Catchy (Sitting 50) Hiding Out… May 27th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

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The digital clock on the nightstand read 2:14 A. M. when the phone in the darkened room pierced through the silence.

Jo-Jay stirred from a contented sleep. She had taken out the motel room for the night to have some private time, away from the hustle and bustle of the tent camp at Soulsbury. She also yearned for a deep, cleansing shower in a bathroom full of steam, warm and cozy.

She sat up as the phone continued to ring. It took her a moment to recall where she was. She eased her way from under the covers, picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?”

On the other end of the line was the nighttime captain at the Salisbury police department. “Jo-Jay, this is Bob down at the police headquarters. We’ve…uh…Well, let’s say detained…this guy. And he’s asked for you to be his contact. You know–his one phone call.”

Jo-Jay had made sure to get to know all the Salisbury policemen, because they were a great aid to the cause at the Camp of Remembrance.

“Who is it?” she asked the captain, with a crackle in her voice.

“I don’t know, my dear. He just wants to talk to you.”

“What did he do?” asked Jo-Jay.

“Well,” said the captain, “I guess you would say he was suspiciously lurking around the campgrounds.”

Jo-Jay nodded her head, even though she did not understand, and told Bob that she would be right down. She threw on the easiest clothes she could find, grabbed her keys, money and purse, ran a comb through her hair and scurried out the door. The police department was only three blocks away, so in no time at all she was standing outside the building, staring through the window at a nighttime skeleton crew, drinking coffee and trying to stay awake.

Coming through the door and walking up to the desk, she introduced herself. The captain stepped forward, greeted her and patted her shoulder. He walked her down a hallway to an interrogation room.

He stepped to the side, allowing her to go in ahead of him. Entering the room, she nearly laughed. Sitting on a chair, dressed in a dirty, wrinkled, stained navy blue suit with a powder-blue dress shirt which certainly had not been laundered in weeks, with disheveled hair and at least three days of sprouting beard, was Michael Hinston.

Jo-Jay had not seen him since the night of the kidnapping and confrontation. She felt no fear, but she also felt no tenderness.

His eyes were swollen, threatening tears. “I bet you didn’t expect to see me,” he said quietly.

The captain interrupted. “Do you know this fellow, Jo-Jay?”

She stared at Michael, wondering if she actually did know him. She absently-mindedly turned and said, “Yeah. It’s fine, Bob.”

Jo-Jay motioned for the captain to leave and sat down with Michael.

He was handcuffed to a chair. She squinted her eyes, sighed, and inquired, “What in the hell are you up to?”

“Do you want the short version or the long version?” he asked with a slight chuckle.

“Actually, I want to be on my Posturepedic mattress back at the Holiday Inn,” she replied, “but since you’ve robbed me of that, why don’t you give me the medium version, edited for television?”

Michael launched. “I’m no longer a Congressman. You might have figured that out. Here’s the story, Jo-Jay. I fell in with some bad people. And what I found out was, I was pretty comfortable with them, which of course, made me bad people, too. So even though I didn’t have anything to do with what happened to you or your friends, I heard rumblings of what might have been the story line. We can get to that later. Anyway, I was told that it was nearly my duty to take a kick-back from Caine Industrial, to subsidize my lack of living expenses. The attorney who instructed me in the ways of Washington and such graft was a guy named Milford Hays. Here’s the truth, Jo-Jay. I kept that fifty thousand dollars he gave me in an envelope for four months. Yet when it came time to consider braces for both Alisa and Bernice, my daughters, and private schools, my salary just fell short. I was tired of being noble. I was sick of being short on a dollar. I ran the check through several different methods of cashing and retrieving–trying to disassociate myself from the funds. And I didn’t think about it anymore until last month.”

Jo-Jay interrupted. “Is there an end to this story?”

Michael bowed his head a bit, sitting still, then slowly lifted his eyes and looked at Jo-Jay. “Jay…I really need someone to be nice to me right now.”

She paused, looked him in the eyes, drank in the depth of his sincerity and nodded. He continued.

“Well, you see, I didn’t realize… Well, a lot of things. But mainly I didn’t realize there was a plot by Caine Industrial to discredit and humiliate me, so they could remove me from my seat and could put in their own flunkie. They sent pictures to my wife of me cavorting around the Beltway with a prostitute. They weren’t real. But that doesn’t mean much to a devoted, aging wife with two children who felt like she gave up her dreams for mine.”

