Let’s Get Started

I welcome you along for the ride.

Much of my photography is done under less than ideal conditions. I always chuckle at the professional articles that mark out the precise time each day under which one should try to photograph a site. Hah! I’m usually on one of those “if it’s Tuesday it must be Denmark” trips which means that there are no choices of time or often even place. The excursion operator makes those decisions for me. And I must photograph whatever the weather is. Even if it’s raining in Bruges, I still photograph because tomorrow I’ll be in Paris. If that also describes your travel, then maybe I can give you some clues I’ve discovered along the way.

And She Went Snap…

A short story by Susan E. L. Lake

Judith Gaither’s hair looked like a commercial for a new shampoo – in the before picture. Her 2.3 children consisted of two boys and a small dog with hair that needed more attention than her own. The boys, six and nine, had spent the morning watching cartoons and littering the den with empty juice cartons and the straws that made them so appealing. She needed to pick them up.

That was the least of her worries. The list of uncompleted tasks went on for days. Actually, that list had begun three years ago when she went back to work. She had vowed when they were born to stay at home with the boys, but money and boredom had driven her back when Abe started first grade. Luke was only three but in pre-school half days. She didn’t think he’d miss her much.

Martin hadn’t objected. A teacher’s salary wasn’t great, but it sure made those monthly payments less painful. “Besides,” he’d reassured her, “you’ll be home in the summers and vacations, so it’s not like full time.”

At first she was proud of her ability to juggle everyone’s needs. She got up in the morning by taking a load of clothes from the dryer and starting another to wash. She took the boy’s sandwiches from the freezer which she prepared Sunday afternoons. They hated school lunches, and she didn’t want them to feel like they had no choice. She got Martin’s coffee started, poured juice for the boys, and placed several boxes of cereal on the table for them to choose. The milk was already in a pitcher in the refrigerator and she’d set the table the night before. It made a pretty picture each morning when she went to wake them.

While they ate, she showered quickly, dressed, and then took a load of clothes from the dryer. She’d put them away when she got home. The boys would get dressed while she loaded the dishwasher and poured Martin another cup of coffee. Generally, she would go in at least once to settle a wrangle between the boys in the bathroom or to urge Luke along. Abe would be finished dressing in time, but Luke was one of those kids who floated off into daydreams unless prodded. She would drop both boys at their schools and generally get to school with a minute to spare.

Her only problem was after school. Abe had to stay at after school care and he hated that. He was always whining at her that it was only for babies. But there was no way to finish up at school in time to get him much before 4:30, so she listened to him complain each afternoon. Luke wasn’t so concerned. He liked his friends, unfortunately, because it meant that when she went to get him he was never ready. She always had to wait, knowing that the grocery store would be getting more crowded by the minute.

While breakfasts were picture perfect, dinners had deteriorated. A salad, two vegetables, and a meat with an occasional dessert was now a can of fruit, a frozen veggie, and a broiled chicken breast. However, she still made cookies for Abe’s homeroom and school birthday parties, slaved over church pot luck meals, and carried food to families with deaths.

None of this mattered much at the moment. Instead she was trying to sort all the other demands. At the top of her list was Christmas. It was only four days away. School had ended early yesterday, and she had used the extra couple of hours to pick up the last of her gifts. Last night she had stayed up late to put the stamps and notes on the last Christmas cards. They were stacked neatly on the entry table ready to go to the mail box.

However, she needed to make fudge, pick up the fixings for Christmas dinner (the turkey was in the freezer waiting to be defrosted), wrap presents, stop by her aunt’s nursing home, call her sister about Christmas Eve, go to the cleaners to pick up Martin’s suits, and think of something to take to tonight’s annual Sunday School party. “Oh, yes, I’d better call Cynthia to remind her about sitting for the kids,” she added to her mental catalog of tasks ahead.

She walked to the back door to let in Snuggles, the ball of fluff scratching to be let back in. She gave him a hug as she absentmindedly emptied and refilled the water bowl and checked for food. Martin came from the bedroom pulling a sweater over his head. “Honey, I’m going to meet Ralph for racquet ball.”

She blinked. “I didn’t know you were going to play today.”

“Why not? I go every Saturday. Can’t let that middle age waist catch up with me.” He patted his flat stomach and then reached over to tap her slack bottom.

“Uh, will you pick up your suits on the way home?” She was already scratching that from her list.

“Oh, you go ahead. I don’t know that I’ll get a chance.” He headed for the garage. “Do we have all the gifts mailed? I just heard that the post office says they won’t get there in time if we haven’t.”

“Uh, huh, last week. Don’t forget the party tonight. Cindy is coming over at 6:30.”

He nodded as he went out the door.

The boys came tumbling into the kitchen. “Mom, Abe won’t let me…”

“Boys, let’s pick up the juice boxes and you can help me make fudge.”

“Aw, Mom, it’s time for Ninja Turtles.” The squabble forgotten, the boys wandered back to the TV.

Judy spent the morning making headway. The fudge was cut and placed in a pretty tin. The casserole was ready for the oven. All she needed to do was run a few errands. However, getting the boys into the car took longer than the trip itself. She got back home just in time to fix a meal for the boys and dress for the party. Fortunately, Cindy showed up as planned, for Judy hadn’t taken time to call to remind her. Martin arrived home whistling as she was putting the boys’ dishes into the dishwasher.

“I’ll be just a minute. I showered at the club. He pulled on fresh shirt and they scooted out the door waving goodbye to the kids and sitter.

Juggling the casserole on her lap trying not to spill it on her slacks, Judy commented without quite asking, “You sure were late.”

“Yeah, we got to talking and stopped for a ‘toddy for the body’, but I made sure I was on time.”

“I could have used some help with the kids.”

“Well, why didn’t you ask? You know I’ve told you that all you have to do is tell me.”

Judy could feel her voice come out sounding whiny. “Sometimes, I’d just like you to look around and figure it out.”

“Judy, you know I’m no good at that. I never know what you want done.”

Arrival at the party stopped the discussion that never went anywhere. Judy shrugged to herself. At least, she thought, he doesn’t run around or beat me. She pulled out a smile and went in to enjoy the party even though what she really wanted was to be at home asleep.

The next two days whizzed by. She got by the nursing home and promised Aunt Gertrude to come by to pick her up for Christmas Eve services. Her sister had agreed to see that she got back and then to bring her over for Christmas dinner. She was glad dinner was going to be small, just family.

