This is another scene I wrote for “The Case of the Missing Bible”. I am posting it here for additional story background…
The girl jumped at the sound of the cheery voice from behind her and then turned to see a petite blonde with a big smile.
“What are you so happy about?” Logan said with a sneer.
“I just decided what to get my father for Father’s Day. What are you going to get yours?”
Logan stepped close to Susie and looked her right in the eye with an anger Susie had never seen in anyone before.
“Nothin’! That’s all he’s ever gotten me! All that loser ever does is drink and run around. Maybe the state ought to give 10 to 20 for knocking my mom around and leaving his kids to starve”
Shocked and confused Susie searches for an answer, “Oh, Logan. I’m so sorry. I…I…didn’t know. Can you come and sit with me for a minute?”
Logan looked around the crowded school hallway, “What for? So you can tell me all about your holier than thou, perfect family?”
Taking a deep breath Susie looked right back into Logan’s eyes, “I want to hear about you and your father and you family. I want to get to know more about you so I can…”
“So you can what? Feel sorry for us? No thanks! You can keep your sympathy.We’re gonna be alright now that that bum father of mine is locked up.”
Susie breathed a silent prayer for God’s help, “No, that wasn’t it. I want to find out if there is anything my family or my church can do to help you and your family. I want to find out if your father has always been that way or just recently. I want to help, sure, but mostly I just want to be your friend.”
“Yeah, right! You want to be my friend. You think I’m gonna believe that for a second. You and your do-gooder family are just looking for a project so that you can feel good about yourselves!”
Taking a step closer to Susie and looking hard into her eyes, Logan continued, “No thanks!”
Not backing down, Susie looked right back into Logan’s eyes and said. “That’s not it. I already knew that your father was in jail. I already knew that you and your family are having a real rough time right now. I also knew that I see something in you beyond your rough, tough exterior. I see someone who hurts inside and hurts a lot. I see someone who wants a better life for herself and her family. I see someone who just wants to live a normal life and to fit in here at school.”
Logan says nothing and just stares back at Susie who continues after catching her breath, “I also see someone who needs someone else to care what happens to her. Logan, I want to be that someone even though I know that it’s a hard job and you’re not gonna be easy to know. I want you to know that I care what happens to you but even more than that, I want you to know that God cares what happens to you and wants to see be safe and happy even more than you do. That’s what I want!”
Logan could not believe that anyone would talk to her that way. She could not believe that anyone would ever care about her at all. She just stood there looking at Susie. Her mouth began to move but, nothing came out. She felt as though the wind had been knocked out of her.
Susie realized she had struck a nerve, prayed for more help, took Logan by the arm and led her to an empty bench in the open courtyard and the two girls sat together.
Logan finally blurted out, “No my father hasn’t always been that way…” as Susie listened as hard as she could.
(This is a scene from my story “The Mystery of the Missing Bible”.)
It sure seems like it was a long time ago and I guess that it was. I was about the same age as little Susie Johnson when it happened. I had spent much of the summer on my Uncle Axel’s farm in a fertile valley to the north of Crescent City. He patiently taught the rudiments of farm life. He taught me how to milk cows and feed the livestock. I learned how to drive the tractor (while sitting on his lap, all I really got to do was to steer but I had a lot of fun).
On especially hot days, when the chores were caught up, we went fishing in a special place in the creek that ran through his property. The creek took a turn at this spot and there was a pool that the fish liked to rest in. It was covered by a number of…
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It was a night like no other in recent memory for me. I’m talking about last Sunday’s evening service at Grace Neighborhood Church. It was Missionary Emphasis Sunday at the lively little church that serves our neighborhood and many of you who read this column have participated in more than a few of those. They are always a great time to hear about the lives of missionaries in the field. The stories that they have to tell are always inspiring and often exciting to hear. This year was no different. Well, actually, it was different in a very significant way. We have also been present when the parents of the pastor have come to visit. Very seldom do we see these two events combined.
We heard from a missionary couple that had served 30 years in Africa. The two of them were each called to serve in Africa while they…
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Re-reading and reposting some of these older blogs are helping me to become reacquainted with the world of my current story.
I am about to break the rules of blogging again…stay with me though. I hope you find it interesting.
I can see and hear a lot of things from my window. Today, I’m listening to sounds and smells coming from inside our apartment. The grandchildren are visiting, watching TV, playing games on the computer. Last night we spent some time reading and telling Bible stories and my wife heated up some cinnamon rolls that we had picked up from the Murphy’s. They smell almost as good as going over to the bakery. Mmm! The combination of grandchildren, bible stories and cinnamon rolls is mighty good!
