Flash fiction story

Change of pace: a flash fiction story for you.

A Long Shot

Katie tossed aside her plastic bucket, plopped down into her beach chair, and dug her toes into the wet sand. Then she wiped the sand smooth and began to trace her name, or at least what her name used to be, into the sand. She wiped it again. Should she change her name? If she did, what would she change it to? She couldn’t go back to her old name. She hadn’t worn that one in more than thirty years. Divorce sucked! It had robbed her of everything! Should she let it rob her of her name too? Her toe unearthed a dead fish head. Ugh! She covered it back up and moved her chair back a foot or so. The tide would be in soon. Maybe it would take the fish head back out to sea to at least feed other fish. What good would her life be to anyone now?

The soft sounds of the surf and the gentle breeze in the air were supposed to soothe her frazzled nerves. So far, it wasn’t working. She’d come out in search of the beautiful seashells she’d always found here this time of the morning, but this morning, all she‘d seen was decayed seaweed and broken seashells, so like her broken relationships. At least she was on the Outer Banks, not at Myrtle Beach where all the noise and seemingly happy people would have mocked her even more.

“Hey, Lady, can you throw me my Frisbee back?”

Katie looked down to see a lime green Frisbee had landed a few inches from her beach chair. Its owner was a small, maybe eight-year-old, blond headed boy. She tossed the Frisbee straight into his waiting hands.

“Hey, you’re pretty good at this. How’d you do that?” He ran right up to her and extended his hand. “I’m Billy Baxter. What’s your name?”

She smiled and shook it. “Hello, I’m Katie Kemp. It’s easy. I had five brothers. I can pitch a football or a baseball too. Unfortunately, I only have daughters and granddaughters, so I don’t get much practice nowadays.”

He hung his head. “I don’t much like girls. They’re mean.”

She dropped his hand and chucked his chin. “Yes, they can be. But so can boys. Sometimes, it’s a mean world. But why would anyone be mean to a smart, handsome boy like you? And where’s your mom and dad?”

“My mom’s inside. My dad’s back home at work. They don’t live together anymore. I don’t know why girls are so mean. My mom’s not mean. Neither is my grandma.” He grinned. “She looks a lot like you, but she can’t throw a Frisbee straight like you can. I think they’re mean cause when I get nervous, I sometimes stutter, and they make fun of me, and call me ‘blabber boy’ or ‘mutter mouth.’ It only makes me stutter worse.” As he spoke, for the first time, she noticed the ever-so-slight stutter.

“You’re right, Billy. That is mean. I’m sorry they’re so mean to you. We all have problems. Nobody’s perfect. I’m sure not. Would you like me to tell you what they called me when I was a little girl?”

She whispered in his ear, and he giggled, but she put her finger to her lips. “Don’t tell anybody. Promise?” His little head bobbed up and down.  “Tell you what. Why don’t you run back down the beach, and I’ll throw the Frisbee to you. Keep backing up, and we’ll see just how far I can throw it straight. I don’t guarantee I can get it into your hands each time, but as long as I get it close, you throw it back and back up another foot or so. We’ll see how far we can go.”   

Katie and Billy threw the Frisbee for more than half an hour before Billy’s mom called him in to breakfast. Before he left, he ran back to Katie and gave her a big bear hug.

After he left, she picked up her abandoned bucket and walked back up the beach to her rental cottage. As she walked, she filled her bucket with all the sea shells she found.  The incoming tide must have brought them in. She whispered a prayer to thank God for sending Billy out that morning. Her life was not over yet–not by a long shot.

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My internet hasn’t worked for weeks thanks to a Windows “update” that somehow took my Wi-Fi offline and wouldn’t let me reconnect. Don’t you love it? But thankfully I was able to take my computer to Best Buy yesterday, and they were able to diagnose the problem and fix it in less than thirty seconds. They didn’t even charge me! Yay! Back in business!

Yesterday was Memorial Day, a day to honor our fallen military heroes who have died to grant us the freedom and safety we enjoy and so take for granted in this country. Until 9/11, that safety hadn’t been tested since Pearl Harbor. It seems in every generation, we must be reminded that freedom isn’t free. How soon we forget!

My dad and uncles served in Korea, and I had many cousins in Vietnam. Things changed in the sixties. My cousins weren’t welcomed back as the heroes they were like my father and uncles had been. Their service was swept under the rug as protests over an unpopular war were fueled by the Hollywood elite of the day. Celebrities like Jane Fonda openly consorted with the enemy with no consequences to this day. It never made sense to me.

