Not Long Tales … October 1st, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4184)

8.

Play Boy

In 1864, while General William Tecumseh Sherman was marching across Georgia, destroying and looting everything in sight on his way to the sea, a man named Big Tom seized the opportunity to run away from the Hutchins Plantation, with all of its peaches and nearby cotton fields, to escape the prison that had been his life since birth.

The townsfolk were in disarray and the Rebel Army was being pushed back, and everybody’s attention was riveted on personal survival. So under the cover of night, with only his shirt, britches, a corn cob pipe and a small pouch of tobacco, Big Tom grabbed his eleven-year-old boy, Garby, and headed toward the North Star.

The best plan, he decided, was to stay two miles behind Union lines all the way North, sleeping in the woods during the day and traveling by night. Dad and boy lived on wild rabbits and scattered berries of questionable origin, as they lay on their bellies and drank out of streams, like all “deer folk.”

The whole trip took two months. Caution was the most important factor in determining the speed of the journey. There were Southern sympathizers everywhere—always the danger that bounty hunters, still loyal to Dixie, might grab the two of them and take them back to their bondage.

Yet there were some bright spots along the way. An old man and sweet lady let them sleep in their barn one night and brought them out some buckwheat pancakes dipped in molasses. Since it was so special, Tom decided to tell Garby that it was his birthday, and God had supplied a great surprise.

Patiently, tirelessly and fervently, they traveled until they stood on the banks of the Potomac River, and gazed across at the seat of freedom—Washington, D. C.

They had been warned by the old couple to be careful when they reached the Capitol, because there were many who favored Jefferson Davis. They suggested the runaways make sure to find an abolitionist to draw up some false papers for them, proving they were free men. So that was the first thing Big Tom did. Quietly he asked among the Negra population that inhabited the city where to find such an individual. He was finally directed to a Quaker couple, who welcomed him and Garby into their house, and drew up the phony identifications. It was a blessing of God.

Paper in hand, Big Tom was able to go to the Union Army and get a job as an orderly, emptying bed pans and taking care of the wounded soldiers housed outside of town. Young Garby went down to the local theater and was given the job of scrubbing the floors following the productions were performed. Sounded like a simple job to him, but he found that all he had was a mixture of lye and wintergreen to clean floors that were filthy from dirt, mud and the spit of tobacco chewers. He also had to freshen up the seats, which were sweaty and grimy—full of all sorts of nasty human residue.

But he never complained, nor did his papa. There was a huge difference between doing hard work as a slave and doing equally hard work when at nighttime, off by yourselves, you are free men.

Now, there were two or three old barns outside the city, where the Negra slaves congregated, making beds of hay and doing their best to cook for one another, sharing stories of their ordeals, with greater hopes for the future.

Although the labor was tedious, Garby was always thrilled to get to the theater—just to be around the kind of folk who lived in Make Believe. But he had to be careful not to be noticed, or they’d chase him away, watching out for him and preventing his curiosity. But after a while, he found some loose boards beneath the stage, and a cubbyhole on one of the ladders which carried the technicians up to check the props.

He loved it all—the funny parts, and even enjoyed it when the Booth family came to down to do their Shakespeare. He didn’t understand a word they said, but they did it all pretty-like, and they were so beautifully dressed up.

He got an opportunity when a magician rented the theater and advertised his show. He asked Garby if he would be willing to climb into a trunk and disappear. He wouldn’t really be gone, the magician explained. There was a trap door, and all Garby had to do was slip out of it. Then, after the magician startled the crowd with the disappearance, Garby needed to slip back through the trap door and reappear, so there would be double applause. Garby was ecstatic.

The first part went beautifully. He slipped out the trap door, disappearing, and shut the door behind him. But when it came time to slip back in, one of the latches got stuck and he couldn’t get it open, so when the magician pulled back the curtain, the little black boy was still gone. Whispering under his breath, the magician said, “Do it again.”

