Not Long Tales … November 26th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4234)

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.

Not Long Tales … October 15th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4198)

10.

Mr. Eyeballs

Curtis Marshall was the father of two young boys, a contractor, avid Philadelphia Phillies fan and great proponent and propagator of practical jokes.

He loved to create a setup that surprised trusting victims with a payoff ranging from foolishness to horror, and then to stand back and howl with laughter at their naivety.

At a barbecue-rib-and-corn-on-the-cob night, he once replaced the toothpick container down at the Reynolds Dining Hall with his own toothpicks, which were covered in maple syrup. For a solid hour he observed folks grossed out by the sticky pick, casting it away in disgust. Finally an employee noticed his giggling, and he was confronted by the manager and asked to leave.

Curtis was always surprised at what you could get away with as long as you looked like you knew what you were doing.

For instance, one busy Saturday he set up a table at a local shopping mall, with a big banner with the drawing of a deer, reading “Free Doe Nuts.” Sitting out for all to enjoy were small, dark-brown, round doughnut holes. Curtis thought it was absolutely rib-splitting to offer these to people in the mall, and while they popped them in their mouths or were chewing on them, he explained that they were actually Doe Nuts—testicles taken off a deer. Reactions were absolutely explosive. Some people spit, others cussed, one little kid spewed—and finally Curtis was reported to the mall manager and had to hustle away with his table and Doe Nut holes, security on his tail. At no time did it occur to any of the participants that does were ball-less female of the deer species.

More recently, he got in trouble with the Health Department. At the ladies’ restroom of the movie theater, he replaced the liquid soap provided with a product known as Blood Soap. It came out looking like regular soap, but as you washed your hands it turned bright red and appeared to be blood. Curtis sat directly next door in the men’s restroom on the pot and howled with laughter as he heard the women screaming. When it was discovered that he was the culprit, the Health Department filed a suit against him for disturbing the peace, or something or other, but it was thrown out of court.

Curtis Marshall was certainly committed to the art of the practical joke. He had pulled so many on friends and family that it had gone from humorous, to quaint, to finally—with all in agreement—flat-out annoying.

They got together to hold an intervention over his practical jokes. After an hour or so of him protesting that it was innocent, a way for him to enjoy life, they countered by informing him that if he wanted to continue to be a part of the family—or even married, for that matter—he had better stop practicing what they deemed “a spiteful wickedness.”

Discouraged, he nodded his head. But the next morning, he decided on one final escapade. It needed to be a big one. He decided he would even spend some money.

He rented a post office box at one of those strip-mall stationery stores under the name of Stanley Morton.

Next, he needed to find a private investigator. Having no idea on how to go about such a task, he asked a couple of friends. Finally Jerry, one of his work buddies, happened to have a card from a young man who had passed through the office, trying to drum up business for his foundling company. He was an investigator. The name of the company was Mr. Eyeballs.

Curtis had to chuckle at the silliness of the name and decided it would be perfect for implementing his coup de gras of laughables. So posing as Stanley Morton he called Mr. Eyeballs. Curtis asked the young proprietor to do a job for him.

What Curtis—pardon, Stanley—wanted was for the private dick to follow a man around to see what his activities were, because Stanley was planning to do some business with this fellow and feared he might be dishonest. Curtis—Stanley—explained that he would send Mr. Eyeballs a picture of the individual he wanted to be scrutinized.

Well, Mr. Eyeballs said he could do as requested—he would give four full days of bloodhounding the activities, but it would cost five hundred dollars.

Curtis winced a bit at the expense but figured the payoff would be worth it. He agreed and sent Mr. Eyeballs a five-hundred-dollar cashiers check, along with the name of the fellow he wanted pursued—Curtis Marshall—and a picture.

Curtis, who had stopped all other practical jokes in honor of this magna cum laude, was nearly beside himself with anticipation over the arrival of the report.

One week passed. Two weeks passed. In the middle of the third week, Curtis decided to call Mr. Eyeballs back—as Stanley—and ask what the holdup was. The young man was apologetic. He explained that he was new in the business, wanted to do a fine job, and was still typing up the final draft. He was holding it in his hands and would put it in the mail immediately. Curtis, under the guise of Stanley, was agreeable.

