Sensitize … (May 30th, 2020)

SENSITIZE 1

Every morning, Mr. Cring takes a personal moment with his audience.

Click the picture below to see the video

 

Things I Learned from R. B. (May 24th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 16

For nearly five months, I had been squirreling some money away, trying to fund an idea I believed needed to be pursued.

It was time.

Whatever inspiration had once possessed the soul of our family—to travel across the country, working, living and making music together—had gradually dissipated down to a stream of loyalty and an irritating question.

If we weren’t doing this, what in the hell would we do?

My wife mustered the energy to be happy, but certainly had lost the desire to schedule, travel and perform.

My sons were thrilled to be brothers, enjoined with me, but knew deep in their hearts that the “call of the mild” must replace the “call of the wild.”

They needed lives of their own.

This would take money.

I knew it was foolish to announce to the family my campaign. It just might make them fearful that if they ate an extra apricot, they were destroying our future.

So I kept it private.

After five months, I had a small sum I was grateful for—but knew it was nowhere in the ballpark of fulfilling the need.

We were traveling across the panhandle of Florida, heading toward Jacksonville when I said a very simple prayer.

“Dear Lord, I’ve painted myself into a corner. Either help the paint to dry quickly or direct me clearly on how to leap out of my predicament.”

Also, it had become more difficult to acquire schedulings. It takes a lot of passion to convince somebody of what you want to do—and honestly, people were not quite as open to being convinced.

So in late August, in boiling hot Jacksonville, we succeeded in getting one booking for the week–on the Sunday night.

One opportunity to pay our way.

One mission field.

One audience.

I came to a decision before we rolled up to our engagement.

“Whatever we have at the end of tonight I will use to set us up somewhere and give my sons the chance to launch their own lives.”

Yet I was discouraged when I arrived and realized we were at a church that only had fifty people on a Sunday night—a black church, which meant we might have to wade through some resistance.

It’s not that black churches were difficult, but sometimes, because of the nature of the South and memories of segregation, the parishioners wondered why a white family was coming to a black church instead of sharing their talents with white folk.

I put those thoughts out of my mind, making sure they were busy elsewhere. Instead, I took a count of my situation.

I felt I needed three thousand dollars to settle in.

With some amazing blessings from the previous two weeks, I had managed to collect $1434 in cash.

That night, when the pastor introduced me and I stepped in front of an audience of forty-two people, the calculator in my brain boiled over with frustration.

I needed to make about thirty-five dollars a person to get my nest egg.

Now, I am not negative by any stretch of the imagination but am also not a fool. I don’t know whether I could have pulled a gun and gotten thirty-five dollars a person out of the gathering. There were several souls who might have needed me to donate to them.

But no matter.

Whatever happened, I was going to take the whole family to our next destination and do the best we could.

We would no longer be “on the road again.”

Over the years I have experienced some magical nights, yet none to compare with the warmth and tenderness exchanged in that sanctuary.

About halfway through I realized that these strangers had decided to become one with us, and we, likewise, one with them.

We laughed.

We cried.

We sang nearly every song we could play.

At the end the pastor stood and took up the offering.

I was astounded when he handed me $1,433.

Now, I will not tell you that I should ever have taken my family on the road. I also will not lie to you and say that everything I did on that journey was well-thought-out or appropriate.

But the science of our music, the Mother Nature of what apparently was a good season, and the humanity of this congregation launched us to our new beginnings.

The next morning as I drove north, I explained what I envisioned for us to do as a family.

They were relieved.

They didn’t act that way—there were some tears of regret.

But there were also some shouts of “hallelujah” over the new possibility.

To avoid a motel room, we drove all the way into Nashville, Tennessee, and in just three hours, located a new apartment.

We spent that first night sleeping on the floor of our new home.

The next four days were nothing short of miraculous.

My sons got out, secured social security numbers, found jobs and set in motion getting drivers’ licenses.

It all fell in place—mainly because I felt as if I was no longer forcing the direction. Rather, the passions of my children were driving the solution.

I hooked up a phone—landline. Two hours later it rang.

