Drawing Attention … January 22nd, 2020

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(4297)

The Unlearned Lesson

(tap the picture to see the video)

art by Clazzy

Music:  More Than We Can Bear 

from the symphony, Opus 9/11 by Jonathan Richard Cring


Published in: on January 22, 2020 at 9:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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Not Long Tales … January 7th, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4482)

22.

Manassas

by Jonathan Richard Cring

Packing slowly delays departure.

At least, that’s what Homer Sloan hoped was true.

In his entire sixteen years of marriage to his dear Carillion, he had never been away from her—not even for one night. If she toddled across town to pick up some yarn and needles, he would accompany her, holding her hand.

Every day she stood side by side with him in their dry goods store, perched on the east side of Jackson, Mississippi, counting inventory, stocking smaller boxes and giving out free horehound candy to the children.

She loved him and he loved her, and if it wasn’t love, it was certainly the very best they could come up with.

They had two adolescent daughters, Shannon and Beatrice, who, unlike normal children of their age, yearned to return from school to their home, where they could talk, eat, fellowship, laugh and play as a family until sleep demanded their full attention.

Now here he was—thirty-three years old, packing a bag to go far away to fight a war.

War.

It had been hanging in the air for at least two generations. The brothers from the North and those of the South had strained all their patience, and mercy was long spent. When the comrades in arms in South Carolina seceded from the Union, others quickly followed—including Mississippi.

It was no longer an issue of whether you were going to fight for your proper rights and authority, but rather, when would you leave, where would you go, and how would you fare in that first moment in battle.

Jackson had put together a regiment of about ninety men to send off to join the combined armies of the Confederacy.

Even though there had been many skirmishes the Union press insisted were battles “won by the boys in blue,” there had never been a large confrontation between North and South.

It was time.

Wanting to keep in step with the fine gentlemen of Virginia, the regiment of Jackson, Mississippi, had chosen to copy their uniforms—a dark smoke-gray with black trim. They trained in town, marching through the streets, to the cheers and support of the locals, feeling strong and mighty in their battle regalia.

At first it seemed like they were merely going to rehearse war. They spent a lot of time determining who would be a General, a Major, a Captain and such. At first, Homer worked hard to get a higher command. But when it turned out that the officers received their commission based on the donations they gave to the Rebel cause, he, not being a man of means, decided to become a Sergeant. He quickly changed his mind when he discovered that Sergeants were in charge of taking the late-night watches. He rather enjoyed his sleep.

He also passed on Corporal—they all got assigned to cooking and cleaning. So he became Private Homer Sloan of the 453rd Regiment of the Mississippi Rebels.

Late June in 1861, orders were received to move the Jackson troops to Northern Virginia, where a campaign was brewing—to charge north and overtake Washington, D. C., and end the conflict with a swift victory.

But now, trying to pack as slowly as he could, a sullen tearfulness threatened. Fortunately for him, Carillion was stronger. She was sad, but believed, like all the folks in town, that he was on a divine mission, and that the very angels of God would march by his side. On the last night of his time at home before marching by dawn’s light, Shannon asked him a question. “What is the purpose of this war, dear Papa?”

Like most things in the life of Homer Sloan, he had his own rendition of what everybody else believed. For instance, he had faith in God but didn’t contend that all the miracles of the Bible were performed exactly as claimed. He believed in government, but never put his money in the bank, for fear that the concepts of organization and integrity might take a turn for the worse.

So when Shannon asked her question, he paused before answering, to make sure his words would be filled both with profundity and a measure of heart.

“Some say it’s about slavery,” he began. “I can tell you the truth, dear girl—I’ve never been around slaves. I’ve seen my share of darkies, but always found them timid and unwilling to look into my eyes, so I never gave them a second thought. I don’t own slaves so it would be difficult for me to fight about them. There are people who believe it’s about the rights of each state to choose the better path for itself. Since I’ve never traveled far from Jackson, I don’t know what the people of the other states think one way or another.”

He looked up. “For me, dear Shannon,” he continued, “I’m going to fight because I think there’s a deep unsettling immorality in this country, where the love of family and the embracing of truth has been replaced by a confidence in temporary convenience.”

