Susan, Lady of Leisure #4


Susan cleared away the breakfast things and set out to call on the Burchills, an elderly couple next door. She’d exchanged a few words over the backyard fence with the couple as they sat outside in the evening; Mrs. Burchill had even suggested Susan drop in for tea some day. Maybe it would suit her this morning.

Mrs. Burchill answered Susan’s knock and welcomed her to step in, but the elderly lady seemed preoccupied about something. “Perhaps this isn’t a good time?” Susan said. “I could come back some other day.”

“Oh, no. It’s fine. I’m glad you’ve come. It’s just that Tom isn’t awake.” The old lady’s hands moved nervously over her bodice. “He said after breakfast that he was feeling a bit tired and wanted to have lie down, but I’m surprised he’s sleeping so long.”

She led Susan into the kitchen. “You’re most welcome to have a cuppa with us. I’ll just put the kettle on, then I’ll call Tom. I know he wouldn’t want to miss your visit. Sit down, Susan.”

Susan did sit, but she was anxious. Her nurse’s training was kicking in, asking the questions she’d ask at the hospital. Is Mr. Burchill having a serious health issue? Heart trouble maybe? Or was he just tired, not surprising at his age. But right after breakfast? She listened as the old woman’s voice got louder.

Soon Mrs. Burchill was back in the kitchen wringing her hands. “I don’ know what to do. Tom just won’t wake up!”

“May I have a look at him? I’m a trained nurse.”

“Oh, thank heaven! Yes, He’s in here.”

Susan followed Mrs. Burchill into the bedroom where Tom was stretched out, breathing normally. His colour was good. But when he didn’t respond to Susan’s touch she lifted his eyelid — and saw blackness.

“He’s unconscious, Mrs. Burchill.”

The old lady gasped and sat down on a nearby chair. “What can I do,” she wailed.

“The first thing is to call an ambulance.”

To be continued….

Susan, Lady of Leisure #2


Susan took her time selecting and packing up her belongings, disposing of all the stuff she didn’t want to bother moving.

“Funny how one collects so much in a lifetime,” she told her daughter one morning. “But I want a life of a minimalist now. No more trying to find places to store knickknacks. No more cleaning clutter and moving it from one spot to another.”

Another task that took some of her time was saying her farewells at the various groups and clubs she was a member of through the years. She determined to be a minimalist in that regard, too.

“Now that I’m retired,” she told her friends at the book club, “I’m going to be careful what pies I put my finger in from now on. I may join the book club down there, or I may not, but I’m definitely not going to become so involved in organizations. I don’t regret the time I’ve contributed to Bake Sales or served on the Boards of MADD and the COPD Foundation, but now they will have to do without me.”

“We’ll see about that,” her friend said with a nod. “You may get bored and want to become involved in things down there.” She nudged Susan and winked. “Now that you have all this free time, you can bet different groups will be calling on you.”

Susan laughed. “As for being bored, that may take a year or two. And I can always say no to people who want to sign me up for this and that.”

The whole group then toasted her new life of ‘footloose and fancy free.”

Finally the day came when the last thing had been loaded on the moving van and it was heading off. Susan locked her apartment door for the last time, handed in the keys to the super, and drove away. She took her time driving down to the coast, hitting a few tourist spots en route. She stopped at some small village tea shops, savoring her new freedom as well as the local cuisines. Life is so good, she told herself.

She arrived at the cottage to find the moving van had already arrived and unloaded everything so she got right to work. It took her a few weeks to unpack and get her belongings stowed into their proper places in her new home. And of course yard work now occupied some of her time. The last owner had a gorgeous flower garden Susan intended to keep up. All her life she’d wanted one.

The next month flew by as Susan enjoyed her flowers, puttered around the house, and visited the local stores. Being only half an hour from the beach, she spent quite a few mornings stretched out in the sunshine. Not ever one to sit in front of the television, she spent the pleasant summer evenings reading or doing walkabouts in the neighborhood. She met and chatted with her new neighbors from time to time.

Yes, this was the retirement life she’d always dreamed of. Nothing to do, no appointments to keep. Sure, she missed the hustle and bustle of the hospital ward at times. As much as she was glad to get away from that old routine, being totally without one started to bother her a bit. The first few weeks she’d told herself, There’s no hurry. I can sleep til noon if I wish. But now she was starting to think, I can’t just let myself go to pot, either. I don’t want to morph into a couch potato here!

One day an odd, empty feeling came over her. It took her awhile to define it, but finally it condensed into a question: Do I have any real purpose in life anymore?

She brushed it away at first, yet somehow that question rose up like a mountain, looming over her, dark and scary. Susan trembled. She didn’t have an answer.

To be continued…

Susan, Lady of Leisure #1


“Now don’t you be in here with sunstroke next week!” Lynn, the head nurse winked as she waggled her finger at Susan. She cut a piece of the celebratory cake, dropped it onto a paper plate, and handed it to Susan. “Here’s the biggest piece for our guest of honor.”