It was R. B., calling from Tacoma.

I don’t know how he knew we were coming to Nashville or how he successfully tracked down our phone number so quickly.

He did a little hemming and he did a little hawing, and somewhere in between, I got the idea that he had hatched his own plan.

He needed his own miracle.

Sensing his frustration and his desperation, I said, “Hey, buddy, why don’t you just move to Nashville? It’s where you started. It’s where we met—and it’s where they make music. How can you lose?”

Two weeks later, driving a car that should not even have been on the road, he arrived, found a small one-room apartment and settled in.

We were in the same community again, with even less in common.

Still, all in all, it was better for both of us than where we found ourselves short weeks before.

Sit Down Comedy … April 17th, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

Preparing for our new normal…”

It seems to be the catch phrase of the day.

Yet hearing it sprouts questions which ping-pong in my brain.

What if I didn’t care about the old normal?

What if I found it obtuse?

What if the old normal aggravated my emotions with its continual flood of personal attacks?

What if I found myself alienated from a society that was too frightened of aliens?

What if I don’t want to return to what we had?

The braggadocio attitudes of small-minded humans being given platforms to scream their ridiculous claims and espouse horrific prejudices does not seem to be the “normal” where I can be normal.

Life, Mother Nature, science, humanity and God, himself, have granted us a time-out for our incorrigible behavior.

What should we do with it?

You should do what you deem necessary.

Me? I’m going to take a pause from the cause.

There are too many things I believe in that have sharp edges which cut and hurt other humans.

I’ve worked on it for many years, but my blades still extend.

I must take a pause from my cause.

Can I suggest to you that this is a possible alternative to meaningless repetition? For instance:

If you possess a fervent belief in God, at least admit to yourself there are times that atheism seems comforting.

My brothers and sisters who are Republicans may want smaller government and less interference, but keep in mind that the stimulus check still arrived at a sweet moment.

How about you Democrats take a pause from your guilt trip—blaming others of wealth and substance for every evil that has befallen the Earth?

And you, committed to pro-life, standing firm against abortion, must at least pause and consider what you would do if your sixteen-year-old daughter came to you with the results of a drug store pregnancy test, and her only excuse was that she was told “if you drink lots of lemon juice, you can’t get pregnant?”

Yes, God bless America, you patriots, but keep this in mind: your family does not live in a war zone, where the danger of being blown up, ravaged or murdered are a constant threat after your meager dinner is consumed.

Mr. Macho–what do you think it would be like to be pawed at and disrespected all the time, while your abilities were set to the side in deference to discussing your rack?

And my sisters may want to mull how their brothers have to battle testosterone and the urge to be overly aggressive with physical prowess.

Whether it’s black or whether it’s white, take a pause and channel the other color. If it’s yellow or it’s red, consider what it’s like to wear the skin of another.

Those who are heterosexual—do they really believe the gay community is embroiled in perversion, or, just like you and me, in search of a defining love?

Can the rich remember a time, or project in their minds, the anguish involved in being short on the rent?

And can the poor man and woman understand that not all money is inherited? Some of the green stuff is procured by “greening” a great idea–and patiently working it as it grows.

I am not ready to find a new normal.

And I am certainly unwilling to return to the old.

For before this virus, we had grown much too cynical and selfish, welcoming back into our hearts latent racism, causing us to be pious about our own ignorance.

I shall take a pause from my cause…to study my flaws.

Sit Down Comedy … February 14th, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

 

Donald John Trump is our President.

It is a position we are compelled to honor due to the tenacity of our struggle as a nation and the grace extended to us as a people.

In the fury of opinions and the peril of hurling insults, it is good every once in a while, to stop and acknowledge what is true and what is honest.

This gentleman won the election to be our leader in 2016.

With this in mind, and my heart full of compassion and dutiful propriety, let me offer the following observations:

Mr. President:

1. Dictators have no redeeming values.

To focus on their might pilfers our great arsenal of what is right.

2. They that live by the military shall die by the military.

Every nation, kingdom and territory over the centuries that tried to maintain its integrity through the use of force has eventually been cruelly overtaken.

