Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Tag

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Cliff handed the driver a generous tip, thanked him and walked into the conference hall. Signs and banners announced the launch and grand opening of the new rehab center. Without the sizeable donations and contributions from companies like his he knew they’d not even exist. Equipped with the best in housing, treatment and care they spared nothing to give the doctors, medical personnel and case workers all they needed to facilitate what the residents and patients needed. Except for the director, administrator, and well-placed case workers and professionals it was largely staffed with unpaid volunteers who themselves were recovering alcoholics and former drug addicts, and the like. They’d all been invited to the gala event. The congressman who pushed and promoted the center’s cause and creation into existence promised tax credits and incentives to the big donors funding it. He was running for president in the next election and Cliff, one of his constituents was inclined to get on board with the project. If it succeeded it was a win for them all.

They opened with speeches, introductions and honorable mentions of people significant to its inception. A formal dinner would follow. Cliff moved towards the front of the head table shaking hands, smiling and talking with ones near the director and administrator hoping to claim a seat next to the congressman as he and the director greeted guests and dignitaries.

He stood behind a seat near theirs ready to sit down when the event planner came up to him and said, “Sir, we have these seats next to the director, administrator and congressman reserved for the chaplain, case workers and mentors that work directly with them, but if you will follow me down here to the end of this row we will seat you with another group.”

He glared back at her, then said, “Young lady, do you know who I am? I’m the CEO of Scarsdale Industries and if not for our financial support and funding this event would not even be happening It is because of our involvement that…” he went on a bit too loudly. Heads turned their direction hearing the exchange of words which also caught the attention of a news photographer standing to the side, videotaping it all.

“Yes, sir. Thank you. I’m aware of who you are, but at the request of the director we have placed his staff next to them because of their selfless commitment and time to the program. I’m sure you understand my position. So, if you will please follow me, I will reseat you down on this end with the other contributors and donors.”

Cliff’s face turned red, his eyes, cold as ice glaring back as if in defiance, but without another word just nodded and followed her to the end of the long formal dining table set for the fifty some guests invited.

His dignity suffered a a direct blow from the incident. He came to the gala proud, arrogant and boastful for what he’d given to them, trying to claim some glory for himself with his position in life, but instead walked away humbled, learning a lesson in humility. He found that there is no glory for one who lives only to exalt and lift up himself so others might see his good works.

__________________

The above story is fiction. It is my version, inspired by and based on the parable Jesus told in Luke 14:7-11, ‘the banquet feast.’ I have recently been studying the parables and stories in both the new and old testaments, and find them not only full of history, facts and truth, and a message for all, but also they are a great inspiration for stories that can speak to hearts today. We all have times when we’re needing to learn what it is like to have our stool or pedestal knocked out from under our feet. Sometimes just declaring our achievements openly before others can prove fatal to achieving what we really need demonstrated; integrity, honesty and consideration for those who maybe struggle with their own personal worth, confidence and self-esteem.  I have been reminded of that plenty of times when the still small voice of the Holy Spirit quickens my heart and I need forgiveness for my selfish attitude or indifference. 

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11 NIV

Joyce E. Mannhalter © July 2019

The Wayward Son

“Dad, I’m taking what’s mine and leaving.”

“Why? I hoped you would want to work with your brother and I in the business. When I retire the business will be yours, and your brother’s. ”

“No. I want to see the world, travel.” He turned away avoiding the crestfallen look on his father’s face.

A few days later Mick closed out his accounts, cashed in his trust fund, took his share of the estate and left.

For months following he traveled the world, living like a man with no responsibilities or obligations. No concerns or thoughts to who or what he left behind and none for those he met along the way. He dined and partied with men and women who showed him a good time, drove fast cars, stayed at five-star hotels and resorts eating and drinking at expensive restaurants while spending, and charging all without a care. Life was good, easy. He felt free. But the money ran out, credit cards expired, loans defaulted, and he was broke, unable to pay his debts.

Now desperate and hungry he hauled grain and feed to the stock pens of a farmer eating what he could glean. When he asked for food, they replied. “Go away, can you not see all the hungry who still have no food to eat. There isn’t enough for our own.” So, he searched through alleys for scraps in waste bins behind the bars he once hung out in.

I will go home and apologize to my father and ask if he will hire me on as one of his construction workers. They at least eat well and are paid for their wages earned. I have earned nothing but the shame and disrespect of my family. Will even God forgive me for all I have done?

While walking up the long-gated drive to his father’s home he was met with the warm loving arms of his father, never asking where he’d gone or what he’d done. Only how happy he was to see him and know he had ‘come home.’ His father asked his servants to prepare a very special, festive dinner and celebration with his best wine for his youngest son had returned home.