“Best of luck, girl. You’ll be a lady of leisure now,” said Ethel, another ward nurse. “I’m sure looking forward to joining you – but I’ve got ten more years to go,” she added with a sigh.

“Well, I’m cheating to retire at 55, but with the inheritance from my Uncle James adding a bit to my pension, why shouldn’t I?” Susan admired the neatly formed icing rose on her piece of cake and shoved it to the side of her plate to keep as a souvenir of this party.

Nurse Karen balanced her plate of cake in one hand and patted Susan’s shoulder with the other. “You just enjoy your retirement years. You’ve earned it. And just think: no cranky old ladies hollering ‘Nurse! I need a bedpan.’ Lucky you!”

“I prescribe sunny southern climates all winter for the next twenty years,” said one of the Residents as he shook Susan’s hand.

“That sounds great! But I probably can’t afford that lifestyle if I’m not working 8-5 every day.” Susan chuckled at the mental picture of herself basking in the sun at the Riviera. With her fair complexion, plus being rather pale from years of working indoors, she might look like a boiled lobster if she spent too much time in the sun right off the bat.

Susan’s daughter Rhoda, who had taken time off to join the celebration, told the group, “Mom may not be doing the South Seas every winter, but she’s bought a neat little bungalow in a small southern village right on the coast close to Bournemouth.”

“Good for her,” Nurse Amanda cheered. “When can I come for a visit.” Everyone laughed.

“Will you be renting out a spare room for guests?” Nurse Collin asked in a teasing tone. “My wife would love a weekend down at the coast. Stuck here in Aylesbury all our lives, never toured southern England yet.”

Susan looked around the staff’s lunch room at the coworkers, dear to her heart, who’d come to say farewell. She smiled at the “Happy Days Ahead!” banner someone had tacked on one wall. In spite of the joyful occasion, which marked the end of running back and forth along this ward, she felt tears prick her eyes.

Yes, she’d had her holidays and some hobbies that kept her busy, but the past twenty-five years of her life had been devoted to this place. She’d gone back to nursing to support herself and her two children after Harvey’s death and the work had been a lifeline for her in more ways than one. What would she do now?

Susan made up her mind right there: she would not become a lonely old widow. As she nibbled at her cake her mind started flipping through the possibilities — all the dreams she’d had, some of which she might now be able to fulfill. She chuckled. If she got too bored she could always enroll in university.

Stella, another nurse a few years younger than Susan, wrapped an arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. “We’ll miss you. You’ve been so good with the patients. You’ve definitely earned your day of rest, Susan. Put your feet up. Read some good books.”

Susan waved her hand upwards. “I sure will. The sky’s the limit!”

At the end of the party Susan circled around the lunch room one last time, gave everyone a hug and left them with a promise to follow the prescribed course of treatment: total rest. Together with her daughter she walked down the hall and pushed the elevator button, dabbing at a few lingering tears.

“This is so sweet,” she said to Rhoda. “Last time on this elevator. Freedom!” They got off by the staff exit and Susan walked out that door for the last time.

To Be Continued…

FULL HOUSE–Book Report

© 2012 by Maeve Binchy

This book is classed as a “Quick Read” and it was. I picked it up at the library last week and read it in one evening. It was also a delightful tale, the story of Dee & Liam, whose adult children still live at home and are totally at ease in the old nest. The young folks are totally focused on their own personal problems and take it for granted Mom look after all their physical needs: the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

Then Dee & Liam face a financial and emotional crash and Dee realizes this system can’t go on. But now, how to go about re-educating their offspring after years of “training” them to be careless and self-centered? A rebellion is in order here.

I think this story could be a great eye-opener for teenagers and young adults living at home as well as for parents of teens and young adults.

Back cover blurb:
Rosie moved out when she got married, but it didn’t work out, so now she is back with her parents. Helen is a teacher and doesn’t earn enough for a place of her own. Anthony writes songs and is just waiting for the day when someone will pay him for them. Until then, all three are happy at home. It doesn’t cost them anything and surely their parents like having a full house?

Then there is a crisis and Dee decides things have to change for the whole family…whether they like it or not.

Sometimes You Hit A Homer

Gord and I had just finished shooing a few last gawkers away from the crash site when a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out and walked toward us, an inquisitive look on her face.

Gord rolled his eyes heavenward. “Whenever there’s a crime everyone and his pup wants to see the blood,” he grumbled.

I winked at my fellow officer. “I don’t see any pup. Just a nice looking lady.”

“Well, you deal with her, Mike. Tell her, ‘Sorry. No bodies today’.” He turned to talk with the tow truck driver and the two of them walked away.

As I watched the woman coming toward me, I guessed her to be in her late-twenties. Not pretty, exactly, but neat. Sandy blond hair fastened behind her head with a clip. Her outfit, a soft green skirt and matching flowered top, coordinated nicely.