3. The measure you measure out to others will be measured back to you.

There are some souls who have learned the value of being gracious, and other human beings who are barely out of the jungle—with blood in their teeth. It is good for each of us to remember that we increase our possibilities for survival and mercy by offering them first.

4. And speaking of mercy, the grace that we all often need to survive the tribulation and chaos of Planet Earth is only granted to the humble.

The whole system of Mother Nature is geared to resist the proud.

5. Not everyone who cries “Lord, Lord” shall enter the Kingdom.

With the profession of being a Christian comes the responsibility of following the lifestyle of the Master—Jesus himself.

6. Pussies don’t like to be grabbed.

If an invitation is not extended, it is an assault.

7. “Suffer the children to come unto me.”

This does not mean to make the children suffer, as they are separated.

 8. Alienating nations, races and people of the Earth is rejecting their Creator’s craftsmanship.

Building walls creates nothing more than anger—and saying that there are “no good Samaritans” may leave you by the side of the road, without aid.

9. It is truth that makes us free.

Therefore it stands to reason that lying steals our freedom.

10. It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

And when the mouth speaks, the hearts that receive the words begin to accumulate an abundance.

Thank you, President Trump. Thank you for listening to these observations.

You are our President. We offer you place.

Sit Down Comedy … January 24th, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

“Summarize that.”

“Make it shorter.”

“Fewer words, please.”

“No one will read anything that long.”

“How about just a tweet?”

I, for one, believe there’s a certain amount of charm in finding fewer words to express ideas. But sometimes, we just want less because we don’t want to hear more.

I smile when I hear writers begin articles with, “There’s so much to say…”

There may be much to say, but there’s a great need to scrunch it together and pitch it to the American public in a way that mingles thoughtfulness and good cheer.

You may or may not agree. But even though I realize great books have taken hundreds of chapters and billions of words to express eternal ideas, I must tell you, the appetite is gone for such mental munching.

So I need to be concise. Like:

“Take care of things and things will take care of you.”

The minute I start adding an explanation to this, I will probably lose my audience.

Another example:

“If you’re gonna to be mean, you’re gonna get mean, if you know what I mean.”

Once your head stops spinning from the overuse of the word “mean,” maybe you’ll get a good chuckle. But will it inspire you to stop being nasty to the world around you?

How about this?

“Don’t start a war if you aren’t willing to die.”

That may get a few “oohs and ahhs” from readers. But absent the recitation of the history of war’s futility, it might fall on deaf ears.

I did find one exception. It’s a premise that needs no explanation—an idea that does not require a series of verified testimonials.

Of all the things that have ever been said and all the things that have ever been written, this is the only principle that really needs to be followed.

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”

For the sake of our discussion today, let us transform it:

To get mercy, give mercy.

We all need mercy. It’s why we invented the phrase, “unconditional love.” But you see, love without mercy is not only conditional, but is doomed to be temporary.

Mercy is what love becomes when we find out the truth about each other.

I love the definition of mercy:

A decision to become compassionate when it is in our power to do harm.

No word sums up the basic daily, fluid need of the human race more than mercy.

Love works beautifully when mercy is honored.

But love becomes discontented, frustrated and wounded if judgment is used instead of mercy.

It disappeared for a while during the Dark Ages.

Inkles of it sprouted to the surface, welcoming in the Renaissance.

Rephrased, it showed up in a document proposing freedom: “All men are created equal.”

Another hundred years and it’s found in an inauguration speech: “With malice toward none and charity for all.”

Unfortunately, in our time, mercy is deemed weakness.

But only mercy has the power to open the world to the freedom of living a lifespan without being killed in a war.

Isn’t that amazing?

Throughout the entire history of humankind, there were always wars to interrupt the lifespan of young men who might have lived to be old and wise but perished in combat.

War is foolishness when mercy is available.

Mercy does not allow our enemies to walk over the top of us—but mercy is fully aware that in defeating them, we more than likely will have to live with them afterwards. We should act accordingly.

There is no statement that is better suited to the human race: “give mercy, get mercy.”

