Not Long Tales … December 24th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4468)

20.

The Wysies

On July 19th, the project received the green light for filming—seven days commencing on the 2nd of December—to be aired for five straight nights, beginning December 19th through December 24th, Christmas Eve.

Expectations were high.

The network was always thrilled when any new angle on the holiday season could be unearthed in an attempt to capture a large market share during the December festivities.

This year was particularly exciting, because along with the entertaining new concept was the introduction of Zandy Carlisle to direct. She was an Asian gay woman with a disability—carpel tunnel syndrome. A promotional trifecta.

The premise of the show was simple. A twist and turn on the phrase “Wise Men” had become “Wysies.”

This was not the original title. At first it was spelled W-I-S-S-I-E-S. But after conducting a survey of potential audience, it was determined that the name was too close to “Wussies,” which made everybody laugh—but for the wrong reason.

So it was quickly changed to W-I-Z-Z-I-E-S. But this tested worse, since the inclusion of the prefix “wiz” brought forth images of urination as far as the eye could see. It was Zandy who suggested that using a Y took care of the pronunciation, and striking the extra S eliminated the “Wussie” or the “Wizzie.”

Actually, choosing the name was much more difficult than coming up with the blueprint of the show.

Basically it was a broadcast about five couples, all in their twenties, sent on a mission. Each couple would begin in Temecula, California, dressed in shorts and a shirt, barefoot and with fifty dollars. They would be instructed to walk all the way to the Burbank, California studios as their final destination.

The ninety-four miles between Temecula and Burbank were almost identical to the ninety-seven point six miles that the first Christmas couple, M & J, trekked from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

The rules were easy to understand. There were four things that needed to be accomplished:

  1. Each couple was to stay on foot with no motorized transportation, be it public or private.
  2. They must garner all food and drink from the kindness of strangers.
  3. They would also have to perform one huge, provable good deed.
  4. And finally, to keep everything lively, they should arrive at the finish line in Burbank with a donkey.

Each journey would be filmed, and on the final night, there would be a vote cast by the audience to proclaim the winner.

A rather extensive search took place for the right participants. Of course, in respect to the times, one needed to be gay, one was interracial—black and Asian. An additional couple was a prison romance which blossomed into freedom, with a great backstory. One selected pair was a very religious married team. And finally, there was one couple that was white bread enough to make peanut butter sandwiches for all of summer camp. Their names were Curtis and Morena—a pair of actors who had come to Southern California seeking fame and fortune, but willing to settle for either.

Curtis had been in the hunt for notoriety for about a year-and-a-half, and so far, had only procured a job as a stand-in for a talking jalapeno in a Mr. Mexico taco commercial. Morena had a bit more success—playing the notorious “Queen of Dirt” in a kitchen cleanser TV ad.

Long before the time for filming arrived, sessions were planned to discuss what was expected, beneficial, preferred and helpful for each couple. It was made clear that it was absolutely fine to mention God—but no more than once per episode, so as not to scare away the “uncertain” crowd or the “God is dead” demographic. At no time was Jesus to be included. There were just too many Jews, Muslims and Buddhists for the show to present itself as a billboard for Christianity.

Every couple needed to have a story, so questions were asked, and the search began for what approach would draw the public into the private lives of the contestants.

But first, it was made clear that the name “Wysies” was chosen because it gave a quaint, holiday sniff to what was actually a reality game show (“Wysies” being the Wise Men). That was coupled with the length of the journey being tied into the story of Mary and Joseph. It seemed to be just enough to provide a flavor of inspiration.

The back-stories were chosen.

The gay couple was to play out the persecution they had suffered in pursuit of gaining the right to be married in an America which was “the home of the free and the land of the brave.” Or maybe the other way around.

The black man and Asian woman had lived in Mississippi after he had completed a military tour of duty in Iraq. Their feelings had been greatly injured by the citizens of Dixie, who found their joining to be unnatural under God’s Law.

The two prisoners who had found love after jail had a natural set-up. He was in for trafficking drugs, and she had killed her former husband in a fit of rage when she found him sleeping with her younger sister.

The difficulty came when it was time to derive an appealing presentation for Curtis and Morena. After much questioning, it was decided to emphasize that Curtis was an orphan—since his father had died when he was ten, though his mother was still alive and dwelling in Columbia, Missouri. And Morena had been plagued by disease because she had terrible allergies to both hay and ragweed. (It was agreed that as long as they didn’t get too specific, a general mentioning of their circumstances could still stir the sympathies of the viewership.)

Director Zandy made it abundantly clear that a show of this intensity—this rich with human conflict—would have to emphasize forced feeling, forced fighting, forced exposure, and when necessary, forced story lines.

After the first four planning sessions, Curtis and Morena became disillusioned. It was especially disheartening when the religious couple stomped off the set after being informed that any testimony of their salvation or personal relationship with God had to be abandoned in favor of punctuating their own love story—with a strong dose highlighting their sex life.

That left four couples.

Director Zandy said she was thrilled when it came down to four because five stories were more difficult to squeeze into the time constraints. Even though Curtis and Morena became upset about the job, the first-place prize money of fifty thousand dollars would keep them working and striving toward their goal of becoming full-fledged actors—and was certainly worth putting up with some bleeding of the conscience.

