Friday, April 28, 2017

Change? Me?

 (The second in the Short Story Series)
Doris Gaines Rapp
Copyright 2017 Doris Gaines Rapp

“Well, if it isn’t Greg Granger,” Deanna said as she placed one hand on her hip and held the grocery cart with the other. “You’re back in town.”
 “You know I’ve been home for nearly a month, Deanna Flowerpot,” Greg teased.
“Deanna Flowers,” she spit back, “as you well know.” She opened the corner of the Oreo cookie package from the top of her grocery sack and pulled out a comfort treat. Savoring the taste and intoxicating aroma of the chocolate she admitted, “Yes, I’ve seen you around town. You seem to turn up everywhere. Are you following me?”
“Why would I follow you?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” she said as she straightened her shoulders. “We used to be friends.”
“More than friends,” Greg whispered as he boldly stepped into her space.
“Back off, stranger-Granger,” she lowered her voice and growled, then remembered and hoped the chocolate was not sticking to her teeth. “It’s been seven years, and you haven’t changed a bit.”
“Changed?” he questioned. “Deanna, I’m not the one who changed or needs to change now. As I remember it, Stanley came into your life.” He drew out the name slowly.
“Stan Lee,” she enunciated clearly, “not Stanley. Anyway, he was your friend first, Greg,” she reminded him as she stared him down.
“Right, but he quickly became more than a friend to you, didn’t he?” he laughed incredulously. “From a football huddle with the team, to a romantic huddle with you only took a few weeks.”
Deanna began to push her mound of groceries toward her car again and turned abruptly, tipping the cart onto two wheels. “I did nothing, Greg. It was only after you and Tiffy—” she started to continue but decided there was no need to finish. “Oh, never mind.”
Greg threw up his hands in surrender as he watched her open the hatchback of her SUV. “Can I help you with those?”
“The king needs to be gallant and help his weak and helpless Homecoming Queen ... right? Even still, Greg?” she hissed as she gritted her teeth. “You tried to comfort me when I was upset because you betrayed me with Tiffy…like you did nothing wrong. You came to the conclusion my depression was because I’m a female, not because of what you did. You’ll never change.” She got in, put her car in gear and backed out.
“That was seven years ago. You never let me explain,” he called after her.
“Explain?” Deanna mumbled to herself as she zipped out of the parking lot. “He always thought if he talked enough, long enough, and loud enough, he could convince me it was snowing on the fourth of July.” She grabbed a tissue from her pocket and wiped tears from her eyes with angry swipes. “Well, there was that one time…but…not this time.” When she stopped at the next light, she wondered aloud, “I haven’t seen dear Tiffy Monroe around town. Wonder where he’s hiding her.” Talking to Greg again after all those years made it a hard afternoon for Deanna Flowers to enjoy.
The next morning promised to be a gorgeous sunny day. The sun was warm through the windshield and sent happy rainbows of light onto the seat beside her. It was the kind of weather in which she would have spent the whole day outside as a child. Deanna remembered the summer afternoons she spent with Greg from the time he moved into town when they were both ten-years-old. Mornings down by the river skipping rocks; mid-day excursions in the wooded area behind Flowers’ house; every day was an adventure. As Deanna drove down to her job at the family’s florist shop, Flowers’ Flowers, she fought tears she thought had dried up years ago. “He’ll never change.”
The store had been open for an hour when she walked in. The fragrance of flowers filled the room and escaped out the door as she entered. Deanna reached over and gently touched the pedals of a pot of orange tipped red tulips, a habit she always did when she entered. It was her way of making the dream of expanding the store real—a touch with reality. She came in an hour late and stayed an hour after her parents left as part of their partnership agreement. “Mamma,” she called out in fun, “I’m home.”
“Good morning, dear,” Greg called out in jest. “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to bruise the flowers?”
“I’m not hurting them. I’m encouraging them,” she mocked. “Oh, it’s you again,” she sighed as her shoulders drooped. “What are you doing here?”
“Now, Deanna,” her mother cautioned, “Greg came in to get some flowers for his mother.”
“For your mother?”
“She had another heart attack last night,” Greg explained. “She spent the night in the hospital.”
“Last night?” Deanna asked as her voice softened. She had been close to Mrs. Granger since the fifth grade. Spending all of her time with Greg, his mom was like another mother to her.
“How is she doing?” Mrs. Flowers asked.
Deanna felt her chest grow tight. “Greg, I am so sorry.” She reached out and stroked his arm gently.
“The doctor said she got to the hospital in time. She probably won’t have any permanent damage,” he said as he placed his hand over Deanna’s. “She dodged another near fatal attack.”
“Another one?” Deanna asked as her mother slipped quietly over to the floral cooler.
“Yellow roses?” Connie Flowers called back over her shoulder.
“Yes,” Greg agreed. “That’s right. Mom’s favorite.”
Deanna asked again, “Another heart attack, Greg?”
“Yeah,” he agreed as he continued to stroke her hand still resting on his arm. “She had her first heart attack seven years ago.”
“Seven years ago?” she gasped. The past seven years rolled through her mind in rapid succession. “Is that why you backed out of going to State University like we had both planned?”
“Yeah,” he admitted. “Dad was so busy with the hardware store and helping Mom, living at home and going to Community College was a way I could go on to school and still help out.”
“I came back after college to take over the business end of the florist shop as my parents began to expand it. When they needed me, my business degree came in handy too,” she explained while the smell of roses her mother was wrapping drifted her way. “Where have you been in the last few years, if you needed to be here in town?”
“Mom continued to be free from heart episodes, so she encouraged me to go to law school.” Greg explained as he looked into Deanna’s eyes. “I recently passed the bar exam and have joined Jeffrey Baker’s law office here in town.”
“Oh…” Deanna said, amazed at all Greg had accomplished, and angry she hadn’t known anything about his accomplishments. “But, Greg, you never told me any of it, not about your mother or law school or anything,” she said shaking her head in shock and disbelief.
“You got mad when I said I wouldn’t be going to State. You wouldn’t talk to me, remember?” he whispered. “And, you haven’t let me explain anything since.”
“I got mad because you said you changed your plans and would go to Community College with Tiffy,” she choked as tears gathered in her eyes.
“Deanna,” he said softly. “I told you I needed to change my plans and go to school locally,” he explained as she started to turn away. “No, Deanna, please listen to me. I told you that Tiffy had researched the school here in town and found my major, paralegal studies, had a good rating. She knew because she was going to have a minor in that field.”
“You weren’t going to date Tiffy?” she asked as her eyes welled up.
“Date Tiffy?” he asked as he grabbed her into a forceful embrace. “I loved you, Deanna,” he assured her as he brushed tears from her cheeks. “And…I still love you.”
“I have waited for you to grow up for seven years, Greg,” she said as she leaned in and put her forehead on his chest. “And…it was me who had to change, not you. Today, I was finally willing to listen and heard the words I had waited to hear all these years…words that you had tried to tell me all along.”
Deanna didn’t care who was watching or if, in fact, anyone else as in the store. She reached up on tip-toes and kissed him like they had just gotten home from the prom in their fine party clothes. She even thought she heard taffeta rustle as she moved.
“I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you,” she said while her voice cracked. “Even Mom tried to explain your situation to me and I didn’t want to talk about it. I just complained about how you would always remain the same. All you wanted to do was give excuses for bad behavior.”
“You’ll have to admit, I was a real pain when I was a teenager,” Greg said with a laugh.
“You’ll have to admit, I’ve been a real pain since I’ve grown up,” she admitted. “When I listened to you, it gave you room to maneuver out of the corner I shoved you in.”
“Maybe you’re right,” he said as he threw his head back. “I don’t feel as tapped—wrong if I speak and wrong if I don’t.”

