Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Memories

By Linda Goodman, Storyteller

These memories are nuggets waiting to become full blown family Christmas stories.

Christmas Memories 1979, Portsmouth, VA. Seven year old Melanie and I celebrated Christmas for the first time since her birth. I remember how excited she was to show her friends our first Christmas tree. Bought at People’s Drug store, it stood 24 inches tall and came in a box with ornaments and lights. I placed it in the center of an end table. Her friends were speechless. They could not understand why Melanie was so happy to have such a small tree.

Christmas Memories  1982  Melanie’s first new bicycle! Phil and I were engaged at the time, and he thought Melanie should have a bike that wasn’t rusted. Melanie opened all her presents, and she was happy with all of them. She didn’t think there were any more to open. Phil sent her into the kitchen to get him a glass of water. She came back with the water and asked, “Whose bicycle is that?” You should have seen the look on her face, an amazing mixture of delight and surprise, when Phil told her, “It’s yours.”

Christmas Memories  Every year I waited to hear my bother Allen’s Super Baby stories on Christmas Eve. Super Baby could do anything! He saved Christmas every year as he battled the likes of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch. My mother made us go to bed at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve. Of course, we couldn’t sleep that early; but we weren’t bored. Allen’s stories kept us entertained.

Christmas Memories  1969 - My brother Lee's first Christmas after coming home from Viet Nam. I remember all the horror etched upon his face; but we were happy because he was home and safe. We were certain he would bounce back quickly, surrounded by the people who loved him. We had no idea how long that war would be fought in his head. We had no clue what horrors he had witnessed. We were just relieved to have him with us.

Christmas Memories 1983  Christmas in Bay City, Michigan brought about 3 firsts: our first Christmas as a family (Phil and I had gotten married in May); our first trip to actually chop down a live tree at a local Christmas tree farm (which served hot apple cider and popcorn balls to everyone looking for a tree); and our first white Christmas. We also visited the little town of Frankenmuth, which was a cozy winter wonderland at Christmas time.  It took my breath away. I have never had such a perfect Christmas.

Christmas Memories  1958-1970 Christmas Eve services at Asbury United Methodist Church on Deep Creek Boulevard in Portsmouth, Virginia. At the age of 6, I started out as an angel in the chorus or our Christmas pageant and worked myself up to narrator by age 10. At 12 years of age, I was invited to join the junior choir, which participated in the Christmas Eve Service every year. Whenever I was at that church, I felt like I had dozens of parents and hundreds of brothers and sisters. The people not only talked about the love of Christ, they lived it. Asbury was closed in 2014, and I was able to attend its last service. That church and its members will always live in my heart.

Christmas Memories 1970s Visiting Coleman's Nursery's Winter Wonder Land in Portsmouth, VA. The long lines of people began this yearly ritual on the day after Thanksgiving and did not let up until after Christmas. It was Santa's workshop brought to life, with a special place of honor for the Nativity. Melanie and I would spend hours there, studying each of the many scenes. Sadly, a fire destroyed this much loved Christmas landmark. Later, the parts that could be salvaged were put on display in downtown Portsmouth, but it was not the same. Now all that's left are the memories.

Christmas Memories 1998-2012 Christmas dinner with my niece Sandi Lowery's family, my sister Evelyn Wright, and my niece Rachel Davis. They dined with us every Thanksgiving & Christmas while we lived in Richmond. Sometimes my daughter, Melanie Goodman Deal, and her family were able to join us. Today I am missing them all. I can't even look at the green beans (Phil's special recipe) without choking up.

Christmas Memories  1999 Richmond, VA  Due to religious convictions, I raised my daughter, Melanie, to believe that there was no Santa.  She resented that. In fact, when she grew up and had a child of her own, I walked into her hospital room, my arms reaching for my new granddaughter, Morgan, and Melanie clutched her baby close, growling, “This child will believe in Santa Clause!” What could I do but play along?  And I must admit that when I awakened on the Christmas day that Morgan was three years old, the first year she was aware of all the hoopla, I was thrilled to hear her sit up in bed and loudly call out, “Did he come?” Then I watched in awe as she walked downstairs and entered the wonderland of toys that her pawpaw and her daddy had assembled for her.  She went from one to the other, hugging her new doll, playing her new keyboard, unpacking her tea set….. Finally laughing in delight as she spotted the empty plate and glass that had held cookies and milk for Santa. She was speechless when she found the letter that Santa had left for her. She was smiling and crying at the same time as her mother read the letter to her. I must admit that I shed a few tears of my own as I watched her big blue eyes widen with wonder.