Two days later, when Curtis checked the mail at the stationery store, there was a manila envelope waiting for him. He grabbed it, raced to his car and opened it, pulling out the stapled report.

It had a preamble:

Being asked my Mr. Stanley Morton to investigate Curtis Marshall to determine his honesty and virtue, I have come to the following conclusions.

Mr. Marshall made quite a few stops at the ATM.

I have found through my studies that two visits a week is commonplace. Mr. Marshall sometimes made two a day.

(Curtis just laughed. It was his practice to never carry extra cash, but to take out of the ATM whatever he needed for the moment.)

The report continued:

I also discovered that Mr. Marshall made frequent trips to the library, and following him into the establishment, it seemed to my mind that he spent an inordinate amount of time whispering to the librarian.

(Once again, Curtis had to burst out with laughter. One of his favorite targets was the librarian. He would ask her for books that did not exist, and then be disappointed that the library was unable to fulfill his wishes.)

Still more report:

Three times during my four-day investigation, Mr. Marshall made a stop at the back door of a small mom-and-pop restaurant called The Rib Shack.

He huddled with a man in an apron, exchanged some cash, and hurried to his car, carrying a small bag.

(Curtis smiled. He loved the ribs at The Rib Shack, but he didn’t like the way they cooked them for the common people. So his buddy, Mickey, always fixed a quarter-rack of ribs for him just the way he liked them. Curtis picked them up three times a week, on the down-low, so nobody else would know.)

Mr. Eyeballs was not finished. The report also cited that Curtis Marshall picked up his two children at school, always arriving early, and seemed to be watching the other children as they departed.

(Now Curtis was feeling a little nervous over the report. It was true that he went to the school early—for two reasons. Number one, he wanted to make sure he was never late so as not to keep the kids hanging. And number two, he used this as his private time, to think up…well, usually to think up new practical jokes.)

Finally, Mr. Eyeballs cast some doubt on why Curtis Marshall spent so much time in his garage at night, working on some sort of project. Getting close to a window, Mr. Eyeballs was able to determine that there was a lot of rock and roll music being played, some smoke coming from one of the open windows, and—well, it was all just very brash.

(Curtis resumed his laughing profile. He loved loud rock and roll music. He wife thought he had quit smoking three months earlier, so the garage was his only safe haven. And he was trying to learn how to be a carpenter but finding that he was not very good at measuring or cutting.)

At the bottom of the report, Mr. Eyeballs had placed, in large letters, the word CONCLUSION.

“If I were surmising the life and times of Curtis Marshall, I would say that perhaps he’s involved in selling some drugs—maybe on the high end—having an affair with the librarian, using the contact at The Rib Shack for distribution, trying to get young children started on smoking grass, while working in his garage, hatching a plan for some sort of criminal evil.”

Curtis finished the report and stuck it back in the manila envelope. He was a little disgruntled. It was ridiculous, but he thought it would be funnier. Instead, he felt affronted, even defiled. He decided this particular joke was a fizzle, and that if he was going to finish out the life of a practical joker, he would need a better exit prank. He would think about it.

As he was driving home, about five doors down from his house, he saw an old gold sedan in his neighbor’s driveway with a magnetic sign on the side which read, “Mr. Eyeballs.”

He was so surprised that he almost slammed on his brakes, but then thought he needed to be cooler than that. More controlled. Once he got home, he forgot all about it. Of course, he told no one about his disappointing and expensive adventure.

The next morning, on his way to work, about eight doors down on the right hand side, at another neighbor’s house, there was Mr. Eyeball’s car again, with the ugly sign. This time, Curtis noticed the paint was peeling on the door. He drove by very slowly so he could get a good peek.

The same thing happened that night—except it was three doors down on the left-hand side, in the driveway of his neighbor, Michael. There was Mr. Eyeballs’ car—right in front of everybody.

