Sit Down Comedy … May 29th, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

Responsibility.

The ability to be responsible.

Sounds just a trifle old-fashioned. For after all, in this modern era, how can we determine the true height and depth of our ability? And likewise, what are we responsible for, given that our power is limited by the circumstances of the world around us?

Yet many years ago, when Darren and Karen (with rhyming names), after twelve years of marriage, suddenly found themselves on the verge of a divorce because Darren was spotted at a motel twenty miles away, with the high school choral teacher…

Well, literally the whole affair set our village ablaze with controversy, disagreement, judgments and opinions.

Karen was greatly wounded by the sexual misconduct of her assumed loving husband, but was also warned by the local minister that divorce was a “horrible sin in the eyes of God,” and that their two children could be damaged beyond repair if there wasn’t some way to bring about reclamation to their relationship.

Darren was embarrassed—almost appeared to be sorry, until three weeks after the temporary patch-up of their marriage, he was again spotted, at a different motel, with the choir lady–just humming along.

Darren and Karen decided their responsibility was to stay married.

Their further responsibility was to pretend it was working out really well.

No one would put up with such restrictions nowadays.

We’ve come up with the notion that our only responsibility is to be happy, and then, because we can’t seem to be, we permit ourselves many experiments to attempt to uncover our pleasure.

Meanwhile, responsibility has been carted away to the garage and set next to other words, which also seem to have no current relevance. Like “sinner”—that being one who gets too near sin.

Time pushes on.

Or does it march?

Perhaps slip on its greasy surroundings?

Or does time do a Rip van Winkle and just go to sleep, and wake up later, when the problem that existed is no longer considered problematic?

For we used to have a responsibility to tell the truth.

Now we have a responsibility to offer a convincing lie.

We had a responsibility to love our fellow-man. Now, all we have to do is “treat our families really good.”

We had a responsibility to feel guilty about the bigotry that existed in our country. Now we accept a cultural divide, which keeps us from thoroughly understanding one another.

We had a responsibility to be honest in our business practices.

Now we favor the old saying, “Let the buyer beware.”

Perhaps that’s what we should do at this season in our nation—have a deep-rooted discussion about our responsibility.

For certainly, threatening such a maneuver is a great way to terminate interest in this essay.

Not Long Tales … January 28th, 2020

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25.

Did I Keep You Waiting?

by Jonathan Richard Cring

It’s not really the tears. Privacy can be found for them.

It’s more the sense of vacancy—the emptiness, like a deep, dark cave, where the growl of agony echoes against the walls.

Eleanor counted the days. Forty-three. It had been forty-three days since the death of her soul, Jack.

Although she tried to remember, all that came to her was a wave of hopelessness which drenched her, leaving behind nothing but angry frustration.

She could barely remember the circumstances. An accident. A sleepy truck driver.

Instantly dead.

That’s what they told her. It was supposed to comfort her—that at least, her Jack did not suffer. No, all the suffering was left for her.

Somehow or another, she’d expected more empathy. It had been little more than a month and people were already moving on—perhaps wondering when she would be able to “compartmentalize” her grief.

To push on.

Somehow, she survived the funeral. But continuing life after Jack was not something she had planned for nor could any preparation have left her understanding the sense of incompletion that swept over her entire being.

She spent her days staring at his last razor, rubbing her hands across the top of his deodorant, using his washcloth and never rinsing it out, peering at the six-pack of beer in the corner of the kitchen he hadn’t finished.

And mostly—yes, mostly—indulging herself in smelling everything he had touched and everything that had been his.

Everybody had called them “Jack and Eleanor—the perfect couple.”

But if a coupling is perfect, what does it become minus one of its links? Especially if that joining has been ripped away, leaving the devastation on the other.

There was no relief for her grief. She didn’t want any. Not only was she unwilling to move on but found the whole idea blasphemous to a divine union which had been squelched by the demon of chance.

At first, Eleanor feared sleep. For it was peppered with flashes of Jack—some distorted and many violent. But gradually, the dreams tempered. They became an aching journey through images—almost like a photo album.

They were visions of firsts: first meeting, first kiss, first lovemaking, first child.

Ah, yes. The children. There were two—much too young to be talking about their dad in the past tense. Eleanor needed to tend to them, like a shepherd to sheep, but she was frighteningly put off by their presence. They were the evidence of Jack and Eleanor’s love—and now that their love was gone, only the needy evidence remained.

She was ashamed. She wanted to criticize the kids for not caring enough about their father—simply because they no longer broke down at the sound of his name or the sight of his picture.

Then, in her dream life the photo album of memories changed. She was given sights she couldn’t remember. She recognized herself—the children, old friends, and even Jack—but she held no recollection of the event or the scene or the time.

And then, on Tuesday night, October 25th, she met a visitor. Yes, a new image appeared in her dreams—a man. Part American Indian, athletic, eyes like her mother’s and a tender voice, deep and basal, like warm maple syrup.

She had never been visited in a dream before. But the apparition spoke to her. “What if you’re wrong?” he asked.

