Short Story – Another Day of Homeschooling

I look out the window and sure enough – it is snowing! I get up from my desk for a better view out the window. The snow is coming down slowly yet steadily. I can feel the cold coming off of the window and I see the stiff earth; concluding the snow should be able to accumulate on the ground.

“If only it had done this during the night,” I sigh as I turn back to my school.

Fifth grade math is not what I want to do right now. I rub my forehead as I try to focus. Why does the book give you so many problems to complete in one day? I suddenly hear footsteps and I turn to see John entering my room.

“It’s snowing,” he comments.

“I know. I wish I didn’t have to do school today!” I say, letting out an even longer sigh. Why does school always seem to get extra hard when something exciting is happening?

John leaves the room and I glance over my math. Cross multiplying fractions isn’t seeming to click. I turn to my English and see it’s more verbs and adverbs. I was thinking of a few at the moment – swiftly sledding or perhaps joyfully freed!

I get back up out of my chair, back to my position of gazing out the window. Joy and Hope won’t be able to come over again today since they had just been here yesterday; John is leaving for work around noon; and the snow won’t be high enough to sled until maybe tonight.  I guess I don’t have anything else to do so I might as well draw out my school work.

The minutes fly by and soon Mom is out walking. I open up my history and begin to read about the dark ages. I feel like I can relate to the dark ages at the moment. I still haven’t completed my math or English.

“I guess I should go do my chores,” I eventually say after History has lost its interest as well.

My chores consist of the dishes, sweeping the floor, and taking out the trash. I usually do this while Mom is walking that way I can crank the music way up while I work.

It is twelve-thirty and I am finally done with my chores. John is gone for work and I am home all alone. I fix my lunch and am finishing up just as I see Mom coming up the steps to our house, back from walking. I sit down and look out the window at the snow still falling. How I would love to be outside right now.

Mom comes in the door. I look at the clock and see it is almost one. I take a bite of my sandwich and watch as Mom unravels her scarf and unbuttons her coat.

“Is it cold outside?” I wonder.

“The temperature is dropping. The wind makes it cold,” she replies.

“I wonder if we’ll get enough to sled on,” I say.

“Oh,” Mom says, as if I reminded her of something, “the kids will be coming over today. Andrea and I will be going shopping.”

I am in shock. “What time?”

“She said she’d be by at two.”

My mind races. I have only finished History and Bible and another chapter in my book which wasn’t exactly school. I gulp down my lunch and race upstairs. I only have sixty minutes to finish the rest of my school work.

I quickly pull out my math and begin completing the problems. Next, it’s on to English. I’m not sure I understand what I’m reading but I get through this as well. My last subject to complete – science. I haven’t even opened my science lesson today. Hopefully it isn’t much.

I open the lesson and see a very long lecture followed by fifty questions! Of all the days! I look at the clock once again, it’s ten till two. I sigh and turn to my lesson. I’m never going to make it if I read the whole lesson word for word.

“I’m just going to have to get the gist,” I say out loud. I quickly begin scanning the lesson and grabbing the main points. Then I move on to the problems. Ten minutes and fifty problems later I am done! It is amazing how much you can learn what a lesson was about by just answering the questions!

Just then I hear Joy, Hope, and Josiah ascending the stairs to my room. The snow is still falling, I notice so I might just get to play in it after all.


Short Story – Mr. Cunningham

The elderly man hobbles to the telephone with anxiety written on his face. “Hello?” he calls out into the receiver.

“Mr. Cunningham?” the voice inquires.

“Yes, that would be me.”

“This is the Bill Snyder, head zoo keeper at the central park zoo. After talking with Mayor Low about the zoo, he insisted I get your permission to use a bit of your poetry on one of the zoo plaques.”

Mr. Cunningham is speechless.

“I was thinking,” Bill continues, “just a few verses from your poem Lady in the Park would do.”

There is a moment of silence followed by Mr. Cunningham suddenly taking in a deep breath.     “Why of course you can use my poetry. Take whatever you need.” By this time the phone piece is shaking in the hands of Mr. Cunningham.

“We were thinking verse four and possibly verse five. Does this meet your approval?”

“Yes,” comes Mr. Cunningham’s reply.

“Well, thank you very much Mr. Cunningham. The plaque will be installed the first of May. You’re welcome to come to the ceremony. Good day then. And thank you for your cooperation.”