Give mercy to the Earth and protect Mother Nature. You will get mercy.

Give mercy to your husband or wife and you will get mercy.

Give mercy to the animal kingdom and only deplete their ranks by what you absolutely need. You will get mercy.

Give mercy to your enemies for their clumsy attempts to frighten you. You will get mercy.

This is our universal slogan: Give mercy, get mercy.

Having the ability to inflict pain and harm, we choose mercy.

And because we choose mercy, when pain and harm come our way and we are due punishment, she has permission to step in and save us.

1 Thing That Will Not Change

You Need to Change

So do I, for that matter.

There is a revisionist attitude among the American people, and perhaps the people of all the Earth, that somehow or another, after billions of years of evolution, the world around us is suddenly going to succumb to our delightful personalities and start doing things our way.

We try to impress with our minor concessions, but change doesn’t leave much time for celebration before it rolls around with another hard request.

Repentance is not an experience, but rather, a lifestyle choice to cease arguing with truth, science, Mother Nature and a universe that has been content with its operation for multiple generations.

I have only two choices

1. Learn how it works

2. Change to how it works

Anything else brings heartache, sorrow, discontentment and mental illness.

The one thing that will not change is that you and I need to change.

  • We can do it humorously.
  • We can do it gracefully.
  • We can do it humbly.

We will do it, though, or find ourselves replaced by more enlightened models.

 

 

 

Not Long Tales … November 5th, 2019

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13.

Turnkey Dinner

Melanie Shakeland was the mother of two intelligent, talented, precocious sons, Maxwell, thirteen, and Johnny, ten.

Unfortunately, the boys were also poverty stricken, since their mother had been out of work for thirty-five days, and all the remaining finance had been used up in the pursuit of living and breathing.

They lived in a two-bedroom apartment at the Bermuda Manors, Room 1211. There were about seventy units in the building, with people of all nationalities, all ages and certainly all dispositions.

Melanie had made her run through all the agencies, charities, churches and generous friends and relatives in McKendree, Michigan. There was no one left to tap—no one who hadn’t heard her story of difficulty and struggle.

She made a plan.

Sitting and talking candidly with her two sons as if the three of them were board members from a Fortune 500 company, she explained her scheme. She was going to go somewhere to get money to pay their rent on October 15th, take care of the utilities and leave behind enough money for the two industrious young men to survive on for eats and treats until she returned to them by November 15th—with a new job, a new city and a new home.

Maxwell and Johnny could barely contain themselves with joy. Although they liked the McKendree school system and had many friends, it was embarrassing to be considered the “poor boys” of the class. They believed in their mother—actually, they believed in their mother more than their mother believed in herself.

Melanie took a deep breath and visited one more person—a minister who was new in town at the Universalist Unitarian Church. He was a foreigner from someplace in the Mideast. He was called Tanzier. He refused to be called Reverend, Pastor or any title whatsoever. Tanzier listened carefully to Melanie’s plight, which by this time she had perfected to a sharp, pointed edge. After she was done, Melanie was shocked when the young Arab man agreed to give her money for her October rent, utilities and also extra for food and gasoline.

Melanie was so startled and breathless over the blessing that on the way home she picked up a five-dollar pizza so they could celebrate with the remaining root beer in their last bottle.

She explained the plan one more time. She would be gone for one month. They were to tell nobody that she was out of town. The boys were to keep to themselves.

She showed Maxwell her signature, making him practice it so he would be able to fake school permission slips. She also created a fictitious relative named Aunt Mindy to deter those who might be so nosy as to challenge the situation. Mindy would be staying with them while their mother was away on business.

Although Maxwell and Johnny were frightened and saddened by the absence of their mother for a month, they were determined to do their part to help the family remain a family—and hopefully, with some good luck, become an everlasting family.

On the morning of October 15th, Melanie, having paid the rent and secured the utilities, rose and shared some toast and jelly with the boys before kissing them on the forehead and lips. She handed them two fifty-dollar bills, and with tears in her eyes, said, “Make it last.” She headed out the door.

