Tag Archives: lies

God’s Farm … A Story, Two.

21 Apr

The continuation of God’s Farm … a Story.

 

God’s Farm … A Story.

Two.

Charles Chandler Wilson, III picked up his pencil and began to write in his blue book. It was too late to rue what had gone before, and now he had to craft something compelling in order to “right the ship,” as his dad often said.

His dad had served in the South Pacific during the war on an attack transport — the USS Doyen. Its prewar design was the masterpiece of a New York yacht building firm known and employed by then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR. The idea was a smaller vessel with a shallow draft, or hull depth, would enable troop transporters like the Doyen to come in closer to shore than the traditionally deeper-hulled troop carriers. Lives would be saved, it was reasoned, due to men and artillery reaching invasion beaches more quickly rather than bobbing through long distances of water like sitting ducks.

The concept wasn’t without its detractors, who argued the ship would capsize in high seas due to the lack of hull depth. Roosevelt persisted in the experiment, and the Doyen splashed into the water untested in July, 1942. Contrary to the naysayers, the Doyen proved seaworthy.

Which is more than Chandler could say for himself. He had figuratively capsized at Virginia Tech as a student since pledging and becoming a brother in Delta Pi Zeta, one of the many unrecognized local fraternities scattered about Blacksburg. His success in partying had blown a hole in the shallow hull of his academic pursuits, and after five quarters of ribald pursuits, he was listing badly.

Chandler’s parents were totally unaware of the disaster. It was time, therefore, to sober up and right the ship.

Dear Professor Calloway,

As you know, the country is in the throes of social and cultural upheaval that has found its way to the Virginia Tech campus over the past two semesters. Vietnam, civil rights and women’s rights issues have converged in the forms of protest, anger, and demand for change.

Make Peace, Not War is the message shouted and sung on college campuses throughout the nation. The situation is dire, not only because the body bags keep arriving from Southeast Asia despite President Nixon’s promise to de-escalate. Racial tensions (yes, even on the Tech campus) continue to smolder as those in power seem to want to roll the clock back on any gains made by our black brothers. And women (of which you are one, I might add), are waking up to the fact that barefoot and pregnant is not a desired status.

Chandler continued to pour it on, hitting every button he could think of to help his cause. He was particularly careful of his grammar, and when he wanted to use a particular word, if he didn’t know how to spell it, cast it aside.

In terms of what our nation and we are dealing with, it is the worst of times; as to the hope we all hold onto dearly, it is the best of times. Or as the Bard wrote: To be, or not to be, that is the question. Will we be and continue to thrive as a nation? Or, will we not be?

He figured he ought to at least quote some Shakespeare.

Winter Quarter I watched the anger and frustration of many students play out on the Quod. It dawned on me then that merely balling up one’s fist, or singing “If I Had a Hammer,” was not enough to change things.

He thought about using “effect” or “affect change,” but didn’t know which was correct. He nearly tore through the page erasing both words before deciding not to use either.

So I decided to go to High Point, my home town in North Carolina, and spend the Spring Quarter working to improve conditions between whites and blacks. I volunteered to help not just bridge the racial gap through dialogue, but through action by rolling up my sleeves and helping to clear large areas of dilapidated houses and trash. These blighted areas are places in High Point where rats find shelter and breed unrestrained. Earlier this year, one of those rats snuck into the home of a poor black family and into the crib of a sleeping infant. The rat chewed off several toes of the baby before her parents awoke to her screams, rushing in to kill the rat.

His mother had sent him the article of the incident published in The High Point Enterprise. The story caused a mixture of outrage in the black community, and about cleanliness is next to Godliness in the white community. Chandler thought it would punctuate his argument.

As a result of feeling compelled to spend my time helping to solve some of the problems we are facing, I was not in class.

I hope you will allow me, therefore, to return to campus sometime this summer, after I have been able to read the material on your syllabus, and retake this exam.

Yours sincerely,

C. Chandler Wilson, III
Student # 286-84-9125

Chandler reread his missive several times, debating whether to change anything. He felt his creative juices were flowing, and trusted his initial writing instincts, preferring to keep all as it was. Plus, erasures looked messy.

Surely any self-respecting liberal arts college professor would discern the truth that action was far better than merely sitting around listening to heavy metal music and smoking pot. Or even sitting in Shakespeare class with the country in turmoil.

He was confident Professor Calloway would not only be impressed by how he had spent his Spring Quarter in High Point (even if it was a lie), and would allow him to make the five-hour drive back to Blacksburg to retake the exam†.

“Time is up,” his professor announced. “Please sign the pledge on the outside cover, put your exam sheet in your blue book, and pass each forward.”

Chandler looked at the pledge statement and hesitated.

On honor, I have neither given nor received help on this exam.

