Barley Candy And Chicken Bones

“Barley candy and chicken bones for Christmas, it’s a Canadian tradition. It’s stick sugar candy that looks like Santa and Snowmen.” Zack told an unbelieving Emiko. “In Tokyo we drink barley tea, and eat fried chicken on Christmas.”

This dumbfounded Zack. “What do you eat for dessert, tuna ice cream?” Which he knew she had tried, but didn’t care for.

“It’s a whole lot better than fruit cake I’ll tell you that. Christmas dessert for us is what you call Strawberry Shortcake. Sponge cake shaped like a Christmas tree, with strawberries and whip cream.”

Zack smiled at his college bride. They had dated for six months before he proposed, and had planned a small wedding, with mostly family and a few friends. Through no fault of them, or their family, only friends made it to the wedding.

An emergency landing kept Emiko’s parents from making the ceremony. Thankfully they were all right. Zach’s Mom and Dad were both doctors at the same hospital, and emergency surgeries called them back at the last minute.

The couple had tried to postpone, but each parent insisted that the wedding not be ruined. The wedding was beautiful, and the Zach and Emiko’s friends had photographed and videoed every aspect of the wedding for each set of parents.

Anne and Marty, Aika and Hisashi had both felt horrible about it. So they reached out to the others and came with an idea to make it up to the two young people. They had went on a small honeymoon, putting most of the money towards a future home.

The Hobbs and Ishikawa families promised to give the couple a Christmas trip to anywhere they wanted. Now Zack and Emiko were dreaming of where that would be. They ruled out place by place, as they realized that this was one of those once in a lifetime family memory trips.

Family Memory Trips were what Marty had always called those adventures that Zack and his family talked about years later. Like the time they had went to Colorado to ski. It was the most fun he remembered anyone having with a broken leg.

His Dad had fell off the ski lift the first day, but he did his best to keep everyone else laughing. He didn’t find out til years later that his Dad was in severe pain, but didn’t want to ruin everyone’s trip.

Then there was the time they went camping in September. They didn’t tell the kids, but the reason for that trip were cut backs at the hospital, which eliminated the vacation budget that year. The kids didn’t know the difference.

Emiko listened for awhile, then added her own stories. Her Dad opened his own business when she was 13, and worked a lot of long hours. Still, for her birthday, he closed the shop, and spent the entire day with the family. He didn’t say anything, but her Mom told her he had lost a major client because of this.

Then she talked about the time her Mom had went through major surgery. That Christmas, they expected to be very low key, but her Mom decorated every room in the house. Story after story, they realized the sacrifices their parents had made for them.

“We can’t take the trip we were thinking about a few minutes ago can we?” Zack said, knowing her answer. “No, but we can do something much better.” As she picked up her phone to text her brother.

That night they both talked to their siblings, and worked out a plan. Instead of a major trip to some exotic place, they chose a small bed and breakfast near their home. Hank Crenshaw cut the price he charged Zack’s parents to almost nothing, just enough they hoped, for Marty not to make the connection. They split the remaining cost of the rooms with Sally, Zack’s sister.

Emiko called the local travel agent, and orchestrated her parents booking their tickets through her. Her brothers helped them with the cost for Aika and Hisashi.

Each set of parents didn’t say anything to them, but they were both suspicious. Still, they had promised to do whatever the kids wanted. So the four of them prepared for the Christmas trip.

Each were a little disappointed when the other siblings made excuses to keep their parents from buying their tickets. The two couples arrived a little sad, afraid the whole family wouldn’t be together for Christmas. It was a week before Christmas, but the kids had a plan.

Zack and Emiko knew they were the offspring of mystery lovers and crossword enthusiasts, so they had to give them an ‘aha’ moment without spoiling the entire surprise. So, when they got in the car that had been sent for them from the airport, Emiko’s oldest brother was the driver.

When they got to the hotel, Zack’s sister greeted them from the desk, where the hotel clerk would normally have been. Over the course of the first hour, each child surprised the parents with their presence. This was sure, they reasoned, to throw the four off their guard.

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity. Zack and Emiko had planned different things, but those turned out not to be more monotonous than memorable. It was the unexpected moments that became special.

Marty couldn’t sleep that night because of his acid reflux, so he slipped downstairs to sit in the lobby and look at the decorations. Zack’s sister got her Mother’s looks, but her Father’s stomach. She was popping antacids as she walked down the steps. “Dad, why are you up?”

Seeing the pills in her hand replied. “I didn’t have those. Share with your Father.” Then after a few minutes he pulled out his phone. Sally was disappointed for a minute, afraid the special moment would be ruined by distraction.

“I’m not tweeting, I’m getting your brother and his pre-middle aged stomach out of bed to join us.” It took three rings, but soon he joined them, unshaven and hair out of place, still smiling.

The three of them didn’t go to bed until long after the antacids had kicked in. The only detriment was, breakfast became brunch for everyone the next morning, precautionary meds were the first course. Late nights were one thing, burping up dinner was another.

After this, Aika and Anne decided they were going shopping. The men thought they’d stay back while all the girls attacked the mall. The ladies didn’t think so. For love of their spouses, Hisashi, Genzo, Haruto, Zack, and Tom, Sally’s husband, all went to a mall before Christmas.

These are the men who ordered everything online two months ahead just to avoid this nightmare. They walked into every store, were attentive as the women found nothing to wear, then carried the bags of “nothing” all through the mall.

Coffees, popcorn, and all sorts of sweets were sampled. Pictures were taken with Santa, and yes, they all waited in line for an hour to get the pictures. The men even purchased the ugliest Christmas sweaters they could find. Much to the detriment of each spouse. It was a wonderful afternoon.

That night, Zack surprised them all with a sleigh ride through the snow that he had scheduled. It was ok, but forgettable, until Tom lost his balance getting out of the sleigh, and tumbled into the snow.

That sparked a snowball fight, started by Genzo’s wife, Mina, which turned out to be the highlight of the night. It was another late night, only this time everyone joined in. Soon it was Christmas Day, and everyone gathered for a huge feast, spontaneous holiday karaoke, with very bad, off key, wonderful noise, and gifts.

True to tradition, the parents insisted the kids go first. The four had pooled their resources to give Zack and Emiko got two tickets to Hawaii. The parents had guessed the plan, and planned accordingly.

Not to treat the daughter any differently, Sally and Tom got the European trip they had dreamed about. Aika and Hisashi got their two sons, and daughter-in-laws each a trip. One to Alaska, and the other to Australia.

The last few years had been good to the elder Hobbs and Ishikawa’s businesses. They were able to give their kids what they hadn’t been able to years before. Each had raised good children, and were now able to reward the wonderful adults they had become.

After the money they knew had been spent on this special trip, they didn’t really expect large gifts from the kids. An while they weren’t that expensive, they were very special.

Marty got a banjo from Zack. Though an old one, it was a fairly inexpensive, used one, with one special feature. Zack had found it online, then brought it with him to a local bookstore to get an autograph from a musician that he knew his Dad loved. The banjo player had just wrote a book, which was the reason for Zack’s purchase of the banjo.

He knew his Dad would love an autographed book, but he’d love the autographed banjo more. Zack made sure it was just vintage enough to earn the interest of the musician and author, and he was right. Zach even got a song played by the artist on the banjo, and a video for his Dad.