“I understand now,” she admitted as she blushed. “I am so sorry, Greg. It wasn’t you. It was me all along. Grandma was always speaking in wise phrases I didn’t understand until now. She said—the only person you can change is yourself.” She kissed Greg again. “She was right.”

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Home is Where Love Lives

... The first in the Short Story Series ...
Doris Gaines Rapp
Copyright 2017 Doris Gaines Rapp
Indiana in the 1940’s

Billy Robertson was eleven-years old. His Grampa said he was all-boy and Gramma agreed. He and his older brother and his two sisters lived with their grandparents since their mother died when Billy was a baby. Uncle Walter had the front south bedroom upstairs. He worked the night shift at the factory and spent his weekends playing his violin and working in the yard. Billy often wondered what it would be like to have a mom and dad, a “real” home, even though he loved Gramma and Grampa.
One afternoon, Billy untied a long rope he had attached to a huge tree branch that hung out over the creek, grabbed hold of the flapping end, leaned back into a jump and flexed his knees. The bank was wet so the mud was slick. He gripped the rope tightly until his fingernails nearly dug into the palms of his hands. Throwing his head back, he swung out over the stream, setting himself free from the muddy bank. Billy felt like Eddie Rickenbacker, the Great War flying ace, as he imagined himself soaring out over the dark, wild waves of a mighty ocean.
It was a great late-autumn, Indian-summer afternoon for a boy to go exploring. There was no better place to investigate than down in the Moyer woods. In the spring and summer, the peaceful silence of winter snow gave way to the sounds of buzzing insects and birds scolding one another from high in the trees. Then, in the fall, the smell of burning leaves, the bright colors of autumn, and the sound of the Mohawk, a puffing black steam engine traveling on the clean air, made him positively giddy.
As Billy surveyed his kingdom in the magical woods, he felt something on his leg. “What are you doing down here, boy?” he asked as his German shepherd slid to a stop on the damp leaves and bumped into him. Billy reached down and scratched Moe on his soft, often-petted head. He had left the shepherd back at the house before going scavenging after school. Under a rock along the creek he found a dirty quarter stuck in the mud and a broken pocket knife near a huge tulip tree. Grampa would surely be able to take it to his workshop and smooth out the chipped blade.
Moe wagged his tail and tapped his paw on Billy’s foot. Panting, his tongue curled and dripped spit from his mouth. Waiting patiently, he looked into Billy’s eyes.
“What is it, Moe?” At first Billy didn’t see the note tied to the dog’s collar. “Oh, I see. You’re a messenger today.” He reached down and untied the paper.
“Billy, come home.” That was all the note said but Billy knew if Gramma sent Moe, he’d better head for the house. He stuffed the quarter and the knife into his pocket along with the art-gum eraser he found on the sidewalk outside the school, and grabbed his bike where he left it by the big tree.
Peddling along the path out of the woods, he steered the Schwinn onto the small road that led to the back of the Moyer property. The whole way, Moe trotted along close to Billy’s front wheel herding him back to the path. Billy knew his grandmother had commanded Moe to bring him home, because it had happened many times before. Moe would not neglect his task. The boy popped down the alley for a few yards and then whizzed in through the side gate.
The yard was alive with the last crisp falling leaves of crimson and gold, and the same old black crow that had hung around during the summer. Ol’ Snags, Gramma called it. It would swoop down from the tops of the maple trees and snatch the green sprouts of growing carrots in the garden. Now, the bird just seemed to mock everyone in the Moyer family, sticking around long after the harvesting of the garden and the turning over of the ground. Grampa and Billy had dug the root cellar, lined it with burlap bags and buried the vegetables in it to be uncovered when needed during the next winter. Ol’ Snags sat above on a tree limb watching every shovel full fly from the pit.
As Billy came around the corner, he saw Gramma hurry off the side porch and wave a broom at the crow, trying to shoo the old thief away. Then Ol’ Snags did something strange. It looked down from half-way up the maple tree and into Gertie Moyer’s eyes, flipped his tail feathers at her and flew away.
As Billy neared the house he could hear Gramma snort, "You better fly high enough I can’t see you, Snags. Shoo!” she yelled again. Then she added, “Where is that child? How can an eleven-year-old youngin get away so fast?"
Billy stopped for a moment, wanting a place to hide. He knew he got away with a lot of mischief most of the time. He suspected it was because Gramma hadn’t been feeling well lately.
 “There you two are,” she said as she fanned her face with her apron. “Oh my goodness, my breath is short. You are a handful Billy Robertson but I knew Moe would bring you home. He’s the smartest dog I know.”
“What did you need me for?” Billy asked, thinking again about the note his grandmother had sent with Moe.
Gertie clutched her chest. “Let’s get inside. I need to rest a minute.” Gramma led the way into the house. “It’s getting dark. Can’t you see that?”
"What’s wrong, Gramma?” Billy whispered. The boy’s voice sounded gravely in the evening air.
Gramma shook her head. “The night air is giving you laryngitis. You sound like Mr. Simon, the ice delivery man. His throat was hurt in the war ya know.”
Billy went into the kitchen to get his grandmother some water as she headed toward the living room where she plopped down on her little sewing rocker. Her small, four foot, ten and a half inch frame didn’t quite fit some of the other furniture. The sofa and side chairs were just the right size for Grampa and Uncle Walter’s full six feet. “What happened to Mr. Simon, Gramma?” Billy asked as he brought in the water glass.
“No one knows what happened to Peter Simon and he won’t say,” Gramma mumbled. “He’s pretty quiet. He says it just happened. Now, save your voice, Billy so you won’t miss school tomorrow. Just listen to the Philco radio and rest. Your granddaddy will be home soon.”
“Where is Grampa?” Billy asked and sat down on the rug in front of the tall floor model radio. He reached out for Moe, using the dog as a big hairy pillow.
“Your Grampa took the interurban into Elkhart this afternoon. His pension check came in the mail. He’ll be back soon,” Gramma said.
Grandpa Moyer had few pleasures that involved spending money. He had lost one eye while working on the railroad and had retired on a pension of eighty-eight dollars a month. That small monthly income, along with the money he earned off of selling some of his land, and the small amount of cash Uncle Walter contributed was all he had to feed seven mouths. That didn’t leave much money for fun.