Christmas Memories  1962 Opening presents around the tree with my family. I rarely ever got what I wanted, but I still felt blessed. My two best friends had been abandoned by their fathers. Their mothers had to go on welfare until they found jobs (that paid much less than was needed to support their families). I, on the other hand, had two parents who loved their kids and each other. I also had been taken in, along with several other children in my neighborhood, by a church that treated kids who attended church by themselves like family. Without the examples set and the love offered by my family and my church, who knows how my life would have progressed. God made sure that I ended up in the right place. There are no coincidences.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Different Kind of Guest

By Linda Goodman
(From Luke 7:36-50)

Good morning. My name is Rachel and I am the daughter of Simon the Pharisee. My father is a well respected man, who often invites other important men to be guests at our table. Last night, however, was different.
            The word Pharisee means separate. The name serves us well, as Pharisees to not like to keep company with people who are not Jewish, or Jews who do not follow the same practices that we do. That is why I was surprised when my father announced that Jesus would be a guest in our home.
Jesus of Nazareth... .have you heard of him? He is a vagabond who keeps company with the rabble; the peasants, tax collectors and women of ill repute. Our guests are usually great men who wear the finest clothes and have servants to attend their every need.
When Jesus entered our home he was dressed in the garb of a simple peasant. I expected that, but he was not even clean! He was covered with dust from his head to his filthy feet! He looked as though he had walked miles through the wilderness without bathing for days.
My father was so disgusted that he refused to offer Jesus the simple courtesies that were normally afforded our honored guests. He did not have Jesus’ feet washed, as was the custom. Neither did he give him the expected kiss of welcome that would have been followed by the anointing of Jesus head with olive oil. My father merely said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, who has gained quite a reputation of late. Let us sit down at the table.”
The servants were just beginning to bring us our meal, when a strange woman walked through the front door. Many of the lower class pass our home when we have important, or, in this case, infamous, guests. None, however, would dare to enter our home without an invitation.
My mother gasped when she saw the woman, and when I looked at the woman’s face I understood why. This woman was the town harlot! Whenever I saw this woman walking down the road, I would cross to the other side and look away. One must not keep company with, or even acknowledge, such a vile being!
  No doubt she did very well plying her chosen trade, for she wore scarlet robes made of the finest silk, and her sandals were studded with pearls and rubies. In her arms she carried an exquisite alabaster jar that was filled with sweet perfume. She must have paid a fortune for it!
She took no note of my family. She ran straight to Jesus, where she knelt at his feet and began sobbing. She cried so hard that her tears, like rain, washed over Jesus feet, turning the dirt to mud. Horrified, she undid her long hair, all the while begging, “Please forgive me, Lord. Please forgive.”  She wiped Jesus’ feet clean with her own hair!  Then she kissed his feet and poured the perfume from the jar on to them, gently massaging it into his skin. And Jesus let her do these things!
My horrified father muttered under his breath, “And I thought this man might be a prophet! He does not even know what this woman is!”
Jesus must have excellent hearing, for he heard every word that my father said.
“Simon, I wish to tell you a story,” Jesus announced.
“I know a banker,” Jesus continued, “who was owed money by two men. One owed him fifty silver coins. The other owed him 500 silver coins. Neither could pay his debt, and the banker decided to forgive the debts of both men. Which of these men, Simon, do you think was more grateful to the banker?”
“I do not see what that has to do with anything,” my father retorted, “but I would judge that the man who owed the banker 500 coins would have been the more grateful of the two.”
“You are correct,” Jesus told him. “Those who have been forgiven more are more grateful than those who have been forgiven little.”
Jesus turned back to the woman and placed his hand on her head as he continued speaking to my father. "Simon, I am a guest in your home, yet you did not wash my feet. You did not welcome me with a kiss or anoint my head with olive oil. This woman, on the other hand, has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. She has  kissed my feet and anointed them with sweet perfume.”
I could see my father’s face turning red with rage as Jesus told him, “This woman has sinned much, and she will be forgiven much. She will be more grateful for that forgiveness than any Pharisee would be.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Go, woman. Your sins are forgiven.”
After Jesus left our home, my father and the others laughed. “What makes him think that he has the power to forgive a woman like that?” they roared. “He must think he is God!”
I did not join in the laughter. I did not laugh because I had seen that woman’s face as she left our home. I saw serenity there, and a peace that I cannot begin to understand in one so damaged.
I want that peace.  Tomorrow I will go find this man Jesus. You are welcome to come with me if you like.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Straddling the Fence