The conversation ends and Mr. Cunningham places the phonespeaker back onto the hook. He can’t believe what has just happened; after writing poetry throughout much of the nineteenth century without one lick of fame, his day finally arrive in the year 1902 at age eighty-five.

“Who was that, dear?” his wife asks.

“It was the zoo keeper at the central park zoo. He is a fan of my poetry, always has been, and he wants to display it all over the zoo.”

“That’s great!” his wife exclaims. “I’m so happy for you. Someone finally appreciates your work.” Tears come to her eyes. “I never thought this day would come.”

Mr. Cunningham watches his wife and smiles in sweet satisfaction. “Me neither. I believe the tide has turned.” His wife draws up to him and gives him a hug as she dots her eyes with her handkerchief.

The news is soon to spread and May 1st quickly becomes a holiday for the Cunningham family and friends. Among the group planning to attend the master ceremony is Mr. Cunningham’s two boys, their two wives, and the six grandchildren. Of course, Mr. Cunningham doesn’t just stop with inviting his family; the whole neighborhood hears the story of how Mr. Cunningham’s good fortune came and they are all invited to see the master ceremony.

Mr. Cunning relays his story of the phone call to everyone and anyone he runs into, always inviting them to the occasion. It is now one day before May 1st and he is walking the sidewalk in his New York neighborhood when he passes a woman carrying groceries.  He offers to help her and she willing obliges. He takes one of the sacks of groceries off her hands and they start walking when he just happens to remember something.

“I just remembered something that is going on at the Central Park Zoo tomorrow,” he recalls, “in case you happen to still be in town.”

“What’s that?” the lady wonders as they walk around a group of kids playing on the sidewalk.

“Well, they are having some sort of grand ceremony commemorating the life of a great poet from these parts.”


“Yes. I guess I shouldn’t call myself great,” he laughs, “but I’m just using the words the mayor said to me.”

“The Mayor? Of New York?” the lady asks in amazement.

“Yes, he personally called me up to ask if he could use my poetry throughout the zoo.”

“So, you’re the great poet?”

Mr. Cunningham laughs. “Well, I suppose. You see, I was sitting in my library working on my memoirs when the mayor called on the telephone. “Cunningham!” he says to me. “Let me tell you what a pleasure it is to be speaking with you on the phone.””

“The mayor tells you this? You must be pretty special,” the woman interrupts.

Mr. Cunningham shrugs her comment off with a weak smile and a slight gesture. “Yes, well, he called me to let me know he wanted to use my poetry all throughout the zoo. He said I was one of his favorite poets and in my honor he’d be putting on some Grand Ceremony. He might have even mentioned something about the President attending but I can’t be for sure about that.”

“Wow!” the lady shakes her head. “Well, it’s an honor getting to meet you. And thank you so much for carrying my groceries!” They have now reached her home.

“It’s my pleasure.” He lays the bag down on her steps and tips his hat off to her as he continues on down the street.

The next day the Cunningham family and friends line the paths of the Central Park Zoo. The zoo keeper shakes his head in amazement when Mr. Cunningham tells him the crowd is there for the ceremony.

“Wow, I didn’t realize you had so many loyal supporters.”

“It happens to a talented few,” Mr. Cunningham humbly replies.

“Well, I suppose I should get on with the ceremony,” Bill decides. “Have your people follow me.”

Mr. Cunningham signals for the group to follow as he and the zoo keeper head down the path. Mr. Cunningham periodically has to pinch himself to make sure this is all real. On the way he realizes he hasn’t any speech prepared for the ceremony.

“Bill,” he says to the zoo keeper. “I don’t have a speech prepared. Was I supposed to?”

Bill turns his head to Mr. Cunningham while still walking forward. “A speech? No, I’d say a speech isn’t necessary.”

“Good,” Mr. Cunningham sighs in relief.

Suddenly Bill comes to a halt. Mr. Cunningham looks around but sees no stage. “This isn’t it, is it? Where are we having the ceremony?”

Bill looks strangely at the old man. “Right over there is the plaque.” Mr. Cunningham follows Bill’s finger to a post that has a blanket draped over it. He can’t believe it.