Grampa had worked for the railroad since he was ten years old, carrying water to the men as they worked hard laying the rails. Now, Grampa’s only indulgence was a trip into town once a month to deposit his pension check in the bank, buy a small tool at the hardware store, and get a little sack of hard candy at the Five-and-Dime.
“With your granddaddy gone today, I had to sic the dog on you,” Gramma said as she chuckled. “I held my hand under the dog’s jaw and looked right into his bright brown eyes. “Moe,” I commanded, “find Billy.”
Then Billy remembered. “Why did you send Moe to get me Gramma?”
“I needed you to go over to the grocery to get a pound of hamburger,” she said. “I forgot to have you get it earlier. Your grandfather will be home soon and I haven’t started supper.”
“I’ll go right now, Gramma.” he offered and hopped to his feet. Moe untangled himself from where he had landed when he was no longer a head cushion and jumped up as well. Billy reached down and patted his head behind the dog’s ears.
Gramma shook her head. “Not now. I need you to go out to Grampa’s work shop and bring in the small ladder. I need the honey from the top cabinet shelf. Your granddaddy took my step stool out there to glue that first wrung after it broke. It should be dry by now.”
“I’ll get the honey for you, Gramma,” Billy offered.
Gertie shook her head. “No, I have to have the ladder in the house anyway.”
Billy started for the door again. “Step ladder…right.” Then he stopped, “What about the hamburger?”
“I’ll send Moe,” Gramma said.
Moe wagged his tail and danced from his front legs to the hind two when he heard his name. Gramma went to the kitchen and took a small pencil and a piece of paper from a pad she kept in a drawer. She wrote, “1 lb. hamburger. Put it on our bill, please,” on the sheet and signed it, “Mrs. Moyer.”
“Moe,” she called to the shepherd. The dog came to her side and stood ready for instruction. Gertie tied the note to his collar and patted his hind quarter. “Go take it to Mr. Howard, Moe.”
The dog waited at the door for Gramma to let him out. Once Moe was free from the rebounding screen door, Gertie went to the living room window to watch. She saw the Shepherd run across the street and paw at the market door. Mr. Howard came out, removed the note, waved at the Moyer house and went back inside. A few minutes later, Moe darted to the edge of the street with a brown paper sack tied to his collar.
It didn’t matter if the package had hamburger or steaks inside. Moe’s job was to bring it home, untouched and unnibbled.
Crossing the road, drivers in their black model A’s and early fifties hump-top sedans pulled over as far as they could so as not to hit the dog with the precious package. Mr. and Mrs. Crammer from church drove by in their faded 1934 Studebaker. She had her old fur coat wrapped around her and a headscarf tied tightly around her head. The warm sun flooded the day enough for them to have their top down…it was a true Indian summer day. Mrs. Crammer twisted and turned to watch the dog carry his package across the street.
In a few minutes Moe returned with the sack still tied to his collar. When he reached the house, Gertie removed the package, patted him vigorously on his back, while Moe wiggled and danced. If a dog could smile, Moe grinned.
While Moe did the grocery shopping, Billy went around to the back of the house, near the back gate. There was the small lean-to his grandfather had built against the alley fence. That was Grampa’s toolshed. But, Billy’s favorite was Grampa’s new workshop. At the handmade door to the magical kingdom of tools, the boy pulled a big skeleton key from his pocked. Lifting the heavy chain to the padlock, he inserted the key and unlocked the door.
“It sure is swell in here,” Billy said out loud to the handcrafted toolbox and well organized gadgets that were everywhere. He scanned all the wonderful old tools his grandpa kept in there. The hammers and cold chisels hung neatly along the walls on special pegs Grampa had made. If someone threw away a broken screwdriver, Grampa would bring it home, lovingly make a new handle and find a perfect spot for it on the wall.
“Granddaddy, can I make something on your workbench?” Billy had asked the week before.
“Well now, Billy,” Grampa had drawn out as he stroked his chin, “you daresn’t loss any tools. You must put everything back just as you found them.” It was easy to see that Albert Moyer’s Pennsylvania Dutch way of talking had followed him all the way to Indiana sixty-five years ago.
“I will Granddaddy. I’ll put every hammer on the proper hook and every loose tack back in its proper box,” Billy promised as the vision of the majestic biplane he planned to build flew through his mind.
“What ya gonna make?” Grampa asked that day.
Billy took a deep breath and spit out, “A double winging airplane.” His machine gun speed answer added, “With a propeller up front and a rudder in the back.”
 “Well, then, you’ll need some of that orange crate wood you helped me break down and store in the barrel over there,” Grampa offered. “You can use a piece of a coat hanger for the struts. I better cut those for ya.”
Billy smiled to himself as he looked around. “It’s happy in here,” he said as he fetched the small two step wooden ladder from the corner. He took one last fond look at all the great stuff Grampa had out there, ran his fingers over the smooth, well-warn workbench, and walked back out into the yard. He propped the ladder on the outside wall while he locked up his grandfather’s shop.
The air smelled like snow might be coming in on a new cold front. Billy turned his shirt collar up, fetched the step ladder and headed back to the house.
Once on the porch steps the aroma of frying hamburger wafted out through the door Gramma had left ajar. The sound of Moe stirring from his spot beside the large living room chair filtered to his ears. Out front, he heard the front door open and the interurban pass. That meant Grampa was home and Moe would greet him with a wiggled and a lick to his hand like always.
Home. While other guys had a mom and dad, Billy didn’t. Grampa Moyer and Uncle Walter were the closest people Billy had to a dad, since his own father rarely came around. Yes, his family was far different from the families the other kids at school had, and certainly not the same as his many cousins’ families. But, everyone who lived in that house on the corner loved him and that was good enough. He heard Moe come to the door and scratch. That was the cue it was time for him to go in. With the ladder in one hand, he opened the side-porch door. Moe jumped up; placed two paws right in the middle of Billy’s chest and licked his cheek. Inside, the house was full of laughter as everyone bustled around preparing for another family dinner. It smelled and sounded sweetly familiar, and…Billy knew. He was home.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Short Stories and Backstories

