Archive for the ‘Flash Fiction’ Category

Lone Responder

Gabe had to get out of the house. Tired of all the depressing news on Covid-19 he grabbed up his car keys and his mask and headed out the door. For where exactly, he wasn’t sure.

Maybe, a drive to the lake, park somewhere, walk around and watch the sunset. When have I last done that?

Working from home, long hours spent on his laptop, crunching the numbers for a company needing resuscitation from the economical meltdown had him seeing multiple dollar signs in his dreams at night. Would there ever be an end to this nightmare?

He noticed others out walking, some with their dogs, others obviously wanting exercise and fresh air, too.

The campgrounds were looking more like a tent city springing up with all the homeless; evicted or thrust out of their place or shelter.

As he slowed and came around a curve, a commotion ahead caught his eye and that of others keeping their distance, gawking at a man sprawled on the ground clinging to his possessions as two men ran from the scene, clutching things ripped from the hands of the injured man.

Can’t park here. Just isn’t safe. Going on over to the other side of the lake away from all this.

When parked, Gabe got out of his car, locked it and headed for one of the safer trails up ahead. But something about the helpless man sprawled out on the ground nagged at him.

God, I know you said to love our neighbors, do good deeds. But, this? What if I…? What if he…? What can I do?

Returning to his car he put on his mask and walked down the street to where the man lay.

When he got to the man, he could see he had been beaten with gashes, cuts on his face, and looked disheveled in dirtied, torn clothes. His face was bruised and bleeding, but his eyes pleading, imploring.

“Please! Help me. They took everything I had. I…tried to resist…but, they…were stronger, and I could not…”

“It’s OK. I’m going to get you some help. What’s your name?”

“Theo. Theodore.”

“OK. First, I need to go get my car, parked over there! on the next street. Then, I will drive you to the hospital and stay with you, so you get the help needed.”

Gabe ran back to the car, drove up in front of the man, still prone, very weak, barely conscious, then picked him up and laid him carefully in his back seat and rushed him to the hospital.

Gabe ran into emergency with his mask on, disregarding their questions or protocol, but instead led them out to his car to the injured man, told them where he’d found him, what happened, then stayed with him while he got the treatment and care needed until he was well. He paid his hospital bill, then found him a place to live.

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Joyce E. Mannhalter © April 2020

The above story is based on the parable Jesus told of the ‘Good Samaritan’ found in Luke 10:30-35, in the New Testament Bible. Jesus spoke to his disciples and those listening what it meant to, “inherit the kingdom of God, and to love your neighbor as yourself”. When a self-righteous man asked, “And, who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’. At times we might be asked to step up and take responsibility of caring for the needs of one we would not otherwise want to do. It is then when we might need to be a, “Lone Responder”, or ‘Good Samaritan’ to help that “neighbor” and love them as we love ourselves.

JEM

 

Reseated

Cliff handed the driver a generous tip, thanked him and walked into the conference hall. Signs and banners announced the launch and grand opening of the new rehab center. Without the sizeable donations and contributions from companies like his he knew they’d not even exist. Equipped with the best in housing, treatment and care they spared nothing to give the doctors, medical personnel and case workers all they needed to facilitate what the residents and patients needed. Except for the director, administrator, and well-placed case workers and professionals it was largely staffed with unpaid volunteers who themselves were recovering alcoholics and former drug addicts, and the like. They’d all been invited to the gala event. The congressman who pushed and promoted the center’s cause and creation into existence promised tax credits and incentives to the big donors funding it. He was running for president in the next election and Cliff, one of his constituents was inclined to get on board with the project. If it succeeded it was a win for them all.

They opened with speeches, introductions and honorable mentions of people significant to its inception. A formal dinner would follow. Cliff moved towards the front of the head table shaking hands, smiling and talking with ones near the director and administrator hoping to claim a seat next to the congressman as he and the director greeted guests and dignitaries.

He stood behind a seat near theirs ready to sit down when the event planner came up to him and said, “Sir, we have these seats next to the director, administrator and congressman reserved for the chaplain, case workers and mentors that work directly with them, but if you will follow me down here to the end of this row we will seat you with another group.”

He glared back at her, then said, “Young lady, do you know who I am? I’m the CEO of Scarsdale Industries and if not for our financial support and funding this event would not even be happening It is because of our involvement that…” he went on a bit too loudly. Heads turned their direction hearing the exchange of words which also caught the attention of a news photographer standing to the side, videotaping it all.

“Yes, sir. Thank you. I’m aware of who you are, but at the request of the director we have placed his staff next to them because of their selfless commitment and time to the program. I’m sure you understand my position. So, if you will please follow me, I will reseat you down on this end with the other contributors and donors.”

Cliff’s face turned red, his eyes, cold as ice glaring back as if in defiance, but without another word just nodded and followed her to the end of the long formal dining table set for the fifty some guests invited.

His dignity suffered a a direct blow from the incident. He came to the gala proud, arrogant and boastful for what he’d given to them, trying to claim some glory for himself with his position in life, but instead walked away humbled, learning a lesson in humility. He found that there is no glory for one who lives only to exalt and lift up himself so others might see his good works.

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The above story is fiction. It is my version, inspired by and based on the parable Jesus told in Luke 14:7-11, ‘the banquet feast.’ I have recently been studying the parables and stories in both the new and old testaments, and find them not only full of history, facts and truth, and a message for all, but also they are a great inspiration for stories that can speak to hearts today. We all have times when we’re needing to learn what it is like to have our stool or pedestal knocked out from under our feet. Sometimes just declaring our achievements openly before others can prove fatal to achieving what we really need demonstrated; integrity, honesty and consideration for those who maybe struggle with their own personal worth, confidence and self-esteem.  I have been reminded of that plenty of times when the still small voice of the Holy Spirit quickens my heart and I need forgiveness for my selfish attitude or indifference. 

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11 NIV

Joyce E. Mannhalter © July 2019

The Wayward Son

“Dad, I’m taking what’s mine and leaving.”

“Why? I hoped you would want to work with your brother and I in the business. When I retire the business will be yours, and your brother’s. ”

“No. I want to see the world, travel.” He turned away avoiding the crestfallen look on his father’s face.

A few days later Mick closed out his accounts, cashed in his trust fund, took his share of the estate and left.

For months following he traveled the world, living like a man with no responsibilities or obligations. No concerns or thoughts to who or what he left behind and none for those he met along the way. He dined and partied with men and women who showed him a good time, drove fast cars, stayed at five-star hotels and resorts eating and drinking at expensive restaurants while spending, and charging all without a care. Life was good, easy. He felt free. But the money ran out, credit cards expired, loans defaulted, and he was broke, unable to pay his debts.

Now desperate and hungry he hauled grain and feed to the stock pens of a farmer eating what he could glean. When he asked for food, they replied. “Go away, can you not see all the hungry who still have no food to eat. There isn’t enough for our own.” So, he searched through alleys for scraps in waste bins behind the bars he once hung out in.

I will go home and apologize to my father and ask if he will hire me on as one of his construction workers. They at least eat well and are paid for their wages earned. I have earned nothing but the shame and disrespect of my family. Will even God forgive me for all I have done?

