Beth’s Dilemma – The Message

Beths Dilemma The Message (Part 2 of 2)

By: Leo N. Ado

Beth did not sleep last night, struggling with how to return the wallet and maintain her safety. Every decision breaks up a family. In a strange way, she is thankful the warehouse is working seasonal Saturdays and will be surrounded by people she knows.

The conclusion of her internal overnight debate comforts her self-preservation and justifies her not-so-final decision: no personal jail time, that little girl should not be exposed to crime, and Charlie lied on his application. Later this morning, the police will be called, and the wallet turned over to them. Why am I so uncomfortable with this decision?

Simultaneously, she is intrigued by a man that would rob for his child, stick to his convictions by keeping his secrets, have lunch with his daughter, and leave as soon as possible to pick her up after work. His orders are completed every day. He drives a refurbished pickup that car enthusiasts would classify as a work-of-art. Charlie is an enigma—loving father, honorable man, artist, and bank robber.

At 8:13 a.m., Teresa, the receptionist, answers a call from the Bowling Green Hospital.

“Hello, this is Melissa with Bowling Green Hospital. May I speak with Charles Mead?”

“Please hold while I page,” Teresa answered. Charlie is paged three times but does not respond. By company policy, call slips are forwarded to employee supervisors to ensure all customer service issues are handled if the employee is absent. Teresa passes a pink call slip to Doris that reads, “Charlie, please call Erin Aware at Bowling Green Hospital, (658) 555-5340, ext. 3370.” Beth should see this before she talks to the police.

On the fourth attempt, Beth hangs up again just as the call is connected. The police dispatcher records the caller’s ID in the logbook. Three minutes pass before she dials again.

On the fifth attempt, Beth waits for the police dispatcher to answer. “Bowling Green Police Department, how may I help you?”

She is about to speak when Doris gives her the cut-off gesture. Beth says to the dispatcher, “I will call you back.” She hangs up the phone.

Beth asks, “What’s up?”

“Read this,” Doris said. She waits for Beth to read the slip. “I will have Jack find out what he can. They won’t tell you or I anything. Have you seen Charlie? He is not answering the pages.”

* * * * *

Charlie is waiting at the Mall Security door at 8:15 a.m. Eight minutes later, the door opens.

“Are you the guy that called yesterday about the wallet?”

“Yes, has my wallet been turned in?” Charlie asks.

“Nothing has been added since your call yesterday.

“Thank you.”

* * * * *

8:44. Charlie arrives at work, clocks in, and walks to Doris’s office to explain his tardiness.

Doris is on the phone and gestures to the chair opposite her desk. Charlie fidgets while listening to Doris’s portion of the conversation.

. . . “Please ask them.” . . . “He’s an employee here.” . . . “I can’t say right now.”  . . . “Yes.” . . . “Not sure, can they look to see who is paying?” . . . “I will call you back in about five minutes. Love you Jack.” She hangs up and turns her attention to Charlie.

“Here, this message came for you. Where have you been?” Doris inquired.

Charlie reaches for the pink call slip. He skims the call slip while answering her question, “I’ve been at the mall looking for . . .” Charlie does not finish the sentence. He bolts from the office, runs down the hall, out the employee entrance, and drives off.

Doris is surprised by the abrupt exit. From the office doorway, she shrugs at Beth.

Beth pauses a few seconds. She is a bundle of nervous energy. Her sixth sense is an overwhelming force, commanding her to follow. Something is not right with this scenario. She snatches her keys and purse, runs down the hall and out the employee door. She is not worrying about losing him—certain he is driving to the hospital.

Confusing and conflicting thoughts are tormenting Beth’s mind. She does not know Charlie—actually, no one does. He is a bank robber that endangered a child. Charlie does not seem like a bank robber. He seems more like the quiet, confident type. Why is the ICU calling?

Up ahead on the right, Charlie is attempting to thumb a ride. He is walking backwards quickly and about 300 feet from his pickup.

“The dark pickup used in the bank robbery with the “752” plates. My God, what am I doing? I am chasing a bank robber. What if he has a gun? This is really stupid,” Beth says out loud but no one hears.

She pulls over next to Charlie, unlocks the doors, and waves as Charlie bends over looking for the invitation to enter the car.

As he enters the car, he says, “I am in a hurry to get to the hospital ICU, my daughter needs me. I am so thankful you showed up.” There is a noticeable pause before he continues. “Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be at work?”

The conflict is overpowering, and she cannot contain it any longer. “Charlie, I know all about the bank robbery.”

“What bank robbery?” Charlie asks.