Christmas Eve day was a zoo. The boys were too excited to be controlled. She had to make three last minute trips to the store for forgotten items. The thought of the stores being closed for an entire day she found scary. At one point she wondered how pioneer women managed with no Shopit down the street.

It all began to unravel about 5 p.m. The boys were dancing around the kitchen pretending to be Santa and reindeers when she found herself screaming. “Martin, get them out of here! Now!” All three just looked at her and then scurried from her wrath.

“Boys, why don’t you watch TV. Mom’s busy. Honey, I think I’ll go ahead and get ready for church.”

Judy was too tired to even feel guilty about her outburst. She continued to stuff the celery for Christmas dinner wondering if one stalk would be enough. As she had been doing for hours, she continued to add to her list of “musts” and “shoulds” hoping she wouldn’t forget anything. “Boys, it’s time for baths. Then we’ll eat.” She heard them move off afraid to tempt another outburst of anger from her.

“Judy, where’s my blue suit?”

“I don’t know. Did you leave it in the car?”

“Why would it be in the car?”

Suddenly, she froze in a moment of panic much like those she had experienced as a child in a classroom when she realized she had left her homework paper at home. She could feel the anxiety hit the pit of her stomach. She walked to the bedroom with her hand over her mouth and eyes wide. “I forgot. Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot. I crossed it off and then didn’t add it back yesterday when I asked you. Oh, I’m so sorry.”

He just stared at her, and she could see his anger rising. “And whose idea was it to take all my suits to the cleaners? Now, what am I supposed to do? Wear my jogging suit to church?”

Trying to be calm and reasonable, she shrugged. “Can’t you just wear a sweater? You have these.” She pulled a pair of grey pants from the closet.

“I suppose, but it’s not want I had in mind.” Sarcasm dripped from every word.

With this calamity subsiding, she detoured by the boys’ bath. “Okay kids, put on robes and let’s eat. We need to pick up Aunt Gertrude in just a few minutes.” She smiled what she hoped would count as Christmas cheer.

The boys squirmed through much of church, but she had brought along some candy canes and managed to keep them quiet enough that no one glared at her. Martin looked just fine in his sweater and several other men were not in suits. Afterwards, she hugged Aunt Gertrude with the promise of a fine Christmas dinner. Judy’s sister and husband promised to be over by one as they bundled the elderly woman into the car.

She got Abe and Luke locked into the seat belts for the trip home. The boys were becoming more excited as it came nearer to the minute of Santa’s arrival. She smiled at their anticipation and remembered her own childhood when it had been impossible to go to sleep. She wondered if they played the same mental games she had.

Once home, her husband turned on the stereo and picked up a book. Judy started tying on an apron. “Martin, would you get the boys ready for bed while I finish up the dishes.”

“Sure. Boys, go get you pajamas on and your mother will read you a Christmas story.”

Judy walked toward the refrigerator and stopped. She blinked once and then stood there frozen. “The Turkey. The Turkey. The Turkey. It’s frozen. It’s frozen. It’s still frozen.” She stood as frozen as the turkey she now remembered was still in the freezer. For a moment her mind tried to find a solution. Thoughts of ways to shorten the two or three days needed to only hours slammed through her brain like a rat trying to escape. She blinked again. That’s how Martin found her a few minutes later.

“What’s wrong Judy? Do you want me to read to the boys?” She just stood there. Her brain was spinning slower and slower like a top that was about to run out of the speed needed to stay upright.

Martin tried to break through by speaking sternly. “Judy, I said what’s wrong.” He was beginning to look more worried and wondered if there were something he should be doing. She wasn’t crying or anything. She just stood there. He hurried back to the boys’ rooms and ordered them to bed. Their loud protests were answered with a glare. “Just get into bed. Mom will be here in a minute.”

He returned to the kitchen counting on finding Judy busily doing the dishes. She wasn’t. Instead she stood just as he had left her. He took her elbow to try to move her toward a chair. She moved in slow motion, but she did move. He was glad of that much. She would occasionally blink, but mostly she just sat as he had placed her.

Somehow he got the boys settled for the night. He got Judy into bed hoping that by morning she would be better. He even washed the dishes. He didn’t know what he would do if she weren’t any better. After all, he thought, she’s got that big Christmas dinner. All those people were coming. He wondered if he should call to cancel. No, she’ll be fine. She’s just a little tired.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water

How often do we teachers moan that our students never read, but we do not give them time to do so because we are so busy with other activities? Unfortunately, the very lack of time which prevents us from giving reading time to students also affects students at home. Their lives after school are just as frenetic as their classrooms. This thought seems to elude us while we also miss the obvious: students will not read if they do not have the chance. I see this as the water and horse analogy. We keep comforting ourselves with the idea that students can not be made to read which is true, but unless we provide the “water,” they will not ever drink it.

In an effort to counteract this situation, I have established one day a week as free-reading days. Unfortunately, I am not comfortable allowing one-fifth of my teaching time to pass unmonitored or evaluated. This is free-reading time, not free time. I felt it was important to establish some criteria so that my students were aware of the difference. I constructed a sheet listing the date, name of book, author, page started and page ended. Each page had room for five entries which would last for a six week grading period. On Fridays, I handed each students his copy and they filled in the information. They were given an assignment the previous day to bring a book- not a magazine, comic, fact digest, or picture book, but instead a book which would lend itself to sustained reading. After each reading period I collected these free reading records and graded them. A student who had failed to bring a book lost half credit , and I supplied a book for the student to read. Very soon the student began to bring a book of his or her choosing. A student who failed to underline the title lost partial credit (when they left my class they would at least have this habit). Any student who was observed sleeping, talking, writing notes, or other non-reading behavior received a note of the infraction on his/her paper at the time of the infraction and consequently lost half credit. Each entry was worth 20 points for a total of 100 for the six-week period. I generally scheduled six such reading days which allowed one extra for absences. Absences above this number had to be made up with a book report. This combined grade then was treated as a major test grade for the six weeks.

The simplicity of the system appealed to me as well as the reinforcement it provided my students. They were reading and getting a potentially very high one just for the act of bringing a book and reading it. I had some control and method of rewarding those who spent their time in appropriate behavior. In addition, I could quickly evaluate each student’s reading record. It gave me a way to see what my students were reading, how fast they read, and what their interests were. Since there was no penalty for slow reading, they had no reason to “fudge” on the pages they read so I could tell which students were going to have difficulty finishing classroom reading assignments. One other benefit was that frequently students would tell me that this was the only time during the week they could read or did read. Fifty minutes a week may not end the reading barrier but it is a start.