Marty had tears, not so much at the gift alone, but the love behind it. Anne expected something more commercial, knowing it was hard to capture lightning twice. So she prepared herself for the huge smile, regardless of what was in the box.

What she didn’t expect, was a pack of assorted notes wrapped in ribbon. Confused at first, she recognized the writing almost instantly. It was from her best friend of over thirty years. The next was from another friend she hadn’t seen in almost that long.

“I emailed, called, and text everyone I could get a hold of. You never were much for gadgets, so I thought this may be special to put a little old fashioned into your Christmas. The last few letters are from each of us.”

Anne’s face soon matched Marty’s, as hugs were exchanged to everyone. Emiko handed her Mom her gift first. It was large, and Aika couldn’t figure out what it was. When she opened it though, she was ecstatic.

It was a portrait of her Mother in the traditional Nihonga style. “It was from that old photo you love. I think the artist did a really good job, but it’s unsigned.”

Her Mother laughed through tears. “It doesn’t have to be signed. I recognize my daughter’s brushstrokes. Don’t you know I’ve been a fan of your art since preschool crayons?”

Emiko blushed. Not used to painting this way, she was saving this little tidbit of information until she saw whether or not her Mother liked it. Her Mom insisted she sign it right away. Aika knew her daughter, who like most artists, were never far from their tools.

Emiko handed Hisashi his gift. Like Anne, he was prepared for, not a lesser gift, but a less spectacular one let’s say. He too, was pleasantly surprised. Hisashi, a Jazz fan, opened the box to see an original record and cover of “Ella and Louis”. Plus one of those portable turn table that he could hook to his laptop.

Each of the other siblings had gifts just as special, and the parents treasured each one. A vintage pocket watch for Marty from Sally. Plus, a doctor’s bag from the turn of the century for Anne.

Each of Hisashi and Aika’s boys, and their wives, got their Dad special records, including one of Bing Crosby’s Christmas records. Aika was given a classic typewriter for her office, plus a limited edition fountain pen. After telling each child they spent too much, records were played, and gifts were enjoyed.

The treasure though wasn’t the crackles of vinyl, clackety typewriter keys, or banjo strings. The real art in the room wasn’t even the painting, or the letters. It was the children, each parent looked at their most precious contribution to their legacy. Which was the happy faces of the gifts that God had given them.

Because of a Child, Christmas became a reality. An while no other is quite like Him, I do believe He intended for Christmas to always be filled with children. May your home, and heart, be filled with both Christ and the children, those precious gifts, He gives this Christmas.

Merry Christmas from PruittWrites!

The Christmas Guitar

The Christmas Guitar

It may look like just an old flat top guitar with a cherry burst finish, nestled in green cellophane, in the window of a pawn shop. That may be what it looks like, but every musical instrument has a story. Some are celebrated, others are rarely told, and some seem to have more than one lifetime. As guitars go, this one was pretty special.

I know it wasn’t anything magical, or anything like that, but this Christmas, it made a huge difference in my life. My name is Taylor, and our story started on an old bus. I was hungry, tired, and hopeless. It was the first of December, and I didn’t care about where I was going.

My only friend was that old guitar. I strummed a few chords, and sang as the sounds from the road accompanied me. There was only a few people on the bus, but they were up front. The driver had told me he didn’t mind my playing, as long as I was quiet. You wouldn’t know it to look at me then, but I used to be somebody.

In fact, I was a college professor, even worse, I was president of a small college in Colorado. At least until the day I boarded the bus. I imagine a few people asked where I was, maybe even thought it odd, but it probably passed soon enough.

I had grabbed my first bus at the end of September, when everything went wrong. No one would recognize me now. The clean cut college president, now had a half healed broken leg, and a black beard with a little gray in it.

About dark, the bus pulled to a stop. I gingerly carried it as I hobbled out quickly. I walked from the bus stop, not really anxious to get somewhere.

About a mile later, me, it, and my partially healed leg were ready to stop walking. I sat down off the road to catch my breath. A semi stopped and asked me where I was going.

“Anywhere really.” I said, too tired to walk any more, I didn’t care where I went. “Ok, you can ride for a while.”

We rode for about twenty miles, and then he pulled off by a small diner. “Come on friend. I’m hungry, you look like you are, and I hate to eat alone.” I was too starved to argue.

We both had a roast beef sandwich and a cup of potato soup. The coffee was good, and the apple pie went with it well. I looked at this stranger with appreciation, and curiosity, and said thank you.

He smiled. “What you really want to say is why. Why ask someone you don’t know, toting a guitar, to ride? Let’s just say I’ve walked that same road a time or two, and I prefer to ride. My name’s Wes Atkins.”

“You can call me Taylor. I’m grateful to you. I wasn’t feeling up to going any further on foot. What can I do to repay you?” He smiled, paused, and looked out the window.

“You can tell me a story, and then sing a lady a song. After that we’re even. Sound ok?” I nodded, thinking I didn’t have anything to lose.

“What story do you want to hear?” He gave me a deadpan look, and I swallowed hard. “Why do you want to know that story?”

He laughed. “Now you’re stalling. Remember you agreed. Let’s have the story now, the song will come later.”

It took me a minute, but I sighed, and began a version of my story. “I was pretty successful, and had just got a promotion a few months ago. There was this project that I stuck my neck out for. It went badly, and I left. Now here I am.”

I figured he would get angry, since I had purposely left a lot out. He didn’t, just shook his head, drank his coffee, and headed for the door. I didn’t immediately follow, until he looked back. “You coming?”

I grabbed my guitar and followed. Then as he paid the bill, before walking out, he said. “You still owe me a song.”

We got back in the semi, and drove all night. The next morning he pulled in to a truck stop. “I’ve got to catch some shut eye. You should too. We’ve got a long road to go.”

Like I said, I didn’t care where I went, so I listened. My guess was he was a lonely old man, and liked the company. We rode for days, and he never once asked me about my past again.

We did talk about a lot of other things. Wes was pretty smart. He even knew a little Shakespeare. He had a way of drawing out my opinions on things.

He was easy to like, and we became friends. Wes talked about his wife, his kids, and his grandkids. One day he asked me if I ever had a girl of my own. I muttered something. I wasn’t even sure myself what I had said.

I know what I didn’t do. I didn’t go into any details, I wasn’t about too. Wes was nice, but that door was closed, and I would not reopen it, it was too painful. Instead I told happy stories, sang happy songs, and lied deeply to myself.

About a week into my trip, we crossed a line I didn’t care for. It was the Kansas state line. That meant we were one state away from the place I said I’d never go back too. Wes and I almost parted ways that morning.

He could tell I was edgy, but he didn’t push it. “If you have other plans I understand. I hate to finish the rest of the trip alone, but if you need to go, it’s ok. Of course, you still owe me a song for a lady.”

“About that, you never told me who the lady was, or what song to sing? I may not even know the words.” He didn’t respond to my excuses, Wes just waited. Finally, I gave in, sighed, and said I’d stay.

By that evening I had settled down, and things were back to normal. We pulled in to another truck stop, and everyone greeted him. He seemed to be almost a fixture to everyone there.

He smiled at me and explained. “I’ve spent a lot of my life in truck stops, especially this one. One winter’s night, it was pretty important.”

We both had a surprisingly good cup of coffee in our hands, and I was in a mood for a story that wasn’t about me, so I smiled and nodded. A storyteller doesn’t need a lot of encouragement.

