‘QUENTON’S HONOR’ – Now Available on Amazon

QUENTON FRONT COVER -- NICE AND SHARP FROM CD FOR KINDLE - croppedWhat happens when twenty-first century technology comes face to face with the most powerful force the human race has ever known? Find out in this story of intrigue, romance, courage, and faith:  QUENTON’S HONOR.

A man’s love for his country; a man’s love for a woman.

Securing a nation; capturing a heart.

It’s a story of patriotism.  It’s a love story.  It’s a story of one man’s journey to God.

American industrial magnate Quenton Sutherland’s efforts at humanitarian aid carry him on a fact-finding tour into the Middle-Eastern hotbed of war-torn Pakistan. While there, he uncovers a terrorist plot involving three cells already poised for attack back in the U.S. Before he can foil their plan, he is taken hostage to prevent his exposing their plot.

In the days that follow, Quenton comes face-to-face with his need for the God he abandoned decades before — while he, along with investigative journalist Honor Fairfield, and the Department of Homeland Security, begin an ever-twisting adventure and discover life-changing connections that none of them could have foreseen.

I wrote this book years ago, and it was first published in 2004. But this is the first time its been offered in paperback through Amazon. I still love the story. Even though I’m the author, the story still makes me cry in all the right places, makes my heart beat faster with each embrace of the lovers, and thrills my soul when the characters encounter a God whose love is focused on blessing them every step of the way on this journey.

The story has been called a cross between ‘You’ve God Mail’ and ‘Song of Solomon.’ I don’t know about that, but I do know amazing things — even spiritual things — can happen through the wonders of computer technology and in the world of cyberspace. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

Get your copy in paperback or digital here.
The E-book is on sale for $1.99 through June.

You can read a short sample at this link, but bear in mind that Amazon’s samples on the product page are sometimes a little screwed up. Hopefully, you’ll at least get enough of the text to make a decision on whether the story’s for you or not.



 

Encouraging Love Story — On Sale for Valentine’s Month

JONAH'S SONG AMAZON COVER - FRONTDon’t forget about the big sale on JONAH’S SONG.

This 4th book in The Smoky Mountain Series is a beautiful, memorable love story. Although it’s book # 4 in the series, it also stands alone as a complete and inspiring story. In fact, all the novels in this series are equally capable of standing alone without the other stories.

Special prices through Valentine’s Day!

E-Book —- $1.99

Paperback — $7.99

To read some excerpts from the story, you can visit this post.

Find the book in both formats on Amazon.



 

It’s February – and Time for a Great Love Story

VALENTINE SPECIAL:  February 1 — February 14 

E-Book: $1.99

Paperback: $7.99


JONAH'S SONG AMAZON COVER - FRONT

What do the Biblical story of Ruth and the 21st-century novel, Jonah’s Song, have in common? Well you’ll have to read both stories to find out. Of course most people know the basic story of Ruth, so that leaves just one story left to read.

I’ll give you a hint: Ruth’s story has an important lesson that Jonah McDaniels and Valentina Rosswell (the novel’s hero and heroine) need to study and take to heart if their own love story has a chance at a happy ending.

Actually, even the Lord has His hands full trying to work things out for these two lovers. That’s why He had to take advantage of Ruth and Boaz along the way. If we stretched our imagination just a little, we might even say that by making sure the story of Ruth was included in the Bible, the Lord sort of “planned ahead” for when He’d need it as a teaching tool.

If you’re a true romantic – and enjoy the tingle of a touch – and a tear now and then – and catching your breath at the passion of a kiss – and using God’s Word to work out life’s problems – this story is definitely for you.

Although Jonah’s Song is the 4th book in the Smoky Mountain Series, it — like all the books in that series — can stand alone as a complete story.  Although many of the characters progress from story to story, readers will not be confused or disappointed in any way by reading one book before the other.

This book makes a great Valentine’s Day gift for your sweetie.

I’ll include some brief excerpts below, and here’s the link to find JONAH’S SONG and place your order – for yourself – or for the one you love.


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 1-4

Valentina’s aquamarine eyes popped wide open. She sat bolt upright, her heart beating erratically, as she looked around her at her bedroom, realization dawning on her. She let out a gusty sigh. “Oh! … I knew it was too good to be true!” She sighed once more. She’d been dreaming — again — about Professor Jonah McDaniels — again!

She fell back against her pillows once more, running her hands through her long, loosely curled hair. As she felt it flow between her fingers, she recalled the scene from her dream where Jonah had buried his hand in her hair. She closed her eyes, wanting to relive the whole dream and hold onto it as long as possible.

Jonah had been standing a couple feet away from her, his conductor’s baton in his hand, his eyes burning with his feelings. Finally, he laid down the baton closed the gap between them and took her, somewhat roughly, into his arms.

Valentina swallowed, trying to get back the breath his sudden embrace had stolen. Her heart beat wildly as his eyes moved to her lips. Without conscious thought, she glanced down to his mouth, his full, sculptured lips – one of the first two things she had noticed about him the day she’d met him – the other being his deep violet eyes . . .

The exhilarating scent of his cologne sent her senses whirling, and the warmth of his breath as he brought his face close to hers was so sweet she couldn’t resist closing her eyes. Her lips were parted slightly, her breath almost suspended, and as his mouth reached hers, his lips were bold and strong as they molded hers to his own. Everything in her melted as she gave herself up to this kiss she’d wanted for so long, but had never dared hope for.

He deepened the kiss, and she clung to him. When he finally pulled back for a moment, she uttered his name, once, breathlessly. “Jonah.”

“Hey, Vallie!” That shout came from Katey, one of the two girls Valentina shared the apartment with, and it was coupled with a pounding on Valentina’s bedroom door. So much for wallowing in her dream. “You’d better get a move on if you don’t want to be late for rehearsal. You know what Dr. McDaniels will say if you walk in late.”

“Oh, no!” Vallie had forgotten about the string ensemble’s rehearsal this morning. Just the thing she didn’t need: facing Dr. McDaniels right after that dream. . . .

She stood in front of her mirror in her pajamas. It was time for the lecture again. She looked at her reflection sternly, and pointed her finger at the mirror. “This is just your junior year, Valentina Rosswell. You still have three months left of this year and your whole senior year to go. And next year is going to be full of performances, a good many of them with Dr. Jonah McDaniels conducting. Do you want to end up making a total fool of yourself? … Now, you go out there and act like the musician that you are! You treat this Dr. McDaniels like any other stuffy, old college professor.”

Suddenly she was picturing him dressed in a baggy sweater, the lower part of his face covered with a beard, his hair gray and in total disarray. She shook her head and sighed loudly. Even like that he looked good enough to melt her bones.


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 213-215

She let out a long sigh, looking toward the windows herself.  “It’s a gorgeous evening out, isn’t it?”

He glanced back to the windows now, noticing that night was making rapid advances, twice as many stars showing up now as when he had been standing there looking out.  “Yes, one of the loveliest we’ve had.”  He turned back to face Vallie.  The light in the room was dim, but he could see Vallie’s face quite well since they were standing so close.  Her eyes were luminous, and he couldn’t resist the magnetism in them.

He stepped closer and spoke in barely more than a whisper.  “But not even such an evening can compare with your loveliness, Valentina.”  As he spoke, he slowly lifted his hand and touched the tips of his fingers to her cheek, gently gliding them along her skin.  He felt her tremble slightly at his touch.  “You’re so very beautiful, you know.”

She shook her head, a barely perceptible move, as if to say that she hadn’t known.

