Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You Can Count on Me

The time is upon us where we as citizens have the right to speak and choose. Actually, it's more than a right, or even a privilege, but I propose to you that it is a duty to stand up and vote. Those of you who have followed my blog will recognize this story. It has become a tradition for me to post this story during the election season. I want for it to serve as a reminder of our obligation as a citizen to stand and be counted.

You Can Count on Me

Wendell Ingles sat in the center of a large prayer circle. His friends and family surrounded him and beseeched God for His favor and grace. They had been praying at the church for the better part of an hour and were just about to close the prayer meeting. Brother Jeff finished a lengthy and detailed examination of a Christian’s duty to serve as the nation’s moral compass and ended with, “…and all the saints said…”

“Amen.” The group sounded in unison. Jeff dabbed the tears out of his eyes and offered a hand to Wendell, who was still sitting in his chair in the middle of a now emptying room. “Brother, I really felt the Lord ministering to us tonight.”

“Yes, so did I,” Wendell agreed. “I believe that the Lord is leading us, I mean, me,” he smiled, “to run the race set before me. Since the Lord has put this idea in my heart, I have no choice but to follow it.”

“To not follow it is sin, and we don’t want that.”

“Yes, thank you, Jeff. I suppose that I can count on your vote?”

Jeff stretched his hand. “I want to be the first to shake hands with our new mayor.”

One by one the church members walked past him and shook his hand, each of them assuring him that their vote was a sure thing. The men would slap him on the back and say things like, “We expect great things out of you” and “Don’t forget the little people.”


The small community of Sand Bend, a town located along the banks of the Salt Fork of the Brazos River, and just south of the county seat, Justice, began with a population that was just over 10,000 people at the turn of the century. Sand Bend was a mining town that specialized in salt and cotton, but as the years advanced, the salt mine dwindled and the cotton industry was all that remained. Now the town survived on a steadily declining populace of 3,000 people—most of whom were old and getting older. Of those who were registered to vote, only a third traditionally voted in an election year, but only if that year bore the weight of a presidential election. At best, the government of Sand Bend would ultimately be determined by less than a thousand socially conscious members of the community.

As his campaign progressed over the rest of the year, Wendell counted 200 people who were absolutely committed to him and assured him of their votes. He still needed at least 200 more votes to guarantee a victory, and the election was still almost a full year away. From the Barber Shop to the Old Salt Café, the townspeople generally stopped Wendell to offer him their support and to wish him good luck.

Wendell had been a public personality for several years. He first ran for office in a school board election. He had noticed that the members of the current school board had been seated so long that they no longer had any children who were still in school, but were making decisions as if they were still living in the past twenty years. The school was falling into disrepair and the busses constantly needed mechanical attention. The prevailing opinion of the board was, “it has worked for us all these years, why change now?” The last member to have a child in the school was Jimmy White, and his son graduated over eight years ago. Change was needed, but no one was willing to step up to the plate and take charge. Wendell listened to the community complain beyond the ears of the school board long enough to realize that no citizen was willing to commit to the problem. Therefore, he ran for school board and was elected by an overwhelming majority. Over the next 12 years, he fostered new policies and hired a superintendent that had a vision to see a small town school become a modern and effective educational force. Slowly, the school population grew as people from the nearby town of Justice realized that Sand Bend, despite its size, offered a higher quality of education. Soon, the entire county was paying attention to Sand Bend Independent School District as it began to receive awards and recognition from the state. Wendell had generated positive change for all of Justice County and was recognized for his contribution. His final act of responsibility was to step down from the school board when his youngest son graduated. The entire community begged him to reconsider, but he realized that the school would only grow stagnant if some new ideas and new people weren’t introduced to the system. He had fulfilled his purpose; it was time to move on and let someone else take up the reigns.