Straddling the Fence

By Linda Goodman
©Linda Goodman 2012

            Recently an old friend sent me an article on building confidence through storytelling. As I read it, my mind rewound to my childhood, when my own crisis of confidence was reaching a boiling point.
            In 1958, my daddy accepted a job at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and moved our family from the ultra-rural Appalachian Mountains of Wise County, Virginia to Williams Court, an urban slum in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Many of the Mountaineers who had migrated to the Tidewater area of Virginia settled in Williams Court, so we were among our own kind, for the most part.
            I thought that Williams Court was grand! The apartments had running water, which meant that outhouses and long walks to springs (to fill water buckets) were no longer necessary. Because we were no longer living in isolation, I had lots of other kids to play with. I learned to excel at kickball and hopscotch. I decided that city living was paradise.
            School, however, changed that idyllic metaphor. I heard other kids in my class talk about how they were not allowed to go to Williams Court. When I asked why, they said that Williams Court was always in the newspaper, in the crime section. Their parents had read them articles on murders, robberies, and “nasty stuff” that went on there. Parents followed the article readings with a stern warning: “Unless you want to end up dead or worse, stay away from Williams Court!” They made Williams Court sound like Dodge City, from the television show Gunsmoke, where you were just as likely to get shot as to get your supper.
            I decided to keep where I lived a secret. When my classmates asked where I lived, I either evaded the question or lied about living out in the country, where my rich daddy had a butler who drove me back and forth to school every day. I pretended not to know the kids who were my neighbors.
            Like most secrets, mine was eventually exposed. During my third grade year, when a triple homicide in my apartment building made the front page of the Virginia Pilot, the article was accompanied by a photo of my apartment building with what was clearly my face, eyes staring out into the explosion of light that shattered the dark night, pressed against a front window.
            I was screwed. The friends that I had made in school had no use for me now, except to ask morbid questions to get details of that awful night from me. For about a week, I was a celebrity. After that week, I was a pariah. I felt like one of the lepers I had studied in Sunday School.
            My life at home was not much better. The friends who had once good naturedly challenged me to a game of hopscotch resented the way I had “put on airs” as I wooed “stuck-up” kids in school to be my social brethren.  I was a pariah to them as well.
            My brothers thought I had gotten what was coming to me. My sister felt sorry for me. My momma said, “This, too, shall pass.” Daddy told me this experience would make me stronger and smarter.
            I did not feel stronger or smarter. I was straddling the fence between two worlds, neither of which wanted me as a citizen. The only time I felt like I belonged anywhere was when my third teacher discovered that I had a knack for storytelling and began to ask me to tell stories to the class during those rare times that she ran out of work for us. I told stories that I had heard my daddy tell, as well as fairy tales and myths that I had read. I always made the kids laugh, and for the rest of the day I would feel like I had added something special to our dreary classroom. I was careful, however, to keep my secrets close.
            Years later, when I was chosen Valedictorian of my high school class, I had the opportunity to speak about serious matters during the graduation ceremony. Instead of a speech, I shared a story that began with that awful shooting that took place during my third grade year. As painful as my school years were, I concluded, I had grown stronger and smarter because of that pain, just as my father had predicted so many years earlier.
            After my story had ended, my teachers and my classmates, both inside and outside my neighborhood, surrounded me. Some shook my hand; some held me tight; most just shouted hurrah!
            Through storytelling, I had shared my shame and had been applauded for it. I sat on the fence no longer. I was whole.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Eyes of God

©Linda Goodman September 29, 2018
Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

            I could not help but notice her when she came into the room. She was a thin older woman whose hair had been bleached blonde. What made me notice her, though, was her eye makeup. Her dark black eye liner had been applied heavily all the way around both her eyes. She looked like a raccoon. Her husband was with her, and they walked to the back of the room and took seats there.
            Ever since my husband and I had moved to Richmond, Virginia in September, 1998, I had wanted to teach my Storytelling In the Ministry workshop at the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center (VUMAC) in Blackstone, Virginia. In 2000 I sent in a proposal to the powers that be, and my workshop was selected to be one of the classes available to students attending the February, 2000 Lay Speakers School. I was informed that at least six students must sign up for the class in order for it to be a part of the weekend. I asked that class membership be capped at twenty students. This was the number that would ensure that each student would be allowed enough time for some deep storytelling work during the three day workshop.
            The twenty seats in my class filled up quickly. Those whose did not get into the workshop were put on a waiting list, in case someone had to drop out. I was on cloud nine! My bucket list was one bucket shorter.
            My class covered three types of stories: Bible stories; traditional stories with Biblical themes; and personal (testimony) stories. I had made my reputation as a skilled storyteller by writing and telling personal stories around the country. My stories were carefully crafted, and I told them straight from my heart. This was why so many had signed up for the workshop. Everybody had a personal story to tell, and I heard incredible stories that weekend; stories of miracles; stories of heartbreak; stories of joy.
            The last person to share a story that weekend was the woman with the raccoon eyes. As she stood up in front of the class, I again wondered why she had applied her makeup in such a gaudy way. I just knew it was going to take away the power of her story. The others students would most likely be so distracted by her eye make-up that they would not be paying the needed amount of attention to the story.
            The woman introduced herself to the class in a shy manner. She also introduced her husband and publicly thanked him for being her driver for the weekend. She had not driven since she had retired several years earlier from her job as an ER nurse. The story she planned to tell had occurred while she was still a nurse.

Her story began:

            “I was just beginning my shift, when three people were rushed into the ER,” she explained. “On the way to visiting their family, there was an accident. A thunderstorm had erupted suddenly and caused the man, who was driving, to run into a tree. Upon reaching the ER the man who had been driving and the woman beside him (his wife) were pronounced dead. Their six month old baby was still living, but the doctors examining him were convinced that the baby would not live long.”

            How horrible! I said to myself.  I leaned forward so that I could see her better. Her facial expressions and graceful movement drew me deeper into her story.

            The woman continued:

            “One of the interns did some quick research and was able to discover the names of the family members. Further research resulted in the names and phone number of the baby’s grandparents. The doctor went into his office to call them. When he came back into the ER he told us that the grandparents were several hours away and could not possibly get to the hospital before the baby died. I asked him what I could do.
            “The doctor looked at me and, with a grim smile, told me that the grandparents had made just one request. They wanted their grandchild to leave this world wrapped in love. They wanted someone to hold the baby until it passed. ‘Nurse, do you think you can do that?’ the doctor asked.
            “I tried to explain to the doctor that if I held that child as he asked, I would be haunted by nightmares for years to come. I could not do as he had asked me because I was scared. Already I was feeling shivers creeping up and down my spine.
            “The doctor said he understood, but would like me to give it some more thought. After all, the grandparents had asked for just that one thing.
            “I did think about it. I felt guilty. I felt helpless. But in the end, I agreed to hold the baby, as its grandparents had requested.
            “I sat down in a rocking chair in a dimly lit room. The baby was brought to me and laid on my lap.  I snuggled it gently in my arms. I ran my right hand through its soft, white hair. I waited,
            “I held the child in my arms for what seemed like hours; but in fact, only a half hour had passed when I felt the baby shiver. I looked down into the child’s face. ITS STEEL BLUE EYES WERE OPEN! THEY WERE LOOKING INTO MY EYES! They seemed so deep; so calm; so holy as the child’s spirit left its body.  I felt like I was looking into the eyes of God.”

