8.14: Part One
these look great!” MacGyver sat down at the table
amongst the Challenger’s Club kids, picking up a
brightly decorated shoebox. “What are they for?”
“Christmas presents.” Five year old Cassie
stuck a glittery star in the centre of her box lid and
held it up to admire the effect. “For kids who haven’t
got any.” She smiled up at MacGyver, pleased with
“What a nice idea.” MacGyver caught a falling
glue pot as Cassie reached across the table for another
star. “Kids here in Los Angeles?”
“Uh-uh.” Cassie concentrated on pasting her
star, tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth.
“Where?” MacGyver asked. Cassie shrugged,
too busy to answer. He looked up, catching Gloria’s
eye. “Little help?”
“We’re putting together Christmas boxes for
the kids in Santa Rosa. Each box will have toys and candy
in, but also essentials like soap, toothpaste, pencils
and hats or gloves. Those poor kids have nothing at all
after the landslide, so we’re doing what we can
from here.” She smiled down at MacGyver, then her
gaze wandered across the rest of the Challenger’s
Club room, festooned with second hand tinsel and home-made
decorations. One wall had a map of Mexico pinned up, with
a Father Christmas sticker over Santa Rosa. “There’s
always someone worse off than we are, isn’t there?”
She beckoned to him.
MacGyver got up, brushing glitter off his jeans.
“Actually, MacGyver, I have a favour to ask you.”
Mac raised his eyebrows, waiting for her to continue.
Gloria hesitated, twining her fingers together. “We
need a little help transporting the boxes to Santa Rosa.
We have a minibus that Our Lady Church over in Compton
have kindly leant us, but…” Gloria trailed
off, looking hopefully at MacGyver.
“But… it needs a little work, am I right?”
MacGyver watched Gloria nod and sigh.
“Father Paul’s exact words were, ‘if
you can get it running, you can use it with my blessing.’”
“Ah.” MacGyver scrubbed a hand through his
shaggy hair. “Well, let’s take a look. It
can’t be that bad, surely.”
* * * *
“Is it bad?” Gloria peered over MacGyver’s
shoulder into the engine.
“Um…” MacGyver picked up a rag and wiped
grease off his hands and arms. “It’s old and
gungy, but I don’t think there’s anything
seriously wrong with it.” He wiped at a smear of
grease on his forehead. “The battery’s dead,
though.” He felt in his pockets for his keys. “I’m
going to bring the Jeep around and see if I can jump start
the bus with it.”
Gloria nodded, watching him go. She climbed into the minibus
and sat down, placing her massive handbag on the damp
seat beside her. Was she taking on too much? It was so
far to go, but the plight of the children in Santa Rosa
had moved her and she was sure Booker would have wanted
her to go. In her mind’s eye she could see him sitting
at his desk, reading pieces from the newspapers out loud,
constantly dismayed by man’s inhumanity to his fellow
man. Booker would have gone to Santa Rosa without a second
thought. He wouldn’t have been afraid of the long
journey, or the dangers he might face along the way.
But Gloria was afraid. She was afraid of going all that
way alone. She was afraid of the people she might meet,
for her destination lay deep in bandit country. She was
afraid of being attacked, or having the bus hijacked.
She was afraid of being killed out there. Gloria pressed
her shaking hands together, telling herself not to be
a coward. She took a deep breath, telling herself she
would be brave and not let those children down.
She jumped as a shadow fell across her.
“MacGyver! I didn’t hear you come back in.”
“I didn’t mean to scare you, Gloria.”
MacGyver looked closer, seeing how worried she looked
and how tightly her hands were folded. “Are you
Gloria nodded her head, then sighed and shook it instead.
“I’m not sure, MacGyver. I know I need to
get these presents and emergency supplies to the children,
but I’m afraid of going there. It’s such a
long way and after the landslide… And it’s
not the safest of places to go anyway.”
“Yeah, it wouldn’t be in my top ten holiday
destinations either.” MacGyver rubbed his chin,
scraping at the stubble he hadn’t bothered to shave
that morning. “When do you leave?”
“Tomorrow.” Gloria’s voice was small.
“And you’re going on your own?”
“Yes.” Gloria folded her arms tight around
herself. “Breeze has to work, my cousin has a new
baby to look after… Everyone’s busy.”
She smiled at MacGyver, but the smile didn’t reach
her eyes. “Booker would tell me to be brave and
just go, wouldn’t he?”
MacGyver shook his head.
“No, he’d tell you to take a friend with you.”
He crossed to the front of the garage and opened the big
doors, letting in the Winter sunshine and revealing his
Jeep parked outside.