After the planning sessions, and with a general understanding of the expectations, the cast members were sent back to their lives to fend for themselves until the filming began. Each week, Zandy sent off an email with little hints and encouragements on how to better access their greatest potential for winning the show.

Especially significant were the ideas on how to do a good deed. Matter of fact, Zandy referred to this as a “sloppy, sappy service.” In other words, something so obviously kind, generous and merciful that the audience at home would be brought to tears, convinced of the overwhelming goodness of the contestant.

Each week, Curtis and Morena read the directive from Zandy, feeling more and more unsure of their footing. Also, Curtis received alarming news about his mother, Catherine McDermott, who was showing the first stages of dementia—or perhaps warning signs of cardiovascular disease and the danger of a stroke. In other words, she was “ailing.” That’s how family and friends in Missouri expressed their fears for the worst.

Curtis didn’t know what to do. The main problems were his financial situation, fear of failure and his lack of passion about his aspiration for acting. He was frightened that if he went home to Missouri, he would never make it back to Hollywood. He was reluctant to share his feelings with Morena, who found his silence about his mother to be disconcerting, and soon was considering leaving him. She probably would have done so if it had not been for the commitment to “Wysies,” plus a nagging, heartfelt affection for the boy.

The next directive arrived the following week. Both Curtis and Morena were shocked.

Now, neither one of them were religious. But when they read Zandy’s message, the little, tiny piece of faith that still abided in them was stunned. The directive read:

“Good morning to you outstanding human beings and contestants for “Wysies!” I wanted to give you a heads up. During one of our planning sessions, it was discovered that some initial press reports have leaked—portraying the show as a religious broadcast about the journey of Mary and Joseph to the manger. The critics are already attacking it as being just another righteous ruse’ to punctuate the differences among the populace, aggravating the debate about the separation of church and normal life.”

“Of course, nothing could be more untrue. But once a rumor like this gets started, it must be stomped out quickly, or pretty soon a forest fire of misunderstanding will be set ablaze. So I am asking each of you to do a couple of interviews on a press junket in order to (a) advertise yourself; (b) be cute and humorous, bringing intrigue about the show; and (c) strongly establish that ‘Wysies’ is not a God thing.”

“I will contact you soon with times, dates and some possible lines you can use to sever this contest from Sunday School lingo.”

The email was signed:

“Your fearless friend and leader, Zandy”

This stimulated a discussion between Curtis and Morena. Neither one of them felt comfortable defending the faith. They were not like the religious couple, who yearned to preach the Gospel, but they also found no contentment in being included among unbelievers and those who were apathetic about a possible Creator in Heaven.

What began as a discussion about the show ended as an argument about their relationship. Morena was just as discouraged about their progress in the cattle calls of the entertainment industry thus far. Playing the “Queen of Dirt” had not garnered much business, and unfortunately, had not become a repetitive character for future commercials. (Matter of fact, those reviewed about the commercial were thrilled when she was sucked down the drain in the last scene.)

But Morena did not want to be the one to give up. If Curtis were going to leave, he needed to make it clear that he was the quitter—and if he wanted her around, he needed to offer a greater commitment than a tender pat on her bare butt after sex.

On the other hand, Curtis did not want to be the villain in the great tale of their lives. So ensued two or three days of continual fighting with perpetual finger-pointing.

“You’re the reason we’re failing!”

“If you just cared more, we might do better!”

In the midst of this, more calls came in from Missouri, expressing, in a quiet way, desperation over Mother Catherine’s well-being.

Curtis began to wonder if he could just abandon his dream and blame it on his mother’s condition. His problem with that plan was that Morena would always know about the little piece of chicken-shit mixed in with his nobility.

He could leave her, but then he would be arriving back in Missouri alone, into an atmosphere of dreary demise.

One night as they sat, heads spinning from the latest bewildering exchange of ideas, Curtis posed a very interesting question.

“Morena, do you think we can win ‘Wysies?’”

Morena was offended, and then surprised that she felt so insulted by a legitimate question. After all, there were three other couples. The gay lovers were certainly cute and flamboyant. The two prisoners had enough tattoos for three people. And the black and Asian couple—well, on top of military service, they had the applause of everyone who hated Mississippi.

Curtis asked again. “Do you think we can win this thing?”

Morena surprised herself. “No.” That was all she said.

Curtis turned to her, alarmed. “Then why are we doing it?”

Morena replied emphatically. “You know why we’re doing it! Exposure! Showing enough of ourselves that this time, you get to play the jalapeno instead of getting coffee for him!”

Even though the comment stung Curtis’ ego, it was still rather funny. He laughed. “And,” he retorted, “you might get the part of Princess of Clean in the next commercial—who gets to survive to sell yet another day.”

“So,” she said, “we’re hanging around here to participate in a contest where we have no chance of winning, and we’re hoping that our failure will draw enough attention to us that someone will want us in some sort of part because we were such dynamic also-rans.”

Curtis smiled. “You left out something,” he said. “All this is true—plus we have to find a donkey and get it to Burbank, California.”