“Oh … yes,” he replied, still in that quiet voice.  “Indeed you are … and not just beautiful to look at … but equally as beautiful to know.”  Not actually conscious of what he was doing, he moved his forefinger gently to her mouth and began to trace the outline of her sensuous lips, his own beautifully sculptured mouth opening slightly as if in anticipation of what he wanted to do next.

Valentina held her breath.  She could hardly believe what she was experiencing and wondered fleetingly if she were dreaming again, because she knew that Jonah McDaniels wanted to kiss her — was moving toward her even now to do so.  His face was only inches away from hers now, and she could feel the sweet warmth of his breath against her skin.  Oh, this was exactly the way she’d dreamed it again and again.  Oh, please, don’t let me wake up yet, she thought, as her eyelids drifted closed of their own volition.

Suddenly, she felt space between them and without opening her eyes, knew that he had drawn away and even taken a step back.  She did open her eyes then, looking at him with the confusion she felt showing plainly on her face.  But she hurried to camouflage it, embarrassed enough that he obviously knew she had expected to be kissed, and he, evidently, had changed his mind.  This was no dream, but it had ended just as unhappily as all of those dreams had.  She dipped her head slightly, focusing on the floor for a moment to try to collect her thoughts.  All she knew at this moment was that she wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible.

“Well,” she said, needing to clear her throat to go on.  “I guess I’d better be getting back.” She looked right at him for just a moment and somehow mustered up a small smile.  “I hope you get all your problems worked out.”

He shoved both of his hands in his pants pockets and glanced down at the floor momentarily.  Then he looked back at her with a rather grim smile that she could barely see in the gathering darkness of the room.  “I’m afraid that isn’t too likely, Valentina.  Not every problem has a solution, you know.  … Some of them just have to be endured with as much grace as possible.”

“I … I’m sorry, Jonah.  … I wish … I wish I could help somehow.”

He laughed out loud then, but it was a bitter laugh, and he choked it off quickly and looked into her eyes. When he spoke, it was so quietly she had to strain to hear the words clearly.  “Go home, Valentina.”


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 237-239

Cameron paused, looking at his brother, who walked back to his chair, but only leaned on the back of it.  “I think Vallie loves you, and personally, I think your love is exactly what she needs … and wants.”

“Then why don’t I feel that way about it too?”

“Because you’re letting your head rule instead of your heart.  You know, God uses our hearts to lead us into His will much more often that He does our heads, Jonah.”

Jonah stood there with his elbows resting on the back of the chair, looking at his hands clasped in front of him.  “It’s interesting you should say that.  A few nights ago, when I was really wrestling with all this, I picked up my Bible and just opened to wherever, and the first passage I read was from Proverbs three.  The fifth verse says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

“That’s it, Jonah.  You’ve been leaning heavily on your own reasoning about this thing and not on your heart at all from what I can see.  You’ve served God faithfully all of your life.  Surely you can trust that He has a strong enough hold on you by now to lead you where He wants you. And to keep you from taking wrong turns. If something – the same something – keeps showing up strongly and consistently in your heart, and it’s something that doesn’t go against God’s Word, then it’s most likely the Lord Who planted it in your heart in the first place.” . . .

. . .   Jonah took his seat in the chair again as Cameron continued: “What you have to offer may be the very things that Valentina needs most in a husband.  You need to at least give the Lord … and Valentina … the opportunity to put in their two cents worth, rather than just deciding everything in your own finite mind.”

Jonah grinned at his brother’s bluntness, but then he sighed and leaned his head back against the chair, closing his eyes.  After several minutes, he spoke softly.  “I composed a song to her, did I tell you?”

“No.  When was this?”

“A couple of weeks ago.  I was so close to drowning in all that I was feeling for her … and wanting from her…  that I just picked up the violin and began to play it out.  After I’d played it several times, I decided I needed to get it written down so I wouldn’t lose it.”  He laughed lightly.  “As if I could lose it. … It‘s as much a part of me as my breath.”

Cameron looked at his brother, whose eyes were still closed.  His heart swelled with pride in this older brother who was able to create such beauty with his gifts.  How like Jonah to release the love he felt in the creation of a beautiful piece of music that millions of people could one day share and enjoy.

“Have you played it for her?” he asked now.

Jonah opened his eyes and looked at Cameron.  “No, I haven’t.  … And I don’t think I ever intended to.”

“Then you’re an idiot.”

Jonah’s eyes widened.  His brother had never spoken to him that way before, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.  “You sound pretty convinced.”

“I am.  …


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp.275-279

On the night of October 20th, which was supposed to have been her wedding night,  Vallie couldn’t get to sleep, so she finally got up and went into her parents’ living room and sat down on the sofa, curling up into the corner, trying to think of some way to get her mind off Jonah and how she ached for him.  She huddled there, hurting, but trying not to cry anymore.  But all her efforts were in vain, because the tears slipped out anyway, and as the pain insisted on pulsing through her, the sobs started again.  She had tried to be as quiet as possible, but her father had heard her go downstairs, and then he heard her sobbing again, and decided it was time his little girl’s daddy did something to change things … somehow.

He slipped out of bed and put on his robe as quietly as possible so as not to wake his wife.  He knew she was hurting almost as much as Valentina herself — just because mothers who really loved their daughters did that — and he slipped downstairs.  He turned on one of the table lamps before he sat down beside Valentina and put his arm around her, calling her by his pet name for her.

“Hey, now, Valentine, it’s time you listened to your daddy and listened good,” he said, handing her a handful of tissues and giving her a little shake with the arm he had around her.

Vallie took the tissues and began to blow her nose and wipe her eyes, even though a river of tears still streamed down her face.  “I … I’m sorry I woke you, Daddy.  Did I wake Mom too?”

He shook his head.  “No, she’s still asleep.  And you don’t have anything to be sorry about, Valentine.  You’re hurting … hurting badly … and that’s what family’s for … to help ease the hurt.  Or if we can’t ease it … then we can at least be there to hurt with you until the Lord eases it.”

Vallie gave him a watery smile at those words and leaned her head on his shoulder for a minute.  “Oh, Daddy, I don’t think there is any way to ease this hurt.  It just goes so deep … and it seems so final.”

He pulled back a little so that she raised her head and looked at him.  “Now you listen to me, little girl, there’s nothing final about any of this,” he said sternly, pointing his finger at her.  “This whole thing isn’t over by any means, and I don’t want you giving up and believing it is.”

“What do you mean,” she asked, still wiping every other minute at her nose and eyes.

“I mean just what I say.  So your man went back to Chicago saying he wasn’t going to let you be tied to him when he’d just be a burden to you.  Does that mean everything’s over?”  He shook his head, and continued. “You’ve got to understand that a man just feels like he has to do that … he has to protect the woman he loves from suffering if at all possible, and that’s what Jonah thinks he’s doing.  Plus the fact that his stubborn male ego can’t stand to think that he might have to be really dependent on you for something he feels he has to do for himself. All of that’s just part of a man’s make-up, Valentine.

“But, little girl, that’s just the first phase of what Jonah’s going through. He’s going to come to a time when that ego isn’t going to be as strong … or as stubborn. It’s not going to be enough to pull him through the loneliness and the terrible need he’ll be feeling without you.  Now, if he’d never allowed himself to open up to the truth that he loves you and wants a future with you, he might have been able to go on for the rest of his life at least halfway satisfied with his life without you in it. But not anymore. Now that he’s admitted to himself that he loves you and needs you to make his life complete, there’s no going back.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Oh, I don’t just believe it, Valentine. I know it. I’m a man myself, you know,” he said, grinning at her now.