Amanda always liked color-coordinated outfits. A twinge of grief hit me. Poets probably call this feeling “bittersweet.” Sweet memory; bitter grief. Co-ordinated sentiments?

This lady didn’t look like your usual crime-scene spectator. Did she have some business here? Neighbors had told us the owners were away on vacation so perhaps this was some friend or relative checking up on things.

She watched the tow truck driver haul away the car the young hoods had totaled, then she turned to me. “What happened, Officer?”

“We’re still investigating, ma’am, but it appears a couple of teen boys held up a gas station and tore off when police tried to stop them. They lost control making a turn, spun out, and hit this garage.”

She frowned. “I hope they weren’t killed!”

“No, just stunned a bit. They ran when our officers got here, but they’re in custody now.”

“Well, I’m sorry they crashed, but at least they’ll get the chance to think it over.”

“Yeah. Probably for six months or so.” I noticed her different accent. Out of state. “And what brings you here this morning, ma’am?”

“My friend asked me to meet her here. I wonder if she knows about this? She didn’t say anything when I talked to her earlier.”

“Your friend?”

“Brianne Rancourt. She’s been house-sitting for these folks while they’re on holidays.”

“Ah. We’ll need to talk to her.”

“We planned to meet here, check on the place, then do lunch. Shall I call her, sir?” She turned her huge peepers on me — nice denim blue ones — and my pulse did a quick double blip.

I took a deep breath. “Uh… Just give me her number and I’ll get the investigating officer to contact her.” I grabbed my notebook and she rattled off the pertinent info, then waited as I relayed it to headquarters.

She eyed the damage. “Brianne will be so shocked. She’s been house-sitting here for the past two weeks and never had any trouble. I feel sorry for the owners, coming home to this.”

Her tone, soft and gentle now, reminded me of the folks at my wife’s funeral. They’d give me a hug or pat me on the shoulder as they filed past, murmuring, “I’m so sorry, Mike.” Or they’d look at my kids and say, “This is so sad!”

I jerked my mind back to the present. “How long have you known Ms Rancourt?”

“Only ten days, actually. My Aunt lives here in Houston. She had a bad fall and broke her hip, so I took time off work and drove down from Great Falls to help her out. I met Brianne at the hospital; her aunt’s on the same ward.”

“Great Falls, Montana? Ah! That explains your accent.”

Her eyes sparkled. “Actually, we don’t have an accent. It’s you Texans that talk funny.” I chuckled at the way she drawled this last sentence.

I flipped to a new page in my notebook. “I should take down your name and number as well, ma’am.”

Her eyebrows lifted. “Really? But it’s purely coincidence that I’m here now, sir.”

I put on my best stern-cop frown, avoiding those curious blue eyes. “Perhaps we’ll need to contact you for some reason.”

“Okay. I’m Shannon Ryan. As I said, I live in Great Falls. Age thirty-one — in case you need that, too.” I couldn’t miss the hint of teasing in her voice.

I grinned. “I admire your honesty, ma’am. Most women I know stop at twenty-nine.” That made her smile.

Amanda had always joked that she was going to quit counting birthdays when she hit thirty. I’d laughed and told her I’d just have to grow old all by myself then. Those words came back to haunt me now. We never dreamed she wouldn’t live to see thirty; we never foresaw a fatal aneurysm snatching her away from me and the kids.

I focused on my notebook. “Married or single?” Police records didn’t require that, but hey. We can do things different here in Texas, right?

“I’m a widow.”

That got my attention. “I’m sorry to hear that. For long?”

She sighed. “It’s been ten years for me. And Brianne was widowed two years ago. I guess that’s why we hit it off so well when we met. We can commiserate.”

My brain did the math. “You must have been married real young then?”

“Yeah. I was seventeen when we got married; Brad was eighteen. Young and foolish, folks said, but we were very much in love. He was killed in a car accident on his way home from work one night. Four sweet years — far too short.” She blinked back some tears.

I nodded sympathetically. “I hear you, ma’am. I lost my wife four months ago. Feels like our time together was far too short, too.”

“My condolences,” she murmured. “Those first few months alone are a long, hard walk.”

“You’ve never remarried? Not currently, uh, involved?” Man, you’re nervy, Mike, I chided myself. But I had to ask.

“No.” She hesitated a moment. “I was engaged briefly three years ago, but that really blew up in my face. I run a daycare and it turned out he had an agenda. An ‘unnatural interest’ in children. I’ll admit a few red flags did pop up, but I so much wanted a home and family of my own that I reasoned them away.”

“The snake!” I spat the word out, thinking of my own innocent kids.

“Yeah. How could I have not seen it? And the scandal when he was arrested really sank me. Headlines like: ‘Day care operator’s fiancé arrested for trafficking in kiddie porn’ and ‘Police investigate pedophile’s involvement with day care owner.’ I’d never left him alone with any of the kids in my care — I testified to that in court — but my business was toast. I had to sell my house and start up elsewhere.”