He considered himself removed from politics until the current mayor, David Donaldson, decided to build an enormous hospital upon the backs of the small tax base. The town didn’t need a new hospital, as Justice was only 15 miles away, and Justice had an 85 bed medical system that was perfectly adequate for their part of West Texas. Mayor Donaldson was simply making a grave mistake, but no one was able to convince him otherwise. Sand Bend couldn’t support a 15 million dollar hospital, but they were about to build one, unless someone stepped in with a voice of reason. So Wendell, once again realizing that no one was willing to be responsible, threw his hat into the ring and filed his candidacy for Mayer of Sand Bend, at a cost of $500.00 filing fee.

As 2003 turned into 2004, Wendell placed his third order for political signs that read, “A vote for Wendell is a vote against the hospital.” The signs were in practically every yard throughout the town of Sand Bend. Wendell’s campaign appeared to be a sure thing.

However, a very desperate Mayer Donaldson refused to give up without a fight. Using fear tactics, he convinced all the senior citizens that the hospital in Justice was threatening to close and that they would no longer have medical care available. Then he promised the local businesses that the materials for hospital construction would be purchased in their stores. Slowly, greed and fear began to replace reason and logic. Then the Mayer began to play upon social issues and campaigned that the facilities in the adjoining medical complex could house the only abortion clinic within 75 miles. The Mayer then decided to promise internet access in the library that was dedicated to research pornography sites, so that the beauty of the human body could be expressed, for those who appreciate art. Donaldson also revealed his vision of proposing an adult bookstore and a liquor store. The race began to heat up.

In the last week before the election, Wendell made one last attempt to secure his voter base. His various friends throughout the community all guaranteed their vote, but that was only a total of 220. He still needed another 200 votes to assure a victory. He still had not counted his friends at his local church, whose membership was well over 275 steady members.

On that Sunday morning, Wendell stood and made a short speech about his concerns for the future of Sand Bend. When he mentioned the moral and social implications of the proposed abortion clinic and the internet porn access at the library, the congregation shouted amen until he was proud to be a member of the church. He then pointed out that the risk of losing this election would mean an unbearable tax burden upon the property owners. Again, the church shouted approval of his position against the liquor store and the proposed pornography access and applauded until their hands were sore. After the service, he stood in the back of the church with the pastor and shook hands with all of the members, who repeatedly swore their allegiance to him.

That Monday morning, the newspaper published the results of the poll taken over the weekend. The projected winner of the election was clearly predicted to be Wendell by a margin of 70 percent. Sand Bend was not ready for a liberal social reform; Mayer Donaldson had overplayed his hand. The voters were confident that Wendell was to be elected Mayer and protect their interests.


On Tuesday, as the polls closed, Mayer Donaldson sat at the local bar and soaked his troubles in a bottle of gin. He hardly noticed when the phone rang in the distance. He only wanted the miserable election to be over. He could hardly imagine how bad his losses must be. Only 30 percent of the voters approved of his candidacy, and most of them were the senior citizens that were convinced the hospital in Justice was going to close. He saw the bartender approach him with the phone in hand. This was it. The Court House was calling to notify him of the tragic results. Just get it over with….


Wednesday morning was a buzz of activity as Sand Bend emerged from a night of fitful sleep. One by one the good citizens unrolled the morning newspaper to confirm the victory of the votes from the night before. One by one the shock and dismay experienced by each member of the community was felt as the earthquake of reality overwhelmed them all. The headlines read, “Mayer Donaldson Re-elected in Landslide Victory.”

It seems that the entire community was so certain that Wendell was going to win that only 25 people turned out to vote for him. Donaldson won by an enormous 200 to 25. The next Sunday in church, every member of the congregation expressed their regrets and promised him that they were one of the twenty five that had voted.

I'll see you at the poles!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Charity's Shadow Part V

With this final chapter, we bring the story of Ben and Charity to a close. Thank you for your patience. I miscalculated when I first divided the story for posting, which caused me to drag it out a little longer than necessary. I hope no one was injured!


Charity's Shadow--The Finale

On Monday morning, Ben arrived at work early as was expected of him. Edna was busy sweeping and failed to notice when he walked in. When she saw him, she screeched and clutched her chest. “Sweet Moses in the river, you gave me a start.”

Ben was standing taller than before. “Sorry, Edna. Are you okay?”