He shook his head. “So a major leak showed up in the media about me taking kickbacks, complete with evidence–accounts and witnesses. The head of the party in Ohio told me I needed to resign. Right after that phone call, I got served divorce papers from Barbara. It came with a restraining order. She was able to convince a judge that my temperament was so unpredictable that she and the children might be in danger. I wasn’t even able to go back and get my clothes. Barbara moved–took the children somewhere. She left three notes behind–one from her and one from each girl. Let me just say that they were not messages of encouragement. The words ‘devastated’ and ‘disappointed’ appeared frequently. Everything I purchased on payments suddenly came due–at least it seemed that way. I was arrested, and they gave me a choice. I could plead guilty to a misdemeanor with a ten thousand dollar fine, or go to trial and risk fifteen years in jail. I took the plea, and as I walked out, I saw the attorney, Milford Hayes, chatting with the district attorney.”

He shook his head again. “All I had was my wallet and this suit. They had picked up my rental car and they froze my bank accounts. I walked out the door of city hall, down the steps, and put out my thumb–to hitch-hike.”

Michael stopped. “Jo-Jay, did you realize that people don’t hitch-hike anymore? I had a horrible time getting anybody to take me anywhere. Finally a truck driver took me into Virginia and dropped me off at a truck stop. He said the best way to get a ride was to sit around the coffee shop and listen to where truck drivers were heading, and then negotiate a deal. It took me three days. I finally found Trucker-man Jackson–that’s what he called himself–heading to North Carolina. I jumped in. Over two days, I developed a toleration for Merle Haggard on the way to Salisbury. I never told him my story–I think if he had found out I was from Washington, D.C., Jackson would have kicked me out of his cab. But I think the filthy suit did make him wonder about my origins.”

Michael sighed. “Well, finishing this up, I arrived in town early this afternoon, and just walked around the Camp of Remembrance. Since I didn’t know anyone…you weren’t there…I didn’t get a tent. So I was hanging out next to a tree when the police came upon me. My reasons for being there were sketchy and my appearance was less than reassuring. So they brought me here.”

Jo-Jay leaped in. “And you thought of me.” She took a breath. “I want to tell you, Michael. I learned a long time ago that it’s not a good time to ask a favor unless you’ve given a favor and believe there might be one available to withdraw.”

Michael nodded his head and considered speaking, but chose silence–a profile Jo-Jay also selected for a couple of minutes.

At length, Jo-Jay asked, “So what do you want to do?”

With tears in his voice, Michael choked out, “I want you to give me the favor I don’t deserve. Vouch for me. Let me get out of these damn clothes. Wash up. Buy a pair of jogging pants, a t-shirt and tennis shoes, and I’d like to be of value to the work here.”

Jo-Jay laughed. “That’s just like everybody,” she said. “After they use up all the good shit in their lives, they suddenly want to give God the husk.”

Michael nodded his head. “Everything you’re saying is true. Everything I’m saying is theory. But everything is closed off to me…but you.”

Jo-Jay agreed to help.

For the next three weeks, Michael grew out his hair, his beard and managed to grow a heart. He actually became a favorite around the camp, because anytime anyone asked, “Can I get some help?” Michael would respond, “I was waitin’ to hear that.”

He was especially helpful with the older gentlemen, who often had more complaints than value. He turned them into a little army of workers who carried groceries and picked up trash.

Although Jo-Jay was still leery of Michael’s intentions, after three weeks, he was succeeding in gradually making a believer out of her.

Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, Matthew and Jubal continued to hide out.

On a Thursday night, Matthew had a strange realization–he had made an initial run through all the clean prostitutes in the town. He found out, because when he asked for a new one, they sent him one he had already met.

Matthew laughed sadly. He knew this was not what he wanted. He had never envisioned himself a “carouser.” But he knew he could not stand to be a follower.

Simultaneously, on the strip Jubal Carlos had made his way backstage to the Sahara, to hook up with an old friend of his, a master at makeup. Jubal’s request was simple. He asked his friend to take makeup, latex and wigs, and turn him into the prettiest version of himself possible.