“I was a young man, and we had just had our first a child about a month before. I hated leaving, but there were doctor bills to pay, and it was winter time. It had started out as a mild winter, but just about twenty miles from here, that changed in a hurry.”

“The first few miles it was mostly snow, when I was a little ways out, but the stop was in sight. I hit a patch of ice. Thankfully that day, there weren’t other crazy people on the road, just me. I tried every trick I knew, but she wasn’t about to stop.”

“This is usually the part of the story where people will tell you that they had tried everything else, and said a quick prayer, but son, I was praying all the way. I had never been a fan of pot holes, and I don’t particularly care for them today, but that day, I was mighty happy to hit one.”

“As near as we could figure later, the pavement there gave way about the time my tire hit it, breaking the ice above it. That one little break, gave me the few seconds I needed to regain control of the semi. I skidded to a stop, but it was a safe one.”

“I got out of that truck, never wanting to get back into one again. An for the next 24 hours I didn’t. I holed up here to frightened to leave. That’s how me and Pete there became friends. He owns it now, but he just worked there then.”

A storyteller isn’t finished when he pauses, he’s just waiting to see if you’re ready for more. Of course I was. Fear was something that I understood.

He poured a little more coffee from the carafe the waitress had left, and continued. “That next day, I called my Wife to tell her I was going to find another line of work. Before I did, I asked her how she was, and how the baby was.”

“She said Lil Bit hadn’t slept through the night, and she was afraid she had a touch of colic. It turned out to just be a cold, but I didn’t know it then. All I knew was my Wife was tired, and my baby was sick. I didn’t have time to look for something new, or better, at least not if it meant being unemployed.”

“I could find another job, but I couldn’t do it without the one I had. So I said goodbye to Pete, spoke another quick prayer, and got back on the truck, still scared to death. It took about a month before I got over it, and about three months before I could think about it without being scared.”

“It probably makes me sound like a coward, but it’s the way I felt. For the first few trips, I actually avoided this place. I didn’t like to be reminded of what almost happened, or how afraid I was.”

This time, I thought he’d never finish that last drink of coffee and go on. Finally I had to know. “What made you go back? There are other stops near here. Was the coffee that good, or are the other stop’s food that bad.”

He laughed. “Yes on both counts, but it wasn’t that. Stopping here made my route shorter, which meant less time a way on a trip. Which meant I got to spend more time with my family. Plus, I liked the people here.”

“People are important, and on the road, there are a lot of unfriendly faces. You learn to appreciate the welcoming ones. They aren’t always around.”

He seemed to sense that my edginess was on the verge of coming back, so he changed the subject. “I think I’ll call my Wife and check on her. You finish your pie, I’m going to head back to the truck and turn in.”

I finished it, and thought of what I had left behind. It wasn’t a Wife and kids. It was the promise of something that I felt I had let down. Everything I had tried, all my plans, had went south.

My intentions were to get as far from them as I could. Now it looked like we were headed back that way. That’s when it hit me, I had never asked Wes where we were going. I was going to when I got back to the truck, but he was already asleep.

So I figured it would keep until the morning, and tried to go to sleep myself. I tossed and turned a lot, but eventually made it. It would have been better if I hadn’t.

I had nightmares about all the people I had disappointed, and all the hopes that I had dashed. By four am, I was up, and I was heading towards the door of the truck. Wes spoke from behind me.

“I’m not going to stop you, or to tell you about running. You’ve probably heard it, and it would sound trivial, but I would like to ask you a question. If you’ll let me?”

I sighed like a pouting child, turned around, and told him to go ahead. He wasn’t interested in my attitude, he just ignored it.

“What do you think hurt the people you walked out on most, the thing you did, or the fact that you left?” He didn’t ask it in a judgmental way, but it stung. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t. Memories of faces stopped me.

I just stood there a few minutes, and so did he. Finally I slumped into the passenger’s seat, and he started the rig. We went a few miles, then I started talking.

“How did you know I was running from something?” I smiled, only half way joking. “You weren’t tracking me were you?” He laughed, and shook his head.

“No son, I’m a Granddad. I’ve seen scared in three generations. In the mirror, in my kids, and in my Grandkids. I never saw it in my Dad, although he told me once how scared he had been in the army.”

“Matter of fact, he told me after he heard me telling a version of what had happened to me, minus the embarrassing parts. No, I didn’t know who you were at first.”

He said it with kind eyes, but I was trying to understand what he meant. “Please don’t tell me it’s already on the internet. I mean, probably the local paper, but not everywhere.”

“It might be, I don’t know. You don’t know me, and that’s fine, but I mentioned I’m a Dad and Grandad. A few days in, I got a call from my youngest daughter. She lives in a little town in Colorado, and she told me about what was going on there. I put two and two together, and wouldn’t you know, they still make four.”

I feigned anger. “So you thought you’d make it your business to take me back? It’s nobody’s business …”

His look stopped me. It wasn’t stern, but it had authority behind that smile. “I’m not taking you anywhere. She lives there, I live in a town near there. I’m going where I always said I was.”

“You can meet my Wife, and most of the family. If you want to meet the rest, you’ve got to travel that road. You see, the last few miles are always the hardest. A man needs the help with the first few hundred, but those last few, you’ve got to choose to go those for yourself.”

I just looked at him, and then out the window. The next morning, I wanted to talk, but wasn’t brave enough to try. He pulled off at another stop right across the Colorado line.

“I asked you to play a lady a song. The lady is in there, and she needs a good one. It might surprise you to know, you weren’t the reason for this trip. I’ve been retired for a year now, too old for this, but that lady in there, she needed help.”

“So I volunteered, me and my eighteen wheeled friends here, figured we could make one more trip together. We’ve made a lot, the three of us. My truck, my trailer, and me, but I gave them to my second youngest husband last year.”

“He’s going to be ok, but it will take a little while. A few months back, Andrew was in the local bank. He was going to make a deposit. The guy behind him was going to make a withdrawal, and not the right way.”

“Andrew could have just let the man rob the bank, but he didn’t. He stopped the man, and ended up with two bullets in him. The doctor said no work for six months to a year. They had sunk everything they had into the business, and I couldn’t let them fail. So, I volunteered to make this run for them.”

“He should be well enough to make the next trip, but they couldn’t miss this one. Abby is pretty down. She tells herself it’s going to be okay, but she doesn’t quite believe.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “How is a song going to make a difference? Wes, I like you, but things aren’t that easy. I can’t just waltz in there, sing a few words, and make it better. I don’t know if Sinatra could do that.”

For the first time, Wes got angry. “That’s the trouble with a lot of folks any more. They think because they don’t know everything, that nothing will work. Half the people who achieved great things in this world only knew one or two things, but they were sure of them.”

“Churchill was sure that he had to stop Hitler, even if he didn’t know how. Reagan was sure the wall had to come down, even if it looked impossible. It might interest you to know, it’s not about you, or the song itself, it’s about a promise.”

“I don’t have time to explain, I just need you to go in, and sing a song. One song, and then you can do whatever you want, but we made a deal. Can you honor a deal Mr College President? Can you do that?”

I still didn’t understand, but the last two sentences had hit a chord, and he knew it. I was so angry I fought back tears, at least I told myself it was anger. “What song?”

