Elwood’s Hazardous, Dangerous, Exciting Trip to the Library – Part 1

Elwood’s Hazardous, Dangerous, Exciting Trip to the Library

By: Steve Mathisen

“Elwood!”

The tall boy rolled over and tried to use his pillow to block the sound of his name being called.

“Elwood Phineas Dunkle! Get yourself out of bed and down here for breakfast this very minute,” his mother shouted

He knew the tone and that she would no longer tolerate being ignored.

He groaned, rolled over, slid out of bed, pulled on jeans and T-shirt and headed for the kitchen with a slight detour to the bathroom to wash up.

When he got to the table, there was a book instead of his cereal bowl. Elwood looked at his mom.

“That book is due today. You need to make a trip to the library.”

“But Mom, I was going to−”

She set his bowl in place.

“You can do that after your trip to the library.”

“Okay, Mom.”

After breakfast, Elwood put the book in his backpack and rode his bike toward the library.

He was taking a shortcut through the park when his shoelace came untied and got tangled up in the chain of his bicycle. He glanced down at his foot and hit a hidden tree root. The bike stopped suddenly. Elwood did a complete flip over the handlebars and landed staring up at the sky through the branches of a huge oak tree.

“Well, that was a dumb move,” Elwood said to himself. As he began tying his loose shoelace, he looked around for his bike only to see its rear wheel disappear around the trunk of the tree.

Forgetting his laces he jumped up and yelled, “Hey, that’s my bike!” and then ran to where he had last seen his bike and . . . nothing. There was no bike to be seen anywhere. He ran back around the other way and again. . . nothing.

“What is going on here?” He said.

Clunk!

“What was that?” Elwood ran around the tree again looking for the source of the sound and once again . . . nothing.

Clang!

He looked up and saw his bike, hanging twenty feet up, bouncing against the tree and going higher, with a rope around the handlebars!

Elwood quickly found the lowest branch and scrambled up the tree after his bike. He just barely got his hand on the rear wheel of the bike before it disappeared into the darkness of the upper branches of the tree. He climbed higher. He wanted to know what was going on.

He felt cold . . . and blind. It was so dark toward the top of the tree that he couldn’t see anything but, he heard voices.

His eyes adjusted to the dark, he could see three guys on a platform that was built right into the top of the tree. They had at least a half-dozen bikes. The guys were taking them apart, putting the little parts in boxes and hanging the bigger parts on racks hung on branches.

“Bike thieves”, he whispered, “right here in the middle of the park, hidden up in a tree!”

A Bump on the Head

A Bump on the Head

By: Steve Mathisen

Josh was late for school…again. He was running faster than usual, taking his usual shortcut through Mr. Binkley’s yard and only had to duck under that low branch on the maple tree when . . .

Crunch!!

“Ooooowwww!! That . . . hurt . . .” Josh put his hand on his head, felt a very sore lump the size of a small egg, saw stars and dancing chickens and then . . . everything went dark.

“Hey buddy, are you ok?” Josh thought he heard someone say and then he felt a big, wet tongue on his face. When he opened his eyes, he saw Howie; Mr. Brinkley’s dog licking his face.

He pushed the dog away and sat up.

“Ok, that’s enough, boy.”

“Alright, I’m just makin’ sure you’re ok,” he heard someone say.

Josh looked around and saw no one.

“Ok, who said that?”

His hand went back to the sore spot on the top of his head.

“Ouch! That must have been some conk on the head! Now, I’m hearing things.”

Just then a small voice came from up in the tree. “I don’t think he heard you, Howie.”

The dog looked up and saw a robin up in the tree. “I know, Hawthorne. They always act like they don’t understand.”

Josh looked first at the dog and then up at the robin and then back to the dog. “Are you guys talking?”

Howie and Hawthorne looked at each other and then at Josh and both said, “Yes! Are you…?”

They both stopped at the same time and then Howie continued, “You could understand us?”

Just then Mrs. Abernathy’s orange cat Norman came into view, “Hey guys, what’s up. This kid conk his noggin’ on that low branch?”