I gritted my teeth. “I know what I’d like to do with someone like that!”

“So I’m sure you can understand why I try not to think about marriage anymore. I’m scared to hope again for fear it’ll be ‘Three strikes, you’re out’.” She smiled then, but the tears made her eyes glisten.

She shook her head and fixed her eyes on the garage. “Anyway, this isn’t all about me, so I’d better get on my way.” She turned and walked toward her car.

Should I just let her go? Something about this lady impressed me. She’d been through the mill and could still smile. I could use someone like that in my life — someone who’d understand.

A nagging voice piped up. It’s too soon to get involved, Mike. Just drop it!

Yeah, too soon. Yet I was so lonely! The emptiness had set in as soon as the last relative left. Every day my house felt empty: the loving greetings, the noisy meals together, the hugs and kisses were all gone. Every night my bed felt lonelier.

What will people think? They’ll say you didn’t love Amanda much if you find someone else so soon.

Stuff it, I retorted. I need someone. The kids need a mother. I’ve prayed God would send me someone who’ll love my kids. And if this is my someone, I’m not letting her walk away.

“Shannon, wait…” I called. She stopped and turned around.

“I’ve been thinking — since you’re down here alone and don’t know the city, perhaps you might, uh, like an unofficial police escort? Maybe for some shopping or sightseeing? And there are some really neat cruises in the Gulf you might want to take in while you’re here.”

She was quiet for a moment. Wrestling with her own nagging voices, most likely.

“Don’t give up on finding love,” I encouraged her. “After all, not everybody strikes out. Sometimes you hit a homer on the third swing.”

Something seemed to click and her face broke into a beautiful smile. “You know,” she said, “a police escort might not be such a bad idea. Might save me from some other slippery snakes. Yeah, I’d like to look around this town more, with a little help. Since you’re offering.”

Her smile seemed to bring the sunshine into my world again. I held out my hand. “My name’s Mike Andrews, by the way. And I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old who’d be glad to spend time with someone who likes children.”

She reached out and shook my hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mike. And I do like children. In fact I always wanted house full.”

I gave her my biggest smile. “I’m with you on that one.”

Troy’s Wake-Up Call


As a reward for our recent hard work, our sales team had chosen to spend a few days at a resort renowned for its golf greens. I was coming in with my small plane and everything was A-okay.  Visibility was great; the tarmac stretched out invitingly; my landing gear was unfolding as it should.

It would have been a perfect landing — if only those crazy birds had stayed put.

In my descent I could see the fairway on my left farther up. I also took note of the winding stream below as I brought my small plane down, focused on the strip of asphalt ahead. I never saw the two birds they say rose up from the river below. I only felt a violent jerk as something hit the prop and I lost control.

I vaguely recall a tumbling, falling sensation, the far-off wail of sirens. I remember thinking at one point, Guess my buddies will have to play without me, ‘cause I won’t be making it to the fairway today.

I woke up flat out on a bed, hearing blimps and bleeps from machines and soft voices. Definitely hospital sounds. I tried to open my eyes or turn my head, but my body was like stone. I couldn’t stay awake.

I came to later, hearing familiar voices right near my bed. My wife, Lacey, my mom and dad. They were murmuring, talking about the crash of a small plane, a bird in the prop. Bit by bit the memory came back to me.  I tried to make some noise. I tried moving my hand, my foot — anything to let them know I was awake — but my body wouldn’t co-operate. I couldn’t even tell that I even had arms or legs. Maybe I didn’t? That thought scared the living daylights out of me. But I couldn’t open my eyes to check.


“How long do you think it will be until he comes out of this, doctor?” I could hear the fear in Lacey’s voice.

Another voice, professional, yet kind. “We can never be sure. A lot of patients with similar injuries come to within a week or two. Some don’t.”

NO! I don’t want to lie here another week or two, I want to get up, move around. Then his last words buzzed around in my brain, torturing me. Some don’t. Ever.

“When he does come to again, what are the chances that Troy will live a normal life?” Dad’s voice. Always the optimist, he wouldn’t take ‘never’ for an answer.

“That’s impossible to determine until he wakes up and we assess how much neurological damage has been done.”

Hours passed — or was it days? I came to many times and tried to move, but it was like someone had set me in concrete. What I wouldn’t give to at least say a few words, find out what was going on! When the doctor was in the room I tried my hardest to scream, but not even a squeak came out.

I lived for the visits of my family. Lacey brought Kyle and Tianna. They were full of questions. Lacey explained, “Daddy’s in a coma. It’s like he’s asleep. But maybe he can hear us, so talk to him.”

Poor kids. They didn’t understand, but they tried. Kyle told me about school. Tianna told me about the new girl on our street. Their voices were like a lifesaver to a drowning sailor. If only I could communicate just how much those visits meant to me.

