Not Long Tales … August 13th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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We are overjoyed to announce the initiation of our weekly segment on Jonathots Daily Blog, entitled Not Long Tales. Each and every Tuesday, we’ll be offering you a short story for your enjoyment.

Mrs. Windermoot

Loneliness is a confinement requiring solitude, a commitment without companion.

It had been one year since Mrs. Windermoot had lost her beloved husband of forty-three years, Baris. Even though she had two grown sons who loved her, she found herself very lonely, like a bride left behind on the dock of the honeymoon cruise.

Her sons, Benett and Burgess, were responsive and certainly concerned for her health, but fell short of touching the tender spots of her well-being.

She was alone, which left her lonely. She’d never anticipated being quite so submerged in the sense of absence, but since she had moved into the much smaller two-bedroom townhouse just west of the city, she was constantly battling the pangs of self-pity and the ache of separation.

She did not know any of her neighbors. Several of them had made a visit—but they were all so much younger—and though they promised to return, none did.

Mrs. Windermoot tried to plan activities for herself—making a special dinner, watching a movie. She even scheduled a weekly tea, where she set out all the fixings, including a dozen of her famous chocolate chip cookies. Although it was somewhat entertaining, in no time at all, she was just an old woman sitting in a room nibbling treats.

She never reached the point of desperation—that being sharing her complaint with others. Most of the time she sat very still in her home, wondering whether it was too soon to have another nap.

One day she noticed that a city bus stopped right in front of her house. She had never paid any attention before, but on this particular morning, maybe the sun was shining just right, or she just happened to look out at the correct moment.

But there it was—big as life. 9:31 A. M. It was back again the next day, and faithfully returned the third morning.

So Mrs. Windermoot made a plan. On the fourth morning when the bus appeared, she would get on the bus, and ride as far as it went through the town, and at least have the ability to see other scenery—and maybe even converse with new people.

She dressed for the occasion—one of her best Sunday frocks, and made two dozen chocolate chip cookies, which she tucked away in her purse. She eased her way out the door at 9:15 so as not to miss the arrival and was standing there patiently when the bus pulled up. Not familiar with the route or process, she carefully climbed on as the driver impatiently waited for her to place her money in the slot, allowing her the privilege of being toted about.

She was smart enough to know to bring exact change, but her fingers were not very fast, and finally the bus driver, heaving a huge sigh, took the coins from her hand and completed the job.

Once legally paid for, she inched her way back four rows and sat down. There were only two other people on the bus, and she was nowhere near them, and felt foolish to be on a journey with no apparent purpose.

After a couple of stops, with additional people arriving, she felt better. When someone sat in the seat next to her, she finally worked up the courage to greet the stranger. Her words were met with a bit of kindness, so she offered the young man (obviously on his way to work, because of the uniform he was wearing) … well, she offered him a chocolate chip cookie. He was so grateful, explaining that he hadn’t eaten breakfast, and usually didn’t take the time for it.

At the next stop, while people were getting on, the bus driver walked back to Mrs. Windermoot. He seemed huge. His nametag read, “Mickey.” He leaned down to Mrs. Windermoot and whispered, “Listen, lady. I can’t have you giving out food on the bus. I don’t know where it came from. You may be a nice lady and all—you certainly seem alright—but I could get in a helluva lot of trouble if you were poisoning people.”

When Mrs. Windermoot heard the word “poison,” she flinched—a reflex. The whole idea of her being a sinister murderer seemed absolutely ludicrous, if not offensive. The young man who was still chomping on his cookie interrupted. “Listen, they taste great. You should try one.”

Before Mickey could consider the idea, Mrs. Windermoot was holding one to his nose. Beautiful chocolate chip cookie.

Maybe it was a desire to salve the old girl’s ego, or maybe it was Mickey taking responsibility—taste testing to ensure there was no danger. Or maybe Mickey had missed a breakfast, too. But he grabbed the cookie and chomped away. His expression changed from austere to delight.

Realizing that the bus driver was now eating chocolate chip cookies, which seemed to be coming from the frail lady sitting in the seat, three or four people made their way up the aisle to receive a treat of their own. Everybody was grateful, and the bus driver (still maintaining a bit of his authority) told Mrs. Windermoot that if she brought them again, to “make sure he could check them out before they got passed around.”