Vallie grinned back.

“Now … here’s the thing, Valentine.  When your man finally comes to the place that pride and ego aren’t enough to keep him going forward in this decision he’s made, the only thing left will be his feeling that he still has to protect you.  And that’s where you have a chance to turn this thing around.  When that time comes, he’ll be vulnerable enough that you’ll have a chance to convince him that instead of protecting you, he’s only hurting you, and that you’d rather be with him in his handicap than to be without him the rest of your life … that is,” he said, pausing to look right into her eyes … “if that is the way you feel about it.”

“That’s exactly the way I feel about it. I couldn’t have put my feelings into better words myself.”

“Well, then, I’d say you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

“Exactly what are you trying to say, Daddy?”

“Well … I don’t think it’s for me to tell you exactly what you ought to do, but I’ll tell you this.  Yesterday, in my quiet time with the Lord, I opened my Bible up to the book of Ruth and began to read.  I hadn’t read that book in a long time, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.  And as I read through those chapters, I couldn’t help thinking about you from time to time … I guess because it’s kind of a love story, you know, and Boaz is considerably older than Ruth, and so on.  But … anyway … I noticed one thing in particular that stood out to me more than it ever had before.” . . .


All excerpts from Jonah’s Song. Copyright © 2005 by Sandra Pavloff Conner

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You’ll Never Look at Halloween the Same Way Again


DIGITAL VERSION ON SALE THROUGH THE END OF OCTOBER:  $1.99

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RACING FINAL AMAZON COVER - front

RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT

What’s it about?
When a small coastal town is invaded by witchcraft that threatens the lives of the school children and the future of the entire community, the citizens must learn to fight back with a Higher Power. Follow the story as God’s human vessels take their authority in the name of Jesus while the angelic hosts route the demonic forces on the spiritual plane in response to believers enforcing the Word of God. Read it, and you’ll never look at Halloween the same way again.
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Click the link at the top to find out more about the story and purchase your copy.
∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞



Free E-Book — today through September 9

SET FREE - AMAZON FRONT COVER

Do you prefer reading books digitally? Well, then this offer is for you. SET FREE TO LOVE, which is Book # 1 in The Smoky Mountain Series, is available for the next four days absolutely free in digital format.

The book normally sells for $3.99, but since Amazon and I are focusing on The Smoky Mountain Series promotions this month, we’re offering the first book free — for the next 4 days only.

Also, if you don’t own a Kindle device, you can download a free Kindle app for any device that you use. You’ll find the download on the same page where you order the book.

If you enjoy inspirational fiction, I hope you’ll check out Private Detective Maddison Holt’s story in SET FREE TO LOVE. Click on the title to link to the product page for a description and to make your purchase.


 

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Inspirational Romance Goes To School

When there’s no textbook on love, romance can be a little tricky. But God, who’s the original Author of romance, has all the answers in His own book. And Professor Ephraim Kent is about to get an education with a higher degree than he’s ever earned before.
Purchase your own copy in paperback or digital:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980587361

 

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Why I Wrote ‘The Smoky Mountain Novel Series’

 


My love affair with the Smoky Mountains began when I was still a very young child. Except for a two-year stint in Fort Wayne, IN, my years between infancy and first grade were spent in Southern Illinois. And all of our family travels took us into the northeastern sections of the country. But when I was six, my family traveled south for the first time. On our way to South Carolina, we passed through Tennessee, and I came face to face with the homeland of my Cherokee ancestors: the Appalachian Mountains – and specifically the area known by that time as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I remember two specific things about those mountains. In one sense they were a little frightening to a six-year old. Highways were not what they are now, and the less developed highways ran in among those mountains with a little more drama than they do today. The inclines were exceptionally steep in places, with warning signs everywhere about making sure autos were in lowest gear and with stories rampant about “runaway” semis going down those inclines. I remember coming around curves more than once where the road looked as though it would literally lead straight into the mountain. It was a little overwhelming in one way, but it was also tremendously exciting as well. The second thing that struck me was that within these mountains and their foothill regions dwelt people of a different culture and attitude toward life. It wasn’t just the Cherokee people who exhibited that difference. It was virtually all the people who called that place home.

That particular trip touched, not just me, but also my parents. They fell in love with Tennessee and decided that they wanted to live there. When an opportunity came to do so – through a job opening in Nashville, TN – my parents jumped at it. Nashville wasn’t in the mountains, of course, but it was a lot closer. I can honestly say that I have never lived any place that was so special to me as Nashville, Tennessee. I fell in love again – with the city of Nashville and the whole state of Tennessee.

In the years following, my family and I made many trips into the Smoky Mountains. We saw the Park and the surrounding towns change considerably during that time, but the area never lost its unique culture. And having a strong Cherokee heritage in my own life, the older I got the more I wanted to know and be known by the people who had given me my great grandmother. My immediate family and I eventually moved back to Illinois, but we have never stopped visiting the Smoky Mountains.

I’ve wondered sometimes if there’s something in my own blood that calls me home to the Smokies. I don’t recall ever visiting any other place –  or even living in any other place – that kept pulling me to come back to it the way the Smokies do — or where I felt so much as if I were “home” each time I visited. Over more recent decades, I’ve tried to maneuver some things in my live and work out a way to have my work and my everyday life in the midst of that area of the country. But the Lord has kept opening doors to the ministry He wants me to do in other areas instead. So those other areas remain my world of everyday life. And, alas, I am still relegated to making visits to my mountains.

But those visits, over the years, have gleaned me an entire family of wonderful characters who do get to live and love and work and play right in the midst of the Smokies. So I’ll have to settle for that. When writing the books in The Smoky Mountain Series, I’ve lived there with them and enjoyed being “home” for all those months. There’s one more book to come, so I’ll continue that enjoyment as I write Book 5: This Fire In My Heart.  I’m grateful that, through these books, I can truly live in two worlds at the same time.

My heart’s telling me that it’s time I worked things out in my schedule to make another trip to that place that’s the next best thing to Heaven. In fact, on my most recent trip to the Smokies, I picked up a little magnet for my refrigerator door that says, “Heaven’s a little closer in the mountains.”  Ahhh, YES, INDEED, IT IS!


If you’d like to read the series, you’ll find the first 4 books in paperback and digital HERE.

 

 


 

Audio Short Stories — My Newest Project

Do you enjoy just sitting back and listening to stories? Then you’ll enjoy my newest project: Audio Short Stories. You’ll find the first story on YouTube now. I’ll make it really easy for you and insert it right here, but if you like it, hop over to the YouTube site so you can click the “thumbs up” symbol and subscribe to my channel so you’ll know when I post the next story in the project.

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From the Christmas Story Archives

Been going through my Christmas story archives and pulled this one out for today.


 

THE SIDEWALK

SIDEWALK BROWN STONE“Well, what’a ya know,” Ben whispered, grinning, seeing his breath form vapors on the Christmas air. “Who would have thought it would be the brick sidewalk?”

He sighed. In one unexpected instant – as his feet had tread the bricks of this dear old sidewalk that had run the length of Main Street all his life – it had happened. He knew for sure the place he’d returned to was still ‘home.’

Just yesterday he’d been dreading coming back – as he had been for a week – from the time the doctors had told him he was almost well enough to make the trip. He knew for sure how much he had changed, and he couldn’t shake the deep, gut-wrenching fear that the whole world had changed as well – including the little town nestled at the foot of the mountains in Montana. He’d grown up here, played high school basketball, and dated the girl from three houses down the street until she’d decided to elope with the captain of the basketball team.