But when Stan Jr. the older son saw all the commotion and celebration going on, he came to his father and asked what he was doing and why.

“Did I not work for you all these years faithfully running things at the business just like you taught me? And yet, now you spoil him with an outlandish display of gifts and party. Do I not deserve the same or better for all I have done?”

“Stan Sr. replied, “Son, all you need do is ask and it is yours to enjoy. All I have is yours already. But your brother was lost to us all those years and now has returned. It is time to celebrate, not be bitter. Let’s party.”

_________________________

Joyce E. Mannhalter © 2019

The above story is fiction, but the truth and parable are scriptural. The story of the prodigal son is found in Luke 15: 11-32 of the New Testament Bible. It is one of many parables or stories Jesus shared with his disciples to illustrate a truth or lesson. This parable story is one of my favorites as it depicts the love our Father God has for us who come to him lost, with a repentant heart seeking forgiveness and wishing for a new beginning, a new life in Him. receiving the gift of salvation and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in directing our steps while on our journey of faith. I love how this father reached out to his lost son in love with no condemnation or questions as to where he’d been or how he conducted his life before his return. As Father’s Day is approaching on Sunday, June 16th I thought this parable story a perfect one to share and hope you have enjoyed reading my own fictional modern version of the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’. I want to wish all fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day. Best wishes to you and yours on this special day.

JEM

Believe for the Impossible

CHRISTMAS

A man stood outside the busy store, shivering, dressed in a Santa suit, ringing his Christmas bell. A volunteer to the nonprofit, he smiled and greeted everyone he met. A few stopped to drop some change into his kettle, then hurried into the store. It was beginning to snow and the temperature had dropped another ten degrees.

Minutes later a mini-van pulled up in front and let people out, all senior residents from the “Westbrook. Senior Center, Home of the Ageless.”

“Ageless? Now that’s a new concept.” He said to himself. A spry little lady walked up to the kettle and dropped her coins in.

“Thank you, mam.”

“You’re welcome. You look cold. Have you been out here long?”

“Uh, several hours now. You know, trying to help out the charity, and all.”

“Yes. Of course. And, they are grateful. The Lord bless you, young man.” She patted him on the shoulder and walked into the store.

“Yes, mam. Thank you.”

She returned later with a large winter coat and a cup of hot cider. She placed the coat about his shoulders and handed him the cider. “I thought you could use this. The coat is yours also.”

“Oh, No, mam, I can’t take the coat. You needn’t do that. I’m fine, really.”

“Nonsense. Your feet ache, fingers stiff from the cold, you were laid off your factory job, divorced, .and looking for work.”

What…in the world? He stared at her as if she read his mind, knew him intimately, and his life history. “How could you know that…what I did? Who are you?” he asked, incredulously.

She smiled. “It’s not important. Well, it’s time I rejoin my friends. Good night.”

She boarded the waiting van with the same people she got off with and it drove away. He stood staring, trying to figure if he had ever met her.

When he turned in his kettle that night, he waited until it was emptied, the money counted, recorded, then signed out.

“Thanks, John. You know that job you applied for in the warehouse? It’s still open if you want to come in tomorrow for an interview. Still interested?” asked the officer behind the desk.

“Sure. Yes, sir. Thank you.”

John went home to a quiet house with so many regrets, the divorce, his drinking problem, losing his old job because of it. He couldn’t change his past, but he was working at changing his future.

He took off the coat wondering about the stranger who’d given it to him. She’s got my number alright. Maybe a former employee from the company that knows too much. Nice coat, though.

He found an envelope in the pocket with a check made out to him signed by an anonymous benefactor for $50,000. There must be some mistake. Who would leave a check…?
Some severance check or back payment from my layoff? An attached note read, “If you believe in things you thought impossible miracles tend to happen. Merry Christmas, John.”

______________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2017

Hanging by a thread

I photographed the (second and present) jumping rope here at the jump site just off the walking trail at the Big Thompson River, Loveland, Co. The kids still use the rope and jumping site and have for years. To my knowledge there has not been a serious accident or one reported with the kids using the rope and jump site, but the dangers from the river during flood stage is real and has resulted in deaths, from the devastating flood of 2013.

 

“It’s just what kids do,” grownups said when kids met up at the river during the hot summer months, jumping into the water from the old rope that hung between two trees.

But, once again, the river rose higher, and the current ran faster through the Big Thompson from the rain with little letup. It could be a clear flowing stream at its lowest point, a murky green at its deepest, or a raging menace at its worst. Today, it was the latter. Yet, they paid little attention to the warning signs posted, ‘High water. Dangerous current. Potential for flash flooding.’

