The subject was “Arts and Crafts”

January 10, 2011

DD and her girls have a tradition of telling stories around the table after dinner.  When we were there recently, the subject that Mimi gave us was “arts and crafts”.  Once the subject has been given, each of the other people at the table is supposed to come up with a funny little story inspired by that subject.  The winner is the one who tells the best story.  Hubby and I enjoy playing this game with them when we are there, but the subject of “arts and crafts” just left me stumped.  So I guess it’s been simmering in the back of my brain ever since, and this twist on it just came to me.

Note:  Obviously, this is a little more elaborate than it would have been if I’d just been making it up as I went during the after-dinner story telling.  I guess that’s that fiction writing class I took a few years ago kicking in.

Em and Lil were friends who enjoyed doing a wide variety of crafts, like quilting, ceramics and flower arranging.  And the friends were always looking for new projects.  So when Em saw an ad in the newspaper for an Arts and Crafts Show in a small town about a half hour away, they decided to go see what new ideas they might glean.

But when they arrived at the address listed in the ad, it was a big, plain-looking building with no obvious signs telling them this was the place.  When they looked around for some other place the show might be, this was the only place on the small main street of the town that had anything going on, with lots of vehicles in the parking lot, so they went inside.

They stopped dead in their tracks when they walked through the door.  This was definitely not an arts and crafts show.

The huge building enclosed a race track and men were driving go-carts at break-neck speeds around the track.  At just that moment, a guy leaned across the fence surrounding the track and waved a checkered flag as one of the carts whizzed past.  There was a loud clamor of hoots and whistles, a smattering of applause and some high-fives … someone had won a race!

Em and Lil looked at each other with a what-the-heck-is-going-on look.  Lil said to Em, “Wow, are we in the wrong place.  This definitely isn’t an arts and crafts show. And, look!  What’s going on out there?”

At the back of the building there were huge doors that were open to the property behind the building and through it Em and Lil could see a pond.  And on the pond were two rafts, with a man with a long pole on each.  The men were using the poles to steady their own raft while trying to knock the other guy off of his raft  … apparently playing “king of the mountain”.  There were other guys, some wet, some dry, standing around the edge of the pond cheering the men on.

When Em saw what was going on, she began to laugh.  Lil turned to her amazed.  What was so funny?  Em was able to stop laughing just long enough to say, “Well, obviously we aren’t going to be attending an arts and crafts show today, so why don’t we go have lunch at that little cafe up the street and I’ll tell you what I think is so funny.”

Once they were seated in the cafe and had placed their order, Em explained how they had been mislead by the ad for the show.

The  advertisement had had a small misprint that had made a big difference.

It wasn’t meant to advertise an Arts and Crafts Show … it was advertising a Carts and Rafts Show!

Then Lil laughed too.

An interesting afternoon in a totally different way than they had expected, caused by the temporary inattention of a typesetter and his placement of a very important “C”.



A Story About Fishing

June 14, 2009

Talking about fiction writing recently made me think again about the three stories I wrote in the fiction writing class I took last year.  And, today I decided to re-play one of them.  

The story is based on a metaphor that occurred to me years ago.  I was glad when I finally got it down on paper.  May some part of it bless you this Sunday.

A Fishing Story

Allen’s last memory was of lying on the lumpy twin bed in his efficiency apartment, watching a ball game on the little black and white TV, while drinking shots of whiskey – lots and lots of shots. 

But now, even with his eyes closed, he knew he wasn’t there anymore.  He could tell he was lying on the ground outdoors.  He could feel the uneven earth and twigs and grass under him, and the smell of damp vegetation was strong. 

Allen cautiously pried his matter-crusted eyes open.  It took them a minute to focus.  But when they did, he realized he was lying on the ground in the middle of a woods.  As he carefully moved his aching head, he could see nothing but trees in every direction.  How had he gotten here

Had there been an accident?  Had he driven his car blasted again?  After the last time, when he had almost hit a jogger, he had promised himself he would never drink and drive again.  But, apparently he had; how else could he have gotten here?

He slowly pushed himself to a sitting position. His eyes came into sharper focus, and his headache even began to go away.  Well, if he had been in an accident, it didn’t feel like he’d been hurt.  He slowly got to his feet and checked himself out – he couldn’t see any cuts or scrapes.  In fact, he was feeling stronger by the minute.  He was surprised that he suddenly felt better than he had in weeks.