Thus began a ritual. Four times a week—Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday—the lonely woman climbed on the bus with her chocolate chip cookies and rode around town, sharing treats and meeting new folks, turning Bus #572 into a friendly wagon of confection.

Once Mrs. Windermoot realized the chocolate chip cookies were a hit, she brought some little finger sandwiches, Rice Krispies treats—well, almost anything that came to her mind that she could make quickly for at least fifty people. Yes—it didn’t take long for the sweet old woman to gain a congregation of fifty admirers for all of her offerings.

A week passed. Two weeks. A month. Two months. Gradually, Mrs. Windermoot learned the story of Mickey, what the young man she originally met was hoping for his future, and the life stories of a dozen or more fellow travelers. It actually seemed that the bus was beginning to grow in attendance, if such a thing were possible. And everyone always seemed to be in a better mood once they boarded Bus #572 and headed off to pursue their responsibilities.

Then one morning, Mickey pulled the bus in front of her house and Mrs. Windermoot was not there. It was Wednesday. Mickey knew it was the right day. He was concerned, as were four or five other people, who stared out their windows, desperate to see the old lady emerge with her kindness and generosity.

But she was nowhere in sight.

Mickey was on a schedule, but his curiosity overwhelmed him. Where was she? Then his imagination went wild. Why wouldn’t she be out there? Was she alright? Did the old lady die?

It was right after this last question crossed his mind that Mickey decided to climb off the bus and go knock on her door. He did not notice that three or four other people joined him, apparently feeling a similar concern. Mickey knocked, and he knocked again. He peered in the window. There was no movement.

He reached over, tried the doorknob, and it opened. How foolish of the old lady not to lock her door, he thought.

But motioning to those who had trailed behind to “stay back!” he stepped into the house to investigate. Human nature being what it is, of course nobody listened to him, and they followed him through the door like a little train of detectives.

Inside there was an eerie silence. No sound.

There was one light on in the house, which appeared to be coming from the kitchen. Mickey inched toward the light, listening carefully for any movement. He was frightened—afraid of what he might find. He turned to those following, holding a finger to his lips, demanding that they remain quiet. He walked slowly to the opening of the kitchen, and as he rounded the corner he looked. There she was. It was Mrs. Windermoot.

She was sitting in a chair, peeling eggs.

She turned around, surprised to see Mickey in her home, and gasped. “What are you doing?” she demanded.

A good question. He didn’t know how to explain that he was expecting to find a body, not an egg peeler. “When you weren’t out there for the bus, I got scared, so I decided to check on you.”

Mrs. Windermoot glanced over at the clock that sat on the stove. “Well, you’re two hours early,” she explained.

Mickey looked at the same clock. It read 7:40. Leaning down and peering at it, he reported, “Ma’am, for some reason, the clock stopped. It’s 9:37,” he said, looking at his watch.

Mrs. Windermoot turned red with embarrassment. She looked behind Mickey and saw that there were six other people in the house, staring at her.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I thought I was ahead of my time! You see, I got up this morning deciding to boil eggs to make egg salad for our trip today. I wasn’t sure whether to hard boil them or soft boil them, so I decided to go in-between. But when I got to the in-between time, I thought how terrible it would be if they were runny, so I boiled them again.”

There was a pause, then everyone laughed.

Mrs. Windermoot was not certain why she was so hilarious, but she appreciated the affirmation. Mickey patted her on the shoulder and asked, “How long would it take you to finish your project?”

Mrs. Windermoot crinkled her brow, thinking intensely, as if pondering the national debt. “I should be ready in twenty minutes,” she said.

Mickey looked back at the passengers in the room, cleared his throat and said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. I shouldn’t do this, but there’s no reason why I can’t make four or five more stops, and then come back around on Johnson Street and pick you up—as long as NO ONE TELLS ON ME.” He raised his voice at the end.

Everybody nodded their heads in agreement. Mrs. Windermoot looked up at Mickey and said, “I’m sorry to have been so much trouble.”

Mickey patted her on the shoulder. “You’re no trouble at all. Matter of fact, a lot of trouble has left since you came along.”

Mickey corralled all the souls and they headed out the door. As they streamed back to the bus, Mickey realized he was taking a big chance by changing the schedule. What if someone noticed? What if there was a new customer who complained to the company about the delay? What if this was one of those weeks when there was a spy on the bus, evaluating his ability and performance?

