As Alike As Two Peas in a Pod?

TWIN GIRLS
Sandy and Mandy were identical twins.  Green-eyed beauties with dark brown hair, a smattering of freckles, and charming dispositions. From the day of their birth, mom had dressed them in identical outfits. When they started school, she bought them identical backpacks, and pulled their hair into identical pony tails.

She bragged to everyone about how “exactly alike” they were and insisted they do identical chores and play identical games at the same time. She sent them to Gramma’s farm together every year.

And every year, wearing blue jeans faded to exactly the same shade, with pony tails riding at exactly the same height and identical green eyes gazing into the peaceful pond at exactly the same time, they stood on the old wooden bridge and dreamed — totally separate, independent dreams.

And Mom couldn’t do anything about it

~~~

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Daily Post Prompt: Sound / ‘The Approaching Silence’

Ear 2
In response to today’s Daily Post Prompt (Sound), I’ve offered the first few pages of a story in progress. Just a little sci-fi to flavor your day.

THE APPROACHING SILENCE

“In other news today, Dr. Leopold Barnes, director of the U. S. Atmospheric and Meteorological Testing Center located inside the Arctic Circle, issued reports of unusual occurrences of silence in a fifty-mile radius surrounding their base. ‘For a period of eight or nine hours, there was no sound of any kind,’ said Barnes. ‘It was the strangest phenomena I’ve ever experienced,’ he added, ‘and all of my co-workers here agree. We could hear nothing, even when we spoke or pounded on a door.’ Barnes went on to say that the experience lasted only for that time period, and then things returned to normal. Scientists from the AMTC are doing further investigations, and Dr. Ruben Perez, director of the center’s headquarters in Leadville, Colorado, has declined comment until those investigations are finished.”

Ruben switched off the small TV in his office, his thoughts whirling, his adrenalin building. He walked to his desk in the next room and pulled a file from his drawer. It contained hard copy of a report that had been e-mailed to him yesterday from the British-manned testing base at the South Pole. The e-mail had been sent to seven scientists on a pre-approved list, and he’d been unable to get the words off his mind all night. “… total and absolute silence for a period of 7 hours,” it had said.

He picked up the sheet he’d printed out earlier. “Not one machine noise could be heard. We spoke to each other, but could hear nothing and, in fact, had to rely on reading lips and sign language even to do the work necessary to run some tests and figure out what was happening. So far, we just don’t know. But at the end of the 7 hours — can’t be more precise since it took several minutes to even realize that the situation existed all over the base – but at the end of that time, all sound returned and hasn’t fluctuated at all in these past 3 hours.”

That report had come in at almost midnight last night, and now this similar experience involving their own people up by the North Pole today was too much of a coincidence to be coincidence. Based on his experience – which covered the first twenty years of the new millennium – it was one for the books. He picked up the phone, punching in numbers memorized long ago. “Hello, John.” He spoke briskly, but the warmth in his voice denoted his long friendship with the listener.

“Ruben, my boy. Good to hear from you.”

“Same here, John, but I’m going to get right down to business this morning. You’ve, no doubt, been apprised of the report coming out of Barnes’ Arctic base this morning.”

“Yes, I read it this afternoon.” He paused, and Ruben waited. After the slight hesitation, John continued. “Boy, I’ve experienced some odd phenomena in my forty years of research, but this one beats the best of them in my book.”

“Right. I agree, but there’s more. Have you received any word about the e-mailed report from McGregor at the South Pole?”

“McGreggor? No, is he experiencing something similar?”

Ruben picked up the printed report again to read it to his colleague. “Well, I’m on the list of seven men who are kept updated on the work there, and let me read you my e-mail from last night.” He read the whole text and waited.

A long, low whistle sounded through the line. “Man!” Another pause as both men processed the facts they’d encountered. They couldn’t refute them, but they certainly didn’t want to believe them. Finally Ruben broke the silence.

“No thoughts on it?”

“Hmmm. Well … I have to say I’m stymied. No … more than that. … I guess I’d have to admit I’m a little troubled.”

Ruben sighed. “That’s not like you, John. You’re generally the last one to consider something alarming. What’s the difference here?”

John Cartwright sighed heavily. “I think it’s time for me to share some things that I’ve been keeping an eye on – privately – for the past few months. But, Ruben, this information has to be kept confidential until I decide how far to spread it. I’m sure I can trust you – and Soren Petroff. Does anyone else come to your mind who would be the soul of discretion in the face of some evidence that could – just possibly – be world-shaking?”

“Whoa! You mean you’ve been looking into something connected with this loss of sound for several months?”

“Let’s just say that I’ve been checking out a couple of minor – very minor – events that I’ve encountered and wondered about. Now … in the face of these two larger events … I don’t think I want to keep it to myself any longer. But I can’t begin to impress on you how vital secrecy is at this point, Ruben. I’m sure you can appreciate that fact.”

Ruben nodded, even though he knew his friend could not see him. “I do understand. I’m not arguing that point. I guess … well, I guess I’m just still in some degree of shock where all of it’s concerned. But, as far as a good man with a closed mouth is concerned, I do have a suggestion – although it’s not exactly a good man.”

“What?”

Ruben couldn’t resist a chuckle. “I’m talking about Dr. Lenora Coleman, John. She’s worked with me here in this center for three years now, and I’ve rarely worked with anyone more intelligent – or wise. She not only has what it takes in the brains department, but she seems to have a kind of sixth sense about how to use the knowledge she has to the best advantage for all parties concerned. That’s a rare quality in our work.”

