Tag Archives: faith issues

Free Chapter

Nothing Dyin'Blue Skin (Pt 1)

(Taken from When Kings Clash, J.E. Lowder)

“Vonn, Mälque, wake up,” their mother whispered as she jostled them from their sleep.

The boys, recognizing her voice, rolled over and opened sleepy eyes. Their mother stared at them with a wild look, her face aglow with bluish light from a MerriNoon firestick clutched in her hand. Despite its brightness, it was cool to the touch until heaved onto a stack of wood where it would spark with fire.

Mälque opened his mouth to ask a question and she clapped it shut with her free hand.

“Hush up. Listen. It’s your father. Somethin’s happened to him. Somethin’ bad. Now get up. I need your help, but be quiet. Don’t need anyone followin’ us.”

As the boys rose, she fired off more instructions. “Vonn, grab a shovel. Mälque, bring an extra firestick. Hurry.”

She spun on her heel and disappeared into the gloom.

They snickered.

“Here we go again,” Vonn mumbled as he searched for a shovel.

“Yeah,” Mälque huffed as he reached for their stash of firesticks. Like everything they possessed, these were acquired from thievery. “When is she gonna quit?”

When they were little, she took them on walks in the woods and pointed out what she ascribed were omens: A fresh pile of gor dung was a sign that death would visit their tribe; a white stag – rare indeed – prophesized that a chieftain would be born; a hawk feather was a portent that great fortune would come their way.

As they matured, they noted that more times than not, the grand events the omens foretold never occurred. Vonn found a hawk feather but riches never followed. Death often visited their tribe, with or without dung sightings. When Vonn and Mälque pressed her for an explanation, she reinterpreted the portents in light of a new day. They accepted her explanations faithfully until the day she heard whispers, voices from the dead. From that moment on, they dismissed her beliefs as Superstitious nonsense.

They grabbed their tools and caught up with her.

 

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Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 8

On the 8th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous paragraphs can be found in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

The south corridor is darker than usual, which is no surprise to Wendell: Doors remain shut when someone dies. Some hide. Some mourn. Some—like kids trying to ward off the Boogie-man—hope that wood, varnish, and steel will delay their fate.

Only one door is open. Yellow light spills into the gloomy corridor. He makes his way to Ira’s room and peers in.

The bed is made. A wheelchair sits in the corner. The room is empty.

A middle-aged man emerges from the bathroom holding some toiletries and spots Wendell hovering in the doorway.  

  “May I help you,” he asks as he makes his way to the bed where a duffel bag sits.

 “Ira Rubin. Is it true? He’s gone?”

 The man stashes the toiletries in the bag. “Went in his sleep.” He zips it shut. “Were you a friend?”

“I suppose, although now that I think about it, I wasn’t a very good one.”

The man grabs the bag and heads for the door. He extends his hand to Wendell. “I’m Cliff Rubin, Ira’s son.”

Wendell stares in disbelief at Cliff’s hand and then into his face. Hooked nose, close-set eyes, piercing gaze. Just like Ira.

He throws off his doubts, regains his wit, and shakes Cliff’s hand. “I’m Wendell Bennett. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Cliff sucks in air and gives a solemn nod. He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a white envelope.

“He left this for you.”

“What’s inside,” he asks, fearing the worst news possible.

“No idea; yours is sealed shut, just like mine was.” He taps the pocket holding his letter. “Kinda how he lived: all sealed up, keeping everyone away, all his thoughts secret.” Finger tap, tap, taps. “I sat on his bed for over an hour working up the courage to open it.” He pauses and draws in a deep breath. “Figured it was a suicide note.”

“Suicide…” Wendell staggers against the doorframe.

 “No,” Cliff says as he helps Wendell maintain his balance. “That came out wrong. I thought it was, but it turns out to be an apology.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 6

Merry Christmas!

On the 6th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous inserts can be found under “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy, & Miracles.” )

“Well if he’s in the kitchen, I want to file a complaint.”

“You just don’t get it, do you?”