He wanted to become a woman–not because he was transgender. Just because he wanted the experience. It took four hours of intense effort and extreme electrolysis, but afterwards, a statuesque, dark-haired beauty walked out of the dressing room.

She needed a name. Jubal decided on Jennifer Carmen.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 11) Bible-less Study… July 10th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

The answering machine was full.

Meningsbee had taken the precaution of turning off his phone for the Sunday afternoon drive which landed him in South Dakota, and now checking it for the first time, he realized that his “professional preacher profile,” which he had selected the previous Sunday, had not fooled any of his congregation.

He had at least thirty messages, all basically intoning a recurring theme: “Are you all right?”

He was in the middle of the eighteenth inquiry when there was a knock at the door. He opened it to discover Sammy Collins, a deacon who had been part of the great exodus from the Garsonville Church. Meningsbee invited him in but Sammy explained that he was in a hurry.

He said, “I have a Bible study at my house on Monday nights, and I would like you to come and see if we can’t make this thing right.”

On any other day, Meningsbee would have been reluctant, but he remembered Kitty’s words at the Four Heads Motel. Maybe he did need to listen.

So he agreed to come–with the stipulation that it would be a secret. Sammy agreed and departed. The following Sunday, Meningsbee was shocked to discover that everyone knew about the upcoming Monday night Bible study. They were thrilled, apprehensive, overjoyed–but mostly wanted to pray for him. Some wanted to come and give moral support, but he declined.

So all through Monday, Meningsbee fidgeted and wondered what his approach should be with the former congregation members.

He knew he didn’t want to be defensive. He knew he didn’t want to take too much time–and mostly, he knew he didn’t want to get there early.

Since it was a pot-luck dinner, which was served after the Bible study, he made his famous hot dog and beans for the occasion.

He arrived promptly at seven o’ clock, to discover that nobody was there. No one but Sammy Collins, his wife and Patrick Swanson, who was formerly the worship committee leader at the Garsonville Church.

Sammy was humiliated, frustrated, and just could not figure out what had happened.

In the midst of Sammy’s attempts at an explanation, Patrick interrupted and said, “Sammy, would you mind giving the Reverend and me an opportunity to chat privately?”

Sammy agreed, took Meningsbee’s casserole dish and headed off to the kitchen. Meanwhile, Patrick motioned for Meningsbee to come and sit down in the living room. Once seated, Mr. Swanson began his discourse.

“I need to be candid with you, Meningsbee. I told the congregation not to come this evening.” Swanson paused to see Meningsbee’s reaction. He offered none, so Swanson continued.

“You may wonder why. It’s because we aren’t coming back. There isn’t going to be a reconciliation, because we need our church out at the Holiday Inn. I know you think that you broke up the Garsonville Church through your policies. I’ll have to admit–they were pretty heavy-handed, and you didn’t really seek anyone else’s confidence, but I had decided months ago to abandon the property. I hadn’t said anything to anyone else, but two years ago I thought the new bypass was going to come through, and we’d be able to sell at a huge profit. But when they picked another path, I realized that the church basically had no financial worth. Simultaneously, the building’s getting old. The roof’s rotten, carpet is threadbare–I even had a guy come in who told us we have termites. Plus, after all my years of being at the church, I was tired of the flow of pastors. Most of them gave hapless attempts at being administrators, with no real business sense of their own. And then you arrived, on some sort of Mt. Sinai mission, to make us into something else. Well, it was enough. I made my move. My prayer was that all the old people would stay with you and all the young couples would come over to the new church, where we could talk about current events, politics, and plan excursions. You know–trips where we could fellowship and have fun. The church was dead, but I didn’t have the heart to kill it–and then you showed up. You became my gun.”

Swanson paused. Perhaps he was expecting an explosion of anger, a retaliation or a threat or two, but Meningsbee remained silent.

Swanson concluded. “Any questions, Reverend? What I’m saying to you is, you can try to keep that church together, but I will fight you.”

Meningsbee stood to his feet and stated, “Will you tell Sammy I’m going to pass on dinner?”

He headed to the door, leaving Patrick in the living room by himself. His hand was shaking as he reached for the knob.

Walking down the stoop to the sidewalk to his car, he felt like someone had taken a knife and hollowed out his insides.