He put the curtain back over. This time Garby gave a big tug on the latch. It opened, and when the curtain was pulled back, there he was. Everybody applauded, but not nearly as much as they would have the first time. The magician was not terribly angry and didn’t yell too much, but also did not give Garby the dollar he’d promised.

Even though Garby was careful not to draw attention to his interest in the theater, and he made sure he got all the stains out of the floor and the seats, everybody still knew that the little Southern boy was crazy about the shows. Matter of fact, since none of them knew his real name, they started referring to him as “Play Boy.”

At first, he was offended, but then the costume seamstress, a woman named Auntie Minerva, explained that it was a compliment. “Don’t be so dense, little feller,” she said. “They’re just sayin’ that you’re a boy who likes the plays.”

Garby shook his head. There was so much to learn. For all eleven years of his life, he’d had two jobs: first, to do what his papa said, and second, to make sure he looked busy when Massa came by. Now he was in a different world, and he was trying to find his place.

Meanwhile, the war raged on, even though most folks knew it was coming to an end. The army of Robert E. Lee had been cornered in Northern Virginia, and the fall of Richmond was imminent. General Ulysses S. Grant had sent surrender terms to the secessionists, and now it was just a matter of days before the horrible four years would come to an end.

Garby didn’t worry much about the war. After all, his conflict was somewhat over. He had been a slave—now he was free. What happened next didn’t seem quite as important as what had come before.

But on one Monday morning shortly before Easter, it was announced that Robert E. Lee had surrendered at some little village in Virginia. (They pronounced the name to Garby, but he couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Somethin’ like “Apple.”)

There was such a celebration in the city—firecrackers, guns shot into the air, people hugging one another (still careful to make sure the embraces were with the same color).

Papa Tom explained to Garby, “Livin’ in Washington does not mean that we are loved, or even accepted. It just means that we’re not gonna be forced to work the fields or beaten if we make a mistake.”

Then late Thursday afternoon—the end of the war week—word got out that the President of the United States would be coming to the theater on Friday evening to see the popular play, “My American Cousin.”

Garby really loved that play. It was silly, and he could understand most of the words. But when he heard that the President—the man who said he was free—the fellow who sent troops down to make sure that freedom was honored—well, when Garby heard that his President was going to be at the theater, he knew he had to make some connection with him. There would be no way to get close, of course—partly due to the fact that the man was President, but mostly because Garby was just a little black boy.

So Garby went out into the woods and found a small piece of wood. He sanded it down until it had a smooth surface for writing on. He hadn’t learned to write yet, but Auntie Minerva was really good at such stuff. He asked her if she would scrawl a note for him, which he wanted to try to get to the President.

She laughed. “You’re never gonna get close to Abe Lincoln,” she said. “He’s a busy, famous man.”

Garby’s heart fell down to his feet. Auntie Minerva continued, “Yet if you want me to do this—if you want to try—I see no harm. What do you want to write on this hunk of wood?”

Garby thought for a second. He had been thinking for several hours on what would be just right. It couldn’t be too long. He didn’t want to take up too much time with the President’s eyes.

“Write this,” Garby said. “Thank you for making me free.”

Auntie Minerva waited, then finally asked, “Is that it?”

Garby nodded. Faithfully, carefully and quite beautifully, the aging seamstress wrote the words on the wooden surface. She read them aloud, pointing to each one.

Garby wanted to hug her, but his papa said that was not something that black-skinned folks should do. So he shook his head over and over again, with tears in his eyes.

Auntie Minerva reached over and patted his nappy hair. He walked away from her slowly, staring at the beautiful figures written on his wooden message board.

Now…how could he get it to Mr. President?

Some of the slaves had started calling Mr. Lincoln “Father.” Others referred to him as “Captain.” Garby just thought he was great. He decided to do something bold.

