because of my Christian friends, I had the courage to tell Roddy goodbye.
Laura had turkey dinner. “Do they celebrate Thanksgiving on Alb Seer?”
He laughed. “There is an Earthan Colony. I imagine they celebrate all Earthan holidays. What is Thank-es-e-giving?”
I smiled. “Thanksgiving is when we learn to practice the art of being grateful. I haven't been such a grateful person in my life, but I feel very grateful now. It's scary, to leave Roddy, but a great opportunity to see what I can do—with Heavenly Father's help.”
I remembered happy Thanksgivings with my parents. But, this one would always be the one when I began to understand gratitude, Thanksgiving with my new friends.