She pressed imaginary wrinkles from her apron. “That’s a question everyone seems to be asking me these last few days. So, how was your date?” On cue, he turned and let her see his right cheek and the shiner he sported. “Merciful Heaven. What happened?”

Ben gave a Reader’s Digest version of what happened to him, politely eliminating any references to their osculatory behavior. He explained how Rocky attacked him and then proceeded to pummel him until Chasity could get between them.

Edna frowned. “Ben, I’m old fashioned, and I don’t understand why you didn’t try to defend yourself.”

It was Ben’s turn to frown. “It’s because I drank that iced tea. They must have put something in it that affected me. I was feeling pretty good, but I had almost no control over what I was doing.” He sat on a stool near the refrigerator that housed the roses. “I was in way over my head. I didn’t belong to such a fast crowd. I feel as though I’m lucky to be standing here.” His lips curled in distress. “It was exciting, and I almost got swept away with the excitement, but I didn’t belong there. My mother raised me better than to go drinking and carousing.”

“And fighting,” Edna pointed out with a mischievous smile.

“And fighting.” Ben stood and stretched. “Man, Rocky could hit like a pro. I must have looked like a fool laying there getting beaten.”

Edna was discontent. “I just can’t imagine Charity behaving like that. She seems like such a sweet girl. I’d never have guessed she was so racy.”

“Well, I’m done with women. They are just too painful.”

The grandmother in her reached out to him. “Now, now. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. We just misjudged the qualities of that woman. We’ll find you another.” She turned to her clipboard. “I have a delivery over at the hospital. Could you run this one over to room 549? It’s for a friend of mine who has cancer.”

He reached for the potted plant in her hand. “I’ll be right back.”

A few minutes later, Charity stepped through the door and lingered over the daffodils on the counter. “These are so pretty,” she mused.

Edna looked up when she heard her voice. “Had a good time this weekend, did you?”

Charity smiled and didn’t seem to notice the icy tone in her voice. “I did!” She quizzically glanced at her. “How did you know?”

Edna frowned. “Ben told me.”

Charity tilted her head. “Ben? I didn’t know you knew Ben.”

“Of course I do.” Edna moved to the counter and picked at some yellow leaves on an ivy. “Don’t you feel bad about what happened?”

“With Ben?” She was almost sarcastic. “He deserved to get beaten like that.”

Edna was stirred to anger, but held her tongue. “Deserved?”

“Why, he was strutting around, telling everyone that he was the king of the hill. I had to put him back in his place.” She laughed at the memory. “You should have seen him a few minutes later. That boy never saw it coming.”

“That’s the truth. But did he deserve to be humiliated?”

Again, a silly smile brightened her face. “You should have heard him bragging about how good he was. Why, when I delivered that first ringer, he was shocked. He knew then it was over.”

Edna faced her with hands on her hips. “What? It was you who beat him?”

“Of course it was me. That’s what’s funny about the whole thing.”

“But,” she stopped to think. “But he said it was your boyfriend.”

“Edna, you know I don’t have a boyfriend.” She lifted her eyebrow. “What made you think it was my boyfriend?”

Edna stopped to consider that. “Well, it’s what he said. Ben told me it was…” She lifted her hand to her mouth. “I can imagine how embarrassing that must have been. He was beaten by a girl.”

Charity playfully flexed a muscle. “And severely beaten, I might add.” She glanced at her watch. “Oops, look at the time. I better get to work.” She stepped onto the sidewalk and yelled over her shoulder. “I’ll see you in the morning!”

Edna turned to her stool and leaned into her knees in deep thought. “Why would Ben lie to me about what happened? Was he ashamed that he was beaten up by a girl? Or, was he simply being a gentleman and refused to strike a woman?” She heard his shoes shuffle on the sidewalk as he returned from his delivery. She saw him glance over his shoulder and linger by the door for a moment. He seemed lost in thought a moment, unaware that he was being observed. “Are you okay, Ben?”

Her question brought him back to himself. “Yes. Your friend said to say hello to you.”

“Mr. Jameson and I grew up together. I’m sorry to see him suffer so.”