He had to chuckle to himself when he remembered how devastated he’d felt back then. It had been his first serious relationship with a girl, but in hindsight, he realized that he hadn’t really been in love – just fascinated with the boy-girl relationship.

Sometimes when he’d been hunkered down in the trenches, waiting the next command to move out into the threat of enemy fire, he’d started thinking about Allyson, and even though she belonged to someone else now, the memories comforted him. He knew even during those hours that it had nothing to do with Ally or their time together, but it was all about ‘home.’ When he thought of Ally, it took him away from the cold, wet, ugly war he was fighting.

Sometimes he’d remember his mother and could smell again the warm vanilla scent that so often clung to her from her constant baking. He’d conjure up the image of Granddad, sitting with his feet propped in front of the living room fireplace, sweet-scented smoke curling from his pipe. He’d hear again his father’s voice as he read the latest news stories from the paper as the family sat soaking up the security of their home and their quiet life together.

Then, sometimes, when he and his unit were on the move and trekking through secure territory, on their way to the next battlefront, he had remembered walking down that old brick sidewalk – past Old Man Chesterfield’s hardware store, Woolworth’s Five & Dime, the candy and tobacco shop, where he’d bought Ally that huge box of chocolates for the Valentine’s Day they’d celebrated together. There was Mrs. Gallagher’s Boutique next, and then Pansy’s Pancake House. Some days, when his senses were crystal clear, he could nearly taste those light, fluffy concoctions smothered in her special Cherry Cordial Syrup.

When he let his memory take him wherever it willed, he usually ended up thinking about Christmas, and he’d see again the decorations strung the entire length of Main Street, with lights in the windows of every storefront, snowmen standing sentry at almost every corner, and wreaths and holly hanging everywhere. He could almost feel the frost in the air and the festive atmosphere that surrounded shoppers and merchants alike from Thanksgiving to Christmas. And oh those chestnuts! The scent of roasted chestnuts hung over the main business district for two whole weeks before Christmas Day. And often he thought that sweet aroma was his favorite memory of all. Sometimes he swore he could smell those roasted chestnuts even though he was thousands of miles away on foreign soil with no hope of even a warm dinner for that night.

He’d been wishing he could have some of those chestnuts just minutes before the ambush occurred, but then bullets and grenades had killed all thoughts and images of anything but the hell breaking loose in every direction. Those same bullets and grenades had killed twenty of the men in his unit as well. When he’d taken the first hit in his leg and fallen, his best buddy had turned back to help him up. But the bullet that had caught his rescuer in the head had snuffed out his life in seconds, and Ben had taken a second bullet in the chest, blacking out at that point.

Five days later, when he’d regained consciousness in the hospital, he’d found himself hooked to all kinds of tubes and machines. The doctor had been compassionate and kind, assuring him that he was going to make it, but that it would be a month or so before he was fit to leave the hospital. When he’d asked about his unit, the news had been brutal, and he’d found himself so frozen by the grief that he hadn’t even been able to cry.

The day he’d been released and given his extended leave for home, his doctor had been wreathed in smiles. “We’re going to get you back to your family in time for Christmas, Son,” he’d said. And as much as the news brought a spurt of joy to Ben’s heart, it also brought a stab of fear.

He’s made a short journey first to the home of the man who’d been his best friend in combat, the man who’d lost his life trying to save Ben. He’d learned that Rick’s body had been shipped home for burial in the family plot. Ben knew he had to visit that grave and spend some time with Rick’s family before he could get started on the longer journey to his own family. And it was with that family, sitting in Rick’s home, remembering his buddy, that he’d finally been able to let the tears come. With his head on Rick’s mother’s shoulder, and her arms holding him tightly – the way she would never be able to hold her own son – Ben had finally cried out the pain and bitterness and loss.

Eighteen hours later, on the day before Christmas Eve, he boarded the bus that would take him to Montana. He had purposely refrained from letting his family know what bus he was taking. He had to walk out this journey one step at a time – in his own way and in his own timing. He had to find out what kind of world awaited him at the end of this journey, and he had to have the security of facing it on his own terms.

His physical wounds were almost healed, but the wound’s in his soul would be with him forever. And that’s what made him afraid. As long as he didn’t go home, he could always try to tell himself that it was still a place of peace and safety and love and laughter – and that life was still good there. But all the time he sat on the bus, heading to that little town in Montana, he battled with the fear. The questions kept circling through his mind: when he walked down the streets of his old hometown – when he stepped into his mother’s kitchen – when he visited the high school campus – when he sat in the park watching the breeze blow across the lake – when he met with friends in a restaurant –would he find what he’d left behind – or would it all be gone – forced out of existence by the same powers that had changed him forever?

Finally, at the end of the seven hour trip, he stepped off the bus, retrieved his suitcase and stood for a few moments just looking across Main Street at the row of well-remembered businesses – those stores and shops that had filled his dreams and imaginations hours at a time in the rare instances between battles.

Everything glowed with Christmas. It looked the way he would have expected it to look back before he’d had to wade through hatred, filth, and slaughter in another land. But could he relate to this place any longer? Could he ever belong here again? Would it welcome him – would he welcome what he found here now? He slowly walked across Maine and stepped onto the sidewalk that would take him from the north end of town to the south, where his parents lived.

He walked – slowly – hesitantly at first. His eyes caressed the old, worn bricks that stretched out ahead of him the whole two-mile distance of the business district, and he began to realize that each step he took was a familiar experience – the same experience he’d enjoyed for years, day in and day out – those warm brown bricks woven together by expert hands generations ago – just slightly uneven but plenty smooth enough for easy walking.

And every step reassured him. He began to breathe easier now, and as he took a good, deep breath, his nostrils twitched a little. Chestnuts, roasting, in a cart just up the street about two more blocks. He walked with more purpose then, his eyes still caressing the worn, welcoming bricks beneath his feet, stretching out before him invitingly.

Finally, he chuckled out loud. Yep … it was okay. … It was really okay. … He was okay.  And this good old brick friend convinced him — more with every step he took — that home was still everything he needed it to be.

THE END


Thawing The Ice

The following story is an excerpt from my Christmas anthology: STOCKING FULL OF STORIES.  If you’re interested in more stories, you can find the book on Amazon in paperback or digital.


 

ABSTRACT WHITE CHRISTMAS POND-B & WTHAWING THE ICE

Misty laced up her skates and glided smoothly across the ice. It had been more than a year since she’d come to her favorite pond. The trees were stark silhouettes against the deep snow, barren and seemingly useless in this white wilderness. She felt that way herself. The gray world around her matched her gray and barren heart. Words came back to her now from the whispering past.

“You can’t just give up, Misty. Marcus wouldn’t want you to quit skating. He wouldn’t want you to give up the life you’ve always loved.”

She continued to circle the pond, listening to conversations in her head – all from last year. After the accident. “I can’t skate alone. I’m no good by myself. It’s always been Marcus and me together – from the time we were seventeen.”

“But you’re so gifted, dear,” Mother had insisted. “You were skating beautifully long before you even met Marcus. Why, from the time you put on your first pair of skates – remember? – the pink pair you got for Christmas when you were six? – from that very first day, you’ve been a star in the making. All your fans want to see you back out there on the ice.”

Misty had merely hung her head and wept. She new her mother meant well, but she’d never be able to understand. And Misty was glad her mother had never known that kind of loss.