“First National Bank. Early September. The branch manager identified your truck. You are hiding out here. And why would you take your daughter to a bank robbery?”

“My daughter is in the ICU in a coma from a hit-and-run accident. She was struck while chasing a lunch sack into the street. The truck is a dark blue pickup similar to mine,” Charlie replied. Then added, “But his gas gauge probably works.”

“But the newspaper clipping is about the bank robbery!” Beth fired back.

“What clipping?” he asked.

“The one in your wallet.”

“You’ve seen my wallet?”

“Your wallet is in my purse. Go ahead and get it out. I’ve been through your wallet. Seems fair for you to look in my purse,” Beth said as she blushed.

“The paper made a mistake and crossed the photo of Erin being loaded in the ambulance with the bank photo of the robber. It worked for me—the photo of Erin is next to the description of the pickup that hit her,” he explained.

Beth is confused and asks, “Why did the hospital call? And who is Erin Aware?”

“Melissa, the ICU nurse, said if she had to leave a message it will include ‘Erin aware’ so I will know Erin is awake,” Charlie replied. “Other messages might violate the privacy laws.”

Beth’s mind is starting to piece together a new story about Charlie and Erin. It is incomplete, but it does not require Charlie to be the bank robber.

Beth continued, “Charlie, I know you are a private person, but will you tell me the rest of the story?”

“Sure . . . My wife, Hannah, died in August. Erin and I were on our way to Taos, New Mexico. It was her favorite vacation spot, and requested her ashes be released there. Hannah had an eye for photography. During our last vacation to Taos, she would take photographs of Erin and I in the morning, and then in the afternoon she would cruise the galleries and museums. Each night brings an enthusiastic reading from her photo journal. Erin and I are transported through time by the exciting stories. Each day Erin speculates what tale Mom will read to us that night. I tell Hannah and she creates the story around Erin’s imagination.

“The last photo Hannah took of Erin is in my wallet. The phone number on the back is the June Lund Gallery in Taos. She wants to print the photo to sell at her shop. Erin is a miniature version of Hannah—full of life, living in the moment, and happy.

“We stopped for lunch and gas. While I was in the restroom, the lunch bag fell out of the pickup and Erin chased it into the street. She was struck by the dark blue pickup. I saw the blue truck drive off. If I had been twenty seconds quicker… . The next day when the newspaper misplaced the two photographs I knew the getaway truck was the same pickup that struck Erin.

“I took this job to keep occupied while she was in a coma and make some rent and food money. It was actually my boss’s idea. He told me to stay here so I would be close to Erin. He’s holding my job for me. That’s about it.”

“Why do you have all that money in your wallet? Why do you buy two burgers on Fridays? Where did you go everyday for lunch?” Beth asked.

“Wow! Ever thought about being a detective? Anyway, the credit cards were in Hannah’s name, and we simply did not think to change the account. The bank canceled them when her obituary was printed. It’s a large procedure-driven bank chain. Dan, my banker, loaned me $3,500 so we could take this trip while he straightens out the problems.”

“The burgers were for lunch with Melissa as a way to thank her for watching Erin and a bribe so she would call the instant Erin wakes. I spent my lunch hour driving Bowling Green streets looking for dark vintage pickups with license plates starting with “752.”

They are quiet the remaining three minutes to the hospital. Beth is feeling guilty about the misunderstanding but satisfied knowing the whole story.

Charlie releases the seat belt and opens the door before Beth stops the car. The instant the car stops, he is running through the emergency room doors. He takes the elevator to the ICU on the third level. He waves to Melissa. She smiles as he enters Erin’s room. The bruise on her forehead healed two months ago. Erin is eating orange Jell-O and says, “Hi Daddy, I’ve been asleep.”


The original story was written to be two parts. At Readers’ requests an additional part has been added. It is titled Beth’s Dilemma – The Invitation. It is part 3 of 2. Click Here to link to Beth’s Dilemma – The Invitation.

Find out what happens to Beth when she receives a letter from Charlie’s father-in-law


ImageLeo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website

Like us at

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!


Four Favorite Fotographs with Amusing Captions

Excerpts from Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man Travel Journals

ImageChina. The tranquility of this beautiful setting in the Emperor’s Garden is quickly forgotten outside the perimeter. Busses around tourist attractions are a test of personal space. We enter a standing-room-only bus with ten people in the aisle. Next stop: two people exit, and twelve enter the bus. Everyone squeezes closer. Another stop: one person exits, and fifteen enter the bus. Everyone presses closer. Third stop: no one exits; fourteen people enter the bus. The people outside the bus are pushing others to create enough space so they can ride the bus. We are compacted. If someone sneezes . . .

