Cracked 5 … May 1st, 2018


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Other Names Considered for the Wheelchair

A. Assigned seating

 

B. Hunkycapped

 

C. Roll-aide

 

D. Electric chair (if there’s a motor)

 

E. Wheels of misfortune

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 34) Old Men Will Dream Dreams… December 18th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

“Preacher! Preacher!! PREACHER!”

The volume rose to such a point that it awakened Meningsbee with a start.

He laid on his bed, confused, trying to place himself in a context with time and location. He was still in his miniscule motel confines, but outside there was someone screaming for a preacher.

He decided to try to ignore it.

But the pleading continued, coming closer and closer.

Meningsbee eased to his feet and peeked out the window. There was an old codger with a gray, unkempt beard and long hair, and an army coat–probably circa Vietnam War–shouting for all he was worth.

“Preacher! Preacher!! PREACHER!”

Fearing that the desperate soul would be arrested for disturbing the peace, Meningsbee opened his door a crack and peered out. The screamer saw him and ran forward.

Meningsbee was afraid and slammed the door, peeking out the peephole. The fellow arrived breathlessly.

“What do you want?” asked Meningsbee through the door.

“Are you a preacher?” demanded the stranger.

Meningsbee paused. He wasn’t sure what to answer, so he opted for the truth. “Sometimes.”

“I need to talk to you. I’ve had a dream and I need someone to interpret it.”

“I don’t interpret dreams,” confessed Meningsbee.

“Then just listen to me,” the old man insisted. “Maybe we can figure it out together.”

Meningsbee peered out one more time through the hole in the door and decided the fellow looked weak enough that he could take him if necessary. He opened up and allowed the very confused gentleman to enter his room. The man found a seat on one of the tiny chairs and launched.

“Preacher, I had a dream and I need you to interpret it for me. It’s driving me crazy. I need an answer. I need to know.”

Meningsbee interrupted. “Well, I need to know how you know I’m a preacher.”

“Oh. That would be Jackie Bee down at the front desk. He said you signed in as ‘Reverend Something or Other.'”

Meningsbee nodded. “Just call me Richard.”

The old fellow reached out and shook his hand but objected, saying, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to call you Preacher. That keeps my mind right.”

Meningsbee shrugged. “What’s your name?”

“They call me Nico because I’m always trying to get enough money together to buy a nicotine patch so I’ll stop smoking.”

“Okay, Nico,” Meningsbee smiled. “What can I do for you?”

Nico leaned forward, folding his hands as if preparing for prayer. “Here it is, Preacher. This is my dream. You see, it’s Christmas morning and I’m sittin’ in front of this beautiful tree with sparkling lights. It’s so chilly in the room that I cozy up to the fire to stay warm, and there’s this one big box–a present–right in front of me. So I unwrap the present, and inside is another box, all wrapped up in the same paper, but a little smaller. Well, I open that one up and there’s another box, wrapped, smaller still. This goes on five, six, seven times. Finally I get down to this itsy-bitsy box. I reach out and I shake it to see if there’s anything inside, and sure enough–I can feel something move. I’m just about ready to get my prize when suddenly–my arms dissolve. That’s right–they just disappear. I have no way of opening up the final box. I know there’s something inside, but I can’t get to it. It’s driving me crazy. It’s like my brain is itching but I can’t scratch it. And then suddenly, there’s the sound of many people laughing. And then I woke up in a cold sweat.”

“Do you live here, Nico?” asked Meningsbee.

“I do, Preacher. I’m on disability. Have been for almost thirty years. Some folks think I’m a little crazy but I think there’s still some good left inside of me, because I wonder if I’m nuts, too.”

Meningsbee laughed in spite of himself.

Nico continued. “So what do you think it means, Preacher? Tell me about my dream. Tell me what God’s trying to say.”

Meningsbee liked Nico. Although still a little alarmed, he felt a shepherd’s heart toward the lost soul.

“Nico, I could tell you a thing or two, or speculate, but I really don’t know what it means. You see, even though I’m a preacher, I’m a little bit lost right now, and I’ve come here hoping I could get an interpretation for my own life.”