It was a simple question. She was surprised that her dream self was offended, and immediately spat back, “I’m not wrong.”

“My name is Saralis,” he said, pointing to himself.

Eleanor didn’t care. It was a dream. She wasn’t really interested in carrying on a conversation with something that was not going to last. She had already committed to eternally being in love with Jack, only to have it snatched away after fifteen short years.

But Saralis continued. “Why are you so upset?”

“He is gone!” Eleanor screamed, feeling it completely unnecessary to explain who the “he” was. He was the only he she was interested in or would ever consider.

Saralis smiled. “Jack is not gone,” he said. “You are gone.”

Eleanor became immediately angry. Maybe it was the tone of voice, or the flippancy of the comment. It was rude. Meaningless statements uttered in dreams were not going to fill the hole in her soul.

Saralis, seeing her rage, continued, “If you can be calm, I will explain to you that Jack is alive and waiting.”

Eleanor laughed. She now understood. All her religious training, heavenly schooling and church foolishness was trying to take over and replace her vacuum.

Her laughter quickly turned to scorn. “I am not going to wait for heaven!” she snarled at Saralis. “I am not going to believe in something that isn’t nearly as promising as what I possessed with Jack.”

Saralis interrupted. “Nor would I ask you to. I would merely suggest that your ignorance keeps you from the truth that would free you of your obsession.”

“Jack is not my obsession,” Eleanor said. “He is my love. He and I shared a breath. We shared a purpose. We conformed to each other’s needs. We became gloriously ecstatic when we were able to meet them.”

Saralis walked across the dreamscape and sat down on what appeared to be a glowing pile of logs, prepared for him and his perch. “My dear,” he said, “you just don’t know where you are, so how could you be expected to know where to go? You are in the middle of a mortalation. And before you ask me what that is, let me tell you. A mortalation is when our dreams mercifully evolve into our reality, as God, in his grace and wisdom, grants us the blessing without us having to consciously struggle with the transformation.”

Eleanor was unimpressed. Saralis asked, “Did you understand anything I said?”

“Not a word,” snapped Eleanor, “because there was no sense in it. It’s the jumbled language people use to pretend they’re spiritual when they really have nothing to say.”

Saralis chuckled. “Yes,” he retorted. “It would be impossible to comprehend what I’m saying. But what I would like you to do is just listen to my voice. What I’m about to speak will be very familiar to you. Remain still. Don’t allow yourself to attack or be insulted. Just listen.”

As Saralis stopped, Eleanor took a breath to speak. Then Saralis began sharing again—louder. Maybe not louder, but it filled the space surrounding her.

“The first time I met her, I did not fall in love with her. But I liked her so much that I hoped I would have the good fortune to love her someday. I didn’t think my prospects were good, for she was much more lovely than I was handsome. Much smarter than I was intelligent. And so much better than my simple good.”

Eleanor held her breath, frozen, shocked. These were the exact words Jack had spoken at the altar so many years ago when they exchanged vows. Saralis continued.

“And then, one night, or one moment—just some speckle in time—she looked at me with a gleam in her eye that communicated that I had a chance. That’s all I needed—just an opportunity to try to convince her that her time would not be wasted on us blending our lives together.”

As Eleanor listened, the basal tones of Saralis melted away. It was an amazing evolution—like bitter salt turning into the sweetest sugar. Emerging through the voice of the apparition of her dream came the familiar, gentle and less assured sound of her beloved Jack.

“So,” he went on, “when she decided to let me touch her, kiss her—to unite with her, I was so fumbling bad. I thought she would surely think better of giving me another chance. But she not only gave me another chance, she told me I did well. That I made her happy, and that she, too, wanted to do it again and again and again, with only me.”

The voice began to lose its dreamy quality, sounding more normal. More human. More present.

“So that’s why I read this to you each and every day, with the hopes that one day you will remember when I said it the first time, at the church we chose because it was so pretty on the outside.”

The voice finished. Eleanor slowly opened her eyes, and with cloudy vision, saw the form of her lover and friend, Jack. She tried to move toward him—to put her arms around him, but she was much too weak. Apparently, the dream had drained her of all power.

Jack, looking into her open eyes and realizing she was moving, squeezed her hand and she weakly squeezed his. Without saying another word, Jack ran out of the room, and quickly returned with a man in a white coat, wearing a stethoscope.

Eleanor looked around the room and realized she was in a hospital. Her face was filled with distress, so the doctor firmly laid his hand on her shoulder, holding her down.

“Don’t move,” he said, with a convincing tone. “You’re fine. But I need to check you over.”

That he did, reviewing all her vital signs while Eleanor desperately looked past him at Jack, who was darting right and then left, attempting to maintain visual contact.

Eleanor opened her mouth to speak, but no words came forth. The doctor patted her on the head, took a washcloth lying nearby and soothed her brow.

“I need you to relax and be quiet,” he instructed. “I will explain everything to you soon.”

Eleanor looked at Jack. She hadn’t really taken in his entire appearance. He was much thinner than she remembered. His clothes looked cheap, like they had been purchased at Goodwill. And though she would never tell him and hurt his feelings, he had aged.