Then something strange happened—odd indeed. Morena did something she had not done since she was a young girl. Matter of fact, she had been nine years old, and her dog was hit by a car and was lying in the middle of the street, twitching.

On that day, she had bowed her head and prayed. “God, heal my dog.”

Her puppy died. And so did her faith.

But now, in this moment of craziness mingled with humor and pathos, she prayed again. “God, would you get us out of here to someplace where we can breathe without being afraid?”

Curtis was shocked. The two of them had never even mentioned the word “God,” or thought about an Everlasting Presence, but without even thinking, when Morena finished her prayer, he said, “Amen.”

There were no phone calls. The sky did not open. There was no chill going down the spine.

They simply looked at each other and they both knew their next trek would not be to Burbank, but instead, across the country as best they could—to the bedside of a hurting woman in Missouri.

When Curtis called Director Zandy and quit, she was infuriated. She briefly tried to get him to change his mind, but when he wouldn’t, she explained that due to the nature of their contract, they would be required to sign a termination agreement, guaranteeing that they would never sue the show or the network. After this, Zandy curtly stated that the show would be “better with three couples anyway.”

When Curtis and Morena showed up in Burbank to sign their termination agreement, to their surprise they were both issued checks for five hundred dollars. They promised to never say a bad word about the show or do any negative promotion.

Shocked, bewildered, and dare we say, blessed, the two climbed into Morena’s old car—held together with rust and hopes—and headed toward Missouri.

They were in no hurry. It was a five-day journey, and they arrived on the exact day they originally had planned to begin filming “Wysies.”

Mother Catherine was still living in the old homestead. When they got there, she was sitting in the living room, staring out the front window. At first Curtis thought she was anticipating their homecoming—because he had called ahead to let the family know of their intentions. But when they came in, she continued to stare out the window to the undetermined outside.

He made his way to his mother’s side and touched her hand. Barely acknowledging his presence, she reached over and clasped his arm. Unexpectedly, Morena made her way up the stairs to the attic, where, as Curtis had explained, they kept all the Christmas decorations.

She emerged carrying a big box, shut the attic, came downstairs and opened it, beginning to remove the seasonal family treasures. This gained Catherine’s attention. She got up, walked across the room, and began to help Morena.

About five minutes into the experience, Catherine took Morena’s hands, and though she had never met her, she said, “We have done this before, haven’t we?”

Morena saw no reason to argue, so she nodded her head. Immediately, Catherine stood up, walked into the kitchen and took a stance next to the stove, as if considering warming water for tea or beginning a pot of coffee. She stared at the oven intently, as if seeking inspiration.

Concerned, Curtis followed her in. Seeing her stymied at the stove, he came up behind her, placed his hands on her shoulders, and then his arms around her neck, embracing her. Suddenly, from behind, he felt Morena’s tender arms squeezing his waist. The three stood there, connected, tightly holding one another, trying to draw strength from within.

That year, when “Wysies” aired, the ratings were so bad that they never actually finished the five days of production, pronouncing a winner.

Curtis and Morena spent the holiday season with Mother Catherine. Although they feared for her health, each day she actually grew stronger, more present and cognizant of the world around her.

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, she was reciting memories, singing carols, and fixing the delicious chocolate chip cookies for which she was acclaimed.

Curtis and Morena fell in love—first, with Mother Catherine. Then, with the sweetness and nostalgia of the home. Next, with each other, as they sealed the covenant between them. And finally—and more slowly—they fell in love with God. Even though He had not done much to help Morena’s puppy, this time, on this occasion, and in this Christmas season, He had shown up…and answered their prayers.

Not Long Tales … October 1st, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4184)

8.

Play Boy

In 1864, while General William Tecumseh Sherman was marching across Georgia, destroying and looting everything in sight on his way to the sea, a man named Big Tom seized the opportunity to run away from the Hutchins Plantation, with all of its peaches and nearby cotton fields, to escape the prison that had been his life since birth.

The townsfolk were in disarray and the Rebel Army was being pushed back, and everybody’s attention was riveted on personal survival. So under the cover of night, with only his shirt, britches, a corn cob pipe and a small pouch of tobacco, Big Tom grabbed his eleven-year-old boy, Garby, and headed toward the North Star.

The best plan, he decided, was to stay two miles behind Union lines all the way North, sleeping in the woods during the day and traveling by night. Dad and boy lived on wild rabbits and scattered berries of questionable origin, as they lay on their bellies and drank out of streams, like all “deer folk.”

The whole trip took two months. Caution was the most important factor in determining the speed of the journey. There were Southern sympathizers everywhere—always the danger that bounty hunters, still loyal to Dixie, might grab the two of them and take them back to their bondage.

Yet there were some bright spots along the way. An old man and sweet lady let them sleep in their barn one night and brought them out some buckwheat pancakes dipped in molasses. Since it was so special, Tom decided to tell Garby that it was his birthday, and God had supplied a great surprise.

Patiently, tirelessly and fervently, they traveled until they stood on the banks of the Potomac River, and gazed across at the seat of freedom—Washington, D. C.