It reminds me of a time when we first moved into the neighborhood. We were looking for ways to get involved in the neighborhood and to meet new people when we heard about the mission from the Murphy’s. I called the volunteer coordinator and asked…
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This piece is something that I wrote several years ago to describe a neighborhood in the fictitious town of Crescent City. It is the setting I have chosen for the new stories of Susie and Johnny that I have been writing.
I can see and hear a lot of things from my window. You see, I am a writer. My wife Carol and our cat Norman live in a condo that is in a neighborhood with many other apartment buildings. It is an older neighborhood that is coming to life again after many years of neglect. There are many small shops, businesses and a few schools. In our apartment, my desk is positioned so that I sit close to the front window of our apartment. I can look out and watch people. I have witnessed many events looking out my window. Mostly just little, normal, every day events like…
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This will be the last post for this story for awhile. I need to let the writing catch up with the posting…stay tuned though. I will be posting other stories and background material. Thanks for reading.
With the bell ringing to signal the end of lunchtime, Sue walked quickly up to a bench in the central courtyard of the school with her backpack and her blue cashmere sweater and sat down. She laid the sweater on the bench beside her and then slid the backpack from her shoulder and let it rest on the sweater. She unzipped her backpack, looked inside, reached in and pulled out a pencil. She examined the point and put the pencil back into the backpack. She looked momentarily at her watch, hurriedly zipped up the backpack and, and in one motion put it back on her shoulder, stood up quickly and headed off to her next class.
Or at least that’s the impression that she intended to leave on anyone watching, instead of actually heading off to class, she tucked herself away in a little alcove that was little more than a space for a water fountain but, it had a view of the part of the bench where she had left her sweater and waited. She had hardly had time to wedge herself in next to the water fountain to wait when someone approached the bench, looked around and sat down next to the sweater.
Sue could see that someone had sat down next to the sweater. “I wish that I could see who it is” she thought to herself. “From the legs, pants and shoes I can tell that it is a girl, but that’s all I can see.” She just watched anxiously.
Then in an almost exact repetition of Sue’s actions, our mystery person took off her backpack, set it on top of Sue’s sweater and opened it up to check the contents. She then closed up the backpack, gathered up the sweater and headed off in the same direction that she had approached from. “Ooooh, she went back the way she came!” Sue thought so clearly out loud that she was afraid that she might have actually said it out loud. She could not see where the girl was going to from her alcove, so she had to leave it to try to follow her carefully. Cutting across the courtyard to the opposite side, she could see a very thin girl with short brown hair, a maroon sweater, blue jeans, white socks and faded red high top tennis shoes. Sue followed in the shadows that covered most of the hallway around to the right of the courtyard so as not to be seen. By the time Sue, reached the opposite corner of the courtyard, the girl with the sweater was going around the next corner to the right. Thinking almost out loud again, “Gosh, I need to be really careful not to make a sound with my footsteps. I’m glad that I wore my tennis shoes, they’re quiet” as she hurried to the next corner trying hard to catch up but not get caught following the other girl.
She carefully poked her head around the next corner when she saw one of the top lockers on the right hand side opened in her direction hiding the face of the person at the locker. The legs, pants and shoes were those of her thief so she backed quickly around the corner and tried to get her quickly beating heart back down her throat and into her chest again. She was convinced that anyone around could hear her heart beating and she stood there and waited for the locker to close so that she could find out who it was.
No sooner had her breathing began to slow down when she heard the quiet click of a locker closing and footsteps heading her way. Sue quickly decided that she needed something from her backpack. She knelt down with her head toward the wall of lockers with her back to the direction the footsteps were coming from, opened up her backpack and was rummaging through it when the girl that she had been watching came around the corner, hesitated slightly and then walked quickly past Sue to a classroom halfway down the hall.
Sue looked up just as the girl was entering the classroom. At the same time, the girl looked back at Sue. Their eyes locked for just a moment.
Sue now hurried to her own classroom. “I’m sorry Mrs. Appleton; I was trying to find my sweater. I seem to have mislaid it somewhere” said Sue as she entered. “All right, Sue, try to be more careful next time, make sure that you check the lost and found after school,” Mrs. Appleton responded. “Thank you, Ma’am” said Sue as she hurried to take her seat. She reached down and got out her history book and notebook opened them up and laid them on her desktop. She then glanced at Andrea and saw a concerned look on her face. Explanations would have to wait until after class.