Tomorrow, I will begin posting a series of short stories and backstories to some of my books. I know you will enjoy them. In time, I'll publish them as a compilation under one cover.

I know there are some of you who enjoy writing. If you would like to have one of your short stories posted on this blog, I will consider it if you send a "perfect" copy - I will do minimal editing - to It should be roughly 1000 - 2000 words. No profanity - I don't even want to read it. No explicit sexual descriptions. Romance - yes. Adventure - yes. No blood, guts or gore. No previously published works.

I will maintain the right to publish all those accepted for posting on this blog as well as in a future book of short stories copyrighted by me, Doris Gaines Rapp. You will hold the individual copyright for your short story and you will post a copyright citation at the beginning or end of your submission. If you publish your own work in whole or expanded in another publication, you will add the notation, "________ (Title) first appeared on on ________ (date).

I hope you enjoy all the short stories posted here. I know I will have fun publishing mine and selecting and editing, a little, yours.

Blessings to you all,
Doris Gaines Rapp

Friday, April 14, 2017

Segment Twenty - Escape from the Belfry Copyright 2013 Doris Gaines Rapp

Last Chapter! Enjoy!

Chapter 35

A Celebration of Life and Strength 

“You look pretty, Frederica Breman,” Adam smiled as they walked around the gym floor at the party.
            “This place looks wonderful,” Barbara said excitedly. “Do you two mind if Charlie and I walk around and see all the games?”
            “Of course not, Barb,” Fritzy agreed. “We’re going to take it all in at our own pace, too.”
            Kids played BINGO and won amazing prizes at one table, at least Adam thought they were. As they watched, he saw one boy win a new pearl-handled pocket knife and a friend of Fritzy’s scored a bottle of French cologne.
            “Let me smell,” Fritzy asked. Then, she took a little whiff of the cologne. “The perfume smells amazing,” she said.
            “This is great!” Adam said as he looked all around.
            “The parents have gone all out to make the party special. The war is over. The dads and moms are home now. Many of them were gone for two or three years. Daddy said the party is so grand because the entire city of Middletown wanted to play for an evening—with all the lights on. They wanted a fun night, not for themselves, but for their children. They wanted them to have all the fun that had been denied them. The chaperon list had tripled as returning dads wanted to spend those precious hours with their children.”
            “Well, you still look great,” Adam said again.
            “Thank you, kind sir,” Fritzy blushed at Adam’s compliment. Then her eyes darted around the room in excitement. “Look, a scavenger hunt!”
            Adam picked up a list to search for the first item in the hunt. “Find the female with one green eye and one blue eye.”
            “What?” Fritzy puzzled. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I don’t know anyone with one blue eye and one green eye. Skip that one. Maybe we’ll happen on her later. Let’s look around some more.”
            “Okay. Let’s go over there.” Adam’s eyes caught an amazing sight. “They put up a bowling alley—with three lanes.”
            “How did they do that?” Fritzy ran over to the newly installed alleys. “They’re bowling in their stocking feet.”
            Adam liked the sound the fabric in Fritzy’s red taffeta dress made as she moved beside him. If not for the Christmas holidays, he may have forgotten how special girls looked in party clothes.
            “Well, what do you think?” Coach Breman burst with pride as the two got over to the lanes.
            “About what?” Adam stumbled. His mind was still on Fritzy’s dress.
            “How? Why?” Fritzy stammered as she looked at the glistening hardwood of the alleys.
            “Sorry for the secrecy, Frederica. We were hoping to have the alley ready by tonight, but we had no guarantee. I didn’t want to disappoint you. Principal Sparrow and I decided to add bowling as an activity by rolling up old parachutes to make the lanes but no gutters. Sign up for your turn to play,” the coach beamed.
            “If bowling isn’t your choice, people over there are shooting baskets. They are trying to win a prize for making three baskets in a row from the top of the key. There are folk dances in the corner near the cafeteria. Some kids over there are having fun painting Christmas ornaments,” he pointed.
            “The room is full of stuff, all kinds of games and fun and . . . Fritzy, listen to the music. This is great!” Adam looked around every corner of the gym. “Wow, Coach, this is amazing!”
            “I will leave you two young people to your own fun. There are hot dogs, cokes, potato salad, cupcakes and everything that goes with them in the cafeteria.”
             “Let’s just walk around for a while and look at everything.” Adam took Fritzy’s hand as they cruised the room. They stopped at the dart board. A sign read, “Break three balloons and win a prize.”