Curtis was unnerved. He needed to talk to somebody but couldn’t do it without exposing his foolish flub. So after dinner, as darkness fell, Curtis decided to walk out, go down the street and talk to Michael about who the visitor was with the golden sedan.

But before he could get to Michael’s house, driving slowly by in the other direction was that ugly gold sedan with the magnetic sign, which could barely be read in the darkness, but still was certainly Mr. Eyeballs.

Curtis turned around and hurried home, taken aback by the whole encounter. He peeked out of his front widow four, five—maybe six times that evening, and on two occasions, driving along at a creeping crawl was Mr. Eyeballs’ vehicle. What in the hell was going on?

A whole week passed. It seemed like every time Curtis looked around his home turf, there was the gold sedan either coming or going.

And then, something truly startling–friends and neighbors, who had frequently come for visits, ceased to appear. The Crawfords, three doors down, cancelled a barbecue that had been planned for months. Curtis had always tried to walk his neighborhood every day, but now each time he saw one of his friends and waved, they ducked their heads and hurried inside.

What in the hell was Mr. Eyeballs up to? Had the young man become too aggressive, following him to his home and warning the neighbors about these fictitious concerns?

Finally, Curtis decided to ask his wife, Carol, if she knew anything about the gold sedan driving through the neighborhood. She said no, but her eyes darted like they always did when she was lying.

Curtis went down to the police station and explained his concerns to the lieutenant. He surmised that he was either being persecuted by this stranger, or Mr. Eyeballs was perhaps planning to extort money by ruining his name among his companions.

The following Saturday, Curtis went to the doors of his neighbors—seventeen in all—and knocked. Half of them refused to answer at all and the other half refused to open up and allow him entrance. Skittishly, they peered through their windows at him, or made up some excuse for not being able to talk.

Curtis was losing sleep. He had to do something. It was completely out of control. The young detective he had hooked up with obviously had some mental problems and had targeted him for demolition.

Finally, two days later at the grocery store, he cornered his friend, Brian, in the meat section between the steak and the chicken. He maneuvered his cart to prohibit Brian from escaping and came right up into Brian’s face, whispering, “You are my friend. You are not going to lie to me. You are not going to avoid me. You’re going to tell me the truth. What’s going on?”

Brian looked at him nervously, his eyes flitting to the left and then the right. Brian leaned into Curtis and whispered back into his ear. “Leave it alone,” he said. “You’re in a lot of goddamn trouble. We’re all scared. The young man has us terrified. We can’t talk to you. He told us about following you—he’s discovered all of your sinister paths.”

Curtis couldn’t take anymore. He pulled Brian in by the shoulders and shook him. “You know me, man! You know me. What’s wrong with you?”

Brian took the opportunity to wiggle away, grab his cart and dart to the front of the store. Curtis was barely able to maintain his public decorum, chasing his old friend through the canned goods.

He gathered a few last things, remembering the gallon of milk and dozen eggs his wife had requested and headed to checkout. Brian was two people ahead of him, on the right-hand side. Checkout 6.

Curtis stared at him—a threatening glare. Brian finished paying, gathered his groceries quickly and headed for his car as Curtis impatiently waited for the cashier. He was pissed—done with being nice.

He raced his car home, but as he approached, he discovered there were cars everywhere. What caught his attention immediately was the one sitting out front—the ugly-ass mustard sedan with Mr. Eyeballs’ sign on the side.

All the cars were at his house and on his grass.

He parked as close as he could, leaving his groceries in the car, no longer concerned for the outcome of his Rocky Road ice cream. He scooted through his front door. There were his neighbors, sitting in a circle in his living room, and there was a young man in the middle—the one he assumed to be Mr. Eyeballs. He was through being courteous.

“What’s wrong with you all?” he screamed, turning in every direction. They all peered at him without flicking an eyelash.

“I ask you, what’s wrong with you?” Curtis demanded. “Are you actually listening to this maniac? He’s so stupid—so dumb—that he doesn’t even know that I—yes, I—am Stanley Morton.”

He turned to Mr. Eyeballs, shouting angrily,  “I set you up, you dummy! I gave you a fake name and you got taken in!”

