THE 50-PERCENTERS: A SHORT STORY By RICH PASCHALL

Resistance.

A short story by Rich Paschall

After Durward Tower narrowly won his election to the Presidency late in the century, he declared that he had a landslide victory. It was a mandate by the people to make big changes needed by the country. The wealthy leaders of the Congress and of big business helped to spread this myth. It was to their economic advantage to do so. The many appointments to the courts gave Tower ultimate control of the judiciary. Many were unqualified for their roles, but they would support any case for which Tower had an interest.

Both houses of the legislature also bowed to the whims and wishes of the so-called Leader. The minority party had little to say and much less money to say it. By the midterm elections, Durward Tower considered himself the Supreme Leader of the land. All during his time in office, Tower continued to hold campaign-style rallies. He loved the cheers of the people, and they seemed to love him and his policies. Many did not realize that his policies were against their best interests.

“We have great ideas for the country,” Tower told his rallies. “These are the best ideas that anyone has ever had in this office. That is because I am the smartest person ever to hold this office. Trust me on this, folks.”

And they did trust him. Many did, anyway, though a few were skeptical. When Tower started pushing his extreme policies, their suspicions were confirmed.

The biggest change came in the tax code, which then led to changes in the voting laws. Tower had convinced the populace that anyone making less that 100,000 dollars was a drag on the economy and the country. These were the people that were taking the money of the social services and they must be made to pay. He decreed that they should pay a 50 per cent income tax for being such failures. Those making less than 11,000 were only asked to pay 10 per cent.  This was to show the people that Tower was a caring humanitarian. The Legislature approved of this. This new class of people were referred to as the 50 percenters.

Sometimes enough is not enough

Citizens making between 100,000 and one billion had a graduated tax as before. These were the 100 percenters, and Tower often congratulated them for their contributions to society and to his campaigns. According to the fearless leader, those making a billion dollars or more must be rewarded for their enormous contributions to society. “Without these people,” Tower would say, “there would be no jobs. There would be no progress. There would be no country. Trust me folks, these people must be encouraged to do more and that can only be done with tax cuts.” Durward Tower felt that billionaires should only pay ten per cent. He told everyone that this was a lot of money and more than anyone else was paying. It was therefore declared that the 50 percenters should only have a 50 percent vote. With each one having only half a vote, their power was greatly diminished. The one hundred percenters kept to one vote per person. The billionaire class quickly became know as the two hundred percenters, as each one got 2 votes in each election.

“You all know that the country must reward the billionaire class for their hard work. They deserve more votes. They contribute so much more than some of those pathetic losers in the 50 percenters.” Ironically, most of the people that cheered this at the rallies were themselves 50 percenters.

Billie Saunders and Robert Wright were among those that felt the majority were being mistreated by Tower and followers. They decided to form a resistance. Saunders held his own rallies to tell the people about the gross inequities. Wright took to social media to spread the word. He made videos and posted them to various platforms. When the resistance gained some momentum and the protests began to grow, Tower became angry.

isys6621.com

He had his Congress pass the Patriotic Actions law which stated anyone who spoke out against the 50 percenters law was to be considered a traitor to the country. Any traitor was to be imprisoned for a lengthy period. Tower once again took to the rallies to sell his new law. “People who speak out against the laws of this country are traitors. We have great  ideas for this country. They are the greatest ideas any president has ever had. We can not have any disturbances in public from these bad people. There is only one way to deal with a traitor and you all know what that is.”

At that the chants began from the audience. “Lock him up, lock him up, lock him up.” When the crowds would erupt with his favorite chants, Tower would take a step back from the podium and survey the crowd with great pleasure. Some thought the look on his face was rather smug, but his followers only saw a patriotic gaze. In the weeks that followed Saunders was arrested and sent to a detention camp. Wright went underground and kept posting videos and opinion pieces. He formed a resistance of people who tried to hide their identities. Wright told the Resistance, “We know Tower has tampered with the election. We must get the best computer minds to prove what he has done.”

Meanwhile, Tower kept up his campaign against the Resistance. He used his own social media presence to send out messages to his followers. In one message he threatened to shut down a newspaper that ran an opinion piece written by Wright. “It’s all lies,” Tower wrote, “printed by that failing paper.” Wright and the Resistance wondered how they ever got to a place in time where the majority voice no longer mattered and one demagogue’s whims were the law of the land. They continued to send out messages about inequality, calling for people to resist the Durward Tower.

A STATELY TREE – RICH PASCHALL

Branching Out, by Rich Paschall


William was staring up at the giant tree when Mr. Dubois softly approached. “It really is a magnificent tree,” he told William in a consoling tone of voice. William would have none of that. He glared back at the neighbor before speaking.

“It is a horrible tree, sir. It has been for years,” William said frankly. “And now it has killed my mother and it has to go.”

Exactly one week earlier William’s elderly mother was working in the garden when a branch from the large tree fell on top of her. Apparently, no one saw the accident and she was lying there for a long time before help was called. It was too late, however, as the old branch was too big and heavy. It pinned her to the spot and she was unable to cry out.

72-Old-Tree-Uxbridge-0807_093

“Oh no, William, this old tree did not kill anyone. It is quiet and harmless. It was just an accident. That’s all it was. Perhaps some wind knocked a dying branch off the tree.”

“My mother hated that tree and she should have gotten rid of it years ago,” he retorted.

“You must be mistaken. I think she loved the tree. Just look at its stately magnificence. Why there isn’t a finer shade tree in the neighborhood!  In the summer, it protects your whole house. In the fall its colors are a joy. It must be twice as tall as the house. I believe it has been there for more than 100 years. It was probably planted when your mother’s nice home was first built.”

“Mr. Dubois,” William began, “that is exactly the problem. In the spring it drops a million seeds. Every fall, it drops tons of leaves. The roots are in everything. The sidewalk is cracked as is the basement floor. We must clear roots from the drain pipes every year. My mother was tired of this thing and planned to take it down.”

Mr. Dubois gasped. He just could not imagine anyone wanting to take down such a grand tree. He begged William to consider the benefits of the tree.

“There are no benefits, Mr. Dubois. The damn thing must go. Period. When I collect my mother’s insurance money, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. It would be a tribute to her if I took her money and removed this threat to my home and my neighbors’ homes.”