“Will this work? I found it in the garage.” Shawn asked, holding up a spool of plied rope.

“It isn’t going to be as good as the old one, but it might.” Nathan said.

“I bet that old rope was at least an inch thick. I wonder what happened to it.” Danny said.

“Don’t know. Maybe someone took it down. Or maybe it broke off and washed away in the flood.” Nathan replied.

The wooden ladder rungs were still there, nailed to the side of one tree allowing the kids to climb up and jump into the water from the top. Nathan climbed up one side, tied a length of rope around the tree and threw the other end over to Shawn, waiting on the other tree. He caught the rope, pulled it taut, tied that end, and each boy secured their side with double knots. Danny stood below with a longer section of rope and threw the loose end over. They tied it off, then made knots for hand holds.

“Done. Let’s try it out.” Danny said.

They took turns launching themselves out over the water. Long enough to jump to either side they grabbed the rope, swung out and landed on the opposite bank. Then, they dove off the trees lunging at the one swinging from the rope. They played the game of, ‘Catch me if you can,’ when Danny caught hold, hanging onto Shawn, but neither saw the loosened knots tied at the trees, or noticed the fraying threads on the rope, straining under their weight.

“Dudes. Stop! Get off! The rope…it’s…loose!” Nathan yelled, but they did not hear.

A tree branch cracked. The frayed rope snapped, and Shawn and Danny tumbled into the water. Their sounds and yells were not heard above the roar of the river as they were swept downstream.

It had been a month since the accident. Nathan stared down at the still water. He kept seeing Shawn and Danny as they fought against the current that threatened to swallow them up.

A park ranger walked over. “Your friends almost died that day, Nathan. If they hadn’t found that broken tree limb to latch onto they might not have made it out safely.”

Nathan nodded. “I know.”

“Using good common sense to make right choices is a better way to learn a lesson, don’t you think?”

“Yes, sir.”

_______________

Joyce E. Johnson (2017)

Footnotes:  The above story is a work of fiction, but the following scripture verses seemed appropriate to share in emphasizing the truth or lesson illustrated in the story above. Proverbs 8:34-36 on wisdom- “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and draws forth and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who misses me or sins against me wrongs and injures himself, all who hate me love and court death.”

His Dad’s Tool Chest

“Why did we have to come? He didn’t care about us when he was alive. Why should I care now?”

“Because, he was your father. Show some respect. He deserves that much.”

“Why? He left us! He didn’t want us. I want to go home.”

“Ben, we can’t. These people want to meet us. They were…are friends of his.”

“Please, mom. Can we just leave after the service?” He swiped a sleeve to his moist eyes.

“I know this is hard for you. It is for me, too. But, we have to face what is, and…go on, like we’ve been doing all these years. It will be alright.” She gave him a tight squeeze. “I promise.”

They were stopped by a man as they headed back to the car after the graveside service.

“Excuse me. Are you Ben? And, you are Shauna, I presume?” He smiled and shook their hands. “My name is Edward Jennings. I was a friend of your father’s. I handled some of his legal matters for him, and he left some things he wanted you to have. Here’s my card. If you will give me a call before you leave town we’ll set up an appointment to go over his will, and discuss some things with you both. We can’t do that here. Would that be alright?”

Shauna looked at Ben, then nodded. “Sure. That will be fine. Thank you.”

The next day they were shown into an office at, ‘Jennings, Croft and Perry’, Attorneys at Law.

Ed greeted them, directed them to chairs, then brought out a large dark wooden chest. “Ben, your father wanted you to have this. It opens up with this key.”

Ben took the key handed him and turned the lock. The chest had the initials, B.A.C. Sr. carved into the front. The lid swung back easily on its hinges revealing the contents inside.

Ben went through the chest one item at a time, things he’d never seen before, tools of some kind, turning them over in his hands.

“Those are carving tools, Ben. He took up the craft after starting in construction and made this chest. He was quite good at it, actually.”

There were some pictures, a few of Ben when he was a baby, with his mother, then as a toddler, but none of Ben past the age of four. He read the notes written on the back. There were envelopes with some money and old coins, another set of keys, and a bible with scriptures written on the inside pages. He opened it up and found a quote, “Whatever worth building in life is only as good as its foundation.”

“What does this key go to?” Ben asked.

“It belongs to a safe deposit box in you and your mother’s name. I have another set here I will be giving you and your mother also. It is a set of house keys, to his house, also left in your names.” Ed replied, smiling at them both.

