The Garden Gate – Part One

It was one of those days. You know the kind I mean. One of those days in late summer that you can actually smell summer in the air. That heavy, sweet smell that hangs thickly over the ground as you walk. Amanda found herself thinking that a small breeze would be as welcome as an ice cream cone. She was out taking a long afternoon walk and had decided to look for some wildflowers to put on the dinner table. Her mom always liked to do that when she was alive and when Amanda did it, it made her dad smile. She loved making her dad smile. He did far too little of that these days.

Thinking about her mom made her sad. Thinking about seeing her dad not smiling because he missed her mom so much, made her even more sad. She tried to pray when she felt this way. Somehow, talking to God, even without words, helped to ease her sadness. She began to sing an old hymn that she had heard and sung in their little church.

There is a balm in Gilead

To make the wounded whole;

There is a balm in Gilead

To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,

And think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit

Revives my soul again.

This is what she found herself doing today, walking, singing and talking with God in the summer sun.

She wasn’t actually paying attention to the time as she walked this afternoon. School wasn’t going to start up again for another few weeks and she was relishing the freedom to waste an entire afternoon. She had left the house shortly after lunch to find the flowers, so she was just wandering in the fields east of the house along the edge of the woods the bordered their property, picking flowers as she went.

Something drew her in the direction of the tall trees, perhaps it was the thought of some shade and cool breezes. Perhaps, it was something else. She never really thought about it. She just found herself headed toward the woods and when she entered the shadows of the forest, the coolness of the air nearly caused her to shiver. It was like entering a different world. One that was fresh and green. Those were welcome feelings on such a hot sticky afternoon. It was also lush with sounds that she had not heard just a minute before.

As she walked through the thick woods, she saw the most unusual thing. There was a garden gate. It was just a little, simple white wooden garden gate, slightly open with no fence on either side. Curious, she thought to herself as she walked over to it and looked for just a minute. Though not freshly painted, it did not look neglected. Then she touched it, just to make sure it was real. She swung it all the way open, then back and forth. There was just a slight squeak. Finally, she walked through it and, instinctively closed it. The woods seemed different on this side of the gate and there was a path that she hadn’t seen just a minute before. She decided to follow it. She was curious now.

She distinctly heard the call of an owl and then the sound of the breeze moving the branches of the trees that surrounded her on the path. Now there was the sound of the creek that bordered her farm and provided them with water and many fish suppers. She could not recall ever having seen this part of it before. That struck her as a little odd, but it was surprisingly restful and Amanda began to feel just the slightest bit tired. As she came near the creek, she decided to sit at the base of a gigantic tree and rest. No sooner had she sat down and leaned up against the tree that her eyelids became very heavy and she drifted off to sleep, a very deep sleep. She could hear the hooting of that owl again as she passed into unconsciousness thinking that it was odd to hear an owl in the daytime.

Oliver Rides the Bus

Because it is baseball season …

Oliver Rides the Bus

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.

“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!”

 

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

Oops! I just realized that I have not posted the conclusion to this story. Here is the link to part 1 so you can read them together. http://wp.me/p19Ob2-f8 And now, the conclusion of this short, fun story.

* * *

He climbed back up very slowly, took out his phone and took several shots of the tree house workshop and the thieves. One of the thieves must have heard the little shutter sound the camera made because one of them turned and started toward him.

Elwood flew down so fast he almost fell, then he ran toward the police station as fast as he could. But, he tripped on his still untied shoe lace and did the most splendid face plant ever seen in all of history and nearly knocked himself silly.

“Ok, another dumb move!” His head was spinning round and he saw all sorts of blinking lights.

“I really need to tie that shoe.”

“There he is!” came a voice from the bike thieves tree.

Elwood looked and saw two huge boys running toward him and they did not look like they wanted to help him.

Without getting his shoe tied, he jumped up and headed for the police station again. When he got to the street, the light at the crosswalk was red and a lot of traffic was whizzing by.

“There he is just waiting for us!”

Elwood turned and saw the two boys running hard after him.

“Uh oh! I better get going somewhere!”

Elwood ran to the left. The police station was down that direction anyway and he could cross the street when it was clear.