“He had a good attitude about his condition. I sat with him a few minutes.” He smiled to Edna. “I hope it was okay to do that.”

“Of course.” She waved him off as if his concerns were unfounded. “I’m sorry about Charity. I heard the truth about what happened.”

He was silent a moment. “So, she came by again?”

“Just as she does each morning. Why didn’t you tell me that she was the one who hurt you?”

He considered her words. Was it Rocky who hurt him, or the fact that Chasity and Rocky reunited while he lay on the ground with a bloody nose? Perhaps it was the humiliation of being left lying in the sand while his date affectionately greeting his tormentor. Either way, he couldn’t think about Chasity without recalling some level of pain. “Well, women are mean,” he said dismissively. “Either way, I’m through with women.” He smiled weakly. “My museum job will offer better company, so long as it’s full of mummies.”

The phone rang and Edna took another delivery order, which she handed to Ben. “This is going to the hospital to a young lady admitted over the weekend. Before you go, I have to make a confession. Would you sit down for a moment?” She waited until he was settled in and she had his attention. “When I hired you, it was just so you could meet my friend. I’m sorry that didn’t work out. I had a good feeling about you two, but I have learned my lesson. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to keep you on at 12 dollars an hour. My profits are already small and I simply can’t afford you. I’m sorry to do this while you’re down, but I have to let you go.” She reached for his hand and affectionately patted it. “You can finish the week and then that will be the end.”

He nodded. “Well, it was understood that this was a temp job when I agreed to work for you. I understand.” He squeezed her hand in return. “I appreciate you trying to fix us up. I know you meant well.”

She had a tear in her eye. “I did. And, I’m sorry.”

He stood to his feet. “Well, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to make this delivery and then I’ll clock out. I just don’t have the heart to be here any longer.”

“I know.” She watched him make his way out the door and onto the sidewalk. “Yes, I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never interfere with matters of love again. I’m just not good at it.” She picked up a package of baby’s breath. “Some things weren’t meant to be.”


Ben made his way into the hospital and stopped by the information desk to ask for directions. “Pardon me? Could you tell me which room a C. Wilson is in?”

The gray haired lady paused a moment and glanced through a chart. “I have a man and a woman named Wilson. Both have an initial of C. Do you know which one it is?”

His forehead wrinkled as he tried to remember what Edna said about the delivery. “I think it was for a young lady who just arrived a day or two ago.”

The woman nodded and said, “I have one who was admitted Sunday afternoon.”
“That has to be her.” He examined the sticky note with the room number written on it. “That will be the elevator in the west tower?”

“Yes.” She pointed across the lobby. “The west tower.”

When he found the second floor, he noticed that he was just down from the intensive care unit. He walked to the end of the hall and double checked the sticky note. “232. This must be it.” He knocked on the door and no one answered, so he cautiously pressed against the large frame until the door slightly opened. The room was empty except for the lifeless form lying on the bed. He tiptoed around the bed and placed the vase on the windowsill and turned to leave. He stole a glance at the young lady in the bed and stopped cold in his tracks. It was Chasity.

He was forced to do a double take as he considered the girl lying before him. It was definitely his former date. She appeared to be sleeping, so he tiptoed out of the room and almost tripped over the nurse carrying a tray of bandages. The nurse asked him, “Are you a family member of Miss Wilson?”

He shook his head. “No. But I did know her. What happened?”

“It’s so sad. She was brought into the ER yesterday from an overdose of crystal meth. She and a friend of hers.”

“A man or a woman?”

“A woman. There were three of them and they were doing drugs early Sunday morning and one of them noticed that the other girl was not moving. They checked on her and she didn’t respond. They called 911. By the time the ambulance arrived, all three of them were unconscious. The girl who was unresponsive died last night. The other two were very sick, but they will probably recover.”

“Are they going to be okay?”

“Who knows? They will likely have some brain damage.”

