Not Long Tales … November 26th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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16.

Falling Leaves

Clouds are just water vapor. They have no lining—certainly not a silver one.

This is probably the first thing any villager from Blanchport, Pennsylvania learns growing up near the West Virginia border, where eking out a surviving wage without hating your work is considered heaven.

Murtrand Gillogly was only seventeen years old when she met Benson. He was tall, muscular and worked in the coal mines, so had a little extra money—more than the average boy walking the streets or plowing the fields.

She fell in love. Well, at least enough to give herself over to him in the cab of his Ford pickup truck. They had only consummated their confirmation on three occasions when Murtrand found out that she had missed her time.

Not knowing what to do, she finally decided to go to the town doctor. “Murty,” he said. (That’s what all the locals called her.) “Murty, I want to tell you something real simple. You’re pregnant.” He peered at her. “I imagine that’s not good news for you, so I will grant you the privacy of keeping my mouth shut until you want to yap about it.”

The young girl was terrified but had enough sense to confess to her parents, her preacher and a few close friends. They all did the wrong thing—what often happens in small towns with small minds.

They condemned her.

It became especially problematic when after three-and-a-half months, the hospital, twenty-five miles away, confirmed that she was carrying twins. Benson, her boyfriend and baby-maker, had decided to hang around—until he received this latest news. There was something about two babies popping out that scared the living shit out of him.

He explained that because there was so much expense that needed to be covered, he was going on a “miracle journey.” That’s what he called it–a “miracle journey” to Las Vegas–to win enough money to take care of the family, for now and all time. Murty was suspicious—but still moved that he had the desire to be a breadwinner, even if the crumbs came from the gambling tables. She sweetly kissed him on the lips and promised to remain true.

That was the last time she ever saw him.

Six months later, by the ordination of nature and sheer will and purpose of the human body, Murty gave birth to two boys. Feeling particularly traditional and proud of herself, she decided to name one Clarence and one Cameron.

Concerning the community, no support and no real sense of acceptance came her way throughout the first part of the twins’ growing up time. For in Blanchport, Pennsylvania, once you sin, it’s not forgiven unless God shows up and does it Himself.

And He doesn’t come around very often.

So Murty did a little waitressing, telemarketing and even pumped gas down at the local convenience store, to keep shoes on four small feet and grits in three bellies.

She loved her boys.

She was really proud of Clarence. When he was only seven years old, he walked by the town bank and noticed that somebody had dropped a hundred-dollar bill. His first instinct was a good one. He took it inside and presented it to the bank president (or some fellow wearing a tie) and explained that he had found it just outside the door, so figured it might belong to somebody inside.

The banker patted him on the head, told him he was a good little gent, and said they would advertise, letting people know the money had been discovered.  But he added that if it wasn’t retrieved in the next thirty days, little Clarence could keep it.

He had a terrible time sleeping. He even picked himself up a giveaway calendar from down at the drug store and started marking off the days. The whole town was rooting for him. Matter of fact, he acquired a nickname. Instead of Clarence, they started calling him “C-note.” He liked it, even though he didn’t know what it meant. But when they explained that a hundred-dollar bill was called a C-note, he was flattered and overjoyed.

It was the twenty-ninth day of waiting to find out about the prize money when the banker called Clarence to his office. The little boy sat down, anticipating his hundred dollars—ready to scream just as loud as he could.

The banker smiled, cleared his throat and said, “Young man, I want to tell you how admirable it is that you brought the money in when you found it. Some boys would have run off to the candy store or hid it in a jar in the back yard. Unfortunately, I’m sorry to report that as it turns out, after the books have been budgeted and calculated, that hundred dollars belongs to the bank.”

Clarence cried. He tried not to do so. He tried to keep what the preacher always called a “stiff upper lip,” but even though his lips seemed quite all right, his eyes were pouring.

The banker came from behind his desk, put an arm around the boy and said, “Now, now. Don’t you cry. Because we at the bank have decided to give you five dollars as a finders fee.”

Now, it wasn’t much money. Certainly not a hundred. But it seemed to be enough encouragement to turn off the water faucets in his eyes.

He ran out of the bank with his five-dollar bill and down the street. He bought something for his brother, Cameron, something for his mother and something for himself. They had a wonderful night together, celebrating their sudden wealth and how much they loved each other.

Only one problem arose from the situation: Cameron was pissed off that he didn’t have a nickname, too. After much deliberation and even a little bit of prayer, he decided that from that point on, he wanted to be known as Camo.