After running two blocks without tripping, he saw the police station across the street. He looked both ways, saw that the traffic was clear enough for him to cross the street.

He crossed without tripping and was almost in front of the police station when the two bigger boys caught up to him. Each grabbed an arm and jerked him to a stop.

The one on his right said, “No you don’t twerp! You’re not gonna squeal on us!”

The one on his left pulled him around so he was facing away from the station, put his face right in front of Elwood’s. “Yeah, because if you do, we’ll pound you to a bloody pulp.”

Just then a voice came from behind him. “Is there some sort of trouble here boys?”

It was Uncle Jim’s voice!

The first boy stiffened. “Oh no … officer … sir, we were just …”

Elwood wrenched himself out of the boys grasp and turned around, “Oh yes, there is Uncle Jim!”

The two boys took off running back across the street towards the park.

Uncle Jim put his hand on his shoulder. “What’s going on here, Elwood?”

Elwood then explained the whole story and showed him the pictures from his phone. Uncle Jim took him inside the station, sat him down in the waiting area, talked to the sergeant and showed him the pictures on Elwood’s phone. The sergeant nodded, picked up the phone and spoke briefly. Then two officers walked in, talked to the Uncle Jim for a minute and then headed back down a long hallway.

Uncle Jim sat next to him, “We have been trying to catch this ring of bike thieves for over a month. You’ve given us just the break we needed. Come show me where this tree is.”

They stood up and started to walk toward the door but, Elwood tripped on his shoelace again.

“Can I please tie my shoelace first?”

Uncle Jim chuckled, “You bet!”

“Oh, and one more thing,” Elwood reached into his backpack and pulled out a book. “Can we stop by the library? My mom will kill me if I don’t get this book returned today.”

Oogie’s New Foolproof Plan – Conclusion

Ralphie looked around and, sure enough, they were. And so was everything else in the room. Oogie was trying to swim through the air over toward the bacon but only got himself completely turned around and was about to bump into the wall, nose end first.

“Oogie, my stomach doesn’t feel so good!” complained Raph.

Lucille was now floating over toward Ralphie and Oogie, “Hey, this isn’t so bad once you get the hang of it.”

“Well, maybe not for you, Lucille, but we still haven’t gotten any bacon, and it looks like you’re going to miss out on the cream you wanted too.” said Oogie.

“Don’t be too sure about that Oogie, I have myself aimed right at it and will soon have all I want. You just need to get planted on one of the walls so that you can launch yourself toward what you want and the cream is just about mine.”

Lucille was approaching the cream and opening up her mouth to capture one of the floating globs of cream.

“Yummy!” she purred. “Now to get to the other wall and launch myself back for more.”

Oogie watched closely and then twisted himself around and tried to kick off the wall so that he would be aimed at one of the pieces of floating bacon. But he pushed off too hard and flew right past the piece he wanted. It was just out of his reach.

“Darn, I need to push off a little lighter.” he said to himself as he twisted around to get another shot at the bacon of his dreams.

He was just about to push off when Ralphie sailed by and snatched the piece he wanted.

“Mmm-hmm! Thish ish really good bacon, Oogie!” Ralphie said while chomping the delicious morsel down.

“I take it your stomach is doing better now, Ralph?”

“It sure is! That bacon really hit the spot!” Ralphie said with a chuckle.

“Whee! This is fun!” squealed Lucille as she shot by gobbling up another floating blob of cream.

“It sure is!” said Ralphie as he zoomed by and snatching pieces two and three out of the air.

Oogie took aim at the last piece of bacon and was careful not to push too hard this time. He had his aim just right and was just about to snatch it when the alarm stopped sounding, and the whirling lights retracted back into the ceiling. At the same time, things stopped floating in the air and headed straight for whatever was beneath them. The gravity was back on, and Oogie missed his mark and fell to the floor instead.

The last thing he saw was the bacon dropping alongside him and then…nothing.

When Oogie’s eyes opened again, the kitchen was a complete shambles with stuff scattered everywhere on the floor, table top and counters. His head was pounding, and his stomach was growling.

“Oogie, are you ok?” Ralphie asked.

“I think so, everything is a little blurry,” Oogie replied.

