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.”

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.”

A Bump on the Head – Part 1

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 and 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, but 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!”

The Winter Water Hazard – Conclusion

Johnny then turned and looked all the way around him said with a more determined tone, “Let’s head toward gap in the trees over there. If we can get out of these woods, I’m sure we can get back to the farm house.”

Susie immediately perked up and said, “Ok Johnny, lead on.”

So off they went. Johnny led and Susie followed closely behind him. After a bit, they were walking shoulder to shoulder. Each time one stepped on and snapped a fallen twig or branch they both jumped slightly and moved closer together.

Twenty minutes later at the edge of the forest, the sky had cleared, and they found themselves in very bright sunlight standing on an overhang that looked down over the valley that contained Susie’s grandparent’s farm. They could see the farmhouse and barn in the distance.

“Wow! That sun is bright!” said Johnny, shielding his eyes. “How did we end up all the way over here?”

“I don’t know, but I guess we walked farther than we thought. Look! There’s the old pond down there,” said Susie pointing off to her right and her familiar smile returning to her face.

“Wow! Somehow we managed to walk completely around it and end up all the way up here.”

“How do we get down there? I sure don’t want to go back the way we came.”

Johnny then pointed to the right but lower than Susie had, “It looks like there’s a trail over there that might take us down there. All we have to do is to follow this overhang till we get to it.”

Beaming at Johnny, Susie said, “Well? What are we waiting for?”

“I think we need to thank God for getting us out of the forest.”

“That’s right, Johnnie, we do. Let’s do it now.”

Once again they joined in prayer. “Thank you, Lord, for bringing us out of the forest.  Now help us to get back to the farm safely.” They looked at each other, and both said, “Amen!”

So off they went walking along the edge of the overhang and sometimes hanging onto tree branches to keep their balance.

Just as they approached the trail, they realized that they would have to cross a shallow, but wide and mostly frozen-over creek to get to it.

After looking at the creek, Johnny turned to Susie and said, “Whoa! That looks too wide to jump.”

Susie began craning her neck looking up and downstream to see if there was another spot they could cross. “The underbrush is too thick to try anywhere else. It looks like we have to cross here or go back through the woods.”

Just then Johnny spotted a low branch hanging over the creek. “You know, we might be able to grab that branch and swing across.”

Before Susie could respond, Johnny had jumped up to grab the branch. He got a hold of it and began to swing but couldn’t hold on all the way across. He dropped onto the icy creek bed, and his feet immediately began to slide downstream.

Susie watched in horror as Johnny began to fall and reached out to catch him but only succeeded in grabbing his coat pocket. That grip on Johnny pulled her off balance toward the creek bed, and she fell toward him.

Soon the two of them were sliding down the iced over creek bed like it was a bobsled course. Johnny was feet first with Susie still gripping his pocket going down headfirst.

They careened downhill at getting faster by the minute, all the time bouncing off of the creek sides until they eventually shot out of the creek bed and across the old pond. At that point, they began spinning around like cartwheels.

They eventually came to a stop near the far side of the creek where they sat up and tried to get their bearings. Johnny was just about to speak up when they heard a familiar voice, “If you two are done with your ice dancing, maybe you’d like a ride back to the house.”

They looked up to see Susie’s Grampa Johnny with his horse drawn wagon at the edge of pond chuckling. Susie and Johnny looked at each other and then they began to laugh too.

Eber and the Tower – Part 6

Back at the home of Eber, there was a single knock at the door before it burst open in a sea of splinters and a dozen or more soldiers rushed in and began capturing all of the farmers at the meeting.

The commander of the guards approached Eber and said, “Be especially careful with this one. The king is particularly anxious to see him in the morning.” Turning to the rest of his troops the commander shouted, “All right get these rebels out to the wagons for their trip to prison and don’t be gentle about it!”

Adah and the other wives tried to get to their husbands only to be shoved away by the soldiers. Eber shouted to his wife, “Pray Adah, pray…the Lord will hear and protect us.”

Adah could only cry and slumped to the ground outside their home as she watched helplessly. The wagons, surrounded by torch-bearing soldiers, were driven back to the city. She felt as though she had not only lost her husband this night but both of her sons as well.

Several friends got her up and helped her inside. After a few moments of weeping, Adah sat up straight in her chair, dried her tears and said, “All right ladies, it’s our turn. We must intercede for our men and children before the Lord, and keep at it until they return to us.”

With that she slipped out of her chair, down to the floor on her knees and began to pray, the others doing the same. “Lord of heaven and earth, creator of all that is, God of Adam, Noah and Enoch, hear our humble prayers…”

# # #

The next morning in the royal chambers King Nimrod dressed in his finest royal robes and spoke tersely to the commander of his royal guard.

“Do you have them all assembled for me to address?”

Bowing low to the king, his commander replied, “Yes Your Majesty, all of the farmers are present including that troublemaker Eber.”

“What about the sons of those rebellious farmers? Are they present as well for me to make examples of?”

“Yes, your majesty, including the two sons of Eber.”

“One of them tried to cooperate with us did he not?”

“Yes your majesty, but it did not work. His father still continued to form a rebellion against your demands.”

“Well then, he didn’t try hard enough, did he? We shall make an example of him first.”

“As you command, sire.”

# # #

“Eber, where is the Lord now that we need Him?” one of the neighboring farmers asked him as they stood assembled in the courtyard awaiting the arrival of the king. “Now, not only am I at risk of losing my life, my son has been captured as well. Does the Lord not hear our cries or feel our pain?”

Eber stood silent for a moment whispering yet another plea to the Lord in his deeply troubled heart.

“Good friend, He hears our cries and feels our pain. But we must hold true and believe. We are standing in obedience to Him against King Nimrod whose only desire is to defy the living God. Great Grandfather Noah had a saying, ‘God is faithful, just you wait and see.’ I suggest that you be patient my friend. Wait and see what the Lord will do.”

# # #

As they stood in the courtyard opposite their fathers waiting for the appearance of the king, Peleg whispered to his brother, “Joktan, what is going on with you? Why won’t you talk to me? Tell me what you were doing with those guards last night? They didn’t have you tied up. You were sitting playing a game with them at the table. It didn’t look like you were their prisoner.”

Joktan stood silently refusing to answer his brother.

“Joktan! Talk to me! We risked our lives to rescue you!”

Joktan finally whipped around to face his older brother, “Well, it sounds like you have it figured out, don’t you? I was working with them to get Pop to see the light. You weren’t supposed to rescue me. Pop was supposed to see the light and sell the hay to the king. Everything would have been fine, but no you had to play the hero and try to free me.”

“But supporting the tower is wrong! Joktan, Pop says that the Lord wants people to scatter around the whole earth, not stay in one place. King Nimrod wants to build this tower as a tribute to himself and as an affront to the Lord. He thinks that he is more powerful than the Lord. That’s prideful and wrong!”

“Says who? Pop? He’s just basing that on some old stories about Great Great Grampa Noah that were passed down. Those things aren’t true. They’re just stories that people tell. I don’t believe ‘em. I believe in the king. He’s the one with the power to help us or to hurt us. I am on his side, and he’s gonna thank me for that before this is all over. You’ll see.”

“Joktan, I don’t believe what I am hearing you say. Are you rejecting everything you’ve been taught?”

“Yes, now be quiet, here comes the king. You’ll see how right I was to side with him. You’ll see.”