The Teacher

For all you teachers. Thank you for what you give us. It is priceless.

The neighborhood kids got together and built a snowman. When he was good and done, they gave him a hat and a pipe, two button eyes and a nose and a smile. Just as they finished him up, Miss Morgan called the kids into her house for hot chocolate and  treats. Miss Morgan always made the bestest of treats and her hot chocolate was heavenly. Marshmallows and pieces of chocolate melting in the hot milk.

Miss Morgan never had kids of her own. She had been a fifth grade teacher. One of the best at her school. She did fifty years there and then retired. When she retired, kids and parents and grandparents came to the ceremony. And the whole school turned out. There were so many that they moved the event to the town’s theater. It was packed.

Many of the attendees had tears in their eyes. She was so beloved. It was a two-hour ceremony.

First there was the choral society, singing several of her favorite songs. Then a fifth grader came up, gave her a hug and said a few words of praise. Then an eighth grader. Then a senior. Then a young woman in her twenties. Then a man in his thirties. Then a woman in her forties. Then one of her first students stepped up to the podium.

“I became a teacher,” Maggie Heller said. “And now I am finishing my thirty-fifth year. I’ve loved every minute of it. You may not remember me but I stole some money from your purse. Instead of punishing me, you told me that you brought the money just for me.” Maggie started to cry. The principal of the school went over to her and comforted her, then she continued. “That forgiveness has carried me through so many hard things. When I saw the look in your eyes, it wasn’t of disappointment. It was with love. If you could love me even though I did what I did, I could love myself. And your final hug that year. I will never ever forget that. Thank you, Miss Morgan. For teaching me how to be a good human being.”

Finally the superintendent of schools walked to the podium. “Miss Morgan….you know I don’t even know your first name. HR has kept it a state secret all these years.” Tears filled his eyes. He had been a Miss Morgan student too. Then he swiped them away and continued. “Your name is famous throughout the state. For your excellence in teaching and for the quality you have brought to our children. In your name, we have created a scholarship fund and now we have a special surprise. Miss Morgan, please step up here.”

The Teacher rose from her seat and walked to the podium. Standing beside the superintendent, she turned to the man who was once her student. He said, “As our gift to you, we have an all-expense around-the-world cruise. Thank you for all you have given us and will continue to give us.” He hugged her, then handed her a dozen roses and the envelope with the details for the trip.

Miss Morgan looked out at the filled auditorium. Tears were in her eyes too, but she held them back and gave her friends a smile. All she could get out was, “Thank you, And I love you all. Each and everyone of you.”

She spent a year seeing the world. Then she returned to her house on Green Street. Each afternoon one child or another dropped by for tutoring or a story or some advice. On the weekends, the neighborhood kids came to her house for treats. Her door was never closed to a child.

The neighborhood kids gathered in her dining room and consumed their treats. Miss Morgan looked at them all gathered around the dining room table, laughing and swapping jokes and jabbering away as children do. She poured a cup of hot chocolate, then she sneaked outside and went over to the snowman. His smile had fallen into a frown.

“Well, Irving,” she said as she sat the chocolate and cookies in front of him. “Your name is Irving, isn’t it? Of course, it is.”

The snowman stood there all silent.

Miss Morgan brushed some dirt from his shoulder. “You know, you’re a handsome fellow. If I was a snowgirl, I would date you. I bet you’re a good dancer. I love to dance.”

She stood there for fifteen or so minutes. Then she kissed him on the cheek and returned to the children.

As he melted later in the month, Irving remembered Miss Morgan’s final words. “Oh,” she whispered, her whisper so quiet no one else in the whole wide world could hear her. “Just between you and me. My name is Roberta.”

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The Plan?

The elderly couple sat on the bench in the park. Nobody around to hear them. Only the ducks, and they weren’t quacking.

Jan brushed back her white hair. “So, Tally, did you get the gun?” Jan asked her friend.

“Oh,” he responded, “I forgot. I was so busy trying to figure out what to get you for Christmas.”