While walking up the long-gated drive to his father’s home he was met with the warm loving arms of his father, never asking where he’d gone or what he’d done. Only how happy he was to see him and know he had ‘come home.’ His father asked his servants to prepare a very special, festive dinner and celebration with his best wine for his youngest son had returned home.

But when Stan Jr. the older son saw all the commotion and celebration going on, he came to his father and asked what he was doing and why.

“Did I not work for you all these years faithfully running things at the business just like you taught me? And yet, now you spoil him with an outlandish display of gifts and party. Do I not deserve the same or better for all I have done?”

“Stan Sr. replied, “Son, all you need do is ask and it is yours to enjoy. All I have is yours already. But your brother was lost to us all those years and now has returned. It is time to celebrate, not be bitter. Let’s party.”

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Joyce E. Mannhalter © 2019

The above story is fiction, but the truth and parable are scriptural. The story of the prodigal son is found in Luke 15: 11-32 of the New Testament Bible. It is one of many parables or stories Jesus shared with his disciples to illustrate a truth or lesson. This parable story is one of my favorites as it depicts the love our Father God has for us who come to him lost, with a repentant heart seeking forgiveness and wishing for a new beginning, a new life in Him. receiving the gift of salvation and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in directing our steps while on our journey of faith. I love how this father reached out to his lost son in love with no condemnation or questions as to where he’d been or how he conducted his life before his return. As Father’s Day is approaching on Sunday, June 16th I thought this parable story a perfect one to share and hope you have enjoyed reading my own fictional modern version of the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’. I want to wish all fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day. Best wishes to you and yours on this special day.

JEM

Believe for the Impossible

CHRISTMAS

A man stood outside the busy store, shivering, dressed in a Santa suit, ringing his Christmas bell. A volunteer to the nonprofit, he smiled and greeted everyone he met. A few stopped to drop some change into his kettle, then hurried into the store. It was beginning to snow and the temperature had dropped another ten degrees.

Minutes later a mini-van pulled up in front and let people out, all senior residents from the “Westbrook. Senior Center, Home of the Ageless.”

“Ageless? Now that’s a new concept.” He said to himself. A spry little lady walked up to the kettle and dropped her coins in.

“Thank you, mam.”

“You’re welcome. You look cold. Have you been out here long?”

“Uh, several hours now. You know, trying to help out the charity, and all.”

“Yes. Of course. And, they are grateful. The Lord bless you, young man.” She patted him on the shoulder and walked into the store.

“Yes, mam. Thank you.”

She returned later with a large winter coat and a cup of hot cider. She placed the coat about his shoulders and handed him the cider. “I thought you could use this. The coat is yours also.”

“Oh, No, mam, I can’t take the coat. You needn’t do that. I’m fine, really.”

“Nonsense. Your feet ache, fingers stiff from the cold, you were laid off your factory job, divorced, .and looking for work.”

What…in the world? He stared at her as if she read his mind, knew him intimately, and his life history. “How could you know that…what I did? Who are you?” he asked, incredulously.

She smiled. “It’s not important. Well, it’s time I rejoin my friends. Good night.”

She boarded the waiting van with the same people she got off with and it drove away. He stood staring, trying to figure if he had ever met her.

When he turned in his kettle that night, he waited until it was emptied, the money counted, recorded, then signed out.

“Thanks, John. You know that job you applied for in the warehouse? It’s still open if you want to come in tomorrow for an interview. Still interested?” asked the officer behind the desk.

“Sure. Yes, sir. Thank you.”

John went home to a quiet house with so many regrets, the divorce, his drinking problem, losing his old job because of it. He couldn’t change his past, but he was working at changing his future.

He took off the coat wondering about the stranger who’d given it to him. She’s got my number alright. Maybe a former employee from the company that knows too much. Nice coat, though.

He found an envelope in the pocket with a check made out to him signed by an anonymous benefactor for $50,000. There must be some mistake. Who would leave a check…?
Some severance check or back payment from my layoff? An attached note read, “If you believe in things you thought impossible miracles tend to happen. Merry Christmas, John.”

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Joyce E. Johnson © 2017

Hanging by a thread

I photographed the (second and present) jumping rope here at the jump site just off the walking trail at the Big Thompson River, Loveland, Co. The kids still use the rope and jumping site and have for years. To my knowledge there has not been a serious accident or one reported with the kids using the rope and jump site, but the dangers from the river during flood stage is real and has resulted in deaths, from the devastating flood of 2013.

 

“It’s just what kids do,” grownups said when kids met up at the river during the hot summer months, jumping into the water from the old rope that hung between two trees.

But, once again, the river rose higher, and the current ran faster through the Big Thompson from the rain with little letup. It could be a clear flowing stream at its lowest point, a murky green at its deepest, or a raging menace at its worst. Today, it was the latter. Yet, they paid little attention to the warning signs posted, ‘High water. Dangerous current. Potential for flash flooding.’

“Will this work? I found it in the garage.” Shawn asked, holding up a spool of plied rope.

“It isn’t going to be as good as the old one, but it might.” Nathan said.

“I bet that old rope was at least an inch thick. I wonder what happened to it.” Danny said.

“Don’t know. Maybe someone took it down. Or maybe it broke off and washed away in the flood.” Nathan replied.

The wooden ladder rungs were still there, nailed to the side of one tree allowing the kids to climb up and jump into the water from the top. Nathan climbed up one side, tied a length of rope around the tree and threw the other end over to Shawn, waiting on the other tree. He caught the rope, pulled it taut, tied that end, and each boy secured their side with double knots. Danny stood below with a longer section of rope and threw the loose end over. They tied it off, then made knots for hand holds.

“Done. Let’s try it out.” Danny said.

They took turns launching themselves out over the water. Long enough to jump to either side they grabbed the rope, swung out and landed on the opposite bank. Then, they dove off the trees lunging at the one swinging from the rope. They played the game of, ‘Catch me if you can,’ when Danny caught hold, hanging onto Shawn, but neither saw the loosened knots tied at the trees, or noticed the fraying threads on the rope, straining under their weight.

“Dudes. Stop! Get off! The rope…it’s…loose!” Nathan yelled, but they did not hear.

A tree branch cracked. The frayed rope snapped, and Shawn and Danny tumbled into the water. Their sounds and yells were not heard above the roar of the river as they were swept downstream.

It had been a month since the accident. Nathan stared down at the still water. He kept seeing Shawn and Danny as they fought against the current that threatened to swallow them up.

A park ranger walked over. “Your friends almost died that day, Nathan. If they hadn’t found that broken tree limb to latch onto they might not have made it out safely.”

Nathan nodded. “I know.”

“Using good common sense to make right choices is a better way to learn a lesson, don’t you think?”

“Yes, sir.”

_______________

Joyce E. Johnson (2017)

Footnotes:  The above story is a work of fiction, but the following scripture verses seemed appropriate to share in emphasizing the truth or lesson illustrated in the story above. Proverbs 8:34-36 on wisdom- “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and draws forth and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who misses me or sins against me wrongs and injures himself, all who hate me love and court death.”