            “Look over there, Adam—a cake walk. Walk around the chairs until the music stops and win a cake,” Fritzy’s eyes flashed with excitement as she took in all the games.
            “I could use a cake,” Adam started, but then thought he’d better drop the topic of food.
            “Whatever you want, Adam. All the games are free and so is the food.”
            “Free? I like those prices,” Adam laughed.
            “Isn’t it wonderful that the Christ Child was returned,” Fritzy beamed. “The congregation didn’t even respond to the ransom demand. A note, actually stuck right in the baby’s hand, said, ‘The carving belongs to the people of the Church on Cranberry Street, not to me.’ It is a miracle, Adam. A real miracle.”
            “I never believed in miracles before.”
            “And now?”
            “So many things have happened. So many things have changed.” He thought for a moment then remembered with excitement. “Did I tell you, the little hummingbird came back?”
            “That’s wonderful! I think he came back because you’ve changed. They say hummingbirds won’t stick around if there is hatred or ugliness around them. Maybe that has changed, too. Maybe you’re happier.”
            Adam thought of the bitterness he had felt and the anger he had harbored toward his father. All the bad feelings were gone, and he hadn’t even realized when they left. Then he thought of the Christ Child in the manger and the freedom he has felt since he knelt there at the occupied manger and the infant occupied his heart.
            “I am happier. I can feel joy all the way down to my shoes. Or, maybe I should say, Jim’s shoes. Thank your mother again for me.”
            “Adam, they aren’t Jim’s shoes now, any more than they would belong to the Bon Ton if you had bought them there. They are yours now. Straighten up and own them.” She gave him a playful jab to his arm as she emphasized the point she was making. “Get over the woo-is-me complaints.”
            “Thanks. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself, and I’m not going to be Mr. Woo any more. Self-pity only makes me confused and weak.”
            From off to the side, two silly boys pushed and pulled at each other. They really didn’t watch where they were going.
            “Look at those two. They’ve already made fools out of themselves to my thinking. What will they do next?”
            Then the boys turned sharply, ran into Fritzy and nearly knocked her down. She stumbled into Adam who was happy to catch her before she fell.
            “Hey, watch where you’re going,” Adam spoke firmly to the roughnecks.
            “Says who?” One of the boys shot back.
            “Me—you just heard me.” Adam snapped quickly. One of the boys turned so Adam could see his face. Then the other good-for-nothing turned as well.
            “Well, well, look who’s here,” Adam smirked at the two. “I thought you two weren’t coming to the party.”
            “Where’d ya get the idea we wouldn’t come?” Freddy growled out. “We’re just as good as you. We have homes. At least we don’t live in a belfry,” Buddy smirked.
            “Never mind them, Adam. Let’s go on.” Fritzy took his arm and tried to nudge him away.
            “Right, Adam,” Buddy mocked, “let the little lady lead you around by the nose.”
            “At least I have a friend, Buddy. What do you call Freddy? Your litter-mate? You guys are always rolling around like little mutts.” Adam smiled sarcastically.
            “Mutts are we? We have families and houses. I’ve heard you live in the rafters of the church on Cranberry Street. That’s where the Christ Kid was stolen. I think the robbery was an inside job,” Buddy yelled.
            “Destroy him,” the shadows hissed with menacing delight. “Their lives belong to you. You know their deep secret.” The darkness oozed out of the corners and moved across the floor, inviting Adam to watch them, to let them in.
            “No,” Adam protested.
            “No what?” Fritzy questioned.
            “No—nothing, Fritzy. I—see―.”
            “See what? Two stupid boys?” Fritzy looked at the two, then she added, “The theft was an inside job. The carving was taken from the inside to the outside, moron.”
            “Moron? Me? Looks like the resident bat in the belfry would have heard something that night,” Buddy insisted again.
            “They deserve to be broken. They are lost to us anyway,” the shadows touched each boy on the shoulder. “They will let us in.”
            “Shadows be gone!” Adam ordered and the shadows dissolved into the corners, always there, always waiting.
            “Be gone?” Freddy laughed. “Are you trying to cast a spell on us?”
            “If I were, you would have felt it by now,” Adam stated as one with authority.
            “I wish you two―” Adam began then stopped. “No,” he stopped again. He would not wish.
            “Adam, are you alright?” Fritzy asked.
            “Yes, I’m fine. I’m just having an argument with myself,” he admitted.
            “Let us touch her,” the shadows begged in chorus as they moved out of hiding. “She is beautiful.”
