The chimes crooned ominously, heralding the arrival of
the second hour. As the last worshipers scurried out into the
frozen tundra, a tired grandmother sat wearily on the moldy pew;
the incessant whining of her three grandchildren painfully
echoing in her ears. From his pulpit, a decaying Monsignor leered
contemptuously at the pathetic foursome, thinking only of the hot
Christmas rum that awaited him in the sacristy.
"Grandma, where's mommy?" three year old Carol moaned,
her feathery body pounding like a chisel through the old woman's
"Your parent's will be here any minute," Rose replied morosely, by
now suspecting that something was amiss.
"Stop being a baby," thirteen year old Dashiell barked
precipitately at his little sister. "Dad said he would pick us up
right after midnight mass and to wait for him here, so hush
before I give you something to really cry about."
"Dashiell, don't talk to your little sister like that," Rose
"Yeah, shut up Dash," eleven year old Kaprice prattled childishly.
"Children, behave," the old woman hollered quite miffed.
"Shame on you, behaving like a litter of rabid kittens, and in
God's house, of all places," she snickered scathingly.
Her shame quickly swelled tenfold as the Monsignor callously
flicked the lights.
"Is something wrong, Monsignor?" Rose replied sheepishly.
"No, nothings wrong," he countered coyly. "It's just that we are a
small parish and the lighting is very expensive, thus unless you
are willing to bestow a small part of your purse to God, I'm
afraid I must ask you to leave."
"I'm sorry Monsignor, I would love to help, unfortunately we are in
a bit of a bind. For you see, we were supposed to be in Jamaica
by tomorrow morning for a family reunion. My daughter and
son-in-law arranged the entire trip. They dropped us off here and
went to pick up the plane tickets. I'm sure they will be back any
minute now," Rose replied biting off the tip of her tongue.
"I understand your predicament, however I cannot let my house
become a bus depot," the Monsignor countered coarsely.
"Hey Monsignor, hold your horses. She said my dad will be here any
minute!" Dashiell yelled out, brazenly spitting in the holy
"Dashiell, show some respect. This is a man of God," Rose yelled
waving her cane at the arrogant boy.
"That's it, I want all of you out of my church this instant," the
Monsignor squawked self-righteously.
"But Monsignor, you can't just throw us out into the night. We're a
good ten miles from town, we'd freeze to death. Can't we just
stay here till the morning? I promise the children will behave.
After all isn't God's house supposed to be a sanctuary for the
needy," Rose countered nervously.
"I would love to help, really I would," the Monsignor lied.
"However I cannot let my church become a homeless shelter. If I
made an exception for you, soon every deadbeat and druggie would
come knocking at my door. Now, unless you have something of value
to offer, you must leave."
"But, I already told you, I have no money. I gave it all to my
daughter to pay for our plane tickets."
"Never let it be said that I am wholly without feeling," the
Monsignor replied staring devilishly at Kaprice. "I understand
how terrifying the thought of having no one to turn to can be.
After all, night after night of retiring to a cold hard bed
without someone soft to share it with, can be very lonely," he
replied with a grin, softly stroking the young girl's hair with
his decrepitly moist hand.
"Monsignor!" Rose shouted in disgust, pulling Kaprice from his
reach. "What exactly are you implying?"
"Please don't misunderstand me. I am merely suggesting that there
may be a reason for your little quandary. As you know the lord
works in mysterious ways. Perhaps God sent little Kaprice here,
to alleviate my loneliness. After all, who are we to deny God's
will," he replied with a cryptic smile.
"Monsignor! I don't know what's come over you. You should be
ashamed of yourself. I will not sacrifice my granddaughter's
virtue, merely for my own warmth."
"Then you shall all freeze to death," he hollered hatefully.
"Get out of my sight," he barked, brandishing a golden crucifix and
chasing them out into the snow.
"Just wait till my father hears about this," Dashiell shot back
obstinately, as Rose limping heavily nudged them down the icy
steps to the safety of the frozen dirt.
"Foolish boy, when are you going to wake up?" the Monsignor
bellowed from the top step, menacingly wielding the crucifix like
an ax. "Your father abandoned you. He's not coming back. He
doesn't love you!" he shouted, turning his back to them and
reentering the church, treacherously bolting the door behind him.
"Liar," Dashiell screamed, running up the steps and pounding
fruitlessly on the thick cast-iron door.
With that, little Carol began crying hysterically, clinging on to
Rose like a boa constrictor.
"Dashiell, get down here this instant, you're scaring your sister"
Rose hollered, painstakingly prying the frightened child from her
"Yeah, stop it, Dash," Kaprice tweeted impishly.
"You shut-up. It's your fault they left. You're a jinx. You ruin
everything. You couldn't take seeing me happy. It wasn't enough
knowing that your real parents hated you so much that they dumped
you in a garbage can. You had to go and chase away mine, you
bastard," Dashiell howled viscerally, charging wildly at his
"Dashiell!" Rose yelled, her voice now hoarse as she hobbled
"I told you to stop this nonsense. First of all, no-one chased
anyone away. Your parents are just running a little late. I'm
sure they will be here any minute. Secondly, adopted or not
Kaprice is still your sister and you will treat her as such. Do
you understand me?" Rose barked angrily, knocking him to the
ground with a single blunt whack to the knees from her cane.