Homer’s wife and children listened carefully, as if an angel had been dropped in their midst to pontificate on the beauties of heaven. This was the girls’ Papa. He was Carillion’s husband. And should he return a victor, they would kill a hundred fatted calves. And if he lost for the cause, they would want to always remember this warmly intense moment of communion.

No one in the Jackson regiment knew exactly how long it would take to march from Jackson, Mississippi to Northern Virginia. One of the gentlemen who had bought himself the rank of Colonel had made the journey but had done it on horseback. Some of the folks would be on horses, but most would be trying out their new boots in the heat of the July sun.

Two days before the fourth of July, which was ironically the beginning of a great nation, they launched on the march to Northern Virginia, arriving on Friday, July 19th.

They had made good time.

To increase the morale of the troops, the officers allowed them to ride on a train for a few hours, because the railroads were offering free space to every soldier on his way to the front.

So a festive troop of Mississippi boys arrived to join their brothers for battle. The mood in the camp of Beauregard was similar to an early summer revival. Shouting, singing, clapping, hugging and eating, the troops built confidence in their souls by looking into the eyes of their friends and realizing they were not alone in the quest to kill Yankees.

On Sunday, July 21st, the initial conflict of what was known as the Civil War broke out near Manassas, Virginia, along a creek called Bull Run. It was a sight to behold.

The Union troops were decked out in bright blue uniforms—fresh and clean, looking like they had been pressed by servant girls. In the distance were gathered citizens of Washington, D. C., who had come out with their families, wearing their Sunday best and carrying picnic baskets, ready to watch what they thought would be more or less an athletic competition.

Homer did not know what to expect. He was ashamed of himself because he was frightened. He was not afraid to die—that happens too quickly to scare anyone much. Rather, he had an uneasiness about failing his friends and ending up a coward. Before he could think too much about his inadequacies, the battle began.

It was ferocious.

Guns that were normally used to kill game to bring food home to families were now aimed at human flesh—tearing, ripping, maiming and killing. Homer had never before heard men scream. He’d always considered it a weakness of the female. But when pain reached an intensity beyond endurance, cries from deep within men shattered the air.

Dressed in their imitation of the Northern Virginia smoke-gray waistcoats and matching pants, the Jackson, Mississippi, Regiment took to the field, given orders to flank the Union troops.

Then the strangest thing happened. In the midst of the struggle, Homer got disoriented—turned around—and did not know where he was. He looked to his right and to his left. He didn’t see any of his friends. Matter of fact, he seemed to be alone.

He ran across the field of battle—peering into the distance. He could hear the battle cries, but it seemed to be further away.

He realized he was foolishly standing in the middle of the field, just waiting to be executed by some cavalry officer. He ran and ran, looking for familiar faces. But the sounds of the battle continued to diminish—until he could hear them no more.

Looking across the distance of the terrain, he saw men and women scurrying, screaming and trying to escape what had turned into a fiasco. Putting together the few things they had brought to the outing they were scrambling to return to Washington.

Homer had a thought. Since the ultimate goal of Beauregard’s men was to end up in Washington, D.C., and having perfect confidence that he would meet them there, he decided to go first.

Racing across the plain, he caught up with the remnant of those who were trying to escape from their foolish lark. The onlookers showed great respect for him because of his uniform, which they mistook for the gray-blue of the Union warriors. Matter of fact, one man offered Homer a horse and asked if he would accompany them back to Washington, as their protector.

Homer didn’t know what to do. He certainly had no intention of killing citizens. Yet he thought it would be complete lunacy to reveal his true identity, so he went along with the ruse, traveling with the disappointed spectators as they quickly returned to Washington, D.C.

Arriving at the Potomac, getting ready to cross the bridge, Homer was concerned there might be a sentry who would question his authenticity, but no such obstacle appeared, since the Army of the Union was in full retreat, running for their lives.

Once across the bridge, he came into the town with the family. They thanked him for his courtesy, telling him he could keep the horse.