The women in the room pulled back in fear as the men stood, ready to subdue him if necessary. Lunging forward toward Mr. Eyeballs, his arms were caught by two of his friends, Tommy and Jack. They held him as he tried to break free to attack his oppressor. Fully constrained, Curtis stood helplessly panting.

Mr. Eyeballs looked at him and said, “Gotcha. Or would it be better to say, ‘April Fool’s?’”

From across the room, Curtis’ wife shouted, “I kind of like hee-haw!”

With this, everyone burst into uproarious laughter.

Curtis, still feeling heat from his fury, looked around in disbelief. “This was a joke?” he challenged.

Mr. Eyeballs replied, “Yeah. But an expensive one. I plan on keeping the five hundred dollars.”

This brought a whole new wave of laughter. Curtis Marshall was embarrassed, angry, humiliated, bereft, nervous, suffering high blood pressure—and deflated.

Everyone stood to leave and quietly passed by, patting him on the back. A couple of folks even gave him a hug.

Curtis desperately tried to imitate humility. He didn’t want to be an angry loser. He didn’t want to act like other people had when he’d pulled pranks on them.

But the truth was, he felt exactly like them.

After everybody was gone and his wife kissed him on the lips, he headed out to his garage and turned on Metallica full blast. After fifteen minutes of hammering nails into a board (which would never be anything but hammered) he stopped and considered.

“This was not fair,” he thought to himself. “This was not a joke. This was…completely impractical.”

 

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Jesonian … November 18th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Those that are not for us are against us.

Those that are not against us are for us.

These seem to be two contrary thoughts–even a contradiction. Yet Jesus said both of them.

And due to a lack of understanding, the soldiers of the cross all line up behind one campaign or the other.

Some churches firmly believe that the Gospel is under attack by a sinful world, manipulated by Satan.

Other churches insist that people are basically good, and it’s up to us to help them through their hard times so they can find themselves.

We even divide our political parties along the same lines. Devout Republicans tend to favor isolation, and the Democrats are proponents of intervention.

We also see this clearly with James, John and Judas. James and John were isolationists. When they came to Samaria and the people rejected them, they were angry and suggested the folks should be destroyed for their lack of hospitality.

Jesus rebuked them and said they didn’t understand what spirit was working inside them.

Judas, on the other hand, criticized Jesus for spending money foolishly instead of taking the funds and using it to feed the poor. Jesus replied to him that the poor were never going away, and if we try to resolve poverty, we’ll end up angry and bitter. He said the best we can do is offer what we can afford.

The battle still rages today:

Are we going to be a church of isolation, a country of isolation, or should we favor intervention, both spiritually and politically?

What is the way of the Earth? What is the true message of the Gospel?

Did Jesus come to isolate off a group of believers, or did he come to intervene in the lives of everyone?

Neither.

The Gospel interrupts.

It offers an alternative. It sheds light and produces salt as evidence of another possibility.

The Gospel interrupts the process by offering a more common sense, logical, easier and gentle approach.

When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they asked him what he thought they should do. He doesn’t answer specifically. He says, “If you have no sin, you should feel free to cast the first stone to kill the woman.”

The Bible says at this point, he turns around, stoops and fiddles in the dirt with his finger. He leaves it to them to come up with the right answer.

It is rather doubtful if we can live in a world that is an Internet click away from covering 25,000 miles, and believe we can isolate ourselves from other nations.

It is equally as ridiculous to contend that our intervention–taking over the circumstances of nations–will do anything to generate permanent resolution.

Jesus has called his church to be an interruption. While enjoying our lives of simple Gospel bliss, we offer an alternative to others through our example and our generosity.

We interrupt.

Jesus said, “I didn’t come to bring peace. I came to bring a sword to divide people.”

The ultimate interruption.

To be a Jesonian believer is to understand that isolating ourselves from others does not alleviate being at the mercy of their insanity, but also understanding that intervening and thinking we can feed all the poor is equally as unstable.

What we can do is interrupt.

In the process of living a full, joyful life, we brush up against others, and in doing so, we plant the seeds of better notions. For after all, people are not changed by being ignored or controlled.

