By John Thomas Tuft

She sat by herself in the nearly deserted airport terminal. After all, it was Christmas Eve. Everybody knows only stragglers and lost wanderers traveled the hour before midnight on Christmas Eve. But she was dedicated. Her computer was open to the monthly report and projections. Her phone kept chiming with emails and reminders of meetings, important meetings, with clients and corporate. The day after Christmas. She wasn’t sure if she was in Pittsburgh, Dallas or San Jose. The rental car was safely returned after driving across a darkly gleaming causeway, river, lake, whatever. In the dark all water is a moat. Her nod to the holidays was sucking down mocha mint from the Starbucks right across the way.

As she concentrated on the screen, a shadow passed across the keyboard. “Ma’am, do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?” She looked up into the face of a young teenage boy, as of yet unblemished, a few blonde whiskers struggling for attention on his chin. “What?” she asked, distracted. “Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart? Confessed your sins, believe that he died on the cross for your forgiveness, and gives you eternal life?” The young man sounded as though he was pleading. “Have you?” she asked, looking him in the eye. “Yes Ma’am. I accepted him into my heart and he forgave all my sins.” He extended a colorful, glossy tract toward here. She let out her breath slowly.  “What are you, maybe fourteen? What are your sins?” He nodded, his voice growing more intense. “Yes, ma’am. I used to look at stuff I shouldn’t look at on my phone. It’s been four months now and I don’t look at it no more.” She hesitated. “That’s a pretty high price for anyone to pay for what you look at on your phone.” And accepted the tract and waved him away.

She turned back to her work, silently mulling over her sins. Divorced, was that a sin? In debt to her eyeballs. Didn’t the Lord’s Prayer say something about debtors? Fudged on her taxes the last few years. Was that worth somebody dying for? Hated her boss, who kept coming on to her. She didn’t like the way she looked. Was afraid of the dark, afraid she drank too much, afraid of being alone…dying? 

“Excuse me dearie, do you have the time?”  She looked up from her screen into pale blue eyes, framed by thinning white hair, above an innocent smile. A quick glance at her phone. “It’s pretty late. Are you okay?” In the old woman’s hand was a Christmas cookie. “I’m afraid I’ve lost track of the time, dearie. Freddie and I used to bake cookies every Christmas Eve. We’d hand them out to the carolers who came to the door.” The traveler looked at the waiting blanks on her marketing form. “Freddie?” The old woman sat down, uncomfortably close and set the cookie on the keyboard. She produced another one from the depths of her old-fashioned pocketbook and took a tiny bite. “Freddie loved everything Christmas.” She sighed. “It’s not the same without him. So I make some cookies, but nobody comes to sing.” The traveler picked up the cookie and took a bite. “Thank you. It’s my first Christmas cookie in a long time.” The old woman patted her on the hand and slowly walked away.

The traveler cradled her phone in one hand as she savored the sweet communion of butter, eggs, and flour. And sugar, of course. When was the last time she’d been home for Christmas, she mused.  She paused, the cookie halfway to her mouth. When was the last time she’d felt like she was home, at all, anywhere?  She closed her eyes, visions of old hopes and dreams dancing in her head.

A loud sound like a skateboard started up and came closer. Her eyes popped open. She looked down. There was a man with a bushy brown beard, and long hair. Wearing only an extra large shirt. Pinned around and under him. Because he had no legs. He balanced on a wide skateboard and propelled himself with his hands and arms. He smiled up at her. “What?” she asked, startled. He smiled broader, and pointed to his lips, shaking his head. “You can’t talk?” He nodded and pulled out a pencil and small tablet. “Do you want money?” she asked. He shook his head, chuckling. He scribbled with great glee while she fidgeted, trying not to stare. He finished writing, put his pencil away, folded the note, and extended it to her. She didn’t know what to do. He waited. She finally picked up her cookie and extended it to him. He took it after she accepted his note. Bowed his head, closed his eyes, his chin quivering. She watched, awestruck. He opened his eyes, winked at her, put the cookie in his mouth, neatly spun the skateboard, and rolled away.

She slowly opened the note, forgetting the computer and phone before her. Inside she found his words: “I’ll be Christmas for home. Will you?”

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.