I made a vow. When I come out of this, I’m going to tell them every day how sweet their voices sound.

Even the medical people brightened my dark world. How I wish I could tell them that! I knew from the few comments the nurses made right by my bed that they were moving me, washing me, but I felt nothing. Much as I hated to be so helpless, their snatches of gossip as they worked with me reassured me that I was still in the land of the living.


Then came that marvelous day when my eyes opened.

If you only knew what it’s like to live in grey shadows for days — or was it even weeks? — and then one day be able to see light and color and people. Wonderful is far too small a word; it’s like saying the Grand Canyon is large. And to see the faces of Lacey, the kids, my parents, standing around me with great big grins. To see the hope shining in their eyes.

The only thing that it was the day I took my first step. It was the first step of my new life as a husband, a father, a son. Thank God for second chances!

The House that Tom & Susie Built

“Oh, to be more patient!” Susie sighed as she got ready for bed that night. If only Tom could see my point! I don’t want to be a nag but he needs to make some changes — for the good of our home.

For one thing, he could say ‘No’ to some of these pleas for help. Like this morning when Uncle Jim called. Could Tom do a few repairs for Grandma?

“Yes, we love Grandma,” Susie had countered, “but any of your cousins could help her. They just say they’re too busy; well, we’re busy, too! We’ll never get our own house finished if you’re always helping this one and that one. Say ‘No’ this time!”

And had he listened? No. Then he wasn’t home in time for dinner, either, and the children became whiny and hard to manage. Irked, Susie grumbled at him after he did get home until he snapped back at her and stomped out to mow the lawn. The girls stood looking at her in wide-eyed silence until she shooed them outside to play. And Javon started to fuss.

Susie warmed up a bottle for him. “I guess I should apologize,” she told Javon as she fed him his bottle. “But maybe your daddy will think about this, too, and see that charity begins at home.” She brushed away the feelings of guilt.

Javon fell asleep and she started to vacuum, but she found resentment a bitter companion and was very thankful when Tom came in to say he was sorry. She apologized, too, and they both agreed that they wanted a happy home.

That night Susie whispered a prayer into her pillow. “I do want to be a good helpmeet for him, Lord. But there’s so much to do around here and the children need their Dad and… Well, You know it all. Please help us.” Then weariness overcame her and she fell asleep.

Next thing Susie knew, she and Tom were walking down a long road that stretched out ahead of them, then started to curve.

As they walked along, she had a sense of years passing. She glanced at Tom and saw with surprise that he had a cane in his other hand and was leaning on it a lot. She saw the grey in his hair and knew that hers was turning white, too.

Suddenly from around the bend in the road a man came toward them. With a spring in his step and a cheerful hello, he beckoned them.

“You must be the Reeds. I’ve come to show you your new house.”

She and Tom looked at each other in surprise and delight. The man, who seemed to be a real estate agent, led them around the next bend. Beside the road they saw a lovely new cottage.

Susie gasped. “Is this ours?”

“No,” the agent replied, “this is the home of John and Linda Thomas.”

Right then an elderly couple opened the door and waved at them. It was indeed a couple they knew from their congregation, but they were both very old now.

“Well, they certainly do deserve that neat home,” said Susie. “They’ve been so faithful in the church and such a good example to us all.”

The man smiled. “Yes, they’ve been building well all these years.”

They walked along farther and passed other houses, some looking very good and some rather ramshackle. One place wasn’t much more than a heap of crooked boards tossed together. The couple outside were bickering with each other.

The agent shook his head. “Even in old age some folks are still trying to decide whose fault it is.”

“I hope we don’t have them for neighbours,” Susie said curtly.

A few miles later the agent stopped beside another house. “And here we are, folks. This one is yours!”

Tom and Susie walked over to the house and eyed it dubiously. The siding had some jagged edges, a few boards were put on at odd angles. The door frame wasn’t quite straight.

“This is ours?” Tom sounded puzzled. He studied it up and down, and wandered around to the back, leaving Susie alone with the agent.

Susie examined the house and said to herself, “Somebody sure made a mess of things!”
The man seemed to read her thoughts. “It has been fairly well built. A few flaws here and there, but most of it is quite sound.”

He opened the door and Susie followed him into the cottage. Floor tiles were missing here and there. The fireplace stones stuck out at odd angles; amazing they didn’t tumble down!

“Oh, there must be some mistake,” she protested. “This can’t be ours!”

“Madam, I assure you, there’s no mistake,” he answered politely. “This is the house you and Tom have been building all these years. And you’ve done a halfway decent job, too. Some really good materials here.” He rapped on the wall. “Most of the subfloor is good wood. Most of the studs are in place, though some are a bit warped. Most of the roof is intact.”

“But…we would never build a place like this!”

“This is indeed your work, Mrs. Reed. What you have here is what you’ve put into your marriage all these years. You reap what you sow, you know.”