But her family didn’t understand about the fans either. Yes, her own family were her personal fans, but the fans in all the ice rinks around the world hadn’t been hers. They were fans who loved Misty and Marcus – together – “the darling duo” as they’d been dubbed in more than one news story. The fans wanted to see both of them on the ice, not just one lonely girl –  lost now in a world that had been her own kingdom little more than a year ago.

The cold wind bit at her, but she welcomed the pain. It matched the pain in her heart. And she welcomed the gray world she skated in now. It matched the world she lived the rest of her life in with Marcus dead.

So she skated – round and round the pond – one hour – then another. And with each trip around that pond of her childhood came the memories – like warm flashes of sunlight:  the first time she’d skated in her pink skates; the first day she’d invited Marcus to skate with her there; the first competition they’d entered – and won; the grueling hours of practice that both of them had loved.

Gradually, as the happy memories flooded back and thawed the ice that had held her soul in its lonely, gray world for the past year, Misty began to feel alive again. A smile spread across her face and she flung out her arms as if to embrace this precious pond with its stark trees and white emptiness. She found herself skating into routines she’d used before she and Marcus had become a team. And gradually, she found herself adding moves to those routines. They weren’t done consciously. They just flowed from her as naturally as water flows down a hill when a barrier has been removed.

Her heart began to sing. Her body followed suit. And although the pond and all it’s surroundings were still as gray and barren as they’d been when she’d arrived, Misty discovered that she was now skating in sunshine – in the warmth of her love for Marcus and in the fire of the passion she felt for skating. Perhaps her family and friends had been right after all. Perhaps she did still have a life to live and a gift to give to the world from her kingdom on the ice.

 