“Well, if you have such high regard for her, I’m willing to let her in on the meeting. But, Ruben, it will have to take place at my home in Denver. I’m not taking any chances of being overheard by anyone else at this point. This whole situation may be one short, aberrant period of atmospheric distress and may have no meaning for the future at all. So I don’t want anyone overhearing bits and pieces and running wild with them. I don’t think we can afford not to be careful with our discussions at this point.”

John’s words were reverberating through Ruben’s mind even as he answered. “Agreed. When should we set the meeting?”

“I’d like to suggest tomorrow morning if you and Lenora can make it that soon. Say 10:00. I’ll give everyone lunch.”

“I’ll check with Nora and get right back to you.”

“Good. I’ll do the same with Soren, but I’m pretty positive he’ll drop anything else when I tell him the details.”

“Thanks, John. I’ll call back soon.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

Ruben couldn’t sit still. He got up and paced his office, hearing John’s words over and over: “… may be just one short aberrant period … may have no meaning for the future …” Ruben rubbed the back of his neck, trying to erase the tension that had grabbed him with those words. Before that statement, he’d felt they were dealing with a weird, but interesting phenomenon of nature that would prove to be one for the text books but little else. With those few words – coming from one of the nation’s most eminent scientists, whose hunches Ruben had learned long ago to trust implicitly – he could feel something else creeping in. He refused to acknowledge it as fear. He tore his thoughts away from the repetition of words and started down the hall to Nora’s office.

~

The following morning four puzzled scientists convened in the dining room of Dr. John Cartwright. The three men knew each other well since they had worked on several projects together over the years. Ruben introduced Dr. Coleman to his friends and explained that he had briefed her on all that he had discussed with John the previous day.

“Nora told me during our drive here that she spent two years working with Dr. Armond Newman in Germany.”

Soren looked up sharply. “The physicist who received so much notoriety for his work in acoustics?”

“Yes,” Nora said. “He discovered some interesting fluctuations in how sound waves traveled through air and through several other substances when there was a change in the magnetic field around the immediate area in which the sounds were being emitted.”

“But tell them about the experiments he did even after his article was published,” said Ruben.

“I was fascinated by some of the work he was doing and kept asking so many questions that he finally confided in me about some private experiments he was conducting and eventually allowed me to observe them and take part in them. He manipulated the magnetic fields in these experiments until he was able to strike a metal gong with a metal hammer, but not one sound came from it. Or, at least that’s what seemed to be the case. But when he checked the instruments that measured the sound waves themselves, he discovered that sound had been emitted, but was not picked up by our ears.”

“Fascinating,” John said, scooting his chair closer to the table and leaning his elbows on it, allowing him to come closer to Nora as she spoke.

“Yes,” she said. “I was totally fascinated – in fact I was captivated by all of it. “He then called in his dog and had him sit with us as he repeated the striking of the gong. Again we heard nothing, but his dog did. And, as I’m sure all of you know, dogs are capable of hearing a much higher pitch than humans, but are deaf to sound pitches below 40 hertz. His dog heard the gong, but in a later experiment, where Dr. Newman tried several different materials which would produce sound at much lower hertz than the gong, his dog heard only one of those experiments, and he and I still heard nothing.”

“And you say it was the change in the magnetic field? Nothing else?” asked John.

“That was the most fascinating part of the experiments. Absolutely everything remained the same in every experiment except the magnetic field around the instrument emitting the sound and its immediate area. With every significant change in that magnetic field, the ability to hear the sounds changed as well.”

“But physics doesn’t lead us to believe that the magnetic field plays that large a part in the emission and transmission of sound waves,” said Soren.

Ruben spoke for the first time then. “Well, up to this point in time, science hasn’t proven a connection, but you know as well as I, Soren, that one of the things we pride ourselves on as scientist is that we are learning more about the universe and its vagaries all the time.”

John spoke again. “Ruben, you have a degree in geomagnetics. Was there anything – anything at all – in your studies that hinted at a possibility of connection?”

“I did come across one interesting theory, proposed during the early 1940’s.” ………………


©2014 Sandra Conner

Friday Fictioneers 1/27/17 – The Date

This week’s Friday Fictioneers 100-Word challenge was hard for me. I just couldn’t get “connected” with those antique cars. But finally, thanks to Orville and Julie-Bell, I managed to come up with something. If you’d like to join the fun follow the link and get the details.

My story is below Al’s photo prompt.

PHOTO PROMPT © Al Forbes
Copyright Al Forbes

THE DATE

 

“Orville! Stop pretending we’re out of gas, and get me home!”

“But – ”

“Stop. Aunt Pearl always said never trust any man who drives a crank-up machine with no top.”

“Oh, Julie-Bell … Honey,” Orville cooed, wrapping his arms around her. “Just one little kiss.”

Julie squirmed, blushed, fluttered her eyelids. “Well …”

“That’s my girl.”

Just as Orville’s lips settled firmly in place, the sky burst open, and drenched the lovers.

“Now look what you’ve done,” Julie wailed.

Orville hopped out and went to crank the motor. “Well, at least I can skip the cold shower when I get home.”

 

 

