Tag Archives: #shortstory

PACK TEACHES TWO BOYS LIFE LESSONS

The following short story is #30 in a year-long weekly writing effort where I have shared life events befitting the title of my blog site (www.aTimeinLife.wordpress.com). Each story attempts to touch the hearts of readers by sharing moments of joy, bits of sadness, inspiration, encouragement, and some life-lessons learned. The story below is my response to the following question asked by the “StoryWorth” project:

#30 – “Did you ever lie or withhold information when answering your parent’s questions?”

And now, without further ado, here’s the short story.

+ PACK TEACHES TWO BOYS LIFE LESSONS +

Billy was nine years old and his uncle, Alex, was twelve. They were like brothers and spent a lot of time together. The fact they lived about one mile from each other made getting together easy. It was just a four-minute bike ride on a straight highway between their houses.

When it came to intellectual capabilities, Alex was the shining star, but Billy wasn’t too far behind. Their creative minds could invent things the average child would never imagine. Most of the time their combined-creative talents had them doing good things—fun things, but there were also times when their scheming ways didn’t turn out too well. One such time involved a trip into the jungles along the Amazon River.

It all started on a hot summer day back in 1958 when this creative duo made a simple bike ride together from Alex’s house to Billy’s house. Along the way, Alex noticed something on the side of the road. To his surprise, it was a pack of cigarettes with the top already opened. There were twenty little tobacco stalks staring back at him. Alex’s eyes widen with the excitement of a twelve-year-old boy who had just found a sack of gold.

“Look at this, Billy. There are twenty cigarettes in this pack,” said Alex with a big grin stretching from ear to ear.

“Wow!” replied Billy. “My daddy smokes that kind. We can give them to him.”

“Are you crazy?” replied Alex. “We can do something better than that—I have an idea.”

“Whatcha talking about Alex?”

“You’ll see. Follow me!”

Off they went with Billy following Alex to where he did not know. They stopped in a wooded area one block behind Billy’s house.

“What are we gonna do here?” asked Billy.

“We are going to pretend we crash landed our jet fighter in the Amazon jungle. Let’s go to the pond back there in the woods. Come on, follow me!”

Still a bit uncertain, Billy let his bike fall to the ground and followed Alex further into the woods. When they arrived at the pond, Alex said, “Now we gonna play like we are jet pilots and our plane just crashed right over there,” as he pointed to a big oak tree at the water’s edge.

“Why are we gonna do that?” Billy asked.

“Cause we’re stranded and the only thing we have with us is this pack of cigarettes. We must evade the enemy, crocodiles, and snakes that are all around us. You know—we gotta try to survive until help comes to pick us up.”

With a puzzled look on his face, Billy replied, “Why we gonna do that? There ain’t any crocks or snakes around here, and there sure ain’t no enemy guys trying to catch us.”

 “Billy, we gotta pretend! It’s a game and we gonna smoke these cigarettes too.”

“Alex, you know my daddy told me to never smoke cigarettes. He said he better not ever catch me smoking those things. He said they’d stunt my growth and I want to be tall like him.”

“He smokes ‘em Billy and hasn’t stunted his growth—he’s over six-feet tall. He’s just telling ya that so he can smoke ‘em all. It’s okay for us to do it too. Besides, he won’t know we smoked ‘em anyway. Come on—don’t be such a big scaredy-cat. It’ll be fun!”

“I ain’t no scaredy-cat!” barked Billy.

“Dang it, Billy! We don’t have any matches,” bemoaned Alex. “Billy, you gotta go to your house and get some matches.”

“You go get ‘em from your house, Alex.”

“Your house is closer, Billy. Go get ‘em and be quick about it. Oh yeah, and don’t go gettin’ caught either!”

Billy ran through the “jungle” to his bike and headed toward his house. He wasn’t too sure about the plan Alex had come up with, but he didn’t want Alex to get mad at him either. He went into his house and found his mother in the kitchen. This posed a bit of a problem and his creative mind started swirling.

“What are you doing here, Billy? I thought you were with Alex.”

“I am. He’s… um… he’s up the street waiting for me. I had to go to the bathroom.”

Billy didn’t know what to do at this point. How was he going to get matches out of the house without his mother noticing what he was doing? Quite the quandary for a nine-year-old kid, especially when he knew what he was about to do was wrong.

He went to the bathroom and peeked around the door to make sure his mother was still in the kitchen. Seeing that she was, he tiptoed down the hallway to his parent’s bedroom. Surely, there are some matches in the bedroom somewhere. He began searching quietly and found some matches in the third drawer he opened. He quickly put them in his pocket so his mother wouldn’t see them.

As he started walking toward the door, his mama walked into the bedroom. “What are you doing in my bedroom, Billy?”

“Um… um… I thought I saw a mouse run in here,” Billy replied in a panicky tone.

“A mouse!” yelled his mother as she jumped onto her bed. “Where? You have to find it! You know I’m scared to death of those things! Find it, Billy! Get it out of here!”

Billy pretended he was looking for the critter under the bed and in the closet while his mother stood on the bed. “Get that critter out of the house!” she pleaded.

“I think he gotta way, Mama. You probably scared him away with all the noise you made. I think it’s safe for you to get off the bed now.”

“Are you sure it’s safe?”

“Yes, Ma’am. I gotta go now. See ya later, Mama.”

Billy ran out the back door in a flash. He knew he had just dodged a bullet and was right proud of himself for thinking up the mouse tale so quickly. He was also glad he didn’t have to clean up a nasty mess in his underwear.

When he got back to the pond, Alex asked what took him so long.

“I almost got caught by Mama, and had to look for a mouse.”

“Mouse? Whatcha talking ‘bout, Billy?”

“You don’t wanna know. Here are the matches.”

“Good! Take one out of the pack. It’s time to light these bad boys up!”

Billy did as Alex told him. He put a cigarette in his mouth and lit a match. One big inhale and Billy started coughing his head off.