The next morning, as Sue was dressing for school, her eyes fell on her blue cashmere sweater in the closet. Picking it up, her fingers luxuriated in it’s softness. Of all the sweaters she owned, this was her favorite and a gift from her Gram Susie. “This ought to be good bait,” she said, put the sweater into her backpack and headed down the stairs toward the kitchen.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs she heard, “Mrs. Johnson, I think that you make about the best buckwheat cakes I have ever had! Oh, good morning Sue!” Jon smiled as he pushed another forkful of pancakes into his mouth. He often showed up in time for a second breakfast. She was surprised, though, to see Andrea at the table alongside Jon with her head nodding in agreement with what he had said. Noticing Sue, she waved and grinned with chubby cheeks because she had just taken a bite of buckwheat cakes and would not talk with her mouth full.
“Wow, we have a full house this morning, Mom. I know that Jon can smell your cooking almost clear to his house, but, this morning we have Andrea too. Nice!” Sue set her backpack down on the side table near the back door and was headed for an empty seat at the table between Jon and Andrea when a little whirlwind came rushing down the stairs, into the kitchen and into the chair she had begun to reach for. Stanley spoke up loudly and quickly, “Hey Jon , can we go play catch at the playground after school today, can we, can we, PLEEEEASE!!!” Jon had been in the middle of taking a large gulp of milk and was so startled by Stanley’s entrance and question that he nearly choked on the milk and came close to spitting it out . He had just managed to contain himself though, as you could see small dribbles of milk appearing at the corners of his mouth and a single white drop descending from his left nostril. Both Sue and Andrea could not contain their laughter. Andrea just managed to put her fork down before she doubled up at the sight of milk coming from Jon ’s nose and mouth. Sue had to turn away and cover her mouth to keep from laughing directly at Jon . Even Mrs. Johnson issued a small snicker as she handed Jon a second napkin to help him clean himself up.
When Jon finished wiping his face and catching his breath, he turned to Stanley and said, “Sure. That would be great! Do you want to catch with a baseball or a football?” Stanley, always eager to capitalize on Jon ’s time said, “Both! Can we do both?” “We sure can Stanley, we’ll do both. I’ll meet you here after school, OK?”
Sue looked at the clock on the kitchen wall and exclaimed, “Hey guys, we better get going or we’ll be late for school!” With that she quickly buttered a buckwheat cake and folded it in half, gulped down some milk while she, Jon and Andrea said their goodbyes to Mrs. Johnson and headed out the door toward school.
On their way to school, the trio talked excitedly about the work that the church was going to be doing with the mission. “What do you think that we can do?” asked Jon . Andrea responded, “Pastor Johnson said that we could knock on doors and invite the families to the mission or the church for some special services and things.” Sue added, “That’s right, he said that the mission was going to arrange for a doctor to be there to help the people with any health problems that they had. I think that the food bank at the church is going to hold a special drive to try to round up a couple of bags of groceries for each family and special activities would be put on for the small children.”
“Wow! That’s a lot of stuff to do,” said Jon . “But what can we do for the kids that might be older like us?” asked Andrea. “They aren’t going to be very interested in doing crafts & stuff with the little kids. We need to find something else to do to that will interest them.” “That’s right,” spoke up Sue, “We need to find something that would not only interest them, but also we need something that will introduce them to Jesus. I’ll bet most of them have never been to a church before and are going to be nervous about the whole thing.”
Jon responded as he held open the school door for his friends,“I think we should take some time to think and pray about it,” said Jon. “Good plan,” agreed Sue as she walked in. “Yup”, Andrea said as she looked back at Jon and nodded her agreement.
Sue lay in her bed, unable to sleep, looked out of her window at the moon and the stars and thought about the outreach program to the families on Highway 109 her dad had spoken of. He had said that some of those kids might even be attending her school. She wondered if she knew any of them. Then her mind drifted to the things that were disappearing at school. She suddenly wondered to herself if one of the kids from one of the motels on 109 were somehow involved. She shook her head and told herself that that wasn’t a fair thing to think. Just because a kid is poor doesn’t make them a thief.
She began to pray. “Jesus, you said in John 14:14 ‘If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.’ Well, Lord, I am asking in your name that you save whoever is doing the stealing at school. I am asking you to lead me to him or her so that I can tell them about you, Lord. Please help me to lead them to you. Thank you for always keeping all of your promises Jesus. Amen!” With those prayers on her lips and in her heart, Sue fell asleep.