“Thanks. Have a nice day.” He nodded to the nurse and began to make his way down the hall. When he saw the waiting room on the right, he faltered a moment, and then collapsed into a chair. His hands were quivering and his breathing was labored. The enormity of what happened to Chasity was overwhelming him. The longer he considered that he could have been in that hospital bed near her, the more distress he felt. Would he have done the drugs with them? Who knows? He was certainly playing along with them. By the time they got the drugs out, he might have been so drunk that he would have tried anything.

After a moment, he collected himself and stood to his feet. Apparently, he was unsteady, for the next thing he knew, a pleasant and friendly voice was directing him to sit back down. From his chair, he looked up and gasped. It was the girl from the street, the one he watched walk past his house every morning.

She observed his reaction and thought it odd. “Are you okay? You look as though you saw a ghost.”

“More like a shadow.” He smiled. “My name is Ben.”

She returned his smile. “Pleased to meet you, Ben. My name is Charity. I like the name Ben; it’s my brother’s name.”

He hesitated a moment. “Listen, I don’t want to seem like a weirdo, but I’ve seen you before.”

“Where?” Her eyes were friendly and inviting.

“I live just down the street, kind of across from a little flower shop on the corner.”

Her face brightened. “Do you mean Edna’s flower shop? I stop in there every morning a smell the flowers.”

He blinked rapidly a moment. “Every day?”

“Practically.” She laughed to herself. “That sounds a little strange, doesn’t it?”

He shook his head. “Not at all. I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time, but I never had an opportunity to say hi.”

“Well,” she blushed shyly. “Hi.”



“Would you join me for a cup of coffee?”

“I’d love to.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Charity's Shadow Part IV

There will be one more part following this installment. Hold on to your hat, Nellie. This is where we take a twist...

Charity's Shadow Part IV

When Saturday afternoon arrived, punctuated by beautiful fall weather, Ben found himself standing on the peer overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, searching for his date. He found her on the beach a few yards away playing volleyball with a handful of girls. When Chasity saw him, she yelled out, “Hey, Ben!”

He waved awkwardly at her, and then blushed when all the girls turned and smiled at him. He’d never seen such a collection of women. They were definitely beach bunnies, and all could have passed for models. But what concerned him even more, was the fact that they weren’t making fun of him. He found a place near a sand castle and watched them as they bounced and jumped on the sand. For the first time in his life, he was able to watch the girls without feeling like a pervert. When their game was finished, Chasity approached him. “You found us! You have perfect timing. We were about to go to the Cove and hang out. You wanna come?”

Having no intention of leaving early, he readily agreed. As the group walked to the Cove, the girls took turns introducing themselves to Ben. Portia flirted with him a moment and asked, “Where do you go to college?”

He was overwhelmed. Never before had he had so much attention—and certainly it had never come from such high caliber women. “I graduated last semester.”

She nodded. “From where?”

“Northcorn University.” His face flushed red.

She was excited. “Northcorn?” She pushed him playfully. “No way! My best friend in high school went to Northcorn.” She nodded her head in appreciation. “So, whaddya study?”

“Museum administration.” Again he blushed. He was expecting them to start laughing at any minute. But quite the opposite occurred. Marla turned. “Museology? There’s good money in that.”

He smiled. “Yeah. I’ll do pretty well.”

“I’ll say,” she responded. “You could be making close the three figures.”

Chasity leaned on him as they walked. “Easy, girls. He’s with me.” She grabbed his hand and interlaced their fingers. “Ben is all mine.”

Portia huffed. “And what about Rocky?”

Chasity rolled her eyes. “What about Rocky?”

She flipped her hair. “He’s only your boyfriend.”

Chasity shrugged. “We broke up.”

“No you didn’t,” Portia corrected. “You had a fight. There’s a difference.”

“I caught him with someone else. We’re finished.”


Chasity stopped walking and turned to face her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Like you were faithful to him. You were the first one to cheat.”

She leaned into her face. “He was asking for it. I saw him checking out the other girls.”

“Like that matters! Every guy checks out the girls. That’s what they do, right, Ben?”

Ben, caught completely off guard, had no response. “I don’t know.”

“Ben is different.” Chasity placed her arms around his shoulder. “He’s smart, not tough.”