72-Old-Tree-Uxbridge-0807_094

William knew a tree that size would cost a fortune to remove. It was twice as tall as the house. Branches went through all the cables that ran to the house from the alley. He could never have afforded the thousands of dollars it would cost to remove a giant tree, but with the windfall from the life insurance money his mother had left him, he could do it.

A month later, Mr. Dubois was passing the estate when he spotted William by the tree behind the house. He was smiling. He walked up to him and said, “I hope now that some time has passed, William, you see what a lovely tree it is.”

“On the contrary, sir, I see what a menace it is. And now, I can afford to get rid of it. I am calling for quotes from trees services. I think rose bushes would look terrific here, don’t you?”

“William, you offend this magnificent living thing.”

“A tree can’t be offended. But I can be … and I am. Soon we’ll have a clear view of the sky.”

Mr. Dubois looked at the tree, shook his head, and walked away.

William remained under the tree and considered how he might make use of the space he’d regain when the tree was gone. Suddenly, there was a loud snapping. A huge branch fell from the tree onto William. He was knocked to the ground gasping for breath. Although it was late summer, some leaves rained down too and covered him.

A broken limb
A broken limb

About an hour later paramedics arrived, took the branch off William, and brushed the leaves from the poor soul. They did their best to revive William, but after working on him a while, they shook their heads. Then, they put him into the ambulance and drove away.

Mr. Dubois had been watching from across the street. He shook his head too, apparently amazed such a thing could happen twice.

Slowly William’s neighbor walked across the quiet city street. The avenue was lined with old homes that had been erected more than 100 years earlier when the neighborhood was first settled by immigrants from Sweden and Norway. A handful of homes still had the giant trees that were planted when their wood-frame houses were built. William’s mother had perhaps the most stately tree of all.

The best tree of all
The best tree of all

Mr. Dubois walked up to William’s tree and inspected all the branches for any more old and dying limbs. Everything was healthy and blooming. Finally, Mr. Dubois spoke to the tree.

“I warned them,” he explained. “I warned them both, but they would not listen. So I did as you indicated both times. After the loud noise, I waited an hour before calling paramedics. Perhaps the boy will not return either. It would be a shame to have to drop another branch.”

Mr. Dubois took one more look at his beloved tree. And went home.

THE NEXT TO LAST STOP – RICH PASCHALL

The Inconvenience Store, by Rich Paschall

It was a peaceful summer evening.  The sun had just set.  The air was warm and the light breeze was refreshing.  Jorge had walked three blocks from his small apartment to the local convenience store for a Big Drink and Big Sandwich combination.  He had little food at home and did not feel like making anything anyway.  It felt good to take a walk on such a pleasant evening.  There was nothing quite like summer in the city.

There were a few others in the small store but Jorge paid no attention to them.  He went directly to the soft drink machine and then on to the Sandwich Stop.  After he made his selection, he noticed there was a bit of a commotion at the front of the store.

Three young men rushed in.  They looked like they were in their late teens or early twenties.  Two were tall and wearing white t-shirts and baggy shorts.  The third was a large guy wearing a black sleeveless shirt with some design Jorge could not make out, and black baggy jeans.  The big guy was also carrying a machine gun or automatic rifle.  Jorge was unfamiliar with weapons and was not too sure.

Do Not Cross
Do Not Cross

“Don’t anyone move,” the big guy commanded.  “Don’t anyone make a sound neither, not a sound.”

One of the others told the cashier to give him all the money if he wanted to live, and the third thief looked down all the aisles to see if anyone was hiding or there might be trouble there.  The few people in the store had not moved.  The aisle checker then stopped at the cooler and reached in for a twelve pack of beer, but paused like he did not know if he should steal it.

“Just take it,” the big guy shouted, “and let’s go.” He grabbed the beer and the thief at the counter only collected a small amount of money which he put in a backpack.

As they prepared to leave, there was a small whimper from the next aisle from where Jorge was standing.  In response, the big guy sprayed the aisles with bullets.  Jorge hit the floor.  There was a sharp burning sensation in his abdomen.  His head was groggy and he could not make himself move at all.  He slowly drifted away from the conscious world.

The cashier gasped and as the big guy got to the door he turned and sent a few shots in the direction of the cash register.  The convenience store worker had already hit the floor and shots went over the top of him and heavily damaged the display behind the counter.

As the thieves got to their car, the police were pulling up to the lot.  The cashier had set off a silent alarm when the trouble started and the response had finally arrived.  There was an exchange of gun fire as the young men were able to get in the car and out of the lot, with a squad car in pursuit.

police car

Two officers wearing bullet proof vests had their guns out and cautiously entered the store.  The cashier saw them in a monitor high on a wall and shouted, “Help them, help them.”

One officer carefully went around the counter to find the cashier lying on the floor.  He approached slowly with his gun pointed at the young man.  He had to be sure it was not a trick.  Finally he helped the trembling cashier to his feet.

The other officer looked down the aisles and immediately called for medical attention for multiple victims.  He searched the aisles before going over to one of the victims.  By the time he checked to see if the first one was alive, more police were in the store and in the parking lot.  One ambulance came onto the lot closely followed by another.  A police officer outside was now obviously taking charge of the scene and ordering onlookers away.  Paramedics rushed into the store and observed pools of blood in two different aisles.  There was a lot of damage caused by the bullets of just one man.

The next thing Jorge was aware of feeling was the burning of his stomach.  It was the sharpest pain of his life.  His head was heavy and he could not open his eyes.  It seemed, however, that he was now lying on his back, rather than face down on the tile floor of the convenience store.  In his stupor he could not tell where he was or even if he was alive.  He drifted off again.

Three adults were taken to The Resurrection Hospital.  It was the closest trauma center.  The Catholic hospital had become familiar with treating gunshot wounds.  It seems they saw someone every week who had been gunned down.  The victims may have suffered from a gang dispute, domestic violence, armed robbery or were just innocent bystanders.  The increase of guns had brought an increase of  gunshot victims to the Emergency Room.

Sometimes the medical staff could do little more than call the chaplain to say a prayer.

Back at the convenience store was one more victim.  A ten-year old boy was going to be taken directly to the morgue.  He would not whimper again.

WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM – Rich Paschall

When You No Longer Have a Home, Rich Paschall


Jimmy knew it was not going to be easy.  He had put it off for weeks, but after a while, the delay was just as hard as what he perceived the actual event to be.  So the high school senior marched home, mustered up all his courage, and prepared for the inevitable battle.