But obedient, and too exhausted to say a thing, she lay her head back and closed her eyes. The doctor slipped out of the room, motioning for Jack to follow him.

In the hallway, the doctor looked for a private area and finally ducked into an examination room. Jack was gleeful, grabbing the doctor and pulling him in close for a bullish embrace.

The doctor held up a hand. “We’re not out of the woods,” he said.

Jack interrupted. “I know, doc—but it’s been five years. I never thought I would even see her eyes light up again, or… I don’t know. I gave up on any progress. I spent all my money. The kids and I are back living with my parents. I finally found a job that would accept that I needed to be at the hospital four hours a day. But the money’s terrible!”

The doctor broke in. “I understand all of that, Jack. What I am telling you is, she has come from someplace we don’t understand, so her grasp of the place we’re in may be twisted…”

Jack frowned. “What do you mean by twisted?”

“I don’t know,” said the doctor. “We think we’re so smart, but the human brain is so much smarter. She’s back. But her story may be much different than yours.”

“You mean she may not know she was struck by an eighteen-wheeler and suffered a severe brain injury?” Jack asked.

The doctor chuckled. “No. She won’t know any of that, more than likely. But don’t be afraid of her story. Don’t be afraid of her telling.”

He put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “The universe is so much larger than we are that her version may be the accurate one. We may be the ones having an illusion.”

Jack stared at him like he had sprouted a second head. The doctor smiled. “Don’t worry about it, Jack. It doesn’t matter who’s been waiting for who. All that matters is, somewhere in that darkness, you found each other.”

THE END

 

Not Long Tales … December 17th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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19.

The Glimpse

Teaching American history at the Daniel Boone High School in Lancerville, Kentucky, required a delicate balance between honoring the actual story of events mingled with comprehension of what every citizen of Lancerville believed to be true—or at least insisted was.

Marco Craswell had arrived in the town four years before as a teacher, and in the past schoolyear had taken on the added responsibility of assistant football coach.

Because his name was Marco, many people thought he was ethnic and looked deeply into his complexion for confirming signs. But actually, his father named him Marco out of a deep admiration for the great explorer, Marco Polo.

Depending on who you talked to, Marco was either the most eligible bachelor in the community or a closet gay. It would be delightful to report that Marco was a dedicated teacher, spending hours developing study plans, and giving extra sessions after school to encourage troubled students. But actually, Marco was the last one in the door when school began and the first one out when it ended. That was why he was a little upset about accepting the job of assistant football coach—it forced him to linger around the campus.

Marco did not like Lancerville.

The town had a credo: “Leave well enough alone.” The theme ran from City Hall, through the streets, into the stores and front doors of the homes, and even to the pulpits and pews of the seven churches sanctifying the surroundings.

As soon as he had arrived, Marco was informed by the school principal that he should find a church he liked—or at least could tolerate—because such things were very important to the citizens, and word would spread very quickly of any non-participation with the Jesus faithful. He had discovered that there was a Community Church in town which had a young minister from California, who by some circuitous journey, had ended up in Kentucky. His name was Jack Murphy, but required everybody to call him Pastor J.

He was a clumsy fellow with a great mind which was never able to manifest its authority through his tongue. So the sermons were a bit confusing, but blessedly brief. Marco made his church home there, struggling to attend each and every week.

Back at school, however, he never went to the teacher’s lounge, nor did he sit with the educators in the cafeteria at lunchtime but perched himself with the computer geeks, which seemed to greatly raise their self-esteem. One day after lunch, one of the leaders among the staff whispered in his ear, “They’re gonna ask you to chaperone for the upcoming class trip to Mammoth Cave.”

Marco flinched. The teacher continued, “This is a good time to say yes. Trust me.”

Sure enough, Marco didn’t even get halfway down the hall before the principal stopped him and said, “We’re having a school trip to Mammoth Cave in three weeks, and we wanted to ask you—because the students love you—to be one of the five chaperones. The school will pay for all your expenses, including entrance to the park. And the mothers are packing sack lunches for everyone.”

Marco wanted to decline—like he had done so many times before—but something told him that this was a line in the sand, a silent demand for him to participate or possibly face the danger of being eliminated.

With the cheeriest voice he could muster, he replied, “Of course! Where else would I be?” The principal really liked this answer. Matter of fact, he patted Marco on the back and tottered down the hall, whistling.

Marco did his best not to think about the upcoming trip. He tried to get sick. He looked for any reason possible to skip out on the duty.

He was just not happy in Lancerville. He was sick and tired of making Daniel Boone one of the predominant characters in his American history class. He was angry that several of the parents had suggested that he refer to the Civil War as the “War Between the States.” He was a disgruntled mentor to young men and women who desperately needed a fresh idea.

Yet Marco was ashamed of himself—so unhappy with his attitude that he decided to make an all-out effort to turn the Mammoth Cave trip into a roaring success.

The day arrived. Everything started out pretty normal. As he rode down the freeway on the bus, he read the pamphlets about the destination. He felt a little thrill. After all, Mammoth Cave was—and is—the largest underground cavern system in the world. Four hundred miles of it.