His Dad’s Tool Chest

“Why did we have to come? He didn’t care about us when he was alive. Why should I care now?”

“Because, he was your father. Show some respect. He deserves that much.”

“Why? He left us! He didn’t want us. I want to go home.”

“Ben, we can’t. These people want to meet us. They were…are friends of his.”

“Please, mom. Can we just leave after the service?” He swiped a sleeve to his moist eyes.

“I know this is hard for you. It is for me, too. But, we have to face what is, and…go on, like we’ve been doing all these years. It will be alright.” She gave him a tight squeeze. “I promise.”

They were stopped by a man as they headed back to the car after the graveside service.

“Excuse me. Are you Ben? And, you are Shauna, I presume?” He smiled and shook their hands. “My name is Edward Jennings. I was a friend of your father’s. I handled some of his legal matters for him, and he left some things he wanted you to have. Here’s my card. If you will give me a call before you leave town we’ll set up an appointment to go over his will, and discuss some things with you both. We can’t do that here. Would that be alright?”

Shauna looked at Ben, then nodded. “Sure. That will be fine. Thank you.”

The next day they were shown into an office at, ‘Jennings, Croft and Perry’, Attorneys at Law.

Ed greeted them, directed them to chairs, then brought out a large dark wooden chest. “Ben, your father wanted you to have this. It opens up with this key.”

Ben took the key handed him and turned the lock. The chest had the initials, B.A.C. Sr. carved into the front. The lid swung back easily on its hinges revealing the contents inside.

Ben went through the chest one item at a time, things he’d never seen before, tools of some kind, turning them over in his hands.

“Those are carving tools, Ben. He took up the craft after starting in construction and made this chest. He was quite good at it, actually.”

There were some pictures, a few of Ben when he was a baby, with his mother, then as a toddler, but none of Ben past the age of four. He read the notes written on the back. There were envelopes with some money and old coins, another set of keys, and a bible with scriptures written on the inside pages. He opened it up and found a quote, “Whatever worth building in life is only as good as its foundation.”

“What does this key go to?” Ben asked.

“It belongs to a safe deposit box in you and your mother’s name. I have another set here I will be giving you and your mother also. It is a set of house keys, to his house, also left in your names.” Ed replied, smiling at them both.

Ben looked over at his mom, noting the look of surprise and shock on her face.

He then opened a sealed envelope marked, “Private; to Benjamin Alexander Crowley Jr.,” and withdrew a single letter which he read silently to himself.

    “Ben, I have no adequate words to tell you how sorry I am for leaving you and your mother. I wanted only to hold you, close to my heart, but was afraid, too ashamed to show myself after being gone all those years. When you were very small I had a gambling debt and owed some people a lot of money. I did a lot of awful things back then, drank too much, wasted time and money on all the wrong things. The people I hung around with were wild, not the kind of friends anyone should have. So, to spare you both I just took off. I thought if I could get a decent job, clean up my act, pay off my debts, and get my head on straight, I would come home. But, I was afraid. Afraid I would not be welcomed. I regret all the things I did, but my biggest regret was leaving you both to struggle alone through the years, without me. Please forgive me. It is all I ask. What I want you to know above all else is that I love you and your mother. I always have. Treasure every moment you have with her and grow up to be the kind of man I wasn’t, so you won’t live with regrets. I’ve paid off my debts and owe no one anything anymore, except to you and your mother what I stole; the time and years wasted when I wasn’t there.”

Ben looked up at Ed and asked, “What did my father do, on his job?”

“He worked for a company that built tall buildings, skyscrapers.”

“How did he die?”

“They were working on a construction site project when the scaffolding gave way, and collapsed. He was crushed underneath.”

A year later, on Father’s Day Ben and his mother stood at the grave site of Benjamin Alexander Crowley, Sr., each bringing their gifts; a bouquet of fresh flowers from the garden at their house, the one now belonging to them, and a small wooden cross Ben hand carved with his father’s tools.

Ben had no special words to say to fit the occasion. He had no memories of Father’s Day times spent with his dad. All he had was the “now moment” his mother called them.

“Thanks Dad.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there,

Joyce E. Johnson (2017)

Stricken

They stood with others solemnly by

saluting the fallen and the brave

risking life and limb to bring about a promised peace.

Listening to the strains of, “Amazing Grace,”

flag draped coffins are carried under a guarded sky

across cemetery lawns to their final resting place.

Eulogies and names; so many to honor, too short a time,

families of victims pray their loved one’s story lives to remain

a memory, not forgotten, and why they gather today

because of terror unleashed like the rampant spread of disease.

Eloquent words gracing memorial walls and stones

don’t bring closure nor adequately explain

to those suffering loss with unfathomable pain

why a tragedy of this kind strikes with evil intent,

leaving more unanswered questions that remain.

How can there be those who choose

to live with such prejudice, and hate

towards others whose lives they count not

worthy of grace, mercy and love,

but think it better they not live at all.

In a world broken, where strife and anger exists,

rising animosity and distrust is given to believe

there is no hope, and people succumb

to the chaos and confusion that rises up like an ugly fist.

_____________

Joyce E. Johnson 2017

Footnotes; The story above is fictional, but the situation is real every day, here and elsewhere. There will always be hate and evil that rears its ugly head, even as we think things will, or might improve. The increased anti-Semitism and hatred towards groups in our country and others continues, even while our president works to set in place measures to stop that. Two years ago I posted fictional stories under the title, “Acid Rain” about two brothers, both having the same mother but different fathers. One brother took the path of a terrorist, and the other an officer with the Israeli Defense Forces. You can find their stories here under the Acid Rain fiction heading in the menu on my site. The prequel to this story series began with Brothers Divided. Their stories are fictional, but the one of Isaac and Ishmael are not which I used as inspiration for the stories of Sam, and Gamal. The recent events of increased vandalism and terror threats to the Jewish Community centers in our country and increased anti-Semitism throughout the world prompted the poetic fictional story above.

Posted March 13, 2017 by Joyce in Fiction, Flash Fiction, My Writings, Poems, poetry

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A Shelter in the Time of Storm

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An old church I photographed while vacationing one year in the upper northeast (New England and Nova Scotia). I love photographing old white churches.

 

 

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The antique ‘Deacon’s bench’ I bought years ago from an antiques dealer. I don’t know its history, but the pew and intricate carving in the deep walnut wood is much like those used in old churches, and my inspiration for the fictional story below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It started with quiet, cloudy skies, the air so still not a bird could be seen in flight.

“A storm is coming.” Janetta said.

The grocer glanced out the window. “It will probably be just one of those late summer showers, then move out.”

“Maybe…Well, I guess that’ll be it. I’ll see you next week, Hank.”

“Sure thing. And thanks for the eggs. There’s none better than farm fresh, anywhere.”

“Yes. My hens have had a good year.” She smiled as she walked out the door.

The gravel kicked up, spitting rocks to the sides of the road. She watched the clouds turn an ominous gray. The ten miles home seemed to take longer, and the miles much further when she was in a hurry.