When the soldiers in charge of the President’s detail arrived late Friday afternoon, before the play began, to make sure the President’s box in the theater was clear and there was no danger, Garby was waiting. He stepped forward to the man with the biggest feather in his hat. The Commander, in his haste, nearly knocked him down in his haste. Upset by the little boy’s appearance, he spat, “Get away! This is no place for a little urchin!”

Garby did not know what an urchin was, but he figured the Commander was right. It was probably no place for him. But he was on a mission. He mustered all the strength and all the will he could and spoke. “I was wondering if you could give this to President Lincoln?” He held up his small piece of wood.

The Commander took it, looked at it front and back and then read it. “I don’t even know if I’ll see the President,” he responded. “So you might want to keep it until you see him another day.”

Garby was determined and vigorously shook his head. “No, sir,” he replied. “He’s too big, and I’m too small.”

The busy Commander found himself touched by the words. He told Garby he would do what he could and tucked the piece of wood into his breast pocket. Knowing it was time to make a retreat, Garby turned and quickly slipped away. For the next hour he just sat in a corner of the alley behind the theater and dreamed about Captain—Father—President Abe—reading his note.

A little bit late, the Presidential carriage finally arrived, and the family was hustled into the theater and up to the awaiting Presidential Box. That night there were so many in attendance there was no room to even get through the front door, so Garby found his favorite side window and sat underneath it, listening carefully to what was going on. There were muffled words, laughter, hands clapping.

But then, all of a sudden, there was a bang. Then there were screams. Garby knew the play, and at no time would the production make folks scream. The screams increased. Before he could move one muscle, he heard the front doors of the theater bang open. Soldiers came running down the street.

All the instincts he had gathered during his time on the plantation in Georgia kicked into gear. He slid around the corner and pushed himself up against the building, trying to be invisible. Such horrible sounds. Frantic men, shuffling boots, screaming women. And then finally, from the front of the theater, a man bellowed, “The President’s been shot!”

Garby slapped his own face, praying, wishing that he had fallen asleep, and it was all a dream. A horrible dream. But he wasn’t sleeping—he was awake, and the message spread down the street like a brush fire.

Garby stayed where he was. He wanted to run. He wanted to find the man who had done such a thing to his hero. He wished he was a surgeon, and could remove the bullet, or that he had the power of Jesus and could heal the wound.

Instead, he sat very still, like a black boy should. For an hour—then two—and finally, he fell asleep. Horrible nightmares of bullets.

And a dead President.

It was morning when he woke up, chilled, shivering from fear. There was still a bustle in the street, but it was much quieter. He stood to his feet, his legs aching, and walked around the side of the building. He made his way to the front door.

The manager of the theater was standing, staring up at his own establishment. Garby had never spoken to him; he had only seen him two or three times. But all at once, his boss, as if awaking from a deep slumber, turned and saw him. “Aren’t you Play Boy?” he said.

Garby’s eyes grew very wide with surprise. He couldn’t speak—all he could do was nod his head. The manager motioned for him to come toward him, but Garby was afraid. What was wrong? Were they going to blame him for the President being shot? He knew that was impossible, but why would the manager want to speak with him?

The manager motioned again, and finally the boy was able to move. He stood next to his employer, looking up into his face. The man spoke, “I would like you to do something for me.”

Garby nodded.

“The President just died,” the manager said.

Garby sucked in air, tears struggling to push their way out. And then, an amazing thing—the manager knelt down and took Garby’s face in his hands. “He was our father, too,” he said.

The little boy could not contain it any longer. Forsaking propriety, he buried his face in the waistcoat of the white man and sobbed. The manager held him, and after a few seconds, pulled back and looked into his eyes. “Play Boy, I want you to do something that nobody else wants to do. They tell me that you’re my best cleaner. I’ve set aside extra lye and plenty of wintergreen, and even some bleach. Son, I want you to go up into the President’s Box and clean it thoroughly. Wash away all the blood.”