            “No,” Adam demanded again. This time he stepped forward and put himself between Fritzy and the darkness.
            “What is that smell?’ Fritzy recoiled.
            “You can smell the foul odor?” Adam gasped. He would have to get Fritzy away from the dark corner quickly.
            “Yes,” she held her hand to her nose and mouth. “Can’t you smell that?”
            “Yes, Fritzy, I smell it, but I had hoped you wouldn’t.” Adam put his hand on her shoulder to lead her away.
            “Where do you think you’re going?” Buddy demanded and pushed his fingers into Adam’s shoulder.
            “We will give you the power to break them. Their lives will be ruined beyond repair. You know what happened that night in the storage room. We were there,” evil’s argument grew in strength with each dark thought.
            “My Son,” Shaddy whispered even though he was not called. “You will have what you need when you need it.”
            Adam smiled and brushed Buddy’s hand from his shoulder like an unwanted fly at a picnic. “I need to talk to you two.”
            He turned to Fritzy and apologized. “The boys and I will step into the hallway. I want you to go find your dad and I’ll meet you there.” He squeezed her hand and pointed the way out of the room.
            “You’ve been caught now, haven’t you, Belfry Brat,” Freddy giggled as they bounced into the hall, expecting an easy win in the game they were playing.
            “I heard Pastor Silverman say something interesting you guys would want to know before you carry this prank any farther.” Adam smiled and moved in closer to the two wimps who only cowered and slunk back.
            “What do we care?” Buddy asked sheepishly.
            “Will, I think you guys will care a lot. The Navy duffle bag the carving was in had a few smudges of fresh yellow paint on the outside. I am sure, if the police wanted to, they could go from house to house and check for freshly painted walls and maybe even used paint cans—maybe out in the garage.”
            Buddy and Freddy closed their eyes in unison, like they had both seen the last scene of a bad movie. “Are they going to?” Freddy questioned.
            “Shut up, Stupid,” Buddy jabbed at his cohort in crime.
            “They will, if this streak of burglary and lies doesn’t stop. I happen to know some of the policemen, and they are descent guys. I think they’d like to let all of this go away. Do you think you’re done with this mess?” Adam stepped a little closer and got in their faces. “Well?”
            “I’m done with it all. It wasn’t―”
            “Freddy, are you going to shut up?” Buddy demanded.
            “No, I am not. Do you want me to talk more, Buddy?” Freddy’s back stood a little straighter, and he grew a little taller.
            “I thought you might decide to do the right thing, Freddy.” Adam turned to leave. He heard Buddy smack Freddy again. “Freddy, if he gives you any trouble, the officer’s name is Overton. He knows me. Oh, and, I think you lost your pocket knife, Buddy. The one with the B.P. initials on it. It was nearly swallowed by a rat. I would hate to think that someone was responsible for putting all those rats in my friend’s basement.”
            Buddy said nothing more, but took two steps away from Freddy.
            Adam smiled again and went back into the gym, leaving the two hoodlums to fight out their own power struggle.
            Adam felt that he had been brought back from darkness into the light. He too had refused self-serving greed. He had chosen truth.
            Back at the bowling alley, Adam took Fritzy’s hand for a moment. “Fritzy―”
            “Adam, what was that all about? I’m confused,” she confessed.
            “Let’s talk about something else.” He took a deep breath and cleared his thoughts. “I have some great news. This spring—I’ll be gone for a while. Right before school is out for Easter vacation, I’ll get my driver’s license. I’m going to go find my Pops. Over Spring Break, I will follow up on some leads.”
            “How do you know where to look?”
            “The VA hospitals are the only clues I have right now, but I will write some letters through the rest of the winter and try to get a trail on his whereabouts. A Sergeant Smith has made contact with us.”
            “Adam, that is so exciting. Are you going to fly? You’ve flown before,” she chuckled.
            “Ha ha,” Adam mocked.
            “Seriously, I’ll really miss you, but I know you can do this.”
            “Now, how do you know I’ll be able to find him?”
            “The Indians say that a hummingbird symbolizes timeless joy and the Nectar of Life.”
            “That’s what the Indians say?”
            “It is,” she agreed. “The hummingbird is a symbol for accomplishing things which seem impossible.”
            “Accomplish the impossible? Another miracle?”
            “Some say, the hummingbird will teach you how to find the miracle of joyful living from your own circumstances. Your life, Adam, is filled with miracles, if you’ll just recognize them.”
            “I am beginning to see them. I’m beginning to see them everywhere.”