“Christmas?” Jan said. “Bah humbug.” Her hair fell onto her face. She pushed it back. It was beginning to annoy her. She’d been debating with herself whether she wanted to cut it very short or not. This decided it. She was cutting it short. “I told you to get the gun. How can we do a robbery without a gun?”

“I don’t want to hurt anybody,” Tally said. “Why don’t we just use water pistols?”

“They don’t look real enough. Only a gun looks like a gun.”

Tally squeezed the bridge of his nose between his eyes. He was concerned about the gun. Mostly he was concerned about forgetting it. He’d been forgetting more than usual. Maybe he had the Alzheimer’s that everybody at the apartment complex talked about lately. So much so that they’d been making book on who was next.

“But what about your present?” Tally asked. “You don’t want me to get you a Christmas present.”

“You want to get me a present. A gun would be present enough for me.”

Tally removed his fingers from his face. He turned to his friend and said, “You’re not afraid you’ll shoot yourself?”

“I won’t shoot myself. I’ve been practicing.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think this robbery business is a good idea.”

“What other choice do we have,” Jan said. “They cut our social security. My husband’s pension isn’t enough for one. Much less two. And we can’t get a job. Who’s going to hire a seventy-year-old.”

“We could play the lottery,” Tally said hopeful.

“That’s throwing good money after bad. No, it’s a robbery or nothing.”

“Okay,” Tally gave in. “I’ll get the gun.”

“Don’t forget the bullets.”

“Bullets? What are we going to do with bullets?”

Jan shook her head in frustration. “They’re for the gun. You know. In case we have to shoot it.”

“We can’t shoot it. We’ll hurt someone. And they might shoot back.”

“I know. I know. And that someone might be one of us. If we shoot one of us, we’ll leave them behind. It’s a win-win.”

“A win-win?” There was anger creeping into Tally’s voice.

“Yes. If they die, then they won’t have to worry about getting less on social security. If they live, they’ll get good medical care and free room and board.”

“They’ll get prison.”

“That’s what I said,” Jan explained. “Free room and board.”

Tally stood up and said, “Okay. I’ll get the bullets. What else was I supposed to get?”

“The gun.” Jan said, frustrated.

“What kind of gun do you want?”

“Any gun will do. Just make sure the bullets match the gun.”

“Bullets have to match a gun?” Tally shook his head. “I’ll never remember all this. I’m going home and take a nap.”

Jan thought about things for a moment, then she stood up. “All this planning is making me tired too.”

As the old couple walked away, the ducks excitedly started quacking. Someone should have reminded the couple. Tell a duck a secret and they will quack it all over the place.

Joe Duck said to Maggie Duck, “Geez, these humans are crazy.”

“You’re telling me,” Maggie said. “Don’t they know they can sleep in the park for free. And people will throw food to them.”

“So should we tell the police?”

“About what?” Maggie Duck asked.

“Boy, you sure are getting forgetful. About the robbery.”

Maggie answered, “Yeah. Let’s tell the police. But first we have to get the quack-so-ologist to translate for us.”

Joe Duck turned to Maggie. “Maybe we shouldn’t tell the cops. Maybe we should tell the bank.”

“What? And not get paid?”

Joe Duck said, “Yes, but I am tired of being paid chicken feed.”

Near 500 words: The day the wizards lost it.

Wizards were common in my younger days. Now you don’t see them much. Once a year, they showed up in the forest near the house and had a Wizarding poker game. For some reason, they seemed to love poker. Instead of chips, they used bags of Old Toby. While they played their game, a bard came and sat by the fire near them and sang songs of the olden days and the wars between the black arts and the white magicians.

The wizards were not always a gentle folk. One year one wizard, the one with the gray beret, lost every one of his bags. He was not too thrilled about that. Had a real surly attitude when he left. It was said that dragon puff spat from his ears. If you’ve never seen a wizard with dragon puff coming out of his ears, take my my word for it. It is not a pretty sight. You’d just better get out of the way.

The next year Gray Beret showed up and cleaned everybody out. The others thought he might have cheated but he proved them wrong. He showed them he had nothing up his sleeves and they believed. They believed they were not as good at poker as they had thought.