Marla butted in. “But once you have tough, it’s hard to go back to average.” She glanced at Ben. “No offense.”

“Uh, none taken.” Ben was wondering how to get out of this conversation, but was conflicted with being surrounded by beautiful women. Maybe he could just enjoy the moment and forget what they were saying.

“Don’t be mean to Ben. He’s the kind of guy you marry.”

Portia jumped in again. “Really?” she said with venom. “You are going to marry?”

Chasity rolled her eyes again. “Yeah, right! I’ll never be a slave to some piece of paper.”

“Whatever.” Portia turned and continued walking. The rest of the group followed her lead. The fight seemed to be over for the moment. “What are you going to tell Rocky?”

“Nothing. It’s not his business.”

“He’ll notice that Ben is here. He’s not blind you know.”

“Let me worry about Rocky.” Her grip never faltered on Ben’s hand. He was along for the ride, and he was holding hands with a pretty hot girl. What did he care?

When they arrived at the Cove, Ben discovered it was a hang out he would never have picked out on his own. Couples were scattered along the boardwalk surrounding it, and many were making out and getting familiar with each other—more than should be allowed in public. Despite his surroundings, Ben held fast to Chasity’s hand and they entered the club together.

He immediately hated it. The music was louder than he liked, and he certainly smelt marijuana smoke as they moved to the bar. All of the girls ordered a Cosmopolitan and turned to Ben, who was expected to order also. “I’ll have a Coke.”

Portia smirked. “Definitely the marrying type. Come on, Ben. This is a bar. Live a little.”

Ben was embarrassed. “I don’t drink, and I don’t know what to order.”

Portia placed a hand on his chest. “Well, then. Let me take care of you. I know what you need.” She turned to the man behind the counter. “Long Island Iced Tea for Ben.” She smiled. “You do like tea, right?”

“Yeah.” He did like tea.

“Well, you will love this. It’s just like tea, only it has a little bite.” When she said bite, she snapped her teeth together.

He shrugged. “Okay, thanks.”

While they waited on their drinks, Chasity began to dance to the music and started moving in a circle around Ben, who had no sense of rhythm. She began to move close to him and whispered, “Let’s hit the floor.”

For the hundredth time that afternoon, he was embarrassed. “I don’t know how to dance.”

“Come on, that won’t stop us.  I have all the moves you need!” She pulled him to the dance floor and began to circle him and dance around him, as if he were a mannequin. To his relief, the bartender motioned that their drinks were ready, so they returned to the bar. Uncertain what his drink was, he tasted it. “This is iced tea?” he asked Portia.

She tasted her Cosmopolitan. “What does it taste like?”

“Iced tea.”

“Then it’s iced tea.”

He liked the flavor and began to sip on his straw. In a few minutes, the drink was disappearing. Chasity was grinning at him as she finished her first drink and motioned for another. Suddenly, he felt flushed and comfortable. He even found enough rhythm to join Chasity on the dance floor for a moment, until the room started to spin. They made their way back to the bar. “Do you want another Long Island?” The bartender asked.

He looked at Chasity, who replied. “I think he does. It’s going to be a fun night, and it starts right here.”

He was uncertain if he should have a second, simply because he wasn’t sure if the first was sitting correctly with him. After a few minutes at the bar, Chasity grabbed his arm. “Come on. Let’s find a private place out back.” She pulled on his arm until he wobbled behind her. On the boardwalk, they found a corner near the beach and she wrapped her arms around him and began to kiss him furiously. He was loosing his ability to think rationally, and her attention was flattering to him, so he began to return her affections. That’s when he felt a hand grab his hair and he was furiously flung backwards.

Suddenly, a large, burly man was pointing his finger at him. “What are you doing with my girlfriend?”

Rocky had found them.

To Be Continued

Monday, October 13, 2008

Charity's Shadow III

Sorry, but I miscalculated how many installments there are in this story. There will be a few more. I'll try to post them a little faster. Thanks for your patience.

Charity's Shadow III

The next morning, Edna was unlocking the doors before seven o'clock when he crossed the street. “Good morning, Ben.”