Josh looked at Norman, his mouth fell open, and he started scooting himself back quickly with his hands. “Whoa! I must be dreaming! This can’t be real!”

Josh started to shake his head, as if to shake off this strange new reality, and quickly grabbed his head with both hands. “Oh! That hurt and made me dizzy at the same time!”

Howie moved closer to the boy, “Maybe you should just rest for a few minutes, Josh.”

Josh’s eyes widened as he looked at the dog, “Y…y…you know my name? H…h…how come I never heard you talk before?”

Howie sat down, looked at the boy and cocked his head to one side. “Well…”

Hawthorne flew to the ground and said, “Maybe you just never listened before.”

Norman came up and sat next to Josh opposite Howie, wrapped his tail around his paws and said, “I think he’s got an attention span problem.”

“Joshie, why you layin’ down in the grass?”

Josh turned toward the house to see little Lizzie Brinkley, rag doll hanging from her chubby little hand. “Hi Lizzie, I was cutting through your yard and hit my head on the low branch and was just…”

“Why?”

“I was on my way to school, Lizzie.”

“Oh. Who’re ya’ talkin’ to, Joshie?”

“I was talkin’ . . . talking to . . .”

Howie emitted a soft “leave us out of this” that sounded like a low growl.

“I was talking to myself. I do it sometimes when I’m alone.”

“Oh, okay.”

Josh jumped up, careful to avoid the tree branch.

“I’m going to be late for school if I don’t hurry. You should go back inside, Lizzie,” he said as he rushed off.

He looked back and saw Lizzie waving goodbye, he waved back at her.

All the way to school he wondered about what had happened.

“Maybe I was delirious. Animals don’t talk, that’s just crazy.” he said to himself.

Josh heard other voices as he rushed to school. His head rotated like a bobble head doll each time he heard a new one.

“It’s mine!”

“No, it’s not, I found it first!” He saw two birds arguing over a worm.

There was a dog sniffing all around a grassy yard and mumbling.

“Where did I leave that juicy, tasty bone?”

Then he heard laughter. “It looks like the old, hound dog lost his bone again.”

Two cats were sitting on a fence, laughing at the dog.

All morning long in school, Josh wondered about what had happened and just when he thought he was feeling normal again . . . he heard a small, strange voice.

“So, I hear you can understand us when we talk.”

Josh looked around to see who was speaking.

“Hey! Look down here, it’s Louie…you know…the hamster!”

“Oh no, not you too! How did you find out about me?”

“Easy, the windows are open. I heard it from a little birdie! Ha ha ha, I heard it from a little birdie. I am sooo funny!”

Josh looked down into the hamster cage and saw Louie rolling around laughing and holding his sides.

“Shhh! Somebody will hear you!”

(Still laughing) “Who cares? Nobody can understand me but you. Hahaha, this is too good! I heard it from a little birdie!”

Josh rolled his head back and looked up. “Oh man! This is NOT happening to me!”

“Hey, Josh, who are you talking to?” said Scott in the next row.

“Oh…um…nobody…just talking to myself.”

“That’s right, pretend you can’t hear me.” said the Louie.

Josh put his hand over his ear in attempt to not hear Louie.

“Just thinking out loud Scott.”

“You’re seriously in denial, that’s what you are,” said Louie.

Josh turned toward the hamster cage and tried to whisper, “I am not! I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want to hear or understand animals when they talk. Now, leave me alone!”

“Young man, just who are you addressing in that insolent tone?”

Josh turned around to see Mrs. Harbaugh towering over him. She stood with her hands on her hips and her graying hair pulled in a bun so tight she always looked like her face was going to rip.

Josh felt his face flush, “No one, Mrs. Harbaugh. I was just talking to myself. Sorry, if I was too loud.”

Mrs. Harbaugh harrumphed, “I thought you might have been talking to Louie. He gets a bit snarky from time to time, but we should always be polite to him.”

“He gets snarky?”

“Yes, it means smart-alecky. He has something of a twisted sense of humor. Don’t let him get to you. Just ignore him if he is rude.”

“You mean, you’ve heard him talk?”

The whole class began to laugh.