Well, those wizards didn’t take well to losing their bags of Old Toby. No, sirree. Talk about surly. They pointed their wizard wands and zapped just about everything in sight. In case, you’ve wondered about Humpty Dumpty. He was a victim of those wizards. In case, you haven’t seen the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy lately. They too came down with a bad case of wizarding wand flu. Thank the gods that the Queen of the Fairies heard all the ruckus. She showed up and kicked some wizarding butt. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been any forest left.

Unfortunately, that was the last year the wizards came to the forest. Oh, sure we heard rumors. Rumors about rings and something about the One Ring. There was even stories about Hobbits. How they went adventurin’ and journeyin’ with dwarves and with rangers. There were stories about elvin folk helping those Hobbits and rangers and wizards and dwarves and men out.

Me, I’ve never been much for rings but give me a good pipe and a good bag of Old Toby and I’m in Hobbit Heaven.

First Mornings

This is a creation story inspired by the Book of Genesis. It’s been done before by others. One of my favorites is James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation”. I have posted another of my creation stories called “Mother Tao and Honorable Monkey“.

The first morning God woke up. An alarm did not wake Him. His Mama did not roust Him out of bed. A boss for a job did not urge Him on to work. Being an entrepreneur, He was His own man. He just woke up. And He woke up bright and early and jumped out of bed.

After a morning shower, next came a look in the mirror. He winked and said, not to anybody in particular, “It’s a mighty fine morning.”

Since it was the First Morning, He wanted to look extra-special nice just in case. He gave his white beard a bit of a trim and combed the kinks out of His long white curls. He headed off to the closet and pulled out his Sunday best white robe, the one that matched His beard and hair. Then He slipped on a new pair of Birkenstocks.

“There’s nothing like a good breakfast to get the day going,” the Big Guy said to Himself. He made Himself a stack of pancakes so high they made the Tower of Babel look miniature. He laid the butter on heavy, threw a bushel or two of blueberries on the stack, and poured out the syrup like there was no tomorrow. He spooned up the pancakes small and bite sized and chewed thirty-three times with each bite. When He cleaned His plate, He swigged down the last of his coffee.

Now God was ready for that First Morning. He had a twinkle in His eye. When God has a twinkle in His eye, it’s going to be a really good day. He fluffed out a cloud and got on for a ride to check things out. Can you imagine how disappointed God felt when He saw there was nothing? And I mean nothing. That would never do.

Since God had never studied Theology or Filosophy, He wasn’t exactly sure what to do. It just didn’t seem right that all there was out there was a whirling ball of emptiness. He gave the matter some thought. At the end of that First Day, He had an idea. Fifteen minutes before sunset, He snapped his fingers. Lo and behold, heaven and earth appeared. To brighten things up, He gave His fingers a second snap and put some light on the situation.

He separated the light from the darkness. And that was that. He said, “Good job.” And He hadn’t even worked up a sweat. With a big smile on His face, He went home for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning, the Second Day, God woke up bright and early again. A good eight hours and He was ready for any challenges the Day might bring. He looked up and all He saw was infinite darkness in the way out there. “That will never do.” He snapped His fingers. Suddenly there was a sky.

And not just any sky. It was a sky bluer than blue. It was so blue it brought tears to God’s eyes. God sat down to admire that sky. If ever there was a sky, this was it.

God sighed a deep sigh. “That’s a mighty fine sky.” If there’d been anybody around, He would have said, “Have you ever seen such a sky?”

Most would have ended the Day right there and then, but not God. While He had been thinking Sky, another thought popped into His head. “Sea,” the thought said. Before you know it, there were oceans and oceans of water tickling His feet. Then He was off to home for a good steak, fries and a nice glass of Chianti. He thought about Merlot but it was Chianti because it was the Second Day.

Well, I guess you know what came next. Yes, the Third Day. God left the house with a big smile on His face. So He went to work. He parted the oceans. He parted the seas. He parted all sorts of water.