As Billy continued hacking and coughing, Alex laughed and said, “What’s the matter big boy? You aren’t supposed to inhale the smoke—just puff it like this,” as a trail of smoke came from Alex’s mouth. “See, it’s easy.”

Billy puffed again and immediately started hacking, but now he had tears flowing down his cheeks. He continued puffing until he got the hang of it. It wasn’t long before he was puffing and flicking the ashes off like a seasoned smoker.

“This is pretty cool, Alex. Can you blow smoke rings like my daddy?”

“You mean like this?” as Alex blew a perfect circle of smoke out of his mouth.

“Stick ya finger in the circle, Billy.”

As instructed, Billy put his finger through the little circle and said, “That’s so cool. I don’t know how to do that, but my daddy can.”

Billy and Alex continued playing in the woods and evading the enemy until all the cigarettes were gone—all twenty of them. Having successfully evaded the dangers lurking in the Amazon jungle, they decided it was time to go home. They’d had enough fun for the day. Alex went home to his house. Billy went to his and started playing with his bow and arrow in the garage until he heard his mama shout that super was ready.

Billy sat quietly at the table eating with his mother, father, and little sister. After a few minutes, Dad asked, “What did you do today, Billy?”

Billy paused in thought and replied, “Not much—Alex came to the house and we rode our bikes through the neighborhood.”

Shortly after Billy finished his answer, the telephone rang. His Dad answered the phone, “Hello,” and then stood there quietly looking straight toward Billy. After a few moments of silence, he said, “I see. Thank you for letting me know about it. I hope he’s okay”

When he came back to the table, he looked directly at Billy, and asked, “Billy, do you have anything else you need to tell me about what you and Alex did this afternoon?”

Not being astute enough to realize his father was giving him a chance to come clean, Billy responded without looking up from his plate, “No, Sir. We just rode our bikes and messed around some—nothing special.”

“Is that your final answer, son?”

“Yes, sir!”

What did y’all do on the empty lot on Dantzler Street?”

“Oh, we pretended we crashed our plane in the jungle and had to hide from the enemy.”

“What about the pack you and Alex found on the side of St. Matthews Road?”

“What pack, Dad? I mean…”

“That was Granddaddy talking to me on the phone just now. He said y’all found a pack of cigarettes on the side of the road. Is that true?”

“Oh, you mean that pack. Yeah, we saw it when we were riding our bikes to my house.”

“Do you have something else you need to tell me about that pack of cigarettes? Before you answer my question, I’ll tell you that Alex is in the bed—he’s sick—he thinks he’s been poisoned.”

“Why does Alex think he’s been poisoned, Dad?”

“Billy, it was something in the cigarettes. Are you feeling sick also? Do you have something else you want to tell me about what you did this afternoon?”

“I feel fine, Dad. I’m not sick. I’d tell you if I was sick.”

Okay, Billy. I’ve given you several chances to tell me everything about your afternoon and you keep withholding information from me.”

“But Dad, I…”

“I don’t want to hear it now, Billy. You had your chances to tell me everything. Now, I’m going to tell you what Alex told his dad. He said the two of you found an opened pack of cigarettes on the roadside and you took matches from this house. Y’all went to the lot on Dantzler St. and both of you smoked the entire pack of cigarettes. Y’all left the lot after smoking the cigarettes and then went home. Is that what happened?”

“Umm… I think so, but I’m not sick, Dad.”

“Well, Billy, I’m glad you’re not sick. Y’all did a very dumb thing today and both of you could have been poisoned to death. You should never smoke cigarettes in the first place, but you should never smoke cigarettes you find on the roadside. You don’t know what someone may have done to them. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yes, sir…”

“I want you to know that I’m very disappointed in you. First of all, for withholding information when answering my questions, and secondly, for smoking the cigarettes when you knew it was wrong. Now, finish eating and then go to your room. Think about what you did today and I’ll come in to see you shortly.”

**********************

Okay, that’s enough about a boy failing to tell the truth and trying to withhold information from his parents or anyone else for that matter. I’ll let you use your imagination regarding the punishment Alex and Billy received in this particular instance. I’m sure you have a good idea about what happened to both boys.

  • Be honest with yourself—have you ever or would you lie or withhold information from your parents or anyone else?
  • How would you handle a similar situation if your child did something like Alex and Billy did?

++++ LESSON LEARNED ++++

The moral of this story is simple. Always tell the truth and never withhold information from those you love when you do something you shouldn’t have done. You must face the consequences of your actions. Man up or woman up, whichever the case may be for you.

Oh, there’s one final adjustment you should make to this story—change the names from Alex to Charles, Billy to Tommy, and understand the dad in the story was my father—then you have a true story from my youth about a life-lesson I learned the hard way.

The good that resulted from this deception attempt was I never withheld information or tried to deceive my dad again. Having him tell me he was disappointed with me was more than enough for me to change my ways. 

Many blessings to you as you continue your journey through life and possibly have children of your own. I wish you nothing but the best in all you do, but don’t forget about the consequences of your actions. They can have dramatic impacts on your future.

++++++++++ END OF STORY ++++++++++

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

Blog website: www.aTimeinLife.wordpress.com

COPY AND PASTE NIGHTMARE

With the pandemic and social distancing forcing lots of free time on us these days, we are probably doing things we wouldn’t normally do. I certainly am. I’m spending lots of time on social media to see what others are doing to take the boredom out of the day-to-day grind. I bet many of you are doing the same thing.

If you are, I’m sure you’ve seen many posts on social media platforms asking you to “copy and paste” this or that to your timeline. I know someone I’ll refer to as Billy Bob who was reluctant to try, but some of his friends kept telling him it was easy. They encouraged him to take the plunge into the copy and paste pool—everybody is doing it, they said. It’s easy, Billy Bob.