“Good morning, Edna. Are you having a good morning?”

“Absolutely lovely. I work with flowers. How can anything go wrong for me? Oh, I’m glad you’re here a few minutes early. I need to run to the corner market and make some change for the register. Will you accept the morning delivery for me?”

“Of course.”

Edna stirred through the store a moment, and then stepped into the street and around the corner. After a moment, the bell rang, and Ben discovered the delivery girl. She was tall and slender, with shoulder length brown hair, and a tempting smile. Her eyes sparkled when she laughed, and she laughed often. She was every bit as lovely as Edna described.

“Hi, my name is Ben.”

She looked him over and said, “Howya Ben? My name is Chasity. Are you new here?”

Ben smiled warmly. “It’s my second day.” He was motivated by her smile and shapely figure, so he dug deep for courage and commented, “Edna said she hired me so I could meet the pretty girl who came by every morning. That has to be you, right?”

Chasity returned his smile. “How sweet of Edna. She’s the greatest. So, she wanted us to meet? Wow. I wonder how she knew I wasn’t dating anyone?”

Ben followed up on that topic. “So, you are currently single?”

“Single? If you mean not married, then absolutely. If you mean not dating, then unfortunately, I mean absolutely. But a week or so ago I lost my boyfriend.”

“Oh, it’s only been a week?”

“Yes. He was such a bore. Always talking about himself. He was a know-it-all, too.”

“I hate that type.”

“I wonder how Edna knew I lost my boyfriend?”

“I donno. But somehow she did.”

“So, what about you? Are you dating anyone?”

Ben flashed red again. “Me? Not a chance. I haven’t had any dates in several years.”


Her interest caused him to explain. “Well, I only just graduated from college a few months ago. I was so busy with my studies that I had little time for other things.” His face flushed again. “I even still live with my mother.”

She began to twist a curl of her long hair in her fingers. “Well, that’s okay. Especially if you were going to school. It’s not as if you are some metal head bleeding his parents dry. Right? So, what were you studying?”


“Come again?”

“Museum Curation.”

She slightly cocked her head sideways. “I’m sorry. Try again.”

Ben smiled softly. “Museum administration.”

Chasity eyed him warily. “I see. I didn’t realize that such a degree existed.”

“Well, it’s the nerd option that most people don’t take.”

She watched him dully. “Well, at least you have a plan, right?”

“That’s right. How about you?”

“Me? I don’t have a plan. I just live for the weekend.”

That peaked Ben’s interest. “Ah, a weekender? That doesn’t get you into trouble?”

“As often as possible!” She looked him over. “You and I aren’t a perfect match, but do you want to go out this weekend?” She reached for his hand and wrote her phone number on his palm. “Call me this afternoon.”

“Uh, sure. Why not? I don’t have any plans. Besides, it’ll make Edna happy.”

She winked at him and collected her empty delivery cartons. “Making Edna happy is what it’s all about.” She turned and began to walk away from him. “Until it’s time to make me happy.” His eyes followed her as she made her way out the door. She gave him a show for his efforts.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Charity's Shadow -- Part II

I'm sorry for the delay in posting part two. I have too many irons in the fire this week.

Charity's Shadow Part II

The next morning, Edna and Ben busied themselves cutting stems and trimming leaves from their early morning deliveries. While Ben filled balloons with helium, Edna prepared several vases for their mid-morning deliveries to the hospital down the street. Soon, their first hour of work was complete, and Ben gathered the cuttings and stuffed them into a trash bag. He glanced at his watch—if he hurried, he could still watch her walk down the street.

Edna, sensing that eight o'clock was drawing nigh, announced to Ben that she was going to sweep the walk. She didn’t realize that Ben had already dashed through the back door and was making his way to the dumpster in the alley, trying to get to the corner before Charity made the turn.

When Charity approached the flower shop, she started to greet Edna as usual, but she was quickly ushered into the shop with a warning, “You need to hurry, or you’ll run out of time. Quickly, child. Now, take your time and smell the rose--and hurry up!”