An Alternative Approach to Journal Writing

For the past five years, I have used an alternative to the now accepted practice of journal writing. I had found journals to be a wonderful way of motivating writing, but there were some problems in the actual implementation of journals that I had found aggravating. My solution was the 15 Minute Writing.

Journals have two main problems. First they are terribly bulky and difficult to carry. 125-150 journals carried home on a weekly basis represent an enormous burden. I found myself avoiding them just because of the logistical difficulties. In addition, the students I most needed to motivate were the ones who wrote almost nothing if at all. I had no way to follow them home and insist that they attempt this activity.

I created the concept of the 15 Minute Writing in response to these problems. A 15 Minute Writing is just what the name implies. I allocate an exactly timed 15 minute period of time for my students to write. They are given a suggested topic or idea on which to write as a way of starting them out, but they are never limited to that topic. They may write on that idea for a few lines, the whole time, or not at all. They may change topics as often as they like as long as they writing.

Some of my topics over the years have covered recent events such as the firing of a coach, personal questions about themselves, thought provoking questions such as it is your classroom or mine, and the perennial how was your summer vacation. I find that it is essential to give them such starts, but they never seem to feel constrained by them. They treat these writings very much as I have had students treat journals. I receive poems, stories, nonsense, personal thoughts and predicaments, and gripes about cafeteria food. However, I always get something which was not always the case with journals.

Grading is easy and straightforward because I grade on the actual quantity. I count the number of pages to determine their grade. Most students are pressed to write four pages so I give a 95 for that much. The others follow that pattern. 4=95, 3=85, 2=75, 1 =65. If the student has written to the maximum and completely filled up the page without getting onto the next, I allocate an additional five points so 1 +=70, 2+=80, 3+=90, and 4+=1 00. Students know in advance exactly what determines the grade, and as the year passes, they frequently push themselves trying to beat their own best grade.

At the beginning of the year, I have students bring a folder with brads to use just for these writings. When I return the read and graded manuscript, I have them put the writing into this folder so that at the end of the year they have a complete set. This means I only need to carry home a set of papers instead of a load of arm-eating spirals. Yet my students have a record of their year’s writing.

The limitation to this plan is that handwriting and time for reflection suffer. Nevertheless, I have found this workable. Most students write much more and seem to find enough time to think as they write. They learn to “think on their feet” and to write on a moment’s notice. It takes them only a few such writings to develop a voice and use it.

Originally published in Notes Plus, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English

Urbana, Illinois 1987

An Answer to the Overloaded File Cabinet: The Unit Box

We all get great ideas from many sources: the English Journal, teacher conferences, and our co-workers. Frequently, however, we don’t need those ideas right at that moment. What can you do with the perfect idea that you don’t need right now? Also, after having taught a few hundred years or days, each of us has acquired scraps of notes, copies of handouts, and of course, unit and lesson plans. Trying to keep up with all of this can overwhelm even the most organized person with time on his or her hands.

Dianne Robinson offered a suggestion which was printed in the November, 1983 issue of Notes Plus which is a start. For several years now I have done just what she suggested: that is to put all my information into notebooks. While this works quite well and I highly recommend it, I have a suggestion to make which goes one more step.

The solution is what I call a unit box. It consists of nothing more than a heavy cardboard box (I find that the boxes which hold 10 reams of paper are ideal and readily available around a school). Into this box I deposit everything that I will need for a single unit.

In my classes I have seven units which are broken into literary units consisting of the short story, novel, modern drama, Shakespeare, poetry, and skills units consisting of writing instruction and the research paper. In past years I have used notebooks for papers and then stored all the other materiel in drawers, closets, and wherever I could find a cubbyhole. Frequently, I would forget about a wonderful tape or photocopied story because it was out of sight/out of mind.

This year I gathered up everything and dumped this material into a box labeled according to the unit. Into my short story box I placed the following:

  • photocopied short stories not found in our text
  • photocopied handouts which had been used as class copies
  • books on teaching the short story
  • pamphlets
  • cassettes of taped short stories
  • video cassettes of short stories
  • interest items such as a purple rabbit’s foot for “The Monkey’s Paw”
  • transparencies explaining elements of a short story
  • •bulletin board materials (all the letters, pictures, etc. necessary plus a photograph of the completed display)
  • an idea notebook which contains everything that I’m not currently using even if I don’t think I ever will (life always has surprises for us)
  • a course notebook which contains specific content material for each class (I photocopy all my short stories), notes for each story, as well as both daily and major tests
  • a major notebook which contains everything needed to teach the unit including unit plans, daily plans, notes on films, handout masters, master of photocopied stories, notes on all input, and a list of all available A.V. in the library or service center

One question you may have is over the notebooks. At present I have three notebooks in my file which will soon expend to four. I’ll admit that soon gets to be quite an expense. No, I don’t spend all my raise on them. Instead I scrounge. I watch when a kid throws away one. Very often a little tape on the binding will make it usable. At the end of the year, students frequently leave theirs in their locker for the janitors to dispose of. I also have found that large corporations distribute information in wonderfully expensive ones. When the period of exposure is over, the company representative no longer has a need for the folder. And if I can’t get them any other way, I buy them at the beginning of the school year when the price is lower.

The nicest part about the unit box is that as the year progresses, if I come across something (perhaps I videotape a good production of one the stories from our text or even get an idea from a generous source), I just drop it into the box. I make no attempt to file it at that time. When I get ready to teach the unit, I go through everything in the box and sort and file. I then can make up my unit knowing that I hove considered all my possible sources. Another advantage is that the box is easy to store and to carry home when I need to work on it. It seems to take up much less space than those boxes I previously had to store wherever I could find space.

One lost thought. If you are like me, you read the various journals and wish that you could utilize the marvelous suggestions. With this plan, it is now possible. As I come across one too good to pass up, I make a photocopy for my box. I make sure that the source is noted and then really “wow” my curriculum supervisor by citing it in my unit plans as an aspect of my teaching plans.

The hardest port of this plan is just doing it. But don’t try to convert everything at once. Instead, just do one unit at a time. As you teach each unit this year, begin to gather up and drop everything into a box. By the end of the year, most of your work will have been done. Then you won’t have to promise yourself that this is the year you’ll get organized.

originally published in Notes Plus, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English    Urbana, Illinois 1987

The Vanilla Wafer Caper

Teaching students the difference between descriptive, expository, and narrative compositions is difficult because of the gap between each instructional period. Initially, I teach separately each of the three writing forms, with appropriate writing assignments. After I feel confident that my students can handle each form, I use a single classroom period to cinch the understanding of how they relate to each other with a final “mastery” activity: the “Vanilla Wafer Caper.” It’s fun, easy, and successful.