So, if he’d had an accident, where was his car?  He stood perfectly still, and listened to see if he could hear any sounds of cars on a nearby road.  He didn’t hear any road sounds, but he did realize there was a sound of rushing water.  He must be near the river close to the house!  He had taken the kids there many times to fish, when he’d still lived at home. 

In his drunken stupor, had he automatically headed for “home”?  “Huh, that’s pathetic,” he said out loud and shook his head.  Marla had made it very clear that he wasn’t welcome there any more, or at least, as she had shouted that last day, “until you grow up and act like a responsible husband and father!”  Well, “old habits die hard”, so maybe he had automatically headed for the place his heart still called home.

Allen looked around again.  He didn’t recognize this part of the woods, so he started walking toward the river.  He would get his bearings from there.

As he walked, the sound of the water grew louder and he thought he could hear voices.  Maybe someone there could give him a ride.

Shortly, he came out of the woods at the river, but it wasn’t the familiar river he had expected.  In fact, it was unlike any river he had ever seen before.  All he could do was just stand there and take in the scene before him.

A large, powerfully-built man stood on the bank methodically casting a line into the rough, fast-moving waters, not appearing distracted by the spray from the churning water, the roar of the falls just a few yards away or the din of voices.  Several men stood silently behind the fisherman watching expectantly.

Suddenly, a strange sensation came over Allen.  He began experiencing thoughts and feelings that weren’t his own, and he knew somehow with certainty that they were coming from the fisherman.  He could suddenly feel the single-minded sense of urgency that the fisherman was feeling.

Allen thought, “He knows how important his task is to the people.  He is the only one who is equipped to do the fishing.  He must do it as fast as he can, before the catch is lost over the falls.” 

It was obvious the fisherman was an expert; he wasted no motion.  But, even when a cast was straight and true, many times the line came back empty.  When that happened, Allen could feel the fisherman’s feelings of regret and sadness.

Allen knew as if he’d been told, “There were so many.  If only he could catch them all, but the fisherman knew he couldn’t.  But, he would never waiver in his resolve to catch as many as he could – the people were depending on him.”

 As Allen walked closer he realized voices he had heard were coming from the water!  He stared in awe – it was filled with people, many of them seemingly oblivious to the falls they were being swept toward, and the certainty of death.  Over there, some young girls were actually chatting and enjoying themselves, as if they were taking an afternoon swim, totally ignoring the fisherman.  There, a grumpy-looking older man was so busy criticizing everyone around him, “Quit pushing! Get out of my way!  Keep your voices down!” so that he didn’t even see the lifeline when it was thrown in his direction.   A man Allen recognized as an Olympic swimming champion saw the lifeline but swam away from it toward the falls, depending on his own strength to survive.  There were many who were striving for the lifeline, but some of them lost interest and swam away without grabbing it. 

Over and over the fisherman would throw the lifeline, unerringly, near one of the people and if they grabbed hold, he would quickly pull that one in, and the men standing behind him would welcome them and wrap them in a warm, beautiful white robe.  Then that person would join the group gathered behind the men that Allen now saw was a huge throng of white-robed people – men, women and children – of every age, color and nationality, all praying and singing songs of praise that blended with the wind and reminded him of chimes, while watching expectantly for the next “catch” to join them.  The glow from so many assembled white robes hurt Allen’s eyes it was so bright, and the songs they sang were the most beautiful he had ever heard.

He suddenly understood.  He knew this Fisherman.  He was the “Fisher of Men” Allen had learned about in Sunday school.  But, why was Allen seeing and feeling all this?  Was he dead?  Was this Heaven?  If he was in Heaven, why didn’t he have a white robe and why wasn’t he part of the singing throng?

He turned back toward the river and looked at the people in the water again, and he realized that he knew many of the people there.  There was Aunt Millie, there was Dr. Bateman, there, there was — his family!  He watched with tears in his eyes as the Fisherman pulled Marla and then James and then Maddy to shore.  Allen was overwhelmed with feelings of thankfulness and joy that his family was all saved.

At that moment, for the first time, the Fisherman turned and looked Allen directly in the eye.  He didn’t say anything, but Allen felt a powerful emotion in those eyes specifically involving him.  Was it regret or was it relief?  He couldn’t tell.  Then the Fisherman turned back to his task. 