 

~~~

‘The Decision’ — Short Story by Ted Pavloff

I promised a second story by my dad concerning the WWII years. Unfortunately, lots of other work got in the way of blogging, so I’m behind — well even behinder than usual. But it’s still September, and that means we can still celebrate V-J Day and the end of the war.  So here’s the second story of his that I love.


THE DECISION

It should have been another ordinary day at the Cole farm, but the conventional pattern of activity was abruptly altered when the letter arrived. In effect, a new day was born and Cynthia was making the most of it with an explosive brand of excitement that seemed especially reserved for such an occasion.

Ben, her husband, suddenly found himself being recklessly danced around the simple but spacious kitchen. He did not resist.

“Just think,” Cynthia gleefully exclaimed. “Just think!” Isn’t it wonderful? It’s … it’s unbelievable!’

She released her encircling grasp from around Ben’s waist, raised to tiptoe, and kissed his tanned cheek. Any exhilaration he might have possessed was not outwardly conspicuous and his distant, empty gaze momentarily puzzled Cynthia.

“Honey, cheer up. Don’t you understand what this means? Our problems are over. The farm! … imagine! … the farm! We can’t lose it now! We’ll have enough to pay it off. And you can buy the new tractor and put up the white fence, even round the whole front pasture. And I can have the new refrigerator, and the sewing machine, and…”

She stopped in mid-sentence; she was bewildered, for Ben seemed strangely unimpressed. Cautiously, as if afraid she had possibly made a mistake, Cynthia hurried to the kitchen table, retrieved the letter and began to read quietly, almost inaudibly:

“I regret deeply that I must inform you of this tragedy, for I am sure Charles Romano was a special type of friend. As the court-appointed attorney to carry out the provisions of his will, it gives me a certain amount of pleasure, however, to advise that you have been named heir to all personal cash and securities in the estate. This will amount to approximately fifty-thousand dollars. I would like to set up an appointed with you to fill out the paperwork as soon as possible. I am suggesting that we meet March 22, at 10:00 a. m. here at my office in Chicago (see letterhead for street address and phone number). If those arrangements are convenient for you, please let me know as soon as possible, and we can close this matter with a minimum of delay. Respectfully, James P. Axtell, Attorney-at-law.”

She looked back at Ben, and her voice carried an accent of victory. “I was right; that’s what it says. That’s exactly what it says!”

He had been silent since reading the letter and there was no comment, even now. She moved closer. “Honey, what’s wrong? Is it a sin for a service buddy to will you some money? Why … why I think it’s fine, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. And he probably didn’t have anyone else. That’s it; he probably doesn’t have a family. Honey, you did know this Charles Romano, didn’t you?”

Ben seemed frustrated. He snapped his dusty, dilapidated hat from a chair and nervously fingered the brim. “Yeah, I knew him. That’s why I ain’t gonna take the money. Now I got work to do.” He moved toward the door but Cynthia was suddenly ahead of him and backed solidly against the latch.

“Now I don’t want to hear no more about it!” he said angrily. “I ain’t takin’ the money and I ain’t goin’ to Chicago! And don’t go askin’ me any questions because you won’t understand anyhow. Now lemme out.”

“Honey, listen to me. This is a gift from Heaven. It’s our only chance to have everything we’ve worked for. Nine years we’ve done nothin’ but dream — dream and work. What we gained, we lost during the bad season, and now they’re going to take the farm. Don’t you want to at least save that?’

Her argument seemed futile and she stepped aside. “You can go if you want to, I just thought if you insisted on throwing away our last chance to hold on, I ought to know why.”

Ben was clearly disarmed. He sauntered back to the table, a picture of defeat, replaced his hat on the back rung and dropped his long frame into the crackling wicker chair. He did not want to talk about it, but he realized now that he had made a seemingly foolish decision, and Cynthia was entitled to an explanation.

The few minutes following seemed endless.

“Do you know why this Romano fella is givin’ me this money? I’ll tell you why. Because once, back on Okinawa, I saved his life. Anyway, he thought I did. I wanted him to think that. I wanted all of ‘em to think it. But I didn’t save anybody. I lied. He ain’t givin’ me the money for nothin’ – just because I’m a friend. He thinks I saved his life. Savin’ a life is worth money, but a lie ain’t worth nothin’.

He paused, grappling with his own thoughts, and Cynthia waited.

“They made me do it!” His fists were clenched so tightly the knuckles grew pale. “They made me lie, because they wouldn’t leave me alone. I wasn’t very smart and I didn’t talk very good like most of the other fellas did. From the first day they teased me about it. I didn’t drink liquor, cuss or use dirty words like most of ‘em did, and they teased me about that too. Then they even commenced teasin’ me about readin’ my Bible every night; callin’ me ‘preacher’ and pokin’ fun like that.

“I didn’t want no part of their bad habits but they wouldn’t let me in on any of the good things either because they said I was an awkward farmer and would just mess up things. I used to lay awake nights tryin’ to think up something I could do to make ‘em treat me different, but they kept right on.”

The recollection was obviously painful, and Ben became so agitated he couldn’t sit still. Slowly he paced the width of the room, hands in pockets; then paused before the window and peered intently over the west pasture, now a sickening brown from the drought.

“What about the lie?” Cynthia inquired softly. “Tell me about it, Ben. Tell me everything. It’ll help.”

“It ain’t a good story,” he continued. “It ain’t good at all, but there ain’t no use tryin’ to hide it from you anymore.

“We were on Okinawa, just behind the front line. One day I was just sittin’ there readin’ my Bible. I read it an awful lot over there, more than I ever did before. Every spare minute I got, I read some out of that Bible. Then, all of a sudden, without sayin’ anything, someone grabs it out of my hands. It was Romano. He was a sergeant then and he always liked to bull around some, especially at me.

“He said I was readin’ that stuff too much and he believed that he would keep that Book awhile so I could keep my mind on the war we was tryin’ to win. And besides, right then he said I was supposed to take a ride with him to deliver an important message to the next division post down the line.

“It aggravated me but I didn’t say much except to tell him that I didn’t care, because if he kept the Bible long enough it might do him some good. I don’t reckon it ever did though; he wasn’t the type that the Bible could get to so easy. He tucked it inside his fatigue jacket and I never saw it again.

“We were about a mile or so from where we were goin’ when all of a sudden our jeep just flew out from under us. We’d hit a land mine. I was just scratched and bruised up a little, but the jeep was tore up bad and Romano was layin’ out to the side of the road, knocked out cold.

“Then’s when I got the idea. I was going to be a hero right then. I didn’t want to be the kind of hero that was wrote about in the papers and got medals, but just enough hero to make the fellas think different about me and treat me right.

“I wanted to make it look real good so I exploded all of my grenades and shot up most of my ammunition. I made an awful racket so they could hear me up the line.

“Then I carried Romano in to the post and reported how we were attacked by a Jap patrol, and how Romano was knocked out right off, and how I fought them off and got him back to safety. I didn’t figure Romano knew what happened anyway, so I wasn’t worried about that.

“It worked real good. The post sent a message back to my outfit and they were waitin’ for me … all of ‘em wantin’ to pat me on the back. They sure started treatin’ me different, and for the first time I began to feel real good. I knew I had sinned, but I never did feel too bad about it because all I wanted was to be treated right. Just the same, I asked the Lord to forgive me, and I thought He did, but now I don’t know.

He buried his face in his hands as if completely exhausted. Regaining his composure, he turned to Cynthia. She was silent, but her eyes were warm with pity and understanding, and he began to feel relieved.

In an instant her arms were tight around his neck and he knew she understood.

Foreclosure proceedings were to commence within a week, and Cynthia had finally resigned herself to that fact. She had been holding on for months to her usual, unfaltering faith that something would come along to save the farm. But nothing could happen now, she decided. The miracle had come and gone.

She began the arduous task of convincing Ben that losing the farm would not be so difficult after all, but inwardly she grew increasingly afraid. He was not the same man she had always known. He seemed to dwell in a form of solitary confinement, oblivious to the usual activities that had always drawn his daily attention. His every action became laboriously mechanical, without heart and clearly without hope. Nothing seemed to matter now — nothing but sheer existence alone.

More frightening was Ben’s sudden rebellion against his characteristic faith in God. Quietly — in his usual manner — but openly, as a gesture of defiance, he began to criticize the wisdom of his Creator.

“ ‘The Lord works in wondrous ways, His miracles to perform;’ that’s Scripture,” he told Cynthia, “but I don’t hardly believe it anymore. He gave me a miracle alright, but I also got a conscience that won’t let me use it. It ain’t a just miracle, that’s what. He ain’t got no reason to torture me like He’s doin.”

Three weeks later, a long black sedan had rolled up the drive and nearly reached the circular turn in the front yard before Ben or Cynthia realized a visitor was on the premises.

Ben eased open the screen door and walked onto the porch, Cynthia following. They noticed it simultaneously: “foreign” license plates. Out-of-state people were not usually seen around the farm – except for a few years ago, when an occasional “city farmer” would drive up to deal for Ben’s prize Black Angus cattle. The promising cattle program had been terminated two years ago when the sale of all breeding stock became necessary to meet payments on the farm.

Now, Ben and Cynthia stood there, surveying the stranger as he approached the porch, lugging a briefcase that seemed far out of proportion to his size. He was a small elderly man, dignified in appearance, yet his face reflected a friendly glow.

“Hi folks,” he greeted. “Just had the most wonderful drive of my life. My, what country! Beautiful I call it, beautiful!”