“Oh yes, all the time! I have tried to teach him some manners but, he doesn’t seem to understand etiquette.”

“How did I not know that?”

Louie’s voice came from behind him. “You’ve got a short attention span, or so I’ve been told.”

Mrs. Harbaugh spoke again, “See what I mean. Snarky. But enough of that, we have a class to conduct.” She turned on her heels and began addressing the class about the next lesson.

Louie said, “I am not snarky. I just have a weird sense of humor.”

Josh peeked at him, “It’s kind of rude if you ask me.”

The class got down to the business of the geography of Peru, but Josh’s head began to hurt badly, and he asked permission to go see the school, nurse.

Sitting in the nurse’s office, Josh began to hear strangely muffled voices that sounded like they had bubbles in them.

“So you think that’s him, Thelma?”

“I sure do, Daphne. He matches the description I heard from Oscar.”

Josh started looking around to see where the voices were coming from and then noticed the two big goldfish in the nurse’s fish tank looked like they were staring at him. As soon as he looked at them, they swam off in opposite directions.

He shook his head as if he could make the voices go away but just made his head hurt worse.

The nurse came in and examined Josh.

“So young man, it looks like you got yourself quite an egg on your head. What happened?”

“I was ducking under a low branch on my way to school and didn’t duck low enough.”

“I’ll say you didn’t! That’s quite an egg on your head. Are you having any pain?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ve been having a pretty bad headache and…”

“And what?”

“Nothing. I just have a really bad headache.”

“Well, I think that’s enough to send you home so your mom can take care of you. I don’t think you have a concussion. But you do need to rest and let the swelling go down.”

“I live real close by, I can walk home.”

“All right, but I’m going to call your Mom and let her know you are on your way.”

“Ok, thanks…”

Josh got two notes from the nurse, one for his teacher and one for his mom. He went back to his classroom and gave Mrs. Harbaugh the one for her.

She read it and told him to pack up his things and go home. As he was doing that, he looked at Louie and the hamster stuck his tongue out at him.

“See ‘ya later kiddo!”

A wave of pain shot through Josh’s head, so he ignored Louie, threw his backpack over his shoulder and headed home.

Instead of just a few animals talking, there now seemed to be a whole chorus of animal talk going on. It was like being in a crowded airport with all sorts of conversations going on around him. It made his head hurt even more.

Josh decided to take the same short cut home through Mr. Binkley’s yard and only had to duck under that low branch on the maple tree when . . .

Crunch!!

“Ooooowwww!! That . . . hurt . . .” Josh put his hand on his head and felt a two very sore lumps the size of a small egg, saw stars and dancing chickens and then . . . everything went dark.

“Hey buddy, are you ok?” Josh thought he heard someone say and then he felt a big, wet tongue on his face. When he opened his eyes, he saw Howie; Mr. Brinkley’s dog licking his face.

He pushed the dog away and started to sit up when he saw his mom’s face. She was kneeling next to him and said, “Buddy? Are you ok? Mrs. Binkley called me and said that you knocked yourself cold ducking under this old tree limb.”

Josh looked at Howie and Howie just twisted his head, smiled curiously and let out a small “woof!”

“Is that all you have to say, Howie?”

Josh reached into his pocket for the note the nurse gave him for his mom, and nothing was there. He then hurriedly checked all the rest of his pockets and looked around on the ground to see if he had dropped it.

His mom asked, “What are you looking for, Josh?”

Josh looked at his mom and said, “I guess nothing. You know, I think I just had a bad dream while I was knocked out. I had this dream that I heard…”

Josh put his hand on his head, but only felt one very sore lump.

Howie responded with another “woof”.

The cat said “meow” and the robin said “chirp”.

“Heard what?” his mom asked.

“Oh, nothing…maybe I better go home and lay down for a while.”

“I think that’s a really good idea. I’ll call the school and tell them you’ll be home sick today and then I’ll call the doctor to see if he wants to see you.”

As they walked toward home, Josh thought he heard Howie say, “See ‘ya later Buddy.”