Garby could not believe it. Stunned, he stared at the man, who continued. “I don’t want it there. I don’t want people taking pictures of it. I don’t want people coming and trying to acquire drops of our President’s blood.”

Garby was scared, but in his own eleven-year-old way, he understood. He agreed to do it. Gathering the supplies necessary to do the job, he headed up to the very special box reserved for the nation’s leader.

Cautiously, he walked into the door. It was a total mess—chairs knocked over and the smell of death hung in the small room. He was completely alone. It was so quiet that he felt he could hear the beams of wood weeping.

He made his way down to the President’s seat, staring at the blood. He knelt and offered up a prayer to his Jesus. “Help me do a good job.”

Garby scrubbed and scrubbed, and he cleaned and cleaned. After about an hour, any trace of crimson had disappeared, and the wood shone through.

He was about to stand to his feet and leave the box when he noticed—right underneath the seat where the President had been watching the play—there was an object of some sort.

Slowly, tentatively, Garby reached for it. As soon as his fingers touched it, he knew what it was—his chunk of wood, with his note.

He couldn’t pick it up. He just kept his fingers on it, stilled in disbelief. Then, encouraged by a surge of faith, he grabbed it and looked at it. There was more writing on it than Auntie Minerva had originally written. Scrambling to his feet, he ran out the door, into the street, looking for anyone who might be able to read the words on his piece of wood.

There was a man strolling toward the theater door, with two other men carrying cumbersome camera equipment. Garby stopped him. “Please, kind sir,” he said, “can you give me a minute?”

The man brushed him to the side. Determined, Garby tugged on his coat. “Please,” he begged.

Angrily, the man turned. “What is it you want?”

Garby held up the piece of wood. “I need you to read this to me. I can’t read. Would you read it, please?”

The fellow heaved a huge sigh of disapproval but took the small slab from Garby’s hand. He glanced down and read aloud: “Thank you for making me free.”

He finished reading and handed it back to Garby, who thrust it back. “No, there’s another part. I can tell.”

The man looked down with a frown, which gradually, ever so slowly, melted into a smile. He read again, from the top, “Thank you for making me free.”

Garby interrupted. “Yes, that’s what I wrote. I mean, that’s what Auntie Minerva wrote for me.”

The photographer shook his head and continued. “Kid, then it reads: Gladly. A. Lincoln.

Garby grabbed it from the photographer’s hand. He stared down at the words. The wood was speckled with drops of blood.

The Captain had spoken.

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1 Thing You Can Do This Week (To Become a Better Communicator)

Don’t Quote From the Bible

Or Shakespeare, for that matter.

You might want to avoid constantly popping off with lines from old movies.

And nobody’s that interested in what your grandmother once said.

Human beings are just adverse to verse.

Along with coming across pious, self-righteous and intimidating, it leaves the listeners feeling ignorant if they’re not aware of the reference or fail to measure up to the content.

The Good Book even warns that “the letter kills.” In other words, quoting the Bible without allowing for the spirit of the idea to be included does nothing but condemn people.

HOW DO HUMANS LEARN?

Human folks do not learn by hearing lessons or even reading intelligent reports.

We imitate.

We see things we like or we view actions which have proven to be successful, and we come up with our own rendition.

Whenever you quote from the Bible, you’re not only telling people that “God has spoken,” but you’re also interpreting what God means. And the Good Book itself makes it clear that there is no private interpretation. In other words, you and I have not cornered the market on summarizing the heart of God.

This is why Jesus suggested that we “let our light shine before men, that they see our good works”–and then, from that positive experience, they can glorify the Father in Heaven.

The Bible does not encourage people to become faithful followers. You do that through the “word of your testimony.” Learn how to interact without needing to reinforce your experience with an “amen” from Almighty God.

It will turn you into a much better communicator.

 

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Cracked 5 … December 22nd, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2790)

cracked 5 logo keeper with border

According to this author’s not-so-humble opinion, the saying “Baby Mama” has to go.