Nico squinted his eyes, listening carefully, and then nodded his head. “So what you’re saying, Preacher, is that we’re both screwed up.”

“I guess so.”

Nico stood to his feet. “Well, I didn’t mean to bother you, and I apologize for my screamin’ and hollerin.’ I hope you find your way back to your dream.”

Meningsbee shook his hand and said, “Nico, I hope you find that your dream shows you a way.”

As quickly as the visitor had arrived he was gone. Meningsbee shut the door.

Just a couple of moments passed and there was a knock. The preacher opened the door and there was Nico again.

“Listen… I have a request.”

Meningsbee jumped in. “You’d like some money, wouldn’t you?”

Nico smirked. “For breakfast. My check is not due until Tuesday. I’m on disability. Oh, I already said that, didn’t I?”

Meningsbee shook his head, chuckled and pulled out three one-dollar bills. “This I can interpret. Enjoy.”

He handed the money to the eager receiver. Nico gave him a quick hug and ran down the sidewalk.

Meningsbee stood staring at the departing figure and thought about the dream. How many packages had he opened up in his life, only to find them empty? Or were they just promises, leading to other gifts?

It was much too deep to think about.

Especially without coffee.

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Confessing … September 19th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2697)

XX.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

Some time ago in a parish far away, I joined with some friends who had a creative bend and believed that art and faith were intended to be wed, and rented an H & R Block building, which had completed its taxing season and was available for occupation, gathering with these sweet folks at least twice a week to discuss the beauty of music and words, and also how we might be able to help others.

Yes, there was just enough hippie in us that we chose to have a concern for the needy in our midst.

So one day at our little headquarters, a large, cocoa-complected young man strolled through our door with an appearance that foretold his lack, possessing only a huge, toothy grin.

He wondered if we had $1.99 so that he could go to Church’s Fried Chicken, which was two doors down, and pick up their special–two pieces of chicken and a side.

We all liked him immediately.

We told him we would give him the money if he would pick up the same deal for the rest of us. Then we could all sit down, eat together and get to know one another. I think my friends were a little surprised when I pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, gave it to the big fellow and told him to purchase seven of them, come back, and bring me the change.

By the way, he told us his name was Johnnie, and I’m sure that all of my acquaintances were convinced that Johnnie was going to abscond with the twenty dollars.

He didn’t.

He came back, we ate chicken and it became a daily ritual for the next several months. We got to know him as a person instead of merely an object of charity.

So one day, when Johnnie told us that he was supposed to go into the Social Security Office and apply for disability, we took him to the local Goodwill, and after much shopping, we found a suit big enough to cover his girth.

He was so proud of it.

He went to the meeting, and then we didn’t hear from him for several weeks. I was concerned, so I went out into the streets, looking for my buddy.

I found him sitting next to a dumpster about a half-mile away. He tried to run away from me, but I was able to stop him. I asked him why he was avoiding us.

He explained that he was embarrassed because he had sold the suit so he could purchase a bucket of chicken.

I gave him a hug and explained that we didn’t love him because he was wearing a suit–it was just a gift, for him to use as he wished.

Shortly after that encounter, our little group decided to move our headquarters since the H & R Block building was no longer available. We found a place about three miles away and told Johnnie about our exodus.

He was sad.

I was bewildered. After all, we weren’t leaving town. So I made him promise he would come and see us.

He didn’t.

After about three weeks I went out on another search for Johnnie. Finally the lady at the Church’s Fried Chicken told me that Johnnie had been arrested for erratic and disorderly behavior, and that they were holding him in the mental ward on the 13th floor of the local hospital. I got in my car and went to see him.

Amazingly, since I wasn’t kin or connected to him in any logical way, they let me in to talk to him.

When I walked into the room he was sitting next to the window, staring into the distance. I was very disappointed when Johnnie didn’t recognize me.

He was heavily medicated and docile. I tried to stir his memory but was completely unsuccessful.

So I took his hands, which lay limp in his lap, and prayed for him. I stood to leave and was just about out the door when Johnnie turned his head and said, “Chicken.”