Grateful for their kindness, Homer asked them where the White House was. They were a bit perplexed that a soldier would ask such a question on the day of a battle, but they politely answered. A ten-minute ride on his new steed placed him in front of the home of the President. He recognized it from a charcoal drawing he had once seen in the library in downtown Jackson.

He dismounted, grabbed his rifle, which still had the eighteen-inch protruding bayonet—affixed there in preparation for the battle back at Bull Run—and he walked toward the front door.

Everybody was scurrying. They were so terrified, so anxious to save their own lives that they paid no heed to Homer whatsoever.

Breathlessly he approached the front door of the White House, expecting at any moment to be accosted, arrested or even killed. Looking around in every direction, he realized he apparently had beat his army friends to the city.

He was alone.

He stepped inside the door, and there was a little boy playing in the room to his left, and a darky sitting in the corner, polishing boots. Neither one even looked up at him. After all, he was wearing a uniform. Soldiers coming in and out of the White House were not unusual.

Homer was astounded.

Only one other time in his life had he ever felt so out of place. When he was a boy of ten years, he had entered a cave, finding himself nose-to-nose with a grizzly bear. And today, just as on that occasion, he was out of place.

He put his gun up on his shoulder like he was tracking deer and walked through the mansion.

People ran past him with their own destinations. They certainly did not identify Homer as an alien warrior walking through the President’s home.

After passing by several rooms, he found himself standing outside a door. It was a small one. Matter of fact, with his hat on, he felt the need to duck as he entered. The room was occupied, and being a man of manners, Homer was instinctively prepared to apologize for intruding. Then the man sitting behind the desk turned and invited him in.

The strangest notion came into the mind of Homer Sloan. It was so silly that he almost giggled. Could this person be Abraham Lincoln? The Satan of the North? The man who many Jacksonians believed was the Anti-Christ?

He paused long enough that the gentleman reissued his invitation. “Come on in, young man. Sit yourself down. War can be quite exhausting.”

Homer had two instincts. First, he wanted to survive. He had a beautiful wife and two daughters at home. And secondly, he wanted to strike a blow for the cause. What would the history books say about a dry goods salesman from Jackson, Mississippi, who killed the President—for that was certainly who the man  was—and ended the war with a single blow?

Slowly, trying not to appear nervous, he stepped over to the desk. Homer took a good look at him—sizing him up.

He was long and skinny like a length of rope. His hair was a mess and his beard, unkempt. The smell of sweat was all around him and a slight odor of farts filled the room. Still, he was amiable enough, considering that he was a murderer.

“Sit down,” the President requested.

Homer looked around, found a good chair and perched, not leaning all the way back, but right on the front end, just in case leaping forward would be necessary.

Lincoln took a deep breath. “Son, we lost today. They tell me it was a horrible sight. I can hear the screams of the wounded. What did you discover? What did you see? What can you tell me?”

Homer was not an actor. He was not an individual given to deception. He wanted to be candid but felt it might put his life in grave danger. So careful not to mention the source of his loyalties, he tried to answer the question.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man die,” said Homer. “I mean, not like that. I think what shocked me was how sudden it was. I had five really good friends who trained along with me, preparing for the battle, and within fifteen minutes, three of them were gone. Not just gone, but disappeared, as if the soil where they fell swallowed them up.”

The sharing brought Homer to tears. Lincoln leaned forward, and with his long arm, patted him on the shoulder. It was so tender that the tears flowed freely.

“I beg your indulgence for my outpouring,” said Homer.

Lincoln looked at him kindly and responded, “Well, son, you’d have to be a bastard if you didn’t.”

Shaking off the emotion and realizing that he had signed up to kill the enemy, here was the Prince of Darkness in front of him. He had a gun, and Lincoln held a pen.

Just as he was about to stand and make a move in the direction of the President, another soldier walked into the room. He was dressed in great finery. “Mr. President,” he said.

“Yes, General,” Lincoln replied.

The General seemed broken, nearly unable to speak. He mustered a single thought. “We have lost, sir. The day belongs to our enemy. But we are safe.”

Lincoln nodded, rose to his feet. When he was fully extended from toe to head, he looked like an oak tree, standing firm and tall in the forest. He stepped up and embraced the shorter man.