            At this point, the story was over. The woman raised her head from the invisible baby she had been tending and looked out into the audience with her steel blue eyes. That raccoon makeup made them look iridescent. They were so deep; so calm; so holy. I felt like I was looking into the eyes of 

Sunday, August 19, 2018


©Linda Goodman Aug/2018

My baby sister Evelyn and me in our middle teens

            I have always loved my baby sister, Evelyn. She is beautiful inside and out.
When I was six years old, Evelyn was three. At that age her thick, straight golden hair hung to the middle of her back. Sometimes our mother would plait Evelyn’s hair, or use rubber bands to make two pony tails, one on either side of her head.
Evelyn’s eyes were the purest color of blue. Their color was deep, but there was a silver glint to them, or so it seemed to me.
Evelyn was a happy, healthy child who played outdoors all day long when the weather allowed it. As a result, her skin took on a rosy hue. Sometimes she would get a bit of sunburn on her cute up-turned nose, and it would peel; but even that did not distract from her beauty.
My best friend Carole also had a baby sister. Her sister’s name was Ann, and she, too, was a beautiful little girl. She was the same age as Evelyn, but her hair was pearl white, not golden. Her eyes were emerald green, and she had a bridge of freckles across her cute, up-turned nose. She spent the summer outdoors wearing nothing but her underpants. I couldn’t believe her mother let her do that.
One day, Carol and I were sitting on the cement steps in front of my apartment building. We were watching Ann play in the sandbox my daddy had made.
“Don’t you think Ann is beautiful?” Carol asked me.
“She is very beautiful,” I assured her. “I think she is the second most beautiful girl in this neighborhood.”
“Second?” Carole was astounded. “Who do you think is more beautiful than Ann?”
“My baby sister Evelyn, of course,” I said.
Carole was starting to get mad. “Take that back!” she yelled.  “You know that Ann is the most beautiful! Look at her! She has pure white hair. Just like an angel”
The Bible doesn’t say what color angel hair is,” I informed her. “Besides, my baby sister has golden hair. Golden is more beautiful than white.”
“Your baby sister’s hair is not gold. Her hair is the color of a graham cracker,” Carol insisted.
“That is not true,” I barked back at her. “Evelyn’s hair is so golden that every six months we take her to the beauty parlor to get it cut. The beauty parlor gives us $100 every time they cut Evelyn’s hair, and then they make wigs out of it. Those wigs sell for $500.”
“So what?” Carol replied. “Your sister’s nose is always peeling. You can’t even enter a beauty contest if your nose is peeling.”
‘That’s not true!” I told her. “I watch the Miss America Contest every year, and over half the contestants have peeling noses. I already talked to the president of the pageant about it, and they have already signed my baby sister to be in the pageant in 1968! My daddy has a contract!”
“You are a liar,” she accused me. “Nobody makes wigs out of your baby sister’s hair, and you don’t know anything about the Miss America pageant except that your baby sister isn’t going to be in it.”
Carole stood up and started to walk away.
I stood up and hollered loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear, “At least my baby sister doesn’t run around the neighborhood in her underpants all summer!”
Carol turned back to face me. She shook a fist at me and seemed ready to rumble, but suddenly a big, goofy smile came across her face. The smile turned into a laugh. She was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. So were neighbors who had been paying attention to our argument.
I turned around to we what was so funny.
There stood my beautiful baby sister Evelyn…. wearing nothing but her underpants. I started to yell at her, but I lost control and started laughing along with everyone else.
Evelyn paid no attention to the laughter. She stepped into the sandbox and started playing with Ann.
“My sister is the smartest girl in the whole neighborhood,” said Ann.
“That’s not true,” Evelyn insisted. “My sister is even smarter than her.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