He sighed, calmed down, and said another something weird. “You pick it. Just make sure it’s a Christmas song, and even if you have to sing it twice, that it’s at least three minutes long.”

There wasn’t any question for me what I was going to play. It had been written with a guitar I believe, because the organ had been broken at the time. I only wondered if I could calm down enough to sing Silent Night the right way.

I knew how to play it, so I grabbed my old friend. When I walked in the stop, it wasn’t as nice as some we’d been in, but it was clean. There was a little stage sat up, with a stool, and a microphone.

Apparently they had been waiting for me. When I walked in with Wes I saw the resemblance as I crossed the floor to the stage. She had tears in her eyes. Her husband, who looked as angry as I had been, sat at a table with a cane.

I pulled a pick from my pocket, adjusted the mike, and started to sing. The clock above the window ticked away, and I was mentally counting the time. At about two minutes in, Wes walked over to Andrew, leaned down, and whispered something in his ear. All while placing something in his hand.

His eyes got very big, and he stared at Wes for a moment, then he broke. Through tears, he looked at his Wife, and struggled to stand. She started to rush to him, but Wes stopped her with a look.

He made it to his feet, and he and the cane made it to her. A gentle kiss, a hug, and two smiles. As the song ended, Wes poured us all some coffee, and started slicing the coconut cake that was in the glass case.

“Abby always loved coconut cake. It was her favorite, and still is. What did the doctor say Andrew?”

The man looked totally different somehow, kindness seems to take a few years off that anger puts on. “He says maybe three more months, but I’ll get there sir, I promise.”

Wes laughed. “I always knew you would. I didn’t volunteer because I didn’t have confidence in you. I did it because everyone, even a man, needs help sometimes. Me, Comet, and Cupid can still make the trip.”

I blinked. “Now I know I either need hearing aids, or to wake up. What did you say?”

Abby laughed. “When we were kids, I got the crazy idea that Dad was Santa Claus. Probably because he was the only one I had told about the gift that was marked “Santa” for my third birthday. Ever since then he joked that his semi was as fast as Comet, and the trailer always followed Comet, so that made her Cupid.”

“Dad made us a promise. That he would be back in time for the payment on the truck stop. We bought it, before all of this, as a backup to the truck. So Andrew wouldn’t have to spend too much time on the road.”

Andrew finished her story. “He said that he would be back, with the check, and a song, and some Christmas cheer. I didn’t believe any of it, but he did it. Him, that big red semi, and apparently a new friend.”

I laughed. “I think that makes me an elf. What do you say Santa?”

Wes never missed a thing. “Nope, too tall. Besides, you wouldn’t look good in green.” We talked with them for a few hours, and then Wes gathered his gear out of “Comet”, and said goodbye.

First to his family, and then, to “his team”. When we got in his old pickup I made a joke. “What this one’s name, Donner?”

HIs response, “No, Blitzen. We call the Cadillac Rudolph.” I just laughed. There was something he hadn’t explained, and I was curious. “Wes, why three minutes?”

He glanced at me. “How did you brake your leg?” I hung my head in shame, “Catching the first bus in September. I was late, and almost didn’t make it. It hurt, but not as bad as leaving people did.”

He nodded. “Your leg needed time to heal, just like the pain over what happened. You had to deal with it gradually, so did Andrew. He had to realize I wasn’t helping him out of pride or pity. He was angry that he couldn’t fix it, and had been short with himself, Abby, and everyone else.”

“At the right minute, I handed the check over that we picked up yesterday, and gave him a message. It did the trick, and no, the message was between him and me, but it reassured him that we respected and loved him, not just Abby.”

I thought a lot about it til we arrived at his house. Mrs. Atkins was a lovely woman, and so were the two twin boys, Eric and Michael. We all had dinner, and went to bed.

The next morning, it was snowing as we sat down to breakfast. “So tell me Mrs. Atkins, I know you have another daughter, what’s her name?” I thought she didn’t hear me at the time, so I repeated.

She motioned over her shoulder as she lifted the pancakes out of the pan. “Her picture is on the piano, it’s Katherine.” I had stood up when she said picture, and was halfway to the piano, when I stopped cold at the name.

I told myself it all made sense, but I still couldn’t believe it. Wes had just walked in with some firewood when he saw what was happening. I looked at her, then at him, and then started walking towards the door.

“Which direction are you heading? If you’re going East, you’ll need the guitar. If you’re going west, the memories will just get in your way.”

I just grinned as I held out my hand. “Keys please Mr. Claus?” He gave me a set, I grabbed the guitar, and followed the directions Mrs. Atkins told me quickly from the kitchen.

I pulled in to Wildwood Colorado thirty minutes later. The snow slowed me down. I passed what had been Gretsch college, and I headed to the local library where Katherine still worked. I didn’t know what would happen, and I expected anything.

The main desk was on one end of the library, I went in through the other door. My nerves were yelling at me that I was crazy, and I was afraid I’d botch any speech I tried. So I thought, maybe sisters do think and act like one person.

I found a chair, and started to play. This time, I thought, I have to make enough noise to get the attention of the head librarian. Go Tell It On The Mountain could be loud, so I started playing.

Anger was on her face as she turned the corner, and then realization. I didn’t expect a smile, and was just thankful there wasn’t a scowl. She let me finish the song, but didn’t clap, not that I expected it.

I stood up, and walked slowly towards her, hoping she wouldn’t turn away. My mind was racing for the words to say, and they weren’t coming. Finally, I went for pathetic. “How much for a library card?”

She looked at the guitar, then at me. “For the guitar seven dollars. For you a thousand.”

I whispered I’d be glad to pay it, but it might take a lifetime. She said something about was I sure I didn’t have a bus to catch. I deserved that.

“I can catch another bus if you want me too.” She looked at me with a mixture of emotions. “I never wanted you to leave, now, how can I be sure you’re going to stay?”

I took her hand. “I don’t travel away from home without my guitar. If I sell it, I’ll never leave.”

She looked at me like I was crazy, and I pulled her outside. “Where are we going?” I pointed to the pawn shop down the road, and she got in the car.

I pawned it, and tore up the ticket. The pawn shop guy just looked at me, as he placed it in the window. She looked at me. “This doesn’t fix everything, but it’s a start.”

“I told her that was all I needed, and kissed her. Today is Christmas Eve, and you probably still have a ton of questions. This is where you came in, and asked me why I was staring at that old guitar in the window.”

“You tell a good story stranger, but you left a lot out. What happened at the college? What made you leave her to start with?”

“The college was scheduled to close two years ago. I was a new professor at it. I had went to school there. It was a small college, and never had made a lot of money, but it was really in the hole. The board of trustees were ready to cut their losses and close it then.”

“I see, but you convinced them to let you try and save it. I take it things didn’t work out? Was that why you left?”

“It wasn’t just that the funds weren’t there, or that the college was going to close. I had convinced the faculty, and everyone involved to invest in the college’s future. I was so sure it would succeed, that I ignored all the signs that it couldn’t.”

“Katherine put her life savings into the place, and I had cost her that. There’s a businessman in town, a successful one, John Martin. He was in love with her too. I figured if I was out of the picture, he could provide for her where I couldn’t.”

“I sold everything I had, cashed in what little nest egg that I hadn’t already sunk into the college, and had my secretary parse it out to the people who had relied on me. She gave it to them, along with a letter of apology.”