For This New Year -
I wish you peace to share
Those who care
A song to sing

And hummingbirds in the spring.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Segment Nineteen - Escape from the Belfry Copyright 2013 Doris Gaines Rapp

Chapter 34

A Near Catastrophe

 Adam settled Moms in the little apartment and he could breathe again. He could be a real fifteen-year-old and enjoy a party for the first time since before the war.
            That evening, the door to the bathroom in the little cottage opened and a young man in a brown suit, white shirt, striped tie and brown leather shoes stepped out. His grin exposed his feelings of relief and joy.
            Moms raised the reclining chair she was enjoying to its full, upright position. “Adam, look at you. You look great!”
            “Thanks Moms,” he smiled as he straightened his tie. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright if I’m gone this evening?”
            “I don’t need to be tucked in, you know,” she chuckled.
            “Promise you won’t wait up for me. I would feel really guilty if you lost a minute of sleep.”
            “Adam, what I do is not your fault. What Pops does, or doesn’t do, is not your fault. You are fifteen, and you deserve a night out just like the other kids at school. Don’t begrudge me the privilege, and I do mean the privilege, of waiting up for my son.” Moms smiled and opened her arms for a proper goodbye hug and kiss, just like normal people, in normal times would do.
            “I love you Moms,” Adam said as he leaned over and kissed his mother on the cheek.
            “How are you going to get over to the Stafford house?”
            “I didn’t want to put her out, but I’m going to let Mrs. G. drive me over. Fritzy and I have a ride from there.”
            “That’s right,” Moms remembered. “Arletta said she was so excited about being able to participate in the evening’s fun. She can’t go to the party. She said she needs to stay with Alfred. But, she’ll take you over and be able to drop off her shower gift for Sarah Jane while she’s there. The whole town is excited about the parties—the kids at the high school and the parents at Alma Stafford’s house.”
            Adam said goodbye, left the cottage and walked up the sidewalk to the kitchen door where Mrs. Gunderman stood peeling potatoes for their dinner. “Come on in, Adam,” she said as she gestured for him to open the door and enter. “My hands are busy,” she laughed.
            “Is that Adam?” Alfred called from his chair by the front room window.
            “It’s me, Mr. G.” he responded.
            “Come in here so I can see you,” he playfully commanded.
            As the boy walked from the kitchen into the living room the small smile on Alfred’s face spread into a full grin. “Say, you clean up real good, don’t ya?”
            “Thank you, Sir.”
            “Mrs. Gunderman,” Alfred called toward the kitchen, “this boy is as ready as a man can get. Dinner will wait. You’d best run him over before Fritzy Breman calls and wonders if we’ve kidnapped her date.”
            “That could happen,” Arletta chuckled. “Adam, if you’ll pick up that package for me there on the chair, I’ll get my coat.”
            “It’s a coffee pot, don’t ya know,” Alfred added. “The misses loves her Maxwell House.”
            “Yes Sir,” Adam agreed as he retrieved the wrapped present from the chair.
            As they road over to the New Year’s Eve party and Shower, Adam had something he had to say. “Mrs. G., I cannot thank you enough for your generous charity to our family.”
            “Charity? Adam, this is not charity. Don’t you know the sign of a good friendship is when you think you’re getting more out of the relationship than the other person? I’m as happy you and your mom are living there as you are, maybe more.”
            Adam thought about the truth of friendships as they drove the remaining few blocks to the party house. Once they got there, they were immediately greeted by more smiling faces.