As he reached the steps to climb into the bus, he scratched his head. He glanced back at the house, wondering if he should run and tell the old lady that he had changed his mind. Then…

Mickey shook his head and chuckled. “What the hell,” he said to himself. “No one’s gonna care. And I sure do love a good egg salad sandwich.”

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Stay on the Bus … January 21, 2013

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Martin Luther King Jr.Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a problem. The bus line in his local community had begun to raise a fuss about carrying the colored folks of the town. There were so many reasons for the conflict that it’s difficult to explain–but basically, Rev. King was a Negro minister in a municipality which believed in and practiced “separate but equal.” Racial mixing was frowned on except in the exchange of cordial, but brief, greetings in the marketplace.

The problem the young minister faced was that some of his congregation wanted to rebel and object to the lack of equality and respect given to the Negro community. But most of the folks just wanted to get along. They saw no particular reason, after all these years of struggle and winning significant improvements, to anger the white community over such a silly, little issue as transportation. But he was also aware of the power he possessed among his people as a member of the clergy. They would more than likely move out in any direction he deemed righteous.

He prayed about it. After he prayed, he decided that the true wisdom of God was to use discretion and humility instead of demanding acceptance, which would only be viewed as arrogant. He negotiated a deal with the bus company to allow the colored folks, who sat in the rear, to redecorate that particular portion of the bus to suit their culture and liking. The bus company thought it was an odd request but couldn’t see any reason why allowing the Negroes to do what they wanted to on the bus, within reason, should be denied–since no white person would step back there anyway.

Matter of fact, Rev. King sold the concept to his flock under the banner, “Redecorate Our Lives.” In other words, rather than fighting against society, requiring respect, his suggestion was that the colored community establish their uniqueness and the beauty of their culture, and therefore become a testimony through cooperation. It was a roaring success. The white community was happy because things were let alone, and the Negroes felt they had achieved a compromise, which allowed them to retain some dignity of their own.

Rev. King became so popular that he was asked to head a confluence of black educators who became consultants for Congress in Washington, D.C. Although the body of legislators continued to be predominately white, this gathering of leaders from the Negro community was permitted to input ideas on how to make race relations better across the country. In fact, Rev. King was one of the founders of the NCFL–the National Colored Football League, which he proudly touted often had greater attendance in their stadiums than the nearly all-white National Football League.

Oh, there were some downs with the ups. Martin was not pleased that the music and arts scene, never integrated, failed to blend the sounds of gospel, blues and jazz into the mainstream of the pop music scene. But most of the Negro artists were able to etch out a living among their darker brothers and sisters.

Probably Rev. King’s proudest accomplishment was his “Back to Black” campaign, begun in the late 1970’s, to take American families on pilgrimages to Africa, similar to the Muslims returning to Mecca or the Jews to Jerusalem.

Separate but equal” remained the law of the land but gradually was beginning to resemble equality more than just separation. Race relations were fine unless a few trouble-makers came along rocking the boat, insisting that the forefathers’ concept of all men being created equal was an inclusive concept MEANT to promote integration.

Although Rev. King was sympathetic to their feelings, he warned them that fighting against the general opinion of the population was not going to bring peace and contentment, but rather, a forced situation of interaction, which ultimately would only produce anger and resentment.

He was successful in calming the turmoil. He was well-respected within the black community and considered to be a healing force among the whites.

While attending a convention in Atlanta in 1992, he was preparing to give a speech when he had a heart attack and died. The topic of his last presentation was to be, “Separate but equal–thank God Almighty, at last.”

You see, this very easily could have been the story of the man. He would have lived longer, he would have been more accepted and he would never have had a bullet pierce his neck and bleed out on the balcony of a cheap motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

But everything we are today–all progress we’ve made, every idea of justice and every possibility of interaction, while looking each other directly in the eye, would be pure mythology. Dr. King wrestled with two Presidents to secure the civil rights legislation that steers the ship of social justice.

Yet we live in a generation which advocates “staying on the bus” instead of boycotting the corporation because of its unfair practices. We are civilized; we are rational and we are just … damned boring.

Remember today–one man had to make one choice. Do I find a way to work with the system? Or do I declare that system filthy, evil, and fight against it–willing to give my life?

Think about it.

Then–when it’s your turn–this time, don’t compromise.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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