They must see our good works to glorify the Father in heaven.

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Ask Jonathots … May 26th, 2016

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I have a buddy at work who just separated from his wife and is filing for divorce. He’s going to fight for full custody of his two daughters. He says his wife is not fit to be a mother because she’s mentally unstable. I met her once at a party, and she openly talked about how her daughters had “betrayed” her. They were five and six years old at the time. Here’s my question: how do you know when someone is just flat-out crazy? Is there anything I can do for my friend?

You are actually posing three questions:

1. How can you tell if somebody’s crazy?

2. How can you get involved in a situation without interfering?

3. What is the basic criteria for being a parent?

So I will attempt to address each inquiry individually and let you sew them together as an answer.

I don’t believe there is an actual condition called “crazy,” but when we deny reality, we certainly teeter on the brink of mental instability.

There are many ways to deny reality: you can lie about it, pretend it’s not your fault, insist it’s not your business but instead, God’s affair, you can blame the devil, or as in the case of your subject, you can believe that your children are trying to sabotage you.

Insanity is the idea that ignoring reality can change your circumstances.

Now let’s look at the second question. Unless somebody asks your opinion, giving it is interfering.

I have learned that my opinion is not really needed, wanted or valued unless there is a question pending. In other words, without someone asking me for my input, I am being obnoxious.

Now, shall we go to the third question? There is actually one criterion for being a good parent. Are your children safe?

Because as they grow, sometimes they may perceive the parent as a comforter, friend, warden, enemy, Satan, Santa Claus or boring. So you can’t evaluate good parenting on how happy the children are to actually have a parent.

Are they safe? And by safe, I mean that they have a sense that they will be taken care of, and they are not threatened by those who have authority over them.

So let’s see if we can put the three answers together.

Since children do not dictate the policies of the household, it is difficult for them to be betrayers. Therefore believing children are betrayers is certainly an imbalanced and unhealthy profile. It opens the door for the parent to retaliate instead of express affection.

But since your opinion has not been sought and you are not in a power position to change things, what you need to do is express your joy, concern and hopes by being supportive of the kids–through little notes, maybe some gifts, and a loving, open door.

You should avoid taking sides, but instead, pass on to both the mother and father that you feel the most important thing is the well-being of these children. In doing this, you will establish that you are the champion of the daughters instead of the crusader for either Mom or Dad.

This is the advice I give you–but also be fully aware that any time you leave reality (for instance, thinking you’re the savior of this other family) you can become just as “crazy” as the next person.

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G-Poppers … December 25th, 2015

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G-Pop smiles, with a deep sense of satisfaction and a warm sensation of knowing.

The story would have to be told.

Had Levi Matthew and Dr. Luke failed to pass along the tale, some intelligent soul with an ability to craft words would have needfully granted our race a sharing of such an unfolding, so as to keep us from falling off the cliff of our own sanity, to splatter on the rocks of our despair.

After all, we need a Virgin Birth.

There must be a confirmation that women have struck out on their own, using the power of their own contents to birth a saving force for the world, free of manly intervention or boasting.

The same story certainly must contain wise folks from the East, who are heretics and enemies of acceptable religious inclinations. They appear–awed and in wonder over the miracle that was seen through their eyes and their perspective.

The plot thickens with the introduction of drunken shepherds who insist they’ve been visited by angels. They bring a working man’s energy to a project which might be in danger of becoming too “frilly.”

Add on the fact that as always, there is no room for a good idea in the local establishment, but instead, it must be relegated to the confines of a sheepish environment.

And of course, we need some sort of leader, ruler or in this case, king, who is so prejudiced and afraid of immigration bringing in riff-raff to take his job that he decides to close the borders and punish the children.

So we end up with refugees who have no place to go, no visa, no invitation, and land in Egypt, where they are nobody, possibly suspected of being terrorists.

The story would have to be told.

Whether it’s true or not can be debated by those who certainly have too much time on their hands, or the details can be gnawed on as food for thought.