Well, Billy Bob finally succumbed to peer-pressure—he decided to copy and paste something to his time line. Unfortunately, his decision turned into his worst nightmare. The following is Billy Bob’s NIGHTMARE that he wanted me to share in hopes of preventing others from becoming victims of a similar experience.

COPY AND PASTE NIGHTMARE

Billy Bob acknowledged that making the copy was the easy part—he used the copy machine at work to make a crisp, clean copy. It was after pasting the copy to his computer monitor that his nightmare began. When he pasted the message to his timeline, it completely covered his news feed on the screen—he could no longer scroll his news feed up or down on the monitor. He tried rebooting his computer many times, but that didn’t help resolve the problem.

Not knowing how to correct his problem, Billy Bob decided to call the Greek Dudes at the local Better Buy store for assistance. A dude named Darth Trader politely asked how he could help. Billy Bob told him he had copied and pasted some text to his social media timeline using a generous amount of Godzilla Glue. Billy Bob said Darth started laughing—uncontrollably—hysterically would probably be a better description of Darth’s euphoric outburst.

Finally, between belly laughs and snorts, Darth told Billy Bob that the Godzilla glue caused the problem. Darth said most people use Elmo’s glue when they copy and paste information to their social media timelines—Godzilla Glue is just much too strong.

Darth asked Billy Bob to bring his computer and monitor to the store and he’d help him the best he could. Billy Bob said Darth was still belly laughing at this point.

Feeling a bit frustrated, Billy Bob made the trip to the local Better Buy store with his computer system in hand and asked to speak to Darth. Darth came to the counter and started laughing when Billy Bob introduced himself. After a quick look at the monitor, Darth advised Billy Bob that the only way to correct the problem would be for him to buy a new monitor along with a new computer.

I have often suspected that Billy Bob wasn’t the sharpest thorn in the blackberry patch, but Darth’s suggestions sounded a bit strange—even to him. That’s when Billy Bob decided to check that truth or fiction internet website, SnoopyKnowsBest.

He asked Snoopy if copying and pasting to his social media timeline using Godzilla Glue was a bad idea.

The following is the response Billy Bob received from SnoopyKnowsBest:

Dude, are you serious?!? If you are, please stop

using a computer before you hurt someone!!!

With his ego deflated by Snoopy’s mind-numbing response, Billy Bob went back to see Darth at Better Buy and purchased a new $6,000 computer/monitor system. Darth even offered to discard Billy Bob’s old computer system at no charge. Billy Bob asked Darth what he was going to do with the damaged computer and monitor and Darth said, “Trust me, they’re worthless. Don’t worry about it. You’ll like your new system. Go home and copy and paste something again. If you have any more problems, I’ll be happy to help you again. I love customers like you.”

Billy Bob thanked Darth for his help and went home to setup his new computer system. I don’t know if he has ventured back into the copy and paste world though. In fact, I haven’t heard anything from Billy Bob in a week. I should probably give him a call to make sure he’s safe as the pandemic continues.

Be a blessing unto others, and please remember—don’t use Godzilla Glue when you copy and paste things to your social media timeline! Don’t do as Billy Bob did or you will be visiting Darth Trader in the near future!

++++++++++

+++ MY FINAL THOUGHTS +++

If you’re smiling right now, bless you! Maybe you’ve crossed paths with someone like “Billy Bob” in your life also. Heck, you may even be wondering if this story is true?

They say confession is good for the soul, so with that in mind, I must confess that I’ve had a few “Billy-Bob” moments in my life. Hmmm, think about that, but be nice because I’m going to discuss a computer situation with Darth Trader tomorrow morning—hoping he can help me avoid a nightmare.

I pray you and yours stay safe and well during this pandemic and things return to “normal” very soon.

God bless each of you,

Tom Tatum – Author – 2020

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

AN ANGEL’S MESSAGE FOR GRANDPA

The day was cold, but not as cold as the heart of an old man sitting alone on a park bench with tears rolling down his cheeks. He didn’t seem bothered by the cold temperature, but something more serious had numbed his senses—his emotions were in distress.

After a few minutes passed, a young boy and man came walking along the path near the park bench. They stopped directly in front of the old man and, without any hesitation, the young boy asked, “Sir, are you okay? I see the tears on your cheek. Are you hurt?”

The old man raised his head slightly until his eyes met the eyes of the young boy. “Young man, today is a very sad day for me. I traveled many miles to come see my grandson in the hospital right down the street there. I had car trouble on the way and waited for twelve hours by the roadside before a kind soul stopped to help me.”

“I’m sorry your car broke down,” said the boy. “Have you seen your grandson yet?”

“No, I didn’t make it to the hospital in time to see him. I wasn’t able to tell him…” said the old man as he lowered his head and looked toward the ground.

“You weren’t able to tell him what?” asked the young boy.

While still looking toward the ground, the old man replied, “To tell him how much I love him and to wish him a Merry Christmas. He passed away three hours before I arrived. I can’t believe he’s gone. I’m so…”

“Sir, are you Joey’s Grandpa—his Grandpa Ben?”

A bit confused, the old man raised his head slightly and replied, “Yes, I am, but why did you ask me that? Do you know Joey?”

“Yes, sir,” replied the young boy. “I’m Zack. Joey is my new friend and he told me all about you.”

“He did what? When?” retorted Grandpa Ben.

“Yes, sir! Just a few minutes ago, Joey asked me to tell you how much he loves you. He wanted me to wish you a Merry Christmas. He said to tell you he is fine and in good hands.”

“I don’t understand. What? That’s impossible! How did you talk to Joey?” snapped Grandpa Ben.

“Joey is sitting on a park bench like you are now. He’s talking to Jesus,” replied Zack.

With that, Grandpa Ben lowered his head toward the ground thinking about what Zack just said. He wondered why Zack was talking such nonsense. Without raising his head, he asked, “Zack, how do you know he’s talking to Jesus?”

Several seconds passed without hearing an answer to his question. Grandpa Ben looked around and Zack was nowhere in sight. Instead, the only person standing in front of him was the man who he saw walking with Zack.