Next the Fisherman threw the line to a man struggling to stay afloat.    The rushing water swept him closer.  Now Allen could see the face – it was him!  The Fisherman cast the lifeline toward the thrashing man.  At first, he didn’t see it.  Then he saw it, but he seemed confused and unsure whether to grab it or not. He was going to miss it! Allen wanted to yell, “Grab the lifeline!  Grab hold – it’s your only chance – don’t you see the falls?”  But he couldn’t make a sound.  All he could do was watch helplessly.  And then, at the last possible second, he saw himself reach up toward the lifeline.  He could feel the muscles in his arms stretching to reach the line — but he was almost past it, in a second it would be out of reach! He tried stretching even harder one more time – he could feel every muscle in his body painfully straining, trying to reach the lifeline before he was swept over the falls.  Just a few more inches — reach! – reach!  And then . . . .

Allen awoke with a start.  He was bathed in cold sweat.  He had spilled the rest of the whiskey on the tattered, thin blanket on the bed, so there was a nauseatingly sweet smell of sweat mixed with booze.  The ball game must be over; an infomercial was on now.  And then he was shocked when he looked at the travel clock on the wobbly little table and it said 5:36 a.m.!  It was morning!  He must have passed out and slept through the night.  It had been a dream. Thank you, God, it had been a dream.

He jumped up and grabbed the phone.  He knew Marla and the kids would be sleeping, but he was filled with such a powerful need to talk to them and care for them and love them that he couldn’t wait to call – he had to do it now!

Marla answered on the third ring.  “Hello,” she whispered in her husky, just woke up, voice.

“Marla, it’s Allen.  I’m sorry to call so early but I have to talk to you right away.”

Marla was instantly, fully awake.  “Allen, what’s the matter?  What’s wrong?  Has something happened to you?”

Allen said, “No, Marla.  Nothing’s wrong.  In fact, I feel really good.  And, before you ask, no, I’m not drunk.  I have something really important to tell you.  Can I please come over?” 

Silence.

“Marla, please listen.  I finally feel like I can give up my ‘whiskey crutch’ and, if you’ll give me another chance, I know now I’m ready to be the husband and father you and the kids deserve.” 

Still silence; and then, a sound of teary, uneven breathing.

Softly, “Marla?”

Marla cleared her throat and regained her composure, “Allen, I can’t tell you how much I want to believe those words.  How many times I have prayed for you to say those words.  But, I’m so afraid to hope.  Please don’t say them if you don’t really mean them.”

“Mar, I mean them with all my heart.  I suddenly feel an overwhelming need to heal my relationships — with you and the kids, and with God.  If you will take me on as a ‘project’ just one more time, I promise I’ll work and love and pray and appreciate with every fiber in my body.”

Again, there was silence.  Maybe it was too late.  Maybe he had tested Marla’s love one too many times. 

Finally, Marla said, with a first glimmer of hope in her voice, “Okay.  Come for lunch.  The kids will be at your mom’s, so we can talk.  I will not give them false hope before we’ve talked this out.  If you’re going to come home, I want it to be for good.  They need their daddy so bad, but I don’t want them just to have you back for a little while – it has to be all or nothing.”

Relief and hope flooded Allen.  “That’s what I want too, Marla.  I’ll be there at noon.  Good-bye. . . . Wait!  Just one more thing.  Marla, even through all this, I never stopped loving you.  Do you believe me?”

“Yes, even with all that’s happened, I’ve always known you love me, and I’ve always loved you.  And, it’s only because I know that that I think there might be hope for us.  We’ll talk when you get here, Allen.”

  “Okay, I’ll be there.  Oh, and, Marla, let’s take a walk down by the river after lunch, okay?   I have a fishing story I’d like to tell you.”


I Didn’t Win . . .

October 4, 2008

 

. . . but the nice thing about writing a blog, is that you can “self-publish!”

The following is one of the two stories I submitted to a short story contest while I was taking my writing class.  It is based on an experience of one of our children.  I’m pretty sure you can guess which one!