Wendell sets his mug down. Jaw line is tight. “Look. I’m glad you’ve found something that gives you purpose, even joy, but it would take a miracle for me to believe again.”

  “A miracle?” There was excitement in Ira’s voice.

 Wendell crosses his arms. “I was speaking hypothetically.”

 “Hey, you started this. So I’m curious: what would you call a miracle?”

“Boy! For a guy with tubes crammed up his nose, you sure are a cocky-cuss!”

“And I thought a hot-shot lawyer like you would be more open-minded.”

“I am open-minded, Ira. I just know the difference between fantasy and reality.”

“So you’re scared.”

“Of what?”

“Truth. Love. Peace. Joy.”

“Please!”

“But what if miracles happen? Wouldn’t that make you consider another verdict about God?”

“Okay,” Wendell snaps; nostrils flare. “You want a miracle? I’ll give you one, but remember: You brought this on yourself.”

Wendell surveys the room and considers his options. He zeroes in on the group sitting off from the others. His years as a prosecutor kick in and he formulates his case in a matter of seconds, and as was his custom, begins with a feint. “I want God to give them joy.” He gestures at the woman cursing like a sailor. “Or make ole what’s-her-name shut up.”

Wendell turns, eyes narrow, and he delivers the real terms. “Better yet, how about a miracle for me and…” He points an index finger at Ira. “You.”

Ira doesn’t bat an eye. “Such as?”

“I want Ruth to give me a hug and a kiss tomorrow. And not something done in the spirit of Christmas, but the real deal.”

 Ira rubs his chin, whether to counter or in wonderment, Wendell is unable to discern.

  “And for you…” Wendell raises his finger like he did when making his closing arguments. “I want your son to visit on the same day.”

Ira’s eyes widen. “My son?” His voice is hollow.

“Yes. The one who never visits because of your quarrel.”

 Ira bites his lower lip.

Wendell sneers and sweeps an arm like a symphony conductor. “There, you see? Those can’t happen, not by tomorrow, so let the matter—”           

“I had a dream…”

Wendell’s arm plops to his side. “Ira, seriously, let it go.”

Ira gets a far away look. Fingers drum his chin as he mulls over Wendell’s requests. “Okay,” he says with a head nod, “tomorrow.”

Wendell’s mouth drops open in shock. “Tell me you’re joking!”

Ira’s determined expression tells him otherwise.

“Then you’re a bigger fool than I thought!”

“Perhaps.” Ira’s voice is silky-smooth. “But I’ll risk it all if it means you find joy this Christmas.”

Wendell’s blood boils, and he clinches his fists. “Then let’s raise the ante: if the

miracles don’t happen tomorrow, you promise to never, and I do mean never, talk to me about religion again.”

“And if they do?”

Wendell rolls his eyes. “They won’t.”

“Hey, a bet is a bet.”

“Fine.” He plants his hands on his hips. “I’ll go to the Christmas service.”

Ira considers his offer and gives him a faint smile. “Good. Then it’s settled.”

He flicks his joystick and rolls away.

Wendell stares after him in disbelief. “It’s not going to happen, Miracle Man.”

Ira rounds the corner and the oxygen tank chimes down the hall.


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 5

On the 5th day of Christmas: the next installment of the short story, The Miracle Man. (You can read previous portions in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

Wendell jerks away from the memory. “I used to have faith like yours.”

“Faith like mine?” Ira snorts. “The only time I set foot in a church was to get married. And you know how that ended.”

“But for the past month, all you’ve talked about is religion.”

Ira reaches for Wendell who instinctively steps back. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! I’ve found joy.”

Wendell smirks. “So what does she look like?”

Ira scowls and leans back in his wheelchair. “You do that a lot.”

“Do what?”

“Joke around when I hit on something uncomfortable.”

 Wendell takes a sip of tea and gives Ira a nod of respect. “Okay, I’ll bite: tell me how you found joy.”

Ira leans forward and gestures with his hands to illustrate his story. “It all started several months ago. I was feeling like one of those elephants in that Tarzan movie. You know, life’s over, nothing to live for, so many mistakes and regrets. Even thought about ending it all. But as fate would have it, Ruth dropped by. Something about her intrigued me.”