He pointed to the floor tiles. “Most of the time you and Tom have spoken to each other with respect — but not always.” Then he indicated several holes in the ceiling. “You and Tom have patched up most of your quarrels, but not all of them.” He waved at the gaps between the wall and the ceiling. “Times when each of you insisted on getting your own way. A bit was lost in your building. Selfishness is such a thief!”

Susie examined the fireplace with its stones askew and he explained. “These are the times you’ve accepted each other’s faults charitably — or complained angrily. They’re all here, just as you’ve stacked them.”

Susie cringed. What he was saying was too true. Sick at heart, she walked into the kitchen. The cabinets looked attractive, except that some of the doors were warped.
She didn’t dare ask, but he told her anyway. “Most of the time you’ve been honest with each other, but not always.”

Susie blushed, remembering a few of those times. “If only we’d known it would all show up like this,” she wailed. “How can we ever live here?”

The agent drew himself up in a huff. “That’s not my problem, Mrs. Reed. I’m only the agent of Time. My job was to bring you here and I have. All these years you and Tom have been building your old age. And may I remind you that when you were young you thought these things were good enough. ‘About like other couples,’ I believe you said then.”

He walked over to the entrance. “If you’d wanted something better now, you should have started years ago. Remember the old proverb: A wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”

Susie hung her head in shame. “If I’d only known I was building I’d someday have to live with…”

“Perhaps you could still make a few repairs,” he suggested cheerfully as he opened the door. “And now, good day, Mrs. Reed. I have others to bring to their houses, too, including your children. They’re married now and are building their own homes.”

“My children! What kind of houses will they have? If only they could see…”

“No doubt they will be following the example you’ve left them, so their houses will be half-ways decent, too,” he assured her. Then he stepped out the door into a whoosh of wind and was gone, leaving Susie standing there contemplating his last words.

She turned around to look over the house again and a wave of despair overcame her. How many repairs could they make at this late date? She sat down in a chair and began to sob.
Then Tom was beside her and his arm was around her. “It’s all right, Susie. Don’t cry. We’ll do what we can.”

Suddenly she was sitting up in bed, with Tom’s arm around her. “It’s all right, Susie. Don’t cry,” he was saying. “You must have had a bad dream.”

Susie nodded, then thought again. “No, I’ve had a very good dream. and I hope I’ll remember it for a long time. She leaned on his shoulder. “Oh, Tom, I’ve been fussing so much about getting this earthly house finished and I’ve been neglecting the most important one!”

Part of the Family

Tyler tried to slip away unnoticed. No luck! Cassie looked up when she heard the gate open. “Where are you going, Tyler?”

“To the park.” Tyler scowled at the squeaky hinge.

She came over to the fence. “You should stay here. You know Mom said Paul’s coming over.”

“Paul might play ball with us,” five-year-old Tisha added. “That’ll be so much fun!”

“I don’t like Paul!” Tyler kicked angrily at a tuft of grass.

Tisha’s eyes opened wide. “Why don’t you, Tyler? He’s nice.”

“I don’t like him!” Tyler repeated. “He’s not my dad and he can quit acting like it.

“Our Dad is gone, Tyler,” Cassie reminded him quietly. “Mom says we need accept it.”

Angrily Tyler shoved his hands in his pockets. Maybe they could accept it, but he never would! They should have their own dad like other families did. There never should have been an accident. Or Dad should have gotten better after. He never should have died and left them alone. It wasn’t fair!

And now Paul was coming over, talking with Mom, smiling at her. They said they’re going to get married. Mom would forget all about Dad! Paul was so friendly to them, too, trying to win them over. Tisha was totally on his side already. She would never even remember Dad. Everybody would forget Dad.

“He thinks he can take Dad’s place,” Tyler grumbled, “but he never will. I wish he’d just go away and leave us alone!”

He turned and ran for the park, ignoring Cassie’s call to come back. She thought because she was twelve now that she could tell him and Tisha what to do. That wasn’t fair, either. He could look after himself; he was almost ten. He could help look after the family, too. They didn’t need Paul. Why didn’t he just beat it?

Conclusion tomorrow….

Paula’s Picnic

Part Three

As Derrick and his friend strolled toward the group around the picnic table, Paula took a good look at her. Slim and tanned, wearing a mini-skirt and what was probably a designer blouse, she looked like a million dollars. Paula glanced down at her own very practical clothes and felt like an ugly step-sister in the presence of Cinderella.

“Hey, guys! Have you left some for us?” Derrick called to some of the fellows who were sitting on a blanket.

“Hey, Derrick,” one of them called, “glad you could make it. You’re just in time to say a table grace.”

“You should introduce us to your friend,” Ryan Pinder added, looking quite impressed with what he saw. The blonde flashed him a grateful smile.

“I want you all to meet Kelsey Hallstrom, an old friend…and my new personal trainer.”