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Our Redeemer… October 12, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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handsIt was a five-pound mini-barrel of pretzel chunks, stuffed with peanut butter, given to me by a friend who was beaming with delight when I opened it on Christmas morning and eyeballed the monstrosity for the first time.

He was nearly leaping with joy, explaining how he purchased the gift thinking it was ideal for me, in my travels, to have a ready-made snack which would last for quite a while–and to make sure that every time I grabbed a handful, I should think of him and know that he was praying for me.

Having some acting chops, I was able to feign great appreciation over the humongous container of over-salted carbohydrates and even dodge his ongoing discussion of it during the day over turkey and dressing.

Here’s the truth: nothing is more useless to a traveling person than a five-bound barrel of peanut-butter-stuffed pretzels. Even if you enjoy the flavor, lugging such a burden around is not worth the occasional benefit you would receive in tastiness.

I regifted.

That’s much the way I feel about the idea of heaven. Being informed by highly theological sorts that if I accept certain beliefs and receive adequate amounts of grace, that I will someday have an eternal home with golden streets and jasper walls just doesn’t get me through the daily chores of human struggle. I can’t become a better person by thinking about the day when I will no longer BE a person.Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

So as I head off tonight and tomorrow to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in McMurray, Pennsylvania, I will tell you what I think of the word “redeemer.”

Candidly, if Jesus is no more than a sacrificial lamb for my sins, it will be difficult for me to conjure any sentimentality for him in the midst of a traffic jam in the Steel City. At that point, I will revert to my training, giving into my frustration and festering nasty notions of mythical murders of nearby motorists. Here’s the kind of redeemer I need:

First and foremost, he needs to be a friend.

  • A friend is someone who tells you the truth but you still like him enough that you want him to hang around.
  • A friend is someone who catches you on a bad day but still shows up at eight o’clock the next morning for the next round.
  • A friend is someone who sticks closer than a brother.

My redeemer also needs to be a spotter.

  • I’m referring to that person who stands nearby when you’re lifting weights in a gymnasium, just in case what you’re attempting to take on becomes too much, and he or she can walk over and help lift the danger from your head.
  • I need a spotter who knows that I’m constantly trying to lose weight, and gently nudges me towards less caloric choices.
  • I need a spotter who knows me, loves me, but also challenges me to not bathe in God’s grace, but instead, pursue excellence by multiplying my talents.

And finally, I do need a savior.

If I were to describe the journey we call human life, I would refer to it as “pulling up a little short.” There always seems to be a few feet necessary to complete the task just when exhaustion suffocates our soul. At that point, I could use someone to carry me across the finish line.

If all God has to offer is heaven, He’s going to have some awfully crappy followers on earth. But I believe there’s more to being spiritual than waiting to be “spirited away” to the angelic Holiday Inn.

I believe that our redeemer is our friend, our spotter and our savior.

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Motelin Just What … May 29, 2012

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Somewhere between $35.95 cents and $169.99 is the average cost of a motel room in this country for one night. Of course, there are places where you can pay much more for a room based upon locale, special events or some little extra accommodation advertised. But generally speaking, most motels will blush with embarrassment once they go above that top dollar.

It is probably one of the most diversely priced items in this country. For instance, if I told you that a gallon of milk ranged between $1.23 and $18.55, you would be up in arms and ready to lynch some dairy farmer in Wisconsin. Yet the motel industry seems to get by with it by maintaining some dubious rationale in its advertising.

I will tell you right now, after having traveled nearly forty years staying in these establishments, which the top fifty dollars of every price is paying for the name, the location, or the privilege of eyeballing staff wearing coats and ties rather than t-shirts and jeans. If that is relatively important to you, then you should pull out that money and spend it heartily.

Thirty dollars of the price of a motel room in the higher range is for the privilege of being with clientele of your particular social ilk. Yes, I am saying it out loud—cheaper motels tend to draw people who don’t have as much money and unfortunately, in this country we contend that those souls are the source of our crime and violence. (Obviously, not so.)

Motels that charge you a lot of money for the rooms refer to these cheaper establishments as “flea bags–infested with bugs, or dens of drugs and prostitution. Of course, once again, very little truth in the matter (although I would not recommend taking out a motel room adjacent to an adult bookstore.)