Sirens wailed as she spotted a black cloud, with its twisting, menacing tail swirling across the sky, dip low, then pull away only to come around again, this time from the direction she was headed. Her house. God, please get me home in time. But, the funnel cloud came right for her.

She turned her wheel sharp cutting through a field towards the old church, catching weeds and dried brush under the car, and slammed to a stop in front of the door. A window leading down to the basement was her only escape and means of protection. She broke it and climbed through. She and Bill were married in this church, faithfully attending until its membership dwindled, and people moved on. Now, it was little more than a hollow shell of memories, with relics from the past, left behind. With the swiftness of a rabbit she scurried under a pew.

Sounds like a freight train derailed from its tracks, cars crashing into each other was deafening. The twister struck like a cracking whip splitting open the church, exposing all to the sky as she watched in horror, crouched under the pew. It spun around, building in strength, then tore across the ground destroying everything in its path. Creaking beams snapped and toppled to the earth’s floor. Doors and windows blew out, shattered glass and objects were caught up in a whirlwind of debris, soil and dust, sucked into the cloud.

The storm was gone as quick as it’d come. When she crawled out from under the pew the church was reduced to a pile of rubble. But, the pew sat upright, untouched. An old hymnal hanging from the book rack behind lay opened to a hymn she remembered once singing; ‘Jesus is the rock in a weary land…a shelter in the time of storm.’

Both her and her husband’s lives were spared that day, when others were not. Bill found refuge in an underground culvert, their prayers sustaining them, giving them hope. They lost their home and their hens to the tornado, but not their spirit. They would rebuild, again.

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

The Blessing of the Old Sewing Machine

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An antique sewing machine from the 1800s. It is one of my collected antique pieces acquired over the years. The photo above was my inspiration for the fictional story below.  I don’t use this machine for personal use, but I do sew, on my own Kenmore machine I have had for about fifty years.

The Blessing of the Old Sewing Machine

Bent over at the shoulders, her bones small and brittle she leaned in, head bowed to see clearly her stitches as the old sewing machine made a repetitive pattern on the fabric pieces, all of them cut from dresses she’d made her granddaughter when worn as a little girl. The machine made clicking sounds as it faithfully worked across each row, fed under the presser foot by thin, arthritic fingers. Her foot tapped with steady rhythm the large iron foot pedal below the machine. Her family tried to bless her with a new Singer sewing machine one Christmas, but she would not hear of it. Her old ‘Nelly’ had been with her for so long she refused to give her up, a gift from her long departed husband. Nelly was an old trusted friend, that would remain with her until its end, or hers.

Her eyes were failing her as she attempted to finish the quilt in time for her granddaughter’s dowry shower. Wire rimmed glasses rested on the indented straight nose. They helped little in gaining her vision acuity as she squinted. She looked for any puckered or uneven stitches. Ah, Nelly, you miss a few, too. We work hard to catch up, growing old together, and where will your grave be when my foot can peddle you no more? Soon, Darla will have her dresses again, reborn in this dowry quilt.

Ah…I remember this one, the dark blue damask. She wore it to her piano recital. Such a beautiful piece she played. A concerto, I think. Her fingers danced across the keys. And oh, this one, the red rose brocaded pattern. It was worn for the children’s Christmas program at church. They sang the Carols of the Nativity. Like an angel choir come down from heaven, they were. And this green striped plaid, she wore for her… ninth, or tenth birthday party? She’d spilt punch on it, and we worked to get out that stain. There’s just a hint of it left here, I can see, barely. Oh, the memories that child has given me. If I am not around when she has her first…oh, what a thought. I will be there to see her face when she opens her gift. Now, I am almost done. There, the blocks are all in place.

Aligning the front of the quilt to the back, the underside done in a flowered pattern with the batting between, she stitched up the sides. With short lengths of colorful embroidery floss and buttons stitched through the thickness she finished with little bows. She then folded the quilt and laid it between sheets of white tissue paper in a large box, sealed it up, and wrapped it in paper.

Feeling the weariness come over her, she laid down to rest, and went to sleep.

A month later, the wrapped box sat on an empty chair at Darla’s shower. It had been saved for last. As she pulled away the tissue from the quilt folded inside, her tears fell like a summer rain on thirsty ground.

“Mama! It’s my old dresses, all sewn into a quilt.”

____________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

Brothers Divided

Hagar approached Abraham’s tent, Ishmael following after his mother with little concern for what was coming. Abraham had no choice if he wanted to keep Sarah happy. Hagar and his first-born son, Ishmael would be cast out, homeless and destitute in the desert of Beersheba with no promise of a future, and certainly none of the coveted inheritance. It would come through Isaac, Abraham’s second son, born to Sarah. He would receive God’s covenant blessing and favor, and all future generations of the Jewish nation after him. But, the God of Abraham did not turn away from Hagar and Ishmael. He heard her cry, and saw her distress. He would spare them both, provide for them, and through Ismael many nations would be born. (Paraphrased; Genesis, chapter 21 in the Old Testament Bible NIV.)

The above story is true. When I read about Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, Ismael and Isaac I think about the division, hate, and turmoil in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians, and people and cultures of other Middle Eastern countries with the ongoing conflict. One might think that what was written centuries ago and recorded of stories like Abraham’s might be of little consequence to us today. But, what was written back then by those who lived and recorded their stories is relevant to our lives today. It comes back, bigger, more profound. The two most basic things we need most are love and acceptance. They can unite and bind us, but. if we have neither only divide and separate us. The characters in the story below are fictional, but their situation and circumstances could be real. It is not just their story, but one in places all over the world.

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Tel Aviv, Israel – present day

“Why did you wait till now to tell me?”

“Gamal, your father deserted us. I never saw him again after that. I felt shamed, as if it was all my fault. So I left, moved closer to the settlements and just tried to blend in.”

“Like a Jew.”

“I had to find work, to support us…even though…” Sahar said, through her tears.

“Even though you were pregnant with a bastard’s son.”

Sahar shook her head, overcome with the emotion coursing through her like a hot iron.

“What about Sam’s father?”

“I was working in Jerusalem at a shop on Haifa Street when I met him. He was serving in the Israeli army then…At first I wanted nothing to do with him. He was Jewish. He came in often, was kind, and gentle…”

“And he married you.”

“Yes. We were married by a clergyman from another faith, because the Jews would not accept me, nor my people him.”

“So he captivates the pretty damsel, and off they ride into the sunset with her bastard son in tow.”

Sahar screamed at him. “Stop calling yourself that. You’re not! I never thought of you like that.”

“No? But, I was the curse that came with the shame of a sordid love affair with a man from Gaza…”

“We were a family. I tried to raise you both the same. I loved you. I never told Sam’s father anything…about your birth, or father. He accepted you and was willing to raise you as his own. He was not Orthodox so my past was not an issue with him. Then, one day…while on duty…with the military, rockets came. He was out there, trying to pull people from that carnage, but there were…Palestinians out there, shooting at them, and he was hit. He died, soon after.” Sahar’s shoulders shook, her cry intensified with every breath.

“And Sam? What does he know?”