“Not bad,” Ben retorted, “we always liked it.”

The stranger squinted up at the softly swaying trees shading the yard, then scanned the valley sprawling below to his left.

“Beautiful country,” he repeated, “beautiful.”

“I’m wonderin’ if I could help you,” Ben interrupted.

“If you are Mr. Ben Cole, you certainly may. I was assuming you were since a fellow down the road told me this was the house.”

“I am Ben Cole, but if you’re lookin’ for Black Angus I ain’t had any for two years, and —”

“Whatever Black Angus is,” the stranger chuckled, “I’m sure I would enjoy it, but I’m interested in you particularly. My name is Axtell, by the way, John Axtell. I’m a lawyer.”

He spread the opened briefcase on the edge of the porch and withdrew a bulging manila folder.

“I have something here that I believe might be of interest. I mailed a letter to you about three weeks ago but I don’t suppose you received it, so I decided that I had better handle the matter personally.”

Ben moved closer.

“What did you say your name was?”

“John Axtell, A-X-T-E-L-L”

“Well, you might as well go, Mr. Axtell; I ain’t takin’ the money.”

The lawyer was stunned, but he cleverly withheld any expression of surprise.

“So you did receive the letter?” he asked simply.

“I got it.”

“Why didn’t you at least answer?”

“Because I didn’t aim to take the money three weeks ago, just like I ain’t aimin’ to take it now.”

“May I ask, why not?”

“That ain’t none of your business mister, but mainly on account of I didn’t earn it.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Here is a service buddy grateful to you because you once were responsible for saving his life. I know of quite a few people who have been willed fortunes who did a lot less to earn them. I would say giving a man his life is quite an accomplishment.”

“I didn’t save nobody’s life, but that ain’t none of your business either. If you don’t mind, go and leave me alone.”

Cynthia tugged at his arm.

“Honey don’t be rude,” she pleaded. “You don’t have to do nothin’ you don’t want to do, but talk to him nice.”

Axtell thumbed through the folder then removed the check.

“Here is a Cashier’s Check for fifty thousand dollars, made to your order, Mr. Cole. It’s yours without strings.”

“I ain’t takin’ it,” Ben repeated vigorously, “I don’t want it.”

“Alright, if you insist, let’s get technical. You didn’t save the man’s life. So let’s say that it just happened the Bible was inside the jacket, and it just happened the Bible belonged to you.”

“The Bible?”

“The one you were always reading. Mr. Romano told me all about you and your Bible the day I drew up his will. Now let’s get on with the technicalities, and you correct me if I happen to go astray.

“According to Mr. Romano, one day on Okinawa you and he were scheduled to make a dispatch run, and when he finally located you, there you were reading the Bible again. Jokingly, he snapped the Book from you and placed it inside his jacket. Is that right?”

Ben grew apprehensive with the fear that his hoax was not the secret he had thought it to be.

He nodded. “That’s right – so far.”

“Well, just before you reached your destination, your jeep ran over a land mine. Romano didn’t remember anything after that until he regained consciousness aboard a hospital ship where he had been rushed because of a concussion. That’s where a doctor brought in the Bible. It wasn’t in a very readable condition then; a huge, jagged chunk of shrapnel had … well, damaged it. The shrapnel was from the land mine; it had cut through the entire width of the Book and was lodged tight.

“It was the doctor’s opinion that Romano would have died instantly if the Book had not been inside his jacket. I guess you could say it was one case where a Bible literally saved a man’s life.

“Now, Mr. Cole, let’s put two and two together and try to imagine how that jeep ride would have turned out if you and that Bible hadn’t been around.”

Ben stood transfixed, hardly believing what he had heard. Tears were streaming down his cheeks unabated. Although somewhat confused by the strange behavior, Axtell suddenly realized that Ben had reached a new decision.

“Just sign this receipt,” he said, offering a pen.

Ben was barely conscious of Axtell shaking his hand as he departed.

He was barely conscious of standing arm in arm with Cynthia, watching the sedan disappear behind a distant hill.

“He sure does,” Ben finally mumbled, letting out a quiet sigh.

“What?” Cynthia asked in a whisper.

“Work in wondrous ways, His miracles to perform. … He sure does.”

 


Copyright © 1950 Ted Pavloff

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~~~

The Day I Forgot To Hate – by guest author Ted Pavloff

Sunday was V-J Day in the United States, celebrating the end of World War II. In honor of that wonderful time of relief from the trauma and sorrow of war, I’m sharing two short stories set in that time period. The stories are by my father, Ted Pavloff, who is now with the Lord. He may not be here with us any longer, but his stories are still with us, just as alive and as powerful and encouraging as they were when first written. Today, I’m posting the first story, and tomorrow, I’ll post the second.

THE DAY I FORGOT TO HATE

(“Even though the characters and events in this story are fictitious, it was born out of my experiences during combat in the South Pacific Theater during WWII.” —Ted Pavloff)

The gray light of dawn was filtering through the dense leafage when we finally pushed our way out of the heavy undergrowth into the small clearing; Corporal Willmet, PFC Conte, and myself. We three made up one of the frequent patrols to probe the eerie stillness of no-mans-land during the bleak hours of night and early morning.

We had sought out this particular clearing many times before (a queer, growth-free patch, isolated in the midst of solid jungle) to comfortably relax with a cigarette and sort out the results of the current trek.

We were a confident trio, and perhaps our gutsy attitude was justified to a certain degree. Encounters with Japanese patrols and snipers were anything but strange adventure, and the fingers of our hands were not ample to count the number of enemy soldiers we had personally annihilated.

The venomous hatred we shared for the Japanese forged us into a natural combination, and we relished every opportunity to satisfy that bitterness by destroying the enemy. We had come to consider the killing of Japs as a sort of game … a release that made the discomforts of war worthwhile.

The usual mixed sounds of the jungle surrounded us this humid morning as we stretched out on the damp turf. There was little reason to suspect approaching danger, and, carelessly, we dismissed the possibility.

Then it happened. They swept out of the jungle from every side and bayonets were pressing against our stomachs before we could touch our weapons. At first I thought it was a nightmare, and it seemed minutes passed before my mind cleared to the realization that I lay at the mercy of the enemy. I should have been terribly frightened, but whatever measure of fear I might have possessed was totally eclipsed by hate, and I could not detect it.

Desperately I wanted to fight back, but there was small profit in inviting certain death. I ordered my companions to lie motionless and hoped the next few moments would bring the break we would need.

I surveyed the Jap soldiers coldly. They were a poorly clad, hungry looking group and, to my eyes, ripe for the sword. The officer in command was extremely youthful looking and clearly the smallest in stature, but his appearance was deceiving.

His orders poured forth with powerful authority, every word emphasized with vigorous motions of his head and arms. The soldiers reacted instantly, and while three bayonets pinned us in a prone position, the remaining troopers hurriedly appropriated the K-rations in our packs.

Then, with a gesture I considered a mocking insult, the young officer tossed several pieces of Japanese currency at my feet, and turned to rejoin his men. It was at this instant he spotted one of his soldiers who had backed off a few paces, raised his rifle, and carefully aimed at my head. With the agility and speed characteristic of the Japs, the officer threw himself at the would-be killer and dropped him heavily to the ground. The hapless offender suffered several solid lashes across his face before he was finally permitted to join his comrades in a hasty retreat from the clearing.

Obviously pleased over the successful display of his prowess, the officer bowed courteously and smiled, then saluted a farewell.

I did not share his satisfaction. The knowledge that my life had been spared for some inconceivable reason was lost in a hatred that made my stomach ache. Vengefully, I hoped for a future meeting … over the sights of my rifle.

During the week that followed we were spared the relentless torture of night patrol, and the day treks were relatively uneventful. Frequently, and often at unexpected moments, I found myself stabbed by spasms of anger that stemmed from the humiliation of having been successfully snared by the enemy. Even though I had not been harmed physically, I stubbornly refused to be grateful. I was furious that I had been captured at all and vowed revenge upon every Jap I could maneuver into firing range.

Revenge was uppermost in my mind that bright afternoon as we trudged through the jungle on a routine patrol. We were advancing in a widely dispersed position, intent upon sweeping as much terrain as possible with a minimum of commotion.

I was advancing slowly in an oblique path toward a peculiar rise of solid rock, when the figure appeared unexpectedly …. I froze. It was a Jap …. Momentarily, I was mystified over his apparent lack of concern about concealing himself, and also the fact that he was unarmed. He was stripped to the waist and the beads of perspiration on his bronze flesh glistened in the bright streaks of sunlight leaking through the heavy foliage. I crouched low as he stepped to a narrow ledge of the rock and looked about him.

Then it hit me like a blockbuster – it was the youthful officer who had captured and humiliated me in the clearing! Ahhh … finally, I thought, we meet again. I gloated silently and promptly began mental preparations to repay a debt I thought to be long overdue. I studied the situation carefully …. I wanted a clean aim. So with unconscious movements of my body, I urged him toward the near edge of the rock.

As if responding to a spoken command, he leaped from the perch and approached a mound of rock directly in my line of vision, then hastily removed a cluster of loose branches and brush from a small hollow in the base of the mound.

I lined up for the kill. I held my breath. Then just as my finger was closing securely around the trigger, my eyes suddenly spotted the crude wooden cross that had been secured in that hollowed out area.