Time passed. There were many close calls—folks who felt it was needful to talk to Mother Melanie. But the promise of Aunt Mindy—the reassurance that she would get back to them as soon as she could, eventually caused all parties concerned to back away and leave well enough alone.

The hundred dollars Melanie left behind spent pretty well, but after all, the boys were only thirteen and ten, and had little experience with purchasing groceries. They went through half the money in the first week, buying things to eat from the closest convenience store.

November 15th came and went. There was no contact from Mother Melanie. The same was true the next day and the day after. Maxwell encouraged Johnny, and Johnny was attempting to be uplifted—to give Maxwell some peace of mind.

Before they knew it, here came Thanksgiving Day. All they had left was eight dollars and forty-one cents. They nearly got into a fight on Thanksgiving morning, over who had spent too much money on what, and why some particular candy bar should have been avoided.

Just when they were about to start scuffling, Johnny stopped, looked Maxwell in the eyes, and whispered, “I don’t want to fight with you. You’re all I’ve got.”

The two boys broke into tears, grateful they were alone and such an action couldn’t be mocked by their friends.

“What are we gonna do?” whimpered Johnny.

“About what?” asked Maxwell.

“Thanksgiving,” replied Johnny, with a crackle in his voice.

Maxwell smiled. “You know, my brother, I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve got a plan, if you’ll help me. At school the other day, I looked up on the Internet the ingredients used for a Thanksgiving dinner. I wrote them all down. So I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind going to apartments and asking people if you could borrow some of these simple ingredients, because your mom ran out, or forgot to get it at the store.”

Johnny interrupted, upset. “Maxwell! You can’t ask people for a turkey!”

Maxwell patted him on the shoulder. “No, no, of course not. You see, that’s the beauty of the plan. What you do is ask them for this easy, cheap thing, and then when they invite you in to get it, you stare at something from their table, or maybe from their kitchen they’re preparing, and then—if my thinking is right—they might offer you a little bit of it. When they do, you can shy away like you’re upset that you got caught looking. That’ll only make them insist more. Then finally, let them give you a piece from the dish, and bring it back here. Take the thing you requested and leave, thanking them a whole bunch.”

Johnny stood and stomped his feet. “This ain’t gonna work,” he objected.

“Oh,” Maxwell said. “I see. I got it. I didn’t know you were Chicken Boy.”

Johnny hated to be called Chicken Boy. It was like pouring salt into his gizzard. “I ain’t no Chicken Boy and you know I ain’t no Chicken Boy!”

Maxwell spat, “Well, I know you think you ain’t a Chicken Boy. Since it’s Thanksgiving, maybe I should change it to Turkey Boy. Are you a turkey, Johnny?”

Even though Johnny wasn’t sure what was entailed in being a turkey, he was deeply offended, and threatened to punch his bigger, older brother in the belly. Maxwell blocked the punch and hugged him, holding his flailing arms.

“Listen,” Maxwell spoke into his ear. “Just try it once. If it doesn’t work, that’s fine.”

Johnny, still irritated and twitching, slowly nodded his head. Maxwell released his grip. “Here’s the first thing I want you to go after,” he said. “Poultry seasoning.”

Johnny crinkled his brow. “What’s that?”

Maxwell sighed. “I don’t know, and you don’t need to know either. It’s Mama stuff.”

Both Maxwell and Johnny thought it would be good to start on the furthest end of the building and work their way back toward 1211.

The plan worked at the first stop, where they offered Johnny a huge clump of pumpkin pie. When he went to the next unit, asking for cinnamon, he got some dressing. When he inquired about borrowing some aluminum foil, he was loaded down with a generous portion of mashed potatoes. At the next apartment, he requested corn on the cob holders, and they gave him a huge hunk of ham. Finally, when he was in search of a potato peeler, two ladies who happened to share a home both gave him treats—one, some corn on the cob, and the other, a salad (which had enough non-green things in it to make it look possibly edible).

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes, but the boys sat down at a table with a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner—and poultry seasoning, cinnamon, aluminum foil, corn on the cob holders and a potato peeler, just in case they ever needed them.