“It’s called sex appeal.”

Ira smirks. “See? There you go…”

“Okay, you were saying…

“Well, she’s always wearing a smile and seems, well, content. Anyway, we talk and she says it all has to do with her faith, so she hands me a Bible. I was skeptical, so I decided to read a chapter or two and if nothing happened, then I’d figure something else out.”

Ira looks over the top of his glasses. “Now I know this will sound crazy, but the words seemed to hop off the page and into me.” Ira taps his chest. “I haven’t been the same since. You wanna talk about joy?!”

“Look, just because you experienced euphoria doesn’t prove God exists. Maybe you should go see the doctor. I bet your meds are out of whack.”

 Ira, undeterred, wets his lips to deliver his final thought. “What I’m trying to tell you is this: I found God here in Villa Velencia.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 3

On the third day of Christmas: the next installment of the short story, The Miracle Man.

(Read previous portions in “Love, Joy & Miracles” in “Past Posts.”)

He eyes the carafes, pondering whether to have Constant Comment or coffee, when a familiar voice shouts: “Christmas!”

Ira Rubin, Wendell deduces without taking his eyes off the table. Salesman from Akron; south wing; wife died years ago; son never visits; the man is obnoxious as the day is long.

He drops his tea bag into the mug of steaming water and faces Ira. Racing toward him in a motorized wheelchair, green oxygen tank clanking like an alarm bell on a destroyer, is a bespectacled man with close-set eyes. Strands of hair sway like Kansas wheat, and his over-the-ear oxygen tubes accentuate his wrinkled face.

“Christmas,” Ira fires at close range.

Same old Ira! Manipulates you into a conversation you never want to have. Lately, the topic is religion. But since it’s almost Christmas, I guess I can humor him…

“What about it,” Wendell asks as he stirs his tea.

“Does it bring you joy?”

“No. But I hear the cafeteria’s serving fried joy, sautéed joy, joy ala mode…”

“Very funny.” Ira sizes up Wendell. “Seriously, what’s your answer?”

 Wendell sips his tea. “It’s the same as it was yesterday and the day before that: no.”

“I figured as much, which reminds me, did I ever tell you about the Christmas I made the sale of a lifetime?”

“As a matter of fact–”

“Coldest December Akron’s ever seen. Sales were down, China was manufacturing for less, and Christmas was a few weeks away. In my business, Christmas was the valley of death for sales.”

“Just like the cave in that Tarzan movie.”

“Huh?”

“Remember that old Johnny Weissmuller film? The one where he follows those elephants behind a waterfall?”

Ira shoots a finger into the air. “Yeah, I remember that one! They go there to die and poachers try to steal their tusks. Well, it’s just like that only worse.”

Wendell swirls his tea. “Naturally.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 2

On the second day of Christmas: The continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man.

Wendell reaches The Commons of Villa Velencia and stops to get his bearings. In the center of the large room is a big-screen TV. The faithful huddle on sofas and loveseats to watch the morning game show. Scattered about the TV are sitting areas where other members gather. Some play cards. Some read. Some converse.

For the most part, he acknowledges, Villa Velencia lives up to its claims: elegance and amenities for those who can afford it. But there are some things not even money can disguise… He braces himself before checking on the cluster sitting in a shadowed corner. “…or change.”

They are phantoms of themselves; minds melting like wax near a flame. One entertains invisible guests; a petite woman hurls vulgarities; one man rocks back and forth incessantly. The others stare into space with eyes frosted over like panes of glass against a deep frost.

“Retirement villa,” he muses. Look at us! We’re like elephants in that Tarzan movie marching to a waterfall to die.

 “Good morning, Wendell!”

 He turns his attention to the feminine voice.

Ruth Tucker: South wing; husband passed some time ago; nice woman; attractive smile…

Her eyes twinkle with child-like exuberance, and for a split second, Wendell gets a glimpse of her when she was twenty. His emotions flair; he looks away to regain his composure.