It does seem there has been a resurgence of patriotism in the last few years, especially since Mr. Trump became president. But at the same time, it seems that the country has become more deeply divided than it has been at any times since the Civil War. What is fueling this divide, and how can we heal it? How can we come together as one nation again like we did in past generations? What is it going to take?  

Is patriotism even a good thing? Aren’t we supposed to love all people, not just the ones from our own country? Do the globalists have it right that we should be a world without borders?

I think the problem with that logic is that it invokes chaos. Our God is a God of order. It seems obvious He gave us our land, and He has sustained it all these years we’ve been a country whose God is the Lord. Yes, we should love all people. Yes, we’ve always been a country that welcomes those who want to come be a part of and make a contribution to its population. But no, I don’t think anyone has the “right” to invade and demand such things. That’s anarchy. It’s like the difference between friends and robbers coming to your house. We would gladly share with the friend, and most of us will give to strangers when we see a need, but no one has the right to take without permission.

America was meant to be a light shining in the darkness with the truth of God’s love. Let’s keep that light shining bright. Hope, freedom, liberty, the strength to face and defeat those who would destroy these values—these are the truths that will declare our God is still seated on His throne and still watching out over our beautiful land.      

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Abstract Art

As you can see, my daughter’s normally immaculate kitchen has been transformed into a pour art factory for CJ’s third grade economics project. I’m not sure what I think about third graders studying economics, but this project has certainly given me a new perspective about art.

For years, I watched Wade (my ex) create art. He’d work for weeks or months (or in at least one case, almost a year) on a single piece. As a nature artist, every piece had to be a finely detailed replication of the beauty of God’s creation. He was amazing at it. I could watch for hours, although I had zero skill as an artist.  

I think even I could do pour art though. They took three or four colors of paint, dumped them in a strainer, and let it flow through the holes onto the canvas. Then they tilted the canvas back and forth and around and around, letting gravity and their guiding hands make patterns of beauty in the blending colors.

It was a messy process. That was the only part CJ didn’t like. (He’s so much like his Mom!) He didn’t want to get paint on himself, but he also didn’t want to wear gloves because he wouldn’t really control where the paint went as well with them on. But in less than five minutes, they had a completely painted canvas. On their later works, they found they could take a straw and literally blow the shapes they would see in the paint to form even more recognizable images.

Now, we’ll have to see if his art sells at his school “Market Day” on May 13. The kids have earned play money for good behavior and other things. He took one of his earlier ones to school, and said the kids weren’t that impressed. Since they’ll all have things to sell, and eight year olds might be more enticed by brownies or cookies, I tend to wonder. Kristina has already had several adults tell her they’d be interested in buying one, and I think she’s hoping they won’t sell for the play money so she can take them to Status (a consignment shop) to sell for the real thing! I have a new respect for “abstract” art. It’s fun.      

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Not Alone

Coming July 2019

While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. Luke 24:15-16

Sunday we celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord. In the weeks leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus tried over and over to explain to His disciples what was going to happen, but they just didn’t understand. In their place, I’m not sure we would have either. They recognized Jesus as the Messiah. That wasn’t the problem. Their problem was they had a fixed notion of what the Messiah was, and nothing was going get that notion out of their heads! They wanted a king! 

Aren’t we exactly the same way? We think we know exactly what the Lord wants, and anyone who disagrees with us has to be flat-out wrong! Including God! It doesn’t work that way. No matter what we think, it’s not all about us! It’s all about Him and the advancement of His kingdom.

It took the crucifixion itself to make the disciples realize God had different plans. And even then, they didn’t get it. They went into hiding. Praise the Lord, Sunday morning changed everything! By Sunday evening, Jesus had already appeared to Mary, Peter and John. Now He appeared to two other disciples (Cleopas and another, these not of the twelve). He joined them on their journey to Emmaus, a seven mile walk from Jerusalem. When they told Him the events of the week, but obviously didn’t understand, He used the Scriptures to explain why it all had to happen. He went with them, and when He blessed the bread and broke it, their eyes were opened to the truth of Who He was before He vanished from their sight.

Don’t you just love that Jesus’ first appearances after the Resurrection were to ordinary people? He didn’t appear to Herod, or Pilate, or even to the Sanhedrin. He could have, but what would that have accomplished—nothing! He wasn’t looking to be an earthly king (although that day is still coming. The disciples knew enough Scripture to know the Messiah will sit on King David’s throne for a thousand years.(Zechariah 9:9-10) They just didn’t understand God’s timing.) So, why did Jesus choose to appear to women first, those least likely to be believed? Even the disciples didn’t even believe them, although they must have had enough wonder to go check out the tomb for themselves. 

God doesn’t choose those other people would expect: the rich, the famous, or the so-called beautiful people. He chooses those who seek Him, those whose eyes He can open to truth, and those who desire to follow Him. He doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.