“I took enough to get bus fare, and food, and left. I figured I would only be a painful reminder of a broken dream. I couldn’t bear that, so I left, hoping they’d forget I was ever here to start with.”

The little man in a green coat with smiling green eyes, and white hair looked at me. “Are you glad you’re back?” Then I showed him the ring.

“They’ve got an awful lot of neat things in that pawn shop. It’s a cheap engagement ring, but we’ll make it work. Until Andrew is healed up, I’m going to run the rig, and split the profits.”

“It will keep Katherine and I going, and them, and eventually, maybe we can reopen the college. Either way, we’ll get by, as long as we’re together.”

The man pointed at the window. “It looks like someone just bought your guitar young man. Are you okay with it being gone? It seems it’s quite an instrument.”

“Yeah, I’ll miss it, but it’s worth it. Sometimes you have to give up something, to get something even more valuable. Although I’ll always be grateful for that instrument.”

The man smiled and looked over my shoulder to someone behind me. “You said you’d never leave home without it. I can’t have my husband to be lying.”

It was Katherine, and there was a little green cellophane in her hand, along with something else. My fiancé almost dropped both when I held, and kissed her. She didn’t though, and from then on, I never let either of them go, her, or my Christmas Guitar.

The Creator Of Blessings

We’ve feasted, strung our lights, laughed, and some poor souls braved the hordes for bargains. Today, we go to worship The Creator of blessings, light, laughter, and life itself. This day, as in every season, regardless of circumstances, we see His Light, feel the warmth He created, and experience because He created us.

We exist because He wanted to give us life. We can know Him because He gave His life to redeem us. He’s given us so much, and today, we go to say thank you. We do this, not only today, but every day, because each is a gift that did not have to exist.

We humans talk a lot about destiny, but until He decided to design us, it was only a concept in His mind. Everything we have, everything good about us, is because of Jesus. When I meet you in the Sanctuary this morning, let’s join our hearts, our voices, and our determination together, to not only say thank you today, but to live it tomorrow.

Three Soldiers 

This Veteran’s Day, PruittWrites would like to briefly spotlight Three Soldiers of World War 1. It was after this conflict that Veteran’s Day was enacted. So we find it only fitting to look into the lives of three men who defended our nation during this time.

General Of The Armies

Only two men hold the title, and one of them was George Washington. The other, actually held it first, while in command, General Of The Armies.  His uniform included the wearing of four gold stars instead of silver, and any soldier that knew him, would tell you he deserved it. General Pershing was a man ahead of his time, a believer in equality, fairness, and in the American Soldier.

The famous epitaph he was given, “Black Jack”, came first as a derogatory slang for leading African American troops. Before joining the army, he taught local African American children in his home state of Missouri. In 1895 he commanded one of the original Buffalo soldier regiments in the 10th Cavalry. He led the regiment in the battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.

A lifetime of faithful, and expert service resulted in him being chosen to lead the entire American forces during World War 1. He was appointed the title General Of The Armies on the same year that Veteran’s Day was instituted in honor of our soldiers, 1919. This teacher, this soldier, this general, would go on to win the Pulitzer prize for his memoirs on the events of World War 1.

Sgt. York

Sergeant Alvin Cullum York, became one of the most decorated soldiers for his bravery during World War 1. He was awarded the Medal Of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun post that eliminated 32 machine guns, and captured 132 prisoners. The son of a blacksmith, he was born in a two room log cabin near Pall Mall, Tennessee on December 13, 1887.

As a young man, after the death of his Father, he worked to help his Mother support a family that included eleven children. His two older brothers having already married and relocated, it became his responsibility. Alvin would travel to Harriman for work in construction, and later logging to make the ends meet.

It was General Pershing himself awarded Sergeant York the Medal Of Honor. Alvin would go on to win nearly 50 decorations for bravery. A strong Christian, when asked about his accomplishments, he replied, “A higher power than man guided and watched over me and told me what to do.”

Sergeant York retired a hero, and though many would have been content to leave it at that, he wasn’t. When World War 2 arrived, he attempted to re-enlist. He was turned down, due to poor health, but that did not stop the man from Tennessee. He was commissioned as a Major in the Signal Corps.

At his own expense, he toured training camps, inspiring the soldiers. He taught them that well trained soldiers can fight their way out of any situation. Although he rose to the rank of Colonel in the Tennessee State Guard, to us and countless of Americans, he will always be Sergeant York.

First Lieutenant

Our last soldier, cheated to get into the Army. His eyesight was considered so poor, that he was turned down for service. This happened both at West Point, and the Missouri National Guard. Harry wouldn’t let it stop him though, he secretly memorized the eye chart to get in.

He was determined to serve his country. Others saw this determination and Harry was made First Lieutenant. A sudden attack by the enemy in the Vosges Mountains could have proved disastrous, had it not been for Harry. His unit began to retreat, but Harry encouraged them to stay and fight, leading his men.

On another occasion, his quick thinking in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive saved many American lives. Future World War 2 hero, General Patton’s tank brigade, would receive cover from his men as well. Like General Pershing, and Sergeant York, Harry would go on to serve his country during World War 2. First as a Senator from Missouri, then as Vice President, and finally as President Harry S. Truman.

In their own way, these three WW1 Veterans, taught their fellow Americans something. No matter what age, no matter how old, or how young, we are never too anything to stand for our country. 

The soldiers that have fought, bled, and either perished or survived in the defense of our great country deserve all of our honor. No matter what political persuasion, regardless of opinion, passion, or background, we can all stand together in this. The American Soldier doesn’t stand for a platform, candidate, or temporary argument, they stand for us. May God bless our soldiers, the frontline for all that we believe in and hold dear.

Burnt Sweet Potato Pie

Trudy fought to hold back the tears. She had followed the recipe to a t, she thought. Her first clue was the smoke, the second was the foam that formed on the edge of the pan. When one bite of the quickly cooled concoction confirmed her fears, uncontrollable sobs fell. This was not the Thanksgiving she had planned.

She had successfully cooked Thanksgiving dinner before, she wasn’t a novice. Granted it had been a few years, Mom and her sisters had rotated the responsibility of the main dinner for the last five years. It had been four since her last turn.

Everyone brought sides, but the main house did three dishes, the turkey, the dressing, and the sweet potato pie. Trudy was afraid the turkey looked drier than last time, but she was probably overthinking it. She reminded herself the dressing needed more sage, but the thing that she had to get right was dessert.

Now, her first sweet potato pie was a flop. She had done something wrong, but she didn’t have time to figure it out. She sat it aside on the counter by the sink, and started two new ones. “Charles, I need you.”

These words, on this day, struck fear into her husband’s heart. He had been part of a big family, the first to get his license. Charles knew what that meant on Thanksgiving day. He still remembered the look his Father had given him the first day it had happened.

Particularly the smile that seemed to say, “You have the license now, it’s your turn.” His Dad had muttered something when he tossed him the keys, that sounding suspiciously like “I’m free.” Ever since then, Charles waited til Wendy had gotten her license. He thanked God every day that his Father had not been a chauvinist, especially that first Thanksgiving when it was her turn.

“What am I getting?” Was his intended first sentence, until he saw the tears. “Baby, what’s wrong? Don’t worry, everything’s going to be ok. How can I help?” Was what came out as he hugged his bride. “Sweet potatoes, sugar, pecans … Too much to say, I’ll text you.”