The group gathers around as Bill steps behind the post. “And now!” he yells to the group. “I reveal to you the latest zoo plaque with a verse inscribed upon it from a poem written by Mr. Cunningham!” Bill pulls back the sheet and there stands a small plaque with even smaller letters.

Mr. Cunningham sits down on a bench in shock. This can’t be happening.

Someone in the crowd calls out what he is thinking. “Is that it!? That’s the grand ceremony?”

“I’m afraid so,” Bill answers.

Mr. Cunningham shakes his head in disappointment. His wife sits beside him. Not knowing what else to do, the people begin filing past the plaque, one by one, and then leaving. After sometime Mr. Cunningham looks up to see only his kids and their families left.

He sighs and stands to look at the plaque. His wife joins him and they both read the plaque together:

The lion roars like a dragon

The bear eats like a horse drawn wagon

The donkey walks like a lame mole

And the zebra falls into a burning hole

These things must be a sign to mankind

For an animal is just a picture of the human mind.

                “Well,” his wife mutters after reading it. “I think it’s the only claim to fame you’ll get, dear.”

I Was a Paralytic (Mark 2:1-12)

“I would prefer to stay indoors today,” I say calmly. “Sunlight might not be good for my bones.”

“Nonsense!” my friend objects, standing in the doorway of my bedroom. From my position I can see there are others behind my friend.

“Who is out there?” I inquire.

My friend turns around as if to see who I’m referring to. “I’ve brought some more of your friends.”

At this, my friend steps aside and three of my former coworkers walk into the room. I say former because I am no longer able to work in account to my sickness.

“We are here to take you to see Jesus,” my friend insists. “Whether you like it or not.”

I laugh. “Oh no you’re not! You know exactly why I can’t go to Jesus for healing. I’ve sinned and I deserved to have that millstone paralyze me. It was an act of God because of my sins and there’s absolutely nothing Jesus can do to fix it.”

“What exactly are the sins you’ve committed again?” my friend wants to know.

I look at him with as much annoyance as my eyes can convey. It is always embarrassing to tell your sins before a group of people. Especially when that group of people is your former coworkers! How can I tell them the deep things in my past?

“Well, spit it out,” one of the coworkers encourage. “We took the day off from work for this and it wasn’t to enjoy the interior of your bedroom.”

The thought suddenly comes to my head: If I tell them the awful sins of my past they will agree that I shouldn’t go to Jesus. I look up at the ceiling,  trying to think of where to begin.

“When I was a boy I thought the laws of God were worthless.  I broke the Sabbath multiple times, I stole from a money changer once, I’ve eaten pork twice, and on several occasions I’ve taken the name of the Lord in vain.”

“But you’ve changed! As long as I’ve known you, you’ve been a devout religious man.”

“It has all been a show!” I cry. “My sins caught up to me and the day I was paralyzed by the millstone was God’s judgement for those sins.”

My friend and three former coworkers stare at me for a few moments. I see deep remorse and pity. It occurs to me this may be the last time I ever see them after knowing the truth about me.

“You are pathetic,” my friend finally says, breaking the silence.

Without warning they all surround my bed getting ready to transfer me to my stretcher.

“Stop! I’m begging you!” I bequest. “I’m sure I look pathetic, stretched out on my bed, barely able to move my head, but I’m going to put up a fight!”

Ten minutes later I am on my way to see Jesus. My four companions are carrying me on my stretcher through the busy streets of Capernaum. All the way I protest with my arguments and objections. Nevertheless, I am glad to see the sun again and smell the Sea of Galilee in the breeze.

After carrying me for what seems like a long time, my carriers come to a halt. I try to raise my head to see why they have stopped but my view is blocked. I can sense we’re near the edge of a big crowd by the noise of feet moving all around me.

“Don’t tell me he’s not here!” I say in a tone of unbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding me! You dragged me all the way out here and forgot to check and make sure he’s still here?!”

“Would you calm down?” my friend replies. “He is still here.”

“Then why are we sitting here?”

“Well, we can’t seem to get any closer to him. He’s inside the house up ahead but the crowd is back up all the way out to here. This could take forever to get inside.”

“Oh, well, take your time,” I say sarcastically. “I’m just lying here.”

We remain motionless, my friends hoping for an opportunity to get closer. I strain hard to listen for Jesus’ voice. But between the crying baby to my right and an old man breathing like he’s about to die on my left, I only manage to hear murmurs of what I take to be Jesus’ voice.