If he signed it, would he be guilty of cheating? Then he breathed a sigh of relief as he realized the only thing he would be guilty of would be lying, and since he didn’t receive any help making up his story, he could sign it in good conscience.

He carefully placed the test sheet in his blue book, closed the book, and passed it to the student sitting in front of him. All of the tension he experience prior to the exam was gone. He had pulled it off, and began to think about how he would begin studying Shakespeare. It was important to be earnest, he grinned. Get the ship righted. Go on with life, which was now good again.

It was time for a beer.

†Years later Chandler saw the movie A Christmas Story on television,  and cringed at the scene where Ralphie wrote his masterpiece essay for his teacher, “What I Want For Christmas.”

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Liar, Liar

17 Feb

Liar, Liar
by L. Stewart Marsden

Did we lie to each other
as we lay side by side?

Did our pride all but smother
the truths deep inside?

Did we hide any semblance
of reality?

Was it just an imbalance?
Were we too blind to see?

Were we over-impressed
with each other’s best parts?

Too consumed with the heat
and the beat of our hearts?

Tricking ourselves
with our words and flirtations?

Loath to delve further?
Lost in sensations?

Liar,
Liar.

Pants on fire.

Stinky and Mister Lincoln

18 Jul

Stinky and Mister Lincoln
by L. Stewart Marsden

Anna Maria Alberghetti Christiana Gabriella Margaret Anne Jones was in a snit. And when Anna Maria Alberghetti Christiana Gabriella Margaret Anne Jones was in a snit, her father lovingly referred to her as “Stinky.”

“I did NOT take that silver dollar!” she hollered, turning red in the face.

“Stinky, I never said you did. Alls I said was I had been missing my special silver dollar for a few days, and when I did your laundry today, I found it in the washing machine,” her dad calmly replied.

“I know what you think — and it’s not true! It’s a co-ninsy-dense!”

“Let me show you something.”

“What?”

“Come here and see. Please.”

Stinky dug her hands into her pants pockets and dragged her feet as she walked to her dad.

He was holding something in his hand, but Stinky couldn’t see it as his hand was closed.

“What is it?” she snitted.

He opened his hand. In his palm was a shiny copper penny.

“A penny?”

“A penny with Lincoln’s head on it. Do you know who Lincoln was?”

Stinky shook her head, “No.”

“He was a president of our country. Do you know what a president is?”

Stinky shook her head, “No.”

“A very important person. The leader of our country. That’s really important. And Abraham Lincoln was one of the very best presidents we’ve ever had.”

Stinky was looking a little bored.

“When he was a boy, he was a trickster!”

“Trickster?” she livened.

“He took a boot and glopped it with mud. Then, he put the boot on a broomstick, and put boot prints all over the ceiling of his house just for fun!”

“I don’t believe you!”

“I don’t care. It’s still true. And when his mother saw the boot prints, she knew who did it, but she couldn’t figure out how Abe did it.”

“Who’s Abe?”

“Mr. Lincoln. His name was Abraham. Abe for short. And she was mad! And you know what?”

“What?”

“Abe Lincoln told his mom that he made the boot prints on the ceiling.”

“He did?”

“Yep, he did.”

Stinky scowled, “And what did his mom do to him?”

“I suspect she punished him. But, you know what?”

“What?”

“She still loved her boy — after all that.”

“I didn’t take the silver dollar.”

“Time for bed, Stinky.”

Stinky prepared for bed, all the while thinking about Mr. Lincoln. Her dad came in, listened to her prayers, kissed her on the cheek, and turned on the night light before switching off the big light and softly closing her bedroom door.

“Good night, Stinky,” he called from the other side of the door.

“Good night, Daddy,” Stinky murmured drowsily.

A moment later the door creaked open slowly.

In walked the tallest man Stinky had ever seen! But also the kindest looking. He stepped in cautiously. He wore a tall black hat — old timey, it looked to her. He had a long black coat and a white shirt, with a black bow tie. His pants and shoes were black, too.

His face was long and full of lines. A beard outlined his strong chin and jawline. His black hair was a little mussed, his eyebrows thick, and his eyes deep set.

He had a very slight smile, though he looked sad and tired overall.

“Who — who are you?” Stinky whispered loudly as she sat up in bed.

“My name is Lincoln.”

“Mister Lincoln — the prezzy-dent?”

“The same. And might I ask your name?”

“Anna Maria Alberghetti Christiana Gabriella Margaret Anne Jones.”

“Whew! Would it offend you if I call you Ms. Jones?”

Stinky smiled.

“My friends call me Stinky. Call me Stinky.”

“I am honored at your permission, Stinky. Please call me Abe.”

“Okay! But Abe, why are you here? I mean, how’d you come to my room?”

“It is my plight, alas, to do what we call ‘checking it out’ whenever our names are mentioned in conversation.”

“We?”