                                                                                    TED  LEE WRIGHT, 17 FEBRUARY 1999
            “Hey Plowboy, what’s up?”
            “I’m going home tonight, Doug.” said Tommy. ”I’m gettin’ all my gear together & gettin’ ready to check out. Yep, goin’ home tonight. I can hardly wait.”
            “You sure you want to leave the Corp? It can be a great career, Plowboy. Why not re-enlist, I’m going to.”
            Tommy Wilson got the nickname “Plowboy” because he lived on a large farm in Nebraska. Almost everyone in the Marine Corp had a nickname of some kind. Tomorrow was special day for Tommy, after 3 years & 5 days, he was leaving the Marines. He had made it through Vietnam with several wounds but still hadn’t received his Purple Heart.
            “No, don’t think I will. I like the Marines but I have to get back & help mom with the farm. She’s kinda countin’ on me to keep it running. Besides, I like farming even better. Another thing, I can’t wait to get home & see ol’ Tige.”
            “Ol’ Tige? Who’s that, your girl?” laughed Doug.
            “Very funny. Ol’ Tige is my dog. We’ve had him almost 10 years. He’s 70 years old in dog years.”
            “You sure that’s not your girl?” said Doug, picking at Tommy. ”That sure sounds like one of those country names. Hee, Hee, Hee, Hee...”
            Tommy glared at Doug. They had been friends since bootcamp. They had a great relationship & would constantly joke on each other.
            “We got Tige when I was 8 years old. When I was 10, Tige saved me from an enraged bull that gored my dad to death. After it trampled dad, it turned on me. Tige jumped in & got that bulls’ attention, giving me enough time to escape. Tige wound up with a few bumps & bruises but he was OK. After my dads’ funeral, mom depended on me to keep the farm going.  We were doing OK until the Army was going to draft me. I didn’t want to join the Army, so I enlisted in the Marine Corp.”
            “Yeah, you made a good decision there.” said Doug, ”Hey Plowboy, I have to get back in the field. If I don’t see you any more, good luck with your farm. I really mean that, Tommy. And tell ol’ Tige that Doug says hi, OK?” said Doug, extending his hand to Tommy.
            Tommys’ eyes were beginning to tear up. This was one of the few times that Doug had called him by his given name. They had been through bootcamp & infantry training together. Leaving infantry training, they were sent to California for more serious training. From there, it was a short hop to Nam. They were split up but were reunited once they reached the states. Both had made sergeant while in Nam.
            “Doug,” said Tommy, ”I’m afraid a handshake just won’t do it.”
            Both men grabbed each other, hugged & patted each other on the back. When they parted, there were tears in their eyes.
            Doug took out a handkerchief & wiped his eyes. ”I better get my gear & let
you finish packing. No telling what the Gunny would say if he came in here & saw
us blubbering like babies. You take care of yourself & look after your mom, the farm, & ol’ Tige, you hear?”
            “I will, Doug. And good luck to you in your Marine Corp career.”
            “Tell you what, I’ve got your address. How ‘bout around Christmas, if I come & visit you for a few days? I’m sure my folks wouldn’t mind.”
            “What about your girl?” asked Tommy.
            “Oh, I can see her anytime. Besides, we won’t be getting together that often. With the Corp keeping me busy & the farm keeping you busy, when are we going to find time, right? So, Christmas will be our last time getting together.”
            “You’re right, there.” replied Tommy. ”But you’re welcome to visit any time you get the chance.” Tommy winked at Doug & smiled, ”We’ll  keep a light on fer ya.”
            “Yeah, you do that.” replied Doug, smiling. ”You just wait. In about 4 or 5 years, I’ll be an officer. Hey listen, plowboy, you keep your nose clean & take real good care of everyone.”
            “No problem, I will.” replied Tommy, waving to Doug, as he left the barracks. Tommy looked around. The barracks was empty. Morning muster had been made & everyone scattered to their jobs. Tommy was left alone to pack his gear. The First Sergeant & Gunny had come in earlier to wish him good luck. All his barrack mates talked him before they had to leave. Tommy had finished packing & got his signout papers. By 4 PM, he had made his various rounds & got the needed signatures.  The recruiting officer tried to get him to re-enlist, promising him 30 days leave & staff sergeants stripes. Tommy turned him down.
            Here he was at the bus station waiting for the Greyhound. It was 6 PM & the bus wasn’t due until 7. Between waiting & changing buses, it would be between
2 AM & 3 AM before he got home. Once he got off the bus, Tommy had several miles to walk before reaching home. He didn’t mind that at all. He’d walked all his life.
            When Tommy was younger, he & Tige would take long walks in the woods. They would lie on one of the many flat boulders & look at the stars. Out in the country you could see the stars more clearly. In the city, all the lights prevented this. When it got deep into the country, it got dark. The cities were lit 24 hours a day. Tommy preferred the farm, his mom, & especially Tige, his faithful dog.
At each bus stop, if Tommy wasn’t reading a book, he’d be talking about Tige with anyone who’d listen. Finally at 12:30 AM, he caught the final bus. He’d be home in just a few hours. Tommy sat back in his seat & closed his eyes. He hadn’t slept for 2 days. He was excited that had gotten his final orders:
Homeward bound!
As Tommy slept, he dreamed that he was back on the farm. He was surrounded by bears & mountain lions. They were ready to pounce when Tige came bounding in & fought them off. Tommy kneeled & rubbed Tige. He was glad that he had Tige...he was Tommy’s  best friend.
            “Son....Son....” Tommy felt someone gently shaking him. He opened his eyes & saw the bus driver standing beside him. “I think this is your stop, son. I’ve put your baggage on the platform. You be careful on the way home, it’s pitch dark out there. You can hardly see your hand in front of your face.”
            “OK, thanks.” said Tommy wiping his face & combing his hair. At this time
of night, Tommy knew that his mom wouldn’t be here. Actually he never wrote to tell her he was coming home. He wanted to surprise her. Tommy stood for a few minutes, trying to get his bearings. This was the darkest that he’d ever seen it. It was like being in a room with the lights out & no window. Tommy bent down to get his bag & felt something wet touching his hand. In the darkness, he could barely make out what it was Tige! Tommy wondered if his faithful dog had met the bus every day. He reached over to pet Tige & he bounded out of Tommys’s reach. He picked up his bag & looked towards Tige.
            “OK fella, you go ahead & I’ll follow. You can find the way better than me. Now, don’t you get too far ahead of me. It’s kinda dark out here & you sure blend in with it.”
            Tige would stay just within seeing distance of Tommy. At one point, Tommy heard water lapping at the edges below. If it hadn’t been for Tige, Tommy would have fallen into the deep water. He searched his mind & remembered reading that they were suppose to build a dam where the old road was. Tommy was really lucky to have Tige with him. They inched this way & that, when finally they came to a straight road. In the distance, Tommy saw the outline against they sky. He was home! From here he could see the porch light. They always left it on in case of emergencies. Tommy watched as Tige bounded away & waited for him on the porch. He could see Tige laying on the porch, waiting for him.
            Tommy knocked several times before his mom came to the door. After opening the screen door, he gave his mom a great big hug & kiss.
            “Honey, why didn’t you tell me you were coming home? I would’ve stayed up & waited for you. Your girlfriend, Sharon, is really going to be surprised when she comes over tomorrow. We usually talk about you & those letters you send us. Tommy, I’m really glad you’re home. You must’ve got my letter about the dam being built because I see you made it here safely.”
            “No mom, I didn’t get your letter. You really didn’t have to worry about me though, because ol’ Tige met the bus. If it hadn’t been for him, I’d be as good as dead. He stayed right beside me as we wandered along that trail. He really saved my life tonight.”
            Tommy reached down to pet Tige but he wasn’t there. He looked towards the screen door & saw it was still open. Tommy smiled and turned his attention back to his mom. There was a strange look on her face.
            “What is it mom? What’s the matter?” he asked.
            “I hadn’t planned on telling you until tomorrow, but now you have to know. When you left, it broke his heart. Tige died.......3 years ago.”