Just as quickly, he turned away and resumed his vigil of nothingness.

I cried.

He remembered.

But you see, I also learned. People are not projects. They are human, with real needs. We can’t just pick them up and handle them when it’s convenient to our charitable inclinations and then drop them off in the middle of nowhere without a map on where to go.

We thought we were so damned generous, but we didn’t realize that Johnnie needed daily care, daily love and a daily location in which to go to give him a sense of balance.

Johnnie taught me a lot.

Johnnie taught me that since the poor don’t go away, if we’re going to start helping them, we have to have a plan to keep from abandoning them.

Confessing Johnny

 

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Brother’s Keeper… October 24, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Mary and Russell had five children.

I was the fourth intrusion. I do not characterize myself in that way to be mean-spirited. No human being is good at parenting. Even Adam and Eve were not “Abel” and ended up raising “Cain.”

Here’s the problem: By the time we figure out babies, they become toddlers. We graduate that phase, and suddenly they’re children. Just when we grasp the concept of childhood, they escape into the great tunnel of adolescence. Some brave souls actually try to follow them into that cave–and are never heard of again. The intelligent ones stand on the outside of the deep, dark hole, pray, cross their fingers and wait for their dear offspring to emerge about eight or nine years later.

Feel free to purchase books on the subject of raising children–although some piously insist that the term should be “rearing.” Your little darlings will be more than happy to dash all theories and bring to rubble great plans for household advancement.

So it was no different with Mary and Russell. Their particular skills were stuck somewhere between the McGuffie Reader and Dr. Benjamin Spock, causing them in their confusion to be too mean when compassion was required and too gentle when my four brothers and myself were desperate for discipline.

The only regrettable conclusion of this situation is that the five brothers grew up not particularly fond of each other. We were too competitive. We were too self-involved. We were too much of everything that is associated with the word “too.”

My oldest brother passed away before he and I were able to make peace with each other. Sad.

The third son and I made a truce which lasted until the day he died.

My younger sibling expresses affection in my direction, which is never followed up with any connection.

But Brother Number Two has become my project over the past twenty years. He was an intelligent, promising student many years ago, who had a vision for becoming a high school English teacher extraordinaire. He pulled it off for many years, but in the mid-1980’s he had a nervous breakdown and has lived on disability ever since.

I have great devotion for him. You notice I am careful not to call it “love.” To me, “love” is reserved for those excellent earthly moments when true connection is made between souls and an unearthly understanding of the universe unfolds.

No, I am devoted to him. For twenty years I have written him. For twenty years, I have visited every chance I can–whenever I get within a hundred miles. And every week I also receive a letter from him, ranging in tone from the kindness of mundane to the anger and virulence of vicious.

I endure.

So imagine my mixed emotions this week when I arrived in Central Ohio knowing that I needed to see him, but realizing that there was a reluctance in my heart to be confronted–especially at this time in my journey–with such a malevolent presence. I always have to remind myself that he strikes out at the world around him because he feels struck. But it’s not very comforting in the moment.

So I made a plan to pick him up at 9:15 yesterday morning, confirmed it with him by phone, and drove into his driveway to discover that his entire front yard had been transformed into a giant garage sale, strewn with trash and old junk. I thought to myself that at least we had a good topic for opening conversation. As previously agreed, I tapped my horn to let him know of my arrival.

There was no response.

My present physical condition does not permit me to leap from the van and go to the door to pound upon it with urgency. So I waited five minutes and tapped my horn again. Nothing.

My mind flashed back to the last three times I tried to connect with this dear brother, and had been stood up by him with a nasty letter from him following, explaining that it was my fault that he didn’t appear because he knew deep in his heart that I don’t really care anything about him.

So I started to wonder how long I planned to stay in his driveway, tapping my horn, before leaving with the realization that once again I was to be viewed as the ugly girl at the junior prom.

Yet I persisted. After five horn beeps and twenty-five minutes, he appeared sleepily at the door and told me he would be right out. Ten minutes later, I was rewarded for my perseverance by the appearance of my brother at the side of my van, and we were off.