What does this have to do with us as Christians? God has chosen us to deliver His message to the world. He’s opened our eyes to specific works He has for us that He can use to reach that audience, and He’s uniquely gifted us to reach those particular people. 

But we don’t have to do it alone. He walks beside us every step of the way. And not just that, but He sent the Holy Spirit to not just walk beside us, but to literally indwell us and empower us to do everything He intends for us to do. In John 16:7, before His death and resurrection, He tried to explain this to the disciples; that His leaving was actually to their advantage, but again, they didn’t get it. We can. We can know and experience the power of the Holy Spirit. Our problem is that we don’t always. We’re too much like the disciples. We’re used to doing things our way. It doesn’t work. It’s only when we allow Him to lead us, we find peace, joy and the fulfillment He intends for us.

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Holy Week

It’s Holy Week! It’s a time to reflect on the awesome events of the week that changed everything! As Pastor Landon reminded us yesterday at our lunchtime Holy Week Bible Study, Gospel writers spent 30 chapters talking about the events of this one week. That should give us a clue as to its importance. From the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem to the supernatural Resurrection appearances, the events of this one week in history shook the earth (literally) to its core!

The events changed how we view time itself. We now refer to BC and AD—before Christ and Anno Domini, the Year of our Lord. Of course, I think the “politically correct” version is CE and BCE (common era and before common era?). Even that can’t change the facts about what made the difference. Scholars can’t really refute that Jesus was a real historical figure who lived, was crucified, and was seen by over 500 people after His death. They don’t try. They propose radical theories to try to explain away those facts, but there’s more evidence for Jesus than for any other fact in history! This is why so many former atheists like C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and Lee Strobel found God when they honestly researched the Case for Christ or the Evidence that Demands a Verdict with open minds and hearts.    

The week started on Sunday with Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The King of Kings surrendered Himself to a cruel death for us. We don’t really get the significance of the donkey, but the Jews of that day should have. They didn’t. If a King went to war, he rode a white horse. If he came in peace or surrender, he rode a donkey.

After going back to spend the night with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany, Monday, Jesus returned to Jerusalem. On the way, he cursed the fig tree, a symbol of Israel. Unfortunately, this has been used through the ages as an excuse for anti-Semitism. It wasn’t, and it isn’t!  As Jesus entered the next day (Tuesday), and Peter pointed the tree out to Him, Jesus answered, “Have faith in God.” The withered tree was simply a symbol of Israel’s lack of faith. But God has not and will not forget His Chosen People. And we’d do best to remind ourselves of that!  

At the temple on Monday, Jesus had overturned the moneychanger’s tables and caused all kinds of havoc. He deliberately provoked the “religious” leaders.  Why would He do that? Why didn’t He do as the disciples asked and stay away from Jerusalem at this dangerous time? Because He had to do the Father’s will at the appointed time, and this was it! He obeyed all the way to the cross for our sake. He didn’t run away. He didn’t hide. I always wondered why they would pay Judas 30 pieces of silver. They knew exactly where He was, night and day. That wasn’t it. The question was when could they find Him alone? He was constantly surrounded by masses of people, and they were afraid of a riot. Jesus gave them their opportunity. It was the appointed time. 

What’s our appointed time? Do we know we have one? Can we say, “I came for such a time as this?” If we know, are we fulfilling it?

God bless you, and Happy Easter.

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Technology Makes Me Crazy!

I admit I’m a techno-idiot! This computer drives me crazy. I can never get it to do what I want it to do without battling it for hours just to do things my daughter does with one or two clicks. Even worse, it does so many things I don’t want it to do without me touching anything. For some reason, it’s dropped my Explorer icon (among others) from my home page. I swear, I didn’t do anything to it!  

But then, all technology seems so weird to me when it won’t work the way it’s supposed to! I drove for an hour and a half yesterday trying to find a place that’s a few miles from my house! This was all because my GPS on my phone doesn’t recognize “you can’t get there from here!” I was trying to get to Fort Yargo State Park for a Connect Group Leadership meeting, and it sent me to a Park Ranger entrance that isn’t open to the public. The fire department station located there told me at least forty people had had the same problem that day. Unfortunately, even after I’d entered the address they gave me, the GPS kept trying to redirect me right back to them! When I finally shut the thing off and just tried to follow the verbal directions they’d given me, I did get to the main entrance, but that wasn’t the right one either. The one I needed was another two miles back (which turned into four because I missed it since the only sign we saw faced the other direction).