                        “Tige, you were faithful, faithful to the end,
                          Tige, how I loved you, you were my best friend.”
                                                                               Based on a song sung by Jim Reeves
                                                                               Story Written by Ted Lee Wright

Thursday, June 28, 2018

First Kiss

©Linda Goodman 6/28/18

                I was an eight-year-old second grader when I saw the moving truck pull up to our apartment building. The apartment below ours was empty, so we could stomp on our floors without worrying about the noise we made. We were going to miss that.

                I watched as the moving men brought all the furniture into the apartment. Once the movers had finished unloading, the family that would be occupying the apartment arrived. The father was skinny and tall and wore a tee shirt that said FOLLOW ME TO JESUS on the back. The mother was plump and happy. Her thick eyeglasses looked like they had been made by the Coca Cola Bottling Company. Between the parents were three boys. The youngest one looked to be about my age. Just one look at that boy made my heart pound. I had never been interested in boys before, but that was about to change. He looked at me through bright his hazel eyes and I knew right away that I was a goner.

                The next afternoon, Brother Lee and Brother Allen invited those boys to go to the baseball field with them and play some catch.  All three of them went. When they got back home in the late afternoon, they looked tired and happy at the same time.

                That evening, I asked Brother Allen what the boys’ names were. He said, “Tommy, Danny, and Mikey.”

                Trying not to appear too inquisitive, I asked, “Which one is the youngest?”

                “That would be Mikey, and he’s too little to play baseball,” Brother Allen complained. Suddenly his eyebrows shot up and he said, “Wait a minute. Are you in love with Mikey?”

                “I ain’t in love with nobody but Jesus,” I insisted. But that was a lie.

                The next morning as I was walking to school, I saw Mikey, walking all by himself. I ran to catch up with him.

                “Hi, Mikey. I’m Linda,” I told him breathlessly. “Why are you walking by yourself when you’ve got two brothers?”

                “They think I’m too little to walk with them. I can’t keep up,” he explained, then asked, “How do you know my name?”

                “Brother Allen told me. My name’s Linda.”

                I must have been bolder than I remember, because, without hesitation I blurted out, “I want you for my boyfriend. “

                He looked at me like I was crazy. “My mama says I can’t be a boyfriend until I’m at least 14 years old. I’m only eight.”

                “What she don’t know won’t hurt her,” I protested.

                “It don’t work that way with my mama. She knows everything,” he replied. Then he took off running and howling like he was being chased by a banshee.

                I was not about to let him get away with that, so I started running after him, yelling, “Mikey, I am going to catch you and kiss you!”

                He just ran faster, and I could not catch up with him.

                The following morning, I watched out the kitchen window until I saw him walk out of our building. Immediately I ran down the stairs and out the door chasing after him. Once again, I yelled,  “Mikey, I’m going to catch you and kiss you!” Once again, he started running and left me behind in a cloud of dust.

                They say that the third is the charm, but that was not true in my case. I chased that boy to school for two weeks, and never even got close to kissing him.

                Once cool, brisk Monday morning, however, I woke up with a runny nose, a sore throat, and watery eyes. I also had a hoarse cough.  Mama said I should stay home.

                I was tempted, but I could not even imagine a day without Mikey. “It’s just a cold,” I said. “I’ll be fine,”

                I began my day as usual, finding Mikey and running after him, arms opened wide so I could grab him when I got close enough to kiss. As always, he ran faster than me.

                Suddenly, I stopped. I remembered that colds are contagious, and I could not bear the thought of cute little Mikey, my almost boyfriend, getting sick because of me.  I started walking to school at my regular pace. That kiss would just have to wait.

                Imagine my shock when I realized that Mikey had stopped running. He wasn’t even walking. He was standing still, waiting for me.

                “You give up too soon,” he told me.

                Before I realized what was happening, he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a big, sloppy kiss on my lips; but it was a long kiss, and I could not breathe through my stuffed up nose.  I struggled to get away.