The man leaned down toward the old man and said, “Sir, are you alright? I couldn’t understand what you were saying. Can I get some help for you?”

“What? Where did Zack go? He was just standing right there talking to me. The two of you were standing together in front of me. Who are you?” the old man asked.

“Sir, my name is Sam Jones, but no one was with me today. I’m alone just as you are,” said the man with an air of concern for the old man.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Sam. My name is Ben. Zack was just standing there beside you talking to me,” replied Ben.

His eyes swelling with tears, Sam managed to say, “Ben, I’m not sure what you’re trying to do to me, but my son, Zack, was killed by a drunk driver on this date three years ago. It happened at the intersection right over there. I walk here each year and remember the good times we shared. It’s my way of feeling as if Zack is walking with me. I miss him so much.”

Totally confused, Ben stammered, “I’m so sorry, Sam. I didn’t mean to… I was just… I mean… I… Zack was with…”

++++++ FOOD FOR THOUGHT ++++++

  • Do you have faith and believe in Jesus?
  • Do you think angels are capable of sending messages to us?
  • Do you think angels walk among us?
  • Have you ever experienced the presence of an angel?
  • Have you ever felt the presence of God in your life?

If your answers to the above are no, you should ask Grandpa Ben what he thinks.

Blessings to all who have lost loved ones. I hope this short story helps you feel the warmth of their presence during this Christmas season and that your heart is full of joy and happiness knowing they are nearby.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

PERFECT GIFT FOR WRITERS

My daughter gave me a rather unique Father’s Day gift this year. The kind of gift you give someone who needs nothing and doesn’t give you any suggestions.

She went online and purchased the gift from StoryWorth. It’s a perfect gift for someone who enjoys writing. StoryWorth sends me a weekly email asking a question about my past. I’m supposed to answer the question with a short story. The length of the answer can be as long or short as I desire.

The package consists of 52 questions. Upon completion, StoryWorth will compile the questions and answers into a book of some kind—not sure of the final product.

However, the questions have done much more for me—they have made me reflect very deeply on my past, which has provided me with tons of additional thoughts I can use as plots for additional short stories—ideas that were beyond my wildest dreams. It’s has been like opening the floodgates to a vast reservoir of experiences and possibilities.

I’m not trying to give a plug for StoryWorth, but if you or someone you know loves to write, I suggest you check their website and see for yourself. It may be the perfect gift for yourself or someone on your list.

The following is the StoryWorth question and my response for week #18.

+++ Week #18 Question +++

 “What advice would you give your great grandchildren?”

The advice I would give my great grandchildren is the same advice I gave to my children, grandchildren, and anyone who is willing to listen. Those who actually follow the advice are more likely to achieve higher levels of success in life than those who choose to ignore them. My advice is included in my second novel titled, ON GREEN DIAMONDS: Pursuing a Dream.

To set the scene for you, the following excerpt from my novel is a conversation between Tyler and Gabe after Tyler’s first visit to church. They are discussing the need to follow the Ten Commandments. Gabe uses this moment to tell Tyler about the twenty-two “Rules to Live By” in order to achieve success in life, which were given to him as a young boy by his father.

Excerpt from  ON GREEN DIAMONDS

…Tyler came down to our house later that Sunday afternoon and we chatted about all sorts of things. We talked about his first visit to the church and then started discussing the Ten Commandments. I told him what they meant and how important they were to us.

Tyler said, “We sure don’t want to break those rules.”

“No, we don’t because they are very important. I also have some rules you should learn to live by.”

“What are your rules, Uncle Gabe?”

“My rules are about how to live your life. They were written on an old sheet of paper many years ago and were given to me. Now, I want to give them to you, but you must promise to keep them in a safe place. Tyler, this sheet of paper means more to me than you can imagine. I want you to read these rules every week and make sure you don’t ever forget them. If you try to follow these rules each day, you’ll be successful in life.”

I sat and read the rules to him.

RULES TO LIVE BY

  1. Spend some time alone each day in prayer asking God to help you be the person He wants you to be. You are in His hands and He is always there for you. All you have to do is ask for His help.
  1. Obey the Ten Commandments. When you falter, ask the Lord for forgiveness.
  1. Always give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
  1. Never laugh at another person’s dreams. People who don’t have dreams aren’t going anywhere.
  1. Remember that all great achievements involve great risk. Don’t be afraid to try something.
  1. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. A loss isn’t the end of the world, but something to learn from and grow to be better the next time you try.
  1. Always give a hundred percent of yourself in everything you do. You’ll feel better about yourself, whether you win or lose. The joy comes from having given it your best shot.
  1. Set goals for yourself and give the effort it takes to succeed. You can be anything you want to be, but hard work is the key to success.
  1. Never judge people by their relatives. They may not like them either.
  1. Love your family and friends with all your heart. You might get hurt sometimes, but it’s the only way to live life completely.
  1. When disagreements arise, present your points fairly. Name calling and hitting won’t win the argument for you.
  1. Talk slowly, but think quickly. It isn’t always what you say, but how you say it.
  1. Life is full of ups and downs, so stay in control of your emotions. Never get too high or go too low.
  1. Always be willing to help others because there will come a day when you will need help also.
  1. Remember the three R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others and Responsibility for all your actions.
  1. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it and don’t be afraid to admit it. If you never make a mistake, then you aren’t trying to do anything.
  1. Don’t let a little dispute spoil a great friendship. A true friend is something special and worth holding on to.
  1. When you are talking to someone, always maintain eye contact. It is a sign of confidence and signals that you’re paying attention to what they are saying.
  1. Eat healthy foods. Your body needs all food groups to develop properly.
  1. Whenever you say, “I love you,” think before you say it and mean it. It isn’t to be used lightly.
  1. Always, always remember, a true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart. You can be a true friend to someone else by touching their heart today.
  1. Read these rules every week. Only you can change you, so don’t wait. Start doing it today!