“Are you going to join us?” She pulls her shawl close. “The shuttle is leaving soon for the mall.”

 He notes the white microbus warming up outside the glass doors. Snow dusts the tinted windows.

 “Why in blazes would I want to go to the mall?”

 “Because it’s almost Christmas!”

“Oh yeah, ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ We buy things we don’t need for those we don’t like, and churches visit us to ease their conscience. Or is it to appease an angry God? Never mind, the fact is we’re alone 11 months like Tarzan’s elephants and…”

He catches himself, and despite his tirade, Ruth is all smiles. “I’m sorry. I must sound like Scrooge.”

She pulls her hand out from beneath her shawl and pats his forearm. “No need to apologize: I’m used to your moods. Should you change your mind, we’d love to have you tag along. Might do you good.”

She turns to join the others gathering near the doors. They spot him and wave him over. He ignores them and heads for the table holding hot beverages.


Who Needs A Friend?

People Who Need People

The older I get the more I appreciate my friends. They’ve stood beside me when others have walked away. They’ve listened when others preached. But they also risked our relationship to tell me the hard stuff about myself or the situation I was in. It’s one thing to hear the truth. It’s another to accept, embrace, and change. Sometimes I listened. And then there were the other times…

Together is Better

Sherlock had Watson. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Batman had Robin. They were inseparable. Can you even imagine one without the other?  As a writer, I wanted to create a similar bond between the main characters in Tears of Min Brock.  I drew from my own experiences (the good, the bad, the ugly) to add color and depth  so they seemed lifelike. At least that was my intent. 🙂

So here’s hoping you have a few friends to share life with and who love you, warts and all! 🙂

The following is the “FREE” post of Tears of Min Brock, Chapter 2

“Can’t you see?” Elabea said, her voice full of emotion. “If we cannot read, how can we discern true stories from false? You’ve taught us that Claire was destroyed in the war. But doesn’t this parchment tell otherwise?”

Mithe stepped between Elbea and the mob.

“Then allow me to tell you a short story,” Mithe countered, her saggy cheeks wobbling back and forth. “Long ago, during the Dark War, we received parchments just like the one you’re holding. My husband and two sons journeyed to Claire to answer the invitation, as did your father. They were made warriors and began to fight along side the King of Claire.

“In a great battle at Min Brock, the men of Allsbruth were trapped and outnumbered. The Ebonites destroyed them with no mercy, butchering them upon the Gilden Plains! My husband! My sons!! Killed for what? For a parchment from the…” She stopped before her tongue spoke the forbidden name. “He, the one who sent the parchments, did nothing to help, and they died like dogs!”

Mithe enjoyed the pain and distress her words were causing Elabea. She continued her story.

“Your father has never told you his tale, has he?”

Elabea shook her head.

Mithe snickered.

“Quinn, the mighty leader of Hetherlinn, has never told you why he and Gundin were the only survivors of Min Brock?”

Elabea’s eyes became as big the moon. She bit her lip to quell the tears.

“Ah!” Mithe gloated. “Evidently not! Then here is the truth: Your father is a coward! He betrayed us all! Your father and Gundinshould be dead! Not our men! Not my men!

“Now get rid of that cursed parchment before we do it for you!”

The mob rushed forward.

“STOP!”

The voice came from the shadow of a tree behind cottage Number 7. Galadin emerged from the shade and stood beside Elabea.

“Look at this!” the widow snapped, her long finger wiggling at Galadin like a serpent. “Behold the son of Gundin. The greatest warrior to ever walk Hetherlinn! Where is your father now, boy?”

Galadin stiffened his back and glared at her. “Leave Elabea alone! Go back to your worries!”

Mithe continued undeterred. “I’ll tell you where your father is! Mad he is, lost in his old dreams! You’re the son of a madman, Galadin! One day, you’ll join his insanity!”

Galadin’s eyes became slits of rage but he held his tongue. He leaned close to Elabea and whispered, “Let’s get out of here before they charge us.”

She took his hand and he led her toward his cottage, all the while keeping an eye on the unruly crowd. They continued to hurl threats and curses, and even threw stones.


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