Esmeralda Wants To Be a Princess

And now for something a little different…

Steve's Story Place

A funny little story…I hope you enjoy.

Esmeralda sat on the floor in her room and looked at the drawings hanging on her wall. Each one was of a princess from a book she had read. She drew each one as she read the story and then hung them on her wall when she was done with the book. Each drawing gave her such vivid memories that she could tell each story just from looking at them.

Esmeralda wanted to be a real, live princess more than anything in the whole wide world so she would draw what she imagined.

“Ezmie!” Her mother called from downstairs.

Sigh!

“Yes mother, I’m coming. I was just…um…straightening up my room.”

“Your breakfast is ready and it won’t stay hot forever.”

“Yes, mother, I’ll reheat it myself if it gets cold.”

Esmeralda stood up, looked at her posters again and then bounced down the…

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Oliver Rides the Bus

It will soon be October and baseball season will be wrapping up for another year. I hope your team is closer to being into contention than mine is. Baseball always draws our youth. Oliver was no exception. Here is his story.

 * * *

Oliver Rides the Bus

By: S.C. Mathisen

Oliver tried to focus on the geography of Peru, but kept thinking about well-hit doubles, strikeouts and close plays.

Mr. Franzen’s voice filtered into his brain during a 5-4-3 double play, “Oliver…Oliver…Mr. Winslow!”

Oliver slowly realized it was not the play by play announcer calling his name, “Um…huh…yes? I’m sorry.”

“Thank you for joining us. Tell us about the Nazca lines in Peru.”

“They are…glyphs, drawings on the ground you can only see well from the air that no one understands.,”

“Excellent. Who discovered the glyphs….”

Her voice faded into the cheering crowd after Oliver hit a homer, winning the championship.

At dinner, Oliver’s mom said, “My car broke down today. I can’t drive you to your game tomorrow. I’m sorry, you’ll have to miss it.”

Oliver choked on his milk. “But Mom, it’s the first game of the season. The team is counting on me. I’m the starting shortstop.”

“It’s just a game.” She served the peas.

Oliver looked at his mom as she put a slice of meatloaf on his plate. “Maybe I could take the bus. The #82 runs up Meridian to Green Lake. If you give me some change, I can…”

“Now hold it right there, I have not given you permission to take the bus by yourself.”

“But, Mom!”

“No! I’m sorry about the game, Oliver. It can’t be helped.”

Oliver had a hard time sleeping that night. He dreamt about baseball, striking out or dropping a line drive or a missing a deep fly ball. His team kept losing, and it was all his fault.

He woke up early, tired, but excited.

“Ok, I know what I need to do.”

He went straight to his coin bank and found four dollars and seventy-six cents.

“I’ve got just enough money for bus fare both ways.” He smiled.

He checked the bus schedule.

“Let’s see, where is the ball field?” he ran his finger up the route until he found it.

He looked at his clock. “Just enough time to get ready.”

Oliver dressed in his uniform, grabbed his money and his glove. Then he slipped down the stairs, careful not to wake his mom.

“Ok, all set, here we go.” Oliver let himself out the back door.

Once on the bus, his mind filled with fantastic catches and hits.

boy riding a bus

“Kid…hey, Kid!”

Oliver looked up to see the bus driver standing next to his seat. “We’re at the end of the run, you gotta get off.”

Oliver looked around. “Where are we? I wanted to go to the ball fields at Green Lake.” Oliver felt sick to his stomach.

The bus driver chuckled. “You must have been daydreaming. We passed by there a half-hour ago.”

“How can I get back? It’s too far to walk.”

“Relax kid, there’s another bus stop across the street where you can catch a bus back to Green Lake. I’ll give you a transfer so you can ride it. I played some little league when I was a kid, I know how important the games are.” The driver smiled.

Oliver thanked the driver, crossed the street and waited for the bus. This time he asked the driver to let him know when they got to Green Lake, so he could get off at the right place.

Oliver thanked the driver, got off the bus and ran to the field where his team played. The game had already started, so Oliver put his stuff with the rest of the team’s things and went into the dugout.