Up popped continents and islands and peninsulas and mountains and valleys. And he gardenized them. You heard me. He gardenized those pieces of real estate. He planted seeds and up popped the trees. He planted more seeds and there was grass. Savannas and savannas of it. Meadows and meadows of it.

He then decided a little color was needed. So He raised His palm and wallah. Roses and daisies and lilies and orchids and azaleas. Reds and purples and whites and blues scattered across the landscape. Millions of flowers. There were so many flowers God laughed and laughed and laughed, and more flowers appeared. When  the Day was done, God kicked back with a cold beer and thought, “It’s been a really fine day.”

Now you would think God might stop there. He didn’t. He had ambition. So, the Fourth Morning, He woke up bright and early, and He woke up with a smile on His face. He did a protein mix with His juicer. Chewed up an energy bar with His drink. And He put on His gravity-defying sandals. And out He went to do some interior decoration.

He grabbed the first magic carpet He saw. Like a flash, He took the sky by storm. He hurled stars by the thousands, splattering them all over the heavens and all the way back to the Big Bang. Then He made a circular motion with His hand. Those stars gathered into galaxies. Then He pulled one of those stars into both His hands, rubbed the hands together, and flung a giant ball of fire into the sky to be a sun.

He reached down to the earth below. He picked up some stones. Then He threw them into the sky one by one. The stones rippled across the sky the way stones ripple on water. Each stone landed exactly where God meant it to land. The stones became planets circling the sun or a moon spinning around a world.

Finally He reached down and grabbed up a mountain, rolled it up in his hands, and flung it out into the heavens to be a moon for the earth. This Fourth Day had been so good that He pulled out that bottle of scotch He’d been holding onto, waiting for the right occasion. “It’s been a really good day,” His final words as He laid His head down on a large fluffy pillow.

On the Fifth Day, God gave the oceans, the seas, the lakes and the rivers a little kick. Suddenly out of nowhere, there were fishes, dolphins, whales, sharks and barracuda. There were jelly fishes and all sorts of other creatures roaming the waters. That day He went home early because He knew the next day was going to be thirty-six hours instead of the normal twenty-four.

God seldom dreamed. But that Fifth Night He had the craziest dream. He dreamed that one of His creatures would be a real pain. The dream was one of those foggy kind that the details can’t be made out. All He knew when He awoke the Sixth Morning was care needed to be taken.

Then He was off. It was a day for making creatures of all sorts. And He filled the world with all these creatures. Just about twilight time on that Sixth Day, He had a final thought, “I can’t do all the work. I need someone around to help. To take care of things and make sure everything is in working order. Let him name all these whatchamacallits.”

So He dug down deep into the dirt. It was very moist. He grabbed some of that moist dirt and pulled it out. And He made Him a boy. He gave Him some purple hair and green skin and flippers. “Nope. That’s not it.” He took that boy and spun Him around and around and around faster and faster and then gently dropped him on the grass.

“Yes,” He said, first to Himself, then to all the creatures of the world, then to the sun and moon and stars. “It’s my boy,” God was happy with the boy lying on the ground sleeping. “And He looks just like Me.” If there ever was to be a contest for the handsomest man ever, this boy would be it. He was handsome. And God was pleased, pleased enough to say, “Very good.”

Just before sunset, God breathed a gentle breath into the body of that boy. Then He whispered in the boy’s ear, “Wake up.” The boy woke up and looked into his Daddy’s eyes. God kissed each of the boy’s eyes, squeezed his cheeks gently, and smiled.

“Look around,” God said to the boy. “This is all yours. Wherever you see something, you get to name it.” Then God went away.

The Seventh Day He was going to take the day off for some well-deserved rest. And that’s what He did. He slept late. All the day long He lazed about in His hammock that stretched from Jupiter to Venus and enjoyed Himself. On the Eighth Day, He took Himself an inventory. At the end of the inventory, He said to Himself, “You’ve done a fine work.”