They had been warned by the old couple to be careful when they reached the Capitol, because there were many who favored Jefferson Davis. They suggested the runaways make sure to find an abolitionist to draw up some false papers for them, proving they were free men. So that was the first thing Big Tom did. Quietly he asked among the Negra population that inhabited the city where to find such an individual. He was finally directed to a Quaker couple, who welcomed him and Garby into their house, and drew up the phony identifications. It was a blessing of God.

Paper in hand, Big Tom was able to go to the Union Army and get a job as an orderly, emptying bed pans and taking care of the wounded soldiers housed outside of town. Young Garby went down to the local theater and was given the job of scrubbing the floors following the productions were performed. Sounded like a simple job to him, but he found that all he had was a mixture of lye and wintergreen to clean floors that were filthy from dirt, mud and the spit of tobacco chewers. He also had to freshen up the seats, which were sweaty and grimy—full of all sorts of nasty human residue.

But he never complained, nor did his papa. There was a huge difference between doing hard work as a slave and doing equally hard work when at nighttime, off by yourselves, you are free men.

Now, there were two or three old barns outside the city, where the Negra slaves congregated, making beds of hay and doing their best to cook for one another, sharing stories of their ordeals, with greater hopes for the future.

Although the labor was tedious, Garby was always thrilled to get to the theater—just to be around the kind of folk who lived in Make Believe. But he had to be careful not to be noticed, or they’d chase him away, watching out for him and preventing his curiosity. But after a while, he found some loose boards beneath the stage, and a cubbyhole on one of the ladders which carried the technicians up to check the props.

He loved it all—the funny parts, and even enjoyed it when the Booth family came to down to do their Shakespeare. He didn’t understand a word they said, but they did it all pretty-like, and they were so beautifully dressed up.

He got an opportunity when a magician rented the theater and advertised his show. He asked Garby if he would be willing to climb into a trunk and disappear. He wouldn’t really be gone, the magician explained. There was a trap door, and all Garby had to do was slip out of it. Then, after the magician startled the crowd with the disappearance, Garby needed to slip back through the trap door and reappear, so there would be double applause. Garby was ecstatic.

The first part went beautifully. He slipped out the trap door, disappearing, and shut the door behind him. But when it came time to slip back in, one of the latches got stuck and he couldn’t get it open, so when the magician pulled back the curtain, the little black boy was still gone. Whispering under his breath, the magician said, “Do it again.”

He put the curtain back over. This time Garby gave a big tug on the latch. It opened, and when the curtain was pulled back, there he was. Everybody applauded, but not nearly as much as they would have the first time. The magician was not terribly angry and didn’t yell too much, but also did not give Garby the dollar he’d promised.

Even though Garby was careful not to draw attention to his interest in the theater, and he made sure he got all the stains out of the floor and the seats, everybody still knew that the little Southern boy was crazy about the shows. Matter of fact, since none of them knew his real name, they started referring to him as “Play Boy.”

At first, he was offended, but then the costume seamstress, a woman named Auntie Minerva, explained that it was a compliment. “Don’t be so dense, little feller,” she said. “They’re just sayin’ that you’re a boy who likes the plays.”

Garby shook his head. There was so much to learn. For all eleven years of his life, he’d had two jobs: first, to do what his papa said, and second, to make sure he looked busy when Massa came by. Now he was in a different world, and he was trying to find his place.

Meanwhile, the war raged on, even though most folks knew it was coming to an end. The army of Robert E. Lee had been cornered in Northern Virginia, and the fall of Richmond was imminent. General Ulysses S. Grant had sent surrender terms to the secessionists, and now it was just a matter of days before the horrible four years would come to an end.

Garby didn’t worry much about the war. After all, his conflict was somewhat over. He had been a slave—now he was free. What happened next didn’t seem quite as important as what had come before.

But on one Monday morning shortly before Easter, it was announced that Robert E. Lee had surrendered at some little village in Virginia. (They pronounced the name to Garby, but he couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Somethin’ like “Apple.”)

There was such a celebration in the city—firecrackers, guns shot into the air, people hugging one another (still careful to make sure the embraces were with the same color).

Papa Tom explained to Garby, “Livin’ in Washington does not mean that we are loved, or even accepted. It just means that we’re not gonna be forced to work the fields or beaten if we make a mistake.”

Then late Thursday afternoon—the end of the war week—word got out that the President of the United States would be coming to the theater on Friday evening to see the popular play, “My American Cousin.”

Garby really loved that play. It was silly, and he could understand most of the words. But when he heard that the President—the man who said he was free—the fellow who sent troops down to make sure that freedom was honored—well, when Garby heard that his President was going to be at the theater, he knew he had to make some connection with him. There would be no way to get close, of course—partly due to the fact that the man was President, but mostly because Garby was just a little black boy.

So Garby went out into the woods and found a small piece of wood. He sanded it down until it had a smooth surface for writing on. He hadn’t learned to write yet, but Auntie Minerva was really good at such stuff. He asked her if she would scrawl a note for him, which he wanted to try to get to the President.

She laughed. “You’re never gonna get close to Abe Lincoln,” she said. “He’s a busy, famous man.”

Garby’s heart fell down to his feet. Auntie Minerva continued, “Yet if you want me to do this—if you want to try—I see no harm. What do you want to write on this hunk of wood?”