For over a week, Krystal and I have been trying to install Skype on our phones and computers because we’re supposed to set up an international conference call before our mission trip. We haven’t quite succeeded in that yet either. We had a “kinda” call the other night. I saw her for a second, and I could hear her on my computer, but she could only hear me on the phone, and could hear the echo of her own voice through the computer to the phone. We messaged back and forth, so I guess that’s a start, although we don’t need Skype to do that. We could just talk on the phone. I know the problem in that case. I don’t have the equipment I need on the computer. I’d installed Skype on the phone too, but it wasn’t connecting that way.

I could probably name hundreds of other things about technology that have made me scream lately. Like, don’t you love all the email messages you get that make you want to respond (usually with an angry response that wouldn’t be very Christ-like anyway), but you can’t because they sent them from a no-reply address! Can’t you just hear them laughing—“Gotcha!”  I think it should be illegal for any company to send anything from a no-reply email address. If we have to read their junk, they should have to read ours!  

Okay, that’s enough for me. Technology rant over. I guess it’s one of those things you can’t live with and can’t live without. We’re blessed to be able to communicate with people all over the world instantaneously. We can travel the country, and generally find things easily and without hassle. When it works well, it’s wonderful. When it doesn’t, it makes us nuts. I need to learn to be more thankful for the 99 times out of 100 it does work, instead of focusing on the one time it doesn’t. I know that. It doesn’t make it easy.   

What’s your funny technology story? I need a good laugh right now. Tell me! Please!

God bless.  

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Unplanned movie

Went to see the new Unplanned movie this weekend, and wow, it was amazing! Kudos to Abby Johnson for being so open and transparent about her life and letting the pure unadulterated truth about this horror called abortion shine forth. Yet, it’s also clear that the workers in the industry actually think they’re helping people, or at least Abby did until God opened her eyes to the truth.

He used two faithful Christians to do that. They were often found praying and speaking out at the fence of her Planned Parenthood facility. They never hurled insults (or anything else, although unfortunately, that wasn’t true of all the “Christians” at her facility). They were caring, respectful, and kind. Their Christ-like attitude spoke far louder than anything they said, but they weren’t silent about speaking the truth either. God used them in a mighty way to reach Abby. You could say they were the real heroes of this film (although God is the real Hero!)

Abby’s story reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s. Instead of wallowing in the weight of his sin, he accepted Christ’s forgiveness and boldly moved forth to become the greatest evangelist the world has ever seen. Abby’s done the same. Her expertise about the abortion industry, and her now bold pro-life stance has brought many out of the abortion industry as well as changing the minds of many formerly pro-choice women and men. And this movie will open the eyes of many more. Please urge everyone you know to see it and be sure to take their teens and others in their 20’s and 30’s, especially if they’re pro-choice or unsure of their position on the subject. (The irony is your teen needs your permission to see the movie, but not to get an abortion!)

Abby figures she’s complicit in the abortion of over 22,000 babies. The truth is we’re all complicit in over 60 million. The most complicit of all are those nine judges and Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers who took advantage out of pure greed. The movie does make clear that many of the workers in these clinics actually believe they’re helping people. That’s hard for me to believe but I’ve never been in their position, and I’ve always been pro-life, so I can’t judge. I do know most pro-choice people call us cruel and insensitive, saying we’re trying to force our beliefs on others. They wonder how we could expect a young person to carry and care for a baby she’s not prepared for. We’ve got to be like Abby’s friends, winning people with love, caring and compassion. We need to work much harder to provide real solution, not criticism, and never stop speaking the truth, but always in love.       

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I got great news this week that my flash fiction story Mamas and Sweet Tea will appear in the April debut edition of Spark Magazine. When I heard the them of the edition was Love and Sweet Tea, I couldn’t help but think of my mother-in-law.

When I first got married, she didn’t like me–to say the least! I didn’t find out until years later that, in fact, every time my back was turned, she’d ask Wade if he was ready to divorce me and come back home. (The irony is that 40 year later after her death, she finally got that wish.) But anyway, somehow through the years, I think I finally won her over. She even made me the executor of her will and gave me her power of attorney–until I made the fatal “mistake” of saving her life! Then I was right back on her “poo-poo” list!

This story takes a true incident from my mother’in-law’s shenanigans and turns it into what I hope is a delightful story, but I also admit that it isn’t the first time I’ve used her as an inspiration for humor in my writing. What else are life’s frustrations good for?

For the most part though, I think we mothers-in-law get a pretty bad rap. I’ve had many friends tell me they had the sweetest mother-in-law ever, and like I said, for many years, I did too. My mother-in-law was a great grandmother to my kids–much better than my mom. I couldn’t have asked for better. I’ve tried to be as loving and kind to my children’s spouses as I am to my own children.