“Personal trainer! What kind of training are you needing, Derrick?” Brad asked as he stood up to shake her hand.“I’m Brad Miller. Pleased to meet you, Kelsey.”

“Oh, he needs a lot of training! You’ll have quite a job on your hands, lady!” one of the other fellows joked as he shook hands with her.

“Physician heal thyself,” Derrick countered with a laugh and a playful punch.

“I decided I needed to go join a gym and get into shape. Too much sitting in an office. And who should I meet there but Kelsey! She’s come back to her old stomping grounds and now she’s going to whip me into shape.” He gave her a warm smile.

“You look pretty fit for the job,” Ryan commented, giving her the once over. “Maybe I should get into fitness, too.”

The way he said it made Paula uncomfortable. She wondered, should a Christian be so open with those kind of looks and comments? Maybe Ryan was just paying a compliment, but she would be embarrassed if some man looked her over like that.

Kelsey just winked and flashed another big smile at Ryan. “I work at it.”

Paula glanced at Derrick. He was looking at Kelsey almost as if he was seeing her for the first time. What was he thinking?

The couple arrived at their table and more introductions were exchanged. “Welcome to our little group, Kelsey,” said Anne. “ Shall we make room for both of you here, or are you going to join the guys, Derrick?”

“Yeah, I’ll leave Kelsey in your care.” He smiled at Paula. “I know you’ll be good for her.” And he walked over to join the fellows on the blanket.

Paula moved over to make a space on the bench beside her and Kelsey sat down, smiling at her. A feeling of jealousy flashes through Paula’s mind, followed by the words, “”Let go and let God.” They brought her a moment of comfort. If it was God’s will for her and Derrick to get together, He’d work it out for them. If it wasn’t meant to be, she wanted to let it go.

Anne brushed a buzzy fly away from Kelsey’s arm. “Did I hear you’re back in your old stomping grounds?”

“Yes, I grew up here in Parkerton. I came back here in March, after my divorce.”

Well, I’m sorry to hear that…about your divorce, I mean,” said Sally.

“Yeah. Not nice,” Kelsey sighed. “Derrick and I went to High School together. Actually, we dated a few times, but then Shawn came along and swept me off my feet. I wish I’d stayed on them.”

She glanced toward Derrick and smiled. “I’m sure I’d have done so much better.”

“The burgers are ready,” one of the grillers called. “Everyone gather round and we’ll sing a table grace song.”

“Oh, dear. I don’t know any of that religious stuff,” Kelsey whispered nervously as they gathered in a circle around the table.

“That’s okay,” Paula assured her. Inwardly she wondered about Derrick getting involved with someone who didn’t know “religious stuff”. And I shouldn’t think he’s so involved. He may only have asked her here because she needs friends, she reminded herself.

After the blessing they lined up for the food. Kelsey went to stand beside Derrick in the lineup and Paula watched her talking and laughing with the guys. Disapproval washed through her thoughts. But if Kelsey doesn’t know the Lord she probably doesn’t see the harm in random flirting, Paula thought.

Then she thought of her teen years and remembered the way she’d acted around boys. She blushed, then smiled. You’ve come a long way, yourself, girl — with God’s help!

While she was standing in line waiting for her food, Paula sighed a prayer, “Lord, please grant me a pure heart, free from jealousy, and a love like Yours for those who need to hear about You.”

Hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Sad to say, the rest of the story isn’t written yet, but at least you’ve found out who this new lady is. If enough readers are interested in where the story goes from here, I’ll post some more as time goes on.

In my mind the setting for this story is back in the early 70s, when we were newly married and started attending churches in the protestant evangelical sphere. I was trying to capture the tone of those times as well as the people and the picnics I remember.


Grandma’s Birthday Party — Part III

Concluding chapter:

Still holding Joyce’s arm, Steve turned to Brian. “We’re not having Mom’s 80th Birthday ruined by a squabble between you two. Dad’s coming in a few minutes. Can you just cool it long enough for us to get his feelings on the matter.”

“They’re here,” Darryl announced.

The doorbell rang and Rick & Emily walked in, followed by Grandpa.

Rick waved. “Hi, everybody. We’ve brought Grandpa, so you’d better be on your best behavior now.”

Grandpa slowly walked into the room and Rick closed the door behind him. Then he stepped over to Uncle Steve, his father, and whispered something in his ear. Steve frowned.

Hugs and kisses were exchanged all around, but it seemed to Todd that Grandpa wasn’t his usual self. Had he caught wind of the argument, too? As Jim & Jenny hugged Grandpa, Todd caught the glimmer of a tear in the old man’s eye.

Then Grandpa looked toward Brian and Sylvie and smiled. “So, everything set for Mom’s birthday party? The Seniors Centre is spoken for, the cake’s ordered, the guests invited.”