They were about halfway through their surprising feast when there was a knock at the door. Maxwell frowned, worried. Maybe somebody had become suspicious. Maybe they had noticed Johnny going to more than one apartment to borrow things. Or maybe, after a whole month and twelve days, some neighbor had put together what was really going on and was ready to uncork his or her opinion on the two befuddled lads.

Johnny looked at Maxwell and Maxwell back at Johnny. Should they answer the door?

They stayed as quiet as possible, but after the third knock, the visitor spoke from outside the door. “Maxwell? Johnny? Are you two boys in there?”

They immediately knew who it was. It was Mr. Caylens, one of the teachers at the McKendree School, who lived right down the hall. He was a nice fellow—kind, and always a little bit sad because he had lost his wife to cancer over the summer. But whenever he saw the two boys, he greeted them with gentleness and asked them about their studies and activities.

Still, Maxwell remained quiet, and held Johnny’s hand to keep him from responding. For some reason, Mr. Caylens refused to leave. “Maxwell? Johnny? I know you’re in there. I just saw you, not more than ten minutes ago, running down the hallway. That was you, Johnny, wasn’t it? I just wanted to step in and wish you a happy Thanksgiving. I brought some fried turkey I made this year—it sure is juicy and good.”

The two boys couldn’t help salivating. Although their dinner was quite impressive, the only turkey they had acquired had apparently died and dried out in the desert.

Maxwell considered his choice, and then all at once, spoke up. “Just a second, Mr. Caylens. Thank you for thinking of us.”

He walked over and opened the door. Mr. Caylens looked him in the eyes, but also gazed above his head, searching for an adult presence. “Is your mother here?” said the teacher.

“No,” said Maxwell. “I thought you knew that she went on a trip and left us with our delightful Aunt Mindy.”

Caylens laughed. “Is she delightful?”

Johnny stood to his feet and ran over to join them at the door. “She sure is, Mr. Caylens,” he piped in.

Caylens chuckled. “Well, if she’s that delightful, I certainly must meet her.”

He tried to step through the door, but Maxwell awkwardly blocked him. Mr. Caylens pulled back, a little startled, and Johnny tried to fill in the moment. “It’s interesting that you brought up the fried turkey, because Aunt Mindy just left to go pick ours up at the grocery store. I mean, it’s not frozen or anything—you probably saw the sign, that they cook turkeys, and she was just going down there to get ours, but this is gonna be great!”

Johnny reached up to take the turkey, wrapped in aluminum foil, from Mr. Caylens’ hands. Maxwell touched Mr. Caylens’ shoulder, trying to turn him to leave. “Yeah, this is going to be great. Aunt Mindy told us that sometimes those store-bought turkeys can be dry to the bone.”

Mr. Caylens paused. Although he had been guided to walk out the door, he turned back around and looked into the faces of the two boys, trying very hard to play their parts in the deception.

He had pretty well figured out that there was a problem when he overheard the landlord, who arrived on the fifteenth of November for the rent, and the boys explained that their mother was sending it in the mail, and it would be a few days. It just didn’t ring true.

Mr. Caylens had been a teacher for nearly twenty years, and he certainly could sense a ruse when it was trying to rise. He didn’t want to scare the boys, and certainly didn’t want to disrupt their unity.

Then, struck by a thunderbolt of inspiration, he said, “I don’t know whether you boys know this, but your mother did explain her plan to me.”

Maxwell looked over at Johnny, who was about ready to speak, excited at the prospect of an ally. Hurriedly, Maxwell stepped in. “What are you talking about, Mr. Caylens?”

Mr. Caylens leaned against the doorpost. “You know,” he replied. “The plan she devised so she could get back on her feet to take care of you boys.”

Maxwell was stumped. There was just enough truth in what Mr. Caylens said that he sure was tempted to believe that his mom had a backup person to watch out for them. After all, that would be pretty smart. And one thing Maxwell knew—his mama was a genius.

Johnny couldn’t stand the wait any longer. “She’s a few days late, Mr. Caylens,” he said. “She said it would just be a month, but you know how time can slip away.”