End of Excerpt

On a personal note, I believe in the Ten Commandments and try to obey them each day of my life. Unfortunately, like many others, I sometimes go astray and ask God to forgive me when I do—to help me walk on the right path.

Just as Gabe believed the twenty-two “Rules to Live By” helped him in life, I feel the same way. I try to follow these guidelines and know they played a major role in my successes in life.

If you want to be successful, and I hope you do, follow the advice given above—it will make a positive difference in your future.

Now, look at the first letter of each word in the title of my novel, ON GREEN DIAMONDS and you’ll see OGD. Do you notice anything significant about those three letters? If you rearrange them, they will spell the word GOD. Since I don’t believe in coincidences, maybe there’s a hidden message here—sometimes we need to rearrange our lives to make things work better for us on our path to achieve success.

I pray God blesses you each day as you travel on your path to success and understanding.

TIME FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

  • Do you know what the Ten Commandments are? Do you obey them?
  • Do you think the “Rules to Live By” could help you in life?
  • Are you going to use them to help you be the best you can be? I sure hope you will.
  • Have you read ON GREEN DIAMONDS? The novel references the twenty-two rules in real life situations throughout the story. Read it and you may enjoy it—you may even learn something about yourself. See the photo of the rules below.

END OF STORY

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

TWO BRAVE SENTINELS GUARDING MY FRONT DOOR

Two old rocking chairs sit motionless on my front porch. They are like two brave sentinels guarding my front door, but when folks come to visit me, they don’t even notice them sitting there. Those two old rockers don’t even exist as far as they are concerned, but they would likely think them out of place if they ever paused to notice them sitting there.

However, those two sentinels aren’t just old rocking chairs to me. You see, there was a time when those rockers were full of life, but that was many years ago when they guarded a different door. Cheerful voices and laughter filled the air around them as they rocked for hours back in those days.

Beneath the countless layers of paint applied to those two old rocking chairs through the years, you will find the golden beauty of a life once lived. The loving hands of a kind-gentle man made those rockers long before I was born, and if they could speak, they’d tell you stories that would make you smile, laugh, sigh, and maybe even shed a tear or two.

I have many fond memories of those rocking chairs, which is why I have them sitting there. It saddens me that no one notices or rocks in them anymore. I guess folks are just too busy these days and don’t have time to enjoy the simple things in life—like rocking and sharing special moments together. It seems folks are too busy running hither and yon or playing with electronic gadgets to consider enjoying such simple pleasures in life anymore.

The only time I ever see those two rocking chairs move these days is when the force of a gentle breeze kisses them softly as one would a newborn child. It is then those two old rockers seem to come alive again. I can even hear the sounds of soft voices and laughter floating on the invisible currents of air carrying the sweet aroma of gardenias I breathed long, long ago. It is during such precious moments that the floodgates of my mind open wide, releasing a river of memories as I envision the two of them sitting there.

You see, those two old rocking chairs mean the world to me. They belonged to my grandparents, Nene and Pop. When I close my eyes, I imagine Nene knitting as she slowly rocks back and forth while Pop puffs away on a corncob pipe he created with his rough, swollen hands. I don’t think Pop ever lit that old pipe though because I never saw any telltale smoke rising into the air, and the only scent I ever breathed came from Nene’s gardenias growing near their front porch. Maybe chewing on that old pipe was just Pop’s way of relaxing and remembering the glory days of his past—just as I am doing now.

I recall the many occasions when I snuggled quietly on Pop’s lap as we rocked for hours when I was a young boy. Sometimes we rocked well into the dark of night and counted the lightning bugs that came our way. Pop told me those flashing lights were angels saying hello to us. I believed him back then—I believe him even more so now.

However, most of our time together in that old rocking chair had Pop telling me stories about his childhood. I never knew if his stories were true, but it really didn’t matter to me. I just enjoyed hearing them and seeing the warm glow of a kind heart beaming from his eyes as he told each story. Every now and then, he would look down at me and flash a whimsical wink. That’s when I knew Pop had just shared a small piece of his soul with me, and only me. It made me feel warm inside and I always begged him to tell me more.

I will never forget the special moments that we shared—those precious moments in life when you feel so loved by someone that you want to shout out to the world to let everyone know how wonderful you feel.

We planned to celebrate my sixth birthday at Nene and Pop’s house that year. Nene was baking me a giant cake with her tender-loving hands, and I couldn’t wait to have my first sweet bite of heaven.

We were about to leave our house for my special celebration when the phone rang loudly that day. Mama answered and shouted, “Oh, no!” and started crying. She dropped the phone onto the floor and collapsed to her knees. I sensed something was wrong, but didn’t know what it could possibly be.

Daddy rushed to Mama’s side and helped her to her feet, but all she could say was, “Nene… Nene… Nene just…” Daddy held Mama in his arms, but she wouldn’t stop crying. Then Mama wrapped her arms around me and hugged me very tight. She didn’t say a word, but continued to cry—it made me sad to see her that way.

“Mama, you don’t have to cry because I love you this much,” as I spread my hands as far apart as I could. “See! Look Mama! See how much I love you!”

Mama finally paused for just a brief moment and squeezed me even tighter. Then she whispered softly in my ear, “We’re going to Pop’s house now, but we’ll have to wait to celebrate your sixth birthday another day. I’m so sorry, Taylor. Is that okay with you?”

I was disappointed, but I could sense I didn’t have a choice. I sadly replied, “Yes, ma’am—it’s okay. You don’t have to cry anymore. I’m your big boy now. I’ll take good care of you,” as I gently placed my hands on her tear-soaked cheeks.

“Yes, you are my big boy, and I knew you would understand,” as she continued wiping her tears. “Now, when we get to the farm, I want you to go to the barn and check on Pop’s chickens. You can feed them too, if you like. Will you do that for Pop and me?”

“Yes, ma’am— I will.” Again, I was confused, but I knew there were no other options for me. It was something I had to do.