“MacGyver, I couldn’t possibly ask you to
go with me.” Gloria’s tone was firm. “I
couldn’t take you away from your family so close
“Well,” MacGyver climbed into the Jeep and
started it, shouting over the engine. “Sam’s
up in Minnesota and he’s snowed in. He’s fine,
but knowing Mission City like I do, I think he’s
probably stuck until after New Year’s.” He
nosed the Jeep carefully up to the old minibus, turned
the engine off and climbed out carrying a set of jump
leads. “Jack’s off goodness knows where, Penny’s
in the middle of a musical out in Omaha, Nikki’s
gone back East to visit her folks and Pete’s spending
Christmas with his son.” He attached the leads and
got back into the Jeep. “So I’m a free agent.
Gimme a minute here and then crank that sucker over, OK?”
Gloria tried to hide her smile as she climbed into the
driver’s seat. The seat gave underneath her as she
untangled the edge of her skirt from the gear stick.”
The minibus wheezed and spluttered and then roared into
life, belching black smoke. Gloria coughed and covered
her mouth with her hand.
“Leave it running!” MacGYver yelled over the
clattering of the old engine. He opened the door and beckoned
Gloria out. “We need to build up some charge in
the battery and hope it holds – it looks OK but
you can’t always tell.”
“Let’s go out front.” Gloria watched
the thickening smoke curl against the garage ceiling and
roll out into the street. “That way we can keep
an eye on it and watch for the smog police at the same
* * *
“At least it runs.” MacGyver scrubbed the
last of the dirt and grease off himself in the Challengers
Club kitchen sink. “Thanks.” He took the towel
Gloria offered him and leant against the sink, watching
the kids putting the finishing touches to their boxes
as he dried his arms. Gloria followed his gaze.
“I reckon we’ll have that old bus pretty well
full of presents for those kids.” She smiled. “I’m
so proud of the effort everyone’s put in here. It
gives me back my faith that we can make the world a better
place after all.”
“All those presents should make it a much better
Christmas for them.” Mac nodded. “What else
are we taking?”
“Basic medical supplies, clothes and some dried
food.” Gloria passed MacGyver a mug of hot tea.
“MacGyver, I can’t thank you enough. You’re
absolutely sure you don’t mind coming with me?”
“Absolutely sure.” MacGyver took a sip of
tea and turned, almost running into a kid as he raced
into the kitchen. “Hey, watch it!”
“Billy!” Gloria crouched down level with a
small, scruffy boy. “Slow down, honey – you
almost knocked Mr MacGyver down!” The kid stared
up at MacGyver, picking at his dirty overalls.
“No problem, kid. Watcha got there?”
“Shoebox.” Billy held up a grubby box, bent
and damp at one corner. It had been decorated with strips
of Christmas paper wound tightly around it, sealing it
“What’s in it, honey?” Gloria took the
box, which was sticky underneath and smelled of stale
“Stuff.” Billy stuck his hands in the bulging
pockets of his overalls and grinned proudly. “Good
stuff that kids need.”
“What kind of stuff?” Gloria put the box down
and wiped at the stickiness on her fingers. Billy looked
“Stuff like you use. Stuff for inventing things
and fixing things and…” He tailed off as he
saw Gloria shake her head.
“Billy, we’re only allowed to send certain
things, and the boxes can’t be sealed shut. I’m
so sorry.” She sighed, seeing Billy’s lip
“But… I made a shoebox…” His eyes
filled with tears and he sniffed, wiping a grimy sleeve
across his nose.
“And it was really kind of you to make one.”
Gloria found a tissue and gave it to him. “How about
we take it along anyway and ask when we get there? How’d
that be?” Billy gave another massive sniff and then
a watery smile.
“OK.” He stuck the tissue in his pocket along
with the other junk and ran back out of the kitchen. MacGyver
watched him go.
“Stuff like I use…?”
“Could be anything.” Gloria sniffed at the
lingering mess on her hands and reached for the soap again.
“He watches you fix stuff around here and he wants
to be like you when he grows up, so he carries everything
he thinks will come in handy in his pockets. He’s
mostly too shy to talk to adults, though – I think
that’s the longest conversation I’ve ever
had with him.” Gloria looked sad. ”His is
one of the poorest families I’ve ever met, but they’re
doing their best to hold it together. I worry about Billy
though, he’s out roaming the streets at all hours
and he picks up anything ‘useful’ that he
finds. I took a heroin spoon and a rusty craft knife off
him only last week.”
“Ouch.” MacGyver eyed the battered box warily.
“What do you think’s in there?”
“You heard him – good stuff that kids need!”
She shrugged. “I’ll hide the box in my bag
once we’re on the way so he doesn’t see me
do it, but I daren’t hand it over with the rest!”
MacGyver finished his tea and set the mug down.
“Well, I’m gonna head home and pack. See you
in the morning.”
“See you tomorrow, and thank you.” Gloria
smiled as MacGyver gave her a sloppy salute, turned up
the collar of his jacket and headed out into the cold