~~~

Prompt Nights – Glimpse Into the World of Edgar Allen Poe

This week on “Prompt Nights” Sanaa has challenged us to get our inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe. I’m super pressed with my regular teaching this week, so I don’t have time to write a brand new piece, but Sanaa assures us that previously written work is welcome. So since the theme immediately brought to mind a story I wrote some time ago — and since it’s a story I think even Ol’ Edgar himself would appreciate — I’ll share it this week. (Those of you who have read it previously have my permission to skip it this time.)

THE FOG

LIGHTHOUSE WITH FOG
The fog’s especially heavy tonight. I can’t see three feet past the door, so I guess it’s a good time to stay inside and write this letter. The lighthouse on the island has sounded the foghorn every two minutes for hours now.

I haven’t been back to the island since that night. In some ways, I wish I had moved away when you did. I’m sure it’s a lot easier on you not having to look out across the water and see that island every day. I know the spot is overgrown now, but I can still pick it out as clearly as if we’d left a marker. And hearing that blasted horn blow every time the fog moves in really gets on my nerves.

Tonight it’s as thick out there as it was the night we buried him. I often wonder what would have happened if the fog had lifted in time for someone to see us digging the grave. But, of course, that wasn’t likely to happen. Once the dratted stuff moves in, it clings to us like a shroud for the whole night.

I wish you were sitting here with me, sharing a bottle of our favorite whiskey. I hate being alone with my thoughts. I’m always chilled and shaky when there’s fog. And it feels as if something’s choking me. I wonder if that’s how he felt as we tightened that rope around his neck until he stopped breathing.

I sure wish you were here with me. I hate fog.

~~~

Saturday Mix – Lorraine

Lorraine is the challenger for this week’s Saturday Mix. She has offered three possibilities to stir up our writing egos. I was most drawn to the 25-word challenge based on the picture. But you may enjoy the other two as well. So if you like writing and want to stretch yourself a little, take a look at the details of the challenge here.

My story is below the picture.

untitled-4
Photo copyright: Lorraine

FROM THE CELLAR

A twelve-year-old, I gaped at the twister roaring toward us, tossing houses and livestock like matchsticks. From the cellar, I watched my world change forever.

~~~

Saturday Mix 1/14/17 – ‘Last-Minute Decisions’

This week is the first time I’ve taken part in the “Mindlovesmisery” writing challenges. This week we are to write a story in 100 words or less. The host site offered a picture for inspiration, but I put that aside because the idea I wanted to work with didn’t fit that particular picture. To take part you can visit here.


wedding-cakeLAST-MINUTE DECISIONS

The auditorium was full of guests, the organist waiting for her cue. The best man stood at the door, ready to enter as soon as the groom came back inside. He’d just stepped out for some air. Where the heck was he?

Suddenly Carter hurried into the room, passed by his best man, and entered the auditorium. Looking at the guests, he took a deep breath and spoke:

“Sorry folks. Seems my bride eloped with someone else.” He laughed. “She took the car I’d arranged for my own last-minute escape.”

 

 

~~~

Prompt Nights -1/6/17

This week’s prompt: ‘Tomorrow when the sun will rise, who knows what the tide could bring.’

brendas-ocean-side-cropped

TREASURE FROM THE TIDE

Each morning eight-year-old Aran, his mahogany skin warmed by the sun, trekked to the shore to greet his best friend. The brilliant blue of the water delighted him, and as the waves danced and frolicked on their way to the beach, Aran waited eagerly for them to spill onto the sand at his feet so that he could dance with them.

After splashing in the tide to his heart’s content, he then hurried to the small cave set into the rocky cliff overlooking the beach, where he kept his stash of sea-polished rocks. Daily, he scoured the beach, collecting new ones, always anticipating some special treasure that he was sure, one day, would be deposited on this tiny island by this best of friends, the ocean.

Today he’d found that gift. But what was it? Coral? It didn’t feel like coral. It wasn’t quite hard enough. He examined it closely, his nimble fingers tracing the scores of tiny hollows that formed a pattern and offered a mystery.

He carried it home at lunch time to show his mom and Grandfather. “What is it, Poppy?” he’d asked Grandfather. He knew Poppy had traveled to distant lands many years ago, and he would surely know what this beautiful treasure was.

“It’s a wasps’ nest,” was the rep!y, and then, because the island had no wasps, Poppy had to explain about the insects and how they built their homes.

Fascinated by Poppy’s words, Aran held the delicate structure close. Here it was! His anticipated treasure from another world! His connection with people and adventures that were beyond his ocean! He would treasure this gift … keep it safe … and some day … some day he would set off from this tiny island that had been his home for eight years, and – carried in the arms of his best friend – he would discover the rest of the world for himself.

~~~

Friday Fictioneers 12/23/16: Dear Diary

To get involved in this week’s 100-word story challenge, visit Rochelle’s site.  This week’s photo is courtesy of Roger Bultot. My story’s below the photo.

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Dear Diary,

Tonight after play practice, Sheila, Janice, and I drove to Rudy’s Drive-In for burgers and root beers. We’d planned on going inside, but as soon as we drove up, I recognized Jimmy’s car. He was with Roberta!!!

I talked the girls into settling for curb service so that I could scrunch down in the back seat and watch Jimmy’s car. He and Roberta were totally absorbed in each other – laughing, having a great time. When our burgers came, I couldn’t swallow a single bite.

 

 

 

~~~

Adoption – flash fiction

I wrote this story almost two years ago for a flash-fiction writing challenge, and I’m not sure why it’s been on my mind and heart the past few days. But it has been, and I figured that was a good reason to give it another few minutes in the spotlight. 

small-brown-dog-pub-dom-raincarnation40
raincarnation40 / pixabay

Hair bristled on my neck. I was bein’ followed. I whirled ’round and found Zanzibar ploddin’ behind me, head down, tail draggin’.

“Hey, boy,” I said, squattin’ down. “Where’s ol’ Toby?”

Zanzibar whined, licked my hand, whined again. Somethin’ was wrong. Zanzibar and that ol’ hobo were thicker’n fam’ly. They came through here first week of ever month. Stayed ’till the coal train came through and stopped at the crossin’. But this weren’t the first week. Where was ol’ Toby?

I hunted three days for Toby; no luck. Reckon that lung problem finally got ‘im. Zanzibar’s tail’s still draggin’, and he won’t let me out of ‘is sight. Reckon I got me a dog.

~~~

The Rescue: A Christmas Story – Part 3

Find Part 1 HERE.

boy-praying-1-itense-bronzePART 3

At the end of the program, all the children received bags full of treats to help celebrate the Lord’s birthday, and as Papa and Mama led David out of the church, they turned once more toward the corner where he had spent three lonely, fearful days. “We’ll just sit here a short minute, David, and make sure your Mama isn’t right around here looking for you,” Papa said, and sat down, putting one arm around Mama and the other around David. But after about ten minutes, Papa shifted his position so that he could look right into David’s eyes. Mama looked over Papa’s shoulder, her face registering her pain for the boy’s situation.