Now, that’s not to say they won’t have as many funny stories to tell about me as I have about my mother-in-law. We all have our quirks and foibles. and my kids love to make fun of mine. How dull would life be if we couldn’t have a little fun with it! The funny part though is that it’ll probably be my own kids who’d respond by making jokes about me! Maybe they just inherited their mom’s sense of humor and don’t realize it! (Their dad has a very “British” sense of humor, like Monty Python. Don’t know where he got that–certainly not from his mom or dad!)

Anyway, I do still make a great glass of sweet tea–I just can’t drink it anymore, thanks to diabetes! But my son-in-law loves it!

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Word Pictures

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes this is true. Take the above photo by my friend Gary Russell. What more needs to be said? Our God is such an amazing artist! His handiwork  needs no further explanation. Anything we can say is merely an expression of our admiration for His work, but it’s bound to be an understatement.

On the other hand, pictures can be deceptive, can’t they? They can be purposely photo shopped to make someone look younger or older, prettier or even uglier, depending on the purpose for it. But it doesn’t even need to be retouched. An angle or perspective can be deliberately altered to say whatever the photographer wants to say. What about the one of Nick Sandmann, the pro-life student from Covington High School and Nathan Phillips, the Native American activist? How deceptive was that one? (I was going to include it here, but was worried about breaking copyright laws.)

Or do you think the picture wasn’t deceptive at all, and was just painted that way by all the rhetoric that surrounded it? That’s kind of my opinion. I never understood why a picture of a kid smiling was such a big deal. Either way, the picture has caused an incredible stir since the day it came out, and is now the subject of several lawsuits.  

Our lives are also pictures. Non-Christians see us as the only Bible they’ll ever read.  St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”  No offense to him, but wouldn’t that be as deceptive a picture as the one of Nick Sandmann?

To me, it’s a strange philosophy. I get that our life should reflect Christ, and I don’t deny that a bit, but if we don’t give Him the glory with our words, who will actually get it? Probably not Christ! That’s why folks have no problem whatsoever with our doing good deeds. Even Oprah promotes Random Acts of Kindness. Feed the poor, care for the sick, build hospitals, dig wells, and do everything else Christ commanded you to—just don’t speak His name and they’ll be quite happy. They’ll even let you pray as long as you do it to a generic “god” that supposedly encompasses all “higher powers.” 

I think of it this way. Christ came to Earth because we needed more than just words on a page. We needed a picture of Who God was. He was the image of the Invisible God, the Creator of Everything. But He wasn’t a mute image. He spoke the word. He preached the gospel, not just with His life, but with every word He spoke. Love poured out in word and deed, an entwining that’s impossible to separate and still encompass the Truth He intends us to share with the world.  

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The English Language

Hey, Guys. I have a brand new website! It’s found at https://TeresaPollard.com. Thank you Taylor Rubart for making this for me. Please check it out and connect with me by liking, following, and giving me your email address for a quarterly newsletter. I promise I won’t bug anyone any more often than that. Each newsletter will include at least one devotional, and I hope, one short story for you to enjoy, as well as letting you know what I’ve been up to, and have planned for the coming quarter, and new releases or what’s in the works next. For all who do sign up, I’ll enter your names into a drawing for a giveaway of a copy of my new novel, Not Alone, which I’ll be bringing out in May. I’ll also give away copies of my older novels, Not Guilty, Not Ashamed, and Woman of Light if I can get at least 100 sign-ups by May.

It’s so funny. English has become the second language of the world. When I’ve traveled  abroad, I’ve rarely gotten to use much of my Spanish or German because everyone I met spoke English. Yet here, I have to “press one for English”, find the correct sign in bathrooms, or go through pages and pages of an instruction manual to get to the English portion. Why is America becoming the only place English isn’t the preferred language? 

I will admit English is a hard language to learn. It has so many idiosyncrasies! My ESL students get so frustrated, and I can’t blame them. Sometimes I just have to shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know why it’s that way. I just know it is!” They aren’t the only ones who have problems though! We can’t get it right either! I know I’m a grammar nerd, but I want to scream every time someone on Facebook writes loose for lose, there for their, or to for too, etc..  If we can’t get it after 12+ years of school, how in the world can we expect others to come here and learn it in a few weeks or months?

The truth is we can’t. That’s why we have those signs and instruction manuals. We have such a large portion of our population who need them.  God bless people for trying to learn English though! And God bless those who speak Spanish, or French, or German, or whatever. Studying another language opens us up to another culture. The more we learn about each other, the more we understand the difficulties, and can empathize with the struggles anyone faces as they seek to assimilate into an alien environment.

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