You will need one to two boxes of vanilla wafers (a box contains about 100). Actually, crackers of any kind (I stole this from a demonstration using Ritz) will work, but the “cookieness” of vanilla wafers appealed to me. Warn your students in advance not to eat them as you hand them out. I even go so far as to imply that they are specially treated and dangerous to eat.

My opening consists of a quick review of the three types of writing already studied. Then I set them to the first task. They must carefully observe their cookie and list at least ten features. I suggest a topic sentence such as “My vanilla wafer is like no other” and then have them use their list to write a paragraph describing it. This should take about ten minutes. They understand that it is a rough draft, but one that must be readable.

They then put their cookies together on a desk. I found it was quicker and just as effective to let them work in groups of five rather than as a whole class. They exchange paragraphs, and the other person must find the match. Initially, they do not believe this is possible, but within five minutes each cookie has returned to its owner thanks to a descriptive paragraph.

By now, students have begun to take a real interest in the personalities of their wafer. The next activity encourages that. They are to write a narrative paragraph using the wafer as the main character in a short tale. Again this should take about ten minutes.

The final activity of the day is to write a one paragraph exposition on all the ways one could use a vanilla wafer except to eat it. The student’s creativity will amaze you and themselves.

Closure is generally rather raucous, but I take the final minutes to point out that one subject has been handled in three different forms. A check for understanding is quick and easy. They place their narratives on one comer of their desk, exposition on another, and descriptive under their wafer. A glance as I walk down the row proves that they know the difference.

Now with no desire to eat them, most want to take home their wafer friends. I go home hoping that each time they see one they will remember the day’s lesson.

Déjà Vu

She came awake as the first ring ended. Even before she picked it up, Claire knew what was coming. The anxiety made her teeth grit.

“It’s me, Mom,” Ben croaked with dry mouth excitement. “We’re on our way.”

So it’s finally here, she thought as she reached to turn on the light. I wish Tom were with me, but he wasn’t there that other time either

For months, her daughter Paige had talked excitedly about natural labor and breast feeding and Lamaze and birthing chairs. Whenever it had come up, Claire had changed the subject. She knew Paige was hurt that she didn’t seem at all excited about this baby. But she couldn’t tell her.

As Claire dressed, she tried to tell herself that there was plenty of time. After all, this is her first. That’s what they told me at that army hospital long ago. And it had taken such a long time.

Tom had been away on maneuvers. The Red Cross reached him, but not until it was over – at least the delivery. It hadn’t really been over for nearly a month. A month of hope and despair and sympathy and tears.

She’d been so young – too young to cope or understand. Only 19, living far from home at a God-forsaken army camp, pregnant and poor. She’d never even thought about what might be. She’d only been married a few months when she learned she was pregnant. She hadn’t been surprised. That’s what had been happening to all the other young brides around her.

One by one they had their babies. They called each other to pass on the news of sex and hours in labor. Of course, there wasn’t time and it was too far for family to arrive, so they acted like family to each other. Casseroles mixed with care seemed enough. They were young and resilient, so their bodies bounced back like pioneers. Soon their babies became toddlers, and they were pregnant again.

She had awakened when her water broke. She didn’t know what it was at first. Then it dawned on her what her friends had meant during all those postpartum discussions. Today mothers go to classes, she thought, but those conversations served the same purpose.

Sam and Jenny next door had said, “If Tom’s away, you call.” They’d been so good to her during those months. Full of excitement, they’d driven her to the base hospital. It hadn’t been too bad; the contractions didn’t start until they were on the way.

She’d been so scared though. It wasn’t with any sense of foreboding, just with not knowing. Everyone talked about the first moment of the baby’s coming, but other than “It took seven hours,” they never seemed to fill in details.

She had arrived at the base hospital, checked in, and been quickly added to the ward of six other women in various stages of waiting. The enema, the shaving, the impersonality of doctors and nurses, and the physical exam had added to her fright.

Sam had left to contact someone about finding Tom. Even if he could have come in time, she hadn’t wanted him to see her – not like that. He would have waited with the other fathers, wondering.

Hours had passed. It had been hot even with the fans trying to blow away the summer humidity. She had cried out. She had been too scared, and she had hurt too much. She had begun to wonder why – why she was here – why she was doing this. She’d never asked for a baby. She’d only pretended to be glad.

Jenny had come in, but the ward was too small. Besides she hadn’t been able to help. Their time as friends had been too short to support the strain. Claire had eventually pulled away from Jenny’s efforts to comfort her.

As the time came nearer, she had cried out more and more. Finally a nurse came over. “Shut up. You think you’re the only one who’s ever had a baby.” It had made her quiet for a minute, but it had soon become too much to bear.

A doctor, hurried and impatient, had come in to check her again. They had never waited for a moment when it wasn’t too bad. They had thrust their searching fingers high into her. “Please quit,” she had cried out.

As he had hurried out, she heard him say, “‘This one’s almost ready – 8 cm.” She knew he didn’t even know her name.

They had come and pulled/pushed her onto a rolling table seemingly unaware that she hurt.

The delivery had come quickly. It was an end to 36 hours of heat, pain, and confusion. The baby had cried, the cord was cut, and she hadn’t known enough to realize that impersonal doctors and nurses usually allowed a moment of their lives to reflect the joy of new life. She had been so used to their brusqueness that the toneless, “It’s a boy” seemed natural.

She hadn’t expected to be given the baby. They had wrapped him and taken him away. The placenta was delivered, and she had been taken back to the ward, exhausted. She hadn’t known there should be joy and elation. All she had wanted was to sleep.

She had awakened to Tom standing over her looking forlorn but stoic. “Honey, how do you feel?”

“Okay, I guess. I’m hungry.”

“Was it too bad?”

She hadn’t known how to tell him, so she hadn’t answered. She had realized she was still in a delivery gown and colorless and unbrushed. Her search for lipstick had stopped when Tom said, “Have you seen the baby?”

That had made her aware that her breasts hurt; they felt hot and full. That’s probably what had awakened me. She began to understand why the ice bag had always been near the beds of the other mothers she had visited as each baby came in its turn.

“No,” she answered. “I just woke up.”

“I’m afraid there’s a little trouble.”

‘With what?” she had asked not even realizing he had meant the baby. She had immediately thought of money, T.D.Y’s or the record he tried so hard to keep clean.