“David,” Papa said, clearing his throat a little. “I know you want to believe your mama is coming back here to get you. But you see, son, I believe she was having some big problems and didn’t want you to have to go through them too. I believe she probably knew she couldn’t find another place to live with you, and that’s why she didn’t pack any of your clothes. She packed only her own, because she intended to have you sit here until someone came along who could help you and give you a good place to live. A place like she couldn’t give you.” Papa could see the tears glistening in David’s eyes just before the boy turned his head to look up the street as far as he could see, and then turned to look in the other direction one more time.

“Now, we could let you stay here, of course,” Papa continued. “But Mama and I …” he turned slightly to see his wife’s face, and she smiled at him through her own tears and nodded, so Papa continued. “Mama and I would like to have you come and stay with us as long as you’d want to.” He stopped and waited.

David looked at him and then at Mama. “Please come home with us, David,” Mama said in almost a whisper. “We’ll love you just like we did our own little boys years ago.”

“You can decide, David,” Papa said. “But we need to decide right now, because I don’t want to keep Mama out in this cold any longer. So what do you say?”

Once more David looked up and down the street, and then back at Papa. Suddenly he put his hands to his face and whisked away the tears that tracked down his cheeks. Papa could see decision in his eyes, and he knew the moment the boy faced the truth that his mother was not ever coming back to him. He heard Mama whisper just behind him, “Please help him, Jesus.”

David stood to his feet. “Okay,” he said.

Mama gave a glad cry and jumped up to gather the boy into her arms. Papa forced the tears filling his eyes to stay where they were, and he reached out to rest a hand on David’s shoulder. “You made the decision your Mama would have wanted you to make, Son,” he said. Then he stood up, putting an arm around each of them again. “Now,” he said with authority, “let’s go home and celebrate Christmas!”

Which is exactly what they did. And before David went to sleep, Mama and Papa told him more about the Jesus he’d learned about in the Christmas play. They told him how Jesus took all of people’s sins so that they could become good in God’s sight. They told him about the Father who loved little boys and welcomed them into His own family, and how they’d never have to be alone, no matter what, if they would allow the Father and Jesus to come and live in their hearts. So David made another right decision that night and offered Jesus a home in his own heart.

Just as they were getting into their own bed, Mama said, “Oh, my goodness Papa! We forgot about listening to the Lord about our $700.00!” But Papa reached out to take her hand in his. “Not to worry, Mama. I believe the Lord has shown us where to use the money this year, don’t you?” he asked, nodding toward the bedroom next door to theirs where David slept peacefully.

“Oh, of course!” she said, and giggled as he hadn’t heard her do since their own boys had been toddlers. “Clothes and books and toys and schooling, and so many other things. Isn’t it exciting, Papa? The Lord has trusted us with another little boy to raise for Him!”

So they did. And the days and weeks passed. Mama and Papa simply told friends and acquaintances that David was a friend of the family whose mother had become seriously ill and needed him to stay with the Larsons until she was well. In their own hearts and minds, they believed she would have had to be spiritually and emotionally sick to make the choices she’d made.

Friends were glad to see how much the elderly couple enjoyed giving the boy a safe, loving home, and they approved when Papa and Mama asked a young mother who home-schooled her own three children to add David to her classes. Papa used the $700.00 to help pay for the schooling expenses.

And the months rolled along, into the next year, and on to the next Christmas. That next Christmas Eve, Papa announced after their lunch, “It’s time for us to take a drive.”

So all three of them settled into the car, warm and cozy and ready for some kind of adventure. But as they neared their destination and David saw where they were going, he began to feel a tightness in his throat. His stomach began to ache, and tears burned his eyes.

Sure enough, Papa pulled the car into a parking place right beside the corner where they had first seen David sitting on a bench. And the bench was still there. “Let’s get out,” Papa said. He walked around the car and opened Mama’s door and then the back door for David.

“No … please!” David said, panic in his voice. “I’m sorry! Whatever I did that was wrong, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again! Please don’t leave me here again!” And then the tears that had started coursing down his cheeks became a flood of sobbing. “Please don’t make me stay here. I’ll be good. I promise!”

Papa and Mama were stunned. Mama sat down in the back seat, grabbed the boy, and held him close, “Shhh,” she said. “What’s wrong, dear?”

Papa knelt down in front of the door, reached in, and took David’s hand. “David … David … we’re not going to leave you here! Is that what you thought?”

David nodded his head, sniffing back tears as well as he could and leaning hard into Mama’s shoulder.

“Oh, no, no, no!” Mama said.

“No indeed, David,” Papa added. “We’d never give you up. Not ever! I’ve just brought us all back here so that we could remember how the Lord first brought us together. And I thought it would be good for us to sit here a minute and pray and thank Him for making us a family.”

“Would you like for us to do that, David?” Mama asked.

Sniffing again and trying to get the last of his crying under control, David looked at one and then the other with wide, surprised eyes. “You’re not going to leave me here?”

“Never, Son!” Papa said. “You’re part of our family for as long as you want to be. Just like you’re part of God’s family forever!”