Just Another Day at the Office, Phoebe Style

Phoebe awoke to the familiar buzz of her 5:00 a.m. alarm, but was momentarily confused because it was pitch black.  Then she realized why:  Tigger was laying on the pillow next to her, and his ample girth was partially covering her face.  A not-too-gentle push gave her some breathing room.  This was a familiar strategy of his, called don’t forget to feed the kitty.  He liked to eat first thing in the morning, so toward dawn his habit was to move very close to her as a reminder when she woke up that someone wanted to eat.  She knew that this was the high point of a day that would be otherwise devoted to resting, preferably, in a ray of sun.  It was hard to imagine that he was ever actually hungry when he expended so little energy, but, on the other hand, she knew he couldn’t possibly maintain a “physique” like his by only eating when he was hungry! 

So, she padded to the kitchen with Tigger closely following, meowing instructions to her all the way.  While he quickly dispatched his Friskies, she ate her “Breakfast of Champions,” i.e., cold pizza and Diet Coke, with a fruit yogurt chaser.  That was her favorite breakfast on big game days during high school and college.  And today definitely qualified as a “big game day.” She would be making a presentation to the senior Air-Tech management for the first time about her ideas for a new employee benefits package. When she was hired, it was made very clear that was to be her first priority.  

 “Move it, Phoebe. Big day!  ‘Show time’  in three short hours and you need to be totally prepared!”

Returning to the bedroom, she pulled her just dry-cleaned black suit out of the closet and laid it on the bed, with a tailored dark red blouse.  Then she headed for the bathroom to take her shower, and she took a little extra care with her make-up.  No anxiety-induced zits.  She saw that as a good sign.  A quick application of hot rollers made her shoulder-length blonde hair turn under a little.  The clock now said 5:45.  If she was ready by 6:00, that would give her an hour to do a few run-throughs of her presentation.  Even though she had used Power Point quite a bit, it still made her a little nervous; there was always a chance something could go wrong.

At 7:00 she would leave for her half-hour commute.  That would still give her a few minutes to breathe deeply and have a cup of coffee in her office before the 8:00 meeting.

She went back to the bedroom to get dressed.  Oh, no!  Her once-pristine black suit now lay crumpled on the floor, with Tigger the Hairy One in its place on the bed.  With a “Bad Kitty!” she quickly scooped him up and dropped him by the door, after which he sashayed, unrepentant, out of the room, in search of another comfy spot to sleep.

Phoebe picked up her suit.  It was absolutely covered in cat hair.  She fantasized, not for the first time, about having that cat shaved!  But there was no time to enjoy that mental picture; she had to decide what else she could wear.  She scanned her closet for the second-most perfect suit.  She settled on the navy pant suit.  She had passed it over before for the dressier black suit, but now it looked like her best alternative.  She would dress it up with pearls.   

She quickly put on the red blouse, the navy suit, her navy pumps with the pointy toes and a simple strand of pearls with stud earrings.  She looked in the mirror and was satisfied.  She looked good.

  Six-fifteen — she had 45 minutes to rehearse her presentation and still leave by seven.  Her briefcase was on the kitchen bar.  There was a plug there, so she could plug in her laptop to do her run-through.  But when she opened the briefcase, no laptop.  She immediately knew what must have happened.   She had started to put it into her briefcase before leaving work yesterday when a guy named Matt from Accounting had stopped in to introduce himself.  It had flustered her a little because he was very cute, and then they had walked to the parking lot together.  She must have closed her briefcase without putting the laptop in!  Rats.  Now what?  Okay, Plan B:  She would leave now, get to the office about 6:50, and then go over her presentation for 30 to 40 minutes, with time still left to relax a few minutes before the meeting.

So, she went out to her car, drove directly to work, and because traffic wasn’t bad, got there by 6:45.  But, as she pulled in, she saw there weren’t any other cars in the parking lot.  That was definitely a problem she hadn’t thought about.   She didn’t have a key, and she had no idea when someone with a key would come in.  The office officially opened at 8:00, so maybe 7:15, 7:30?  She could not wait that long.  She needed to find a way in, now

Then she remembered where there was an unlocked door!  She parked her car and walked around the building.  There it was.  The door opened into a yard with picnic tables, enclosed by a six foot high chain link fence.  She had eaten her lunch out there a few times and had noticed the door didn’t have a lock.  That was her way in. 

She quickly scanned the fence on the outside chance there was a gate: none.  Well, she could see the door; now all she had to do was figure out how to get to it — although there really wasn’t much to figure.  There was only one way: she’d have to go over the fence.  But that shouldn’t be a problem; after all, she was an athlete. She had played sports for years and still ran, for heaven sake.  This fence ought to be a piece of cake, although making the climb in high heels and a pant suit might complicate it a little!  But, she knew from playing sports that a lot of times winning was just a matter of refusing to lose.  And, she refused to lose this time.  She was going to get in there to her laptop so that she would be ready for her presentation, suit and heels or not!