It didn’t have any meaning. Yet from that moment, the twins became known as C-note and Camo.

Their eighth year looked similar to their ninth. And the tenth year was marked by a brief visit to some friends in Harrisburg.

They went to school, they wore the clothes provided, they smiled at the right adults and when those grown-ups weren’t looking, they had their fun.

One of their favorite pastimes was climbing an old mulberry tree down by the railroad tracks. It was a huge one—about eight enormous branches going up to the sky. Each boy marked his courage by how high he was willing to go on the branches leading to heaven.

C-note had made it to the third branch. Camo was still sitting on the second one, mustering up the courage to shimmy up the tree.

One day, they foolishly invited their mother out to watch them climb. She was terrified. She almost forbade them to do it anymore, but after much pleading she made a compromise. “You can climb that, but no higher than that third branch,” she said, pointing it out to them. She made them point it out, too, so there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding.

But it is truly amazing how quickly a mother’s advice evaporates in the heat and enthusiasm of a climb.

On the Monday morning before Thanksgiving, C-note decided it was time to go to Level 4. Camo was scared—shaking like a leaf.

C-note mocked him for his cowardice. “If you’re gonna be a big boy, you’ve gotta do big things,” he said.

Having never reached for the fourth branch, knowing nothing about it, C-note was unaware that the fourth branch was broken. And even though he was a young boy, his weight was still enough that when he grabbed on, a big piece of branch broke off in his hands and he fell to the Earth. The fall seemed to last forever, as he stared up into the top of the tree and the world began to spin.

All at once he landed—flat on his back.

He waited for the pain. He was surprised he was still awake. Suddenly his ears opened, and he could hear Camo screaming. And then, the sounds of one, two, five, maybe ten people running in his direction. He was so scared he pooped his pants. Now he was dying and going to stink.

Something odd, though, was that he didn’t feel damaged. He didn’t think he was dead. And when the people began to gather around him, he could make out faces, which meant his brain was still working.

It took about five minutes, but the doctor arrived, and with the assistance of a couple other men and one woman, they moved him gently, and the doctor checked him over for broken bones, cuts, bruises—and found nothing.

Camo explained that C-note had fallen from the fourth branch, which was about twenty feet up in the air. Then one of the observers looked down, pointed, and said, “Look! That’s what saved you.”

C-note, now fully conscious and aware of what was going on, turned around and saw a mashed wild turkey, which had broken his fall—but had also broken its neck. It was lying on the ground, looking like…well, looking like an eighty-five-pound twelve-year-old boy had fallen twenty feet from the sky on top of it. The bird did not fare well.

C-note was pronounced sound of body.

The turkey was dead on arrival.

Everybody laughed, then cried. And then, when it occurred to them that they had experienced a bona fide miracle of supernatural intervention, they sat down under the tree and got real quiet. Here’s what they thought.

“How did a turkey end up at exactly that place at exactly that time, when a little boy was falling from the sky, unless God Himself plucked it from the woods and placed it there, granting it final purpose? And we all know–this is one of the more noble ways a turkey can die.”

C-note was mystified and angered by the whole situation. He shouldn’t have been climbing the tree—not that fourth branch. Why did a turkey have to die because he was disobedient? And why was God going around asking turkeys to help dumb little boys?

It just didn’t make sense.

By this time the city newspaper—even though Blanchport was not a city—had sent a photographer to the scene. As they carefully removed the carcass of the sacrificial fowl, the photographer asked if C-note would be willing to kind of “re-enact” what happened.

He shook his head. “I ain’t climbin’ that dumb tree and falling again just so you can get a picture.”

The photographer patted him on the shoulder. “No, no. I just want you to sprawl out on the ground there and pretend you’ve got a turkey under your back.”

C-note squinted. Mrs. Marlins stepped in and explained what the photographer was trying to communicate in more kid-like language. So C-note spread himself out like he’d just fallen from the tree. The newsman took two shots, which appeared in the newspaper three days later.

In the meantime it was the talk of the town—no, much more than that. It was the only thing anybody could think about.

The preacher down at the Pentecostal Church was certain it was a sign from God that little Clarence was a prophet.

Some of the more sensitive folks who dressed up their dogs in costumes—that type—had a memorial service for the turkey.

And speaking of the turkey, something had to be done with it. It was suggested that it would be wonderful to pluck the bird, dress it and give it to Murty and her little family for Thanksgiving.

The grocer threw in some ‘taters, snap green beans, gravy and miscellaneous sweets to complete the deal. It was so thrilling.