“He only knows about his own father, how we met, how he died. Nothing about yours.”

“Then why tell me now, mother, after thirty years, making me believe I was Jewish, instead of…the son of a Palestinian?”

“Because your ties with Israel’s enemies affect your relationship with Sam, and his position in the army. You are brothers for God’s sake.”

“For God’s sake?” He laughed, sarcastically. “Your God does not care about us.”

“Gamal! What are you saying? The God of Abraham and Isaac is our God! We have no other. He is God to all.

“We come from different people, mother. Or have you forgotten that?”

“I don’t serve Allah!”

“But, I do!” He said, his eyes glaring at her, cold and dark. “Goodbye, mother.”

Gamal! She yelled after him, but he did not listen. He was gone, slamming the door behind him, shutting himself off from her, Sam, and all that he knew.

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Joyce E. Johnson © 2016

Footnotes: Last year I posted short fictional stories under the title, Acid Rain, the first one under the title of Brothers Divided where Sam, a Jewish Israeli defense officer comes against those in the Arab nations set on destroying the Jewish people and the country of Israel. You can find those stories here. The above story is fiction also, and the prequel to Acid Rain.

Elevator Shaft

His hand gripped tightly. With grunting, gasping breaths he climbed up, and saw nothing but the tunnel of hard, cold steel that went on, endlessly in the claustrophobic tomb.

“Help!” He cried out.

Save your breath. It will only tax what energy you have left and be your downfall.

A hoarse cough broke from his parched throat.

My ‘downfall.’ Yeah! Done that! 
Don’t look down. The bottom is endless, too. Grab hold! Anything!

His feet felt like iron weights.

Climb! I can do this.

Please! Someone!”

The elevator shaft opened.

Light! Voices! 

Oh, thank God!

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Psalm 31: 2, Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of rescue, a strong fortress to save me.  NIV, Old Testament

The above short story is fiction, but I used it as an illustration of the times when we need to be rescued from some trap or downfall, either by our own doing, or one of a literal sense. To acknowledge God, and His power to save, rescue and heal us, however it happens is when we need him most. The Psalms are full of the many stories and pleas of David, King of Israel who often found himself trapped by his enemies, or caught in literal or personal traps he’d set for himself. I’m thankful for the way God always provides us with a way of escape from that which the enemy sets up for us, either to catch us by surprise, or one placed there, warning us of what might come if we do not acknowledge Him, or seek His help .      

Joyce E. Johnson © 2016


Self-reflection – Chapter 25 of The Informant’s Agenda

The below story is fiction. It is chapter 25 in the ongoing story, The Informant’s Agenda. You can find chapters 1-25 posted under the heading,  The Informant’s Agenda

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The minutes, hours and days tick on, but one loses track of all under heavy sedation and can seem an eternity has passed making one feel like a part of their life has gone missing. There was a sterile smell, the sound of the soft padding of feet near my bed, and hands adjusting tubes, IVs and monitors. When the bandages were removed from my eyes shapes and shadows moved in and out of my blurred vision like apparitions. My skin was red and blistered. My throat felt as if scraped with glass.

My family, and my supervisor in the U.S. were notified of what had happened. My mumbled pleas to speak to them went unnoticed until I would be, “physically able to talk coherently and process emotionally what happened.” I was told by the ‘doctor in charge’.

“You need rest right now. We’re taking care of everything. You’re getting the best care and attention. Then we’ll be able to assess what you need, and approve visitors and calls.”

Before I was released from the hospital I was put in touch with the American liaison at the U.S. Embassy in Odessa. They arranged for my things at the Ayvazovsky Hotel to be packed up and moved to my new room at an American agent’s home while in recovery. A nurse came in on scheduled visits to check on my recovery process and see to any additional care I needed.

Irina came to visit me twice to give me news and updates on the investigation of the explosion, and to tell me that it was reported that Vasyli’s and the superintendent’s bodies had not been found if they were indeed dead as reports speculated. It was then that I just lost it. I felt as if the train in my dreams had run over me, crushing me. What stared back at me in the mirror was not the ‘Monica Mengelder, archivist from Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.’, but a scarred, frightened woman, broken and alone in a country trying to make sense of what had happened, and why.

My heart ached to be home with my family. In my thoughts I was still sitting with grandmother Lisle at the kitchen table. We’d go through a whole pot of coffee and plate of cookies while looking at old family pictures scattered across the dining room table, some with grandfather Jacob’s sisters siting erect in front of the men on straight back chairs, their dour faces looking like they were constipated or something. Grandmother said whenever she tried to lighten things up with a funny joke or story the two unmarried spinsters hardly smiled.

“It was as if they just sat there with a pained expression on their face, so it was nearly impossible to get them to relax, or even open up, share anything about family secrets.”

“Did it ever work?” I asked.

“Rarely. At times I thought I saw a faint crack in their plaster face, until maybe they thought it was an indiscretion of some kind to loosen their corset strings a little.”

I laughed so hard I had to run to the bathroom to keep from wetting my pants. Too much caffeine that morning.

My tears now met with the energy bar when I thought about the fun we had in the kitchen stirring up a batch of Oatmeal Raisin cookies.

Such a long time ago. I will never have those moments again with her.

My head ached. The dizziness and fatigue returned. There remained just a few pain pills from the prescription provided for me after my release from the hospital.

Newsprint swirled around on the paper before me. Reports of the accident filled space in local, regional, national, even some international issues. It was presumed an “accident,” an “irreversible mistake in judgement…to allow anyone other than construction personnel down in the unpredictable subterranean underground structure before the completed restoration, when there had not been a full inspection…” authorities were quoted to have said. The stories went on, “although the investigation continues, it has not been determined an intentional incident in nature,” but the blame and speculation seemed clearly directed at the superintendent and Vasyli, consulate of Ukraine, Odessa, both, “presumed dead.”

Maybe, if I had not ‘requested’ a tour of the Catacombs Vasyli and the superintendent…. If only I had not…

There is no time for self-reflection. I cannot do anything to bring back Vasyli or the superintendent, if they are… But, what I keep only to myself is not fair to those who deserve to know the truth. And, I know I cannot leave this country knowing what I know if first I did not try to report my findings, or inform the authorities of what I have learned.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

           

 

The Mouse (flash fiction for Friday Fictioneers)

PHOTO PROMPT - © Marie Gail Stratford

Photo credit: Marie Gail Stratford. Thanks, Marie for the photo prompt for this week’s Friday Fictioneers

 

I have not submitted a flash fiction story to Rochelle Wisoff Field’s Friday Fictioneers for the last three years, but thought I would jump on this one for old times sake and join in the fun. Here is mine of 100 words, exactly.

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I needed a break. Pouring myself another cup of coffee I sat down to relax. But, my brain still worked on the next chapter of my book. The gnawing, grinding sound like tiny teeth, chewing was driving me insane.

But, it came from my desk. The mouse gyrated, moved around in crazy patterns, made clicking sounds, jerking itself free from my grasp. I stared, unbelieving as it came alive. Using keyboard shortcuts I clicked My Docs. Gone! Nothing! I clicked on my last saved file of my years’ long book project. It was not there. Gone!