“The baby’s not quite normal. It’s his arms.” He had stopped with that. She had never seen so much unhappiness in him. She hadn’t even known there was anything which could affect him this way.

He had been overjoyed when he had learned she was pregnant. They had talked of names and plans. She hadn’t cared that much and had quickly agreed to name the baby after him if it were a boy or after his mother if it were a girl.

‘The doctors have a technical term for it, but it means he doesn’t have complete arms. They have called in an orthopedic specialist. We’ll know more tomorrow.” The words had come out one at a time as if he had to think about each before he could say it.

“Have you seen him?” Claire asked.

“Yes, they have him in a room apart from the others. I saw him a little while ago.”

They had soon brought him into her room. The nurse had been nicer than those she had met during delivery. She had brought him in all bundled up. You couldn’t even tell there was anything wrong. The nurse had been full of bustling cheer as she had handed him to her. “Well, this boy is ready for breakfast.” She had a bottle tucked in beside him and handed it to Claire after the baby had been placed in the crook of her left arm. Claire had fed enough of her friend’s babies to know how to begin, but this baby seemed so little. He had started to suck, though, as soon as the nipple touched his lips.

Claire hadn’t been able take her eyes off the baby’s face. He had a shock of dark brown hair and a round little face. She hadn’t been able to see the color of his eyes. They had been scrunched tight from pleasure.

She had realized she was grinding her teeth as emotions washed over her. He had been so much more wonderful than she had expected. He had seemed so perfect, so perfectly wonderful. Tom must have exaggerated. How could there be anything too wrong? Why, this was HER baby. She had pulled him tightly to her with feelings of protectiveness and pride.

As the baby had stopped his greedy enjoyment to catch his breath, the nurse had arrived at her side to show her how to burp him. Claire had looked up. “Isn’t he beautiful?” she said as the nurse had placed him upon Claire’s shoulder. The nurse’s eyes had darkened and then smiled with an understanding that went beyond medical knowledge.

“Yes, he’s a fine boy.”

But the moment of bonding had passed, and as the nurse took the baby away, she had said, “Dr. Harris will be in to see you.”

Tom had come in soon after that. Maybe he had been waiting for the babies to leave. He had looked tired, but tried to smile as he came over. “I’ve sent telegrams to everyone. I said there were a few problems, and we would tell them more when we know. My C.O. has put me on temporary emergency leave, so I’ll have a few days.”

A white coated very official looking man pulled a curtain between them and the others on the ward. “Hello, I’m the orthopedist in charge of your son. I’ve examined the baby carefully. He has a classic foreshortening which should cause no major problems in later life. Some plastic surgery may be needed, but right now you may take him home.” He had smiled at them both as he left the room.

She had taken him at his word, and when the baby had been brought to her the next time, she had carefully unwrapped him to find two chubby little arms which seemed strange but not grotesque. He had become her baby.

They had been discharged in a few days to go home to encouraging friends. She remembered that there had been a casserole waiting and letters of comfort from her father. Of course, no one had come. With the war, travel was restricted, but there had been baby presents from her mother-in-law and aunt.

But it had been hard. The greedy baby hadn’t grown well. He had cried a lot which could be heard by the neighbors. She had known he disturbed them, but she hadn’t been able to do anything about it. Jenny had reassured her, “He’s just a little colicky. Don’t worry, it will get better.” She had tried all the remedies suggested by friends – the teaspoon of whiskey, the hot water bottle, and extra careful burping.

She had taken him to the base doctor. The morning’s wait until their turn had lasted forever. All he had told her was that some babies didn’t gain as fast as others, and nervous mothers needed to relax. But she hadn’t been a nervous mother. She had taken each new stage as it came-not expecting it, but not surprised either. The baby’s face had become gaunt and his eyes seemed large in his face. He had continued to cry nearly all the time, but it was no longer loud enough to disturb the neighbors. Instead, it had sounded like the mewing of a hungry kitten.

Tom kept saying, “Are you sure he’s okay?” She didn’t know. All she did know was that she spent her days feeding, bathing, and changing him. His little arms she had learned to take for granted just as she did his crying.

Finally, Tom had insisted that she once again spend the morning waiting at the clinic. Only that time, when the doctor saw the baby, he hadn’t called her a nervous mother. No, he had put little Tom back into the base hospital.

It had taken the whole week for the baby to die. Once again Tom was placed on emergency leave. He had again sent out telegrams. It had passed over her, though. For there had been men dying everywhere. This baby, her baby, was just part of the casualty list. She hadn’t even been surprised at the little box placed in the ground with the small engraving, Thomas Robert Johnson, II.

Soon Tom had been shipped overseas. She had worked during the day and played at night with nobody to interfere. Friends had commented on how well she handled the loss.

Time had passed quickly. Tom had come home, and they went to live in oil camps with roaches and rats. When she had once again become pregnant, she had been far from a hospital. They had made the hour long trip together. That time Tom had been there. That time she had known what to expect except that there had been nuns who treated her kindly. That time there had been joy in the room as the baby was delivered. She had been surprised when they gave her the baby to hold. That time there had been no look of sorrow on Tom’s face; instead, he had been enraptured by his perfect little daughter. This baby had eaten and cried, but mostly slept. At each visit to the doctor, he had admired her progress. And the baby’s shock of dark brown hair had turned curly, and her blue eyes learned to crinkle in laughter.

As Claire drove to the hospital, she thought of all she had wanted to say to Paige. Be asleep, don’t invest yourself in this baby. Babies die. But instead, she had joked with Ben and Paige about not being old enough to be a grandmother. Paige had drawn away as the day got closer. That was probably why Ben had been the one to call.

How do you tell someone that they are living your nightmare? A nightmare that 40 years ago you tucked away as a part of life too painful to talk about. The drive ended at the hospital’s visitor parking lot. She walked slowly up the stairs, got on the elevator, and pushed 3rd floor maternity. As the door opened, she could see the rows of newborns lined up behind protecting glass. She wondered where they put the imperfect ones. These were all beautiful and whole. A smile of joy and release began to spread across Claire’s face as she hurried toward her waiting grandchild.

What They Don’t Know . . .

“Danny, I’ll be fine. Don’t go worrying about me like I’m some child.”

“It’s just the layover in Dallas. What will you do for two hours?”

“I’ll get a cup of tea and read a magazine. I’ll ride one of those little carts. I haven’t lived for 67 years and not learned something.”

“It’s just your heart, Mom. I don’t want you to get too tired.”

“I won’t. Now it’s time to get on this plane. Give me a kiss.”