These other phrases can also be classified as “anti-maternity:”

A. “Belly Buster.” (Similar to calling a man, “Little Petey”)

 

B. “Prego.” (It’s a spaghetti sauce)

 

C. “With child.” (You aren’t Shakespeare.)

 

D. “Plowed field.” (You also aren’t Amish.)

 

E. :Tummy tumbler.” (Save “cute” for after the baby’s born.)

Cracked 5 Jerry Springer

 

 

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Getting in Character … August 31st, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2678)

hand taking an oath

From Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, Shakespeare asserts that “all the world is a stage and all the men and women, merely players.”

  • I promise.
  • Cross my heart and hope to die.
  • I swear by my mother’s grave.
  • And some bizarre confirmation of truthfulness by “sticking a needle in one’s eye.”

These are the pledges and contortions that people seem to be willing to put themselves through to get others to comprehend the level of their faithfulness.

But unfortunately, even though “promise” seems promising, it is now often accompanied by a forlorn adjective: “broken.”

  • Broken promises.
  • Broken marital vows.
  • Broken dreams.

So as an actor on the stage of life, what is our responsibility to those around us, to prove the intensity of our veracity? For you see, the problem with a promise is that it fails to recognize that the person sharing it is human, not divine. Every time we try to take on the job description of our Creator, we create nothing but fiasco.

Only God can promise. Only God has the ability to perform His beckoning without ever needing to swear or vow.

As a human being, you have three available, realistic responses:

1. Yes.

“Yes” should only be used when we actually plan on doing it because it is in the spectrum of our own will and concerns. It may seem noble to say yes because we’ve been pressured into it, but then what you have is a promise, which may be difficult to keep.

2. No.

No, I’m not interested.

No, I won’t.

No, I can’t.

No, I shouldn’t.

“No” is one of the more powerful words in the English language because it eliminates 90% of our hypocrisy. If we had said no to that thing we really didn’t intend to do in the first place, people would not be able to hang anything over our heads in judgment.

3. I don’t know.

Ignorance is not bliss unless you admit it. If you’re caught, it’s in the neighborhood of sin.

There is a great authority given to us by admitting that we just don’t have enough information to make an intelligent decision. We will sit, learn and wait for the power to be intelligent instead of impetuous.

Since we do not control all the factors that surround us, it is better to forego the foolishness of promises … and therefore escape that nasty needle in the eye.

 

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Getting in Character… August 24th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2672)

diane lane unfaithful

From Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, Shakespeare asserts that “all the world is a stage and all the men and women, merely players.”

To thine own self be true. More words from Bill the Bard.

Without being emotionally truthful to ourselves, we set in motion the seeds of infidelity.

Unfaithful. Promising and then failing to deliver.

And the truth of the matter is, if we’re unfaithful to ourselves, we are certainly determined to be equally as unfair to others.

Even though we criticize this kind of cheating as reckless and uncaring, it seems to permeate the human race like a fungus–or maybe better described as a mold that grows voraciously in a damp environment.

If we’re going to be good actors on the stage of life we have to be able to isolate what makes us unfaithful. The lust to be untrue is not born in our flesh, but in our heart. People who feel cheated, cheat:

  1. I am better than what I have.
  2. I am being ignored
  3. I will force my next opportunity.

When you put these three statements together, or isolate even one of them into a great pool of self-pity, the end result is a disregard for promises and leads to the pursuit of whatever is available on the premises.

Once unfaithful, each one of us is deemed a risk.

As a risk, we tolerate a certain amount of scrutiny but then rebel against the incrimination. This only creates more heart sadness, which leads to greater unfaithfulness.

How can we human beings, who are drawn away by our own lusts, ever learn to gain the predictability that makes us trustworthy to others?

A. Do well.

By the way, that’s your well-doing, not something someone else dug for you. In your present status, what is your “well?”