But if a woman didn’t birth a child on her own, without the approval of a man, and if that child was not accepted by weirdos and drunkards while being rejected by kings and princes, and chased on down the road to feel like a refugee … what in the hell good would it be to us?

 

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G-Poppers … September 18th, 2015

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She came into the room angry and frustrated. G-Pop asked her what was troubling her so.

She explained that she was really pissed off about how the Syrian refugees were being treated by the Europeans. G-Pop sat quietly listening, allowing her to vent for a few minutes until she ran out of steam.

When a few seconds of stillness had settled into the room, he said, “Let’s say you had just finished your dinner and you were sitting down in your chair getting ready to watch some television. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. You rise to your feet, open your door and discover a stranger standing in front of you, obviously distressed. You ask what you can do to help him, and he explains that his home has just burned to the ground and he has no place to go and needs some assistance. The first thing that crosses your mind is that you’ve never met this person before. Is the story true? How would you be able to find out? So you cautiously invite him inside the door while you consider your options. Before you can gather all your thoughts, he explains that he just needs someplace to stay until he can get on his feet and find out what he really wants to accomplish. You ask him if he has family in the area who could assist and he explains in vivid detail that he is from far away and doesn’t know anybody. So while you’re trying to figure out what you want to do, he informs you that he also has a wife and two children.

So now there are four people involved. He goes on to share that as frightened and taken aback as he is, they are completely devastated. Then in passing he mentions that his wife is also pregnant.  You have to make a decision. Trying to be wise, you inquire if he has checked with the local shelters and food banks for possible emergency intervention. He looks at you with a blank stare, not aware of how to go about such a maneuver, and still wishing that you would do something to help. So you agree to invite the family in to sit down while you make some sort of plan to help out. As the wife and two children enter the door, the man goes on to say that his cousin had been staying with them and also has a wife and one child, and is equally as abandoned by the disaster.

“Now you have seven people to deal with. What started as a quiet evening in your home, watching television, has now become an invasion of needy people who seem to be growing in numbers every minute. What should you do?

She looked at G-Pop, wanting to object, even to suggest that the scenario was not the same, but then realized that they were identical.

G-Pop continued. “We are really foolish when we think other people should do what we would not do ourselves. Honestly, there’s not much that I can do about the people who have run away from Syria. Any money sent in that direction would be a drop in the bucket and would take months to reach its destination. So my only recourse is to go into my own community and find the refugees–people without homes, seemingly unwanted humans, rejected souls and struggling families–and before their world utterly falls apart, forcing them to my doorstep, I will seek them out and do what I can.”

G-Pop finished the story and she seemed to understand.

You see, Jesus was absolutely right: the poor will always be with us.

The only thing we can do is share from our bounty before they end up on our porch–and we feel compelled to turn them away.

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Ask Jonathots … August 6th, 2015

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I’m worried about my best friend. We are both sixteen and have played on our school football and basketball teams for years. So this past year my bud has been changing. He’s avoiding me and other friends, too, and says that he’s not going to play next year. I really think something is wrong, but when I ask him about it he just shrugs me off. What should I do? It’s his life, but I want to intervene.

Two words: best friend.

If he considers you to be his best friend, the question you have to ask yourself is, “Why isn’t he sharing with me?”

Don’t ask the question to make yourself feel bad. Understand that if you are his best friend and he’s not sharing with you, there are only two logical reasons:

  1. What’s going on in his life is too embarrassing to share with anyone else.
  2. He doesn’t think anyone would understand–including you.

Then ask one more question.

Which one of these two possibilities can you address?

You cannot eliminate his embarrassment, but you certainly can express to him–through your actions and your own personal confessions–that you can be trusted and that he can share without fear.

When I can’t get friends to open up to me, I take them to the side and admit something personally with them. Just letting them know that I trust them and that I have problems is often the catalyst that will open their hearts to consider unburdening themselves.

As long as people view you as an unknown, they will avoid you.

You can’t take the embarrassment out of an embarrassing situation, but you can confess some of your weaknesses in private with your best friend–letting him know that there’s no shame in a struggle.

The only real darkness in life is to continue to struggle in shame.

 

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