“Call when you get home.”

Mrs. Pal hugged her purse close to her body and moved down the hall to the plane. She shook her head. How boys do worry, she thought to herself.

She sat next to a nice young girl. She showed her the pictures of Dan’s boys. They had a nice chat. The child was in school and had books to study. Dorothy took a little nap until it was time for the plane to land.

When she got into the airport, she went to the phones. Her best friend Alice had lived in Dallas for years. They did not talk often. It cost too much. She had looked forward to a chance for a nice long talk. She hadn’t told Dan that. It wasn’t his business what she did while she waited for the plane.

She took the coin out of her wallet. It took a minute, but she got it out of the zipper pocket on the side. She dialed the number. She was worried. Alice might not answer. But she did. They talked about the children. Alice talked a long time about her Sally Sue’s dance program at school. Dorothy told about Dan’s new job. It was fun. Dorothy hated to hang up.

When they finished, Dorothy looked at the clock on the wall above her. She still had time to drink a cup of tea. She moved slowly along the hall looking for a coffee shop. She found one a little way from the phone. It was near to the desk where she would go for her next flight.

She saw the young girl from the plane. Dorothy waved. The girl smiled and called for her to sit at the table with her. Dorothy was having a wonderful time. Dan should not have worried. She could take care of herself.

She ordered just a cup of tea. She was too excited to be hungry. She and the girl talked as they sipped the drinks. Dorothy remembered her name. It was Nan. It’s a nice name, she thought.

“Mrs. Pal, what time will you get home?” The girl smiled a pretty smile.

“Oh, about five or six. It will depend on the traffic. My son will start to worry about 5. I wish he wouldn’t.”

“I know. My mom’s the same way. I didn’t tell her I was leaving town. That way she can’t worry.”

Dorothy looked at her watch. She had plenty of time, but she didn’t want to be late. It would be so awful to miss the plane. Then Dan would have a reason to worry. She gathered up her purse. She took a last sip of the tea. She reached into her big blue bag. It was full. She had put her magazine in it. It also had lemon drops and gum.

She reached deep into it. She pushed around the lemon drops. She pulled out the Kleenex. Her heart began to beat harder.

“It’s not here.” She just whispered the words. She was afraid to say them aloud.

She turned the purse over and shook it. She looked again. It still wasn’t there.

“What’s wrong.” Nan could see the panic on Dorothy’s face.

“It’s not here. I can’t find it. I must have left it.”

As she said the words, Dorothy knew. Her wallet was still on the ledge with the phones. She started up to run back.

She stopped. She must pay for the tea. How would she pay for the tea? Once again she clawed through her purse. Maybe there were some coins at the bottom.

There was nothing. Her brain was starting to scramble. What will I do? How will I pay? What will I do? How can this happen?

“Mrs. Pal. It’s O.K. I’ll pay for the tea. Really, it will be fine.” The child had already started to take money out.

“Oh, I can’t let you do that. My, no. That’s not right.” She wanted to cry. But that would only prove that Dan was right. That she couldn’t take care of herself. Suddenly, she knew. “Yes, would you please pay. I hate to ask but that is the only thing I can do. I am so sorry.” She pulled out a small piece of paper and a pencil. “Just write your address here. I’ll return the money to you.”

“Really, that’s O.K. It’s not necessary. It’s not that much.”

“But that is what I want to do. I need your help.”

Nan smiled with a look that said she understood. She took the pencil and wrote in big block letters her name and her address. Mrs. Pal carefully folded it and placed it inside a zipper pocket in her bag.

“Now, let us pay for this.” She picked up the ticket. My how proud they are of a little cup of tea. 78¢ seems a lot for such a small thing. She shook her head and reminded herself that she had more important worries.

With a smile and a look of determination, she reached for Nan’s hand. She squeezed it with gratitude. “Thank you so much for this kindness. Now I must go look for my wallet. The plane will leave soon.”

“Are you sure you will be all right? Can I help?”

“No, you have done enough. Do not worry. I will manage.” Mrs. Pal gathered her purse close to her body and waved as she got to the door.

She went back to the phones. But as she feared, the little purse was not there. She looked at all the shelves with all the phones. She thought maybe she had forgotten which she used. It was not there. She stood a little straighter and looked around. There was a lady at a desk. She didn’t seem busy. “Excuse me miss. Is there a lost and found?”

The lady was dressed in a blue uniform and looked very helpful. She was surprised at the question. “Well, yes. It is in the luggage claim area. It is for people whose luggage doesn’t arrive on time.”

“You see miss, I have lost my wallet. I left it right over there.” She pointed toward the phones. “I was hoping someone might have turned it in. Is it far to the lost and found? My plane will leave soon.”

“It’s through those doors and will take you a while.” The lady in blue bit on her lip a moment. “I’ll tell you what. Let me make a call.” She reached for the phone and was soon talking to someone. “Harry, I have a woman here who has lost her wallet. Has anyone turned one in?”

The lady covered the phone with her hand and turned to Mrs. Pal. “What color was it?”

“It’s a small grey imitation leather one. My granddaughter gave it to me last year on Mother’s Day. It has my money and my driver’s license in it. Let’s see there’s also my social security card and . . .”

The woman at the desk stopped her. She uncovered the phone. “Nothing huh. O.K. I’ll get the information. Thanks.” She hung up the phone and took a piece of paper from a drawer. “Ma’am, please write down your name and a description. I’ll turn in a complaint for you.”

“Oh, I’m not complaining. It wasn’t your fault. It was mine. You have been lovely.”

“That’s sweet of you to say. All I meant was that I would turn in your loss.”

Mrs. Pal carefully wrote down the information. She didn’t have any hope that she would ever see that purse again. She was already trying to decide what to do next. “Thank you so much for your help. You have been very kind.”

She gathered her big blue bag close to her body and moved toward the place where her plane would leave. At least I haven’t lost my ticket. I can get home. I’ll figure out what to tell Dan when I call tonight.

It was soon time to get on the plane. It wasn’t until she settled into her seat that she thought of her real problem. How was she going to get home? She had no money for the taxi. She had no money to call one of her friends. Besides most of them didn’t drive at night.

She couldn’t even take a nap with the worry. She told the young lady who asked that she didn’t want anything to drink. It would only remind her of her problem. I’ve got myself in quite a pickle. That’s what I have. Now how am I going to get out? she thought.

When the plane landed, she still didn’t know what she was going to do. Mrs. Pal waited quietly for her luggage. Her brown suitcase finally appeared on the chute. It was one that Dan had given her. He had been going to throw it away. It was still perfectly good.