The mouse was still.

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Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Riding the Poudre (Part 2, conclusion)

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Pam leaned over the raft trying to pull the paddle loose, caught beneath the rocks.

“Let it go. Leave it!” the guide yelled, trying to stabilize the raft. But it spun around in a whirlwind of churning white water.

She was jerked from the raft, pitched into the rapids. Her scream was drowned out by the force and strength of a river gone wild.

As she floundered about trying to swim back, the guide and others in the raft tried working the raft back towards her. But, as they came dangerously close to the ‘Big Drop’ the current was too strong. The raft went over and disappeared from view.

“No! Please! Don’t leave me.” She screamed, but they were gone.

Her only thought now was survival. Getting out of the river, climbing to safety and finding help.

Grabbing at rocks, anything she could hold on to, Pam fought the current, working herself across the river to the south side where it ran parallel to the road. A rooted tree limb sticking out from the shore beckoned her.

She managed to pull herself up, out of the freezing water. As she climbed the steep slope towards the road she thought about her friends in the raft, and Mike, their guide. Did they make it?  Are they safe?

She shook from the cold, soaked clothes clinging to her body. When she got to the road she saw emergency vehicles and rescue crews with Katie, their guide and the rest in their group.

“Pam! Thank God, you’re safe. We were all so worried. We tried to get to you but the water was…”

“I know. I’m sorry, Katie. It was my fault…” Like a dam opened the tears spilled over as she could no longer hold it back. Shivering, dizzy and barely able to stand she welcomed the warm blanket and supportive arms about her shoulders as the emergency crew made her comfortable in the back of their vehicle for the ride back down.

“Pam. We’re all safe. It’s OK.  The bus is here to take the rest back.” Katie hugged her. “I’m coming with you.”

The guide walked over to Pam and smiled, “What are you going to do next time I say, ‘Let go of the paddle?’

“Do as you say.” She said, smiling.

He laughed. “Sometimes Pam, a lesson is best learned when taught by experience alone. We don’t always see the danger up ahead, until it happens to us. It is the way I learned.”

“You?”

“Yes. I know from experience what the river is capable of at flood stage, but this is the beginning of our summer tourist season. The trip was scheduled in advance, and I didn’t want to cancel, or disappoint. So, I take full responsibility for what happened to you, putting you at risk. I’m sorry. Your next trip is on me, if you want to try this again, sometime.”

“We’ll see.”

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Joyce E. Johnson © 2015

This is a work of fiction, part 2 and the conclusion. Part 1 was posted on Monday, May 18th. My story is not related to, or in reference to any real person or event. Whitewater rafting is a popular summer sport (among others like hiking, camping and climbing ‘fourteeners’) in Colorado. The Cache La Poudre River is one of several that offers it. You can find more information on whitewater rafting on the Cache La Poudre River here. I hope everyone’s summer season is off to a great start. Stay safe and have fun over Memorial Day weekend.

 

Riding the Poudre

Rafters on the Cache La Poudre River, northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado, May 15th, 2015 We drove up to see what the river looked like after getting so much rain and got there just as these rafters were ready for their trip down. This section of the river is just a few miles south of our mountain property in Glacier View Meadows, so we are always checking on water levels and conditions after experiencing the big flood in Sept., 2013

Rafters on the Cache La Poudre River, northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado, May 15th, 2015

 

The skies opened up, and the rain fell, picking up with earnest intent as if to emphasize the weather report, “cloudy with chance of more rain”. The river was rising with water levels looking dangerously high in places. Pam was not an experienced swimmer. If something went wrong and…

Why did I ever consent to go on this trip? Well, I just won’t think those thoughts.

“Everything will be fine. Don’t worry.” Katie said. “The guides would not bring up a group if they did not feel confident they could guide it safely back down.”

Pam smiled at her friend, nervously adjusting the straps on her life jacket. “That is easy for you to say. You’ve done this before. This is my first.” And I hope, not my last. She thought.

They climbed into the rafts, each grasping their paddles and began to make their way down the river.

OK. I can do this.

“We should navigate over and between the boulders easily with all the recent rains.” Katie said, loudly.

The foaming white water swirling about their raft promised a cold, wet and wild ride. It seemed to pick up speed rushing at them from behind.

They were getting closer to the ‘drop-off’ ahead where the rapids cascaded over a ridge of rocks. The settling of boulders fallen from the mountainside during a massive rock slide after the big flood had changed the dynamics of the river. What was easy navigating before now became more challenging and the “Big Drop” as they called it, steeper. The guide had instructed them when to pull up their paddles.

Pam’s eyes got as big as the lens on her camera as she now saw what was coming. But, this was like nothing she’d captured before on her camera. Because it was happening to her.

“Now! Pull up your paddles.” the guide yelled.

Pam’s paddle was caught. She pulled, trying to free it.

“Now.” he yelled again. At her.

“I can’t! It’s stuck.”

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To be continued…

This is a work of fiction. Part 2, the conclusion will be posted in a few days. Information on whitewater rafting the Poudre can be found here.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 


Where the sun refused to shine

He pulled back the heavy, flowered drapes. Cold, dark clouds was his answer to, “sunny and bright, warm and relaxing,” when he came to this remote island half a world away.

The stares and gossip from gawking ‘house maids,’ and staff  followed him through the lobby and up the stairs to a second floor room.

“No wife or kids along.”

“Maybe just a tourist, or businessman on holiday.”

“Look at those blue eyes and…I wonder if he’s lonely.”

“You should be so lucky,” one said, laughing.

An assassin’s life is a dangerous one. He searched, he sought, and when he found his targets, he killed, for them. He kept the gun, but not the life. He just followed orders. But, it didn’t make him like himself any better. He was through. He knew they hunted for him. Wherever he went he left no trace, and eventually wound up here at, ‘The island in the sun,’ the brochure claimed. But, the sun refused to shine.

He rubbed the weariness from his eyes, but the eyes of his victims haunted him; their lives ended with his Beretta 92. When he’d unpacked, stored his luggage in a closet. and opened a drawer a Gideon’s Bible lay neatly beside a little complimentary tablet and pen. Pen and tablet he did not need. The Bible, he did not want, but it was there for those who did.

He picked up a paperback instead, but it didn’t look promising. His eyes went back to the drawer where the Bible lay. He pulled it out and thumbed through it until a passage fell open to John 3:16 & 17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

God, how can you love a sinner like me? I’m no better than the people I killed for, beyond hope and redemption. If I am worthy of saving, worthy of your mercy forgive me of all my sin. If you can do anything with my life it is yours. I believe in you and your son, Jesus Christ who died for me.  

As if in answer to his prayer a sliver of light broke through the darkness. When he pulled open the drapes rays of sunlight pushed through low hanging clouds, and light poured in.

He made a call.

“Department of Justice, New York,” the voice answered.

“Yes…It’s…Nathan Diorazio…I…want to turn myself in. Alone?…Yes.”

When the FBI arrived, he was led out, in handcuffs. But, he felt free for the first time in his life.