Lincoln pulled back and looked at him. “General McDowell, take care of yourself. Ease the pain of the wounded. Bury our dead with dignity, and make sure the fighting men have what they need.”

The General, regaining some of his training, clicked his heels, saluted and departed, never even noticing Homer sitting on the other side of the desk.

Lincoln returned to his seat and said to Homer, “Now, that is a good man. I’m just not so sure that good men can be the kind of demons who win wars.”

The statement stunned Homer. He was struggling inside with the realization that Abraham Lincoln was not the curse on the South he had thought, but rather, a man who felt obligated to hold together the pieces of a puzzle that were determined to break apart.

Lincoln sighed. “Now, I’ve done a lot of traveling. I study people. And listening to your speech, I’m guessing… Mississippi or Louisiana. Am I right, sir?”

Homer was startled. It seemed he was not as clever as he had thought. Before he could respond, Lincoln continued. “So while I’m sittin’ here figuring why a soldier of the Confederacy is in my office…” He paused, smiling. “You see, it wasn’t just the accent. No private from McDowell’s boys would come anywhere near me brandishing a bayonet.”

Homer shook his head, realizing the stupidity of the maneuver.

“How in the hell, or should I say heaven,” Lincoln went on, “did you end up here?”

Homer was without thought. His little family was back home. He would never see them again because he had found himself in the Coliseum—beneath the claws of the Lion-in-Chief.

“Mr. President, I just got lost,” Homer said. “And then I tried to help some of the folks coming from the battle. They gave me a horse, and I figured I would just find the White House and take a look at it. And since nobody was guarding it, I guess I was just curious about how far I could get.”

Lincoln leaned back and laughed like a little boy watching a frog jump across the floor. “That’s the most ridiculous story I’ve ever heard,” he said, “which tells me it has to be true.”

Homer was in no mood to laugh. Fearing his demise, he decided to ask. “What do you plan on doing with me?”

“First,” said Lincoln, “I’d like you to take your damn bayonet off your gun. It makes my innards ache to think about that steel piercing my belly.”

Homer quickly removed the bayonet and lay it on the desk.

“Secondly,” continued Lincoln, “I want you to know something I wish I could tell every soldier from the rebellion. I do understand your pain. I do comprehend how difficult it will be for you folks to survive after all the changes of this war, and slavery is removed from your economy. But I also want you to know that I am not the President of the Harvard University elite. I am the President of the United States, which means I am your servant.”

At that moment, Homer knew he would not kill President Lincoln. At that moment he also knew that Lincoln was not going to kill him. “Are you gonna put me in prison?” he asked.

Lincoln chuckled. “No disrespect, dear sir, but I think you would make a terrible prisoner. Looking at the ring of fat around your belly, I do believe you’ve grown accustomed to having plenty of grits with your eggs. They don’t do much of that in prison.”

Homer smiled, glanced down at his tummy and realized he had put on a few pounds, even though he had marched all the way to Virginia.

“Too much rabbit and beans,” he agreed. “So if you don’t mind me asking…”

Lincoln interrupted. “Oh, I don’t mind at all, son. The minute I stop talking to you I have to look at casualty reports. You will more than likely be the best part of my day.”

Homer paused and took a deep breath. Even though he was a devoted son of the South, he had good common sense—enough to know that he was in front of a great man.

“You are free to go,” said Lincoln. “Just don’t ever forget what happened today.”

“How could I?” asked Homer.

“How could any of us?” responded Lincoln.

Homer stood to his feet, took his rifle and reached for his bayonet. Lincoln shook his head in disapproval, citing, “You leave that bayonet there. It’ll be a great prop when I tell this story later on.”

Homer headed to the door. Lincoln called, “Wait, wait!”

A chill went down his spine. He turned slowly to face the President. Lincoln leaned forward, grabbed a pen and explained, “Things have calmed down a lot since you came in here. You won’t be able to just stroll through the streets without being challenged. So you’re gonna need a note from me to get you back to your home folk.”

Homer was impressed. It hadn’t even crossed his mind.

