Seeing God

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Susannah May Farmer walked up two steps to a glass door which had the words “Lilies of the Field” painted on it in fancy gold letters. As she pushed open the door, little bells tinkled cheerfully and warm, sweet-smelling air rushed to greet her. A tall lady with short, dark hair and big glasses looked up at her and smiled.

“Oh, that feels nice! It’s cold out there!” Susannah exclaimed. She sniffed happily. “What’s that great smell, Aunt Rose?”

“Forced paper-white narcissi.” The lady pointed to several dishes on the counter in front of her, filled with what looked like tiny, white daffodils. She wasn’t really Susannah’s aunt, but all the kids called her Aunt Rose. Aunt Rose’s real nephew, Mike, came over to the counter as Susannah asked, “Forced? What does that mean?”

“That means we made them bloom at a different time than they would in the wild,” Mike explained. He knew everything about flowers, even though he was only nine. He’d grown up in his father’s florist shop. Mike patted the counter with his hands, feeling his way to the dishes of narcissi. He tipped his head as if he were listening, and his brown eyes gazed past Susannah. “We put these bulbs in bowls filled with pebbles and water during December. Then we kept them in a dark, cold place for two weeks so they would think it was winter. When we bring them out into the sun, they think it’s spring, so they’re blooming.”

“That’s amazing! You tricked them!” Susannah leaned closer to smell the strong, sweet odor. The bells tinkled behind her, and she turned to see who had come in. Mike’s head turned too, although his eyes still stared without seeing.

“Paper-whites!” grumbled the old man who had walked slowly through the door, bringing a cold wind in with him. “How can you stand those things? The smell of them makes me sick!”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Fontaine,” Mike said politely. “Is your arthritis bothering you again? Come on in and sit down where it’s warm.”

He walked toward Mr. Fontaine, holding out his hand. Mr. Fontaine grunted and took Mike’s hand, and Susannah thought his grouchy face softened a little. She watched as Mike led the old man to a corner Aunt Rose had set up with white wrought iron patio chairs and little tables. Hanging baskets and tall floor palms made the corner seem like summer, even in January. Mike reached out, feeling for the back of a chair to offer Mr. Fontaine.

Aunt Rose passed Susannah, carrying a cup. “Here’s some hot chocolate, Mr. Fontaine. Sit and relax a while.”

“Thanks.” Mr. Fontaine took the cup and almost smiled.

Mike sat down beside him. “What are you working on this week?”

Mr. Fontaine sipped his chocolate and set the cup down. He reached into his pocket and pulled something out. “Hold out your hand.”

Mike held out his hand and Mr. Fontaine put something small into it. Susannah went closer. Mike began turning the object in his fingers, feeling it and tipping his head as he always did when he concentrated. Then his face lit up with a smile. “It’s a horse!” he exclaimed.

Susannah went closer still, and finally she could see a wooden horse in Mike’s hand. “It’s beautiful!” she cried, and then felt embarrassed when Mr. Fontaine frowned at her.

“It’s nothing much,” he grumbled.

“It’s perfect,” Mike said firmly. “Come and see, Susannah.” He held out the horse, and Susannah looked nervously at Mr. Fontaine.

“It’s all right,” Aunt Rose laughed. “His bark is worse than his bite. Now be nice, Mr. Fontaine.”

The old man grunted again and picked up his chocolate.

Susannah took the little horse in her hands and looked at it. Then she closed her eyes and felt it all over, as Mike had done. She could feel its long nose and wide eyes, its satiny smooth back and the individually carved hairs in its mane and tail. She ran her fingers down its four prancing legs. She opened her eyes again. “I think it’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen,” she said earnestly. “Did you make this, Mr. Fontaine?”

All he would do was grunt and sip his chocolate, so Mike answered. “He carves all kinds of animals—birds, dogs, chipmunks, even skunks! I wish I could make things. It’s like—it’s like you have a little bit of God’s power, Mr. Fontaine!”

Mr. Fontaine looked up in surprise. “God’s power!” he exclaimed, forgetting to grumble.

“Yes, the power to create things,” Mike explained. “Not from nothing, like God does, but still, it’s a little like Him.”

“You think an old grouch like me is like God?” Mr. Fontaine looked amazed.

“Yes, I do. The Bible says we are all made in the image of God. I think it’s especially true of people like you who can create beautiful things.”

Mr. Fontaine stared at Mike and began to shake his head slowly from side to side. “In the image of God. Well, I never!” he said softly.

For a minute no one spoke. Then Mr. Fontaine got up. “You can keep the horse, boy.”

“Keep it?” Mike’s voice squeaked with surprise and joy. “Thank you!”

“It’s nothing.” Mr. Fontaine’s voice was grumbly again, but somehow it sounded different to Susannah. He put out one hand to touch Mike’s brown hair, then turned away. “Let me have my rosebud, and I’ll get out of your way.”

Mike got up and went to the refrigerated case where the roses and other flowers were kept. He reached in and got a white rosebud. Susannah wondered how he remembered where everything was.

Aunt Rose rang up the sale, and Mr. Fontaine left.

“Why was he so grouchy?” Susannah asked.

“His wife died a few months ago,” Mike replied. “Every Tuesday he comes and buys a white rosebud and takes it home and puts it on his piano. That was her favorite flower, and she loved to play the piano.”

“That’s so sad,” Susannah said softly. She touched Mike’s arm. “I’ve been wondering all week what it really means to be made in God’s image. Now I know.”

“You mean the way Mr. Fontaine can make things?” Mike asked.

“No, I mean the way you use your words to make things beautiful, just like God.” Susannah said.

“Me?” Mike looked surprised.

“Yes, you.”

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