“Well, it’s good to know that a knock on the head just knocks you out and doesn’t kill you. I guess your head’s too hard for that.” Lucille said with a little laugh in her voice.

“I almost had that last piece of bacon too, darn!” moaned Oogie.

“Yeah, you came mighty close.” Lucille snickered.

“Yeah, Oogie, about that last piece…um.” said Ralphie almost under his breath.

“Where is it, Ralphie? You got the other three, where is the last one?”

“Umm … well, you see it was like this—”

“Like what? I saw it falling with me. I almost had it.”

Lucille started walking away and snickered. “I’ll just let you two sort this out. Bye, fellas! Call me the next time you have a big foolproof plan.”

“Ralphie?”

“Oogie, don’t get mad. It wasn’t my fault.”

Oogie stood up and moved close to Ralphie until they were almost nose to nose.

“What wasn’t your fault? Come on, Ralphie, where is that last piece of bacon?”

“It’s just that it landed … right … in … my … mouth. It was an accident!”

“What? How can a piece of bacon just land in your mouth?”

“Well, I sort of landed on top of you with my mouth up and – well – it just dropped right into my mouth. I—just—gobbled it down out of reflex. I’m sorry, Oogie.”

“Of all the bad luck …”

“Oh no, Oogie. This really was your best plan ever!”

Oogie just turned away and muttered to himself. “All my planning, down the drain. Gonna have to think of another plan now… Hmmm, that just might work!”

Oogie’s New Foolproof Plan – Part 2

“Say Oogie, you know what? I’m … I’m … gonna head … outside to look for that lost bone. I think it’s in the hydroponics lab,” said Ralphie heading out the pet door.

“Oh, come on Lucille, I was just explaining it to Ralphie in a way he would understand. You know he wasn’t the brightest pup in the litter.”

“Well, neither were you Oogie. So tell me, what’s in this for me if I decide to help you?”

“Uh, Lucille, I hadn’t really thought about that. What would you like?”

“It did occur to me that, in addition to bacon being on the table at breakfast time, they also put a pitcher of cream for their coffee. I’ll provide a distraction for you if you’ll also get that down for me. Do we have a deal?”

“Well, I don’t know …”

“Oogie, all you have to do is knock over the cream pitcher.”

“Um … um … I don’t know …”

“Oogie, all you have to do is knock over the cream pitcher. I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Can Ralphie and I get a taste of the cream too?”

“Oh sure, you can grab some to go with the bacon. It’s a little hard to carry.”

“Oh … yeah … Ok, we’ll do it for you. Here’s the plan, first thing tomorrow morning …”

The next morning, Oogie and Ralphie headed to the kitchen just like they did every morning. But, Lucille was nowhere to be seen.

Ralphie looked at Oogie and said, “What do we do if she doesn’t show?”

“We go back to our first plan and just hope we’re fast enough to get away with it …”

“I hope so because that bacon smells really good and it’s makin’ me extra hungry … but …”

“But what?”

“I keep thinking about that broom over there. I got spots that still hurt.”

“Oh look, Ralphie, there she is. It’s showtime as soon as that bacon hits the table.”

“The bacon is going to hit the table? What if it bounces someplace we can’t get to it? That would be horrible.”

“Huh? What?”

“We’d probably get blamed for it and then get hit with that broom again!”

“No Ralphie, it’s just an expression meaning that the bacon will be put onto the table. It’s not going to bounce anywhere until we knock it off the table.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Now quiet down, I need to keep an eye on Lucille.”

“Oogie …”

“Shh, quiet Ralphie, I’m watching. What? Where’d she go?”

“Ha! Not so foolproof — again!”

“You’re not helping, Ralph!”

“Oogie …”

“Quiet Ralphie, I’m thinking …”

“Oogie …”

Ralphie, I’m …”

“Oogie, I found Lucille.”

“Huh? What? Where?”

“Look up at the ceiling.”

Oogie looked up at the kitchen ceiling and saw Lucille floating gracefully through the air in a sort of spiral pattern. She was clawing the air frantically trying to get right-side up but, she just continued to rotate over and over.

“Oogie, is this what you meant when you said your new foolproof plan was going to be completely different?”