Lincoln scribbled a few words on a piece of paper, folded it up and placed it in an envelope, marking on the front: Important Message.

He handed it to Homer and said, “There you go. That should help.”

Homer wanted to hug him. He thought better of it.

He wanted to stay longer. That, of course, was ridiculous.

He had learned. Your enemy isn’t always evil. Just misunderstood.

As he headed for the bridge to re-enter his homeland, he was stopped by an officer. Homer handed him the note. The officer read it, placed it in the envelope, gave it back and offered him passage.

It wasn’t until the next day that Homer caught up with the victorious rebels. He shared what had happened to him and why he had been absent without leave. The young officer who heard the tale was incredulous, so he took Private Homer Sloan directly to the tent of General Beauregard.

Beauregard, weary from the previous day’s battle, listened carefully to the tale. He kept shaking his head in disbelief. “This is probably the most far-fetched story I’ve ever heard,” he offered. “Do you have any evidence whatsoever of the validity of your adventure?”

Homer hadn’t thought about the note since he’d crossed the Potomac. Now he reached into his waistcoat, pulled out the letter and handed it to the general.

The general read it and asked, “Do you know what is written here?”

Suddenly Homer was nervous. He didn’t actually know. Perhaps something Lincoln wrote could place him in great danger. “No,” said Homer sheepishly.

Beauregard reached across the desk, handing the note to Homer.

Homer took it in his hands, looked down and read:

“Let this man pass. With malice toward none. A. Lincoln”

THE END 

Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4085)

Sitting Twenty-Five

As it turned out, orange construction cones make great soccer goals for runaway boys in the desert, dreaming of football stardom.

Iz and Pal were desperate for a diversion—a way to physically explode with energy, allowing their muscles to stretch and ache. With the arrival of the cones, the soccer balls, the tennis shoes and the hamburgers, they had the makings of a deliriously exciting life.

Sweet play.

They vigorously kicked the ball, imagining acclaim and cheers in the great arenas of the world capitals as renowned soccer players, drawing applause and the favor of men with the pleasure of many women.

They fell, exhausted, in the sand, laughing, liberated from conventional restraints, simply content to live in the moment’s lingering bliss.

Nothing seemed wrong. Therefore, nothing was wrong.

During one of these respites, Iz posed a question. “Pal, what do you think will become of us?”

Pal, still ablaze from the fervor of the game, asked enthusiastically, “Do you mean before or after we win the World Cup?”

Iz frowned. “No, really. Where do you think this is going?”

Pal realized his friend was once again turning serious—an attribute he didn’t favor much but decided to tolerate from his more melancholy partner. Settling into some solemnity, he replied, “I don’t know.”

Iz perked up. “I think I do.”

Pal drew a deep breath and inquired, “Well, tell me what’s gonna happen.”

“They’re going to take us back,” said Iz. “They’re going to make us go home.”

Pal shook his head. “They haven’t been able to do that so far.”

Iz shifted to his knees, grabbing his friend by the shoulders. He stared into his eyes. “That’s because they still think we have a hand grenade. When the soldier tells them the truth, they will come for us.”

Pal’s eyes welled with tears. “I don’t want to go back.”

Iz settled down on his backside and looked at Pal carefully. “Don’t want to? Or won’t? Which is it, Pal? You know we have to decide. It could happen at any moment. We have to decide.”

Pal was confused as to what Iz might be referring—very concerned. “We have to decide what?” he posed cautiously.

Iz didn’t miss a beat. “We have to decide what we’re going to do if they come here and try to make us go back.”

“Well, we don’t have a hand grenade,” Pal said flatly.

Iz shook his head vigorously. “Don’t be stupid. Did you think we were going to use the hand grenade?”

Angry, Pal rose to his knees. “Don’t call me stupid. I hate that. If we weren’t going to use the hand grenade, why did we have it?”

Iz scoffed at him. “To scare them away. That’s why. But they won’t be scared anymore. I can just feel it. They’re coming for us.”

Suddenly Pal was overtaken by a streak of tenderness. “Iz,” he said, “I won’t let them take you.”