Garby thought for a second. He had been thinking for several hours on what would be just right. It couldn’t be too long. He didn’t want to take up too much time with the President’s eyes.

“Write this,” Garby said. “Thank you for making me free.”

Auntie Minerva waited, then finally asked, “Is that it?”

Garby nodded. Faithfully, carefully and quite beautifully, the aging seamstress wrote the words on the wooden surface. She read them aloud, pointing to each one.

Garby wanted to hug her, but his papa said that was not something that black-skinned folks should do. So he shook his head over and over again, with tears in his eyes.

Auntie Minerva reached over and patted his nappy hair. He walked away from her slowly, staring at the beautiful figures written on his wooden message board.

Now…how could he get it to Mr. President?

Some of the slaves had started calling Mr. Lincoln “Father.” Others referred to him as “Captain.” Garby just thought he was great. He decided to do something bold.

When the soldiers in charge of the President’s detail arrived late Friday afternoon, before the play began, to make sure the President’s box in the theater was clear and there was no danger, Garby was waiting. He stepped forward to the man with the biggest feather in his hat. The Commander, in his haste, nearly knocked him down in his haste. Upset by the little boy’s appearance, he spat, “Get away! This is no place for a little urchin!”

Garby did not know what an urchin was, but he figured the Commander was right. It was probably no place for him. But he was on a mission. He mustered all the strength and all the will he could and spoke. “I was wondering if you could give this to President Lincoln?” He held up his small piece of wood.

The Commander took it, looked at it front and back and then read it. “I don’t even know if I’ll see the President,” he responded. “So you might want to keep it until you see him another day.”

Garby was determined and vigorously shook his head. “No, sir,” he replied. “He’s too big, and I’m too small.”

The busy Commander found himself touched by the words. He told Garby he would do what he could and tucked the piece of wood into his breast pocket. Knowing it was time to make a retreat, Garby turned and quickly slipped away. For the next hour he just sat in a corner of the alley behind the theater and dreamed about Captain—Father—President Abe—reading his note.

A little bit late, the Presidential carriage finally arrived, and the family was hustled into the theater and up to the awaiting Presidential Box. That night there were so many in attendance there was no room to even get through the front door, so Garby found his favorite side window and sat underneath it, listening carefully to what was going on. There were muffled words, laughter, hands clapping.

But then, all of a sudden, there was a bang. Then there were screams. Garby knew the play, and at no time would the production make folks scream. The screams increased. Before he could move one muscle, he heard the front doors of the theater bang open. Soldiers came running down the street.

All the instincts he had gathered during his time on the plantation in Georgia kicked into gear. He slid around the corner and pushed himself up against the building, trying to be invisible. Such horrible sounds. Frantic men, shuffling boots, screaming women. And then finally, from the front of the theater, a man bellowed, “The President’s been shot!”

Garby slapped his own face, praying, wishing that he had fallen asleep, and it was all a dream. A horrible dream. But he wasn’t sleeping—he was awake, and the message spread down the street like a brush fire.

Garby stayed where he was. He wanted to run. He wanted to find the man who had done such a thing to his hero. He wished he was a surgeon, and could remove the bullet, or that he had the power of Jesus and could heal the wound.

Instead, he sat very still, like a black boy should. For an hour—then two—and finally, he fell asleep. Horrible nightmares of bullets.

And a dead President.

It was morning when he woke up, chilled, shivering from fear. There was still a bustle in the street, but it was much quieter. He stood to his feet, his legs aching, and walked around the side of the building. He made his way to the front door.

The manager of the theater was standing, staring up at his own establishment. Garby had never spoken to him; he had only seen him two or three times. But all at once, his boss, as if awaking from a deep slumber, turned and saw him. “Aren’t you Play Boy?” he said.

Garby’s eyes grew very wide with surprise. He couldn’t speak—all he could do was nod his head. The manager motioned for him to come toward him, but Garby was afraid. What was wrong? Were they going to blame him for the President being shot? He knew that was impossible, but why would the manager want to speak with him?

The manager motioned again, and finally the boy was able to move. He stood next to his employer, looking up into his face. The man spoke, “I would like you to do something for me.”

Garby nodded.

“The President just died,” the manager said.

Garby sucked in air, tears struggling to push their way out. And then, an amazing thing—the manager knelt down and took Garby’s face in his hands. “He was our father, too,” he said.

The little boy could not contain it any longer. Forsaking propriety, he buried his face in the waistcoat of the white man and sobbed. The manager held him, and after a few seconds, pulled back and looked into his eyes. “Play Boy, I want you to do something that nobody else wants to do. They tell me that you’re my best cleaner. I’ve set aside extra lye and plenty of wintergreen, and even some bleach. Son, I want you to go up into the President’s Box and clean it thoroughly. Wash away all the blood.”

Garby could not believe it. Stunned, he stared at the man, who continued. “I don’t want it there. I don’t want people taking pictures of it. I don’t want people coming and trying to acquire drops of our President’s blood.”

Garby was scared, but in his own eleven-year-old way, he understood. He agreed to do it. Gathering the supplies necessary to do the job, he headed up to the very special box reserved for the nation’s leader.