So they got out of the car and sat on the bench together, hand in hand. They prayed and thanked the Lord that Christmas Eve for His love and mercies in their lives. Then the months rolled by again, and the next Christmas Eve found them at the same bench, praying the same prayer. They made the same journey the next Christmas Eve … and the next … and the next ….

~~~~~~~~~~

“Pastor McKenzie?” The voice seemed to come from far away. “Pastor McKenzie?” It came again more insistently. David shook himself slightly, realizing that his thoughts had been so concentrated on the testimony he’d been giving that he’d almost forgotten he was on an international Christian television program.

“I’m sorry,” he said, smiling apologetically now. “I was so caught up in remembering.”

“Do you still go back to that same spot every Christmas Eve?” the interviewer asked, her own voice husky with her response to his emotions.

“Yes,” he said, discreetly wiping the dampness from beneath his eyes with two fingers. Releasing a quiet sigh, David McKenzie leaned back in his chair and continued. “Yes, I still go back every year, and … and that’s also why I make sure that I drive one of the buses throughout those neighborhoods every Christmas Eve and pick up all the kids I can personally and take them to our church service.”

“Not many pastors of such a huge inner-city church would drive the bus themselves. It must be a heavy load of work, considering the fact that you have the Sunday School classes for several thousand children every week, plus all of the extra Christmas season services where you serve meals and hand out clothes and gifts to the thousands in need in the city.

“And you’ve begun similar work with children in similar situations in other nations, is that correct?”

“Yes. There are so many hurting children, and we touch only a fraction of them,” he answered.

“I’m sure after almost three decades of serving the Lord, you’ve had opportunities to move into many other areas of ministry. You’re a powerful preacher in your own right, and I’m sure you have connections that would open any number of doors to you. Have you ever thought about doing anything else besides reaching the hurting children in inner cities?”

He paused a long minute before answering. “I can’t do anything else,” he said, looking almost surprised that she had asked the question. “I can’t do anything else!”

“So … you would never consider turning your attention to any other kind of evangelism? Something on a larger scale that would bring you more into the public eye?”

David McKenzie smiled. It was a knowing smile. A smile that spoke of contentment and peace. And he looked directly into the eyes of the young woman asking the question. “No,” he said quietly, shaking his head gently. “No, I’d never considere that alternative even for one minute.”

“That’s interesting. May I ask why?”

“Because it’s only on the streets of New York, and countless cities like it, driving the bus through those ugly neighborhoods of ragged, hungry, frightened, hopeless kids to take them to Jesus … it’s only there that I can rescue the person I’m looking for.”

The interviewer’s eyes grew wide as she asked, “And who is that, Pastor McKenzie?”

“Myself,” he said, smiling at her as another trickle of tears made its way down his weathered cheeks. “Every time I pick up one of those hopeless kids … I’m really picking up myself.”

~ THE END ~

~~~

The Rescue: A Christmas Story – Part 1

The following story is fiction – as are all the characters and the setting. However, the story was inspired directly by the real-life story of one of the most effective and compassionate men in ministry today. Bill Wilson, who is the founder of Metro World Child in New York City, was actually abandoned as a child and left alone on the streets of his home city in Florida. He was eventually rescued and greatly helped by a loving man of God, and that love led Bill Wilson to devote his entire life to rescuing inner-city children and ministering to their most vital needs – as well as those of their families.

The results of his work, both in the U. S. and internationally, would fill volumes. I have listened to him tell his own story more than once. He always concludes that story by sharing why he does what he does. And it is his reason – which constitutes the final statement by the main character in my story as well – that inspired me to sit down and write “The Rescue.”

I trust that the story will touch your heart deeply, and if it does, I encourage you to remember that it was inspired by the real life experiences of a great man of God. Readers can learn more about Bill Wilson’s ministry at the ministry website: metroworldchild.org. It is my prayer that readers will pray about supporting that ministry with finances and with prayer.

THE RESCUE – PART 1
`

boy-praying-1-itense-bronze

The old woman knelt shivering before the tombstone as her husband pulled away a pile of decayed leaves that seemed to cling defiantly to its base in spite of the wind that whipped at them repeatedly. It wasn’t bitterly cold — at least not like it had been many other Decembers in this city. But the wind was always stronger up here at the cemetery, and today, with no sun smiling down its warmth, the chill just seemed to beat its way into their elderly bones. Of course, sorrow had its own chill, and sometimes it was hard to tell if the icy feeling came more from the weather or from the pain within.

The old man finished his work and then joined her, slowing sinking to his own knees and removing his warm felt hat. Tears glistened in his eyes, but he wouldn’t let them fall. He had to be strong for her right now. He glanced sideways at her, seeing the tears flowing freely down her cheeks. She kept pressing her handkerchief to her face, to try to stem the bitter stream, but it did no good.

It had been a year and a half now since they had lost their second son. He had followed his brother into military service and then into war … and, finally, into the grave.

The old man shuddered out a deep sigh. He had brought his new bride to this country just one year before their first son had been born, and it had been a time of promise and happy expectation. The Lord had blessed them with two handsome, healthy sons, and they had been the sweetest blessing life had to give. He sighed now as he thought back over the years of raising two strong-willed, but tender-hearted boys. They had all been so happy … until ….

But he shook off the heaviness of those years of war – and the funerals – and the nights of wishing he could have gone in their stead. He knew his boys weren’t really in these graves here. He knew that for certain. They had believed in Jesus Christ, both of them, from the time they had been tiny little curly-haired youngsters. And they were in Heaven now. He couldn’t grieve for them, but for himself and his beloved wife, he couldn’t not grieve.

He leaned over toward her and put his arm around her shoulders now. “The wreaths look lovely, my dear. You’ve done yourself proud. I think these are the most beautiful you’ve ever made.” And she had made some beautiful flower arrangements, this wife of his. It had been her life’s work and a great joy at one time. Now, it seemed to always remind her of the need for flowers on these graves, and she took no joy in the work of her hands. Still … it kept her from sitting and mourning all the time, so he encouraged her to keep the business going.

And the money helped. There was no doubt about that. His pension and the little bit he made working as the church custodian were just enough to enable them to keep their house, modest as it was, and to cover their basic utilities.