When we arrived at the farm, I saw two police cars and an ambulance parked in front of Pop’s house with their lights flashing brightly. I remember thinking that it wasn’t a good sign to see them there and felt something must be terribly wrong. Mama told me to go to the barn and stay there until she came to get me. It was to be for just a little while.

I fed the chickens as Mama asked me to do, and then waited for what seemed to be a very long time. Then I saw Mama walking toward the barn, still wiping tears with each step she took. She knelt beside me, placed her hands on my shoulders, and said, “Taylor, I have something I must tell you and I want you to be my big boy when I do.”

Having no idea of the gravity of the moment, I replied, “Is it time for my birthday party? I’m ready to blow out the candles and eat the yummy cake Nene baked for me!”

After I said that, Mama started crying again, but her tears began flowing much more than before. It was the first time I had ever seen my mama cry so much. Her tears were falling like raindrops from the sky above. I thought I had done something wrong, but she wasn’t scolding me. Instead, she put her arms around me and pulled me firmly against her chest. She held me so tight I could feel her heart beating very fast.

She looked at me through red-swollen eyes and whispered softly, “Taylor, Nene—Nene went away today. She went to live with Jesus up in heaven.”

With the innocence of a child I replied, “When will she be coming back home, Mama? I don’t want Nene to miss my birthday party. She made a special cake for me!”

“Taylor, you know Nene loves you very much, but she won’t be coming back. She’s an angel and lives in heaven now, but I know she will still be watching you when we celebrate your special birthday.”

“But Nene didn’t tell me goodbye or sing happy birthday to me! She always tells me goodbye before she leaves. Mama, I want to go in the house to see Nene now! It’s my very special day! I’m six years old today! I’m your big boy now!”

Mama started crying even harder after I said that. She must have known I didn’t understand what she had told me. I pushed myself away from her grasp and started running toward Nene’s house. I heard Mama shouting my name, but I kept running as fast as my little legs could go. I was going to hear Nene sing happy birthday to me, but before I could get to the house, Daddy came down the steps and blocked my path.

I had never seen Daddy cry before, but I could see he was very upset that day. He had always told me big boys don’t cry. I was very confused by the tracks of tears I saw streaming down his cheeks because my daddy was, indeed, a very big boy. Big boys aren’t supposed to cry—Daddy told me so.

“Easy, Taylor! Now is not a good time for you to go inside Pop’s house. It will be better if you stay outside with your mama and me. Let’s go sit in the rocking chairs on the front porch for a few minutes.”

We walked in silence to the front porch and as I crawled up in Dad’s lap, I started crying as I said, “I want to see Nene! Daddy, please let me go see Nene!”

I fought hard to free myself, but Daddy was much too strong—I couldn’t break free.

“Did Mama tell you about Nene?” he asked.

“Yes, sir, but I want to go inside to see her. I want her to sing happy birthday to me because it’s my sixth birthday today. Mama said that it was my special day and if I made a wish, it would come true. My wish is to see Nene now. That’s all I wish for on my special day.”

Daddy picked me up and started walking toward the barn. When we got to Mama, she and Daddy hugged with me in the middle. We all stood there crying, but I didn’t really understand why until Daddy explained it to me again. That was the day I learned how it feels to lose someone you love very much. Yes, Nene went to heaven, but Mama told me that if I kept her in my heart, she would always be with me.

Well, I never did have that six-year-old birthday party. I guess Mama and Daddy were too busy with Nene’s funeral and taking care of Pop to celebrate it with me. They probably forgot about it, but I was okay with it because, party or no party, I was still a big boy—I was now six years old!

I remember going to Pop’s house every day over the next two weeks to make sure he was okay. I would sit on his lap in that old rocking chair, but he no longer told me stories after Nene went away. We just sat still with Pop staring off into the distance. It was as though he wasn’t there with me anymore. When I tried to talk to him, he just glanced down at me for a brief moment, but the warm glow he used to have in his eyes was no longer present. His eyes seemed so empty, as if his reasons for living were no longer there. However, each time a lightening bug flashed its light at us, I saw Pop smile. Then he would say, “Hello, Nene! I miss you so much! I’m looking forward to being by your side again—the way it used to be.”

Early into the third week after Nene went to heaven, Mama came to me crying once again. Based on my recent experience with Nene going to be with Jesus, I knew something was surely wrong. However, nothing could have prepared me for what she said to me that day.

“Taylor, I have some sad news to share with you, and I hope you will understand. Pop went to heaven to be with Nene today. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I understood very well what she meant this time. We hugged and wiped away many more tears that day. I knew the weeks to follow were going to be very tough. I always thought I was the big boy Dad told me to be, but I cried a lot during those long weeks. Two people who I loved dearly were now up in heaven with Jesus, but I knew they were still watching over me because I was carrying them in my heart, as Mama told me I could do.

Mama and Daddy took care of selling the farm and most of Nene and Pop’s possessions because we didn’t have room to store them in our little house. The only things I asked to keep were the two old rocking chairs sitting on Nene and Pop’s front porch. Mama and Daddy finally agreed to let me have both of them, and I am very grateful they did.

When I got married many years later, the first things I moved to our new house were those two old rocking chairs. My wife thought they were hideous and wanted me to get rid of them. She said they were nothing but old pieces of wood—junk not worthy of having at our new house.

It was our first big argument, but I stood my ground. I refused to give in and placed those two old rockers on our front porch that day. She eventually accepted the fact I was keeping them, but she wanted to place them on the back porch because she didn’t want her friends to see them sitting there.

Eventually, I told her the story behind those two old rocking chairs, and they have been sitting on the front porch of every house we have lived in. Those two sentinels will always be guarding my front door, even though my wife will never fully understand how much they mean to me.

Sixty years have now slipped past since Nene and Pop went to be with Jesus, but each time I look at those two old rocking chairs, I imagine them still sitting there. Nene is knitting away and Pop is chewing on his handmade-corncob pipe.