Cautiously, he walked into the door. It was a total mess—chairs knocked over and the smell of death hung in the small room. He was completely alone. It was so quiet that he felt he could hear the beams of wood weeping.

He made his way down to the President’s seat, staring at the blood. He knelt and offered up a prayer to his Jesus. “Help me do a good job.”

Garby scrubbed and scrubbed, and he cleaned and cleaned. After about an hour, any trace of crimson had disappeared, and the wood shone through.

He was about to stand to his feet and leave the box when he noticed—right underneath the seat where the President had been watching the play—there was an object of some sort.

Slowly, tentatively, Garby reached for it. As soon as his fingers touched it, he knew what it was—his chunk of wood, with his note.

He couldn’t pick it up. He just kept his fingers on it, stilled in disbelief. Then, encouraged by a surge of faith, he grabbed it and looked at it. There was more writing on it than Auntie Minerva had originally written. Scrambling to his feet, he ran out the door, into the street, looking for anyone who might be able to read the words on his piece of wood.

There was a man strolling toward the theater door, with two other men carrying cumbersome camera equipment. Garby stopped him. “Please, kind sir,” he said, “can you give me a minute?”

The man brushed him to the side. Determined, Garby tugged on his coat. “Please,” he begged.

Angrily, the man turned. “What is it you want?”

Garby held up the piece of wood. “I need you to read this to me. I can’t read. Would you read it, please?”

The fellow heaved a huge sigh of disapproval but took the small slab from Garby’s hand. He glanced down and read aloud: “Thank you for making me free.”

He finished reading and handed it back to Garby, who thrust it back. “No, there’s another part. I can tell.”

The man looked down with a frown, which gradually, ever so slowly, melted into a smile. He read again, from the top, “Thank you for making me free.”

Garby interrupted. “Yes, that’s what I wrote. I mean, that’s what Auntie Minerva wrote for me.”

The photographer shook his head and continued. “Kid, then it reads: Gladly. A. Lincoln.

Garby grabbed it from the photographer’s hand. He stared down at the words. The wood was speckled with drops of blood.

The Captain had spoken.

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The M Word … April 30th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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THE

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WORD


The word that should never be spoken—too dangerous because of its possibility of misunderstanding:

THE M WORD IS MOST

Most of the time

Most everybody

Most of them

Most of us

Most High God

Most popular

Most intelligent

Most ignorant

Most beautiful

Most spiritual

Most valuable

Most agree

Most disagree

MOST OF THE PEOPLE…

We believe in strength with numbers.

We use the most to cower the least.

We tout predominance.

After all, most people in Dixie in 1859 supported slavery.

Most people in Tennessee in 1956 were in favor of Jim Crow.

Most folks, in 1965, considered divorce to be an unforgivable sin.

For many decades, most of the American people insisted that homosexuality was a perversion.

Most of the most is an attempt to intimidate, deny difference and reject the possibility that simplicity can come from a minority perspective.

Most is a social manipulation, a spiritual intimidation and absolutely, cultural bullying.


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Drawing Attention … September 5th, 2018

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art by smarrttie panntts

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Jesonian … April 28th, 2018

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“Accept Christ.”

A vast majority of the evangelical churches in America hold this decision sacred. They contend that people must discover their sinful nature, repent, be baptized, and receive Christ as salvation.

So strong is the inclination to evangelize that the fundamentalist church is successful only at birthing children into the Kingdom–and then abandoning them to cultural, lifestyle and family traditions.

Most churches do not talk about Jesus. He is relegated to prayers, salvation and communion–as “the Christ.”

There is the Christ who offers eternal salvation, and then there is Jesus, who grants us a lifestyle which enables us to see God’s will “done on Earth as it is in heaven.”

The religious system must be addressed and corrected over major errors–three doctrines of Jesus that he fostered while on Earth, which the religious hierarchy has set aside in favor of following “the Christ:”

1. There must be racial equality through racial interaction.

Jesus broke all the boundaries of prejudice and bigotry by including Samaritans with Jews and Gentiles with Hebrews. This is not optional. As long as we have a “black church” and a “white church,” we are propagating the principles of Dixie, which launched us into the Civil War.

Purposeful efforts must be made to integrate the church.

The black church and white church need to mingle, no matter how much they think they are culturally different. They must become spiritually one.

2. Gender bias is unacceptable.

Jesus included women in his ministry as evangelists, financiers and confidantes. The church refuses to accept women as equals and continues to propagate a religious misogyny which is completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

Women should preach, women should teach, women should do everything that men do without restriction.

3. Free will must be established.

The church is becoming more and more Calvinistic–believing in pre-destination. In so doing, we lose the gospel of Jesus. After all, there’s no need for me to love my neighbor as myself if everything is pre-determined. There’s no purpose in being concerned about what I sow if what I reap has already been factored in. The removal of free will in deference to God being in charge of everything–in control of all decisions–has rendered the church an insipid bunch of Bible-readers who are more afraid of the devil than they are their own inconsistent behavior.

Nothing will be accomplished in the Christ-centered church until the Jesus-focused people get rid of racial barriers, gender bias and a belief in destiny, which precludes us from making our own choices.

It’s wonderful to believe in Christ if you follow Jesus.