It was his second trip that day, and he felt noble in the fact that he had resisted responding like his brother Joe had last year at his house. “Joe still winces when he eats a turkey sandwich a year later.” He said as he looked at the market once getting out of the car.

It was as horrible as he expected it to be, but he made it home in forty five minutes. Any other day, it would have been a twenty minute trip. Trudy had him double check her on every step. Soon, both pies were in the oven, and Trudy placed two more in the refrigerator as backups to cook next.

The Hudson/Cantrell family loved their sweet potato pies. While they cooked, Trudy went to change, charging Charles with the responsibility of watching them. Sweet potato pie hadn’t been as big a deal to the Hudson side of the family until he married Trudy.

For some reason, the Cantrell family put it right up above the dressing, almost more important than the turkey. No one had ever said why. When Trudy came back, one still wasn’t ready. She took the one out to cool, and put one of the refrigerator pies in the oven.

Charles ran to catch a very quick shower. He had just finished dressing when the doorbell rang. Soon all the family was laughing and talking about memories. Everything was going great.

Trudy was still a little preoccupied. Her Mom asked her what was going on. She said she just wanted to make sure the dessert was ok. Even her Mom thought she was over checking the kitchen, and her Mom was a worry wart.

She switched out the two that were done, and placed the last refrigerator pie in the oven. They sat down to eat. Trudy’s Dad would say Grace, and Charles’ Dad would ask each what they were thankful for.

Before long, everyone was eating. It was going well. Charles smiled at Trudy, and she smiled back, until the smell came from the kitchen. This time the smoke alarm went off. She had forgotten the last pie.

Trudy ran to the kitchen, and Charles followed. She took it out of the oven, and turned it off. Charles stopped the alarm. Tears started again, her mother Molly looked at George and he obediently followed.

There in the middle of the kitchen the two couples consoled one another. Molly took her daughter by the hand, and set her on the stool. “This isn’t about the sweet potato pie. You got three out of four right.”

“More like three out of five, I burnt one earlier. I just wanted the dessert to be perfect.” Trudy explained. Charles added an explanation. “We were going to make an announcement after the sweet potato pie.”

Molly looked at her daughter, then looked at her husband, and then at George. His eyes got big, a sentimental smile began, which turned into boisterous laughter. This started her daughter’s tears again, until George rushed to explain.

“Honey, I’m not laughing at you, or Charles. I’m laughing at a couple about thirty two years ago. Dry your face, come into the dining room. Make your announcement, and we’ll explain.”

Reluctantly, she agreed. They all rejoined the family. Trudy and Charles shared their news, and for the next thirty minutes, everyone congratulated the expecting couple. George, not wanting to steal their thunder, waited til everyone sat down to sweet potato pie.

“Molly and I have been married for thirty four years. Two years after we were married, we found out that a very special gift was on it’s way. When she arrived, we named her Trudy, and we found out she was coming the second week of November.”

“It was your Mother’s plan to announce after Thanksgiving dinner. She made all kinds of things for dessert, back then you cooked for days. She decided to try something that wasn’t a family tradition for us, sweet potato pie.”

Molly took over. “A friend at work told me how much her family loved it. So I decided I’d try it. They didn’t turn out so well.”

George laughed again. “They were burnt sweet potato pies. I never forgot the taste of the piece I ate.”

Molly gave him a mock look of anger and smiled. “Everyone reassured me it was fine, but only George insisted on eating two pieces. We told everyone that we were going to have a baby, and from then on sweet potato pie became very important to us. Although your Dad always insisted we buy enough for four pies.”

George finished it up. “I was very thankful for burnt sweet potato pie then. I never wanted to eat it again. Now, today, I don’t really mind it.”

Thanksgiving has always been more than turkey and the trimmings. It’s about being thankful for your faith, family, friends, and blessings. An sometimes yes, it’s about food, parades, memories, and even burnt sweet potato pie.

A Turkey Flew Over Pittsburgh

The problem is not Thanksgiving, not the cooking, or the dinner itself, not the football, and certainly not the parade. The problem is the next morning. I work on Black Friday. I have for the last 10 years, until last year.

I had nightmares about Black Friday. People who are nice people, seemingly mild-mannered individuals turn on you. Like Mr. Poulin, or Mrs. Crabtree. The fear started the first of November, and it built right up until I finished the gravy at Grandma’s house.

I’m a sane, rational thirty year old man, but something snapped. Instead of driving home, I found myself on the interstate, then at the airport, and on the plane. I kept looking over my shoulder, as if Mr. Summers, my boss, would drag me off the plane.

Once we took off, I finally started to relax, even drifted off to sleep, for about ten minutes. Then I woke up in a cold sweat, realizing this wasn’t a dream. I had ran away from home, on Thanksgiving day!

Of course, it wasn’t exactly home. It was a one bedroom apartment over my Uncle Felix’s garage, and there was no one at home. I was headed to a strange city, on a family holiday, all by myself.

It may sound like my senses had returned, but it hadn’t, only a momentarliy tremor. Instead of grabbing a ticket on the first plane home, I got a taxi, and a room at a small hotel. There was only one person to call, one person that would talk me back from anxiety town, Grandma.

She listened calmly, replied at the appropriate points, and waited for me to run down. Then she started talking, and said the complete opposite of what I had anticipated. When she says something I do it, no matter what.

“Preston, you need to quit your job. Stay in … where did you end up?” I swallowed hard. “Right now I’m in Pittsburgh, but …”.

“Stay there, you need this. You’re my grandson and I love you, but you lean towards the routine, you need something to shake you up. I’ve been praying for years you would wake up and try something, now you have.”

“This isn’t forever, give it two weeks, some things are going to happen to you Preston, and they’ll happen before you get back on the plane to come home.”

I was too stunned to argue, so I agreed, and followed her instructions. First, I called a sleepy Mr. Summers, and quit my job. Then I ate a nice dinner, life altering events make me hungry, and I went to bed.

You know how your subconscious works things out while you’re sleeping? Well, mine went this way. In my dream, Grandma was President, and I was the Turkey they pardon every year, only instead of a farm, I went to Pittsburgh!

Others would run away to Hawaii, California, or Alaska. Me, I ended up a state away, in a city I didn’t know anyone in. I really felt like the turkey in my dream, who tried to fly, but couldn’t get off the ground.

So, the next morning I got up, shaved, showered, and what do you think this college graduate, bird brain, did? I went to a department store. A lot like the one that had terrified me enough to run away from. As I said, “Gobble, gobble”, under my breath, I thought of how much I felt like what I ate yesterday.

Then I found me correcting myself, “He had a purpose”. I had thought I had said it in my mind, when the store clerk asked me. “Who had a purpose?” Realizing I probably seemed crazy, I answered, “The turkey.”

I don’t know what I expected her to say. No, I take that back, I expected the look I give crazy shoppers when their fighting over a set of dish towels. Instead, she just said, “Oh.”

It wasn’t that it had been a kind response, more like a deer in headlights reaction. That’s what, I think, made me notice her. She seemed as helpless as I felt. Apparently, people in Pittsburgh were just as confused as I was.

If that was the case, then why was I here? I asked myself again if Waikiki wasn’t a better place to find yourself. All of this took place in about thirty seconds. We just looked at each other, and not the way you look at someone you’re attracted to, at that point, I doubt either one of us could tell what the other looked like.