But with both their incomes – and with a little extra help from the Lord from time to time – they lived well enough. And every year at this Christmas season they pulled out their special bank – the little treasure box where they had put aside a very small offering each morning during their prayer time with the Lord. They paid the tithes on their monthly income faithfully, of course, but this little extra offering represented their desire to do more than just what was expected of them. And each Christmas they asked the Lord what He would have them do with the money to help someone not as fortunate as they.

The old man smiled to himself now. Christmas Eve was just three days away. They needed to get to asking the Lord what His plan was for this year. He leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek. “Come, Mama. We need to get into the warm. The wind is getting bitter.” She allowed him to help her rise from her knees and pull her coat tighter around her neck.

The wool scarf she wore on her head had almost blown off, and he straightened that too and then placed his hands tenderly on either side of her worn face. “Our wonderful boys are warm and safe in Heaven, Mama … looking down on these wreathes you have made for them and feeling proud. Now … we will go home and fix some hot cocoa and take out our silver bank and have our talk with the Lord about His plans for the money, hmm?”

She nodded her head in agreement, and they turned together to plod arm-in-arm out of the cemetery and down the lane to their car.

As they entered their back door, he stopped a moment and breathed deeply. “Ahhh . . . your kitchen still smells like molasses cookies and shortbread, Mama,” he said, pinching her cheek tenderly and grinning at her. “What do you say we have some with our cocoa?”

His wife was taking off her scarf and coat and hanging them on the pegs beside the door. “You’ll ruin your supper if you eat all that sugar right now, Papa,” she scolded him. It never occurred to either of them to refrain from calling each other by those names, even though they had no children living now. They had rarely called each other anything else since their two little ones had chosen those names for them. It had thrilled them so to be parents that they took pride in the names and wore them like crowns of honor.

Now he hung his coat and hat beside hers and grabbed her around the waist with both hands and began waltzing her around the kitchen. “Well, I have the solution to that!” he announced boldly. “We’ll just have molasses cookies and Scottish shortbread for our supper!”

“Now listen to you go on. What kind of supper is that?”

“Well … we’ll have a chunk of that delicious cheese you bought yesterday along with it, for protein,” he announced, as if that solved the whole question, whirling her around one last time and depositing her in a chair beside the table. At least she was laughing now, and that gave his heart a little ease. “You make the cocoa, and I’ll go get the treasure box.”

So while the milk warmed on the stove, Mama set the food out on the table. She was pouring out the cocoa when he returned carrying a small silver box that looked a little like a treasure chest. “Here it is, Mama,” he said setting it in the middle of the table and taking a seat beside her. “Now, let us thank the Lord for our food and enjoy it while the cocoa is good and hot, and then … then we shall count the money!”

When they had eaten their fill, and their faces were rosy with the warmth of the kitchen and the good food, they moved their utensils out of the way, and Papa pulled the box to him, unlocking it with the key that he always kept tucked away in his top dresser drawer. He dumped out the contents and began to straighten out the paper and sort the coins. “You count the coins, Mama, while I count the bills,” he said, and so they sat quietly, adding up their respective parts of the treasure.

When he was done, Papa picked up the little pad and pencil that he also kept in the box and wrote down his amount. Then he wrote down the amount Mama had in coins and added them together. He looked up at her beaming. “Mama, God has truly blessed us this year. We have put a total of seven hundred, four dollars, and seventy-two cents in our bank!”

“Oh, that’s more than last year or the year before either one!”

“Yes!” he said, nodding his head eagerly.

“Do you think the Lord has multiplied it for us?”

The old man smiled at her with eyes that were lit up with his faith that the Lord had done just that. “Now we must find out what our Lord wants us to do with it. Shall we pray right here, or go into the living room and kneel on the rug?”

“Let’s go and get down on our knees. We need to do everything we can to make sure we focus on the Lord. We wouldn’t want to make a mistake with so much money.”

So they moved into the living room and knelt down in front of their old but cared-for sofa, and, hand in hand, sought the Lord for His plan for the money they had given to Him during their morning devotions. After they had prayed for some time and were now both quiet and listening with their hearts, Papa whispered to Mama, “Do you hear anything yet, Mama?”

“Not yet, Papa. Perhaps, He will reveal something to us while we sleep tonight. He did that once before, remember?”

“Yes, that’s right. All right. We will expect that He will show us something, either as we sleep, or maybe when we first awake in the morning.” He grinned down at her with the eagerness of a small child. “I can hardly wait to see what He has in mind. I know we have to be patient. He may not show us until Christmas morning, you know. One time that’s what He did. But at least we know that He’s never taken longer than that to tell us what we must do, and that’s only four days away.”

Mama smiled at his excitement and rose from her knees, grateful for this generous-hearted husband that the Lord had given her. If only … if only he could have kept his sons to pour that heart into, she thought, shaking her head gently at the sad thought.

“No, Mama,” he said to her now, reaching out and lifting her chin and looking into her still bright blue eyes. “We will not be sad tonight. God has something happy for us to do, and we will enjoy it!” He leaned down and kissed her on the mouth. Then he raised his eyes heavenward and said, “Thank you, Good Lord, for giving me such a beautiful wife!”

“Oh, Papa . . .” she said, chuckling and shaking her head.

“Now,” he said turning her toward the kitchen, “I will help with the dishes, and then you shall read to me.”

The next morning the couple rose expectantly, eagerly anticipating the Lord’s leading about what to do with their money. But as the day progressed into evening, both had to admit that they just didn’t sense the Lord’s direction yet. So they retired that night with the prayer on their lips that He would show them tomorrow.

Again the following morning, they were a little disappointed, but since it was a day with much to be done, they quickly went about their business. Papa had more than the usual custodial work to do at the huge stone church in the middle of the city, because there were always extra services and celebrations this time of year. And Mama had finished the Christmas flower arrangements that had been ordered by two merchants whose shops were on the same street as the church. They always ordered the flowers for their holiday parties from her.