She tossed up her wallet and car keys and they landed on the first try on the other side of the fence.  Well, the die was cast.  Her stuff was on the other side, so, now all she had to do was get herself over there too.  She slipped out of her suit coat and hung it on the top of the fence.  Then she rolled her wide-legged pants up to her knees to get them out of the way.  She kicked off her shoes next to lob them over the fence, but then realized that they, with their pointy toes, might help in climbing the fence, so she put them back on.  So, okay, here goes.

The shoes were great!  They allowed her to climb the fence like a mountain climber with ice picks on the toes of his shoes!  Just like that, she was sitting on top of the fence.  She enjoyed the view for just a minute.  The sky was quickly getting lighter and she was amazed that she could see the drivers so clearly in the cars on the freeway that was just down a grassy hill from her.  But, it suddenly occurred to her that if one of those drivers happened to glance up and see a woman sitting on top of a six foot high fence it could cause an accident or, worse yet for her, a 911 call.  Being arrested or even questioned didn’t fit into her timetable for the morning!  So, she quickly went down the other side, again using her pointy toed shoes.  The irony wasn’t lost on her, that she would have worn the black suit which had a skirt instead of pants and the black round-toed shoes if it hadn’t been for her “bad kitty,” Tigger. 

When she got to the other side, she rolled down her pant legs, fluffed her hair, picked up her wallet and keys and quickly went into the building through the unlocked door.  It was 7:10.  She had 20 to 30 minutes to rehearse.  It would have to do.  She went immediately to her office and started practicing. 

By 7:50 she was set; she had even had time for her cup of coffee.  She felt good about her last couple run-throughs, and now she felt ready to “knock ‘em dead” with her ideas. It was time to go to the meeting.  She picked up her laptop and turned to get her jacket from the back of her chair; not there.  Yikes!  She must have left it hanging on the fence!  She rushed out of her office and down the corridor, headed for the door.  That’s when she saw Mr. Guenther, the president of the company, coming toward her . . . carrying her jacket over his arm.

Mr. Guenther smiled at her, started to speak, and then stopped.  She could see him mentally matching the pants she was wearing to the jacket over his arm.  Realization and bemusement showed in his eyes — he had found the owner of the jacket.  He held it out to her and just smiled.  She returned the smile, took the jacket, said, “Thank you,” and then turned and walked confidently toward the conference room. 

As he watched her walk away, Mr. Guenther wondered why he had found the jacket of his new Director of Human Resources and Benefits hanging on the fence!  But that question could wait for now.  Phoebe was a young woman for whom he had high hopes.  She would be making a presentation to him and the rest of senior management in just a few minutes, and he had a feeling she would have some great ideas for them.  She just seemed like a great idea person. 

However, he did look forward to asking about the jacket later.  He felt sure there must be an interesting story there.


Booorrrring!

July 31, 2008

This is so boring — and embarrassing!  Standing here in easy view from the road with this silly rubber-tired “girly” wagon hooked up to me instead of some “manly” farm wagon or even just my usual buggy.  What if one of my friends trots by — I’ll never hear the end of this!

This wagon, buggy, Amish bus — whatever you want to call it — looks like something you’d see at an amusement park.  Not that I’ve ever been to one of those.  Oh no, when they want to go somewhere fun like that they have a driver take them in a van!  Suurre, leave ol’ Dobbin at home when you go somewhere interesting!

So, here I am.  Coolin’ my heels wayyy at the back of the Cracker Barrel parking lot, hooked up to this contraption and with nothing to look at but a dumb corn field.  At least if it was oats, I could be dreaming about my next meal!  I even have to turn around to watch the people coming out and getting into their cars.  I really do enjoy people-watching, they are sooo interesting, so I prefer hitching posts that face the parking lot, in case anybody’s taking notes!

Wait a minute.  Why’s that car stopping right behind me?  A lady’s getting out.  What’s that in her hand.  Too much to hope for that it’s an apple — or a fly swatter!  The flies are pretty bad today.  It’s a camera!  She’s taking my picture!  Well, that’s nice.  Since Amos and Anna and the others don’t like to have their picture taken, I don’t get my picture taken very often either, and I have noooo problem posing for a picture.