And even though he was a bit claustrophobic, he thought being with others, conversing, would prevent the walls from closing in on him. He would be fine.

The first part of the tour went well. Then one of the parents wanted to go down a different trail than the tour guide was pursuing. She needed an ally. She asked Marco if he would join her and four of the students. They had all heard flowing water off to the right, and the little group was curious to see what they might discover.

Marco was hesitant, but since he had vowed to become a willing participant in the class escapade, he nodded and joined the mother along with the four kids. They headed down the Eastern path.

After a couple of minutes, there was a sudden, violent shaking beneath their feet—a movement that threw all parties to the ground. Marco believed it was an earthquake. They were not common in Kentucky but did come from time to time—and unfortunately, today one arrived when he found himself beneath the earth inside a cave.

Terrified, everyone tumbled onto the ground, amid a cacophony of screams from all directions. Marco had fallen hard against the stones, bruising his side. He was still trying to recover from the impact when he looked up and realized that the entire entourage, which he had been leading, had run away.

He called out, uncertain what the appropriate beckoning should be. “I’m here!” he said once—then twice and a third time. No answer. A deep silence.

It didn’t seem like the earthquake had done any damage. A few rocks fell. Some sand and dirt.

Where was everyone?

Strangely, Marco felt at peace. Everything was so quiet. The surroundings were primeval. He felt that Nature had engulfed him within her soul.

He realized he should get up and try to find his way back out, but he was content. Maybe they would search for him.

It was so quiet he could hear his own heart.

Then, right in front of him, on the rock wall, a tiny pinpoint of light appeared. It was odd because the cave was so dark that even this small illumination hurt his eyes. It came and then it went. And then it came again.

It happened four times before Marco decided to get up and investigate. He walked over to the rock face and there, etched into the surface, was a small slit about seven inches long—like a rip along the seam of a pair of pants. And every few seconds a brief spritz of light emerged, then disappeared.

Marco giggled to himself. It was so unusual and peculiar that it seemed silly. But it was also a bit frightening. What was trying to shine through the rock?

Slowly, deliberately, he inched his way forward and placed his eye right in the center of the slit in the stone. He stepped back suddenly, unable to breathe. Then he scooted forward again to look. Once again, he retreated, breathless—for inside the miniscule crevice, surrounded by blinding light, he saw himself.

Not the person he was—an American history teacher from Daniel Boone High School. No—he was suddenly, almost cosmically alerted to the fact that he was staring into his own face from another place. Although he had seen the vision for less than two seconds, the realization swelled in his mind.

He slowly inched forward. But this time, as he put hie eye up to the crack in the rock, the stone suddenly began to seal together, as if being mended. The light that had been emitting flickered. Then the wall closed its rupture and the seam was gone.

Marco moved forward, staring at the place where the severing had been. It had vanished. The rock was sealed.

So spooked was he by the event that when two of the students came running up behind him, he jumped, pulling back from them in terror.

“What’s wrong?” said one of the students. Marco shook his head and bound out of the cave, with them trailing.

On the ride back to Lancerville, he could not think about anything else. He did not share his experience because he didn’t understand what he had seen. He didn’t offer details. It was the kind of report that would be considered weird—certainly unacceptable in the provincial village.

He kept it to himself, closing his eyes occasionally, to try to remember and regain the vision he’d beheld.

Arriving back at the school, he was the first one off the bus, ran to his car and drove home. Escaping to his bedroom, he turned off all the lights and lay on his bed, trying to simulate the quietness of the cave. What had he seen? Why did he believe he was staring into his own face—yet not the face that resembled him. It just was him.

Laying there quietly, exhausted from the trip, he fell into a deep sleep. Deeply slumbering, he had his first of two visions.

The first one was like his encounter in the cave, except in this dream, he could see himself more clearly. It was so bewildering. It was him, except formed by a different atmosphere—a unique climate. Or was it a coloration?

He awoke from the first vision, too tired to rise, too weary to think. He fell back asleep.

In the second vision, he was standing in front of the rock in Mammoth Cave. He saw five creatures, so different in appearance. Yet deep in his heart, he knew they were all him—all molded in his image. All constant with his spirit. As he watched, the crack healed and blended into the rock face, returning the wall to normalcy.

Needless to say, he awoke troubled. He carried the burden all the way to school—but decided to share some of his insights with his students during class. They listened, sympathetic, but also deeply worried that the experience had done some physical damage to the teacher’s brain, leaving him in need of medical attention. Less than half-an-hour after his class, three students, one faculty member, one parent from the town and the principal were standing in his classroom, demanding to know how he was feeling, and strongly suggesting that he immediately check himself into the city infirmary.

Marco realized his mistake—he needed to be much more careful about what he said about what he thought he had seen. So he laughed it off and told them it was just an experiment, to see what the students would do. He explained that he wanted to give them an example about how people throughout history had to make major adjustments to see progress achieved in our nation.

His sincerity rang true and they believed him.