“How will you stop them?” demanded Iz. “My father is so angry—so mean. I can still feel his anger pouring all over me, making me shrink before his eyes, becoming a little ant that he could step on at any time and mash with his foot.”

Pal was shocked by the words. It was a true revelation into his friend’s soul, but a sudden one that left him bewildered. He reached out to touch his comrade’s arm. “Listen,” he said, “No one’s going to mash us anymore.”

Iz looked up with a glassy stare. “Are you with me, buddy?”

“You know I am,” said Pal.

“No,” insisted Iz, gaining an unnatural intensity. “Are you with me?”

Pal was startled. “With you for what?” His friend’s reactions sometimes seemed chilling, foreboding. There was something frozen, perhaps dead, in the heart of Iz that never quite warmed or showed life, no matter how much joy came into their situation. Pal felt equal—but still overwhelmed.

Iz continued. “Are you with me to the death?”

“Death?” Pal lurched back, unable to hide his shock.

Iz shook his head. “I won’t go back alive.”

Pal drew a deep, ragged breath. “Iz, I don’t want to die. I came out here because I wanted to live.”

Iz rose up and pointed his finger at Pal, screaming. “But what if they won’t let us live? What if they just come out here and act like we’re silly little boys and spank us, ridicule us, and take us home? I’m telling you, Pal. I can’t go back to Pada. I will not be that scared little ant anymore.”

Pal nodded his head in agreement, if not understanding. “So what do we do?”

Iz scrambled to his feet and ran over to the portable toilet. He opened the door, reached in, grabbed something and returned quickly. He held a pink stick in his hand. Breathlessly he explained, “Pal, these came with the toilets. They are poison. If they come for us, we will break this stick into two pieces and each one of us eat our half.”

Eat it?” Pal shouted.

“I won’t go back,” repeated Iz calmly.

Pal wanted to object. Pal needed to reason with his perplexed, confused friend. But Pal was just twelve years old. So a sense of allegiance swept over his heart.  He felt no need to resist. The plan was made, and it seemed to make sense.

Time would tell.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4001)

Sitting Thirteen

Karin ran out of ladylike ways to handle the situation. She wanted to seem intelligent, in control or even demure. But the sight of a young boy walking toward a hand grenade which was capable of tearing his body to shreds, not to mention casting lethal shrapnel in her direction, stirred up all of her jungle instincts.

She ran and tackled Iz and threw him to the ground as the soldier made his way up the embankment to the grenade.

Even though Iz struggled—apparently possessed by some sort of demon of self-destruction—Karin climbed on his back and held him down, as the two lay panting, staring at the stumbling soldier like two chums on their bellies in front of a movie screen.

When Minioz came within two meters of the grenade, he paused, chin rubbing, head scratching, hands on hips, with loud cursing. He then gently tiptoed a centimeter at a time, closer and closer. Then, in one lightning-fast motion, he picked it up and held it in his hand.

Karin braced herself, ready for the impact of explosion.

Nothing.

The absence of nothing.

A perturbing, chilling silence.

Minioz looked around at the desert like a man discovering treasure, wondering if others passing by had seen. He was grateful.

Then he fell to his knees and started digging a hole. The sand was loose and light, and in no time at all, a two-meter chasm was unearthed. He dropped the dud inside and used his arms to quickly spread the sand over the top.

In the meantime, Karin had gradually climbed off Iz as the boy calmed, gaining sensibility. She flipped him over on his back, pinned his arms and shouted into his face, “Iz, what in the hell were you thinking?”

He stared at her—no, beyond her—and replied, “It just seemed like the time for us to die.”

Before Karin could respond, the sergeant, having completed his burial detail, suddenly stood and ran down the hill toward his jeep. Karin quickly pulled Iz to his feet. “Listen, I need to catch a ride with him. I will be back. Do you understand me? I am coming back. You must promise me…”

She stopped. What did she want to say? What was he supposed to promise? The young fellow was obviously damaged and needed some help. His friend was on a lark and didn’t realize the serious nature of his buddy’s situation. So what promise could Iz keep?

In the midst of her deliberation, Iz pointed and said, “Lady, look.”