Here, lady.  Let me give you my glamour pose!  Does standing up on this curb make me look taller, and give a nice slimming arch to my back? 

Well, there she goes.  I don’t have much hope that she got a good shot of me.  She didn’t act like she knew what the heck she was doing with that camera.  

Oh, well.  I wish my people would hurry.  I’m tired of looking at corn.  I’m ready to go home for some nice, tasty oats, and to get rid of this rubber-tired sissy-mobile!

(And when “the lady” get’s better at Photoshop, she’ll take the poop out of a picture like this!  Oh, well.  As Pioneer Woman says, “Let’s keep it real.”)


A Fishing Story

July 20, 2008

 I had to write three short stories for my fiction writing class.  Two that I wrote were meant to be funny.  This one was my attempt at writing something serious.  This idea for a story has been floating around in my head for several years, so I was glad to get it down on paper.  However, it wasn’t as well received by my classmates as the funny stories were, so maybe I should stick to humor.

 

A Fishing Story

 

Allen’s last memory was of lying on the lumpy twin bed in his efficiency apartment, watching a ballgame on the little black and white TV, while drinking shots of whiskey – lots and lots of shots. 

 

But now, even with his eyes closed, he knew he wasn’t there anymore.  He could tell he was lying on the ground outdoors.  He could feel the uneven earth and twigs and grass under him, and the smell of damp vegetation was strong. 

 

Allen cautiously pried his matter-crusted eyes open.  It took them a minute to focus.  But when they did, he realized he was lying on the ground in the middle of a woods.  As he carefully moved his aching head, he could see nothing but trees in every direction.  How had he gotten here? 

 

Had there been an accident?  Had he driven his car blasted again?  After the last time, when he had almost hit a jogger, he had promised himself he would never drink and then drive again.  But, apparently he had; how else could he have gotten here?

 

He slowly pushed himself to a sitting position. His eyes came into sharper focus, and his headache even began to go away.  Well, if he had been in an accident, it didn’t feel like he’d been hurt.  He slowly got to his feet and checked himself out – he couldn’t see any cuts or scrapes.  In fact, he was feeling stronger by the minute.  He was surprised that he suddenly felt better than he had in weeks.

 

So, if he’d had an accident, where was his car?  He stood perfectly still, and listened to see if he could hear any sounds of cars on a nearby road.  He didn’t hear any road sounds, but he did realize there was a sound of rushing water.  He must be near the river close to the house!  He had taken the kids there many times to fish, when he’d still lived at home. 

 

In his drunken stupor, had he automatically headed for “home?”  “Huh, that’s pathetic,” he said out loud and shook his head.  Marla had made it very clear that he wasn’t welcome there any more, or at least, as she had shouted that last day, “until you grow up and act like a responsible husband and father!”  Well, “old habits die hard,” so maybe he had automatically headed for the place his heart still called home.

 

Allen looked around again.  He didn’t recognize this part of the woods, so he started walking toward the river.  He would get his bearings from there.

 

As he walked, the sound of the water grew louder and he thought he could hear voices.  Maybe someone there could give him a ride.

 

Shortly, he came out of the woods at the river, but it wasn’t the familiar river he had expected.  In fact, it was unlike any river he had ever seen before.  All he could do was just stand there and take in the scene before him.

 

A large, powerfully-built man stood on the bank methodically casting a line into the rough, fast-moving waters, not appearing distracted by the spray from the churning water, the roar of the falls just a few yards away or the din of voices.  Several men stood silently behind the fisherman watching expectantly.

 

Suddenly, a strange sensation came over Allen.  He began experiencing thoughts and feelings that weren’t his own, and he knew somehow with certainty that they were coming from the fisherman.  He could suddenly feel the single-minded sense of urgency that the fisherman was feeling.

 

Allen thought, “He knows how important his task is to the people.  He is the only one who is equipped to do the fishing.  He must do it as fast as he can, before the catch is lost over the falls.” 

 

It was obvious the fisherman was an expert; he wasted no motion.  But, even when a cast was straight and true, many times the line came back empty.  When that happened, Allen could feel the fisherman’s feelings of regret and sadness.