Soon Adam grew up and became a man. He was six feet tall and his muscles had muscles. Every day he was out naming things. “Yep, that’s a bear.” Or “Let’s call this guy a lion.” One bird he named a wren. Another he an eagle. One day, it could have been the Ninth or the Fifteenth or the Forty-ninth Day, who’s to know…one day, Adam woke up to see a woman, standing over him. She had the bluest eyes ever. “My name is Eve,” she said. “You must be Adam.”

After dating a millennium or two, Adam and Eve became engaged. Any other woman would have given up on the guy. After all, Adam was a bit slow on the uptake when it came to women. Not that there were any other women around. So, Eve, being of a patient breed of woman, waited her wait. Finally, Adam got down on his knees and popped the big question. The answer was yes. Of course, it was yes. Otherwise the human race would not be here.

Eve wanted a June wedding. So, Adam agreed. He’d waited this long. What was a few months more or less. Then came the wedding day. Adam was dressed in his best altogethers. Eve was dressed in her best altogethers too. God Himself did the officiating. Michael was the best man. Lillith, the maid of honor. That was before she ran off with Lucifer. Gabriel conducted the music. The choir and orchestra of angels were out of this world.

Afterwards there was a wedding reception. There was no Table 19. All the tables were good ones. After Michael toasted the couple, his archangel wings went and had an accident. They knocked over the punch bowl at the wedding reception. It fell on the angel food wedding cake. All the king’s men and all the king’s horses may not have been able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. But God snapped his fingers and everything was as good as new.

At the end of the reception, God took the couple aside and said, “I have a surprise for you two kids.”

“You do, Dad?” Adam loved surprises. First, Eve, and now this.

“Yes,” God said, smiling his favor down on the two love birds. “When you get back from your honeymoon, here’s the keys to your brand new house.”

Adam and Eve were overwhelmed. It was more than they ever could have hoped for.

“There’s just one thing I have to warn you about.”

“Uh-oh,” Eve thought. “Here comes the bad news. Snake warned me.”

God continued, “Don’t eat the apples in the orchard next to the house.”

“I thought you said we could eat anything in the Garden.” Adam was a little bit miffed. After all, he’d been promised. “Why not the apples?”

“Ask Snow White.”

The Christmas Man

Harry went Christmas shopping two days after Thanksgiving. He hit the streets early that morning with his list. It was a tradition with him. Avoid Black Friday and hit the stores the next day. He was off with a smile on his face.

The crowds didn’t bug him. The lines at the cash registers didn’t bother him either. He always took a a book and got a lot of reading in that day. This year it was “The Christmas Carol” on his kindle, one of his favs.

While in line, he listened to the carols and let his imagination sink into the world of nineteenth century England. There was a comfort in knowing that everything was going to turn out just right. And Tiny Tim always put a smile on his face. He could imagine the carolers coming around to Scrooge’s place of business, singing, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”.

Since he was a boy, since the first time he heard the manger story and the peace on earth goodwill toward men, since the first time he read of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit and the transformation of Scrooge into the best of men, he had loved Christmas. While others barked out their complaints about the crowds and the lack of Christmas cheer, Harry had nothing but happiness in his heart.

When he got home late in the day, the kids waited with hugs for their daddy and Merry had a special kiss for her husband. Then he saw the tree. Merry and his boys had spent all day while he was gone, doing an extra-special job trimming the tree and decorating the house. It was a delight. Tears formed in his eyes, tears of love and wonder.

Soon the day would come, soon the presents would be opened, soon the Christmas feast would be eaten, soon the decorations and the tree would come down, but for now Harry lived one day at a time.

He went over to the pitcher of eggnog Merry had made. Poured a large glass. Took it out to the garage. He finished it, then went out to the car and carried the presents back to his cabinet and stored them away until Christmas Eve.

He locked the cabinet, then he strung up the lights around the house, put up the large Santa and his sleigh along with the Nativity creche on his front lawn. When he was finished, it was time for a late dinner. Then he was off to his job at Santa’s Workshop. He had just been promoted to head elf. He had his own desk. He even had his own special name plate. It said “Harry Christmas”.

So have yourself a very Harry Christmas and a Happy New Year.