                When the kiss finally ended, he said, “Wow! I must have really turned you on. You couldn’t even catch your breath.”

                The next morning Mikey had a cold and stayed home from school. I guess girls are tougher than boys.

                As for me, I did not chase him anymore. Kissing was not what it was cracked up to be.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

On Graduation

In honor of Morgan Leigh Deal’s Graduation from the University of South Carolina
May 11, 2018
©Linda Goodman, June 1970

They said, “There’s a cold, cruel world outside.
Please listen to us and try to abide by our rules. Stay Inside.”          

So we did.
And some met failure, and some knew success,
And some didn’t bother; they couldn’t care less.

And now the time’s come. We’ll be sheltered no more.
We’ll run to be free.                                                                                  
We’ll unbar all the doors.
And we’ll take our ideals,
And we’ll take our false gods
And try to work miracles where others have trod.

And we’ll say we want peace, yet we’ll follow the road
Where God is the plotter and Man is the mold.

And when we’ve worked hard and achieved to our best,  
And our souls have grown weary and ready for rest,    
Then we’ll remember these fast flying years   
With laughter and wonder and warmth and tears.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Evvie Miser

This story was written to honor Earth Day (April 20)
Copyright Linda Goodman 1994

Evvie Miser was the meanest person in the town of Cleanville. Some people even said she was the meanest woman in the world. She did not care about her neighbors.  She did not care about animals.  And she for sure did not care about the environment!

But Evvie Miser was also the wealthiest person in the town of Cleanville.  She owned the big paper mill that was responsible for all the pollution in town.  Its smokestacks belched out black smoke that filled the air, and Evvie Miser thought nothing of dumping her mill waste in the nearby river.

Once, a town councilman tried to get a law passed that would require Evvie Miser to buy new, environmentally friendly equipment for her mill.  But he forgot that half of the town worked for Evvie.  She called all her employees together and told them that if that law passed, she would close the mill.  She had no intention of spending her hard earned money on new equipment when the equipment she already had worked perfectly fine.

Naturally, all the people who worked for Evvie Miser were afraid to vote for the law.  They did not want to lose their jobs.   And so they voted against it, and the law did not pass.  That town councilman was voted out of office at the next election, and the air in Cleanville got more and more polluted, until you could not find a man, woman, or child who did not wheeze and cough.

One morning, Evvie Miser got to work nice and early.  She walked right past her secretary, Miss Hoper, without saying a word, as usual, when she noticed something in the office had changed!  Miss Hoper had two wastebaskets sitting beside her desk!

“What is the meaning of this?” Evvie Miser demanded.  “Did I authorize the purchase of an extra wastebasket?”

“No, Mrs. Miser, you didn’t.” Miss Hoper replied softly.  “But it cost only three dollars, and I thought it was time we started recycling here at Miser Paper Mill.”

“Well think again!”  Evvie Miser waved her hands over her head and stamped her foot in anger.  “You either return that wastebasket or I will deduct it from your paycheck, and you will be relieved of your duties here!  Recycling takes extra time, and I don’t pay my employees to waste time.”

“Yes, Mrs. Miser,” Miss Hoper whispered as she gently wiped tears from her eyes.  “You’re the boss.”

“And don’t you forget it!” Evvie Miser retorted.

That afternoon, as Evvie was driving home in her gas guzzling SUV. She stopped at the Burger Doodle for dinner.  She threw a fit when the girl behind the counter gave her a hamburger and French fries wrapped in paper.  And she got even madder when her coffee was served in a paper cup. 

“What is the meaning of this?” Evvie demanded.  “That hot food and drink will burn my hands through that paper!  What happened to the Styrofoam that you usually serve your food in?  That’s the only reason I eat here!”

The girl behind the counter had never seen Evvie Miser so mad!  “Paper is better for the environment, Mrs. Miser.  Styrofoam is not biodegradable.  We have decided to run a green business here at Burger Doodle. We use only recycled paper now.”

“Biodegradable, schmiodegradable!  If I can’t have my food served in Styrofoam, take it back!  I refuse to get third degree burns just so you can feel good about the environment!”  Evvie Miser complained.

The girl behind the counter got some left over Styrofoam containers and cups from the back of the kitchen, and she took Evvie Miser’s food out of the paper wrappers and put it in a Styrofoam box.  Then she poured Evvie Miser’s coffee into a Styrofoam cup.  “Please come back, Mrs. Miser,” She pleaded.  “We want your business here at Burger Doodle.”

“That’s more like it!” said Evvie.  Then she ate her food and drove home.

When she got home, it was dark.  So Evvie Miser went to bed.

At midnight, she was awakened by a strange noise.  It sounded like tin cans banging together!  She turned on her light and there beside her bed stood her dead husband’s ghost!  He was covered with garbage! He smelled rotten, and he was dragging a long line of tin cans behind him.

“Wharton,” she smiled timidly, “what are you doing here?  You’re dead! And why are you covered with garbage?”

“I am wearing the pollution I caused in life.  That is my fate,” Wharton wailed.  “It will be your fate, too, Evvie Miser, if you don’t change your ways.”

“I have no intention of changing my ways!” Evvie Miser protested.  “My ways are perfectly fine!”