He couldn’t wait to return home—to dream again, to see more, to learn more. But there were no more dreams. As startled as he was with the visions themselves, the absence of them left him sad, vacant.

The following morning he decided to take a day off from school and headed back to Mammoth Cave. He tried to find the place he’d been before but had no idea where it was.

Disappointed, he drove back toward town. Hungry, he pulled over at a diner, stepped inside, sat down at a booth and ordered a hot roast beef sandwich.

The young waitress was so kind to him that a sweet relaxation settled in. He realized that he just needed to talk. So he called ahead and asked Pastor J if he would be available for a visitor.

Pastor J was surprised but agreed. They met at the parlor of the church. Marco didn’t waste any time. He shared exactly what had happened, beginning at Mammoth Cave.

He told the whole story—the earthquake. The split in the stone. The flickering light, and the visions.

Pastor J listened carefully, trying his best to muster all his training. After the story was all done, Marco asked, “Is it possible, Pastor J—and I’m only asking you if it’s possible—that I’ve had a visit into another world?”

Pastor J sat for a moment, thinking. “Well,” he began, “let me tell you what I know from what you’ve shared. Or maybe what I think from your thoughts. I, for one, have never believed in a heaven where we humans, who have lived for less than a century, go and celebrate our little adventures eternally.”

Marco thought the way Pastor J put it was so adorable that he had to laugh. Pastor J continued. “Let’s not forget, the Bible itself says that ‘eye has not seen, nor ear heard’ what God has prepared for us. And speaking of that prepared thing, Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place just for them.”

He paused, considering. “And if you remember, the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus when he rose from the dead—and they had just seen him a couple of days before. Maybe that’s the way it is with us. Maybe we don’t die and go to heaven, but we raise up kind of like ourselves, and arrive in a new dimension.”

Marco was enthralled with the concept. “Let me ask you something, Pastor. Have you ever thought about the fact that Mars, Venus and all these planets that we think are unlivable—well, that maybe in our dimension they are, but in their spectrum, we look like just a rock hanging in the heavens.”

“No, Marco,” said the pastor. “I’ve never thought of it just that way. But maybe we just rise and live again. Or maybe it’s just a continuation without us being totally aware that we’re ever absent. I don’t know. But it’s gonna be cooler than hell.”

Marco gave Pastor J a hug. From that day forward, the two men became great friends. Marco decided to put any further speculation to the back of his mind, to toy with his own entertainment. But he did decide that if living was about keeping on living, and maybe even living in another aura, he’d better get started doing it.

Suddenly, he wasn’t afraid anymore.

He talked to Miss Sanchez at school—one of the new teachers, who was beginning a course in musical appreciation. He was attracted to her. He just walked right up to her at lunch and asked if he could sit down. The two entangled intensely in each other’s lives. He took her to the dance. He took her to Nashville for a concert. He took her to his family. He took her into his heart. She was thrilled with each experience.

They took one another to the altar, where they were married. Marco was no longer in a hurry to leave. He wasn’t sure what was waiting far beyond the stars, but down deep in his soul, he realized that he’d had a glimpse.

Sit Down Comedy … June 14th, 2019

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I never planned on being a father

I just wanted to have sex

Sex was simple.

Sex was quick.

Sex was pleasurable.

Fatherhood, on the other hand, is neither simple, quick or necessarily pleasurable.

I was eighteen years old, attending my Junior-Senior Prom with my girlfriend, who had recently become my cohort in the exploration of the human body.

We were returning home from the festivities just before dawn, and arriving at her house, we pulled into her driveway. It was a long one. It ran alongside a pasture where her family boarded a horse.

Pulling inside the driveway and far enough from the road to not be seen but also far away enough from the house to be undetected, we got out of the car. I laid my rented tuxedo jacket on the grass. My girlfriend lay down on her back, disengaged herself from her gown and I from my pants, and we indulged in two-and-a-half minutes of sexual mischief, while the horse nearby observed.

After it was over, we restored our clothing, never realizing that the seed of our first son was planted while we were on that grass.

We had become travelers on a rocky journey.

From that night to the present, four sons have come into my life—one deceased. The three remaining boys that I fathered had to put up with a guy who really was more suited to be a vagabond gypsy musician than “Daddy reading books by the fireplace.”

I honestly don’t know whether I did a good job or not.

I know it could have been done better.

I know at times I was torn between my own desires and the needs of my family.

I know sometimes I over-disciplined and other times I slacked off and ignored situations because I was sleepy and wanted to go to bed.

When a friend of mine came out of a horrible marriage and divorce with three children of her own and was looking for a mission in her life, we joined efforts, including her three other children. Likewise, I don’t know if I was suited to be their godparent or not. It certainly seemed like I was better than their biological father, who was abusive.

But I cannot tell you, on this Father’s Day weekend, that I was well-suited for the job of nurturing children or being the guiding light to their galaxy of possibilities.

What I can tell you is that I did not run away.

I did not blame anyone else.

And I learned how to be wrong and apologize to them for messing up.

I know our Creator probably thought He was being very focused and concise by tying sexual intercourse to child conceiving.