“You know, those of us who have passed on and are no longer. Here, that is.”

“Are you a ghost?”

“No, Stinky. I am very, very real.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“As your father often says, ‘I don’t care. It’s still true.'”

And as if to prove his word, Mister Lincoln stepped forward and offered his large hand, palm up, to Stinky. She touched it. It felt warm and real.

“You ARE real!”

“May I sit?” Mr. Lincoln gestured to a large white rocking chair near her bed. Stinky nodded “yes” several times.

“The reason I came,” he said, grunting a bit as he tried to fit his tall frame into the chair, “is because you and your father were talking about me earlier tonight. Can you tell me why?”

Stinky lowered her face in embarrassment.

“Yes,” she barely answered.

“About when I was a boy, and when I did something a little mischievous — a little fun, perhaps?” and he covered his smile with one large hand, but his eyes still twinkled.

“Yes,” she grinned back.

“Oh, that was so much fun! To see my mother stare at those muddy bootprints on the ceiling! You should have seen it! Ha!” his face lit up with such joy at the thought.

“But, then you told your mother you did it.”

“Yes. Yes I did.”

“And she punished you?”

“A good wallup with the switch across my bare legs! Oh, yes! She punished me all right!”

“So for telling the truth, you got punished?” Stinky wrinkled her eyebrows.

“No. I got punished for the mud on the ceiling. And I had to clean it up, to boot — if I may use a pun here. For telling the truth, I received my mother’s respect.”

“Respect?”

“Far more important than avoiding a few licks on my legs.”

“How’s that?”

“Stinky, the sore of the punishment went away. If I hadn’t told her? If I had lied to her? The shame of being dishonest to my mother would have never lessened.”

As he sat in that chair, his big hands on either armrest, his feet planted side-by-side on the floor, it was like Stinky had seen Mister Lincoln just like this before.

“Know what my nickname is, Stinky?”

“What, Abe?”

He leaned forward and smiled.

“Honest Abe.”

“No! I don’t believe you!”

“I don’t care!” he laughed big. “It’s STILL true! Just ask George, he’ll tell you the truth!”

“George?”

“One day I went to the general store when I was a lad and bought a bag of sugar and a bag of flour for Mother. I gave Mr. McFarlan twenty cents. It cost fifteen cents. Mr. McFarlan dropped six cents into my hand and I shoved it into my pocket without thinking, and then I walked seven miles to home.”

“Seven miles?”

“I have long legs,” he winked. “It took just shy of two hours.”

“Wow!”

“Then I discovered the mistake. Mr. McFarlan had given me one penny too much! So, I marched right back there and gave him that penny.”

“Another seven miles for a penny?”

“And then home again. That’s a total of fourteen!” Mister Lincoln’s grin was nearly ear-to-ear, and his eyes seemed to be remembering every mile of that walk.

“For one little penny?”

“Back then, a penny meant something. But from that day on, people called me ‘Honest Abe.’ And it stuck. Might be why I got to be president!”

“And the best president, too, Abe!”

“Aw, shucks, Stinky — I don’t know about that. But do you see what I’m trying to say?”

“That your sore feet went away, but if you hadn’t taken the penny back, you’d be awful sore at yourself?”

“Precisely! Now, Stinky — I believe my I have completed my task for coming to see you tonight, and I have a few more stops to make.”

“Aren’t your feet sore now?”

“Oh, no! I don’t have to walk — I just fly away!”

“I don’t believe you!”

“Don’t care. It’s still true!” And Mister Lincoln got out of the rocking chair, pulled the covers up to Stinky’s chin when she lay back down, and patted her head.

“Remember our little talk, Stinky.”

“I will.”

“Oh,” he said, turning back to her as he was about to go out the door, “if you ever hear anything about me and — uh — vampires? Don’t believe a word of it!”

“Vampires?”

“Never mind. Good night, Stinky.”

“Good night, Abe.”

And he shut the door.

* * *

“Anna Maria Alberghetti Christiana Gabriella Margaret Anne Jones! Breakfast!” her dad called from the kitchen.

She quickly jumped from her bed and ran into the kitchen, slowing down behind her dad.

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“I need to tell you something.”

Her father turned around and leaned down to her. He looked into her eyes, almost as if he knew what his little girl was going to say.

“I — I did take your silver dollar. I saw it in your drawer and it looked so shiny and pretty! I wasn’t going to keep it! I forgot it was in my pocket. I am so sorry I didn’t tell you the truth last night!”

“What changed your mind, Honey?”

Anna Maria Alberghetti Christiana Gabriella Margaret Anne Jones saw a penny on the kitchen table and picked it up, showing it to her father.

“I had a long talk with Honest Abe last night. He talked me into it,” she smiled.

“I don’t believe you!” her father smiled knowingly.

“I don’t care,” she answered, hugging him, “It’s still true.”