“How about going through the roof?” Matthias, one of my former coworkers, suddenly suggests.

I admit he isn’t always the brightest when it comes to ideas and this is no exception. Not wanting to hurt his feelings I keep my lips closed but I slightly roll my eyes.

“Now we’re talking!” my friend exclaims. “Let’s head around toward the back of the house where the crowd is less congested.”

I can’t believe my ears. Through the roof? Are my buddies nuts?

“Hey,” I start to say, “Why don’t we just plow through the side of the wall if the roof doesn’t work?”

My friends do not pay attention to my comment just as they ignored my whole conversation on the way here.

“Am I the only one whose brain is still working?” I call out. “Perhaps we should consider how much it’s going to cost to pay back the homeowner for the damages we’re about to ensue. Or maybe we should consider the possibility of you dropping me while transporting me up this roof and down this roof. Well, Jesus, do you heal dead paralytics too?”

Despite every reasonable statement that proceeds from my lips, I am getting nowhere with these four men. How on earth do they actually plan on pulling this off?

“Whoa!” I cry as my stretcher is suddenly turned almost vertical. “What are you doing?!!”

I can now see two of my friends have begun to scale the house with me behind them. The other two are merely keeping my stretcher from flipping out.

“What are you doing?” someone from the crowd calls out.

“We trying a new therapy for paralytics,” I explain, “It’s called fling-him-out-of-the-stretcher-and-hope-he-walks.”

After minutes of hard labor, I am all but shocked when my friends carefully lay me down on top of the roof.

“I must say I’m surprised we made it this far,” I say admiringly. “You have succeeded in getting my on top of this roof and now we just need to tear a hole big enough to fit a stretcher through!”

I strain to watch my four friends work on removing the plaster and tiling from an area in the roof. It almost feels wrong what we are doing but it’s too late to turn back now.

Little by little the roofing is removed and as it does my heart begins to beat faster and faster. I am about to meet Jesus, the most talked of prophet since the days of my fathers. What if he says no? That’s what he’ll probably say because of my sins.

“Guys, I just had a thought,” I interrupt their work.

“What is it? We’re almost done.”

“How are you going to lower me down?”

My friend smiles. “That’s a good question. We’ll  finish removing the roofing and then come up with a solution.”

Presently my friends finish removing the roofing and return to my side.

“What if two of us jump inside the house and then you toss him through the hole?” Matthias suggests, being the one who has envisioned this whole fiasco.

“No,” my friend quickly says, shoving that idea clear away. “What we need is some rope or string. We all have belts on right?”

Everyone nods. I always knew having larger-than-normal friends was a good thing.

“Then let’s tie them to the four corners of his stretcher and lower him down that way.”

My comrades quickly take off their belts and fasten them to my stretcher. My heart seems to be in my throat as they move me over the hole in the roof and begin to lower me. I remain calm as I pass below the ceiling and into the room where Jesus is.

I hear gasps and murmurs echo throughout the house and I can only imagine it is at seeing such a spectacle as this. My friends reach as far as they can with their belts but I can tell I’m still cubits from the floor.

“Don’t drop me yet,” I say, with force.

Two men appear at the head and end of my stretcher to help lower me the rest of the way. Seconds later I’m on the floor, lying right at the feet of Jesus. The house is packed with religious scholars, town leaders, business owners, and many other prominent men but my eyes can’t be taken away from Jesus.

The house is now silent. I can feel the suspense as everyone, including myself, waits to see what Jesus will do.

“Son,” he begins, looking me in the eye, “I forgive your sins.”

How did he know? A wave of relief seems to flow out of his words across my whole soul. Every heavy weight and every condemning thought suddenly evaporate. Peace, joy, love, hope, and so much more hit me in a way more powerful than the millstone did the day I was paralyzed.

“Why are you so skeptical?” Jesus suddenly asks, turning to the religious leaders in the house. “Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both  . . .”

Jesus now turns to me and my heart begins to race. “Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.”

I don’t  give my mind time to argue with Jesus. Up I jump and to everyone’s dismay I am healed. My legs work, my arms work – everything works!

“Praise God!” I shout over and over.

I pick up my lousy stretcher and dance my way out of the house, shouting and rejoicing. The crowd is not just a little impacted by the sight of me up and healed. Many shout their own praise to God while others clap their hands.