Some distance away, in another part of town, another girl had trouble sleeping and was looking out her window at the same moon and stars. Instead of the peaceful silence of the Johnson household, she could hear police sirens in the night. She could hear the loud booming of someone’s car stereo as it passed by where she lay awake trying to sleep. She could hear the angry voices of that couple that lived on an upper floor of the motel that she and her family called home. The angry voices got louder and louder, finally reached a peak and ended with the slamming of a door, someone hurrying down the stairs, a car alarm chirping as it was turned off and the loud muffler of the car as it started up, drove away, tires squealing and stereo blasting and thumping as it accelerated onto the street. Those sounds faded into the wail of a woman weeping somewhere and the TV in the other room.
The girl looked again at the moon and the stars through her window. This time they were blurred by the tears in her eyes. She began to pray, “God, if you exist, please reach out to me and help me. I hate my life. I am surrounded by drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes and thieves. I am afraid that I have become a thief myself. I have been taking things at school. Today, I stole a Bible. God, I don’t know if you are real or not. But, I don’t want to become like everyone else here. I was reading in that Bible that I took that ‘…that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life’. I think that means that if I believe in Jesus that you will save me. I want to be saved. I want a different life than this one. I see lots of other kids at school that seem to be happy. I want that. I could see that in the kid that left the Bible behind. Please God, if you exist and if what it says in the Bible is true; then please save me. Keep me from becoming what I don’t want to be. Amen.”
With those words on her lips and in her heart, she cried herself to sleep. Again…
Pastor Johnson pulled up a chair and sat down next to Stanley, “Here’s what we want to do. Dr. Bloomfield from the mission and I have been talking and praying about a way to reach out to the poor families living out on Highway 109 in those seedy motels for some time. We are also aware the area has a really high crime rate with drugs, alcohol and Lord knows what else going on over there. Yet in the midst of all of that struggling families are trying to scratch out an existence and raise their children properly. You kids have some of those children attending your school.”
Glances were exchanged between Sue, Jon and Andrea. They then looked back at Pastor Johnson who had paused for that fact to sink in.
He continued, “Dr. Bloomfield and I want to begin a visitation program to begin to get to know the families over there and try to begin to see how and where we can best serve them and reach out to them with physical assistance and with the gospel.”
“I would like to see kids like you get involved with that to reach out especially to the children. We want to begin some sort of program for them at the church in conjunction with programs for the parents at the mission.”
“We want to try to involve some local doctors and dentists to provide some free care for those that have more severe needs and no means of getting the help that they need.”
“We want to provide help with food and clothing. The parents need to have the energy to work to support their families. They need clothing that will allow them to work with dignity.”
“We also want to make sure that the needs of the children are met and to try to integrate them into the life of the community with hot meals, clothing, assistance with their school work and children like you to be their friends.” With that Pastor Johnson stood up and began to pace in the little kitchen speaking in a highly animated fashion with an oatmeal raisin cookie still in his hand.
The room was silent. Sue knew that her father spoke like this when he really believed deeply in something. He was like this on Sunday mornings in the pulpit of their little church. She and the others knew to sit and hear him through.
He continued, “We want to try to break the endless cycle of hopelessness brought on by the drugs, alcohol and crime. We want to offer them the hand of our friendship and the gospel of our saviour to lift them out of the pit of despair. All of that begins by going over there and knocking on some doors.”
Stanley laid his head down on the table, coughed and cleared his throat, “Mom? If Dad’s gonna talk for a long time, I’m gonna need another cookie.”
Pastor Johnson turned around and looked at everyone in the kitchen, realized what he had been doing and sat down again and took a large bite out of his cookie and a deep drink of his milk. Broad smiles and happy laughter then filled the Johnson family kitchen. Pastor Johnson, smiling at himself, spoke again, “So, I guess you can tell how excited I am about this idea and how much I think that it could help the families on 109. Are you kids interested in helping out?”
The children all said “Yes” together and began asking how they could help. Pastor Johnson told them that the details had not all been worked out yet, but that they would within the next week or two. “I’m glad that I can count on all of you for some help. I will let you know as soon as we have something definite. I have some reading to do before dinner; I will be in my study dear.”
Jon and Andrea both realized then that they needed to get to their own homes and the Johnson family began to prepare for dinner.