Ben looked over at his mom, noting the look of surprise and shock on her face.

He then opened a sealed envelope marked, “Private; to Benjamin Alexander Crowley Jr.,” and withdrew a single letter which he read silently to himself.

    “Ben, I have no adequate words to tell you how sorry I am for leaving you and your mother. I wanted only to hold you, close to my heart, but was afraid, too ashamed to show myself after being gone all those years. When you were very small I had a gambling debt and owed some people a lot of money. I did a lot of awful things back then, drank too much, wasted time and money on all the wrong things. The people I hung around with were wild, not the kind of friends anyone should have. So, to spare you both I just took off. I thought if I could get a decent job, clean up my act, pay off my debts, and get my head on straight, I would come home. But, I was afraid. Afraid I would not be welcomed. I regret all the things I did, but my biggest regret was leaving you both to struggle alone through the years, without me. Please forgive me. It is all I ask. What I want you to know above all else is that I love you and your mother. I always have. Treasure every moment you have with her and grow up to be the kind of man I wasn’t, so you won’t live with regrets. I’ve paid off my debts and owe no one anything anymore, except to you and your mother what I stole; the time and years wasted when I wasn’t there.”

Ben looked up at Ed and asked, “What did my father do, on his job?”

“He worked for a company that built tall buildings, skyscrapers.”

“How did he die?”

“They were working on a construction site project when the scaffolding gave way, and collapsed. He was crushed underneath.”

A year later, on Father’s Day Ben and his mother stood at the grave site of Benjamin Alexander Crowley, Sr., each bringing their gifts; a bouquet of fresh flowers from the garden at their house, the one now belonging to them, and a small wooden cross Ben hand carved with his father’s tools.

Ben had no special words to say to fit the occasion. He had no memories of Father’s Day times spent with his dad. All he had was the “now moment” his mother called them.

“Thanks Dad.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there,

Joyce E. Johnson (2017)

Stricken

They stood with others solemnly by

saluting the fallen and the brave

risking life and limb to bring about a promised peace.

Listening to the strains of, “Amazing Grace,”

flag draped coffins are carried under a guarded sky

across cemetery lawns to their final resting place.

Eulogies and names; so many to honor, too short a time,

families of victims pray their loved one’s story lives to remain

a memory, not forgotten, and why they gather today

because of terror unleashed like the rampant spread of disease.

Eloquent words gracing memorial walls and stones

don’t bring closure nor adequately explain

to those suffering loss with unfathomable pain

why a tragedy of this kind strikes with evil intent,

leaving more unanswered questions that remain.

How can there be those who choose

to live with such prejudice, and hate

towards others whose lives they count not

worthy of grace, mercy and love,

but think it better they not live at all.

In a world broken, where strife and anger exists,

rising animosity and distrust is given to believe

there is no hope, and people succumb

to the chaos and confusion that rises up like an ugly fist.

_____________

Joyce E. Johnson 2017

Footnotes; The story above is fictional, but the situation is real every day, here and elsewhere. There will always be hate and evil that rears its ugly head, even as we think things will, or might improve. The increased anti-Semitism and hatred towards groups in our country and others continues, even while our president works to set in place measures to stop that. Two years ago I posted fictional stories under the title, “Acid Rain” about two brothers, both having the same mother but different fathers. One brother took the path of a terrorist, and the other an officer with the Israeli Defense Forces. You can find their stories here under the Acid Rain fiction heading in the menu on my site. The prequel to this story series began with Brothers Divided. Their stories are fictional, but the one of Isaac and Ishmael are not which I used as inspiration for the stories of Sam, and Gamal. The recent events of increased vandalism and terror threats to the Jewish Community centers in our country and increased anti-Semitism throughout the world prompted the poetic fictional story above.

Posted March 13, 2017 by Joyce in Fiction, Flash Fiction, My Writings, Poems, poetry

Tagged with , , , ,

Silent Love

Scan_20150212 (2)

No eloquent words, flowers, gifts or cards

could he give her, but just a token

gesture of his affection

with twisted smile, and memory all but gone.

Eyesight, hearing, failing too,

he tried to form his thoughts,

while expressing his love to her,

but his stroke had stolen from them so much.

Like the younger version of himself

with vibrant, baritone rich voice

when he once belted out old tunes,

are but broken phrases hanging on.

With faint muttering he attempts to sing,

to remember the lyrics, what he wants to say

like the day he swooned her heart with song.

But, she’ll treasure what they have today

for she fears the day when he is gone.

and prays to God it lingers on.

_______________________

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

Joyce E. Johnson © 2017

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