Yet He was also intelligent enough to know that getting worked up over a woman’s sexuality has little to do with deciding to join her in a quest, as Mom and Dad, to rear young’uns.

I guess fatherhood demands three things:

1. Stay, don’t run.

2. Think, don’t assume.

3.  And be willing to be wrong without being angry that you are.


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1 Thing You Can Do This Week (To See Things Done)

1 Thing You Can Do This Week …

(To See Things Done)

How much preparation is necessary to begin a task and how much energy is required to complete it?

Most aspirations, goals, projects and dreams find their graveyard in that cemetery of contemplation.

Because we are frightened of beginning something and looking foolish, or running out of money, or failing to complete it, we decide that hesitating, delaying and avoiding is often the more mature choice.

I am not sure that the airplane could ever have been invented if there were not thousands of legitimate attempts to make one which failed–but in the process, gave a valued piece of information for going forward.

So the one thing you can do this week is:

Find what needs to be done and learn how to do it.

In the process of that education, you may well discover that the conclusion is far beyond your ability, or maybe even grasp.

But you will become informed. Therefore, you will progress the cause and you will possess greater understanding of yourself and your world with this noble attempt.

There are two great responsibilities given to the human race

1. Tell the truth

Nothing goes forward when we’re constantly trying to do damage control and lying.

2. Try something

Stop discussing, plotting, criticizing or undermining the efforts you see around you and get behind an idea, having first prepared yourself by learning how to be a good contributor.

That is your goal for this week–the one thing.

When you find what needs to be done, sit down and learn if there’s any way that you can lend a helping hand.

P. S. (This is actually a double P. S.):

My heart and soul are crushed this morning over the loss of Gilda York, a friend of mine who followed today’s principle as a champion. She took the young people around her and gave them direction, purpose and a little bit of beauty that they wouldn’t otherwise have experienced. She was killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver

And also, today is my anniversary. The secret to marriage is actually to have the stamina and intelligence not to keep too many secrets.

 

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Catchy (Sitting 48) Suite 1002… May 13th, 2018

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Jubal humbly requested that conversation be held to a minimum on the flight back to Vegas. It seemed agonizing to make small talk, and any attempt to relive the moment of the catastrophe was too painful.

So when they deplaned and Matthew arrived with a bucket of questions, Jubal stayed just long enough to extend politeness, then excused himself to take a taxi back to his room at the casino. Suite 1002–just two doors down from the Promenade. His room was a little smaller, but no less elegant.

Jubal quickly put his key card into the door with frenetic energy. Entering the room, he slammed the door, and threw his bag on the bed as his eyes fell on the full decanter of cognac which was offered in his room as a courtesy. He had never used it.

He didn’t drink much. As a young man, he occasionally went out on the town, but found himself to be a testy drunk with a nasty disposition, and had to apologize to too many people the morning after a binge.

So long before he settled in to a marriage, he determined to keep alcohol for only cuts and bruises.

Sitting in his chair, he got his wallet and pulled out two pictures. One was a woman with long, gorgeous hair and a sparkling smile. It was his wife, Lydia. The other well-worn photo was of a little girl about ten years old, equally as vivacious as her mother–his daughter, Carissa. He laid them on the table and stared at them, as he had done many times before.

But tonight it was even more significant, and unfortunately, more agonizing.

Jubal, a struggling musician, had met Lydia in Troy, New York, trying to discover a way to make a living while progressing his career in percussion. There was never a question as to whether they were in love–perhaps not love at first sight, but more an understanding that they would take it slow to make it look authentic, even though in their hearts, they were both convinced that the search for a companion was over.

Within the year they were married, and the next year they had a daughter and named her Carissa. They joyously struggled–that’s how Lydia viewed it. Money was difficult to come by, but there was always that little surprise that came just at the right moment, which pulled them through another week, another month and eventually, another year.

Jubal tried to supplement his gigs by doing some telemarketing, but there were few commissions. His heart was in the drums, not in drumming up business.

Lydia, on the other hand, got herself on a fast track as a free-lance assistant to legislators in nearby Albany, the capital. She found the job through a fellow named Barclay. He insisted that she refer to him solely as “Barclay.” She never knew if it was his first or last name.

The money was helpful, the work was rewarding, but the relationship with Barclay was aggravating. Lydia shared with Jubal that Barclay was always just a little too close–a touch on her shoulder when simply pointing in the right direction would have sufficed. And standing next to her, he would periodically bump his hip into hers–just enough to be intimidating, but not enough for her to proffer an objection.

She was simultaneously overjoyed and miserable, keeping the misery to herself.

Then one Friday afternoon, Lydia’s mother, Cheryl, came into town from Florida for a surprise visit. Jubal, Carissa and Mom were waiting for Lydia to come home from work to begin an exciting weekend. An hour passed. Then two.

In the third hour, Jubal decided to make some phone calls. He discovered that Lydia had left Albany hours earlier. He was concerned. Yet Cheryl comforted him, saying she was sure it was “just traffic” or “something had come up.” It made sense. Friday afternoon was always a time for back-ups.