Karin quickly glanced down the hill as the soldier leaped into his jeep, frantically started the engine, put it in gear, whirled it around and took off.

Karin just shook her head and said, “Wow.”

“I guess you’re stuck here with us,” Iz said.

Karin collapsed back onto the sand, half in exhaustion and half exasperation. She said, “My mother told me never to date soldiers. She said everything they have is a weapon, and unfortunately, they’re still in training.”

Pal walked up and looked down at the defeated reporter. “I guess we don’t have a grenade anymore,” he said.

Iz shook his head and intoned, “That’s not good.”

Karin looked at the two boys, who had obviously separated the little bit of sense they once had from the reality they now knew.

They didn’t understand.

No one understood.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3987)

Sitting Eleven

A gentle moment of tenderness swept over the heart of Karin Koulyea.

At first she didn’t recognize the emotion, having not encountered it for some time. She found it best to protect her soul just short of the border of bitterness. She never felt comfortable, she was never assured, and she always found herself defending her life because she was born a woman.

But standing there in the desert, she realized that these two young boys had captured her imagination, as immature and foolish as they obviously were. There was a devotion that linked the two of them which was unmistakable, and nearly brought the hard-bitten reporter to tears.

Confused by her feelings and realizing that she was flirting with becoming part of the story instead of reporting it, she asked, “So, what is my story? What do you know about me? Are you just setting me aside because you’re rejecting everyone who isn’t one of you two?”

“You don’t have a story,” Iz explained, leaning forward. “We didn’t ask you to come here. We didn’t ask to be bothered. We don’t want to solve any problem. We just don’t want anyone to take away our friendship.”

Karin shook her head and scoffed. “How about that soldier down there? How about the grenade?”

You brought him,” countered Iz.

Karin took a deep breath for dramatic effect. “Actually, he brought me. My jeep gave up on the way here and I hitched a ride.” She gazed steadily at the pair. “And I will tell you right now—he wants his grenade back and he will not leave until he gets it.”

Pal carefully considered her words. “Tell him he can have his hand grenade if we can have his gun.”

Iz loved the idea and clapped his hands. Karin, on the other hand, chuckled before realizing that Pal was serious. “No, I don’t think he’ll do that,” she said. “Matter of fact, I can pretty well guarantee you that he’ll nix that suggestion. But calm down—let’s drop this for now. Just listen. For my story…” She held up her hand. “And listen, boys, I am going to walk away from here with a story. So for my story, I need your names.”

“We have new names,” said Iz proudly. Pal nodded in agreement.

Karin, grateful for the conversation, asked, “All right. What are your new names?”

“I am Iz and this is Pal,” he replied.

Karin nodded her head. “I see,” she said. “For Israeli and Palestinian.”

Pal was very aggravated at how quickly Karin figured out their cleverness. “Is it that obvious?” he asked, disappointed.

“Well, it sure ain’t Gordian’s knot,” she replied.

Iz and Pal looked at each other, confused. Karin reconsidered her comparison and replaced, “Well, it sure ain’t algebra.”

The two boys bobbed their heads, understanding. Karin continued. “Well, Iz and Pal, you’ve got a problem. You really can’t stay here—especially with a hand grenade, which is going to gather great interest. Let’s be honest. What’s to keep that big, burly soldier down there from running up the hill and whipping your butts, and carrying you off to jail?”

“The hand grenade,” said Iz simply.

Karin pointed at him. “You mean the hand grenade you don’t know how to use?”

“The soldier doesn’t know that,” responded Pal.

Karin looked around the desert as if seeking divine wisdom, and then continued. “Listen, kid—there is no threat you will ever make that you won’t eventually have to back up. That’s why countries go to war. Because somebody somewhere was stupid enough to threaten somebody else. Then they end up needing to back it up by killing a bunch of innocent people.”

Iz and Pal listened very carefully. Karin was once again moved by their sincerity, but completely unnerved by their foolish innocence. They did not realize how dangerous it was to live in this land, where threats always became violence. They were ignorant of how a weapon in the hand eventually became a casualty on the ground. Whether they knew how to use a hand grenade or not, they were still in great peril.