The television station in Pittsburgh contacted the mayor and asked if they could bring in a camera crew to do an interview with C-note about the whole magical turkey event. (Although it never happened because some other more important news came along to delay them, the town felt important, always knowing they had been considered.)

It did nothing to calm the heart and soul-searching of Clarence.

He asked advice from his schoolteacher. Her words were, “Be grateful.”

He asked the oldest lady in the community—who everybody called Aunt Rachel—what she thought he should feel and do about the dead creature. She closed her eyes, looked like she was praying for a moment, and then said to C-note, “I just talked to the turkey in heaven…and he forgives you.”

Unimpressed with her response, C-note went to Deacon Connelly, who did a lot of hunting and had shot a turkey or two in his time. C-note wanted to discuss his feelings, but Deacon Connelly was so impressed with the fact that it was a clean kill and there was no need to remove buckshot from the carcass that he chattered away, unaware of the boy’s turmoil.

On his way home from Deacon Connelly, C-note ran across the drifter referred to as “the town drunk.” C-note was pretty sure his name was Mandrake. Mandrake was a nice enough fellow when he was sober, which was so in infrequent that nobody thought of him as a nice fellow.

But on this day, he’d only had a little bit of the juice. When C-note called to him, he answered, “Boy! I got a new name for you. They oughta call you ‘Fallin’ Leaves.’”

C-note was confused. He wanted to ignore Mandrake, but he kept going. “You see what I mean?” asked Mandrake. “You got yourself a dead turkey. You know why?”

C-note shrugged.

The drunk continued. “You have a dead turkey because that’s what your fallingleaves.”

Mandrake burst into laughter. C-note was not amused, even though he kind of understood the joke. It just seemed improper to be laughing so near the demise of his savior.

His brain popped up the word “savior” without him even thinking about it. It wasn’t like C-note thought the turkey was Jesus Christ. And even though Jesus might be saving his soul from hell, the turkey kept him from getting’ there.

It left him cold, a little frightened and humble.

When he got home and saw that his savior had been plucked, oiled and was heading for the oven, he burst into tears again.

Camo screamed at him. “Godammit, would you stop cryin’? Mama might decide not to cook it.”

His mother tried to comfort Clarence, but he just could not wrap his mind around eating his savior. He didn’t think he could even watch other people devour his protector.

About four hours later, Mama came into the room and found him in a fitful sleep. She gently woke him up, whispering, “Dinner’s ready.”

He just shook his head. He didn’t know what to say.

She hugged him real tight—the way mothers are supposed to do in those situations. He was expecting sympathy, but instead, he got the razor of her truth.

“There’s two things I want you to understand, Clarence.” (She had never gotten used to calling him C-note.) “The first thing I want you to understand is that in five minutes we’re gonna walk out of this room and gorge ourselves on turkey and fixings before it gets cold. I will not hear any more nonsense about trying to preserve a bird that’s already gobbled its way to glory.”

She paused, eyes glittering. “And the second thing is, you can honor this bird by learning from it. As you eat this meal that we did not expect to have, you can speak to the meat provided and say, ‘Thanks for catching me. I’m sorry it cost you your life. No disrespect, but may I say, you sure do taste good.’”

C-note didn’t want to listen to his mother’s counsel, but memories of the yardstick she kept in the closet and occasionally applied to his backside made him more pliable.

For the rest of his life, he never ate a turkey dinner without thinking about the one that rescued his life. The one that kept him going. And whether it was a miracle or not, the intervention was sweet.

For every creature on Earth will eventually experience a falling…

And only time will tell what it leaves.

G-Poppers … December 16th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jon close up

G-Pop sat quietly, listening intently as his grandson related a story about one of the young students at the school.

The little fellow had turned into quite a “preacher,” sharing his feelings about the best way to handle things and get along. He told G-Pop’s grandson that “you have to be a little mean to get what you want.”

The grandson was obviously bewildered by the comment, considering how contrary it was to the thoughts of his family–but impressed enough that G-Pop felt the need to input.

So after the grandson finished his tale, G-Pop shared.

“It comes down to a pair of words: toy and two. Actually, it comes down to what each of those letters represent. See, your young friend thinks the most important thing in life is to get what you want. But what if you don’t know what you want? Or what if you’re wrong? We don’t want to live in a world where the meanest and strongest control everything. So there has to be a better way.

So take the word toy. T-O-Y. It stands for ‘Tough On Yourself.’ And T-W-O represents ‘Tender With Others.’