So after having a cozy breakfast, the couple loaded the flowers into the car and headed into the main part of the city. As they passed the corner one block from the church, they noticed a small boy sitting on a concrete bench on the sidewalk. “Would you look at that little tyke, Papa,” Mama said with a chuckle. “He’s bundled up all the way to his nose.”

“Well it is awfully cold,” Papa answered. “Wonder what he’s doing sitting there all by himself.”

“Oh, his mama probably told him to stay put while she ran into the bank behind the bench there.”

“Mmmm, probably, but … I don’t know … in these times, I don’t think I’d leave my little boy sitting by himself for even that long in a city this big.”

Mama sighed, “I know, Papa. Sometimes it seems to me that parents don’t take the dangers waiting for their little ones seriously enough.”

“Well, here we are,” Papa said in a more cheerful voice as he slowed down to look for a parking place close to the first store. “Are you sure you want to walk back down to the church? I can come and get you, you know.”

“Oh, Papa! Don’t be silly. It’s only two blocks. You just carry in one of the arrangements for me, and as soon as I’m done here, I can manage to carry the last one on to the shop two doors down. I’m sure they’ll both want to talk a few minutes, and then I’ll come down to the church to meet you.”

“Okay,” he answered, sliding into one of the few parking spots left on the street in this part of the city. While Mama carried the arrangement for the proprietor of the first shop, Papa carried in the other piece and set it down where Mama could get to it easily. He went on to the church and began his work, stopping almost an hour later when he realized that Mama had not returned yet. But just as he started down the hallway to the outside door to check on her, she walked in, bringing the biting air from outside with her, but flushed with a smile and twinkling eyes.

“Oh, Papa, they raved about my arrangements! They said they’d never seen anything they liked any better!”

He hugged her. “Well, of course, Mama! What else did you expect with your talent for working with flowers?”

“Thank you, Papa, but I happen to know you’re just a little prejudiced,” she said, pinching his cheek gently. “But come … I’ll help you with your work.”

So they worked side by side, finishing up the day’s list of tasks by noon, and left the church together. As they drove back the way they had come, they noticed that the small boy was still at the same corner, sitting on the bench alone.