A shrill wavering siren began to blare, and a swirling flashing red light lowered itself from the ceiling.

“That doesn’t sound good, Oogie.”

“It doesn’t look so good either. I think the space station gravity system is broken again.”

“The what? How do you know that?”

“Because we’re floating now too.”

Oogie’s New Foolproof Plan – Part 1

Oogie’s New Foolproof Plan

“Oogie, are you sure this is gonna work? Your last idea landed us in the doghouse for a solid week.”

“Ralphie, we’re dogs, we always sleep in the doghouse.”

“Yeah, but it’s worse when they put you on half rations.”

“Oh Ralphie, forget all that. This is the best plan I had ever had. It is foolproof. It…is…stupendous!”

“No way! Your last plan was foolproof too. I still have bruises from the broom swats.”

“That won’t happen this time. No brooms, no way!”

“Well, all right…but only if you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.”

“So, how is this plan different? You scare me when you get this excited about one of your plans ‘cause I’m always the one that gets hurt.”

“That won’t happen this time. No way!”

“Ok, you said that already. What is this foolproof plan, Mr. Big Brains?”

“Last time we went after the bacon too soon.”

“Too soon?”

“Yes, too so. We tried to get it from that pan on the stove. We knocked it over, and bacon grease went flying everywhere.”

“Everywhere but our mouths. Most of it landed on the floor.”

“Uh, yeah. So when we did get the bacon, we couldn’t get away with it because of the grease all over the floor too. It was too slippery. We got caught.”

We knocked it over? Let’s get that part straight right now. You knocked it over!”

“Ok, ok, I knocked it over, but you were supposed to grab it and run away with it.”

“Oh yeah, I was just supposed to grab it before it hit the floor. But, it turned out to be impossible with that pan flying straight at me.”

“I suppose my aim could have been a little better.”

“Yeah, and that grease was hot too! I nearly got splattered with it, after I dodged the pan. Then, when I did grab the bacon, I couldn’t get any traction on the floor because of the grease… And then…there was the broom. Ewww! It makes me shiver all over just to think about it.”

“Never mind all that. This time it’s going to be completely different.”

“Ok, maybe. How?”

“I got it all figured out.”

“You do, huh?”

“Yeah, think about it. What happens to the bacon after they cook it?”

“Doh! They eat it!”

“Slow down speedy brain. What happens to it before that?”

“I dunno. They just put it on a plate and eat it. That’s all.”

“That’s right. What happens after they put it on the plate and before they eat it? Think!”

“Hmmm…it sits and cools off while they get the rest of their breakfast ready?”

“Exactly. And we need to get to it while they are distracted with the eggs, toast, juice and coffee.”

“Hey! That’s right! That plan could…wait a minute. How are we going to get it off the plate without being noticed?”

“Heh heh heh! That’s the fun part. We use the cat for a diversion. I’m a genius! That’s what I am, a gen-ee-us!”

“Hold on just a minute, Mister Genius! How are we going to get Lucille to go along with helping us? Her whole mission in life is to make us miserable.”

“That right, and so we play a little trick on her, and she plays right into our plan without even knowing it.”

“Oh, we are huh? And just how will we do that Mr. Genius?”

“Yes, just how were planning on doing that Oogie?” came a feline voice from the kitchen counter above Oogie.

“Huh? Oh hi, Lucille! How is my favorite feline?”

“Don’t even bother trying to be nice to me, Oogie. I know how you feel. I overheard you trying to set me up for the blame on your next bacon caper.”

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!”

No one seemed to notice him, so he climbed back down to a lower branch and started thinking about what he had to do to get his bike back.

His brain was working rapid fire coming up with ideas and tossing them out as impractical. Finally, he thought of three possible ideas.

First, he could climb back up and steal his bike back. That wouldn’t work though because the guys up in the tree were all bigger than he was.

Second, he could round up all his friends but, even with all of his friends they probably couldn’t overpower those guys and force them to give him his bike back.

“I’ll go to Uncle Jim; he’s a police officer.”

“But wait, he’s going to want proof!”

He reached into his pocket for his “Emergency Only” phone.

“It has a camera and this is an emergency.”