By what you say, this young man believes that he should be tough on other people and tender with himself. It might sound good, but you see, if everybody did that, there would always have to be a big batch of losers for there to be a whole bunch of winners.

So what happens if the losers are upset? What if they want to get even? What if you’re in the middle of a ‘win’ and suddenly you’re attacked? Or what happens if you’re afraid?

Your job is to be tough on yourself. Not unforgiving. Not mean to your own feelings. Just putting more of a challenge on yourself than other people, because you are the only person you can affect.

And then be tender with others. Surprise them. Forgive them. Cut them slack. Be prepared to have a little extra in case they need it. Because you have to decide if you want to win once or twice, or if you want to live with a winning spirit.

You can conquer people, but you can’t make them like it. But if you conquer your own fears while showing mercy to others for theirs, you will always be loved and valuable.

Stay tough on yourself. Be tender with others. Without this, you’re just waiting for the next fight.”

The grandson looked at G-Pop and nodded his head. It wasn’t clear whether he understood everything.

But it appeared he understood enough.

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Ask Jonathots … May 5th, 2016

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ask jonathots bigger

What causes some siblings to grow up to be friends and others not? I’m forty and I’m not close to my sister at all. I have two teenage daughters, and I’m wondering what I could do to help them grow up to be friends. Your thoughts?

Perhaps one of the more egregious errors in our culture is the notion that the nuclear family is meant to remain intact.

It causes more stress, misgivings, grudges, insecurity, mishap and even murder than any other predicament facing our species.

If I were a coal miner in West Virginia, was unfortunately involved in a cave-in and spent nine days under the earth with eight other people, we would become very close. Matter of fact, we would share dreams, aspirations, prayers and any food and water available to sustain one another.

Yet to think that after I left that cave of impending death I should continue those relationships with my fellow-prisoners outside the mishap would be ridiculous, forced and disappointing.

For a season we share common goals and aspirations with our family. That experience can range from survival to ecstasy.

But humans are meant to come out of this cocoon and bloom in our individual lives, to start our own families, sustaining our species with new possibilities.

Some sisters have memories of the time when they grew up in the same house, but their journey takes them in completely different directions, with new friends, causing the old encounters to bring fond memories but not needful continuation.

Other sisters stay in the same communities, and it’s like their new families are extensions of the older rendition.

One thing is certain–it evolves naturally and cannot be manipulated through false emotion or guilt.

We must understand that for some people, the memory of their birthing family is pleasant but irrelevant, pleasant but valuable, pleasant but in the past.

For others such recollections are unpleasant and degrading, unpleasant and unnecessary, and unpleasant and harmful.

It is always better to look at the family of our youth as the ship that brought us to the New World. Sometimes that ship can sit out in the harbor of our environment as a memory of great times. And sometimes the ship is so full of holes that it needs to be sunk.

You can’t help people to be friends. Friendship is always based upon mutual concerns.

But what you can do is maintain the better parts of every experience as you launch out into newness of life.

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Turning Kids Into Humans: (After 18) Grown Out … October 13, 2014

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Humanating

 

Eighteen years of age.

You’ve made it. More importantly, your little bundle of joy has survived.

Now there are three choices: grow up, grow in, grow out.

Factually, there’s not much you can do about them growing up, although it is possible for them to get mature physically and still be babies internally.

But there is a new trend in America to ask our children to grow in, towards us. We decide to rescue them from life’s inevitable failures by welcoming them back, rent free, into the domicile, quite happy to be Mommy or Daddy once again. This practice has generated a class of people who originally were working but now are still searching, convinced they have plenty of time to assume human responsibility.

Your goal should be to help them grow out.

As quickly as you possibly can, develop an adult relationship with your son or daughter instead of a co-dependency. If you’ve taught them to be human beings by inserting empathy and gratitude into their everyday lives, then you should be confident of seven things that you mutually hold dear. Your child should know:

  1. I’m no better than anyone else.
  2. I’m responsible for my own actions.
  3. I will work with what I have.
  4. I know that truth is the gold standard in human relationships.
  5. I look for opportunity, not short cuts.
  6. I am a heart, soul, mind and strength creature.
  7. I am fully aware that how I treat people is what I really believe about myself and God.

You may want to sit down and have a delightful conversation about these seven glorious ideas before they launch into their future

You haven’t lost an off-spring; you’ve taken eighteen years to mentor a friend. Enjoy them. And as they move about the Earth and realize that these platinum attitudes work, they will sing your praises.

Never forget that bringing creatures into this world is just a part of the biological cycle.

Turning them into human beings is the joy of the truly spiritual.

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