• • •

“Adam, I’m glad you’re here. Come on in. Good to see you too, Arletta. Would you like some eggnog?” Mr. Stafford shook Adam’s hand and nearly pulled him into the house. It was Monday evening and the New Year’s Eve party at the school would start soon.
“Yes, thank you Willard,” Mrs. Gunderman said. “I’ll find Alma and then help myself.”
            “I don’t think so, thank you,” Adam smiled shyly. “We’d best be going.”
            “You look like a fine gentleman, my Boy,” Willard said.
            “Thanks, Sir.” Adam stepped into the room flooded with color and light.
            The Breman family was all at the Stafford home for their New Year’s Eve party. This year, it was also a wedding shower for Fritzy’s sister, Sarah Jane. It seemed like the entire membership of the Cranberry Street Church, and many others from all over town, were there. At least the adults were. The high schoolers came long enough to meet their friends and then head off to the school Gym for their party. Mr. Breman was one of the chaperones and Mrs. Breman would join him after Sarah’s shower.
            The Stafford home was hung with white crepe paper bells and gold and blue bows. They were woven in and out of the Christmas decorations. Adam wasn’t much interested in wedding colors, but he had to admit, the house looked nice.
            Adam’s total focus turned to the round, claw-footed table that had been moved in from the library. The Staffords invited guests to place any shower gifts on that round oak table in the middle of the room. There was already a huge pile of presents wrapped in white, blue and gold paper. The whole thing sat on a round floral area carpet with a fringed edge that was placed over the Persian rug.
            Adam wasn’t fooled for a minute. He knew the table straddled the eighteen inch hole in the floor he and Mr. Stafford had cut a few days before. Adam remembered every detail. He knew that Mr. Stafford had braced the floor with two-by-eight inch lumber that partnered with those floor joists that had to be cut in order to get out the last rat. He knew it was safe but he still worried. Mrs. Stafford would have been horrified if someone fell through the floor at her fancy party.
            As he stood there that evening, he gave a little sniff test and smiled. As he stared at the table, Fritzy came over.
            “Don’t worry,” she soothed. “It looks great. It seems like Grandma planned for the table to be in the middle of the room all along.”
            “Do the sprawling claw feet spread out enough to cover the entire hole? I would die if the table and everything on it fell through and landed on a giant spider web below—or worse yet, a rat’s nest.”
            “Spiders?” Fritzy shuddered.
            “Don’t worry,” Adam teased. “Bet I knocked down enough spider webs to knit a sweater with the threads.”
            “Adam, stop!” she demanded. “I’ll be seeing spiders riding on the backs of large rats in my dreams for a month.”
            “Adam,” Mr. Stafford interrupted, “it looks fine doesn’t it. And, thank goodness, it smells good too.”
            “Yes, Sir. It looks and smells great.” Adam studied the table a minute longer. “Sir, is the table usually crooked or is there something else going on?
            “Crooked, my Boy, no.” Mr. Stafford turned and stared at the table, buried under a mountain of gifts.
            “Do you think—? No, it couldn’t happen.”
            Suddenly the table slipped a little more and leaned slightly farther toward Adam. He and Mr. S. were transfixed by the scene before them.
            “Do you think it will collapse?” the boy whispered. He knew what that could mean.
            “No—it wouldn’t dare. My dear wife wouldn’t allow it.”
            Adam squatted down next to the table foot and studied the problem. “Mr. Stafford,” he whispered and motioned for the older man to meet him near the floor. “It looks like the glass ball in this claw foot is cracking.”
            Another pair of eyes joined them as they investigated the bottom of the table leg. “Wow,” Charlie Baker’s little brother got down on his hands and knees and gasped. “If that heavy table falls, the whole thing could crash through the floor.” His eyes sparkled, “It would land in a heap in the basement.”
            “Crawl space,” Adam corrected, “trust me, I know.”
            “Mrs. Stafford may never forgive me, Adam, if that whole thing collapsed after all.” Mr. S. shook his head in disbelief.
            “What on earth—” Mrs. Stafford gasped as she approached the center of the room. Then, she drew her white lace handkerchief up to her face. “Well, this just cannot happen.”
            The two rat-hunters looked at each other and back at Mrs. S.
            She turned and, with a wave of her fancy handkerchief, she rallied all those in the house to come to her side. “My friends, we have an impending catastrophe in our midst. My momma’s beautiful oak table is losing its grip. I’m afraid some of Sarah Jane’s lovely gifts will be damaged if our table collapses.”
She was a gracious lady who had no problem admitting that the ancestral table might fall apart before her eyes. But, she did not want anyone to know about the large rats’ nest that had been below the carpet. That would have been disgraceful.
“If all of you will help move the gifts to the dining room table, we will serve our desserts from the sideboard.” She nodded at her husband and Adam with a silent cue.
“We’ll pass them along and you all can place them on the other table,” Mr. S. smiled.
The idea of having people line up and pass the presents along from person to person sounded cleaver but Adam knew the truth. Fritzy’s grandparents did not want a lot of people around the table at one time. They feared it would add too much weight to the floor beneath the table.
            He was amazed by the game the people made out of a possibly embarrassing situation. Like the bucket brigade of an old fire company, friends and family lined up and passed each gift, hand over hand, and gently laid them on the other table.
            “Observe, my Boy. Our women can accomplish anything with a smile and a wave of their lace.”
            “So I see,” Adam watched and then allowed a broad smile to take over his face as he realized a truth. A person can’t be shamed or embarrassed if they choose not to accept the shame.
            “Charlie and Barbara are here to pick you two up.” Mr. Breman called to them from the front door. “You two want to come in?”
            “No thank you, Coach. Barb is waiting in the car.”
            Fritzy got her coat and joined Adam near the door.
“You both go ahead, Fritzy,” her father said. “I’ll help finish up with the presents, then I’ll be right over. Mom will follow later.”
            “Thanks Daddy.”
            “Thank you, Sir,” Adam joined in.
            “No, Adam, I think we all owe you a big thank you. It is wonderful to have you around. We can depend on you. And now, the Gundermans can depend on you and your mom, too. It is a wonderful after-Christmas blessing, don’t you think?” Coach Breman assured him.
            “Yes, Sir, a very big blessing,” he agreed and in his head, he thanked Shaddy.