If you will allow me to put it into perspective for you, a motel room is a simulation of a master bedroom.  Bed, dresser, closet, television set and adjoining bathroom. And nowadays, most of them have microwaves and refrigerators for convenience, which is a consideration we all might have in the future for our own home unit.

There are really three questions you must ask yourself about your motel room for the night that are essential for a good stay:

1. How much room in the room? Unless you have become very familiar with your traveling companion or don’t mind cramped quarters, being able to walk around your room without running into walls or furniture is a plus.

2. Can I park in front of the door or near to my room? One of the biggest misconceptions is that motel rooms that are enclosed, with a parking lost adjoining are safer than those where you can pull up to your door with your car. Honestly, if I were a criminal, I would not want to rob from cars that are right next to the windows of the owner. I would find a nice, large parking lot far from the front desk–and take my pick.

3. Now, this may surprise you. Staying in a motel room is all about the bathroom. You should be careful of those establishments that miniaturize everything in the toilet area so as to condense space so the room can look larger—because all of the plumbing may look Snow White, but it is best suited for the seven dwarves. Especially beware of toilet seats that are round instead of oblong. They tend to be very uncomfortable and are usually encased by a wall on either side, giving you the feeling that you are being wedged into your experience. The bathroom is the key to a motel room. Good lighting, double sinks a plus–or even a sink in the bathroom and one outside the bathroom is really handy. The shower should be easy to get in and out of and have good pressure.

Once you discover these pieces of information, you understand that the most you should probably pay for a motel room is about $75 a night. Everything above that is advertising name, location, staff or a hot breakfast which is offered to you, including eggs, bacon and sausage (which, by the way, is completely unnecessary unless you’re a lumberjack felling trees in the Yukon.)

As you find with everything else in life, there are ways to save money without losing quality. That seems to stymie a lot of folks, including the U.S. government and Congress–because at least half of what people refer to as quality is name-brand assurance that you will be taken care of if something goes wrong.

So the Holiday Inn wants you to pay extra money for their good name over “Bob and Mary’s Motel” down the street–because in the case of some unforeseen difficulty, they want you to believe they would handle it better than Bob and Mary. But since we don’t know what that unforeseen difficulty would be, and no one knows what anyone would do, you end up spending a lot of money for absolutely nothing–similar to buying extra insurance coverage on a car rental.

So I pulled into Denver yesterday and went to my motel, and as always, it ends up being a mixed bag. The room is small but has a lovely bathroom with an accessible shower AND throne. The air conditioning unit needs some work, but we’ve already met the maintenance man and he seems congenial and willing to try. The television set is too big for the room, but that hardly seems like something one should complain about after simply noting it. And the furniture is not made of oak or covered with leather, but instead, looks like your Uncle Charlie made it out in the garage because he’s hoping to someday leave his job at the factory and start a business.

I feel very good every week upon discovering a diamond in the rough and saving money that people have given me so that I can travel—to use it wisely to buy quality instead of merely a name or false assurance. If we could teach the financiers of our nation the same concept and we would begin to barter once again for better pricing on items instead of signing lifelong contracts with companies based on their previous reputations, we could begin to emerge from this dark cloud of indebtedness and arrogant spending with some dignity–and even have a little fun in the process.

Fortunately for me, I have a traveling companion who enjoys cutting a corner here and there as long as she doesn’t lose and arm or a leg. If we could just find people to elect to be our representatives who had similar mindsets, we would be all set.

So those are my discoveries about moteling. To sum it up, if you need a name, or if you are afraid of being next door to someone who makes less than 50K a year, then you will probably end up paying for the higher priced institutions, for the powdered eggs in the morning, convincing yourself it was worth it. But if you realize that buying a name doesn’t mean guaranteeing quality, or sharing the neighborhood with people who don’t have late-model cars but do have contemporary standards and morals–then you can shop around and save yourself upwards to fifty or sixty dollars a night.

Last week I met some of the most interesting people at the swimming pool where we were staying in Grand Junction, Colorado. They were young enough to be my children or grandchildren, and I befriended them, loved them and enjoyed them, discovering many twists and turns in their ever-evolving lives. It was fascinating.

So “motelin’ just what you’re looking for,” as you stay overnight somewhere, realize that money can be easily spent pursuing a security–that is never pre-ordained.

 

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