It wasn’t that we saw each other, but we saw ourselves. Helpless on a major holiday, and it terrified us. I’d like to tell you I did something noble, or offered her some kind words, but I can’t.

I ran. I immediately left the store, and was in a taxi in five minutes, heading to the airport. The only thing that made me change my mind, was the red light. When I saw it, it was as if I heard my Grandmother saying stop.

I paid the cab driver, who seemed confused too, but I didn’t have time to rescue him. So I walked back the two blocks it took to get there, and went right back to her. I stuck my hand out, and said “My name is Preston, I’m new here.”

I think I started to break through the haze that a survivor of retail Black Friday experiences has after a few years. She shook my hand, said her name was Liza. “What are you doing in this store?”

I admitted that I didn’t rightly know, and ask if she wanted dinner. “There’s a diner across the street. It’s probably bad food, but it’s in public, and since you don’t know me, you don’t have to worry.”

Which is the best way to cause someone to worry, by the way, but it turns out she was a brave soul. I found out much later, she also was an excellent shot, and was never without her firearm.

Dinner wasn’t bad, but it was the first Black Friday that I ever had Norwegian food. I found out I liked it, more importantly, I liked the conversation. We talked about her. We talked about me.

When I told her what I was doing in Pittsburgh, or at least what I thought I was doing, she looked at me. “You are crazy, but I wish I had your courage.” That’s when I laughed.

“It wasn’t courage, it was fear. I was too scared to go to work, so instead I went to Pittsburgh.” That’s when I looked at her really. She had brown hair, and hazel eyes, and I realized she was beautiful. Then I was even more terrified.

She shook her head. “I don’t mean the courage to get on the plane. You’re terrified, that’s completely obvious. I mean the fact that you were brave enough, not to get back on the plane. You took a chance that, being out on a limb, isn’t the worst place to be.”

We talked for about an hour more after that, and then she went home, and I went to the hotel. We promised to meet the next morning, back at the Norwegian place for breakfast. I was starting to realize why I was in Pittsburgh.

Coffee was good, but there was something different about our conversation. She was still friendly, and I was too, but it was as if a third person, that we were afraid to talk in front of, had sat down at our table.

The longer the conversation dragged on, the worse it got. I was desperate. I knew that if I didn’t do something fast, I would lose what might be a connection. So, sane wasn’t working, and crazy seemed to, so I decided to play what worked.

I stood up, and announced to everyone in the diner, that we had one mission at the moment. “Today folks, our goal, is to convince this miserable young woman, that there is no future in retail.”

Everyone looked at me like I was a moron, as I explained. “You see, she hates her job. She’s been at it, not as long as I was, she’s only been working there eight years. Mark my word, if you don’t get out before year ten, you may never get out.”

“You may get used to the odd questions about the difference in the colors of grays and browns. Why toothpicks should be wood instead of plastic, or why people fight over the last coffee maker in the store.”

“Don’t make the same mistake I did. Get out, before it takes running away to confuse you more than you’ve ever been before. Seek help, seek a career, find a hobby, work in insurance, but do something!!!!”

She laughed. It was with her hand over her face, and embarrassed completely, but she laughed. I still had a chance, she had decided that crazy was, not necessarily cute, but entertaining.

Liza stood up, paid the check, and motioned for me to follow. “Where are we going?” She laughed again. “You’re going to find me a job. If you want me to quit this one, give me a reason to get out of the wonderful world of retail.”

I didn’t stop to figure out why she agreed, but I did stop to ask myself how, where, and who was going to hire her based on my asking. That’s when terror started to set in, again. This turkey had set his own oven timer, and I was feeling the heat.

Then I asked myself, what the difference was between a domestic gobbler, and his wild cousin. Besides the fact that one has a better chance of seeing a second Thanksgiving than the first. Of course the obvious answer took a second to register. The wild turkey can fly!

I decided that, since this was the wildest thing I had ever done, it was time to try stretching my wings. “So, some ground rules. Even if it’s only for a day, you have to interview for any job, which matches your work history and skills, that I decide on, and if hired, work there at least two days?”

“One and a half days, with an option to leave after lunch the second day. Agreed?” I nodded, then motioned for a taxi. She tried to ask where I was going. I just winked at her.

We ended up at the airport. I booked two tickets back home to Akron. She protested, but I reminded her that she agreed to at least interview. She looked at me funny, smiled, and got on the plane.

You’re thinking, none of this is logical, and I would have agreed then. It makes perfect sense to me now. It didn’t then, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t surfing in Waikiki, or exploring the African Rain Forest, but I was seeing something amazingly beautiful.

A less than total stranger eating potato chips and laughing at me. When we landed, I took Liza to the job I had picked out. In the taxi trip to the airport, I had realized something. No matter how good the job was that I picked, Liza seemed to be a rational, intelligent person. She would humor me for the agreed upon time, then go home to her life.

Our adventure would be nothing more than a Black Friday memory. I was determined to make it something else, a Thanksgiving classic. So that meant I had to find her the most miserable job in the world.

Something that would make her wish she had never went on this trip, never met me, and had never left Pittsburgh. I know, it seems counterintuitive, but it was the only thing that made sense.

The question on the taxi trip from the airport in Akron was, what could possibly be the worst job in the world for Liz. Once again, I turned to my Grandmother for inspiration, or at least a story she had told.

Fresh out of college, she was smart, young, with a business degree, and no money. She told me that the worst job in the world was working somewhere she couldn’t make a difference.

Things were starting to crystallize, that was why I hated working where I had for ten years. So off to Mr. Summers we went. I spoke to him alone first. He ranted and raved for about ten minutes, until he ran out of steam.

“You don’t show up, ON BLACK FRIDAY! Then that night, you call me up, wake me, quit your job, and now… You walk back in here asking me to hire this girl for a couple of days. Answer me one question, why should I?”

I’m not sure what he expected, timidity or anger, but he got neither. I was calm, direct, and pleasant. I stood straight up, and looked him square in the eyes.

“Ten years of faithful, hard working, dependable experience. Of working the days nobody else wanted to work, trading days for those who had families, and hoping for my chance one day at one. Mr. Summers, this is my chance, and you are going to help me.”

He put her to work in the department I chose, electronics. I kissed her cheek, which neither of us expected, told her I’d see her at seven when her shift ended, and went to work. Grandmother was my first stop. As always, she smiled and offered to help, and I took her up on it.

I needed this to go well, and I needed it to be just like Thanksgiving, but as different from it, as it possibly could be. I was going to cram a whole year into a day and a half, and it had to work out right.

After a long day of doing everything, she’d be tired, hungry, and angry. Liza had helped pull stock, which the electronic department has to do when it’s slow. She had answered the same questions a thousand times, and any other miserable thing Mr. Summers could thing of.

If I had worked it right, she would almost want to hit me when she saw me. She would also expect dinner, and for me to try to make it a big evening. I had to give her a facsimile of it, but it couldn’t follow the pattern.

So instead of a tux and flowers, I showed up in overalls and carrying a stuffed turkey, the plush kind. I had what appeared to be dirt on my face, and looked like a crazy man.

“How was your day?” As predicted, she punched me in the arm. I handed her the turkey. She laughed, said she was going to get even, and followed me to the exit.