 

Allen “knew” as if he’d been told, “There were so many.  If only he could catch them all, but the fisherman knew he couldn’t.  But, he would never waiver in his resolve to catch as many as he could – the people were depending on him.”

 

As Allen walked closer he realized the voices he had heard were coming from the water!  He stared in awe – it was filled with people, many of them seemingly oblivious to the falls they were being swept toward, and the certainty of death.  Over there, some young girls were actually chatting and enjoying themselves, as if they were taking an afternoon swim, totally ignoring the fisherman.  There, a grumpy-looking older man was so busy criticizing everyone around him, “Quit pushing! Get out of my way!  Keep your voices down!” so that he didn’t even see the lifeline when it was thrown in his direction.   A man Allen recognized as an Olympic swimming champion saw the lifeline but swam away from it toward the falls, depending on his own strength to survive.  There were many who were striving for the lifeline, but some of them lost interest and swam away without grabbing it. 

 

Over and over the fisherman would throw the lifeline, unerringly, near one of the people and if they grabbed hold, he would quickly pull that one in, and the men standing behind him would welcome them and wrap them in a warm, beautiful white robe.  Then that person would join the group gathered behind the men that Allen now saw was a huge throng of white-robed people – men, women and children – of every age, color and nationality, all praying and singing songs of praise, and watching expectantly for the next “catch” to join them.  The glow from so many assembled white robes hurt Allen’s eyes it was so bright, and the songs they sang were the most beautiful he had ever heard.

 

He suddenly understood.  He knew this Fisherman.  He was the “Fisher of Men” Allen had learned about in Sunday school.  But, why was Allen seeing and feeling all this?  Was he dead?  Was this Heaven?  If he was in Heaven, why didn’t he have a white robe and why wasn’t he part of the singing throng?

 

He turned back toward the river and looked at the people in the water again, and he realized that he knew many of the people there.  There was Aunt Millie, there was Dr. Bateman, there, there was — his family!  He watched with tears in his eyes as the Fisherman pulled Marla and then James and then Maddy to shore.  Allen was overwhelmed with feelings of thankfulness and joy that his family was all saved.

 

At that moment, for the first time, the Fisherman turned and looked Allen directly in the eye.  He didn’t say anything, but Allen felt a powerful emotion in those eyes specifically involving him.  Was it regret or was it relief?  He couldn’t tell.  Then the Fisherman turned back to his task. 

 

Next the Fisherman threw the line to a man struggling to stay afloat.    The rushing water swept him closer.  Now Allen could see the face – it was him!  The Fisherman cast the lifeline toward the thrashing man.  At first, he didn’t see it.  Then he saw it, but he seemed confused and unsure whether to grab it or not. He was going to miss it! Allen wanted to yell, “Grab the lifeline!  Grab hold – it’s your only chance – don’t you see the falls?”  But he couldn’t make a sound.  All he could do was watch helplessly.  And then, at the last possible second, he saw himself reach up toward the lifeline.  He could feel the muscles in his arms stretching to reach the line — but he was almost past it, in a second it would be out of reach! He tried stretching even harder one more time – he could feel every muscle in his body painfully straining, trying to reach the lifeline before he was swept over the falls.  Just a few more inches — reach! – reach!  And then . . . .

 

Allen awoke with a start.  He was bathed in cold sweat.  He had spilled the rest of whiskey on the tattered, thin blanket on the bed, so there was a nauseatingly sweet smell of sweat mixed with booze.  The ball game must be over; an infomercial was on now.  And then he was shocked when he looked at the travel clock on the wobbly little table and it said 5:36 a.m.!  It was morning!  He must have passed out and slept through the night.  It had been a dream. Thank you, God, it had been a dream.

 

He jumped up and grabbed the phone.  He knew Marla and the kids would be sleeping, but he was filled with such a powerful need to talk to them and care for them and love them that he couldn’t wait to call – he had to do it now!

 

Marla answered on the third ring.  Hello,” she whispered in her husky, just woke up, voice.

 

“Marla, it’s Allen.  I’m sorry to call so early but I have to talk to you right away.”

 

Marla was instantly, fully awake.  “Allen, what’s the matter?  What’s wrong?  Has something happened to you?”

 

Allen said, “No, Marla.  Nothing’s wrong.  In fact, I feel really good.  And, before you ask, no, I’m not drunk.  I have something really important to tell you.  Can I please come over?” 

 

Silence.