"Yeah, I got it," Dashiell wailed, writhing in pain as he slowly
rose to his feet.
"Good" Rose trumpeted smugly. "Now let's go visit your grandfather.
We'll have a picnic," she stated cheerfully. "I'm sure your
parents will know to look for us there."
Slowly, they walked across the road; the freezing snow blistering
their red faces, their hands tucked deeply inside their pockets
as they made their way to the cemetery. Although still the wee
hours of the morning, a luminescent moon and sparkling stars
filled sky, lit the way. There were no fences or walls, just
acres and acres of final obituaries. Up the hill and over the
stones they marched, searching for grandpa.
"It's at the top of the hill and to the right, thirteen stones from
the statue of Mary, section 7F plot 670," Rose megaphoned
sharply, gently squeezing Carol's hand as Dashiell and Kaprice
roamed the stones.
"Look for the grave with the palm cross and ruby red votive candle
in front of it," Rose commanded.
Wearily they wandered on, stopping only to admire the most
elaborate of graves. Even in death the rich and poor were
reminded of their worth. While some were ornamented with
celestial stone seraphs towering towards the heavens and jeweled
headstones swaddled with roses, others had just a lone marker and
"I found it, grandma," Kaprice hollered proudly, her partially
frozen face beaming brightly, as she came upon the small gray
stone. Lying sloppily on the ground covered in snow was the
votive candle, its flame long since extinguished. Next to it was
the crinkled brown remnants of a Palm Sunday cross. Kaprice
placed them both upright at the foot of the grave and began
lovingly brushing the snow from the stone with her beet red
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Rose replied exhaustedly, as she and
Carol waded through nearly a foot of rock hard snow.
"Don't touch that," Dashiell barked, pushing Kaprice face first
into the snow. "He's my grandfather, I'll take care of him,"
Dashiell shouted angrily.
"He's my grandfather, too," Kaprice shot back defensively, getting
up and shoving Dashiell."
"Stop it, the both of you. Is this the way you act in front of your
grandfather?" Rose barked scornfully. "Now Kaprice, you wipe the
snow off the face of the stone, and Dashiell clean out the snow
and leaves from the candle case and put this new one in its
place," she replied flashing a new candle from her purse and
handing it to the boy. "After you're done, firmly plant both it
and the cross into the ground, and make sure that they stand up
Having completed their tasks, Dashiell and Kaprice stood back to
admire their handiwork.
"But grandma," Kaprice cried disappointedly, "it's too dark to see
"Don't worry, I'll fix that," she replied, snapping a silver
cigarette lighter from her purse, bending over and lighting the
The small flame shimmered in its glass case, bathing the stone with
an eerie crimson glow. There were two names inscribed on it. The
first was Edgar Allen Brownshoe 1909-1976. Below it was Rose
Daisy White Brownshoe 1912-.
"Grandma, why is your name on the stone?" Kaprice wondered aloud.
"It's waiting for me," Rose replied matter-of-factly. "This way
when I go, all they have to do is cover me up and chisel in the
"But, I don't want you to go," Carol whimpered sadly. "I'm sorry
sweetie, I can't help it. We all have to go sometime," Rose
"Even me?" Carol replied apprehensively.
"Yes, even you dumpling," Rose chirped lovingly. "But, lets not
waste time worrying about something we cannot control," she
replied cheerfully puffing away at her cigarette. "Instead let's
have a picnic in the snow," Rose retorted, beaming brightly as
she laid her ratty old coat atop the frozen snow covered ground.
"We can't have a picnic without any food" Dashiell stated
"Ah, but we do have food; my dear doubting Thomas," she replied
with a snicker, unveiling three partially frozen peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches from her purse. "I made them for the plane
trip, but we might as well feast now," she said with a chuckle,
handing them to her famished grandchildren, who tore into them
like sharks into a big juicy walrus.
As the minutes turned to hours, the bright moonlight was replaced
by a dark snowy fog. Biting down on her lip attempting to fight
off the searing sensation in her arms and legs, Rose lifted the
coat off the snow and wiped it clean. No longer able to feel her
fingers she clasped her hands around the votive candle and sat
down in the snow pressing her back against the tombstone.
"Come here Carol," she said firmly, trying to keep up a brave
front. "Hold this against your chest," she stated handing the
flickering votive candle to the little girl and cradling her
tightly against her bosom.
"Kaprice, Dashiell, Come here" Rose shouted, clasping the coat with
her arm and draping it down over the gravestone like a tent,
completely covering her and Carol. "Come here," she repeated
holding the makeshift tent open with her frozen arm.
A blank look covering their faces, Kaprice and Dashiell just
stood there no longer able to bicker as the realization that
their parents had left them to freeze to death, pierced their
"Keep moving, Kaprice! Dashiell! I told you not to stand still,"
the old woman murmured sickly. "Your parents will be here any
second now. In the meantime, I have a job for you two. I want you
to go to the road and flag down the first car you see," she
ordered, trying to sound upbeat.
"OK, grandma," they droned sadly, knowing full well that no one was
coming. Slowly they inched their way down the hill only to find
that the road was no more. Buried under five feet of snow by an
unsympathetic blizzard. Totally exhausted and depressed, they
collapsed into the snow and just laid there, acceptably
indifferent towards their fate. It was five a.m. Christmas
morning. The dark haze was soon replaced by an ivory mist, as
looming brightly in the blizzards shadow, the sun began to rise.
"I'm sorry Dash," Kaprice cried sadly. "I'm sorry for all of this."
"Sorry for what?" he replied groggily, his arms and legs feeling as
if they had turned into sandbags.
"For chasing your parents away. You're right, I am a jinx. I can't
believe how stupid I was to think that anyone could ever love
me," Kaprice whimpered heartbroken.
"No sis, don't say that. You're a wonderful person and I'm proud to
call you my sister. It's not your fault, it's mine. I only blamed
you because I didn't want to deal with the reality that I was a
failure as a son."
"What are you talking about?" Kaprice shot back, her nose beginning
to blacken. "You were the perfect son. Captain of the football
team, captain of the baseball team, highest marks in your class."
"Yeah, but I was never as strong as he was and he knew it. I saw it
when he came to watch me play. Even when he cheered, there was
always this nauseating look of disappointment in his eyes. I just
could never be the man that he was."
"Yeah, but at least your mom loved you; no one has ever loved me,"
Kaprice retorted bitterly.
"Yeah, then where is she?" Dashiell shot back.
"You know she can't say no to your dad. He's too strong for her.
But, you're her son, she loves you. I'm just some raggedy puppy
they found licking the pet store window and felt sorry for. I
can't even remember what my mom looked like," she stated
despondently, rising to her feet and walking off into the white
"Where are you going?" Dashiell yelled, raising his head as the
snow continued to pound his frozen tears.
"To check on Grandma," she lied. "You stay here and wait for help.
Don't fall asleep. Rose and Carol are counting on you," she
shouted, resigned to her own fate but truly hoping that the
others would be rescued.
As she made her way up the hill, Kaprice could no longer feel the
flakes smacking against her eyes. She became lost in a warm
numbness. Reaching the top, she found all the stones buried under
a mountain of frozen snow. Totally sunken, she fell to her knees
and prepared to join them. Suddenly, out of the corner of her
eye, she spotted the most beautiful angel, hovering in the
distance. Rising up she began running as fast as she could; her
frozen limbs refusing to die, the hard snow acting like a
stepladder, propelling her five feet above the ground.
"I'm coming, mommy. I'm coming," she screeched. "Wait for me."
Down the hill she stormed, the passion dancing in her eyes as she
raced for the stone angel. Wrapping her arms around the statue,
her bloodstained fingers locked together. "Mommy, you came back
for me! I knew you loved me! I knew it!" she wept blissfully, as
she attempted to climb into its arms.
A crisp snap shattered the joyful reunion as the statue broke in
two, flinging Kaprice in the air as the torso, wings, and head of
the statue rocketed down the hill. Smacking hard into the snow, a
series of sharp pains rattled Kaprice's body as she rolled down
the hill. Closing her eyes a burst of sudden bright flashes shot
through her eyelids as her mind filled with the sensation of
being thrown into a washing machine. A harsh thud plunged her
into darkness as her body came to rest against the frozen trunk
of an old oak tree.
Groggily opening her eyes, Kaprice could make out the bony shadow
of a cross flickering on a white stone ceiling. Lifting up her
head, her body riddled with aches, pains, and broken ribs,
Kaprice wondered if this was some sort of purgatory waiting room.
"Calm down dear, everything's all right. You've had quite an
ordeal," a nun in a habit replied softly, gently wiping Kaprice's
forehead with a cool rag.
"She's up Dash, she's up," Kaprice could make out little Carol's
voice spouting happily.
"You did it sis. You saved us," Dashiell cheered from his bed.
"Children please be quite. You're sister's just waking up."
"Grandma, where's my Grandma?" Kaprice shouted sitting straight up,
as the spin cycle quickly rushed through her head knocking her
back onto a soft pillow.
"Please child, try to take it easy. The Doctor said that you
suffered a severe concussion when you hit your head against that
tree. You're grandmother is going to be OK. She recovering from
severe frostbite, down the hall. When you're feeling better I'll
take you to visit her," the nurse promised.
"What happened?" Kaprice asked, wondering if this was all a dream.
"You've been in the hospital a week now. That statue you broke
slammed into a small farm house. You're lucky the owner decided
to investigate and found you lying against the tree. He called
the cops who searched the area and found your brother, sister,
and grandmother. You're quite a hero. If you hadn't knocked over
that statue chances are they wouldn't have reached you in time."
"Way to go sis!" Dashiell trumpeted.
"Yeah way to go," Carol chirped happily.
"Children, please your sister needs her rest," the nurse scolded. A
smile flashed across Kaprice's face as she closed her eyes and
fell asleep, safe in the knowledge that she was truly part of the