Mr. Caylens nodded. Even though Maxwell was still suspicious, he was also very tired of carrying the burden. He was weary of deceiving the teachers and friends who had once meant so much to him, but now were just obstacles to a private scheme.

Maxwell spoke very slowly. “I don’t know whether you’re lying to us, or trying to get information, or whether my mom did talk to you. What I want you to know is, if you have plans to mess with our plans, well…” He paused. “Well…”

Mr. Caylens interrupted. “Well what, Maxwell? Are you gonna kill me?”

Maxwell shook his head. “Hell, no! What would make you say a thing like that? I’m not a killer—and please forgive me for saying hell.”

Johnny interrupted, using his most mysterious voice. “I guess we just have to get you to swear to silence. You know—like a blood covenant.”

Mr. Caylens frowned. “Well, I certainly don’t know what you mean by that, but it doesn’t sound very good. Here’s what I can do. I can become Aunt Mindy.”

The two boys frowned at him. Mr. Caylens burst out laughing—like he probably hadn’t done for months. “What I mean,” he said, still chuckling, “is that I know there’s no Aunt Mindy. But you see, I’m right down the hall. I don’t need to move in with you, but I do need you to check in with me. And I need you to trust me to quietly find out what’s happened with your mother.”

Johnny looked up at him with big, brown eyes and said, “Sir, we’ve only got eight dollars and forty-one cents left—plus the food we were given by all the nice folks.”

Mr. Caylens reached over and ruffled his hair. “I don’t think it’ll bust my budget to help you all to keep groceries in the refrigerator. But here’s the one stipulation—”

Maxwell jumped in. “Now, I know you’re an English teacher, but does stipulation mean ‘rule?’”

Caylens nodded. “Yeah,” he answered. “Basically. Rule might be too mean. Stipulation is just an agreement. And here’s the stipulation. You will contact me when you come and go. You will let me know if you need something. You’ll let me do all the signing on the notes, and you’ll check in with me in the morning and before you go to bed.”

Maxwell and Johnny felt like slaves that had just been freed from a Roman galley ship. No longer would they have to lie, cheat, plot—and worse, scrounge. Johnny looked up into Mr. Caylens’ face. “Don’t worry, sir,” he said. “It won’t be long. Mama’s comin’.”

Caylens sat down with the boys that night, adding some leftovers from his own table, and he had a delicious dinner with the turnkey boys. As he left to go back to his apartment, wishing the boys a good night, deep in his heart, he knew there was something wrong.

He had always known Melanie Shakeland to be a solid person but being poor could make someone do poor things. He was doubtful that the boys would ever see her again. He was already formulating what he would have to do on the first of December when she didn’t return.

It was November 30th, in the afternoon, when Johnny knocked on Mr. Caylens’ door. Opening it, the young man said excitedly, “Can you come down to our apartment?” As soon as the words were out, he disappeared down the hallway.

Caylens slipped on a sweater and slippers and ambled down to their unit. The door was open, so he stepped in.

There was Melanie Shakeland, surrounded by two of the happiest boys that had ever been known.

She reached out, took Mr. Caylens’ hand and thanked him. “Maxwell and Johnny tell me that you figured out our little deception, and that you were good enough to watch over them. I’m sorry I was late. But I found a job. A good one. Actually, it’s kind of weird—I got a position as a nanny for a very wealthy family down in Grosse Point. I couldn’t come back on time because they were going to Europe and needed me to immediately move into the home to take care of their two children. I didn’t know how to get hold of the boys or what to tell them. I probably did wrong. But anyway, this family lives on beautiful grounds with a mansion and a house out back, that used to be called servant’s quarters. They’ve invited me to bring my two boys to live there, and to take care of their daughters. I don’t know how science, God or Mother Nature saw fit to bless me so. I just plan on trying to do my best to be worthy of it.”

Mr. Caylens was shocked to the point of tears, overcome with the emotion of being present for what could only be called a miracle.

For this mother he had presumed dead was alive.

She was lost, and now was found.

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