Born of a rather dysfunctional family, Jimmy’s parents were divorced when he was just 4 years old.  His biological father remained marginally in his life.  His mother introduced a new “step-father” when Jimmy was 5.  He was raised by ultra-conservative parents to have values of the ultra Christian right.  Unfortunately for the family structure, Jimmy did not adopt the “family values” of his rather right-wing parents.  Nonetheless, the 17-year-old boy was prepared to take a bold step forward and challenge the strict guidelines he had been given.

When he arrived home near dinner time on a cool fall evening, his parents were already watching television and absorbed in some crime drama.  At the first commercial break, Jimmy made enough noise to be noticed.

“Well, boy,” the stepdad began, “you are a bit late, but you can still grab some dinner in the kitchen.” The mother just smiled and went back to watching the television.

The teenager had already called up all his courage and was not going to back down.  The moment had come, and even though he was shaking, he began a speech he prepared all day.  “I had something important to say,” Jimmy stated rather meekly.

“Well spit it out, boy, the commercials are almost over.”

Without launching into his well-rehearsed speech about each man having to be his own and so forth, a nervous Jimmy did indeed just spit it out.  “I’m gay,’ he declared.

“What?” the middle-aged, balding, flannel-clad stereotypical alpha male shouted. At that, the mother turned down the television volume.

“What did he say, dear?  I don’t think I heard him correctly,” said the middle-aged, middle class, middle intelligence woman.

“I think he said he’s a damn faggot,” the man shouted in a loud and disgusted voice.

“No, sir,” the boy countered. “I said I am gay.”

“The same thing,” the fake dad declared.

“I am appalled.  No son of mine is going to be a sinner.”  The mother was as much angered by the “sinner” as having to miss her TV program.

The step-dad marched right up to the boy and shouted in his face, “You will stop that right now or you will get out of this house, do you understand me?”

“I am sorry sir, I can not change,” the teenager said in a trembling voice.  At that, the step-dad pushed him as hard as he could and the boy went flying over a living room chair and crashed into the dining room.

The mother then began shouting at the boy, telling him he would go to hell, that God would never forgive him, that such behavior was forbidden in the Bible and that God hated him.  The boy rose to his feet and stood there staring at the shouting parents.

“If you are not going to take back that sinful statement, then you are not staying under my roof.  Get out sinner,” the pretend dad shouted.  With that, he gave a menacing look as if he would hit the boy again.  Before long, he started after the boy and shoved him, knocking him to the floor.

“OK,” the terrified teen said.  “I’ll go if that’s what you want.  I don’t want to be here either.  I will get my school books and leave.”

“I paid for those books,” the man shouted.

“Like you are going to read them,” the teen retorted.

At that the boy hurried to his room, he put his books, a few items off his dresser and whatever items of clothing he could stuff in his backpack and headed toward the front door.

“God hates faggots, son,” his mother said with great disdain.

“I don’t know that God hates anyone,” the boy countered, “but he does not hate love.”

That prompted the step-dad to pick up an ashtray to throw at the teen, but the boy was out the door too quickly.  The angry parents resumed watching television as the trembling senior high school student walked aimlessly down the street.  Tears filled the eyes of the handsome youth as realized he had no home, no parents, and nowhere to go.

Attribution: BookCrossingBefore at the English language Wikipedia

He struggled forward, step by step, as the night air began to chill his bones.  Was he shivering because of the night air, or because of the sad situation he found himself in?  When he arrived at a major intersection, Jimmy took a seat on a wooden bench by the bus stop.  He was not planning on taking the bus.  He had no plan at all.

After many moments filled with crying, Jimmy pulled out his cell phone and called the one person he thought could help him, his real dad.  He located the number, dialed, and got a quick answer.

“Hello dad, it’s Jimmy.  I have been thrown out of the house.  I have nowhere to go.  Can I come and stay with you a while?  I promise I will not be a bother.”  The teen was not ready for adulthood, and certainly not this.

“Why, what happened son?  What would cause them to do that?”

“I told them I am gay.  Can I come there?”

There was a long silence on the phone.  Neither one spoke for what seemed like minutes.  Jimmy finally spoke up again.

“Please.”


Note:  This is a work of fiction, but there are many true stories of teens tossed aside.  What do they do?  

WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE – RICH PASCHALL

The Wake-Up Call, by Rich Paschall

The day had finally arrived. Jon was on his way. George waited for the news that Jon had successfully cleared Customs in Miami and was getting his second flight on to his new home. When there was no word, George went to the airport anyway. He thought Jon did not have phone service in America and could not get on the internet. He was not going to worry, not too much anyway. He had sent Jon the ticket so he knew the flight number.

Leaving home for a new life

George did not know whether to wait at the end of the concourse where passengers would come from the gates, or go down to the baggage claim area in the large airport. Having waited upstairs for a long time, George finally went down to baggage. He paced around nervously as the passengers claimed their luggage and walked away. Finally, the baggage carousel was empty, and there was no Jon.

It was late at night. Few people were milling about the baggage area. George stood in the aisle looking down one way, then the next, Suddenly a familiar person appeared in the distance, rolling a small silver suitcase alongside himself. It was Jon. George hurried toward him and gave him a big hug. “Welcome,” George exclaimed. “Thanks,” Jon said.

Jon was tired. He had started the day very early in South America. It took three flights to finally make it to a large city in another country. He was eager to get out of the airport and on the way to a new life.

George tried to explain the sites as they traveled home by car, but Jon seemed uninterested. George figured he was just tired. When they made it home, George asked if he wanted anything to eat. Jon ate a little. They talked a little. Then it was time for a good night’s sleep.

It seemed so sad that Jon had to leave so many things behind. He only came with a small suitcase and a small backpack. He told George he sold whatever he could to have money for the trip, and gave the rest to friends. He was ready to start anew.

A whole new world

There were two empty drawers in the dresser for Jon. For the large Queen size bed, George told Jon he could have either side he wanted. Jon took the far side, George tried to be quiet and not move so the very tired Jon could sleep well.

During the weekdays George had to work and Jon was home alone. There were plenty of Spanish stations on the satellite television to occupy time, but that was not enough for Jon. He felt like a prisoner waiting for George to come home. At night they shopped for food, some clothes, and a few other things for Jon. That too was not enough to satisfy Jon. This was not really what he wanted.

At the weekend, Jon wanted to go dancing. “Ok,” George said. “We can go.”

“No, I don’t want to go with you. I have met some people from my country online, and one will come to get me. We will go to the Club. I don’t want to be with you.”

George was startled by the declaration. He never thought Jon would say such a thing. George had assumed they would do everything together. George was wrong.

Jon was young and eager to do things and not be stuck at home every day. George tried to make things better for Jon. He introduced him to neighbors who spoke Spanish. He took him to nice stores and restaurants. He helped him to apply for his green card so he could work and have more freedom.

Seeing new things

Some days Jon seemed OK with his situation. He made dinner for George and things were pleasant. Other days did not go so well and Jon complained bitterly about being stuck in the house all day. Patience was not a virtue that Jon enjoyed.

After a few days, Jon had decided to sleep in the spare room on the twin bed. He told Jon that he moved around too much, and it was not good to sleep together since they kept different hours. Each weekend Jon went out with friends from his country. “Give me some money George. Just give me 20 dollars.”

By the end of just one month, Jon wanted to leave. He told George they were never friends. “You are ugly and I don’t like you. I want to go live with some people from my country in Miami where the weather is nicer.” Jon wanted Geroge to buy him a ticket. On the one hand, George saw no reason to spend so much money; on the other hand, he was unhappy and tired of Jon’s complaining.

So George bought the ticket online and immediately drove Jon to the airport. Jon took the suitcase that he brought to America and his backpack, both with some new clothes, and got out of the car at Departures. He said nothing. George drove away with the feeling of relief.

O'hare
Leaving again for a new home

After a month had gone by, George got a message from Jon via Messenger. He deleted it. Later he got another, then another. George blocked him.

The next day George’s neighbor Axel told him he got a text from Jon. He desperately needs to talk to George but there is no answer. “I have nothing to say,” George told him.

The following day Axel stopped George again. He told George that it was urgent, but George said he was not interested.

“But Jon wants you to send him a ticket to come home.”

“Come home?” George said in a startled voice.

“Yes, the new friends do not want him there anymore because he can not pay anything. He says he will be on the street if you do not help.” George just shook his head.

“What shall I tell him?” Axel asked urgently.

“Oh,” George thought a moment.  “Tell him ‘Good Luck’.”

Previously, in order: I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player
A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL, The Deal
THE PROMISE OF LOVE, The Reality

THE PROMISE OF LOVE – Rich Paschall

The Reality, by Rich Paschall

When George made his visit to South America to meet the handsome young man,  Jon noticed their large age difference. He decided it did not matter if George would help him.  After all, this could be a way out of his situation in the poor suburb of the large South American city. So late each night he would steal the WiFi signal from a neighbor in the apartment next door and talk with George. This way he kept him close to his heart.

South American city

Jon was tired of being poor. He was sad he could not buy nice clothes and jewelry.  He was unhappy with his dismal living conditions. He was heartbroken he could not help his mother with her expenses.  He just wanted to get out.

Since his time in an acrobatic troupe did not result in much money, Jon took one job, then another.  Nothing satisfied him as he always worked long hours for little money.  He could not spend much time at the gym.  He could not enjoy the nightlife of the nearby city.

“Help me, George,” Jon pleaded one night.  “I want to keep going to the gym.  I want to have enough food to eat.  Please send me a little money.”  Jon’s stories may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but he was certainly very poor.  He was determined to tell George whatever seemed to convince him to send some money.

“OK, Jon.  I will send you something on payday.  Do not worry.” The periodic investment in the handsome Hispanic man seemed to bind them together, as least George thought so.

Jon also thought they were bound together, not just by a few US Dollars, but also by his constant declarations of friendship and love.

When a few months had passed since George’s impulsive visit, Jon wondered if the time was right to push his plan further along.  One warm night, Jon stood on the roof of his building and looked down on the poor buildings below, with their cheap block constructions, and old metal roofs.  It was a depressing sight.

poor suburb

The bright lights of the city in the distance were a reminder he had not achieved his goal.  He could wait no longer. This was the night for action. He called George.

“We should get married, George,” Jon declared with confidence.

“What?” George said in a surprised voice that shook Jon a little.

“You should come here to marry me and we can live together in America.”  Jon waited for a reply, but there was nothing for a long minute.  Then George said Jon only wanted a way to come to America.  He did not actually want George.

The response upset Jon.  As he lay in bed in his tiny apartment, he decided he must not lose George now, after all the time he invested.  So he spent weeks declaring his love and asking for marriage without success.  George said he had no other boyfriend, so Jon did not understand why they could not be married.

When Jon felt the situation lasted too long he said to George, “You must tell me if we are boyfriends or no.  If you will not marry me, I must find another boyfriend.”

The conversation that followed last a long time, and after Jon insisted over and over he would be a good roommate and stay “as long as God wills,” George finally agreed.

Jon immediately researched what they needed to do to get married.  George gathered the documents Jon requested and sent them by express.  The papers were filed and the waiting game began.  Almost the entire summer went by before Jon got the marriage license.

George came as promised. The wedding was held with only one friend of Jon’s in attendance to take pictures, and a translator for George to know what was happening.  When the ceremony was done, George, Jon and his friend Vanessa all went into the city to celebrate.  After just two married nights together, George was gone.

return to the airport

The long process of getting a visa began.  Jon could not believe the complexity of the procedure or the number of documents he had to send to George.

“I have to get certified translations into English, Jon.  Then I will submit all.  You must be patient.”  It was hard to be patient, but George sent a little money every month and Jon could buy the food he wanted.

When the process had gone from Immigration to the State Department, to the American embassy in Jon’s country, the nervous young man met with his good friend, Vanessa.

Jon told her everything that had transpired and they seemed to be getting near a decision.

“And you will leave here to go to this strange place you have told to me?” Vanessa said.

“Yes, of course,” Jon said.  He could see the disappointment in Vanessa’s eyes.  He could not tell if this was because he might leave his close friend or because he would leave his country for a foreign land.

“Are you crazy?  You are with him only a few days and for that, you would leave us?” she asked.

“But we are working on this for a year now.  It will be my chance for a better life,” Jon said, but Vanessa replied with a look of doubt. After a short silence, she asked the important question.

“Do you think you will stay with this gringo once you get to America and meet other people?”

Jon’s eyes narrowed as he gave the matter serious thought.  He placed his right hand over his mouth and rubbed the left side of his face with his fingertips.  After almost a minute, he removed the hand from his face, smiled a little, and said, “No.  Of course not.”

Then Vanessa laughed, but only a little.

Next week: The conclusion.
Previously, in order:
I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player
A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL, The Deal

A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL

The Deal, by Rich Paschall 

After meeting the younger Jon on a language learning website, and seeing him for just four days in person in South America, George was surprised that Jon acted as if they were boyfriends.  In fact, Jon asked George several times if he had a boyfriend in America.

“No,” George always said and Jon would smile.

“You should have no other boyfriend,” Jon would say.  “We are boyfriends.”

This was astounding to George.  Jon lived in South America and George, now in his 50’s, lived in a Midwestern USA city.  George was all of 30 years older and felt they could not have much in common.  But Jon kept reminding  George of his visit the previous December and what great fun they had.  This should prove their love!

A South American city

Feeling rather awkward about the whole thing, George thought that perhaps he should break off the daily chat.  He could not imagine where this relationship would go and the boyfriend talk just seemed wrong somehow.  Jon started to add that he loved George and they should be together. Then one day Jon pushed the matter a bit further.

“We should get married, George,” Jon declared.

“What?” a stunned George said.

“You should come here to marry me and we can live together in America.”

After George collected himself, he thought about what he should say.  The response was not immediately in his brain.

“You are just saying this because you want to come to America.  You do not want to marry me,” George told Jon.

“No that is not true,” Jon protested.  “I will be with you as long as God wills.”

So, the conversation continued in a similar manner for a few weeks.  Jon would ask for marriage, and George would say “no.”

As time went on Jon seemed to be winning George over to his side, so he demanded an answer one more time.  “You must tell me if we are boyfriends or no.  If you will not marry me, I must find another boyfriend.”

On the one hand, George could not imagine this was a great idea; on the other, he suddenly felt he did not want to lose Jon.  They did indeed have a good time together and maybe they would make good roommates.  Perhaps Jon really would stay “as long as God wills.”  So they reached an agreement and the deal was made.

The South American destination

To be married in the South American country, George had to send documents with certified Spanish translations to Jon, so he could go to the notary public, more like a Justice of the Peace there, and request permission to marry the foreigner.  George waited anxiously for months to hear if their application would be accepted.

“You will come immediately when we have permission and make the marriage?” Jon asked.

“No, Jon, I must ask for time off work.  I will come as soon as possible,” George assured Jon.

From April until late summer, George and Jon waited and chatted like nervous kids.  Finally in August Jon sent a message that they would get married on the 15th.

“No,” the startled George replied.  “I can not get there so quickly.”  They decided on September 2 and the arrangements were made.  George would fly to South America again.

On the first day of the trip, George took Jon shopping for clothes and rings for the wedding.  On the next day, they got married and on the third day, they explored the neighborhood around their hotel.  George headed home on the fourth day.

Road to the airport

Upon his return, George and Jon started the long process to get a spouse visa.  They were surprised to learn that after the long and expensive process, there were no guarantees Jon would actually get the visa.

Many documents for Immigration and then for the State Department were required.  After that, documents had to be presented to the embassy in South America.  Speed was not the government’s way.

After the marriage was done and the process for immigration was well underway, George finally decided to tell someone about it. So he called on his friend Arthur to meet him at the local bar and grill.

As George detailed the story, Arthur sat quietly with the most incredulous look on his face.  When George was finally done with his story, Arthur shook his head and said, “Are you crazy?”

“Well, maybe” George replied rather sheepishly.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this before you ran down there and got married, especially since you were waiting for months to get permission?” Arthur asked.

“Because you would have told me then I was crazy and I shouldn’t do it.”

“You’re right, that’s exactly what I would have said.” Arthur blurted out with a tone somewhere between firmness and annoyance.  He kept shaking his head and looking at George as if he had done the dumbest thing in his fifty-something years.

“We discussed the matter at length.  He will help me and be a good roommate.  We have a deal.”

“A deal?” Arthur asked.

“Yeah, isn’t marriage really a deal between two people about friendship and living together?” George asked as if he wasn’t too sure.

Arthur had a doubting look that George understood.  Then he asked George, “Don’t you think this young man is going to leave you once he gets to America and meets other people?”

George’s eyes narrowed as he gave the matter serious thought.  He placed his right hand over his mouth and rubbed the left side of his face with his fingertips.  After almost a minute, he removed the hand from his face, smiled a little, and said, “No.  Of course not.”

Then Arthur laughed, but only a little.

Next week, Jon’s view of the story: THE PROMISE OF LOVE, The Reality
Previously, in order: I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player

A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE – RICH PASCHALL

A Romantic Player, by Rich Paschall


Let’s face it, Jon was a bit of a player.  In fact, he felt he had to be.  How else was a poor boy to get by in the world?  He had tried to make it in other ways.  Now he had to expand his possibilities in any way he could.  He was looking for a way up and out and the present circumstance did not provide it.

By the time Jon had reached his late teens, he decided he must move out of the small South American town where poverty was the only way of life.  He dreamed of the big city and when he got his chance to join an acrobatic troupe based in one of the largest cities. He was off.  High in the tropical mountains was a city of millions of people and Jon would join the many and hope for a better life.

A move to the city
A move to the city

He could not afford a place in the city, actually, so he took a small apartment in a poor suburb.  He kept the place neat and clean so that he could enjoy his few possessions in pleasant surroundings.  Jon trained and exercised daily for his job.  The troupe performed exhibitions and entered competitions.   Sometimes there was money, but for some competitions, there was nothing.

With his youthful good looks and confidence, Jon signed up with a modeling agency.  There was little placement for fashion models, but with his cute face and athletic body, they were sure they could get Jon into a certain type of modeling and even film career.  Jon was stunned at the suggestion and refused the work.  The agency encouraged him to come back if he ever changed his mind.

Up on the roof
Up on the roof

While standing on the roof of his apartment building and looking down on the rooftops and poor people below, Jon got an idea.  He had to meet new people.  He had a phone and could easily steal WiFi from inside his apartment, so he decided to meet people and make friends from other areas, even other countries.  Since he thought the United States might be a good place, he decided to try to improve his little English and meet Americans.  Jon charmed his way into many lives under the guise of trying to learn the language.  He was really trying to find friends.

When there were some extra pesos in his pocket, Jon went to an area in the city that was frequented by tourists from other parts of the country and as well as “gringos.” Sometimes Jon went alone, sometimes with friends.  They would take a small table or sit at the bar in a popular nightspot.  There the young and handsome men would accept drinks from older men or women tourists.  Sometimes they would get an offer to go back to a hotel for the evening.  Jon liked the free drinks but declined the extra opportunity.  None of the people were right for him.  He did not want a one night stand, no matter what the offer.

Trolling for "friends"
Trolling for “friends”

While “borrowing” his internet connection from a neighbor, Jon started to become good friends with a few people he met online.  One stood out for Jon because he seemed to take a genuine interest in him as a person.  Jon talked with George about everything.  When chatting online Jon would use a program that would translate messages as they came in.  It is true it was not helping Jon learn English, but he did make more friends through faster communication.

George seemed special to Jon.  He told him all about the city where he lived.  He talked about his job and life.  He asked Jon about his life, his job, and his interests.  No one else wanted to know anything about Jon like George did.   Soon Jon wanted to use something other than the language site to communicate.

“Can we use Skype or Messenger or something else?”  And they did.  They followed each other on Facebook and called on Messenger.

“Send me the camera, George.”

“What do you mean?’

“I want to see you.  I want to see where you live.”

So they made virtual visits until one-day things changed.  Opportunity for Jon was at hand.  George had a vacation to use and nowhere to go.

“Come to me, George.  I want to see you.  Please.  I like you so much.  Please.”

After a few days of pleading, George was hooked and scheduled a visit to a continent he never dreamed of traveling to.

When George arrived as promised, Jon did not seem to notice, or at least not to care, that George was much older.  They went around town like tourists and had a good time seeing the sites by themselves one night, and with some of Jon’s friends the next.  They were both pleased with the country, the city, and with themselves.

Seeing the nightlife
Seeing the nightlife

Jon took advantage of the situation by offering to cook their meals rather than go to expensive restaurants.  Of course, they had to go to the markets where Jon made sure to get extra dry goods and fresh meats to last past George’s visit.  It was OK with George, even though he paid for it all.  He recognized what Jon was doing, but buying extra food for Jon was certainly cheaper than eating out every meal.  It was a win-win according to George.

When the brief visit was over, and George was at the airport, Jon cornered him down a hallway and told him that he loved him and thanked him for coming.  Then Jon looked around to be sure no one was watching before kissing him.  George was more than a bit surprised.

The next day Jon met with a favorite girlfriend, Vanessa.  She asked Jon about the visit of the stranger from America.

“He is very nice,” Jon told her.  “I think I will marry him.”

Vanessa looked at him as if she did not understand at first.  Finally, she spoke.

“What?”

Related: For George’s side of the story, see “I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
Next up: A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL

I LOVE YOU – RICH PASCHALL

No, You Don’t, by Rich Paschall


In his early adult life, George was a rather active young man.  He kept a moderate social schedule.  He met with friends, did a little volunteer work, and even joined a bowling team for a few years.  As the years wore on, George became less active, saw less of his friends, and was mostly invisible to the neighborhood.

As he passed fifty years of age, he kept to himself and seldom visited friends and family.  There was little family left actually, and the cousins seemed to have forgotten about old George.  This is not to say that George was totally inactive, for that was not the case at all.  He did a lot of maintenance on the old house.  He spent plenty of time doing gardening in the spring and summer.  He even tried to learn a new language online.

He signed up for a language site that had a social component.  On the site, you could help someone learn your language and someone else could help you learn theirs.  The site gave learners the opportunity to ask others for a chat in the language they were learning.  Since this was all anonymous, you could decline to chat.

George was not bold enough to ask anyone to chat with him live, but others contacted him when they saw an English speaker on-line and he would always accept.  Some visitors came and went quickly but a few became friends as George explained life in his city and heard about theirs.  It was all very exciting for the older, single gentleman to be talking with young people around the world.  George had a friend in France, Egypt, Russia, and Brazil.  He also had a friend in another South American country who liked George a lot.

In South America
In South America

Soon George and Jonathon were friends on Facebook and talking on Messenger and Skype.  They chatted about their countries, cities, jobs.  After a while, they were talking every day, even if only briefly.  Both loved the attention they were getting from the other.

When they were nearing the end of a year of friendship in December, George was surprised to learn he could not roll over his remaining four vacation days to the following year.  Jon, of course, felt that George should come to South America and spend some time with him.  Jon was not originally from the big city where he lived, so he had few friends and no family there.  He was excited at the thought that George would visit.

Aside from never having met Jon in person, George felt that the 30 year age difference would mean they would soon be bored with one another.  Besides, George never had a desire to go to South America or just about any place else any longer.  But Jon was persistent and George decided to be adventurous.

True to his word, Jon was waiting at the airport.  He greeted George like a long-lost friend.  He spent every minute with him for four days.  They traveled around the city like tourists.  They spent an evening in the street watching an important soccer match and celebrating with the locals.  They spent another evening at something that was like a Christmas market.  There they had local beer and too much guava liquor, frequently ordered by one of Jon’s friends.

An impulsive visit to South America
An impulsive visit to South America

The weather was perfect the entire time. Jon was nicer than George could ever imagine.  He was a good cook an excellent host.  The last-minute vacation was one of the best ever.

Upon his return home, Jon called or wrote every day.  George thought that when they met in person Jon would see that he was a lot older and the friendship would die down, but in truth, the opposite happened.  Jon’s enthusiasm for the impulsive visit did not wane.

Not knowing what to make of this friendship, George called on Arthur, an old friend, to discuss the matter.  They met at a local inn and George proceeded to explain the whole story.  He told how they met, how the friendship developed over the year, and that he impulsively went to visit.  George had never mentioned Jon to anyone before.  Now he was telling the entire history.

“By the way,” George said, “he does not want me to mention that we met on the internet because people might get the wrong idea.”

“What idea is that?” Arthur asked.

“I don’t know,” George exclaimed.

“So what’s the problem?” Arthur wanted to know after listening to over 45 minutes about some South American guy he had never met or seen.

“He calls every day or leaves a message to say he loves me and misses me!”

“So?”

“He wants to come here and be with me.  He says he will be my prince.”

“Oh,” Arthur responded as if the light bulb just went on.

George went on to detail his responses.  “I explained I was not rich and he would have to get a job.  Despite my efforts, his English still sucks and he would have to improve.  The weather here is very different from his homeland, and he knows no one else here”

“What does he say to all these points,” Arthur inquired.

“I love you!  What kind of response is that?  Besides, I am too old for him, but he just says we will be together as long as God wills.”  George took a deep breath and continued

“So, I told him he just says that because he wants to come to America.  Since I like him very much I offered that he could come and stay and I would introduce him around and take him to places where he can meet other young people.”

“And?” Arthur prompted.

“And he said he does not want to meet others, he just wants to be with me.  I don’t know what’s wrong with the young man.”

“There is one distinct possibility,” Arthur said with a knowing tone to his comment.

“What?”

“He really loves you,” Arthur said simply.

George looked at him as if he did not understand the words Arthur just said.  After a long pause, George finally spoke.

“What?”

Next week: Jon’s side of the story.

LATE LUNCH

The Old Ball Team, by Rich Paschall


When they started the monthly get-together it was almost 15 years earlier.  There were a dozen of them then, and two of the “boys” had already retired.  They had all known each other since childhood and were within a few years of one another in age.  They went to the same park as kids and most played on the same teams.

They had decided years ago to meet once a month for dinner, so they could be sure to see one another regularly.  Over the years dinner changed to lunch, as some of them did not want to drive or be out after dark.  The sessions remained as lively as ever.  It seemed none lost their boyhood personalities.

With the passage of time, the group had dwindled in size.  While the first ten years saw no loss of participation, recent years were not kind to the group.  Three had passed away and another three were no longer well enough to attend.  One just seemed to disappear.  No one could ever say what happened to Roger, although a few tried hard to find out.

nationals in DC baseball

The meeting was now on the first Tuesday of the month at 1 o’clock.  Most of the lunch crowd was gone from the Open Flame Restaurant by then and the old guys could sit around and reminisce for as long as they wanted.  Today they wanted to hang on just a little longer.

Raymond had arrived right on time which was his way all through life.  Like the others, Ray was retired now.  Unlike the others, he carried a secret with him he would not tell, even to his best friends.

Bob came with Ray.  He was no longer able to drive and in fact, needed a good deal of help to get in and out of Ray’s car.  Ray always allowed enough time for Bob, so that they could walk slowly together and get in and out of the house, the car, and the restaurant safely.   To Ray, Bob was like a rock, the anchor of the team.  Now Ray was Bob’s rock of support.  There was a certain irony in that, and Bob would never know it.

Frank still worked a little.  It is not really that he wanted to do it, but he could not shake free of some business obligations he had over the years.  He did not need the money and tried to steer any business to someone else.  If you asked, Frank would tell you he was retired.

Bill was always late.  Everyone would have been surprised if he had been on time.  He maintained an active life and was always finding more to do than he had time.  This seemed to keep Bill healthy and robust.  Perhaps he was the only one of the remaining members in such good shape.

Without any doubt at all, Jerry was the talkative one of the bunch.  If others wanted to tell a story or share some news, they had better do it before Jerry showed up.  He was likely to dominate the conversation from the time he arrived until the time the check came.  It was guaranteed that Jerry would tell his favorites stories, although all of these guys knew them just as well as Jerry.  In fact, one or more of them probably participated in whatever episode he was recalling.

At every meeting, Jerry was sure to get around to the championship baseball game.  “What were we Bob, 12 or 13?  What a summer that was!  I remember when Bob dove for that ball in the last inning.  If that got through the infield we were screwed.  Raymond was so damn slow out there in left field.”  They all would laugh, even Ray.

2-hyannis-cafe_113

Usually, the boys would be planning to leave around two, but they told stories and laughed their way past 2:30 in the afternoon.  Finally, Ray called for the check.  Over the objections of the others, Ray paid the bill. They had always split the check evenly.  No one ever paid for everyone, but Ray was a diplomat and a businessman and knew how to get his way.  The matter was settled.

They all made it out into the warm spring day together and stood on the sidewalk for a moment.  Raymond gave them all a long hard look but said nothing.  He knew Bob could not come out any longer.  Bob’s wife had strongly objected to Raymond continuing to take him to lunch.  This would be the last time, for sure.  Raymond was dying of cancer but kept it to himself.  He looked well enough, so the others just did not know.

As the two walked to Raymond’s car nearby, the others said goodbye to Frank.  It seems that Frank’s wife had been insisting that they move to Michigan to be nearer to the kids and grandkids.  Since Frank was the practical one of the group, he also realized it was better to have a safety net of younger people nearby if the need should ever arise.  These old guys may have promised to always be there for one another, but that now came with the heavy reality that it just could not be so.

As Frank wandered off in the other direction, Bill and Jerry stood looking at one another and big, knowing smiles came across their faces.  Nothing more had to be said.  It was all right there before them. Words, tears, hugs would have been out of character.

Finally, Jerry left Bill with the same words he issued for years, “I’ll see you at the next game.  I’ve got the ball and gloves, you bring the bats.”

“OK, Captain,” Bill said and walked away.

COMRADE LEADER AND THE BLOGSTERS – Rich Paschall

A SERENDIPITY Fractured Spy Tale, by Rich Paschall

It was a long hall with high, vaulted ceilings, elegantly appointed with gold-leaf trim. The walls were appropriately red on the upper two thirds, with an elegant dark cherry wood wainscoting below. Down the middle of the hall ran a long table made of the finest dark wood. It could seat 20 comrades along each side. The room was empty now, except for the big man seated at the head of the table.

He was patiently waiting in the Great Hall of the Central Committee. The room was quiet and serene, just like the meetings presided over by the big man. As he sat admiring a portrait of himself, Comrade Number Eight entered the room and walked to the front of the hall. Number Eight stood at attention and waited to be acknowledged.

“Report!” ordered the man at the head of the table.

“Comrade Leader,” Number Eight began. “I am pleased to report the success of our blog writers in foreign lands. Already today, six more articles have been posted. They are all well received, especially the ones we have designated as coming from ‘news’ sites.”

“What is the most popular story you have planted recently?” the Leader inquired.

“Comrade Leader, we have reported that the main opponent of our appointed foreign leader is running a scandalous sex ring from the back of a Taco truck.”

The Leader of the Federation looks a bit confused at this.  “Taco Truck? What do you mean?”

“Comrade Leader…” said Number Eight hesitantly. All reports began by addressing “Comrade Leader” but from there he was not sure how to proceed on this one.

“This is a truck that travels around the streets selling food. Tacos, Tortas, Burritos.”

“And the political opponent runs a ‘sex ring’ from such a truck?”

“Yes, Comrade Leader.”

“And the people of that nation believe this story?”

“Oh yes, Comrade Leader. We placed the story on several blogs and it was picked up and distributed by other blog sites. It has even been run by some news stations.  It has many ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ on social media. It is being spread all around the country.”

At that. the Big Man, Head Mister of all the Misters on the Central Committee, stared at Number Eight with the most incredulous look Comrade Leader had ever given anyone. After a brief moment, he roared with laughter.  He was laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his high backed leather chair. Number Eight felt he could finally relax and laughed a little bit too.

“Have you designated a particular truck?” the important man wanted to know.

“No sir, Comrade Leader, sir. There are many of these trucks in the big cities and we wish to throw suspicion on all of them. With a little more prodding, we think the people will start attacking some of them.”

The leader laughed some more.

“Next week, Comrade Leader, we are going to have our asset speculate that these trucks are all run by illegal aliens and should be shut down. He will try to make a link between the illegals, his opponent and the sex ring. They are all selling prostitutes to fund the political campaign against our appointed one.”

“Stop, you’re killing me,” the boss man said as he was laughing so hard his sides began to hurt. “This is the funniest thing I have heard in years. Your team has done excellent work and brought me great joy. You will receive the People’s Medal for your achievement.”

“Thank You, Comrade Leader. I am very… (pause) pleased… that you are… (pause) pleased… sir” Number Eight puffed out his chest and stood in the Great Hall with a large smile on his face. It would not last long.

“Now, Number Eight, tell me how our special agents, Boris and Natasha, are doing on their secret mission.”

Number Eight looked down at the carpet that covered the floor beneath his feet. He did not know how to explain what was happening.

“I am sorry to say, Comrade Leader, that our operatives in the foreign land have not yet completed their assignment. We still have high hopes that they will succeed soon.”

“What has been the problem for them so far?” the leader of Covert Operations wanted to know.

“Sir, at every turn in the road they have been thwarted by two other agents who seem to be of superior intelligence.”

“I see, have you identified these other agents? We must deal with them severely.”

“No, Comrade Leader, but we have learned their code names, ‘Moose’ and ‘Squirrel.'”

The big man nodded his head knowingly as if he had encountered these crafty beasts before.

True patriots — American Heroes!

THANKS, NOW LEAVE – Rich Paschall

Not Welcome Anymore, by Rich Paschall

Roger was a busy guy.  In recent months he absolutely could not find time to fit one more thing into his schedule.  The local pastor, Jared, was even busier and usually kept to a tight schedule.  His time was parceled out like the hosts he distributed on Sunday.  So it was a bit of a surprise when he dropped an email on Roger asking to meet.  “Perhaps we can get together for coffee on Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning,” the message read.  Roger picked Saturday.

When Roger turned 60 he had promised himself there would be no more big projects.  He felt he was done with community organizing, large social events, and big family gatherings.  “All the work should be done by someone else,” he thought.  But then there always seemed to be another great idea and that meant “one last hurrah.”

When a long time and dedicated school worker was to be honored, many alumni were thrilled at the idea.  In fact, they wanted to put on a special tribute and all got together to discuss the matter.  Soon after Roger was handing the proposed event to the pastor, who seemed a bit skeptical at first, but eventually supported the plan.

It's really a one way street.
It’s really a one way street.

The pastor was young and ambitious, as pastors go.  He seemed to like everyone and at first, everyone liked him.  He wanted to make an impact on the parish and if you could help him with that, he was your friend.  Soon he saw Roger and Roger’s friends as a path to increased alumni involvement and successful events.  He did not help organize in any way, but he did not hinder the progress.  For the alumni, it seemed like a great thing.  The pastor was letting them do their tribute the way they believed was appropriate.

On the other hand, the pastor’s staff was not a bit enthusiastic.  The school administration was already overburdened with projects and fund-raisers.  The grade school principal was also running the high school, or neglecting it, depending on where you heard it.  Teamwork was only something written on the gymnasium wall.  It was not practiced by those who loved to point it out.  They wanted to run the upcoming honor as a small event as they had done for others in the past.  They were not happy to share the event with “outsiders,” that is, former students.

The alumni crew worked diligently.  They looked for every way to promote the big event and make it a success.  They had been warned not to count on the school administration to do their part, but they trusted them to do what they said they would do.  When the administration looked overwhelmed at a request, the alumni chairmen would advise, “Just say no if it is too much.” Unfortunately, they were already in the habit of promising what they could not deliver.

When the big event was held, the school’s part was chaotic and ran behind schedule.  The alumni tribute was forced to start late, but went well and was loved by those in attendance.  In fact, it was the most well attended alumni event held in decades.  It would certainly be the last to draw a crowd.

When the reverend contacted Roger in the week that followed the celebration, Roger knew what the topic of conversation would be.  Since they had been friends from before the time Jared came back to be pastor, Roger thought they would have a meaningful conversation.

On the day of their coffee talk, it was cold and damp, rather like the expression on the pastor’s face.  He only put on a smile when a parishioner recognized him in the small coffee shop and came over to say “hello.” Roger and Jared sat in two large chairs with a small table in between.  Jared started.

“I was rather disappointed in the event last Saturday.  It did not go as planned,” Jared said with a bit of a scowl.  “I do not like things like that in my parish.”

Roger tried to explain what happened and how it happened and why it happened the way that it did.  Jared was not interested.  His purpose seemed to be to place blame and absolve his staff of any wrong doing.  “I hold you personally responsible because you brought the plan to me.  I do not care about co-chairmen or committee members or school administrators.  I blame you.”

It would be an understatement to say that Roger was in a state of bewilderment for almost an hour as the former friend declared that Roger was not to be involved in running any more events, in fact, “You are not welcome at any school events.  I will not tolerate anything that might embarrass me in the slightest way.”  Roger was not sure how anything that did not go quite right could embarrass someone who had no hand in running the event.

Cold, grey day

When Jared was done with his coffee, he advised Roger he could still come to services on Sunday.  Roger thought, “And I am still welcome to give to the collection,” but he did not say it out loud. He watched Jared walk out into the cold, grey day which was a perfect match for his attitude.

Roger only went back to the church one more time.  He came on Christmas to read as previously scheduled.  He wished his fellow readers, and friends well but said nothing about moving on.

A former classmate told Roger that her brother had decided to go to a different parish.  “The pastor there is warm and welcoming.  It’s something they forgot here.”  Roger smiled and nodded, but said nothing.  He left the church and walked out into the pleasant Christmas weather.  He thought of the irony of the assistant who invited him to come back home to the church 15 years earlier and the pastor who invited him to leave, since they were the same person.