On my birthday each year, I sit in Pop’s old rocking chair and pretend I’m celebrating my sixth birthday with him and Nene. I feel his presence and look into his eyes. What I see is that warm glow of his kind heart looking down at me once more.

Yes, Pop and Nene are still rocking together; the way it was meant to be. Now, when I see lightening bugs flashing their lights at me, I know it is Nene and Pop stopping by to say hello—Pop told me that long ago, and I know it to be true.

When I listen very carefully, I can even hear both of them singing happy sixth birthday to me. That thought warms my heart and always makes me smile. Yes, I just sit there for a few moments rocking with Nene and Pop—the way it used to be.

Just two old rocking chairs sitting motionless there, and yet, they are very full of life to me. Those two old rocking chairs hold fond memories of two people who will always have a special place in my heart. My Nene and Pop will always be rocking side-by-side on my front porch.

So, the next time you happen upon two old rocking chairs just sitting there, pause for just a moment and look beyond what your eyes can see. You may find your personal version of “Nene and Pop” sitting there, just the way it was meant to be. If not, think of all the stories those two old rocking chairs could tell you, if only they could speak.

May God bless you with many fond memories of those who now shine their lights upon you when they come to say hello—Pop told me that long ago, so I know it to be true.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

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GOD DOES WORK IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS

We are in a time in life when “HATE” seems to be the norm, so I feel the need to share what happened to me Monday 10/1/2018. I’m sharing, not to seek praise for such a small-insignificant gesture, but to show how God does work in mysterious ways.

I went to the post office Monday morning to mail a copy of my book, “If Tigers Were Angels” that was ordered Saturday. There were 23 people in the single-file line ahead of me and 3 behind me. Fifteen minutes later, there were 19 people ahead and 6 behind me (many others had looked through the glass door and decided to leave). I would normally have left also, but something “urged” me stay—I continued chatting with folks around me as we waited.

Then, it happened. A frail-elderly lady finished with the postal clerk at the counter and turned to walk out carrying a large box. I was in line near the exit door. As she approached, she was having difficulty carrying the heavy box. I stepped out of line and offered to assist her.

Her first comment was, “But you’ll lose your place in line.”

I replied, “That’s okay, Ma’am. I want to help you get the box to your car.”

I cannot imagine what she had in that box because it was definitely heavy. I placed the box in her trunk and told her to have a nice day. She acknowledged with a “Thank you so much, and you have a nice day too, young man.” Her statement made me smile—me, a young man?!? I don’t think so!

I went back to the line, which was now extending out into the lobby area—there were now 28 people ahead of me. Just as I was about to leave, a nice lady who had been 1 of 6 people behind me earlier, opened the door and said, “Come back in here, sir. We saved your place in line for you.”

I thought, “Wow! I didn’t expect that very nice gesture.” However, I’m not sure what the additional people now standing in front of me at that moment thought as I walked past them to my original place in line. The good news—no one said anything, nor did anyone take a swing at my head.

It was not a coincidence that while I was trying to mail a copy of my faith-based book that I found myself in the above situation. Normally, I would have been too impatient and walked out—but for reasons that elude me, I didn’t. I remained in line and did a very small act of kindness for a lady and was treated with kindness by others who were in line with me. All of this happened within a few minutes with people who did not know each other.

I’ve had numerous similar situations (all good) involving “Tigers” during/since writing my book. I know God has worked in mysterious ways in my life many times in recent years. He continues speaking to me, but I’m not sure of the path he wants me to follow. I will continue my efforts trying to understand His messages and look forward serving Him.

No matter how small the gesture is, try to do something kind for someone each day while not expecting anything in return. They will feel good and so will you.

May God bless you in all you do!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2018

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

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THE HUNDRED

The following is from the novel, IF TIGERS WERE ANGELS, as Ben, protagonist, has to deal with the realities of life.

*****

…I sat drowning in my sorrow thinking poor little me. Then a story my father once told me when I was a young boy came to mind. It’s a story about a father teaching his son a lesson. It’s titled “The Hundred” and he even gave me a copy of the story.

The Hundred

Son, pretend you have a quarter in your right pocket and a hundred dollar bill in your left.

I tell you to give the money to me so I can keep it safe for you, but instead of obeying me, you go outside to play and have a good time.

You’re busy running, jumping and tumbling with your friends. You’re foot loose and fancy free, without a care in the world.

In fact, you’re on top of the world because you have a hundred dollar bill and a quarter in your pockets. It’s the exact amount of money you need to go buy yourself that fancy new toy you’ve been dreaming about for so long. You’ve been saving a quarter a week for years and tomorrow will be the best day of your life. You’re going to the store to buy that toy and make your dream come true.

Then, you come back inside after a long day playing in the yard and reach into your right pocket, but the quarter isn’t there. You think, no big deal, so I lost a quarter. You think, I can get another quarter easily in another week and then I will buy the toy.

You reach into your left pocket and find that the hundred dollar bill isn’t there either. Now you panic. You run into the yard searching everywhere for that hundred dollar bill because it means so much to you.

You search for hours because you know you can’t easily replace a hundred dollars. Now, you can’t go buy the toy you’ve been saving for all this time. You realize that it will be many years before you‘ll have that much money again.

You ask yourself why you didn’t give your money to Dad to keep it safe. You kick yourself and you hit rock bottom. Your life, as you know it, is over. You can’t get any lower than you are at that moment.

You now have two choices. Put your big boy pants on and find a way to earn another hundred and a quarter as fast as you can, or sit there crying about it like a baby for the rest of your life.

What are you going to do?”

“But Dad, there’s a third choice. You can just give me another hundred dollar bill and a quarter and I can still go buy my toy.”