She walked to the doors leading to the outside. She held her blue bag close to her and carried the suitcase with some trouble. She was beginning to get tired. The strain showed on her face. A piece of hair hung down beside her ear. It had been tucked neatly away for most of the day. Now it had escaped.

She finally reached outside. She had stopped several times to put the bag down. Now she looked around hoping she might see someone she knew. There was a taxi, but no friend. It was going to be dark soon. She wanted to be home soon. Suddenly, she straightened up and pushed the piece of hair back behind her ear. She picked up the suitcase and marched toward the cab. She opened the door and got in. “Where to, Lady?”

“Sir, I have a problem. Perhaps you will help. If you cannot, I will understand.”

The cab driver looked at her with a lowered eyebrow. “Yeah, what kind of problem?”

“I have lost my wallet. I have no cash with me. I must get home as it is getting late.”

“O.K. lady. So when we get there, you can get someone to pay. That’s fine.” The driver did not look very friendly.

“But, sir, that is part of the problem. I have no one at home waiting to do that. I have no cash there either. I will go to the bank tomorrow. But that is not a help today. Do you have any suggestions?”

She thought he might suggest that she get out. If he did, she would find another way. “I could leave my suitcase with you. Then when I return your money, you can return it to me.”

The cabby looked down at the brown case scratched from many trips. He looked at her again. The eyebrow went back into place. “Where’s your family? Why aren’t they here to help?”

Mrs. Pal laughed a little embarrassed chuckle. “I’ve just left my son. I was visiting there. He’s going to be so angry with me. He didn’t think I could manage. Maybe he was right. But I’m not a careless person. These things just happen. By the way, my name is Mrs. Pal.”

“Well, Mrs. Pal, you’re right. These things do happen.” He looked like he was beginning to understand. “What’s the address?”

“Oh, you will take me?”

“Look, I’ve got a mother. She’s always locking herself out of her car. The neighbors finally just kept a key. They’re always having to go to the mall or the beauty shop to unlock it. She lives in Cleveland. I’ve offered to pay them. They just say that they don’t mind. I feel terrible that they have to take care of her for me.”

“Oh, I know they understand and so does your mother. I’ll bet she would rather ask them anyway. At least they’re not family.”

The cab driver looked at her with another smile. “Maybe you’re right. I remember once when I was a kid. . . So what’s that address?”

He moved the taxi smoothly out into the traffic lane. Mrs. Pal sat back in the seat. The cover was rather dirty and torn in places. But it was a nice place to be. She’d call Dan as soon as she got home. Tomorrow she would get a new drivers license.

“So Mrs. Pal, how long did you visit your son?”

And Then Sometimes They Don’t ..

Folks just show no gratitude. That’s what it is – no gratitude. Why one or the other of us had been on that council for the last 20 years. Except, of course. Arthur Stroud. He wasn’t really one of us. He’d only moved here a few months before although his momma came from over near Yoakum County. But we liked him well enough. He understood our point of view.

We used to drop by his business for coffee. It was free, and we liked to look at his secretary. He didn’t seem to mind. He spent most of his time on the phone. It was kind of hard to get more than a short conversation in before it would ring. He’d just answer the phone and wave us over to the pot in the corner. He’d smile real friendly, shrug his shoulders, and look like it was such a bother to let the calls interrupt us.

We could tell he liked being included in what we were doing. Besides, sometimes he had a good idea. You know – like that one about the music director.

That woman had gotten real uppity. Why, she’d even told Myra, Ed Johnson’s daughter, that she couldn’t stay in the bell choir if she didn’t behave.

Now Myra was a handful. We’d all talked about how Ed needed to take her in hand, but that wasn’t the choir director’s place. Besides all Myra did was say she wouldn’t play some silly song. It seemed like she ought to have a right to choose something like that.

So we decided. Next council meeting she would be gone. We just wouldn’t tolerate that in this church. It wasn’t right.

It had been kind of exciting. We saw each other at least a couple of times a day. There was lots to talk about. We’d had to get it all straight, about how to go about getting rid of her. Those things aren’t decided quick. Why that week before the council meeting, we must have drunk twenty pots of Stroud’s coffee.

Pastor had been a little upset. He’d talked about her nine years of service, but Stroud had it right. We’d told the preacher that he’d better watch out.

Of course, we hadn’t done it because it was fun. We knew how important all this was. We were elected to make decisions. People expected us to take the right action. Why, even Stroud had said that. That’s why we knew we had to take a stand about this. People were counting on us.

Sure, we’d have to “break a few eggs,” but that was just how it was. It’s important to make sure people who work for you know they have to toe the line. They’d just take advantage otherwise.

Stroud sure knew about that. One day his secretary had come back from lunch fifteen minutes late. He’d been quiet when she walked in. She looked over at him and started to apologize as she put her purse away. It had been something about taking her daughter’s migraine medicine to her. Well, he never raised his voice. Quiet as could be, he really dressed her down. Told her that she knew what he expected. Told her that being punctual was one of the rules. Told her that he would not tolerate it again. Fred said it had even made him a little nervous, and he had hurried back to the garage.

But you know it was funny. It seemed like as soon as one problem was out of the way, another was there in its place. The next time it had been the church secretary. She’d been talking to folks. She’d been saying that we had no right to get rid of that organist.

Well, Stroud was right. If you can’t expect loyalty, what can you expect? We warned the preacher. Told him to tell her that she had to stop that kind of talk. He got kind of miffed. Said he’d discuss it with her. He knew he’d better. We won’t put up with a preacher who bucks us.

Everything kind of quieted down after that. Although, lots of folks stopped talking when we walked up. Course, in a town like this, gossip’s something the women do all the time. I guess it gives them something to keep them happy.

But then that pastor started becoming a real problem. First it was saying we shouldn’t get rid of that organ player. Then it was siding with that secretary of his. It was clear as can be that the only way to set things right was to get us a new preacher boy. This one was just going to drag us down. We needed a new Sunday School wing. If he stayed, why nobody would give enough to pay the light bill. A new guy, one who could work with us, would see that people did what was right. They’d give enough so we’d have that addition paid for in a year.

We were spending lots of time at Stroud’s now. It was time for the preacher’s yearly review. Usually, we just said. “Doin’ a good job. preach. Here’s a little raise.” But this time there’d be no raise. The only problem was we couldn’t just tell him to leave. Seems like there’s some rule about it. Course, rules were made to be broken. We were looking into that. Stroud had some friend who knew a church that had gotten rid of theirs.