Somewhat disoriented, Charity found herself shoved through the door and standing in the small shop, which was empty of people, save her. Uncertain of what was happening, she stood for a moment, glanced through the store, and then exited the building with a shrug. Edna, alarmed at her sudden re-emergence, quickly scolded her. “What are you doing out here? I sent you inside the store to smell the flowers.”

Charity stared at her blankly. “Edna? Are you alright?”

“Heavens to Betsy, I’m okay. Why are you here?”

Concerned, she replied, “Edna? It’s me, Charity. Are you well?”

“Never mind that, child. Why aren’t you in the store? It’s costing me twelve dollars an hour, and I want you to smell the roses.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Oh, dear. Didn’t you like him?”


“That boy.”

“What boy?”

“Ben, that’s who. What’s wrong with him?”

“Ben, who?”

“No, not Ben Hur. Ben, the boy.”

Charity’s concern for Edna was increasing each second. “No, Edna. I’ve never been a boy. What’s wrong? You look flushed.”

“Charity! I want you to go into the store and meet Ben.”

“But I was in the store. There’s no one else in there.” She gazed into Edna’s eyes. “Are you certain you’re okay? Have you been sleeping well?”

“Balderdash! I’m fine. What do you mean that no one’s in the store?”

“Just that, Edna. No one’s in there. It’s just the two of us. Maybe you should let me walk you to the hospital.”

“Never mind the hospital.” She grabbed her by the shoulders. “Come with me, there’s someone I want you to meet.”

“Okay.” She surrendered to Edna’s pulling arms and followed her into the store, where she was wandering through the room calling, “Ben? Ben?”

Charity was getting scared. “Edna? Who is Ben?”

“The boy who works here. I want you to meet him.”

“There’s no boy here. It’s just you and me.” She caught Edna’s frantic eyes. “Let me walk you to the hospital. It’s only just down the street.”

“I need no doctors. I need to find Ben.”

Charity glanced at her watch. “Oh, look at the time. I have to run. Are you certain you’re okay?”

“I’m fine. Perhaps I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“I promise to check on you in the morning. I must hurry.” With that, she turned and trotted from the store and down the street. Ben, standing on the corner as Charity rushed past, disappointingly realizes that she’s gone. Dejected, he returns to the store, only to find Edna distraught.

“Where have you been?”

“I took the clippings to the dumpster.”

“Why on Earth would you do that?”

He glanced at the open door and the street beyond. “Are you asking me why would I take out the trash?”

Crestfallen, Edna collapses into a chair and hangs her head in her hands. “The best laid plans of mice and men…”

“I beg your pardon?”

She looked at him and smiled. “And you have such good manners, too. But it won’t mean anything if I can’t get you to meet, will it?”

“I don’t follow you, Edna.”

She sighed deeply. “I wanted to introduce you to a young lady I know. She’s so sweet, and she comes by here every morning. She’s very pretty, and has a lovely smile. But, for some reason, she hasn’t found love.” She smiled to herself. “I wanted her to meet you. You seem like a perfect match.”

Ben was red around his ears. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Tell me that you’ll meet her tomorrow.”

“Well, to be honest, there’s a girl that I want to meet, but…”

Edna’s face grew soft. “But what?”

“But, she’s just too pretty to meet a guy like me. So, I just watch her walk by, not even knowing her name.”

She smiled. “Ah. Well, now I think we can solve this problem. I want you to be here bright and early in the morning. Try to be here as close to seven as you can be. This young lady comes by every morning, but only stays a moment. She’s the sweetest thing, and I know you’ll just love her. Won’t you try to be here on time?”

“I’ll be here. I promise,” he said, shyly.

To be continued....

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I'll continue Charity's Shadow shortly, but first I wanted to tell everyone about one of the best observations I've ever read about interacting with people. I want to recommend that everyone visit Gwen Stewart's blog, Singer-Scribe. Her story about "Real People" interacting within the bubble of an elementary school is hilarious and fun. In general, she has a magnificent blog site, but specifically, she nailed Thursday's post, and I want everyone to see what a great job she did: