And the Angle said

And the angel said

Jerry and his wife Martha lived near a reservation in North Dakota. They owned a store and lived in the upstairs. The store had been inherited from Martha’s parents and as much as they wanted to move away, they felt they were needed in the tiny town.

The store didn’t bring them a lot of income but they had managed to raise four children and send them off to college. Jerry and Martha would take odd jobs from laundry, sewing and catering small parties to handyman work and repair jobs. They had always managed to survive but basically surviving was what they were doing. By now the children were doing reasonably well and would send things home but Jerry and Martha were proud and the children had responsibilities of their own.

Over the years, many opportunities had come along promising them a much better life in a different area. Still the appreciation from the customers they did have, was something they were never able to give up. They were the only game in town and although it really wasn’t much of the town, they knew that many of the poor people would suffer if they were to leave.

At times, when another driver was not able to make it, they would be asked to drive the school bus. It was hardly a problem leaving the store and one person could usually handle it easy enough.

In early November, Jason Trent, one of the school bus drivers, had broken his leg working on his farm. Jason insisted that he could operate with a good cast but of course that was not reality.

Jerry and Martha were contacted and even though this was a busy time of year, with people ordering gifts, they said yes, together they would be glad to take turns at the driving. Sometimes Jerry would get up early for the early morning rides and at times Martha took her turn. In the afternoon Jerry usually took the wheel, while Martha stayed home, to not only prepare their meal but to bake things to sell in the store.

There were long drives collecting the children sometimes living several miles away and getting to know and talk with the children was just a fun part of the ride.

“What do you want for Christmas?” Almost every child had a different story. What they wanted, why they wanted it, how much fun it was going to be when they received it and who they’ve heard about it from. They would have first choice gifts, what their second choice for a gift would be, and so on. Jerry and Martha knew this was a very poor community and the likelihood of the children getting the things they wanted was somewhere close to impossible. One of the things on all the children’s mind was an indoor court and basketball equipment that they might emulate one of their heroes.

Jerry and Martha were used to spending a lot of time together in their not so busy store. They would talk for hours about various subjects and then go off to their own little hobbies or chores, maybe reading or spending time on the Internet. They knew it was important to stay busy and at the same time stay in touch with the outside world. They of course knew about the basketball hero, long before this and tried to figure out a way to build some kind of place where the kids could enjoy the sport. Jerry was quite handy at building and had a tremendous talent with wood, always saying he was making a tree live on. Building or finding a place for them to play basketball was a noble idea but not the least practical. Not only was there no money available but had there been any, there were many other needs that would have to be considered, long before a basketball court.

Somewhere about the second week in November a nativity scene would be set up in front of the small church which was next to the school. Jerry had built the stable and it had been populated with animals and characters donated by the local residents. The pieces were not all of equal scale, some purchased, some homemade from clay, plaster paris, plastic and of couple rough carvings. The nativity scene was a bit ragtag but it was their attempt, just the same, done by the local’s hands and greatly appreciated. Because it was so unique and so personal to so many, no one ever suggested updating or improving it.

Jerry, being a woodcarver and at times ached for the opportunity to carve some characters for those, so roughly created and used in the nativity scene. Jerry had been carving, it almost seemed like, before he was born. It just came naturally to him and he spent many of his idol hours carving. He felt showing off his pieces would be flaunting his talent and Jerry was too humble for that. It was enough that his wife enjoyed them and so rarely, if ever, where they seen by outsiders.

Talking it over with his wife, “I would like to do something special for those kids. I know we don’t have the money to do something for all of them individually, but maybe we could do something that they all would be able to enjoy.” Jerry thought a little shed for a school bus stop decorated nicely, Martha thought some baking and cookies for some kind of a little party, and together they tossed around many ideas. After a couple of days of discussing the gift idea, Jerry said, “I’ve seen something in a magazine that made me think of their nativity scene again. I know I can’t replace any of the characters or the things that are already made and I wouldn’t want to. What I noticed in the magazine, made me realize that something is missing. The nativity scene does not have an angel and the angel is a very important part of the nativity scene.” “Well” Martha said, “you know what every you do, it will be the best piece in the whole scene. I think that’s about the noblest gift you can give.” “We can give” Jerry retorted, “while I’m working on that you will be carrying the whole load of operating the store.” Martha laughed, “I’m pretty sure I can manage that but you have to let me have a little input on her design.”

 “And who said this was going to be a woman angel? Pretending to be serious. “But yes, as always, I depend on you for your input, seriously, that is what makes me want to do a special job, if it pleases you, I will be satisfied.”

So, Jerry went to work. In between bus driving, doing little jobs around the store and making sure Martha was not doing more than her share, he worked on an angel carving. Jerry had learned that a good piece, required just the right material. Somehow and something he couldn’t really explain, he could just feel when the right piece of wood came along, for what he was doing. While driving the bus through miles and miles of roads, he had picked up many pieces of wood, over the years that he felt suitable for his carvings. Looking through them, moving them around piling them in one pile and then piling them another pile, gradually narrowing down his decisions and checking them carefully for just the right color, kind, and an almost hidden crack or any blemish that might not bring the peace to the standards that he wanted to arrive at.

Eventually he found a large piece, that he felt would do the job and showing it to Martha, together they agreed that it was quite a special piece and surprised that he hadn’t used it long before now for some other project or piece.

Together they had made sketches and thought about how it would stand or sit or be fastened. They had discussed wings and how big or how small or if it even needed wings.

Jerry started in carving, removing the smallest chips of wood, slowly molding it to the ideas in his mind and slowly coming to something that could at least be recognized as a project to be completed. Jerry spent a lot more time at this piece then he would normally spend, late nights early mornings when it was his turn in the store and no customers were around, when he could have been relaxing after a meal he was carving.

The day finally came when he was finished. Still two weeks before Christmas and he wanted to put it in place. He and Martha discussed a finish, something that would complement the rare piece of wood he had used and yet not take away from what the angel represented.

Late one-night Jerry and Martha drove to the church and making sure that no one was around, placed the angel on the nativity scene, right on the top where it had been made to fit and where it seemed to belong. They rushed away, not wanting to be seen, should someone drive by.

The next morning it was Martha’s turn to drive the bus. When she got to the school, some children were already there, examining the nativity scene. “Come and see,” they hollered, to the other children getting off of Martha’s bus. Martha had to pretend, she was just as surprised and getting off the bus smiled and said that it looked very nice and she had to get back to the store.

Getting back to the store she was anxious to tell Jerry what had transpired, letting him know that the children were very excited as well as curious to where it came from. Happy satisfaction settled in with both Jerry and Martha and not much more was discussed about it. After all, even though it had required a considerable amount of work, it was just another piece and they were content to know that it was accepted.

Four or five days went by and it was Jerry’s turn to drive the evening bus. The children got on, all excited and all abuzz. It seems that one of them had taken a picture of the nativity scene with the special Angel and put the picture online. There had been many responses and one saying that he might be willing to pay a high price for the angel if it was for sale but he badly needed to know who had created it. To the kids this was a dream. They were already spending the imaginary bankroll. A new flagpole with a new flag, a computer for the school, a better sidewalk so they didn’t have to carry mud in the school, a big freezer so they could have better lunches and on and on it went, with one dream piled on top of the other. “He’s a French artist” he heard one of them say. Another little girl said “his name is “Philip D John,”.

Jerry could not get home soon enough. Dropping off his precious load always took at least two hours. Tonight, it seems like six hours. When he finally did get home, he immediately told Martha what had happened and how sick he was to have it turn out this way. Somehow, he would have to tell this man who he was in order for the children to profit anything from this statue. On the other hand, how could he or anyone else explain to them that its value was so little that it would be difficult to satisfy even one of their dreams.

There was nothing to do but get on the computer and look up Philip D John or as he figured, Philippe Dijon.

The artist was found soon enough on the Internet and sending a message allowing his own email address along with their phone number. He was just sitting down to the evening meal, which he wasn’t the least bit hungry for, when the phone rang.

Jerry, a little perturbed that he would have to talk on the phone at a time like this, said a quick hello.

“Bonjour, mon nom est, Philippe Dijon, Je suis si impatient de vous rencontrer, I am sorry, sometimes I forget I am talking to America.”

With that Jerry almost dropped the phone. He had only sent the message out minutes before and here was this guy calling him back. Jerry apologized for being so abrupt with his hello and with that they gradually exchanged information. It turned out that Philippe was in New York and was ready to fly out to North Dakota to see this special carved Angel. He, as well as a number of collectors, had seen several pictures online sent by the schoolchildren. If it was as good as it appeared to be, he wanted to be the first to bid on it if it was for sale, and would make it worthwhile. He had been impressed by the children’s unselfish desire to have its value turned into something that the majority could enjoy.

Jerry had no idea what to say, looking over at his wife who had only heard a portion of the conversation, was sitting there smiling from ear to ear. I guess, I mean of course, I mean please come and look at it. It will be here when Christmas is over and it would just be stored with the rest of the pieces.

You don’t understand Monsieur. I will fly out tonight, how is it you say? Dieu le veut et que les animaux exotiques ne nous attaquent pas.”

All Jerry could say was yes, okay and shake his head as if Philip was standing there next to him.

Between the two of them they didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. It was all still questionable how any of this was going to play out. On the other hand, it was great that something good would come from this statue and that somehow it could profit the school but on the other hand, it was going to be difficult to explain to the children, that this wasn’t exactly like winning the lottery. It never occurred to Jerry and Martha that is hard work was being donated almost without his approval. For their sake, they were just shocked that they had something to donate. Even though they owned the store and were getting by, they really didn’t have much to donate to all the people around who were so very special to them.

Jerry decided he would take the bus route that morning not saying a thing to the children but eventually arriving in front of the school where a shiny new car was parked and a strange man was looking over the and nativity seen. This was impossible, could that be Philippe? Not only the children but some adults were all around, admiring the nativity scene and of course admiring the angel.

After the children had exited the bus, Jerry got out to meet this guy.

You must be Jerry, a tall slender man said in a very French accent.      

By now not only the children but the adults were gazing at Jerry as if he was some kind of a Hollywood star. I am Jerry and I would love to have you come to my house for breakfast. I believe we could talk a little better there. “But the ange” Philippe said “will it be sur?”

“Oh, quite sur” Jerry said. “All of these petits anges will protect it.” Using what little French, he had picked up in the last 12 hours.

Jerry drove the bus back home to the store making sure that he didn’t lose Philippe who was following him. He had called Martha on the cell phone and she had the breakfast ready as usual in the back room with more than enough for the three of them. Like all of her breakfasts it too was a work of art complemented with an Apple pie that had been made just the day before and Philippe had referred to as a beautiful tart.

Philippe’s English was very good and on occasion he would slip back into some French, apologizing.

They talked about each other’s interest, their children and how they had spent their lives. While Philippe was a very accomplished and celebrated artist, he admitted that that was all he knew most of his entire life. He had created, schooled, work, schooled some more and created some more. All of it for, with, and about art. Outside of art he felt very ignorant of the world and envied Jerry for his diversity.

“Had you ever thought of carving anything else?” Philippe asked.

 Martha looked at Jerry and said “haven’t you told him?”

“Told me what?” Philippe asked.

“I suppose you better come with me,” Jerry said, taking him to the basement door turning on the lights and descending down the stairs. In the basement the walls were covered with shelves from floor to ceiling and on the shelves were carvings and creations of all kinds. Some with a considerable amount of dust on and others that had been dusted recently.

“I have been doing this all my life” Jerry said, “ but I never really thought anybody would be interested. My wife and I come down and look at them once in a while and some of them bring back memories of what was going on at the time, I carved them. This is only a small part of them. There are many more upstairs and packed away in the attic. There were times when I would carve two or three a week.”

Philippe walked the walls looking at all the shelves and gently picking up this piece or that piece. “I don’t know what to say” Philippe said, “I am only glad that I got to you before anyone else. What you have here is a small fortune. At the proper auction these will bring a lot of money. Not to auction them all at once but only a couple at a time and as more and more good artists see them and purchase them the remaining ones will increase in value rapidly. I’m afraid if the wrong person came along, he might’ve taken them off your hands for a fraction of their value. I have done very well financially and so it is easy for me to let you know of their value. I would like to purchase a couple pieces but I would be glad to work with you if you choose to market them.

After a considerable amount of time perusing so many of the pieces, they went back up to the kitchen table. Martha had made a fresh pot of tea and the three of them sat there discussing what would be the next move.

Martha asked just what kind of money are we talking here. She told Philippe how the kids had a basketball hero and how they would love to have a place to play basketball. As the children get a little older, there is very little organized recreation for them and all too often, they are tempted into drugs and alcohol. They need more than that and a place to play basketball would be a great start. We realize it would be an awful lot of money but maybe with some other donations we could at least provide the down payment and buy a little equipment. Maybe we could get a bank loan or even get help from the government.

Philippe just laughed, as he sat there drinking is tea, Jerry and Martha kind of laughed somewhat embarrassed by their crazy suggestion.

Philippe said calmly, the day is young, before the day is out there will be somebody here who is an engineer and knowledgeable in what it takes to build a place to play basketball. He will talk to you get the information he needs and I can guarantee you will be able to go to the children on Christmas day with a drawing and the model of their new basketball stadium. I will assure the bank that you are more than good for the cost should there be any shortage of donations. It is my expectation that your story will not only greatly increase the value of your carved treasures but bring on more than enough donations to do a lot more than just make a place for basketball. Let us try and keep it a secret until Christmas day and I will keep in contact with you in the meantime. If there’s any way I can, I would like to spend Christmas with you and maybe you could show me a little of the world that I’ve missed. He thanked them again giving Martha a hug and vigorously shaking Jerry’s hand. Stay well and keep carving he said as he went out the door. My GPS will get me back to the airport but you my friend are going to have to figure out how you can keep all this in, until Christmas Day. All laughed.

He was hardly out of sight and Jerry and Martha hugged each other for a long, long time.

The time until Christmas seemed to last forever. The engineer showed up as Philippe had promised. He had been told to say he was interested in a piece of property in the area and was checking out the schools and church for another family. Many phone calls came in from some of the locals and from some people he had never heard of. He did his best to steer around the story and after a while assumed that most of it had just been forgotten.

One morning when Martha was dropping the children off, the angel was missing and a plastic one put in its place. Coming down out of the bus and frantically looking around the Nativity scene as though she would find it hiding somewhere. A voice hollered across the yard. “It’s okay Martha, we’ve put it into the school safe. I know you feel it would’ve been okay but we just wanted to be sure. It will be back in It’s place, Christmas Eve. By the way Martha, is it a male or female?”

Martha breathed a sigh of relief and managed a “thank you so much.”

Christmas Eve came around and of course there was the children’s play. They played out the nativity scene sang songs and danced and then carried the baby Jesus out and placed Him in his proper place, in the manger. In spite of the cold and the snow, no one seemed to be in a hurry to leave. Little conversation started and much more focused than usual in the nativity scene with the beautiful angel looking on.

It was about that time that some car lights came on and a car in fact a few cars came from around behind church. People got out of cars, some carrying bags and gifts and one man, Jerry recognized as Philippe.

“I didn’t think this could last another few hours,” Philippe said. “I believe we need to go inside for this”. Two people carried a large box out of the trunk of one of the cars. Into the school room they went, setting the large box on a desk. “Martha, would you like to make the speech or, would you rather Jerry did?” Martha piped up,” I don’t believe I’m ready to make a speech, but if Jerry is that’s fine.” Jerry shook his head motioning for them to move on with whatever was coming next. The large box was unwrapped revealing a model of a building and just as everybody was trying to get a good look and asking questions, a very tall man covered in clothing almost to his nose, came pushing in through the crowd. Uncovering his face, he was immediately recognized. Surprise went to murmurs and then to shouts and into screams. Screams of joy and unbelief. This was their basketball hero, right here in their own town, right there in their school, right there close to them.

Raising his hands and indicating that he needed their attention, he pointed to the model building so carefully laid out, sitting there on the desk. He went over carefully lifting the roof and then taking the model up holding it on its side so all could see. Inside were miniature model people playing basketball on a shiny wood floor. “This is yours, just as soon as it can be constructed. I know this is not exactly the right time of year to be building a basketball stadium but you can be sure it will be done as soon as they can break ground. A whole lot of people have heard about your wish, and they have donated, to make this your best Christmas ever. What we haven’t brought in yet, and is a lot of basketball equipment and clothing and if you wear it out before the building is finished there is a lot more where that came from. There’s a plane waiting for me at the airport, so I have to run but keep sending me emails and I will try to read them all. I think all of you have made this, my best Christmas.” Turning around and finding his way out of the building to a waiting car he continued to waive as they drove away.

Philippe cornered Jerry and Martha, “as I told you and as I expected there is considerable interest in your work. There is much to be considered. You must make some choices as to what you’re willing to part with. Minimum values have to be considered and auctions be arranged, most likely in New York. There will be plenty of time for that after Christmas. It looks like there’s going to be a lot more going on here than just a basketball stadium. I am staying at a hotel near the airport and my wife is flying in a day after tomorrow. She has always wanted to see the Old West as she calls it, and she went shopping for horseback riding clothes. I’m hoping you’ll be able to show us around and maybe even get some riding in. I will talk to you soon,” and he drove away.

Jerry and Martha drove home much slower than usual. So much had happened in the last two months that it just seemed like a dream. They were glad to be a part of it and  right now, they seemed to be communicating without saying a word to each other. They were just so happy.

When they got home strolling through the snow holding hands, they went into the store and sauntered to the back room, Martha putting on hot water for tea. “Did we get any important calls that won’t wait till tomorrow?”, Jerry asked “I forgot the phone here at home and it’s probably just as well I did.”

Martha looked at the phone, scanning it and finding several messages and recognizing one as their son Jerrod. Opening the message, it read, “worried about you, please call.”

“I wonder what in the world this is all about” Martha said, as she returned the call to their son. The phone was picked up on the first ring, “Ma, you guys all right? Some guy called with a French accent. Said we all needed to be here as soon as we could but not to call you until Christmas Eve because there was a lot going on. Didn’t make a lot of sense to us, but when he said it was an emergency and he would arrange the flights if we needed, we figured we better comply. We are all four families, here at the hotel airport with your grandchildren. What in the heck is going on?

Martha started laughing and could hardly say what she needed over the phone. Jerry got on the phone and listened to pretty much the same questioning and then he started laughing himself.

“Dad, will you please tell me what the world is going on” “I can assure you, Jerrod,” Jerry said, “your mother and I have never been better. We have a lot to share with you and look forward to seeing you as soon as you can get here.”

“Unless there’s a blizzard and the road closed, we will be there in time for early church and as long as we can wake everybody up that early. With all the excitement here, we may never go to bed. We were really worried and it’s great to hear you guys in such a good mood. We will all be anxious to hear what this is all about. Everybody sends their love, and we’ll see you in the morning early.”

“I don’t think they or anyone else is going to believe all of this, do you Martha?” “I don’t think we should tell them,” Martha said, “I think we should just keep them in suspense” and they both laughed.

“Merry Christmas to all” Martha said “and to all, a good night” they laughingly said together.

Saving the earthlings!

Many years ago, I recall a comic book story of a town weakling. Today, maybe he would be called a “wuss”, (Google, a weak or ineffectual person).  For now, we will just call this person Jimmy. I think Jimmy was a pretty common name for the people in the news. Jimmy Piersall, Jimmy Clanton, Jimmy Olsen, Jimmy Rogers, Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Dean and maybe a GMC Jimmy. Anyway, my comic book Jimmy wasn’t destined to be so great as the above mentioned. He was the typical, get sand kicked in his face, kind of kid.  Just a thought, where in the world did all that sand come from?? We had cement and grass! 

Well here we are, back on Jimmy’s street and the kids are saying bad things about him. Bullies are picking on him; the girls don’t exactly see him on a white horse and he is just having a bad week.

Unbeknown to Jim, he is being watched by a couple space people who just dropped in to see what it was going to take to conquer the earth. The two Martian’s are peeking from behind a tree ,,,,,,,,,,, I expect they left their space ship out of town as parking in front of the City hall would make it just a little conspicuous.

Oh, by the way, I am not sure if there were any other planets represented with bad guys back than and I don’t mean to discriminate, but I’m going with Martian’s, as it worked for H.G. Wells in 1898.

So, they, the Martians are watching Jimmy and see him as a not only weak but the perfect person to carry their sinister demands of Earth’s total surrender, to the Whitehouse. They approach him and make their demands. Over the next few days he thinks about it and realizes any attempt to go to the Whitehouse with a story like this,,,,, Well you can guess.

After doing a lot of sweating and pondering for a few days, Jimmy ,,,,,,,,  Might have had something to do with Wheaties,,,,,,,,,, gets some courage. On his next rendezvous with the space people he tells them he has done their will and gives them a time and place, a specific night and his own town, to return with all their spaceships and paraphernalia.

The Fourth of July rolls around and here is Weakling Jimmy, lighting and shooting off fireworks along with every other living and breathing person in town.  The town bully and of course pretty girls see him and say, “oh my, Jimmy is a lot braver then we thought, lighting off all those scary, dangerous fireworks”. What the bully, the girl, the rest of the town and the rest of the world don’t know, this is the night, Old Jim told the space varmints to return and when they, the Martians, see all the fireworks from space, they figure the Earth is armed and ready, maybe a bit premature, but they turn tail and head back to,,,, Home.

This little comic book story was written back in a time when life was a bit simpler, driving was a bit simpler, cooking was simpler, and I suppose we would be considered much simpler.

Today is the fourth of July and not only why the memory of this little story comes to mind but the reflection of so many unsung heroes.

I work, am a co-coordinator, by-stander, observer and most of the time, not sure what I am, of a homeless shelter. I have had the privilege of seeing so many unsung heroes by just being there.

I am writing this because so much more is needed but not only needed but those who do so much need to be recognized.  We don’t have parties, parades, wall hangings or anything like that right now for our volunteers as we need all the resources just to keep up and we are not doing that all that well.

The way the shelter went last winter, someone or a couple would bring in a meal shortly after we opened around 6pm. The meals were incredible, usually homemade, quality and quantity, thoughtful and most considerate. So many people came from a long way off and not always in the best of weather to do what they could to provide nourishment to Lenawee Counties homeless.

Two people would volunteer to stay for the first shift, sometimes talking with, playing cards, helping serve, answering questions or most important, just listening. Two people would relieve the earlier couple and stay until morning, being there for wake up and having the terrible job of reminding the homeless, that they could only stay until 8am, and because of circumstances, they had to leave, often going out into snow or freezing rain.

Some of our volunteers are retired but not all and that does not necessarily make the job any easier. Working or retired, it seems today we all have more to do than we can accomplish and are forced to give somethings up.

We recognize our volunteers give up a lot and hope in the near future we can at least have a place a little more conducive to their comfort, as well as the needs and comfort of our homeless people.

There are those who give monetarily, sometimes giving more than what one would expect. I can only assume that they not only recognize the need but understand that Christmas Feeling of giving something right.

All of this to more or less ask you to not only keep us on your mind, but to say thank you Lenawee County for all the unsung heroes you provide.

This was written several years back. Why is it so hard for us to see and understand what is really needed? It seems we design our hero’s, based only on what we think we see or what we want to see. Than the easiest thing for us to do is say, “we can go, they have it all under control”.

MR. B Nice

Mr. B. Nice

As Well as anyone could remember, it had started with a park bench.

 One day, not close to a holiday or for that matter any special day, a brand new as well as what appeared to be very expensive bench, showed up in town. The kind of park bench you would expect to see in front of an important building.  A delivery truck had dropped it off and just said,

“This is to be put in front of the Court house.”

It was put in front of the Court house and a day or two passed with the

“My, doesn’t that look nice”, “That must have cost a bundle”, “and I’ll bet our taxes paid for that”

And so on, fading into just acceptance.

Even later, questions started to come around, but not a lot and only after a long time, probably because; well no one seemed to have any answers.

True, it was just a bench and yes it must have cost a lot more than what one would likely have at home but what the heck. No one was really talking about it too seriously. Did someone donate it or, is someone going to expect recognition for this unasked-for gift and is it a gift?

It was nice enough and silly, but people would find themselves sitting on it when they passed, just to say they had done so. 

“Hay, did you sit on the mayor’s bench?” “I sat in the front seat of town”, “I was sent to the bench”, “Call me Benchley”

Several months passed and by now other benches had been donated by individuals who had found it to, not only be a chance to get their name out there, but actually decided it could be a pleasant place to stop when in that part of town.

Of course, none of the other benches had the same high quality but still in all, served any purpose needed.

Eventually it became a large enough part of the local talk that People in the area started doing more and more inquires.

No one working in the Town offices had any ideas and everyone asked, had just assumed the same. Someone else in the building ordered it and the reason and identification of the person or persons would follow.

Maybe someone remembered the delivery company. Calls were made and after several, back and forth, a paid invoice was found with the name, Mr. B Nice.

After even more time, the bench had been there long enough that the great discovery hardly made the local paper. A short note in a corner of the paper and not much more was said about it

Time went on and someone had heard of a family in need receiving a gift from, Mr. B Nice. Or was it Brice or Bike or Price? Not until more stories started to come to the surface, did it become a bit more interesting. Soon a local reporter took it upon himself to do some investigating and found out many of the stories he had heard were apparently true and gifts had been showing up for several years to people in need from Mr. B Nice.

 Not always large expensive gifts like the park bench but gifts that seemed to hit the mark at the time.  A lawn mower, a flag pole, in one instance a washer was installed.

One woman told of having lost a job and although she was getting by, was feeling very down.  A delivery came from Mr. B Nice and what she found was a beautiful small throw rug. Not something she could trade in on a new car or use for the mortgage payment but a happy thing, giving her what she needed to pull herself out of her gloom. The woman said,

“I didn’t need a throw rug and it was the last thing on my mind at the time but that simple little rug started me climbing up and out and I am still riding it. I suppose I just needed something happy at the time.”

She went on,

“I didn’t get my former job back but I was called for a job I hadn’t applied for. Oddly enough, the kind of job you always want but never believe you are good enough for. A job I really like and in a few years, it may turn out to be a much better job than the one I lost.”

As more and more of these instances came to light, naturally more and more speculation was in the air. Somewhere amongst the groupings at the beauty shop, barber shop, coffee shop, water cooler meetings and local volunteer fire department meetings, every living person and plant had been scrutinized.

Everyone knew who the responsible party was. It’s just that everybody had a different idea who it was coupled with a different “this or that person is most likely” story.

One day, Mr. Clint Bradshaw came into town. A likeable guy, always driving a brand-new pickup and smiling everywhere he went.

Any place there was a group of people he would stop, seeming to have plenty of time for anyone willing to chat. He remembered their family, knew names of many of the children and would inquire about their school and activities.

Mr. Bradshaw was an Antique dealer and always looking to buy any old things the locals could steer him to. He would stay around a few days, load up his truck with whatever he could round up and pay cash for the dusty old, barn smelling pieces. He would leave instructions for the moving and storage people to collect the larger things he couldn’t take now in his small truck.

How or when it starts, is always hard to say but gossip or call it what you will, always comes up with answers.

Mr. Bradshaw could well be the gifter.  He is from out of town, has a lot of money, that he is always willing to show, tips well; OK, not as well as some but more than many and never reveals what he does for a living even when pressed.

 Time goes on and when he would come to town, daring people would ask Mr. Bradshaw if he were the mysterious gifter. With not much more than a sly bashful smile he would just reply with a “you never know” or “Why would you think that?” not really waiting for an answer.

If there were any in town that hadn’t liked Mr. Bradshaw they liked him now. He wasn’t pestered or asked for anything but was considered a welcome guest everywhere he went, even if he couldn’t stay long.

More years went by and more gifts came around. The admiration and a kind of reverence grew for Mr. Bradshaw. 

There are always those in town who seem to be jealous of the praise someone else is getting and need to find something to complain about.

Old Mr. Warren said “How come he doesn’t have a wife? Maybe he knocked her off fer the surence money”.

Mrs. Thayer thought he might be a spy from some other country and Frankie said he aint never seen him take a drink.” What kin a guy is dat.”

Miss. Sharon Beasley said they should be a little cautious and old Nan Johnson thought he might be from outer space. More years went by, more visits from Mr. Bradshaw and a lot more speculation but by now it was pretty well determined he was Mr. B Nice, the gifter.

So many people had been touched by this invisible Mr. B Nice, and in its own way, he had more or less held the town together during a lot of hard times.

During these times, Mr. Aarons had to close up his hardware store which was more or less, the hub of town on shopping day. The store had sold not only hardware but toys, work clothes, and so much more.  Over the years he had given store credit and combined with never charging interest and those who didn’t have the money to pay back, he was done.  He had left rather quietly with the town’s people finding out a day or so later.  The bank could no longer hold out his loans and by way of gossip, town’s people learned, had to move back to family several hundred miles away.

The minister had left as there was no money for him to keep his family.

Now things started to come together or shall we say come apart around the same time Sam Hurley, Ralph Hinton and Sharon Beasley moved away.

A small article in a large city newspaper was reporting of a fraud deal where a business man was bilking people out of their property without them ever knowing it.  Just a few sentences but enough to get the attention of at least one or two of the townspeople.

Maybe it was the suggestion this person was presenting himself off as an Antique dealer or the mention of him always driving a new truck.  Not much but because Mr. Bradshaw hadn’t been around for some time, well, probably nothing but one wonders.

Other newspapers were sought out and in time it was pretty evident, this was the same Mr. Bradshaw.

He had not only been buying valuable antiques from them and around the country but paying little for them and at the same time, getting many to sign away their property under the guise of a life insurance policy.

But what about Sam Hurley, Ralph Hinton and Sharon Beasley? Why did they leave in such a hurry? And there were more under suspicion. Although Mr. Bradshaw fit the picture best, he wasn’t the only one suspected.

It would take a little time as some were really not known or rarely talked too, in the years they had been in town. Sam Hurley had been a Barber but talked about everything but himself and his background.  Ralph Hinton who limped, hadn’t worked at all, cashed a disability check at the bank but not much more was known. Sharon Beasley taught a grade school class for a while but for the most part stayed to herself in her little house outside of town. She did travel a lot and there was some speculation that her and Mr. Bradshaw might have been working together. Mr. Aarons had left in a kind of hurry, without even collecting from some of his customers.

So that was it. Just sit and wait, and wait they did. Any effort to obtain more information, had only led to dead ends. Following up on news articles got them nowhere and although many had what were supposed to be copies of what they had signed, turned out to be nothing but a lot of false information with no phone numbers or addresses, which could be connected to anyone or anything.

A year and several months went by with an infrequent important looking person coming by to ask a few questions and the usual

“We can’t discuss this now but will get back with you.”

The town started taking on a kind of gray hue or so it appeared. Conversation dropped off to a rare simple greeting missing even an attempt of a smile.

He had been a pretty smart guy and done his work well, leaving them little recourse and any legal action seemed to be very expensive as well as hopeless.

By now it was Thanksgiving and although no one declared anything or talked it down it was in the air. There was not a lot of celebrating going on and they would just move along as best they could.

Just after Thanksgiving Day, a certified letter showed up at the local newspaper office and although almost all knew what it said shortly after its arrival it was published in the next day’s paper.

Please be advised that on December 24th of this year a reprehensive will meet with any and all who would like more information about your current conditions and any resolutions that might be arrived at. The person, not named at this time, will meet at the court house at five o’clock, one hour before closing.

The envelope had come direct from the County clerk’s office and calls to the same, revealed nothing.  Either no one knew or they couldn’t bear to be the one to give hints of the very bad news to come out of this.

Painfully the month passed. For some it seemed to fast and others too slow. On the one hand they wanted to get all this over but if it meant losing all they had they wanted to put it off as long as they could.

The result was going to affect everyone. As time had gone on and they waited for answers slowly, more and more people came forward to say that they had signed something or other and had been advised, not to tell their neighbor as this was something so unique, it was only available to a few.

The ownership of the properties had been passed on several times with the person who had purchased it last, not knowing what the original circumstances were. It was that most seemed compassionate but still, they had paid good money and needed to claim their purchase.

The awful nerve of these people, holding this meeting on of all days, Christmas Eve and just an hour before the Court house closes, just in case there is some little thing they might file or want to appeal or apply for whatever a court house might provide.

Funny, but that by now, old bench which seemed to have been the start of all of this was still there on the Court house lawn. Had it not been for its sturdy construction, it would have most likely been destroyed by now. That bench seemed to represent a lot of what was going on right now.

Christmas Eve came and long before the suggested time almost all of the town people, men women and children were there at the court house. This was like a rare hanging which might have gone on a couple hundred years ago and although it was not a good thing, everyone felt it was their duty to be there.

Around twenty minutes before five in the evening, a shiny black limousine came rolling into to town and to no one’s surprise right up to the court house, stopping pretty much in the middle of the street as anything which would have proven to serve for a parking place, had already been taken.

There was a pause and most of the chatter stopped leaving a more or less deathly silence. Pretty soon a door of the car opened and an official looking, older man dressed in better clothes than usually seen on these streets, emerged. Walking up to the court house he stopped short, just before going in.

Turning around and setting a brief case on the ground, he gestured for silence and their attention, soon realizing that gesture was hardly needed.

“Folks, ladies, gentlemen, children, I only know a very little of your pain and understand how anxious you are to hear what I have to say. 

I am an attorney with,,,,,,,,,,,.

Giving the name of the firm, he could see, not a single person would remember or care,

“I have a letter which I have not opened or read, and the only thing which kept me from opening it was I was given just the least bit of information.  Please be patient as it is a rather lengthily letter and you will need to hear it all,,,,,,  or so my instructions tell me.”

Our firm was called to deliver this letter, and other than what little I was able to glean from the newspaper, know very little of your situation. We are not involved and never have been and it was and is a surprise to us why we were chosen to deliver this. Hopefully that information will reveal itself in the letter, so without further ado,”

Picking up his briefcase and setting it on the wide railing, opened it, and pulled out a large brown envelope. Slicing open the envelope with a volunteered pocket knife, pulled out several pages neatly clipped together and looking more like a manuscript.

Starting right in,


“I am sure you are most anxious to know anything you can about your future and for now I will not be able to tell you all that you would like to know. Let me start out with, things are not going to be as you are assuming. “

That seemed to get a little relief from the a few people but because by now they had waited and worried so long it was going to take a lot more than that to give them much peace this night.

“My name is Sharon Beasley”

At this point it was not possible for them to be any more attentive. They hardly looked at each other.  All ears were on the reader, and strained to hear every word.

“I used to live in the city, and my father was on the police force. When I was twenty-seven, being a surprise to no one, married a young police cadet. About a year after my marriage my father was killed while on duty and only two years after that, my husband was killed in the line of duty.

They always say, “Well, you knew this might happen, going in”, but when your time comes it is hard to be ready for it.

I had been a witness to my husband’s murder by a gang leader. I needed to get away from the city and this turned out to be the direction.  The department arranged for me to be in a place out of the way while they were rounding up suspects.  

How can I tell you what it was like? Alone and away from those I needed to be with at a time like this. Not being able to tell my story to anyone. The department arranged for me to get a job at your school, with the absolute least amount of questions.

I suppose the school was told, I was formally ill but was safe now and wasn’t to be pestered with questions.  Maybe they told them I was in the military, doing some secret work, and wasn’t to be questioned. Anyway, people avoided me as was the plan, so I could retain my secrecy when I moved on.

Irregular times were arranged for me to go to a place to meet with the investigators and trade whatever information needed. I would do most of my buying and banking and take care of any other things needing attending to and it would be back here to my home until the next visit.

I had received a large insurance payment from the department as well as a smaller one, which my husband and I had taken out. Along with the money earned I was very comfortable with what I had and living like I did, needed little.  If there were any house repairs, car repairs, or other needs, the department wanted to know and they would arrange for the repair, keeping my identification undiscoverable.

A short while after I moved here and just to use up more of my time I started writing again. I had done a bit of writing, children’s stories, before and during my marriage, archiving many and also dabbling in fiction of which I had several completed manuscripts. At the time, samples had proved my writing to be less than lucrative from the publishers contacted. Living here and because I had little to do outside of teaching, getting back into it was easy, only, I found myself writhing crime solving novels with somewhat happy endings.

I was able to sell a couple of crime solving stories and after a few years found it best to leave teaching and spend more time writing.  As much as I loved the children and teaching, I was afraid I would slip one day, telling them more than I needed to.

One of the stories I had written, had been received well. So well in fact, that almost anything I had written or would write was sought after. My children’s stories were recommended by schools and translated to many languages. My fiction was on major book shelves and in the windows of all the large book stores.

Because of my life style, I was already putting a fair amount of money into savings and so the money received from publishing was more than I ever could have managed alone.  I was able, with the help of the department, to hire the right legal person to assist me and soon realized I needed to give something back.

It was easy to help people and soon became an obsession. 

I became Mr. B. Nice

Shortly after I moved to your town, the department had arranged to deliver the park bench with the invoice which would be eventually discovered and signed, Mr. B. Nice.

I could not help but see how it had helped make the towns people a little happier and so, wanted to claim, though secretly, a little of that glory.

I started giving when I would hear something from school children or see a story in your local paper. As my income increased I was able to learn a lot more of the needs.

I might add that because of the seriousness of my own case and the importance of my testimony, what we will call for now, a very large problem involving many of you people is being handled and resolved.

For that reason, I have been privy to much information which at another time would prove far more difficult.

Moving on to your properties. As near as I can tell, working with the authorities, a great portion of your holdings have been recovered. Finding out they had been working with a criminal, many of those unknown buyers and sellers have agreed to give up any profits made and in several cases, give a little more back.

I have agreed to finance anything else which will keep you from recovering your properties.

In time you will have a chance to work on any and all papers needed but be assured, you are, at least back to where you were before your villain showed up. All will be made right.”

By now several things are happening simultaneously. Vehicles are showing up with some of the former residents. Large semi-trucks are showing up and off in the distance a log trail of headlights on the mountain. Very faint sounds of music somewhere off in the distance, but nothing would distract the people from their spot. It was as though; the entire town was in a trance. Even the small children, who couldn’t possible have an idea of what was being read, were fixed on the moment. Their parents so silent and still. The whole town there and all so glued to one man’s reading.

He continued on.

“I have arranged for and by now should be there, all that is needed to restock Mr. Aarons Store as well as a large warehouse. He has not been notified of circumstances other than he must be there tonight to claim what his store has left and reclaim its holdings. He and his family will be escorted, he was told for his safety, and you should expect a show on his arrival. 

I will ask. No, demand from all of you, something in return for my generosity”

A bit of a silent groan and almost vocal “If it’s too good to be true ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.

The reader stopped and said, “This is in large red print so I believe she means for it to be taken seriously.” And he started again

I will ask. No, demand from all of you, something in return for my generosity”.

I would like all of you to assist in stocking Mr. Aaron’s Store. In so doing you will, no doubt, find at least ten things you would like and write the ten down with your name. This will help Mr. Aaron to know what he is likely to sell in the future. Also, after all is put away and all the lists of ten are put in a large box, each and every one is to take out a list. Not your own of course, find one thing on that list, buy it and give it to the person whose name is on the list. If it is something you are sure is right and you find it more money than you have right now, I am pretty sure Mr. Aaron will give you credit, but insist he requires on interest as you pay it off, and pay as you can.   

This is hardly the night to be suggesting fate or coincidence. This night or time for that matter just happened to be the soonest that the information could be sent, due to legal business. I was kept informed of your circumstances and if there had been any way I could, I would have told you of the ongoing investigation.  There are always reasons and that was not possible.   I would ask you to please keep as much of the information and explanations as you can to your selves as if it gets out, some of it, might cause me a lot more dangerous attention than I need. 

On closing, even though we rarely exchanged a word, you could never know how much of a family you were to me, respecting my silence and giving a smile when you could not know how much it meant. You will probably never see me again or know who I am as there are pen names and so on. Be sure you will always be in my prayers.

Live for others and as always,

B Nice

Sharon Beasley

The letter ended just that quickly and the reader slowly put it away in his briefcase took out a tissue, whipping his eyes.

The click of the locks, on his briefcase, could be heard a long way off and the silence seemed to last forever. Slowly more noises, vehicles, people sobbing so openly, men with tears streaming, little children in wonderment, everyone hugging and exchanging those understanding glances that seem to say so much.

The reader went back to his waiting Limousine got in and slowly moved away, then turning around and stopping close to the bench just for a moment. A woman’s hand reached out the window and waved, causing someone to start clapping. It wasn’t long before the entire throng of onlookers clapped whistled hollered and hooted, continuing on long after the car was out of sight.

Slowly, so slowly all moved back in the direction to somewhere in real time. People looked at each other, said a few words, usually unfinished sentences, and people arriving from cars and signaling.

It was like the entire world had been asleep and now was waking up and making noise.

Some of the people arriving had been former residents, having been notified just as the store owner, tonight they must be here or else. Some of the people arriving said an evening report had come across on the national news, telling about what had happened to this town and that a lot of help was on the way but it would be slow because the highways were crowded with people, all wanting to share Christmas with a town that fought back.

Information traveled and exchanged enough to make for some kind of chaotic order. The semi-trucks were opened, and several lines of people set in place to pass all, and was carried to MR. Aaron’s store, through doors windows and as many in the store stocking shelves.

Mr. Aaron stood by giving what direction he could. He had come into town with a large police escort using all the lights as well as sirens and at least one ambulance, just in case someone was overcome with all the celebration.

Every kind of food was set up in the high school and beds were arranged in just about everything that could be called a room. Christmas lights came out of everywhere, trees and any trees were decorated with torn paper, old cans, wood chips and anything a person thought might be right. 

Everyone helped. People from town and people from who knew where. Everyone acted as though they had some illness and the only cure was an opportunity to help. Leaders or coaches came forth to offer direction. People cooked, painted, boxed, took notes, collected and deposited, swept, mopped, burning barrels were around not only for the trash but in case you needed a little warming.  Little time was set aside for celebration as the work seemed to be a kind of celebration and everyone wanted as much as they could get.

A respectable size warehouse was built with the help of the local cement and lumber company, so many hands were available it was completed in about the time it took for the cement to dry.  

Reporters could never seem to get a straight story, getting them to the bottom of how it all started but they continued to send stories out.  It seemed if you could drive or find a ride you were headed here. This was Christmas. A living breathing fantasy with all the right stuff.

It was several days winding down and as many weeks getting back to something close to the old days.

The park bench had of course been a bit of a focal point and lights installed. A   Nativity scene, large enough to be a small motel had been constructed in a matter of a couple hours and supplied with various manikins, had more or less shadowed the bench during the Christmas time.

On day a large sign truck showed up and a beautiful brass sign installed next to the bench which read,

Be nice when it’s hard to be nice

If they push you around

If you are down on the ground

Think twice when it is hard to think twice

For God’s sake and yours, be nice

Just for fun stories

Getting away from life



Getting away from Life

Benson James was a family man. They, his wife and three children, had Just recently moved into a new neighborhood. They had been there two weeks. On Monday, Benson had to take a trip to the east side of town, probably 20 miles from where he now lived. Taking the bus and having to exchange buses several times, would be all new to him. They had moved from 200 miles away, where they lived on a farm that belonged to his father. Benson had gone to college, receiving a business degree and although he enjoyed working the farm, all of his family knew he would be happier doing what he had gone to school for. They and he, felt he would do better in business in a large city.  About two years after graduating, he had been offered a great job in the city. Of course, they were apprehensive, the city being so far away and different, from what they were used to, not knowing a soul, but felt that the job was too good to turn down

Continue reading “Just for fun stories”