Her late husband continued speaking as though he had not even heard her.  “At the stroke one, you will have a visitor.  Then another will come at two and another at three.  Pay heed, Evvie Miser!  Pay heed!” And then he disappeared.

Evvie rubbed her eyes in disbelief.  “I must have gotten a bad hamburger,” she mumbled.  “This is just a bad dream.”  Then she went back to sleep.

She was awakened again when the clock struck one.  She could feel the presence of someone else in the room.  “Who’s there?” she demanded.

Then she heard a tinkling laughter coming from a glowing light in the corner of the room. Evvie looked closer and saw an attractive woman dressed in a stylish housedress, just like the one her mother had worn when Evvie was a little girl.

‘Momma, is that you?” asked Evvie.

“No,” the woman replied.  “I am the spirit of the environment past.  Come with me.”

Before Evvie could object, she found herself standing beside the woman in a beautiful little park.  It was the park Evvie had played in when she was a little girl.  How she had loved spending time in that park!  She remembered watching the fish swim in the clear water of the pond, smelling the many different flowers that bloomed there, and lying on her back in the soft green grass, staring up at the clouds.

“This park is giving you happy memories, Evvie Miser.  I can see them in your eyes,” said the spirit.  “Don’t you think that other children deserve to have a nice, clean place to play, too?”

“What do I care!” snapped Evvie. “I don’t even have children, and I don’t have time to waste strolling in a park.  What has this got to do with me?”

Just then Evvie awakened again in her bed.  “What!  Was I dreaming again?  I am going to sue Burger Doodle!”

But in that moment, the clock struck two, and another woman stood in her room. She had her hair back in a bun and wore black rimmed eyeglasses. She was dressed in a black business suit and wore sensible black shoes.

“I am the ghost of the environment present,” the woman announced.  “Come with me!”

Once again Evvie Miser found herself in the park.  But it looked different this time.  The water was so cloudy she couldn’t even see the fish!  And there were no flowers at all and very little grass.

“What happened to this place?” Evvie Miser asked.

“Pollution!” cried the spirit.  “The smog produced by your mill has dirtied the water and killed the flowers and grass. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, Evvie Miser?”

“Certainly not!”  Evvie Miser declared.  “I have to make a living, don’t I?”

“But at what cost?” the spirit implored.  “In just a few years this park won’t be fit for man or beast to frolic in!”

“What do I care?” laughed Evvie Miser.  “I’m an old woman.  I’ll be dead by then!”

Suddenly Evvie found herself again in her room.  The clock was striking three, and a large, ominous figure in a black robe was standing beside her.  As mean as Evvie was, she was frightened now.

“Who…who are you?” she stammered.

The spirit said nothing, and before Evvie knew what was happening, she was back in the park again, standing on top of a trash pile.

“Get me out of this garbage!  I demand that you get me out now!” she screamed.

The spirit said nothing, but pointed to two figures, a grown-up and a child, who were wearing what looked like space suits.  The grown up was saying, “Son, I remember when these anti-pollution suites weren’t necessary.  I remember when I could breathe the clean, fresh air.  And just look at the park!  There’s too much trash for children to play in it.”

“How did the park get to be so awful, Daddy?” asked the little boy.

“It was Evvie Miser that caused all this,” replied the man.  “She never cared a lick about the environment.  Since she was too powerful for anyone to fight, everyone else just stopped caring, too.  There was a big celebration when she died.  She was buried right there in the park, underneath all that trash that she was responsible for.  Good riddance, I say!”

“What’s that?” cried Evvie Miser. “People celebrated when I died?  I was buried under this trash! That can’t be!”

Slowly the third spirit pointed to a big pine box sticking out of some trash in the corner of the park.  Evvie ran to the box and dug through the trash with her hands.  There on the top of the box was a metal plate that said, “Her lies Evvie Miser.  May she never find peace!”

“No, spirit!”  screamed Evvie.  “This can’t be!  I don’t want to be buried in a trash pile!  Tell me what I can do to change this?”

Suddenly Evvie was back in her room.  She squinted at the sun shining through her window.  It was morning!

Evvie Miser looked around the room.  The spirits were gone.  Had they all been dreams?  Then Evvie looked at her fingernails.  There was garbage underneath them!”

When Evvie Miser got to work that morning, she went straight to Miss Hoper. 

“Miss Hoper,” she said, smiling meekly, “I’ve changed my mind about that extra basket. You were right.  We should be recycling here at Miser Paper Mill.  Get the basket back, and get everyone else an extra basket, too.  And I am going to give you a big bonus for thinking of it.”

Miss Hoper did not know what to think.  She had never seen Evvie Miser smile before.

“And get that town councilman on the phone, “Evvie continued. “You know, the once who lost the last election?  I want to hire him to get modern equipment in this mill, equipment that won’t harm the environment.”

“Yes M’am!” beamed Miss Hoper as she picked up the phone.

That evening, when Evvie Miser stopped at the Burger Doodle on her way home, the girl behind the counter served her food in Styrofoam.

“I’m sorry about last evening,” Evvie apologized.  “Please put my food in paper.  You were right to go green her at Burger Doodle.”

After eating her meal, Evvie Miser went to the car dealer and traded her gas guzzling SUV in for a small, economical hybrid. 

She never took the environment for granted again. And if you should take a trip to Cleanville today and mention the name Evvie Miser, the folks will sing her praises. After all, they say, she cared more about the environment than anyone who has ever lived in Cleanville.