Brian flushed. “Uh…we were just discussing that last part. Joyce was to invite the guests and she thinks…uh…she decided not to… ”

“Come, Dad.” Cassie took his arm and led him to the recliner. “Let’s all sit down and then we can discuss all these details. Let me get you some iced tea first.” She gave a sharp look at her brother-in-law in passing and he followed them into the living room.

Soon everyone was seated in the living room. Grandpa inspected his three children in turn as if picking up some bad vibes. “Now, what were you saying, Brian? Joyce decided what?”

Joyce started. “My brothers left it to me to put the announcement in the paper, but I feel strongly that we shouldn’t throw open the doors for everyone and his pup. You know there are always so many who come just because it’s a party and there’s free food. People Mom wouldn’t even know.”

“I wanted to spare her that, so I thought it best if we’d just phone the ones we want to come,” she said, leaning back into the sofa cushions. “But Brian doesn’t see it that way and he’s being so stubborn about it.”

Brian turned to his dad. “You and Mom are friends with half the people in town and goodness knows how many more out of it. We’ve already phoned all your special friends, but we’d decided an announcement in the paper would take care of letting everyone else know. That was to go in last week.” He gave Joyce a sharp look.

“So what if a few extras come,” he continued. “However… It’s almost too late now. But the thing is, Joyce went ahead and decided this all on her own.”

“It’s not such a big thing really,” Cassie said, handing Grandpa a glass of iced tea. “We’ll just phone a few more folks…”

Brian thumped the arm of his chair. “Which we wouldn’t have to do if Joyce had just done what she was supposed to in the first place! It IS a big thing! She can be so…so positive that she’s right. Nobody can tell her anything.”

Grandpa digested this for a moment to digest, then he laughed. “Say, this is just like old times. You two used to have some real rows when you were tikes. One would say ‘Yes’ and one would say ‘No!’ and you’d go at it for half an hour.”

He looked out the window as if gazing back over the years. “But you’d sure stick up for one another, too. Why, I remember the times, Brian, when you’d beg your big sister to take you to the park because you weren’t able to go there by yourself. Even if she had something else she wanted to do she’d take your hand and off you’d go together… You had complete faith in her back then; you knew she’d stand up to them if the big kids bullied you.”

Brian cleared his throat and looked at his shoes.

“Remember the time a stranger offered you a ride. He had this cute little pup in his car and he wanted you to come along home with him because he had a boy just your age. You two could play with the pup, he said. When Joyce saw you heading for that car she came running and dragged you back, screeching so much everyone on the block turned to look. That stranger laid quite a bit of rubber on the road getting out of there. Her being right paid off that day; if it wasn’t for her you might not be with us today.”

“I can dimly recall that,” said Brian softly.

“I remember.” Joyce chuckled. “You were furious when I wouldn’t let you go play with that boy and his puppy.”

“I guess you understood the situation a lot better than I did. Thank God.”

Their father nodded. “Yes, Thank God. And, Joyce, remember the time when you and Brian went swimming at the pond, then you got that cramp and went under. I don’t know how Brian managed to drag you out, being so scrawny at the time, but he saved your life.”

Joyce nodded soberly. “That’s right.”

“We thanked God many times over for that one, too.” Then Grandpa chuckled. “And when you were in grade eight you almost tore your hair out trying to pass geometry. Your brothers both patiently explained it many times until you finally got a handle on it.”

Brian grinned at her. “Pie are square.”

“And remember when we got our first computer, the year you started high school, and Brian figured the thing out lickety-split. So that’s who you called every time you crashed the thing. Now you work with one every day.”

“I still call on him when I have problems,” Joyce admitted, smiling at Brian.

“And Brian, I think Joyce gave you your love of good books, ’cause she was always reading to you once she learned how herself…though you probably don’t recall those times.”

“Yeah, some.” Brian nodded at Joyce. “I think you kept it up until I was in third grade or so. Then you helped me get my grammar straight.” He laughed. “You never dreamed I’d be an editor someday.”

“Well, enough reminiscing,” said Grandpa, setting his drink down. “We have a party to plan. And we want to make it the best one yet.”

He was quiet a moment. A tear trickled down his cheek. “Because this is going to be the last one.”

Joyce gasped. “Dad! What’s wrong?”

“We didn’t want to spoil the party, so we were planning to gather the family together afterward to tell you all together, but I just can’t hold it in anymore. Mom saw the doctor a few days ago. He says she has acute leukemia. He gives her about six more weeks in this old world.”

There was a collective gasp. Tiffany threw her arms around Todd. Brian, Joyce, and Steve embraced each other, all of them in tears. Then the cousins were all hugging one another and Grandpa, each other, their aunts and uncles.

Aunt Cassie squeezed Todd’s mother and whispered, “They say the family that plays together stays together. In this case it’s the family that weeps together.”

Sylvie nodded as they watched Brian, Steve, and Joyce hugging each other. “Thank God,” she murmured.