It’s not wonderful to believe in Christ if most of the time you use your life on Earth to ignore Jesus and follow the tenets of your community.

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G-Poppers … February 2nd, 2018

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President Trump is not a moron. He is also not a genius.

Although there are proponents who would suggest that he falls into one or the other of these categories, the truth of the matter is that Donald Trump is President of the United States. He achieved this by campaigning and receiving the lion’s share of the electoral votes.

G-Pop wants to make this clear.

G-Pop is the veteran of many presidents and can tell you that most of them were accused of moral indiscretion, the majority considered crazy, and all of them touted to be dictators who over-extended their power.

It is important to understand the nature, the function and the mission of the job.

Most of the time the President of the United States is not negotiating with foreign powers nor plotting global wars.

He is the closest thing to a daddy that 320 million immigrants have.

As our daddy, it is his job to provide a sense of security and a voice of kindness. That’s it.

G-Pop’s not even sure if it’s a political position. Approaching it from that angle only seems to render the job mean-spirited, stalling action and legislation.

He is our father, who art in Washington–and maybe someday, our mother who art at the White House.

Questioning the morality, sanity, motives, hidden meetings or deceptions of our President is just political maneuvering to gain control of our country.

What the position really requires is kindness.

No one understood that better than Abraham Lincoln. Although President Lincoln had good reason to be furious over the attitudes of the Southern states, his second inaugural speech characterized his tenderness toward his children in Dixie by saying, “With malice toward none, with charity for all…”

Yet every President G-Pop knows has selected to be vindictive against his enemies, contending that if you don’t punch back, they’ll just punch harder. But Abraham Lincoln, in four short years, saved the Union, freed the slaves and was able to end a horrible conflict.

Did he do it by being mean?

Did he do it by being angry and sending out nasty notes to his enemies?

Did he do it by sleeping with his interns?

Did he do it by torturing the prisoners of the Confederate Army?

No, he did it as kindly as a man can do when waging a war against insanity.

Kindness is when we look in the mirror and practice the words we’re going to say to another to get a sense of how it might feel.

You don’t have to be a moron or a genius to be President.

But G-Pop wants you to know that it’s the mission of our President to allow kindness to flow to the north, south and east…from the West Wing.

 

 

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Catchy (Sitting 11) Just One More Thing … August 20th, 2017

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Meanwhile, Michael Hinston was adapting to Washington like a hippopotamus training for a marathon.

He had hoped to be a duck in water, but nothing seemed to be floating. He surmised that Washington, D.C. was like a job fair, where people milled around trying to convince one another about their ingenious inventions.

Michael was either too pushy or not pushy enough. He often found himself not invited because he was a freshman congressman. It was assumed he was stupid because he was a first-timer and also because he was from the state of Ohio. It was also concluded that he was corrupt because he came from the twelfth district of Ohio.

This brought him back to the $50,000 check from Caine Industrial. He was simultaneously tantalized and horrified by possessing the piece of paper, so paranoid that he went out and bought a steel strong box with a lock and placed the check within, hiding the container up in his attic.

He had managed to lease a respectable three-bedroom condo in Alexandria for his family. (First-term congressmen never buy houses, since the job has to be reclaimed every two years.)

So feeling despondent, disrespected, immature and inadequate, he was sitting in his tiny office on Capitol Hill when there was a knock at the door. He opened it to eyeball a small man–no more than five feet, seven inches tall and weighing not an ounce over 150 pounds. The gentleman had a handlebar mustache and auburn hair streaked with gray. He introduced himself.

“My name is Milford Hayes and I am the chief attorney for the internal affairs of Denison Caine of Caine Industrial.

Michael flinched. The name “Caine Industrial” matched the logo on the forbidden check.

Awkwardly, Michael invited him in. Mr. Milford Hayes sat down in a chair, rising once or twice as he tried to find a comfortable spot.

He began to speak. A well-rehearsed sililoquoy.

“Let me not waste your time. I know you are busy acclimating to your surroundings. From this point on as I speak, do not respond. If you respond, since I am not your attorney, I could be summoned to testify against you. Now, don’t let that scare you. There’s no reason to think there would be an investigation, but it is my job to be careful.

“You know of Mr. Denison Caine, but you may not be aware that he is a great patriot, and his love for this country is beyond all bounds. As a lover of this country, he has felt the need to locate men of vision–sometimes even a little lady–who will see what needs to be done and take the authority they find themselves in, to become–how shall I phrase it?–‘doers of the Word and not hearers only.'”

Michael tried to interrupt and Milford lifted a hand to stop him, continuing. “I know, I know. You have much to say–many questions. Perhaps many thoughts. Please remain silent. Silence is your best profile for this meeting, because if I don’t hear it from your mouth it was never said. Anything coming from my mouth does not incriminate you. Perhaps I should not use the word ‘incriminate.’ I can see fear on your face. It’s just, Congressman, that these are desperate times, and it is a season in our country when industrious souls need to snatch the power from those who would use it to run us into the ground. That is Mr. Caine and we believe that to be you.

“The fifty thousand dollars you received in the mail is a gift. A housewarming, if you will–warming you to your home in Alexandria at 444 Apollo Street…”

The Congressman shifted in his chair nervously.