(To be continued.  Look for Part 2 tomorrow.)

~~~

Christmas E-Book – $0.99 Today Through December 24.

stocking-full-promo-2

My Christmas short-story anthology, Stocking Full of Stories, is on a special holiday sale at the Amazon Kindle Store.  It will be only $0.99 until midnight December 24.

Christmas is about love – and laughter – and hope – and second chances. This collection of 11 original Christmas stories covers all those subjects and then some. From poignant to funny to heart-warming and faith-inspiring – you’ll find a little bit of everything in this Stocking Full of Stories. Read the book straight through for an evening of well-rounded Christmas pleasure. Or pick and choose, one story at a time, depending on your mood.

Give yourself a gift this Christmas: fill your stocking with these stories of the season. And while you’re ordering, go ahead and send one to someone you love.

Amazon also provides a free download for a Kindle app so you can read on any of your devices.

 

 

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Friday Fictioneers 12/2/16: Solitary Confinement

I’m determined to participate in this week’s Friday Fictioneers. The prompt for the 100-word story is the picture below, compliments of Jan Wayne Fields.

PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Wayne Fields
Copyright Jan Wayne Fields

 

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

He crossed out the date. Two years now – and only a little crazy. The symptoms had abated, but government doctors weren’t negotiating about his exile.

“Sorry, Nigel,” they’d said at the last visit, looking through the visors of their protective headgear and patting his arm with their sterile gloves. “Lessening symptoms don’t mean anything. The disease won’t die out – until you do. There’s still no cure. Total isolation is still mandatory to avoid spreading. We appreciate your obedience in staying strictly within the circle painted around your camp. The cameras show you’ve been diligent about it.”

He sat now staring at those cameras. He’d rigged them to cover for him, and so far no one suspected a thing.

 

 

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Prompt Nights Challenge: Life is a Masquerade

I’ve chosen to offer a piece of fiction for this week’s challenge. The topic is masks, facades, and lies. To participate in Sanaa’s challenge visit her site here.

 

THE TRIAL OF MARYBELL WESTMORELAND

man-shoveling-full-yardMarybell Westmoreland was, at the delicate age of 82, a soft, pink-cheeked, quiet woman. Standing merely five feet, one inch tall, she nevertheless commanded total respect from rich and poor, elite and scoundrel.

No one really knew for sure how rich she was. Very few people ever saw her actually spend money, but she always had a well-stocked larder, immaculate gardens, late-model vehicles, elegant gowns, and hoards of priceless jewelry.

She seldom entertained these days, but when she did, the party was one for the society columns to slobber over. She nearly always had a guest list that included several members of royalty – from half a dozen different countries – as well as homeland celebrities and scores of friends. They ate; they danced; they gossiped; they groveled where necessary; and they had an all-round rollicking good time.

That’s why, when the Thursday morning papers reported that Marybell Westmoreland had been arrested and charged with poisoning her gardener, citizens from all around the world were in shock.

“I just do not believe it!” one duchess was heard to exclaim to her husband as she slammed down the paper at the breakfast table. “Why, we’ve known Marybell for decades! She hasn’t an evil bone in her little body!”

“Mmmm,” replied her hubby. “Well, my dear, these things generally do take one by surprise, you know.”

“Nonsense! They have the wrong person; that’s all! You’ll see!”

“Well … time will tell, my love,” hubby replied, as he finished his coffee and rose to gather his hat and briefcase, preparing to head out for a meeting.

“I must send her a telegram to encourage her!” he heard his wife add as the butler let him out the front door.

And so the duchess sent her telegram – as did scores of other friends and family from all echelons of society.

Having been released on an exceedingly large bail, Marybell Westmoreland, chose to go straight to her home and refused to see anyone or go out in public for any reason. News reporters swarmed the area just outside the boundaries of her property, hoping to get a tiny glimpse that would allow a chance at a photo that would, no doubt, at least triple the sales of their particular newspapers.

One enterprising young woman reporter did manage to talk one of the maids into speaking with her, and when asked how Miss Westmoreland was behaving, the maid answered, “Oh, she’s the same as ever, Lord love her. She goes about the house hummin’ to herself just like usual, and she has her meals at the right time, and eats like a horse. It’s a sure bet she ain’t worried about gettin’ a death sentence.”

By the time three months had passed – and the scheduled trial was still two more weeks away — the reporters went back to ordinary stories and let the old lady go on about her life uninterrupted. Gossip seemed to die down. There just wasn’t enough activity taking place in Marybell’s day-to-day life to add any fuel to the fire.

Finally, the trial began. Each side presented various forms of what they considered evidence, but everything was so circumstantial that most of the people following the proceedings had made up their minds within three days that there would be nothing to convict the old bird.

They were all the more shocked then, when the defense attorney put Marybell on the stand herself. Naturally, the judge asked her publicly if she understood that she did not have to testify, and she replied that she did understand. “But I don’t mind, Your Honor,” she told him. “I’ll be glad to testify. After all, it’s my own trial, is it not? How ill-mannered would I be to expect people to come to my trial if I don’t even act like a good hostess and talk to them!”

The judge rolled his eyes and turned to her attorney. “Do you agree with this decision, Mr. Withers?”

“No, Your Honor, but my client has insisted.”

“Very well. Proceed then.”

“Thank you, Your Honor,” he said and cleared his throat for the coming interrogation. After asking Marybell to verify her name and other identifying information, he went right to his first shocking question.

“Now, Miss Westmoreland, will you tell us, please, did you poison your own gardener, Mr. Samuel Trustbody?”

“Yes, I did,” she replied, looking him directly in the eye.

The audience in the courtroom – including both attorneys and the judge – sucked in an audible breath.

“I beg your pardon?” said Mr. Withers. And days later, one reporter made the comment that the look on the  poor defense attorney’s face at that moment was one for the history books.

Very calmly, as if she did that sort of thing every day, Marybell replied, “I said, yes, I did.”

Mr. Withers cleared his throat again. “You are saying that you poisoned your gardener, Mr. Samuel Trustbody, in order to kill him?”

She nodded her head, her soft pink cheeks looking just a little pinker than usual, but with no other sign of any agitation. “Yes, that is correct.”

Poor Mr. Withers had never lost a case so quickly, and he just did not know how to deal with the situation.  He cleared his throat again, but when he began to ask the next question, his voice came out so squeaky that he had to start again. “And … may I ask why you killed your gardener, Miss Westmoreland?”

“Well, you see I had to.”

“Go on, please. Why did you have to kill him?”

“Because he just insisted on digging up the whole yard behind the greenhouse to plant a new garden. Naturally, I couldn’t let him do it. I tried to talk him out of it. I even ordered him not to do it. But all he would say was that his contract with me said that he had free rein to plant anywhere he saw fit, and he was convinced no other place would be right for that kind of garden.”

“But … surely … madam … that was not sufficient reason to take his life!”

“Oh, I had to! Don’t you see? If I had let him go back there and dig up all that area, why … he would have discovered all the other bodies I’ve buried back there.”

 

 

Daily Post Prompt: Copycat

I admit I actually wrote this story last year, but it fits today’s prompt so perfectly that I’m using it anyway.

THE CASE OF THE COPY-CAT CRIMES

man-at-desk-brown

Detective Becker pressed his left hand against his temple. It was tender from the pain where a migraine was threatening, but he had to go over this list of people who had received threats in the past month. The letters had all been made out in the same way: typed words that had been cut and pasted – one word at a time – onto a black sheet of paper and mailed in red envelopes. He’d sworn he’d figure out the nexus they shared that had made them victims of such a hateful attack, but time wasn’t on his side any longer, because the first two people on the list had already been killed.

His buzzer sounded, and his secretary reported that he had a call waiting on line one: his superior, Detective Wagner. “Yes sir,” Becker spoke into the phone. “What can I do for you?”

“The press has gotten wind of the fact that eight other people have received threatening letters. They’re pushing for a story, but, of course, we can’t tell them anything that could disrupt the investigation. I just wanted you to be forewarned that they’ll be waiting outside the front door when you leave the office.”

“Thanks for the warning. I slip out the basement entrance.”

“Have you figured out any connection yet between the two who are dead and the other eight?”

“I think I may have, Sir. All of these people served on a jury together about fifteen years ago. The decision of that jury was unanimous and resulted in the death sentence for the man on trial.”

“Who?”

“Malcom Leiberman.”

Dead silence on the other end of the line caused Becker to stay quiet and wait. He could hear that the wind outside had started blowing harder, and he knew the storm that had been predicted was almost upon them. Finally, Wagner responded: “You know, of course, that Leiberman was convicted of perpetrating a series of murders after sending out threatening letters to his victims.”

Becker sucked in his breath. “No sir … no, I haven’t had time to research the case yet. But that’s too weird.”

“Yes,” replied Wagner. “And now I think I know who we’re looking for. His brother swore he’d get revenge. But then he got sick with some disease that the doctors said was incurable, and he was hospitalized for years. I guess everybody forgot about his threats. I know I did. But we need to find out if he’s still alive, and if so …”

“I’m on it, Sir,” Becker said. “I’ll call you back as soon as I have the information.”

Two hours later, Becker walked into Wagner’s office with a medical report. “He’s alive all right,” he said, laying the report on his superior’s desk. “And living right here in the city.”

“You’ve got an address?”

Becker nodded.

Wagner rose from his chair and strapped on his gun. “Let’s go get him and save eight people’s lives.”

~~~