But as night set in, Jubal decided he needed to investigate the situation. He asked Mother Cheryl to take care of Carissa and said he would stay in contact.

As he came down the stairs from their simple, two-bedroom apartment, he noticed that Lydia’s car was in the parking lot. He peered around to see if she was anywhere in sight, but saw her nowhere. He headed over to the car. He was about to open it with his spare set of keys, when gazing into the back seat, he saw his lovely wife–his dear companion–lying face down, motionless.

He quickly opened the door, reached across the front seat and shook her gently. No response.

Instinct kicked in. He eased into the front seat, started the car and drove to the hospital. Ten minutes later she was declared dead on arrival.

It took two hours for the doctors to come out to talk to him. He decided not to call back to Cheryl, since the information he had contained no answers.

All at once, he was confronted by a doctor, with a policeman standing next to him. They both had questions. Some of the things they wanted to know Jubal could answer–but mostly the missing time from when Lydia left work to when he found her was a complete mystery.

The doctor explained that she had been sodomized and smothered to death. When Jubal heard those words, his knees buckled. He grabbed a nearby chair to keep from falling over. He barely comprehended when the policeman asked him his whereabouts, unaware of how fortunate he was that Lydia’s mom afforded him an alibi which, as it ended up, he needed.

Jubal made his way back to his apartment, where he had the painful duty of telling his daughter and mother-in-law that Lydia was gone.

It was a full two days later when some of the story line began to come together. It became evident that the last person Lydia saw was Barclay. To Jubal’s horror, Barclay painted a picture to the police that he and Lydia were involved in a romantic tryst, and that he had broken it off that Friday afternoon. He said that she was so distressed she threatened harm to herself.

The funeral was held the following afternoon. At no point did any of the ceremony, the prayers or the well-wishing seem real to Jubal.

Matter of fact, he barely noticed when a young woman from the church came to Carissa’s side to comfort the little girl. Carissa was weeping. The woman said, “Don’t cry, my dear. You will see your Mama soon.”

When Carissa heard this, the tears stopped immediately. She asked, “When? When will I see Mama?”

The lady responded, “Your Mama is in heaven waiting for you. She is with Jesus. They can hardly wait to see you.”

Carissa was comforted by the counsel.

That night Jubal’s beautiful daughter opened up, began to talk and ate a little dinner. After a dessert of ice cream with chocolate sauce, she said to her daddy, “I’m sleepy. Can I go to bed?”

He hugged her and held her just a little longer than usual. He couldn’t fight back the tears. He released her and said, “I love you, my sweet.”

She gave him another hug around the neck and scurried off to her room. Jubal made his way to his own bed, and spent a tormented night, his dreams offering sweet memories of love-making and nightmares full of the terror of his loss.

In the morning, he went in to see his little girl, to take her into the breakfast nook for pancakes. It seemed she was a little sleepy-head.

He came over to the bed to tickle her, but she did not respond. He took her pulse. He put his head down to listen for her heart, but her skin was cold and bluish-gray.

Carissa was gone.

Next to her, on the night stand, was an empty vial of pills, and a mostly consumed glass of milk. The prescription was for Oxycontin, which Jubal had used for a back injury. Carissa had swallowed them all.

There was a note written on yellow construction paper with blue crayon. It read, “I love you, Daddy. But I went to see Mommy.”

Jubal gazed around the room, looking for a knife so he could jab it into his heart, to end the pain.

Cheryl walked in and immediately assessed the situation. She grabbed him around the arms, sensing that he was in danger of doing harm to himself.

He shook her off and went to his room, put on his clothes and drove to Albany. He was looking for Barclay.

After a half a dozen inquiries, he discovered that the man’s name was Barclay Faxwell, and that he was at a retreat in the Poconos.

Getting all the information he could, Jubal climbed into his car and drove to the mountains. Part of him felt he should be back at home with his dead daughter and mother-in-law, but he realized there was a more important job for him to do.

Arriving at the convention center, with the hills in the background, Barclay Faxwell was pointed out to him. Jubal followed him all day long. Since they had never met, Faxwell was unaware of his presence. It was a long day, but eventually Barclay made his way to his room. Jubal trailed.

Before Mr. Faxwell could enter his accommodations, Jubal grabbed him from behind. Barclay was a big man, but mostly in girth rather than muscle. Jubal put a knife to his throat–one he had procured off of a serving tray in the hallway.

Silencing him, he walked Barclay to his car, forced him into the trunk, slammed it and drove deep into the Poconos.

After about a half an hour of driving, he stopped his car and set aside the knife. To Jubal, this was personal. He wanted to hurt this monster. He didn’t want him to get off easy. Of course, Jubal had no evidence that Barclay had anything to do with his wife’s death, but he did know the man was a liar. Lydia would never have been unfaithful–not because Jubal was such a special husband, but because she was such a special person.

He removed Barclay from the trunk and walked him half a mile into the wilderness. All of a sudden, he stopped. When Barclay tried to turn around to find out what was going on, Jubal began to pummel him with all of his anger, hatred, remorse, pain and misery. Barclay fought back but he was no match for an enraged drummer.