People were beginning to talk a little. Some of us had gotten calls. There’s always a few who want to stand in the way of progress. But the rest of the church knew what was right. You just can’t let a man like that keep on getting his own way. What’s right is right. If we let him get away with this, we might as well not run for council again.

Well, he got kind of upset. That man is not suited to the ministry. The council just told him what we all knew. He wasn’t doing us a good job. He wasn’t bringing in money for that new wing. His sermons have been a little weak too. We told him maybe he’d be happier somewhere else. We also said that if he stayed, we wanted a list every Sunday of what he’d done that week. If one of us wasn’t there, he should take it over to Stroud’s on Monday. He showed his true self then. Said we couldn’t expect that and he wouldn’t do it. Stroud told him to think over seriously what he had just said. Then he said we’d meet again next week to see if he had reconsidered his position.

You could tell from the look in that guy’s eyes he knew we meant business. He wouldn’t be giving us any more trouble. We probably wouldn’t even have to have the next meeting. He’d just up and quit.

By the middle of the week we’d all gotten a few more phone calls. But we knew that we were doing what was best. We were just trying to take care of a little problem. That’s why those folks elected us. You couldn’t just ignore those kinds of things. You know, we’ve been running things just fine for lots of years. We hold our meetings once a month just like we’re supposed to. We all complain about giving up Sunday football, but we know our duty. Course, some of us go hunting in October and miss that month’s meeting. And I sometimes have to miss for family business. The others, well, I’d say we all get there most of the time. We haven’t had to call off a meeting since last March because not enough of us were there.

Folks knew they could trust us. The rules say anyone can come to the meetings, but no one ever did. Maybe once a year, the women would come to talk about that new kitchen. We’d listen and then one of us would move to table the item till we saw what kind of money we had. It’s funny. Those women have asked for that new kitchen every year I can remember.

All of a sudden, people were asking when the meeting was and could anyone come. Well, we knew who was stirring things up. Some of us went to see him and told him to quit causing trouble. We’d always been a quiet peaceful congregation till he started this talk. He knew what was right, but you could tell he had the bit in his teeth. He wasn’t about to listen to us. It was then we knew we had to do something.

Well, we couldn’t believe it. We had to move into the sanctuary for the meeting. You never saw so many people. You’d have thought we was having a pot luck. Stroud came up with a good idea. We all kind of got together right before that meeting started. Decided we’d just set up a committee to study allegations against the pastor. That way we’d get those people settled down. That preacher would learn not to mess with us.

And it went just like it was supposed to. Everyone went on home. I even heard some of them saying, “I told you it was nothin’.” We decided on Monday that we’d have the next meeting Saturday morning. The Oilers were playing on Sunday and it was just more convenient.

I don’t know how the word got around so fast. You’d have thought we had done something wrong. I had people calling all the time. I kept trying to tell them about the Oilers game. They kept saying, “We’ll be there.” We couldn’t understand what all the ruckus was about. That pastor wasn’t doing us a good job. All we were trying to do was take care of things just like we’d always done.

We knew that all that talk about folks showing up was just that. We’d be able to do what was necessary. Then we could get on with the rest of what we were called to do, seeing that the new wing got built. A few of us had already talked to a couple of people. We had sort of a drawing that showed what we wanted. It wasn’t going to be fancy, just something that would be good for the church. Those people who were upset now would see pretty soon that what we had done would be for the best.

We had our meeting. We all got there about 9:30. It seemed kind of silly to even bother going to the church. We could have just met at Stroud’s. Coffee would have been the same there. Well, that parking lot was full. Couldn’t believe it. There were cars all over. I wondered if maybe some committee was having another meeting. I didn’t recall hearing anything, but the ladies hold things all the time that I don’t pay attention to.

We usually meet in one of the smaller classrooms. Not one for the real little kids but one that has regular size chairs. We’ve talked about needing a room in that new wing for our meetings. It wouldn’t have to be big, just one that is a little nicer. We could use it for lots of things. Committee meetings and stuff like that.

This time, though, we had to move back to the sanctuary again. I can tell you, we were getting pretty sick of having to put up with this sort of thing. We didn’t need all those people. We were elected to make decisions. They should just let us do our work and get on with their own business. We didn’t try to tell them what they could or could not do.

That preacher was sure quiet. You’d have thought he would feel real bad about causing all this trouble. If it hadn’t been for him, none of this would have been necessary. After all these years, years when we gave him raises and supported him, you’d think he’d be more grateful. You’d think he’d not be stirring up all these folks. Cause we knew who was behind all this, and we were going to do something about it.

It was kind of surprising. That meeting didn’t turn out at all like we’d expected. We figured we’d let them blow off some steam, give them a chance to say their piece. Maybe give everyone a few minutes. Probably most people were just there to see what was happening. They wouldn’t want to say anything. After that, we’d just let them leave. Then we’d discuss with the pastor his problem. Maybe he’d just go ahead and turn in his resignation. For the good of church unity and all.

It was mostly the women. They were mad as could be. One after another they stood up and gave us “what for.” Even our wives were there. You’d have thought they would have understood. They should have known we was only doing what was right. But they was as mad as the rest. Said terrible things to us. Things like trying to railroad their pastor out of town. Things like we were a bunch of sheep being led about by Arthur Stroud. Now that wasn’t right. Stroud never had nothing to do with all this. This was all our doing. We knew what needed to be done.

Then Stroud’s momma stood up. I’d never met the lady, just seen her with Stroud and his family on Christmas, things like that. Guess she must have driven here just for this. Boy, Stroud didn’t look too happy to see her. I suppose he didn’t know she was coming. She was even worse than our wives. Told Stroud he’d been too big for his britches for years. Said he’d better drop this nonsense and leave alone what he didn’t need to be messin’ in.

Stroud just set there looking unhappy.

After that, we decided that we needed to let everyone calm down some. It wasn’t right to make decisions like this when folks were so upset. We’d take care of this problem later. So we went on home to mow our yards and wash our cars. My wife was still pretty mad, but she’d get over that. After all, this was just church business.

We never did take any action on that pastor thing. A couple of us decided in December that we needed to give a little more time to our businesses. Stroud sold his office and moved to a town east of here. I hear he’s on the council there. He’s a good man. Folks like him always rise to the top. The ladies are getting their new kitchen. It’s gonna be real nice. We’ve already got the plans and talked to a few folks about cabinets and such. Things are pretty quiet now.

Sometimes, though. I sure do miss coffee over at Stroud’s.