A MULBERRY STREET CHRISTMAS - SANDRA SEAMANS
Marcy dropped her quarters in the slot and dialed the old familiar number, bouncing from foot to foot in an effort to stay warm as the phone rang through to the other end.
Marcy frowned. That wasn't her mother's voice.
"Give Mommy the phone, sweetie." Marcy winced as the phone thumped on the floor then, "Hello? Hello?...Is that you, Marcy? Please, honey, talk to me, tell me where you are."
Marcy set the phone back in its cradle, tears spilling down her cheeks. Her mother had replaced her already, how could she ever go home now? She patted her jacket pocket to reassure herself that the gun was still there, then slid along the icy sidewalk to old man Kruger's drug store. Except for Father Jack’s, it was the only place open on the street tonight and she needed a warm place to think about what she was going to do and she most definitely didn’t want to be thinking about killing herself with Father Jack watching her.
Rachael Reilly glanced toward the door as Marcy pushed through. She closed her cell phone after telling the caller to meet her at Father Jack's Shack for the midnight mass. Her eyes widened a notch when she noticed the bulge in Marcy’s jacket pocket. Just what I need in here on Christmas Eve, she thought, a merry little suicide idiot. Stupid kids.
"Little cold to be hustling the streets tonight, isn't it?" she asked, sliding a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of fresh made donuts in front of Marcy as she sat down at the lunch counter.
Marcy wrapped her hands around the cup, trying to warm them. "I was using the pay phone outside. I wanted to call home and wish my Mom a Merry Christmas."
"And how'd that work out for you?"
"She's replaced me with another kid, probably doesn't even miss me anymore."
"How long ago did you run away from home?"
"How'd you know I ran away?"
"Because I did the same thing about a hundred years ago. So, how long has it been since you left?"
"Nearly four years. I just couldn't take her crap anymore. All those stupid rules about school nights and dating...thing is, I figured out too late that she was right."
"They usually are, but when you're what...twelve or thirteen, Moms seem like the stupidest people on earth."
"Did you work the streets?" asked Marcy.
"Oh, yeah. Ain't much else a kid can do if they want to eat. You can't get a decent job, hell, you can't get any kind of job."
"You must've done pretty well for yourself since you're part owner of this drug store."
"I didn't do well at all, kid. I got lucky after I made my phone call home. I came in here, just like you, and Mr. Kruger took pity on me, helped me through a bad patch, then I met a cop who got me off the street and back in school. Became a cop myself, believe it or not. Now, I'm retired and working here and doing a little PI business on the side."
"Sounds like you had it pretty easy."
"What it sounds like and what it was, well, it wasn't pretty and the truth is, the street damned near killed me. If it weren’t for Mr. Kruger, I would've shoved a gun in my mouth and been done with my life." Rachael paused and glanced at her watch. "Look, I'm about ready to close up for the night. I promised to meet someone over at Father Jack's, why don't you come along? Sit through the service, have some Christmas cookies and eggnog, maybe spend the night in the upstairs suite."
"The suite?" Marcy giggled. "More like a dormitory for every misfit on Mulberry."
"Yeah, but at least Father Jack makes sure everyone knows they're loved, at least by him and God."
The snow was starting to fall as they made their way to Father Jack’s, spreading a blanket of virgin white flakes over Mulberry Street.
"The snow sure is beautiful, ain’t it?" said Marcy.
"It does a helluva job covering up the truth about this street, but when you’ve lived here long enough, you never forget what’s underneath."
"If you hate Mulberry so much, why don’t you leave?"
"I guess I’m like Father Jack. I keep thinking somebody’s got to give a damn about the people who earn their supper walking the street and living in cardboard boxes."
"Do you wish that you’d talked to your Mom back then, when you called home, instead of hanging up?"
"Back then, I wished it more than anything in the world, but my life’s turned out okay for me. It’s put me here on Mulberry so I can help the folks who can’t help themselves. And maybe at the end of the day, that’s what life intended for me. One thing’s for sure, I can’t go back now, but you still can."
"What do you mean?"
A car was pulling up to the curb in front of Father Jack’s and a woman got out before the driver got the car completely stopped. They watched as she ran through the doorway of the building that housed Father Jack’s Shack.
"That was my Mom," said Marcy, grabbing Rachael's sleeve to stop her.
"Yeah, she’s been looking for you. The cops put her in touch with me after you called her tonight. She wants you to come home, Marcy."
"She can’t want me, I’m a whore. She won’t want my dirt rubbing off on her new kid."
"You’re her kid, too. Believe me, she wants you. Why do you think she drove all the way here on Christmas Eve? You’re the best Christmas present she’ll ever get, sweetie."
"Are you sure? Would you have gone home if your Mom had shown up?"
"In a heartbeat, kid, in a heartbeat. Now, give me that gun you’re lugging around and go hug your Mom and tell her you love her. Then go back home and try to forget about Mulberry Street."
Rachael slipped the gun into her pocket as Father Jack stepped outside with Marcy’s mother. Rachael watched as the girl was swept up in a ferocious hug, a quiver of wishful thinking racing through her own wounded heart.
"You stepping on my toes again, Rachael?" asked Father Jack as the car pulled away.
"Somebody’s got to pick up the stragglers," said Rachael slipping an arm around Father Jack’s shoulder. "You about ready to start the service?"
"Of course, I was just waiting for you. Couldn’t start without looking to see what kind of Christmas miracle our Rachael was pulling out of her magician's cap tonight."
"There’s no miracles or magic on Mulberry, Father, just people surviving whatever life throws at them."
"Well, if getting that family together wasn’t a miracle, darling, I don’t know what is."
"If you want to know the truth, Father, I’ll be surprised if that girl isn’t dead or back on the street within three months. Her mother wants to forgive and forget, but the truth of Marcy’s life will always be there, waiting for a spark of anger to toss it like a grenade into the room between them."
Rachael pulled the gun from her pocket, slapping it into the priest’s hand. "And if she found a gun once, she’ll find one again. Next time, I won’t be there to stop her from using it. No, Father, miracles don’t live on Mulberry, only slim chances if you’re strong enough to grab one."
BIO: You can find Sandra's stories scattered around the internet in places like Spinetingler, PulpPusher, and The Thrilling Detective. Her scattered thoughts about writing can be found at My Little Corner.