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Footnote: This is a work of fiction.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Posted April 18, 2015 by Joyce in Faith, Fiction, Flash Fiction, My Writings

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Acid Rain (Part 5, conclusion)

The plan to neutralize Israel generated by Middle Eastern countries, Europe and the U.S. inside Goliath’s network had worked, their propaganda spreading hate and distrust throughout the world. Israel’s allies and friends pulled their support, creating boycotts, unrealistic tariffs and embargoes, cancelled tours, conferences and events scheduled, all of it designed to decimate Israel’s economy.  They hacked Israel’s communication and broadcast systems by creating a cyber-wall preventing all communications inside Israel from contacting those they counted on for military support.

IDF ground forces positioned themselves along the perimeters of all its borders facing their neighbors to the north, south, west and east of Israel creating barricades. Their central command center monitored all activity, militarily and otherwise in and out of the country using their own inside secure system of communication that was set in place after their recognition of statehood in 1948. The Israeli air force were forced to engage themselves in defensive skirmishes over their territorial air space. Their navy still patrolled the waters to the west on the Mediterranean Sea.

Sam’s unit made their way across Iraq, and into Iran, under deep cover and a dark, night sky with no more than a sliver of light from the moon. It had to be a precise hit, the coordinates exact, no margin for error. When they located the bunker using the Intel they’d received from their sources inside Iran they regrouped and prepared to move in.

With the stealth of a predatory cat Sam moved with his team as if a part of a perfectly orchestrated and choreographed practiced ballet number during rehearsal.

A hand signal and the repeated gesture moved down the line as they approached, wary but prepared for any surprise attack or ambush that would jeopardize the mission. They had only one chance to gain access by taking out all those guarding Goliath’s network inside the heavily protected bunker. With the swiftness of an angry nest of pythons they lunged at their targets taking everyone down by knife or silencer. When they’d secured the outside leaving some of their unit to cover their flanks the rest moved in with quick precision and timing overtaking all those sitting at a command center or watching video feeds on computer screens. When all targets were down the unit commander and techs quickly accessed the Intel on the screens, hacked into the system, then transferred all onto flash drives. Once done they disabled all monitors and computers with their weapons as if at target practice. They left as hurriedly and as quietly as they’d come and once back into Iraq were quickly airlifted out on a military helicopter under the disguise of an Iraqi transport.

The Intel on the flash drives was rushed to Israeli commanders and the PM to be analyzed. It revealed the plan for ‘Israel’s annihilation.’  Iran would never be given the chance to carry it out.

At precisely 5:00 a.m. Israeli time, the Israeli’s launched the first of their own missile attacks on the country who wanted to, ‘wipe them off the face of the earth’ as once quoted. When Iran quickly struck back launching their biggest and most effective nuclear warheads with a range of over 200 kilometers, the ‘Magic Wand’, aka, ‘David’s Sling’ was launched intercepting Iran’s nuclear strike. Israel struck back with their own, ‘David’s stone,’ taking out all of Iran’s capabilities, the uranium enrichment plants, command centers, all military operations, their air force, airports, and bases housing, manufacturing and maintaining all.

The Intel received included a list of all the countries, governments, political or influential names of presidents, kings and prime ministers in Goliath’s network supporting Israel’s complete annihilation, and the plan to carry it out. Those included were the countries of Iran, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, and many others Israel was not surprised to find. What was a surprise was finding one listed near the top; that of the current U.S. president.

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Footnotes: This has been a work of fiction throughout. This is the concluding part. Fiction though it be, prophetic it may certainly be one day if those who don’t stand with Israel as a friend will fall with those who don’t support her, and her right to defend her nation and people. All the previous parts to this story can be found under the heading of Acid Rain with each part posted separately and found in my archives.  “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3 (NIV)

Thank you for reading and following. Comments and feedback are always welcome.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Posted April 15, 2015 by Joyce in Fiction, Flash Fiction, My Writings

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Acid Rain (Part 4)

Tel Aviv, Israel

A loud roar echoed through the dark, narrow passageway deep beneath the floor they’d just descended, the reverberations of missile attacks pitching them against the walls. Sam threw himself over Eli shielding him from what sounded like explosions of incoming missile attacks. Walls shook. The floor above them cracked, split in places weakening the ceiling structure. The sound of windows breaking and furniture knocked about could be heard as volleys of shells were heard exploding in the skies.

“It is what I feared.” Eli said, his voice muffled under Sam’s weight as he tried to regain voice and composure.

“What?”

“I had a premonition…of something coming, from a dream I had. This is just a forewarning.”

“From Iran?”

“Yes. God wants to prepare us for the onslaught that is coming. It is time for Israel to ready, ‘David’s sling.’”

“What do you know about, ‘David’s Sling?’” Sam said.

Eli smiled. “I have my sources, Sam. I may be a retired IDF general, but am still in the ‘know’.  The U.S. president could save himself another embarrassing calamity if he would stop declaring accolades to come out of this lame deal of his. He can’t expect to slow or stop Iran’s uranium enrichment production.”

They donned gas masks and made their way up the steps into the interior to assess the damage of Eli’s home. A part of the roof was blown off. Clouds of black smoke hung like an angry pall over Tel Aviv. The time froze on a grandfather clock, its pendulum stilled at 3:48 p.m., the eve of Shabbat. Lights flickered, then went dark. Glass shards from broken windows, lamps and vases lay scattered through the house from the impact.

When they’d made their way through the mess to the outside they saw traffic lights knocked out, dangling from poles where cars crashed or careened into other vehicles, people or objects. Drivers were slumped over their seats from the impact, doors flung open. Fires erupted. Gas and oil tanks exploded spewing contents released by the blasts. People scurried for cover, pulling gas masks free from bags or totes carried, as common as a jogger with his water bottle.

“Those missiles came from the east.” Sam said, looking at the tails of white plume.

Eli nodded. “Iran. To think those puppets sat around a conference table trying to appease the world’s superpowers when Iran and the Ayatollah had already decided our fate.”

Sam pulled out his cell phone, and tried calling his commander. There was no signal. He checked messages. “They’ve blown out our cell towers, and communication satellites.”

Eli tried unsuccessfully to reach emergency military operations on a command communication device.

“Internet service, power and wireless; all of it, knocked out. They’re trying to isolate us. I’ve got to get back to my unit.”

“I’m coming with you. I’m re-enlisting myself, voluntarily.”

As they made their way through blocked and crowded streets they saw the injured, the dead and the destruction so great Eli knew where he was needed most.

“Sam, go ahead. I am going to stay here, and help with the injured and the…diseased. Go. God speed. Be the soldier Israel has trained you to be.”

They embraced, each with their own thoughts, not wanting to express aloud their concerns.