She had no idea what to do. Perhaps they were small enough that she could take them on herself—at least one of them. Maybe if she overpowered Iz and pulled him down the hill, then Pal would dutifully follow. As always, the problem was, there wasn’t much time to think it over. And she didn’t trust Minioz. Was he concerned about the boys, or just intent on retrieving his hand grenade and making sure no ranking officer was aware he had lost it?

She looked toward the jeep. Suddenly, it was even more problematic. The sergeant was heading up the hill, weary of waiting. He was definitely not to be trusted. How desperate was he to cover up his error? Would he harm the boys?

Karin made a quick decision. “Listen,” she said. “Here he comes. I am probably the most stupid woman on Earth—but watch carefully. Here’s how the hand grenade works. I had to learn about them when I was a correspondent in Lebanon. First, look at the pin.” She pointed to the pin dangling from the grenade. “When you remove that pin, it opens a fuse. You have no more than five seconds to toss it and get away from the grenade before it explodes. Be careful. Some people know how to put the pin back into the grenade, but I don’t.”

Iz and Pal focused intently. Fidgeting, Iz fingered the pin.

“No!” screamed Karin, pulling his hand away. “It’s not a toy and this is no game. I did not tell you this so you would kill yourselves, or me, for that matter. I just don’t want the soldier to hurt you.”

Minioz was very near. It was all heading toward a very precarious conclusion.

Karin had been right.

Could any good thing come out of this story?


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Quatrain of the Soldier … November 12, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2065)

forrest soldier

I will serve

Please bring peace

I shall return

Find my piece

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Published in: on November 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Parallel Universe … October 21, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2042)

oxen“What are the cool kids doing?”

I thought that question would be a phenomenon of high school and would disappear, or at least dissipate, in importance when I entered the unknown realm of “Grown-ups-ville.” Now that I’ve occupied that territory as a resident for several decades, I will tell you that we are still oppressed, possessed and obsessed by “what the cool kids do.”

Perhaps the most annoying factor in this scenario is the process by which we determine who the cool kids ARE. Normally three ingredients:

  1. Popularity
  2. Money
  3. What they get by with

So much to my chagrin, as I travel across the country, I see perfectly wonderful, kind people under the spell of a temporary haze of confusion by a political arena that is back-biting and ferocious and a spirituality which only offers flavors in bubblegum and castor oil.

It is most unfortunate.

It is rather doubtful if we will be able to deter people from chasing the ways of the cool kids. Our only hope would be to change the roster of that particular group of people.

Yes, to a certain degree we are all victims of this quandary, in which we have a tendency to imitate the people in our society who have power, money and who get away with things, performing it in our own little homespun three-act play.

So churches, organizations and even families are plagued with much more bickering, fussiness and dogmatic attitudes because we are told by our media pundits that this is the “way of the world” and is the best avenue for getting what you want.

It will take some awfully brave people to counteract this misery. Therefore I woke up this morning and asked myself: who do I want to be?

I guess I would like to have the strength of an ox.

I chose the ox NOT because of the age-old reputation, but because the creature is deliberate, mighty and uncomplaining. For I’m sure that an ox has aches and pains, but nothing will deter it from its labor.

For me, I want the mind of Jesus.

Why? It blends wit and tenderness, which will win the day if given the opportunity to perform.

I guess I would like to have the spirit of Abraham Lincoln.

For as you study his life, you realize he was a gentle soul with an iron will, a sense of humor and more questions than answers about his faith. There’s a healthiness to that which keeps your spirituality moving forward instead of settling into your favorite pew.

And emotionally, I would like to be the perfect merger of a child and a soldier:

The simplicity of a child’s curiosity and honest about my own needs, and the bravery of a soldier, who realizes that sometimes my wants are negated by reality, and I need to march on.

Where I see these attributes in my society, I will praise them. Where I don’t, I will avoid them.

  • I want to be a strong ox
  • with the mind of the son of God
  • and the spirit of an emancipator
  • while sporting the simplicity of a child and the courage of a soldier.

This creates my parallel universe to our present earth-bound logic.

If you’re looking, that is where you’ll find me.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

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