All at once, the rotund man grabbed his heart and crumpled to his knees. He tumbled to the ground like a giant oak.

Jubal stood for a moment, panting, wondering what in the hell was going on. When Barclay didn’t move, Jubal slowly inched over and checked his pulse. The son-of-a-bitch was dead.

Jubal perched on Barclay’s back, wondering what to do next. He realized he couldn’t report the incident without risking prison, so he scouted the terrain and found a small cave in the side of the rocks. It was about fifty yards away. Using his remaining fury, he drug the fat man to the entrance and stuffed him as deep into the cave as possible so that there would be no visible sign of Barclay to anyone passing by.

Jubal stepped out of the cave and looked in every direction. Not a soul.

Barclay would either rot in peace–or be groceries for several weeks for a big black bear.

Jubal made his way back to his car. He realized there was no reason to return to Troy. Cheryl could bury the little girl.

Barclay’s wallet had fallen out during the struggle. It was full of cash–eight hundred dollars. So Jubal, with eight hundred dollars, climbed into his car and set out to run from the nightmare which was now his life.

He pointed his car west. At first, the thought of going to Los Angeles seemed divinely inspired. Yet Las Vegas seemed a better choice. Certainly the casinos would need some sort of musician who knew how to keep a beat.

He drove day and night, subsisting on pure fury. He wrestled with his own insanity.

He arrived in Vegas, immediately took on some work, and never told his story to anyone. Rather than losing his faith over losing all he had, he gained his faith and was given a new life.

So on this night, with the tragedy of Salisbury filling his mind with rage, his history beckoned a recalling. It still hurt.

Suite 1002 was filled with sobs and tears.

After an hour, Jubal picked up the decanter of cognac and poured a shot into a glass. He walked over to his bed and lightly sprinkled the covers with the cognac.

He had no intention of defiling the memories of his loved ones by becoming intoxicated. But maybe, while he slept, the fragrance of the cognac would allow him to dream that he was drunk–and the pain was gone.

 

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Jesonian … March 10th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Not every morning supplies a miracle. Weeks can go by without walking on water–or water turning into wine, for that matter.

Truthfully, life is more like dry cereal looking for milk–not much to be excited about unless you brought along your own thrills.

This was true in the life of Jesus, too.

Fortunately, the Gospel writers tell us about the good moments and also the bad ones. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John share that sometimes Jesus just hung out, to “tarry” with his friends. And just like us, often his activities were dictated by the whim, intensity and preoccupation of his audience or critics.

In the Good Book, Matthew 19, there is such a situation. Jesus is minding his own business when he is confronted by the Pharisees, who seem to spend a lot of time worrying about things that don’t matter to anyone else. They were especially distressed over the issue of divorce–not because they were against it. The Law of Moses and also the Oral Law, which had been constructed by religious leaders over many centuries, allowed men to divorce their wives simply by leaving a note on the pillow.

The Pharisees felt that Jesus had a different outlook on the subject, so they confronted him about the dilemma.

Jesus made it clear that he believed divorce to be chauvinism. He explained that marriage is meant to be an experience between people of equality, who decide to leave their families to form their own union.

They were very upset.

Yet escaping their probing, Jesus arrives back in camp to discover that his disciples, who had been cut from the same homespun philosophies and bigotry as the Pharisees, were chasing away the women and children. After all, they thought, Jesus was too important to have time for women, who were lesser, and children, who were insignificant.

The feminist in Jesus comes to the forefront. He rebukes his disciples. He tells them to bring the children–which meant the women, also–to him, and he lays hands on the tykes, blesses and enjoys them.

Often we wonder how miracles occur. Miracles happen because people who know how to treat women and children humbly ask for them.

It isn’t about extended periods of prayer, nor ministers on Sabbatical studying the original Greek. Rather, miracles are about people who know how to play with children–people who are aware that a woman is not a “weaker vessel.” When these people pray, God listens.

Jesus treated women as humans. On this week, with “International Women’s Day,” we need to consider what this entails.

Jesus gave women empathy, but not sympathy: You are as good as men, but don’t pull up lame and fall back on femininity when you think it’s to your advantage.

So even though Jesus showed compassion on the woman caught in adultery, he looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Go and sin no more.”

He relished a conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria, but when she said she “had no husband,” he reminded her that she had married five husbands, and was now living with another man.

When his mother tried to interfere with his work, he spoke to her as an equal, not as a son, and said, Back off. It’s not my time.

And when busy Martha was doing all the housework, using the “gift of helps” to feed the disciples and Jesus, he stopped her and said, Your sister Mary has decided to listen to the teaching instead of playing “Harriet Homemaker. Follow suit.”

Life is not about what we do when we’re trying to be spiritual or contemplative. Life is lived in the cracks–those moments that seem insignificant when the world around us has cast a negative vibe and it is our job to bring the light.

Jesus believes that spirit begins with how women and children are treated.

I, for one, think he’s right.

 

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