 

“Marla, please listen.  I finally feel like I can give up my ‘whiskey crutch’ and, if you’ll give me another chance, I know now I’m ready to be the husband and father you and the kids deserve.” 

 

Still silence; and then, a sound of teary, uneven breathing.

 

Softly, “Marla?”

 

Marla cleared her throat and regained her composure, “Allen, I can’t tell you how much I want to believe those words.  How many times I have prayed for you to say those words.  But, I’m so afraid to hope.  Please don’t say them if you don’t really mean them.”

 

“Mar, I mean them with all my heart.  I suddenly feel an overwhelming need to heal my relationships — with you and the kids, and with God.  If you will take me on as a ‘project’ just one more time, I promise I’ll work and love and pray and appreciate with every fiber in my body.

 

Again, there was silence.  Maybe it was too late.  Maybe he had tested Marla’s love one too many times. 

 

Finally, Marla said, with a first glimmer of hope in her voice, “Okay.  Come for lunch.  The kids will be at your mom’s, so we can talk.  I will not give them false hope before we’ve talked this out.  If you’re going to come home, I want it to be for good.  They need their daddy so bad, but I don’t want them just to have you back for a little while – it has to be all or nothing.”

 

Relief and hope flooded Allen.  “That’s what I want too, Marla.  I’ll be there at noon.  Good-bye. . . . Wait!  Just one more thing.  Marla, even through all this, I never stopped loving you.  Do you believe me?”

 

“Yes, even with all that’s happened, I’ve always known you love me, and I’ve always loved you.  And, it’s only because I know that that I think there might be hope for us.  We’ll talk when you get here, Allen.”

 

 “Okay, I’ll be there.  Oh, and, Marla, let’s take a walk down by the river after lunch, okay?   I have a fishing story I’d like to tell you.” 

 

 

 


A Waiting Murder

May 4, 2008

They watched in silence, by design blending with their surroundings, unnoticed by the passing motorists.  They were waiting for the perfect time to make their move.

It was early in the day and there was a steady flow of traffic — too much activity for them to do anything but watch — too dangerous now.  But, they were patient.  Their time would come.

And then, when the sun was high in the sky, the traffic gradually stopped and they were alone with their prey.

The murder of crows swooped down from the high branches of the trees where they had been waiting and had their mid-day meal of road kill, in leisure.  They would be safely back in the trees before the going-home traffic on the road started (and, with any luck, supplied another meal!). 

Inspired by a conversation I had with “multi-pierced and tatooed girl”  who sits next to me in my writing class.  She gave me her latest story to read called, “The Murder.”  It involved “a flock” of crows that she told me are sometimes called “a murder.”


A Road Trip and Killer Clowns!

April 9, 2008

Nikki (14) and Jay (13) are here for their Spring Break this week.  Last Sunday we met their mom half-way to pick them up.  Five hours down just Hubby and me, lunch with DIL and kids, five hours home with the kids.

So, on the way home, after we had exhausted all our normal ways of killing time, i.e., sleeping and some of the road games I’ve told you about before, I suggested something new!

I suggested we do a “group story” like DD and I did (see subject “Pure Fiction” at right).  I gave the starting point as, “There were four people sitting in a diner in a small town, and one of them said, ‘Do you know what I heard?'”  Each of us then took turns adding to the story and ending our part with an “and then . . . ” or “but what they didn’t know was . . .” that the next person had to use to continue from.

To summarize the story we “built”:  It turns out what he heard was that there was something mysterious going on at the old, run-down amusement park outside of town.  They went there, where they met a nice clown who lead them into the house of mirrors, where they got lost and then were attacked by the “nice” clown and his “gang” of clowns with weapons. 

One of the four lost both arms, so they called him Stubby from then on.  They finally made their escape in little pedal cars that the clowns ride in the circus, but when the clowns gave chase, they decided they couldn’t outrun the “killer clowns” and were going to die anyway, so they turned around and charged the clowns.  They killed the killer clowns by running over them with the pedal cars.  (What’s a “little” chain saw when it’s up against a “powerful” pedal car, right?)  Hubby said the morale of the story was, “If you have to stop pedaling, at least kill a clown.”

Not John Grisham material, but we had a ball doing it.  I have given both the kids the challenge of coming up with scenarios that will start stories we can do when we drive them back on Friday!

Have I mentioned?  I LOVE grandkids!