B. Get better.

You have to be willing to admit that there’s always need for improvement, and such adjustments are made much easier if they happen to be your idea.

C. Stay aware.

Aware of what?

  • Aware of being disgruntled.
  • Aware of being disappointed.
  • Aware of feeling left out.

These are the beginnings of the sorrows of infidelity.

If I am true to myself, I have a chance to be true to you.

But to be true to myself, I have to remove all of the ego props that tell me I should be receiving much more attention.

 

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Getting in Character… August 17th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2666)

choking

From Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, Shakespeare asserts that “all the world is a stage and all the men and women, merely players.”

Don’t kill off the competition.

You will be tempted to do so. The world around you encourages deception–in a passionate way–to gain a footing to win the role. And in doing so, you may be taught to be a detractor of another person’s talent.

Most plays have two main roles, and a whole bunch of character opportunities. Maybe you envision yourself to be a “lead role” type of person. But the deck is stacked against you, because once someone has been given a lead role and they’ve been successful, making money for the corporation, they will be favored for the next lead role.

You may find yourself disgruntled, on the sidelines, badmouthing the stars and insisting that you could do just as well.

No one likes that person. That person is normally written into the script of life as a villain or a pathetic loser.

To avoid the anger which leads to rage and jealousy, causing us to assassinate the character of our fellow-travelers, it is very important to learn where to go to be both happy and productive.

It’s a simple, four-step process:

1. Find a hole.

Yes, there are many things that are left undone, partially because they’re not very glamorous, or they appear to be more difficult. Find one of these–not just “the road less traveled,” but the opportunity less pursued.

2. Fill the hole.

Take that talent you’ve been reserving for the spotlight and move it stage right or stage left, and allow your best performance to shine.

3. Invite friends.

That’s right. Include other people in what you’ve discovered. There is nothing more powerful than making an obscure idea popular, and then walking away from it, so that you can…

4. Find a new hole.

The minute you discover that what you have begun has gained traction, look ahead to what humankind needs and start moving towards it.

There is no such thing as being “ahead of your time.” If you’re not ahead of your time, you’re waiting in line. Actually, being ahead of your time is just having the intelligence to know what is needed, and beating others to the market.

You will have a tendency to be a killer if you don’t learn how to be a doer.

And to become a doer, your job is not to build a super-highway, but instead… find great joy in filling in the pot holes.

 

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Getting in Character … August 10th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2658)

Rules guys

From Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, Shakespeare asserts that “all the world is a stage and all the men and women, merely players.”

Rules were not penned to paper nor carved into stone to cease human sin. They are put in place and enforced because humans lie about it.

Whether these stipulations are called “The Book of Order,” “Standards and Practices” or “Ten Commandments,” they loom as an angry mother with a switch, threatening us with nagging time-outs unless we comply or find a way to do it “behind Mommy’s back.”

Here’s the problem: we cannot live an abundant life, filled with character, and place a quality performance on the stage by dodging responsibility like adolescent brats.

Are rules important? When do regulations become a noose around the neck instead of a rope, pulling us toward success?

First and foremost, we must understand that there are good rules and bad rules.

A good rule is a guideline that advances the quality of human life. A bad rule is an attempt to stall human life in order to halt some feared activity. It’s similar to the office manager telling all the employees that no one is allowed into the supply room to get anything because someone is stealing paperclips.

So how do we know?

A good rule: All men are created equal.

A bad rule: We need cheap labor, so we’re going to make the black ones slaves.

A good rule: Moderation in all things.

A bad rule: Total prohibition of alcohol.

A good rule: Marry someone you love.

A bad rule: Just make sure he or she is the same color.

To be an excellent character in the great human drama, you must be prepared to respectfully decline from participating in rules that were produced in fear, which generate even more fear.

It’s the difference between the law and truth:

  • The law is when people try to control their humanity.
  • The truth is when people try to learn their humanity. 

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