I sing and shout all the way through the crowd, “Jesus has healed me! He forgave me of my sins!”

As the sun light pours down on my new body, I look up and see my friends rejoicing on the roof. Jesus had changed my life and it wouldn’t have been but for my faithful friends.

Short Story – How to Fundraise

“. . . And a quarter page ad only runs fifty dollars.”

The elderly woman stirs from her sleep. Who is this person talking and what is he doing on her porch? “Excuse me?” she says when she identifies a teenage boy standing on her porch steps. “Do you realize I was taking a nap?”

The boy looks sheepishly at the woman in the rocking chair. He can’t lie and say he didn’t know she was sleeping. “The truth is, ma’am, I’ve had a very hard day trying to sell these ads – I haven’t sold any as yet . . . I’m sorry for awakening you.”

“You must be very desperate to awaken an old Grandma, taking a nap in her rocking chair on her front porch,” the woman chuckles, dismissing any grumpiness. “Now, why don’t you come and sit down and I’ll fetch you a couple cookies and a glass of lemonade while you tell me about these ads you have to sell.”

The boy has no time to refuse as the elderly lady heads into the house to do as she has promised. The boy ascends the steps and takes a seat in one of the wicker chairs. He wipes the sweat from his forehead; the warm weather is a sure sign spring is here. When the lady returns she holds two chocolate chip cookies, loaded with chocolate chips, and a tall glass of yellow lemonade. The boy takes the victuals with delight.

“Now, young man,” she says as she settles back into her rocker. “Before you relay to me what you’re about, let me tell you a story about the time I had to do a little fundraising. It might help lift your spirits.”

The boy nods.

“When I was a little girl I belonged to a club called the “Yellow Possums”. It was our mission to rid the town of possums. I was an eager volunteer in this club because I could not stand the possums. I still don’t like possums, come to think about it.”

The boy laughs. “I can relate with that.”

“Well, one summer our club was just about in ruin. We had spent all our money buying traps for the possums but had no way of humanely killing the ugly creatures. The club asked that every club member raise a dollar fifty in order to purchase a rifle. We were given one month to do this – otherwise our efforts would be stopped.”

“I took up the call with enthusiasm. I was under the impression that I would not only raise a dollar fifty but ten times that amount by the end of the week. Every day I took to the streets, stopping at every house and visiting every shop, asking them for a meager donation of twenty-five cents. I think every person in the town knew me and my cause; however, that didn’t mean I was the recipient of everyone’s kind heart. I had spent three weeks campaigning and all I had to show for it was a meager fifty cents.”

“How was I supposed to come up with another dollar in one week? My parents saw my despair that night and asked what the problem was. When I told them, they suggested I offer a service in exchange for a donation. I hadn’t even thought of that! Why, I could surely find some errand or quick task that needed done in exchange for a quarter!”

“The next morning I began knocking on doors again, this time with my hopes renewed. But to my surprise no one seemed interested in my services – until I came to an elderly couple’s home, just west of Main Street. The husband opened the door and I explained my purpose. He looked at me and without saying a word motioned me inside. He took me to the kitchen where there was a mound of potatoes the size of Mount Everest. He pointed at the stack and said, “My wife gave me these to peel before she gets back tonight. I’ll pay you a dollar fifty if you wash and peel those for me.””

“If I had not been so desperate I would have refused; but, since I needed the money, I began peeling the potatoes while the old man sat in his living room and took a nap. It went slowly at first, one potato at a time. After the first hour my fingers began to feel numb. The water running down my elbows from washing the brown devils, the strip of peel that didn’t want to come off, and the grimy feeling of the wet potato all added up. It took me five hours to peel those potatoes and I didn’t even break for lunch.”

“When I had finally finished, the man paid my one dollar and fifty cents, just as he had promised. He laughed something about how his wife would never know. I didn’t see what was funny.  I took the money and went straight home, dying to get off my feet. I was done fundraising. I had paid my stupid dues to the Yellow Possum club and I wasn’t ever going to do it again. I decided the next time I worked that hard it would be so that I could place the money in my own pocket for my own use.”

The old lady finishes her story just as the boy finishes his snack. Perfect timing.

“So lad, what was it you wanted to sell me?” she asks with a grin, “Because I got some potatoes that need peeling.”