The next two hours that I spent with him are a study in human behavior and an exploration into the definitions of feeling helpless. For you see, the reason his front yard has been turned into a flea market is that he has allowed two vagabond young men to come in and live in his home, and they have completely taken over his abode, and are beginning to fight with him to such an extent that the police have actually had to be called to the scene.

I resisted running away in horror.

He explained to me that these same individuals have chased away his beloved cats, which are really his only family, leaving him without feline protection. One of these young intruders has also brought a homeless man into the house to stay, further complicating the chemistry brewing in the cauldron.

Then my brother explained to me that he is trying to evict one of the squatters, while said squatter is also taking him to court for reimbursement on construction supplies that the young fellow purchased to build in a living quarters–for himself–on the back porch. (Now, I realize that all of this is very confusing when written into a story form, but let me comfort you by telling you that it was no easier to understand in the original telling.)

My dear brother had no trouble whatsoever filling in 129 minutes of conversation on his own, only once asking about my doings, in passing. He has a life that is full … without having a full life.

You see, it’s what happens to all of us when we don’t decide the purpose for our breathing and moving; circumstance and crazy travelers can come in and fill in our empty space with their own trauma and terror.

This is why I pity grown people who make their children their lives. Your seed will be more than willing to destroy your garden of hopes. I am always careful to warn those who have retired to start a second career, finding a reason to get up in the morning. Otherwise, all of the insanity of the world will crash in on you, exhausting you with its nuttiness without ever granting you fruit.

My brother was exhausted but had nothing to show for it but sadness, exasperation, apprehension and defeat. They had broken his television set, taken his car and left him desolate. And because it appears that he has given these things over to them, it is impossible to prosecute the perpetrators.

I was so depleted. I remembered the lament of an exasperated brother from thousands of years ago: Am I my brother’s keeper?

It’s so easy to walk away from insanity and allow it to be turned over to the general asylum. You can disassociate yourself from it so easily, returning to your own peaceful ways.

But he is my brother. He would be my brother if we had not shared a common womb, because we share a common God.

I did my best to encourage. I did my best to bless. I did my best to promise him that I would return again very soon to renew our conversation. I did my best to give him some money so he could spend it on himself instead of squandering it on his emotional assailants.

I did my best not to cry.

Mary and Russell did their best, too. But like many of those born after the Garden, they grew some weeds. It is now the job of those stray children to find one another and make some sense of it all.

I am my brother’s keeper. It’s just that sometimes the most difficult part of caretaking … is cleaning up.

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The “Ish” Family … October 12, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

The movie wrapped up, completed with a beautiful spirit and great energy. It was a little script I had written called $6 Man–about a homeless fellow who was trying to maintain the custody of his daughter while also assisting other fellow-street-dwellers, instructing them in converting abandoned dumpsters into shelter. When I first wrote the screenplay and passed it around, everybody was thrilled, but once the movie was shot, some nay-sayers arrived who suggested that the whole project was going to fail because the ending of the story was a bit distasteful and didn’t present a Hollywood-style conclusion. Matter of fact, even people who were in the film, participated in the production and backed the project were completely overtaken by the criticism and were totally convinced that the ending should be revised.Why? Because we have this notion that good things should bring about great results. There’s no foundation in it. If goodness always resulted in earthly reward, then rich people would be some of the most virtuous individuals walking on the planet. But if God were to suddenly shine a spotlight on the most righteous human being, it would probably not beam down on Wall Street.

Goodness has a reward because it gives us the confidence to not be afraid to tell the truth.

I thought I was doing a good thing by rising from my discomfort, getting a wheel chair and heading off to do my gig in Sycamore, Ohio. Matter of fact, the process of renting the chair, learning how to use it and loading it in the van all went extremely smoothly.

And then … here came the “Ish” family. The Ish family consists of a threesome who always show up whenever you have the audacity to pursue something which is considered to be abnormal. May I introduce you to this trio?

  • First there is Foolish.
  • Please welcome to the party … Childish.
  • And then, a little less verbal and very nervous, is Skittish.