“Hey, coach! I made…it…uh, oh.” He saw his mom and coach Bradley standing with their arms crossed, looking at him. Oliver attempted a sheepish grin.

“Oliver, where have you been, and how did you get here?” his mom asked.

Oliver stared at his shoelaces.

His mom uncrossed her arms, walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder. “You took the bus, didn’t you?”

Oliver’s face reddened. “Yes, Mom. I just wanted to play so bad.”

“I understand. However, after you went to your room last night, I called your coach. He offered to give us a ride. But, you left this morning before I could tell you.”

Oliver looked up and caught a glimpse of the coach heading out to the field.  He then looked at his mom. “I’m sorry.”

“I know you just wanted to play baseball. I wanted you to play, too. Look, I’ll promise to make sure you get to every game if you promise to stay off the bus. Deal?”

Oliver smiled. “Deal!”

“Mrs. Winslow,” Coach called from the end of the dugout.

“Yes, coach?”

“Could you umpire the game? We’re one umpire short today.”

Oliver’s eyes widened. “You’re gonna umpire? I didn’t know you knew anything about baseball.”

His mom smiled/ “I forgot to tell you—I lettered in softball in college. Come on son, let’s PLAY BALL!”

The Story of Esther – Part 6 – Conclusion

King:                           Queen Esther we have eaten your excellent food for two days now, what is it that you request from me? I will give you anything that you request up to half of my kingdom!

Esther:                        (With her heart beating so loudly in her chest that she was afraid that the king might hear it.) If I have found favor with you, my king, and, if it pleases your majesty, please grant me my life. This is my request. Also, that you spare my people, this also is my request. For I and my people have been condemned to horrible punishment and…and…I can‘t even say it! If we had just been sold like fruits and vegetables in the market, I would have kept quiet and not disturbed the king. But, that is not the case . . .

King:                           Who is he, where is he that would do such a thing???

Esther:                        (Standing and pointing at Haman) Here he is, your majesty, the foul villain Haman!!

Esther accusing Haman

Mr. Mathisen:             Now Haman nearly choked on a bit of bread that he was eating and began to sputter food all over himself and the table. He was suddenly more frightened than he had ever been in his whole life. He did not know what to do. He did not know, nor would he have ever guessed that this lovely young queen was a Jew! How could he have known?

The king got up and walked quickly to a nearby garden to think. While he was gone, Haman went up to the queen and began groveling at her feet, pleading for his life. Just as he was doing that the king came back in and found him on the floor clutching at the queen’s feet whimpering for his life. The king thought that Haman was attacking the queen. The king called his servants and ordered Haman to be taken away. Another of the kings servants told the king that Haman had built a huge device in front of his home to punish Mordecai the Jew. The king then ordered that Haman be punished on the very device that he had prepared for Mordecai.

Haman being led to the gallows

Esther explained the whole story to the king. The king then sent for Mordecai and gave him his royal signet ring and appointed him to Haman’s old job. Esther and Mordecai then explained to the king about the proclamation and asked that the king issue a new proclamation saying that the Jews in the country could defend themselves from others that tried to harm them. He did so and on the day appointed the Jews all over the country assembled together to defend themselves. That day is remembered by Jews today as the feast of Purim.

So, always remember to be strong and very courageous and never be afraid to do the right thing.

Stanley:                       Boy! That was some story. Queen Esther sure was brave, even if she was a girl.

Mr. Mathisen:             Stanley, girls can be just as brave as boys. Remember it God who makes us really brave. We can’t be very brave at all without Him. Well, boys and girls, what do you think???

The Story of Esther – Part 6

That night the king could not sleep, so he had one of his servants read to  him the history of his kingdom. When the servant got to the part where Mordecai spoiled the plan of the bad men to kill the king, there was no record of Mordecai being rewarded. So the king decided to figure out how to honor the man who saved his life. By this time, it was early in the morning and Haman came to see the king early to ask for permission to punish Mordecai. The king decided to ask Haman what should be done to honor someone that the king wanted to reward.

King:            Haman, my faithful friend, there is a man in my kingdom that I want to honor. What should I do to honor him?