Instead of a taxi, or my car, I picked her up in a pickup truck. I had rented it for the evening. It was nice, top of the line, but it wasn’t a limo, or anything she had figured I would try.

When we got in the truck, she sighed. “I can’t stand it.” She took a handkerchief from her purse, yes, she carries one, and wiped my face. It was then she discovered that what she had thought was dirt, wasn’t. “This smells like nutmeg.”

I smiled, handed her a bag of sweet potato and kale chips, and headed to dinner. It took about twenty minutes, but it was worth it. Even I was impressed, but you can always count on Grandma.

The barn was old, clean, and covered in lights, and there was a table with two chairs. Grandmother even had violin music start when we sat down. I thought it was a little much, but apparently Grandmother had researched Liza.

It turns out she plays the violin, and pretty well. The waiter was dressed as plain as I was, though he wore it better. The first course, potato soup, the second, a turkey soufflé, and for desert, pumpkin tarts. It was a non-Thanksgiving dinner.

We laughed, and she told me all about her day. “Why are you doing this?” I took her by the hand, strolled to the field, and pointed to the stars.

“Do you see that, isn’t it beautiful? I’ve dreamed of starry skies, a beautiful woman, and the possibility of a life, most of mine. It took me a while to find it, and now I’m trying everything I can to keep it.”

She leaned her head on my shoulder and we walked on. “What does that have to do with putting me through the ringer, in the worst job possible? What happened to making the person you, care about, happy instead of miserable? I know you’re new at this, but …”

I interrupted. “If I had chosen an easy job, you would have gotten back on the plane as soon as it was over. I had to keep you guessing. This way you might want to stay once a day and a half is over.”

“Maybe give this turkey a way out, and pardon him for the rest of his life? As he annoyed you day in and day out, til we’re old and gray. What do you say?”

She didn’t, say that is. No words, she only walked back to the truck, and drove away. I had left the keys in the truck, and she had left. At first I laughed, then I started to worry. Ten minutes went by, then an hour.

I gave up, called for a car to take me home. I got a text, “I’m at your Grandmother’s. I’m safe, see you in the morning.” I had given her Grandmother’s number before I left her with Mr. Summers. I went home, but I didn’t sleep.

The next morning, a knock on the door, and a basket of muffins outside it with a note. “You are not a turkey. See you at the airport at noon.”

I sighed, showered, and went to the store. She wasn’t there. Mr. Summers said that he hadn’t seen her. I had about an hour and a half until time to go to the airport. So I went to the one place that made sense, Grandmother’s house.

Only she wasn’t there either. I wandered around, until it was time to say goodbye. She was there at the terminal gate, bags packed, holding the ticket in her hand.

“I guess you decided one day was enough?” I asked, trying to hide my disappointment. That’s when I heard a voice from behind me. “My friend does not break her promises. I hired a personal shopper for the day. We really must stop calling Mr. Summers while he’s asleep.”

I looked from one to the other. “Then why all of this?” Liza held my hand. “Three things. One, you never put me through anything like yesterday ever again. Two, we have a plane to catch. Three, we are never working retail again.”

Grandmother kissed me. “She may not call you that, but I will. Go on my little stuffed turkey, fly over Pittsburgh.” She hugged us both, and we boarded the plane.

I had taken one chance that morning, although it seemed useless at the time. I put the gift I was saving for her retirement party at noon. Somewhere over Pittsburgh, I proposed, and she said yes.

The last year was incredible. We got married that afternoon, and bought the little Norwegian dinner across from her old job. That was last year, this Thanksgiving, we took a few days off, and closed the diner for the week. This year, we’re going to Grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving.

PruittWrites November And December

In the next two months a lot is happening at and on our Amazon page. In November, we’ll be sharing the free Thanksgiving story “A Turkey Flew Over Pittsburgh” as a side dish to your holiday. As well as “Burnt Sweet Potato Pie”.

For Christmas in December, they’re going to be several gifts from us to you. Including “The Christmas Guitar”, “Christmas In Triage “, and “Christmas LEDs”. Along with various Christmas Watercolors and iPaintings.

In conjunction with our Amazon release of our Bible Study, The Native in paperback and eBook, we’ll be sharing excerpts from the book. This is a very special book to us, both the content and the paintings. Each was specifically created for the book, in Watercolor, iPaintings, and Acrylic.

Along with it, every PruittWrites Christmas story from the past four years is available in paperback in PruittWrites Snow Days. There are also eBook versions of L.O.C. And Key, Scarfed, and Captain Christmas. There are also the children’s picture books, Jesus Is Born, and The Christmas Lion.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are so very special to us, we want to share our gifts with you this holiday season. Whether it’s while you’re roasting the turkey, or baking Christmas cookies, we hope you’ll take time to enjoy what PruittWrites.

Happy Birthday Pastor

Song of Songs 1:8

8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.

Today our Pastor and my best friend celebrates his birthday. Pastor Denny Livingston is a man who I love, cherish, admire, respect, am honored to follow, and love being around. He has taught me so many things, more than I could put into words.

I mentioned the verse above to illustrate this. You see, it basically says, if there’s something you don’t know, follow the footsteps of the flock, and bring up your children by the shepherd’s tents. First, the only footprints in a flock are the Shepherd’s, the rest are hoof prints. Second, if you bring up your family near the life of the Shepherd, you know they’re going to turn out right.

Pastor has been my friend, even longer than he has been my Pastor. He’s always been a mentor, a big brother, and an inspiration to me. For several years now, he has also been my Pastor.

Just a quick word here, no matter the relationship, even if there is a blood connection between two individuals, the office of Pastor must be respected. They have been called by God to watch for your soul. That relationship supersedes best friends, cousins, or father and child.

At the best, and worst stages of my life, He has been there for me. I trust him with my life, my soul, and my family’s future. When I was lonely he listened to me. He’s the one that caused me to talk to the woman I love.

The night I proposed, he was there. All the nights that led up to it, he helped me not to mess it up. He is also the one who married us, and made it personal, and special.

Pastor and Sis, Sister Alonna Livingston, have been an incredible example to us in our marriage. They’ve taught us what matters, showed us as they lived it, and loved us as we learned. They’ve also brought up wonderful children of their own that love God, each other, and are amazing, talented people.

Finally, he understands me, and that’s no easy task. He knows every emotion in my face, because he’s waked with me through them. The footprints of a Shepherd always lead higher, and I’m honored that he allows me to follow.

About that, the Apostle Paul said, “Follow us, as we follow The Lord.” Pastor always makes it plain that, while called to lead, we are all following Jesus together. I’ve spent my life in the Study of heroes, and I’m honored to call my hero, Pastor, Friend, and Family!

Memories Of September 11

I remember the faces walking through the dust. I remember those who risked everything to go in to save others. I remember New York, Washington, and a field in Pennsylvania. I remember America, standing together, holding each other, unified, praying while the tears fell.

Today is many years past, but those memories are still with us. We will not forget the heroic sight of those who risked death to search for any signs of life. Or those on the Pennsylvania flight that sacrificed their lives so others would be spared.

I remember two girders forming a cross in the rubble. I remember a leader, heroes, and a megaphone. I remember Old Glory being lifted high on their very sight they tried to silence her. I remember September 11. May we all remember, and never forget that we are one country, under God, indivisible, with life, and liberty, for all.