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This is a continued story, part 4 of 5 parts. Comments and feedback are always welcome. Parts 1-3 can be found under the heading of, Acid Rain.,   Acid Rain, Part 2,   and Acid Rain, Part 3

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 

Posted April 9, 2015 by Joyce in Fiction, Flash Fiction, My Writings

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Acid Rain (Part 3)

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Tel Aviv, Israel

 

After the hijacking of the Chinese freighter, Black Dragon security modifications were made on freighter and cargo lines. Swat teams and undercover agents were posted to every ship, cargo and cruise line for all scheduled crossings. The impact was felt in the once friendly skies of air travel, too. Ticket sales were down. Airlines reduced their fares significantly to entice travelers with bargain deals, but people were afraid to fly. Trains were routinely checked and swept for devices, bags, even trash disposed while on board. Railway and Amtrak routes were routinely checked for bombs or devices hidden under or near tracks.

There was no exact number to determine how many active terrorists’ cells were in the U.S., Middle East and Europe, but estimated to be in the thousands, all trained, committed, and devoted to their mandate; to kill any and all not converted or sympathetic to Islam, whether Jew or Gentile, American or otherwise. Educated and highly skilled in chemical, biological and nuclear explosives, experts were brought in to train teams sent out to places wherever opportunity existed, all under the command and ‘head’ of one, known as ‘Goliath’.

They infiltrated themselves into society, many involving themselves in civic or charity organizations, churches, or synagogues. On the surface they were Christian or Jew, purporting to be patriots of their resident country. But, to the soul they were fanatical, committed Islamic jihadists. They spoke fluent English or were fluent in the dialect of their assigned location with no prior foreign accent. Those in the U.S. were in fact born and raised in the U.S. They would martyr themselves for Allah.

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Tel Aviv, Israel

Sam entered the home of his old friend and mentor, Eli. Eli was a retired army commander with the IDF. He shook hands with Eli’s bodyguard and was escorted into his study.

“Samuel, it is good to see you my friend.” Eli embraced Sam, greeting him with the traditional Hebrew kiss on each cheek. “You look good, except for the lines of stress around your eyes. I suspect this is not just a social visit, is it? I see it in your eyes. You have something on your mind.”

Sam smiled. “You know me too well, Eli.”

“Sit down. Let’s talk. I sense your current mission has not been going well. I assume your unit is working with the U.S. teams on this stream of recent attacks?”

“Trying to. But, their American president is none too happy with the way we do things here. It has not been determined for certain who carried out the San Francisco attack and hijacking of the Black Dragon. They cannot find those responsible. Their disappearing act was flawless, no trace, but it stinks of Hamas’s hands all over this. I am not so sure we will have the U.S. support and cooperation much longer with the animosity their president feels toward our PM and Israel. The U.S. administration wants to cut a deal with Iran too.”

“Yes. I know.”

They talked for another couple hours.  When it was time for Sam to leave, Eli said. “Don’t go out the front, the way you came in. Let me take you out through another exit from my home. Where did you park your SUV?”

“Six blocks down and two streets over from here. I was careful, Eli. I don’t think anyone was tailing me.”

“Nevertheless, let me lead you out the back way. Then you can switch back, and get back to your car from there.”

__________________

To be continued…

This is a work of fiction and a continued story with parts 1 & 2 previously posted under the same title, Acid Rain  Feedback and comments are always welcome.

Joyce E.Johnson (2015)

 

 

Acid Rain (Part 2)

Present day – San Francisco, Ca., U.S.A.

Boom! Bang! Swoosh!

People watched, their eyes fixed on the skies, waiting and expectant for each explosion of color that mushroomed in the sky. Huge spheres of dazzling light fell like ribbons cascading to the ground. They cheered, clapped and celebrated. Short minutes later small rockets became chemical weapons exploding after launch emptying their contents on victims as they succumbed to their fate. Not until the first victims went down did anyone suspect something had gone terribly wrong. The ground turned white, smoldering from the burning hot ash. Those closer to the impact lay writhing, screaming from the pain. Their flesh and hair burned from the falling ash raining from the smoke-filled skies. Victims with their eyes shrinking back into red swollen sockets, stinging with pain stumbled as they tried running from the horror. Shrapnel embedded into skin and scalp became deadly darts of death as the poison imploded.

______________________

Tel Aviv, Israel

Sam laid in bed, asleep as the images swirled about in his head.  Subconsciously his hand went to his sweating brow, eyelids twitching. His eyes snapped open. He laid, staring up at the ceiling fan’s blades turning quietly, above him. But, he could still see the images. Because they never went away.    

Now qualified for special op missions, he served with a recon team, given the name, DAVID, for Defensive Arms Validating Israel’s Directives by their Orthodox Jewish general who believed David from Old Testament times was empowered by God. Under David’s rule as commander, and king of Israel they won wars with enemies twice the size or strength of the Israelites. Most memorable was their victory over the Philistine army giant, Goliath that came against Israel when David was a mere shepherd boy. But, theirs was a new kind of army, today; one that counted on the stockpiled arsenal they’d built up, but held back from using. Until now.

“Sam! Grab some coffee and bagels, and take a copy of the brief. We’ve got a lot to cover. You look washed out. Get enough sleep?”

“Yeah. Sure. I’m on adrenalin overload, you know?” His team members laughed.

“OK, let’s get started. Here’s what we’ve got so far.” Jon, their team leader briefed them for the next two hours as they went over all the latest intelligence reports concerning their unit and their mission.

When rocket fire erupted again over Israel the Jewish state responded swiftly with a more aggressive counter strike to the Palestinians’ refusal to disarm and honor a cease-fire agreement.

There was little empathy for Israel when they destroyed much of the West Bank in Gaza. Anti-Semitism was on the rise, everywhere. But, the U.S. administration promised to remain supportive.

Many of the old Hamas would not agree to any peace negotiations. They wanted only the destruction and annihilation of Israel altogether, much like Iran, so Hamas joined their larger, more organized terrorists’ cells active in Europe, the Middle East, even the U.S. They recruited pro-Islamic and pro-Palestinian fighters from all over. Although many countries, including the U.S. waged their own war against ISIS it was only a part of a much larger terrorist organization now operating under one, known as, ‘Goliath.’ The smaller factions under Goliath competed for control in their own regions.

Sam served with the task force in Israel who hunted for, ‘Goliath’s Head.’ With the increased terrorism globally the U.S. and Israel would now come together as one, against Iran where they believed ‘Goliath’ operated.

“The U.S. teams have confirmed the recent rocket attacks in the U.S. are related, and the result of the shipment of arms or bombs that were on the, Black Dragon. None of that shipment has yet been found, located, nor the ones involved, apprehended. The U.S. team believes they wanted to hit the U.S. because of their support for us.” Jon said.

______________

To be continued…

This story is only a work of fiction.  Part 1 of Acid Rain was previously posted. My purpose in writing this story is not intended to frighten, be prophetic or factual. It is only a story to bring to light what does exist. The terrorist threats to our country, the U.S., to Israel and to others as well. Wishing that every country and its people could be at peace, prosper, get along with the rest of the world without hate, and live in harmony would be a wonderful thing. But, that just does not happen and will not happen as long as evil finds a home and lurks about in the lives of those who invite it in, and when that happens there is death, destruction and chaos. But, if we turn our eyes and hearts to God in these times and ask that He give us strength, courage and wisdom in all things and show us how to love others, and those whom He blesses He will bless us.   “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3 (NIV)

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

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