(Now Haman was so proud that he thought that the king was talking about him, so he said…)

Haman:       Your Majesty, you should dress this man in your own royal robes, let him ride on your own royal horse, let him wear your crown and have one of your most noble princes walk before the man as he rode through the whole city and shout out for all to hear “This is what is done for a man that the king delights to honor!”.

King:           Excellent Haman!! Excellent!! Now go and do all of this for Mordecai the Jew who works at the King’s Gate. Do not forget to do anything that you have suggested.

Mr. Mathisen:   Now Haman was so surprised he could not even speak. He went and did as the king commanded, he put the king’s robe and crown on Mordecai, set him on the king’s horse and led him through the streets of the city shouting “This is what is done for a man that the king delights to honor!”. Haman nearly choked on the words at times, but, did as the king instructed.

He went home with his head covered in shame. He was telling his wife all about what happened when the king’s servants came to get him to take him to the banquet with the king and queen. He was not feeling good about his day. In fact, so far, it had been the worst day of his life. But he cheered up at the thought of the meal with the king and queen. They were honoring him be requesting his presence.

When he arrived at the palace, he was taken directly to the queen’s dining rooms where the feast was to be served. He noticed all of the rich tapestries that decorated the walls, the fine furniture. The table was set with the fanciest dishes and the food. The food! It was the finest and richest in all the land. He was about to enjoy the company of the king, his beautiful young queen and the best food he had ever eaten.

The king was in a happy mood and looked lovingly at his new queen much of the time. Haman told amusing stories about his services to the king. The queen ate slowly and did not raise her head during the meal. When the king and Haman were finished with the meal, the king leaned forward and asked the Queen:

King:           Queen Esther we have eaten your excellent food for two days now, what is it that you request from me? I will give you anything that you request up to half of my kingdom!

The Story of Esther – Part 5

Esther sent a message back to Mordecai to pray & fast for her for the next three days. She also told him that she and her ladies would do the same thing.

After the three days, Esther put on her best courage and her best royal robes and went confidently to the king’s hall. She stood just inside the entrance and waited for the king to notice her. As she stood there, she became frightened for just one little moment but, then she remembered what Mordecai had told her about being strong and courageous and that God may have made her queen “for just such a time as this”. Her courage returned stronger than ever, and she stood just a bit taller than before. The king did notice her, was very happy to see her and asked her to come to him. As she approached, she touched the tip of his royal scepter.

Esther waiting to see the king

Stanley:                       Scepter, what’s a scepter? Is that like a scimitar. That’s a sword isn’t it. I know it is. It’s big and long and curved and SHARP!

Mr. Mathisen:             No, Stanley, a scepter is not a sword it is a staff, a ceremonial staff, rod, or wand used as an emblem of a monarch’s authority. Here, have a picture of the king and his staff. (show slide of picture…)

Now, to continue the story, the king was very glad to see Esther and asked her what she want:

King:                           “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request?”

Esther:                        “If it pleases the king, let the king, together with Haman come today to a banquet I have prepared for the king.”

King:                           “Bring Haman at once, so that we may do what the Queen asks.”

Mr. Mathisen:             And so it was, that both the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther. She provided for them the best food and drink in the whole kingdom, and they were both very pleased. When it was all over, Esther had still not figured out exactly how to tell the king what Haman had done so she invited them both back to another banquet the next day.

Haman was filled with pride that he had been asked to dine with the king and queen. He headed straight home to tell his wife how proud he was. He couldn’t help but strut and swagger as he headed toward the King’s Gate. As usual, Mordecai was on duty at the gate and refused to bow to Haman as he passed. That made Haman madder than he had ever been in his life. While he had planned to go home to his wife and brag to her, he now paced back and forth in his home and shouted out his anger about Mordecai. His wife said since he was so mad, maybe he should so something about it. Build yourself a big machine to punish Mordecai. That will make you feel better. Ask permission from the king to punish Mordecai on it. That will make you happy when you go to the banquet tomorrow with the king and queen. Mordecai ordered the machine built right in front of his house. He wanted everyone to see Mordecai being punished for not bowing to him.