I peered down the long rifle barrel in confused amazement as he dropped to his knees. His right hand raised to his forehead, moved down to his chest, then to his left shoulder, and across to his right – the Sign of The Cross! My hands grew numb and my arms trembled uncontrollably.

I’m not sure exactly how long the moment lasted. But slowly … surely … as surely as I had taken aim at what would have been a sure target, I felt myself lowering that same rifle and letting it slip from my grip. Without any conscious thought, I bowed my head.

I couldn’t account for my reaction. But a miracle had taken place. My fervent, persistent, burning desire to kill the enemy had melted away.

Within a few seconds I relived every detail of the incident in the clearing, when he and his men had captured us, and suddenly the realization hit me: The Jap officer’s actions in preventing my murder and leaving the money were not prompted by secondary motives. This man was a Christian. Painfully, I contrasted these truths with the hatred that fed my incessant drive to destroy the enemy anywhere I found him, and under any circumstances. Tearfully, I surrendered to my shame.

I cannot be certain of the length of time I remained in a state of remorseful meditation, but when I finally raised my eyes, the Cross was again carefully camouflaged, and the officer had vanished. I lingered only a short while. Then I set out to join Willmet and Conte … strangely happy and refreshed … having been set free from the terrible, unbearable burden of hate.

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The End


© 1950, 2012 Ted Pavloff

~


From My Short Story Archives – ‘Mitzi’

I haven’t had much time to write new stories this past month, but I have a lot of new followers on this site, so I decided I’d dig back through my archives and give a few of the old stories some fresh air. They will be new for many readers, and, hopefully, enjoyable the second time around for a few others.


KENT'S DOG - EXTRA - creditsMITZI

As Mitzi sat on the bus, she enjoyed the rhythmic movement. And she enjoyed the respite from the heat she’d been walking in for the past hour. She leaned just slightly against Pete’s leg, both for the comfort of knowing he was there and the reassurance that he was all right. He was her responsibility, after all, and she never forgot that for one moment.

Her nostrils flared slightly as she gradually identified and responded to all the various scents that wafted through the air of the full vehicle. There was the expected scent of human sweat, and that was a natural part of Mitzi’s life, so even though one or two of the passengers had probably failed to bathe that day, Mitzi’s sense of smell was not insulted by it. Then there was the unmistakeable scent of cigarettes that clung to the clothing and hair of half the people on the bus – a scent that just couldn’t seem to be erased or camouflaged effectively by any order eliminators. There were pleasant scents too, of course, as various degrees of perfumes filtered through the air, surrounding Mitzi as well. She couldn’t have told anyone which flowers, which wood essences, or which spices had been used, but she most certainly recognized the scents as natural and non-threatening.

However, dearest to Mitzi’s heart during most of her bus rides were all the delicious scents that emanated from the grocery bags and baskets carried by some of the passengers. Many days Mitzi found this trip on the bus thoroughly enjoyable because she could sit and sniff the tantalizing aromas of pork, or fish, or – her favorite – salami from the Italian market at the end of Jasper Street. Her nose was hard at work now, sorting through all the variety of groceries, trying to determine exactly who it was who had that salami. There! Mitzi’s gaze zeroed in on a lady in a green coat, sitting just three rows up from Mitzi and Pete. Delicious! Mitzi was hungry.

But right after identifying the owner of the salami, Mitzi turned her head to the side just slightly and sniffed harder. There was something else in the air. Something new. Something unusual for the interior of this bus. Something … not right somehow. She wriggled in place a time or two, turned her head the other direction, but then brought it right back to where she’d been focusing. Some sixth sense stirred a warning so deep inside that it put every sense on high alert. Even the hair in her coat bristled. She whimpered and moved again, restlessly. Pete reached a hand over and patted her head, then scratched her ear slightly. “You getting’ restless, old girl?” he asked tenderly.

The young man sitting in the seat that faced Pete spoke now. “That’s a beautiful dog you have there, Sir. A guide dog, if I’m not mistaken?”

Pete turned unseeing eyes toward the young man, his hand still resting on Mitzi’s head. “Yes. Yes, she is … and the best in the world. Been with me for ten years now.” He chuckled and ruffed Mitzi’s fur affectionately. “We’re both getting pretty old, but we keep sojourning on together.”

“She seems very affectionate,” the young man replied. “I noticed how she leans against your leg constantly.”

“Yes, that’s her habit. Feels responsible for me, I think.” He turned his head as if to look down at Mitzi, who had glanced up at him. “Good girl, Mitzi,” he said. His voice had grown gravely with age, but there was still a tone of kindness that over-road everything else when he spoke. His eyes didn’t see the look in Mitzi’s. It was a look of concentration … wariness. She was puzzled by what she smelled – by what every nerve in her body was beginning to pick up on – and she wanted her master to know.

Aware, by training, that he would not see her face or her movements, she understood that she would need to convey her concern by sounds and movements he could feel. So she wriggled agitatedly and leaned harder on his leg, still sniffing the air, her head turning several directions, trying to get a reading on exactly what and where the problem came from.

All of her senses eventually focused on a passenger across the aisle and two rows up from Pete. He was reading a newspaper, his black briefcase on the floor, held snugly between his feet. Her eyes focused and a low growl sounded in her throat.

Pete was concerned. Mitzi never behaved in such a manner on this bus. She was used to riding it, and she never had negative responses to people. But she whimpered now, pressing Pete’s leg even harder. He leaned down, wrapping one arm around the dog’s neck. “What is it, Mitzi? What’s wrong, girl?”

Mitzi whimpered again, then whined openly. “Shhhh,” Pete whispered. “Quiet, girl. We’ll be home soon.”

There were two more stops before the corner where Pete and Mitzi got off the bus. That meant at least 20 more minutes, and Pete was a little worried that some of the other passengers might become frightened if Mitzi continued growling – even though it was low.

But Mitzi growled again, and then immediately emitted a sharp bark.

“Mister, you’d better keep a tight hold on that dog of yours. She sounds mean to me,” said an overweight guy sitting behind Pete.

Pete turned in his seat to address the man face-to-face, even though he couldn’t see him. “Oh, Mitzi would never hurt you, sir. She’s as gentle as a lamb.” Just then, though, Mitzi’s growl and tug at her leash indicated things could be otherwise.

“Hey, shut that mutt up!” another man yelled from several rows up.

“Hey, Pete,” the driver called back. “What’s going on back there? Your dog never gave us any trouble before.”

“I know, Randal. I don’t understand it myself.” At that moment, Mitzi barked sharply again and pulled on her leash so hard that Pete only barely held her in check. By this time, she was up on her feet and pulling harder on the leash, whining, and giving Pete every signal she could give to say he needed to follow her lead. She looked toward the man holding the briefcase between his feet. Her eyes were focused on the briefcase, though none of the passengers realized that fact. They thought she focused on the man himself.

“Sir, you need to get that dog off this bus,” came from a middle-aged woman. She didn’t want to insult a blind man, but she was starting to become frightened herself. Pete stood to his feet to try to handle Mitzi better.

At that moment, the bus slowed to make it’s next stop, and there was still one more to go before Pete’s stop came along. But by this time, Mitzi was almost beside herself, pulling on her leash with all her strength, whimpering now, more than growling. It was as if she’d traded her natural instinct to attack the “enemy” for her well-trained instinct to protect her master.

Once the bus was stopped, the driver stood and called back to Pete. “I’m sorry, Pete, but I think you’re going to have to get Mitzi off of here now.”

Pete nodded. “Yes … yes, you’re right Randal. He turned his head in an effort to address the other passengers, just hoping they could see his face enough to recognize his sincerity. “I’m sorry, folks. Mitzi’s such a good dog —”

Before he could finish his sentence, Mitzi had emitted another sharp bark and jerked the leash so hard that Pete nearly lost his hold completely. “All right, girl. I’m coming!” he said and began to move down the aisle behind his dog.

The driver took the time to help Pete down the steps. He knew the old man could get down just fine under normal circumstances, but for some reason, today was anything but normal. “I’m sorry, Pete,” he said again. “You take it easy walking from here.”

“Pete reached out toward the voice to touch Randal’s arm. He made contact and patted the arm. “It’s all right, Randal. I’ll figure out what’s wrong, and we’ll be back to ride tomorrow with no problems, I’m sure.”

The door slid closed; Randal changed gear, and the bus moved on down the road. Pete knelt down to talk to Mitzi. How strange, he thought. The dog was completely calm now. No more growls, no more whimpers. She wagged her tail and licked his cheek. Sorely puzzled, he rubbed her back and spoke reassuringly. “Good girl, Mitzi. You’re a good, good girl.”

As he knelt there beside her on the sidewalk, the bus moved on to the end of the block, and then on to the end of the next block, where it exploded and burst into flames.

 

 


 

A Little Bit More of My Shameless Marketing

PROFESSOR'S EDUCATION FOR AMAZON FRONT ONLY - 2Just wanted to let readers know that the inspirational novel The Professor’s Education is now selling on Amazon in paperback and digital. Many of you read the novel free right here on this site a few months ago. And many of you expressed your enjoyment of it as well. Thank you again.

Now, here’s my pitch. If you did read it for free here and enjoyed it, how about purchasing a copy for a friend or loved one who enjoys inspirational romance?

Paperback: $7.99
Digital: $2.99

And, by the way, did you know that a lot of men enjoy inspirational romance novels? It isn’t just us gals. I’ve had a number of gentlemen tell me how much they appreciate reading a good Christian love story.  Sooooo, girls, why not buy one for your boyfriend or hubby?

And thanks in advance.