When I left yesterday afternoon, my journey of faith–to overcome my physical limitations with my legs and continue my work–was immediately greeted by obstacles from this trinity of fussiness.

First of all, the road to our journey decided to just end, taking us on a detour which may not have completely encircled the globe, but surely was only one turn short of that. (Thank you, Foolishness.)

We arrived at the church to be assisted by some wonderful human beings, but we were still completely inept in using the wheelchair and getting in and out of the doors of the church. (A big shout-out to Childish.)

In addition, the sanctuary only had two aisles to get to the front of the church–neither of which were exactly wheelchair accessible. (Enter, stage right: Skittish.)

And then, to completely discourage our odyssey of faith, only eleven people showed up for the gig, making us feel ridiculous for going through the exertion of pursuing it–for only such a small number. (There’s another “ish” in there somewhere, but I can’t identify it.)

On top of all that, I had not truly factored in how humiliating it would be as a man, to be rolled into the room in a wheelchair to do what I have done for forty years? (I guess that’s the threesome, collaborating.)

So when the program was over and I was awaiting Jan, who was loading equipment with some of our new, kind friends, I happened to look in a pane of glass to see a reflection of myself. God, I looked pathetic. If possible, in that seated position, I looked fatter than ever.

I was discouraged.

Foolish came over and spoke in my ear. “Do you see how ridiculous this is? You’re getting older, you’re fat, you have diabetes. Give it up. It’s not worth it.”

Without missing a beat, Childish jumped in. “Aren’t you tired of hurting? You need to go someplace and play. This isn’t fun anymore. Maybe it seemed like a good idea, but now the other kids on the playground are laughing at you.”

Before I could take a deep breath of faith, Skittish was in my other ear. “Isn’t this scary? What if there’s something SERIOUSLY wrong with you? I know you’re getting around, but there’s always the possibility that you have something like Legionnaire’s Disease,–an unknown virus from the deep jungles of Africa, and it’s attacking the back of your thighs and will eat your whole body away…”

They are quite a tag team. They take faith and try to make it look stupid. They are worshippers of conventional wisdom, which only works if you’re at a convention and everybody there is willing to call it wisdom.

I took another glance at my image in the glass before me, laughed, and instead of waiting to be pushed to the van, I rolled myself to the door to make my own escape in my own way. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I have no expertise with the wheelchair, I got one of the metal pieces caught on the door frame and couldn’t go forward or backward. So now, I was not only stuck in a wheelchair, but I was hooked to the framework of the church like a helpless marlin.

Needless to say, Foolish, Childish and Skittish laughed in glee, having their points well-established through my efforts.

But I welcomed a spirit of relaxation into my soul, took a look at my dilemma, and in no time at all, through pursuing calm instead of frantic, I dislodged myself, rolled out into the parking lot on my own, opened up the back doors of the van from my seated position, turned myself around the corner and over to my van door, locked the wheels of the chair like a true professional, and climbed up into my seat.

I did it.

It was a beautiful fall night, life was going on and I succeeded in surviving the trepidation of a wheelchair in front of eleven people in Sycamore, Ohio.

I did not get a Hollywood ending last night. The exertion felt exhilarating at the time, but I paid the price upon returning, with a sense of exhaustion. I wake up this morning grateful to those in Sycamore who helped me so dearly and showed up to see my present leap (or perhaps better stated, crawl) of faith.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. What am I hoping for? That’s simple. Two things:

1. I am hoping that I will learn through this painful experience that I am addicted to food and must put myself on guard for the rest of my life, to make sure that my weight is always heading downwards instead of climbing for the stars.

2. I am hoping that this process will not kill me.

I am not denying reality. As you can see, I am hoping for something substantial.

So on Day Two of my little journey, I cannot report to you that I have a Hollywood ending which would please all of the spectators milling around. But as in the case of my movie, $6 Man, there is a way that life works–and a procedure–and the more you learn to honor the truth of the matter instead of trying to make everything easy and acceptable, the greater the chance you have of being present when a miracle actually happens.

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