The dad looked down at his son, slid his glasses to the end of his nose, and replied, “Wrong! Good try little buddy, but that’s not one of your choices. I’ll give you an “A” for your thought process, but I won’t replace your hundred dollars for disobeying me. You must learn that there are no bailouts in life. You have to suck it up and move on or cry about it the rest of your life. Those are your only choices!”

At the time he told me the story, I replied, “If I was that little boy, I’d suck it up and move forward. I’m not gonna cry about it for the rest of my life.” It was years later that my father told me that the little boy in “The Hundred” was actually him. He had written it so he would always remember that his decisions had consequences. He never told me what he did, but I think I know the answer.

My father was right back then and I learned my lesson from that little story. If I ever mess up, I know there are no bailouts in life. Well, I messed up and lost my hundred when I lost my Grace. Now, I have to put my big boy pants on and move forward because I’m not going to cry about it for the rest of my life.

At that moment, I decided I had to start rebuilding my life. I’d hit bottom and was going to start looking forward to better times ahead. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I also knew it couldn’t get any worse. Once you lose what’s near and dear to you, nothing else matters. You’re willing to try anything at that point and the risks are diminished by the magnitude of your new goal. I was ready to start living again and was determined to keep moving forward. I have many things to do before I stop to rest.

I got up the next morning with a renewed spirit, a new sense of worth, and the desire to make myself be the best person I could be. The chains of my anchors had been broken and I would start becoming the new me. I had faced the lions in the den and had been victorious, and nothing was going to stop me. I feared no evil and thanked God for guiding me through the valley of the shadow of death. I looked behind me and now saw two sets of footprints. I was walking on my own two feet and God was walking beside me, holding my hand.

*****

“The Hundred” presents a life lesson for many people in the world today who need to understand and accept the concept that their actions do have consequences. There will not always be someone around to bail you out in life.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2018

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

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ANGEL AND THE SILVER DOLLAR

There are times in life when we find ourselves in situations that we can’t explain while it is happening. I experienced such a moment when I was a young boy. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was certainly surreal. It was a special moment—one I can still visualize it as if it happened yesterday. However, it occurred fifty-six years ago.

So, what brings about such moments as this? Well, it’s simple when we understand that sometimes in life there are forces far more powerful than ourselves helping us accomplish feats that are beyond our abilities. Allow me to explain the moment I experienced.

When I was a youngster, I was very shy. I never liked being the center of attention—NEVER! I just wanted to do my own thing without any fanfare from others.

At age eleven, I had the honor of being one of fourteen players selected for the 1960 Orangeburg Little League All-Star baseball team. That in itself was a major milestone for me because there were many talented twelve-year olds who also played during the regular season. I was very fortunate to have some of the coaches recognize my ability to play baseball. However, unknown to them, their confidence in me set in motion the unusual event that was about to unfold.

allstarteam1960

What I didn’t know at the time was that this was going to be a defining moment in my life—both athletically and spiritually.

I was the starting centerfielder in the first Little League All-Star game in Barnwell, SC. To say starting the game surprised me would be an understatement. Anyway, I took the field with butterflies flying around in my stomach to the point I felt as if I was going to hurl my lunch before the game started, but, thank goodness, I didn’t.

The game had gone great for our team and we had a one-run lead in the bottom of the last inning. Then, momentum swung to the other team and they had men on second and third base with one out. I stood in centerfield with a lump in my throat and prayed, “Lord, please don’t let the batter hit the ball to me.” That’s not exactly what an “all-star” player should be thinking at such a time.

Unfortunately, for me, God didn’t respond to my innocent-childlike prayer the way I had hoped He would. On the very next pitch, the batter hit a hard line-drive straight toward me—the most difficult trajectory and direction for an outfielder to catch the ball.

I ran toward the ball and caught it just above my shoelaces for out number two. The runner on third base tagged up and headed toward home plate. If he scored, it would tie the game. If my throw was off-target, the runner on second base could also score and we would lose the game. Without hesitation, I reared back and fired the ball toward the catcher. It was a perfect strike, and the runner was out by two strides. It was a double play, and the game was over. We won the game!

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I had never thrown a runner out at home plate from centerfield in my life. The fans went wild and cheered louder than I had ever heard before. As I ran off the field, my teammates gathered around me and celebrated the moment—the victory and the throw! Though there were not thousands of fans in the stands that night, it sure sounded like it to me. To say the least, I was happy for what happened, but I also wanted to hide.

I was shocked by what I had just accomplished. The moment was truly surreal. I thought, “Did I really do that? Was I dreaming? How did that ball leave my hand and hit the catcher’s mitt for a perfect strike from centerfield?”

That’s when I paused and said, “Lord, You didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted, but thank You for blessing me with an angel to guide my throw to home plate.”

After the game, the father of our pitcher came over to me and congratulated me for my unbelievable throw. He said, “That was a great throw, Tatum! An awesome play like that deserves a reward. This is for you.” That’s when he placed a silver dollar in my hand—the only money I ever received for playing baseball.

silverdollarcoin

I’m sure you can imagine the joy I felt that night, but I knew I didn’t make that throw on my own. An angel assisted me on the field that night, and yet, I received a silver-dollar reward for “our” effort.

It is the special moments in life that make you smile, and this moment has put a smile on my face for over fifty years. Have I ever told my grandchildren this story? Sure, I have! Many times, and I smile every time I tell the story. In fact, I’m smiling right now!

Here’s the amazing finale to the story. I tried throwing a ball in similar situations at practice more than a hundred times and never made that play again. Without any pressure of a real-game situation, I couldn’t repeat the “magical” throw.

I’m sure the Lord has more important concerns than helping a young boy throw a ball to home plate, but I also know I could never have made that throw on my own. Then again, what if…

Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

So, what do you think happened that night? Did I suddenly have powers far beyond my abilities or did an angel assist me? No one could be that lucky.

I’m sure you have also had similar moments in your life. Would you care to share one of your special moments when you accomplished something beyond your capabilities?

Blessings to you and yours, and have a great day!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2017

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor LinkedIn: TomTatum1

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