“…and also a warming to your House seat here in Congress. Take it. Use it. Find a better school for your children. Think about a boat. Don’t spend it too quickly, drawing attention to yourself, and don’t run it through your personal bank account. Trickle it off-shore, invest in a dummy company. Well, you can talk to your personal attorney about such matters. It is a good-faith statement from Mr. Caine, that he believes you have a heart for this nation and that you will join him in returning our Union to its proper standards.

“So in the future, little packages will arrive. Oh–may I add, in pairs. In the first package will be a letter from Mr. Caine, as from an average citizen, making a suggestion on a piece of legislation. About a week later, a second package will arrive, with cash. I know your instincts are to believe this is illegal, bribery or undue influence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Caine just has ideas that are forward thinking, which he wishes to see implemented, and he knows it is impossible in today’s society, to progress a movement from a position of poverty.

“All we ask of you is to consider the idea, and if it suddenly appears as legislation in the House, to vote for it. That’s it. Then you simply take your cash and put it in your special hideaway. Enjoy your family and help us bless this country.”

There was finally a pause, yet Michael still felt compelled to request permission to speak, intimidated by Hayes’ mannerisms. Milford was a soft-spoken man with a little Dixie in his lip-service–a gentle touch, similar to a baker carefully removing a cookie from its display, fearing it might crumble.

Congressman Hinston took a deep breath and asked, “Do I have a choice? I mean, I’ve listened to your speech and it seems extremely contradictory to my standards and to what I understand to be the moral and ethical way to handle the responsibility of a seat in Congress.”

Milford interrupted. “Interesting question. First and foremost, let us understand, we all have a choice. Why, just this morning I was down at my hotel to order breakfast and they gave me a menu. So many choices. May I say, too many choices. Since I was not familiar with the establishment and did not know what was good to eat, I pulled a ten dollar bill out of my wallet and handed it to my server. I said to him, ‘Young fellow, since I don’t have time to make a mistake, I need you to tell me what’s the best thing on this menu to order.’ Well, well, Michael Hinston, he was not only grateful for his reward, but also deeply flattered that a gentleman of my, shall we say, bearing, was seeking his counsel on culinary matters. Oh, by the way, he said the Eggs Benedict were absolutely terrific, but to make sure they gave me the Hollandaise sauce and not the cheaper cheese blend they often offer.”

Michael just shook his head. The attorney was certainly having fun. Milford continued.

“So we do have choices. But we should realize that when we make them, it always eliminates possibilities. Do you see what I mean? Opening a door discloses a room but to become part of that room, we must close the door to our previous place of occupancy. Perhaps my speech is too flowery. Let me be more concise. You get the money if you do what Mr. Caine believes to be righteous. If you don’t want the money, Mr. Caine will make sure that your stay in the capitol is brief.”

Michael wanted to object. For years and years he had been angry about being pushed around. People had always told him what to do. He often found himself intimidated into following the crowd, only to regret that the choice had not been his, and yet the failure was shared.

He wanted tobe strong. He wanted to be principled. He wanted to know that if his wife, children, Abraham Lincoln and God were standing in the room they would all nod their approval over his decision.

But Michael Hinston was not strong. He was scared. So he did what all frightened men do when confronted by evil. He remained silent.

Milford, sensing he had captured his prey, had a closing thought.

“Oh, just one more thing. Mr. Denison Caine always hated Arthur Harts. You know, billionaire fussiness and all. We noticed through our study of your history that you are friends with a gentleman named…”

Milford reached into his jacket, took out a pad and flipped pages, pointing a long, bony finger at some writing on the sheet.

“…Matthew Ransley. Old college buddy, I think.”

Michael was shocked. “Yeah, I know Matthew. What’s he got to do with any of this?”

“Well,” Milford continued, “Mr. Caine knows you are familiar with Matthew, and it seems that he’s taking on this ridiculous project Harts left in his will, about making Jesus popular. And making a long story short, Mr. Caine wants it to fail.”

Michael spoke up with uncharacteristic boldness. “Does he hate Jesus?”

Milford smiled. “No. He seems to be at peace with Jesus. He hates Arthur Harts, and he wants to make sure that Harts fails even after death. Since you know Matthew, we thought you might agree to assist while simultaneously keeping us updated on the doings, and ultimately…how do they phrase this? Ah. Throw a wrench into the gears. But more about that later. Right now, you just enjoy your family, maybe that new boat, and settle into town, realizing that this could become a wonderful, life-long work. Word has it a Senate seat might even come up for grabs in the next six to twelve years. Wouldn’t you be good at that? We’ll be in touch.”

Milford stood to his feet to leave. “Oh, by the way, do you like my new suit? I just purchased it. I’ve never been a great fan of tweed, but the combination of colors intrigued me. It has a hint of the orange-brownish of fall, but that ever-so-light green of springtime. It makes me feel like a man for all seasons.”

Milford smiled and walked to the door, speaking over his shoulder. “I can find my way out.”

He turned one final time, saying in his molasses tone, “Such a pleasure to meet you, Congressman Hinston.”

He stepped out the door, leaving Michael alone.

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