The American South, Saint Simons Island. A long, wonderful weekend of celebrations: a Imagebirthday, Kentucky Derby, and Cinco de Mayo. We have a new iPhone with Siri, the talking phone. One of our meals involves the search for fresh shrimp.  We have the market address and Siri, should we get lost. After five exhaustive searches of a four-block area, we ask Siri, “What are we doing here?” She answered, “Frankly, I was beginning to wonder myself!”

ImageCharleston, a peaceful, funky, and graceful city. A city with a singular thought concerning buildings: if it’s old, there are rules. A city that preserves its heritage and beautifully restores the southern homes. Imagination and a few minutes will transport you to a time of  cotton, tobacco, cotillions, and plantations.

Preserved buildings occasionally get hiccups. While we are out, the toilet in our room decides, on its own, to flood our third-floor room and the same rooms on the second and first floors. No problem, the restored hotel has a procedure for this. (They actually have a procedure—wonder why!) We are given another room. But wait—the plumber left with the room key. Three hours later the manager finds a ring of 300+ keys. 188 keys later we enter our old room.

Italy is a great vacation with great friends. There is not enough space here to list all the

Imagewonderful sites and attractions. We enjoyed Italy so much we left it on the bucket list. On a Sunday afternoon, watching local bands march in the town square, a tour guide holding high a tattered orange umbrella walks past us, but she has no tour group. There is an invisible wake as she cuts through the crowd, as if ghosts are following her. Two minutes pass before she retraces her steps to return the spirits of her patrons. The Ghost Guide helped spark a writing career.


ImageLeo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website

Like us at

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Beth’s Dilemma – The Wallet

Beths Dilemma (Part 1 of 2)

By: Leo N. Ardo

Charlie Mead has worked at Claremont’s Wholesale Warehouse for four months. Give or take a few work-related conversations about the special orders he ships each day, no one has uncovered any personal details from Charlie. He says “hello,” “good morning,” “going to lunch,” and “see you tomorrow.” Associates are beginning to wonder. He arrives at 7:59 a.m. and departs at 5:01 p.m. At noon:01, he drives off in his vintage dark green pickup and returns at 12:59. At his workstation, he throws lunch trash in the waste can.

It’s Friday, which means the only break in Charlie’s routine. At the same mall where the customer service team has its Finally Friday Fillies luncheon, he buys two General Boelingers burgers with fries, to go.

Beth Wilton, a founding member of the Fillies, decides to have a General Boelingers Chicken Burger to celebrate another week losing three pounds. She is dieting to get back to a comfortable dating weight. After two years of dating, the loser decides he needs someone younger.

While waiting to order, she starts collecting the money to pay for lunch: two dollars from her purse, two dollars from her back pocket, and $2.87 in change from her front pocket. Two quarters fall on the floor and begin rolling away at high speed. One runs into a customer’s boot and the other bounces back from something it struck under the counter. She picks up the quarter and a bi-fold wallet. She asks if it belongs to anyone. No one claims it. She opens it and finds the driver’s license of Charles P. Mead. Beth’s interest shifts to learning about Charlie.

When all the Fillies return to the table, Beth gushes with excitement as she shows off her trophy. Several Fillies encourage her to open it. Carefully unfolding it like an ancient fragile book, she removes a piece of paper with the address and phone number of Claremont’s Wholesale Warehouse. There is a collective sigh. Beth notices the wallet has a divided bill pocket. The regular pocket has sixty-eight dollars. There is no reaction from her lunch mates. Moving the cover flap from the secret bill pocket reveals thirty-three $100 bills. There is a collective gasp. Along with the cache of bills is a photograph of a girl, and a folded newspaper article. Beth looks at the tattered picture with the smudge in the lower left corner. A three-year-old girl is on the edge of a pool and is posing for the picture. There is a phone number written on the back. Beth notices the look of confusion as each Filly handles the picture. Beth unfolds the newspaper clipping carefully and begins reading out loud.

Local bank robbed by man, child

(Bowling Green, KY. 07Sep12) The local branch of the First National Bank, at 1457 17th Avenue South, was robbed yesterday by a man with a gun, wearing a ski mask, blue jeans, green tee-shirt, Tractor Sales blue baseball cap, oversized sunglasses, and work boots. From the security video, police estimate the robber is six feet tall and 180 pounds. He walked into the bank at 10:10 a.m. and stole $4,136 from the teller drawers, according to Bill Thompson, the branch manager. This is the first robbery at this branch in over eleven years. Thompson managed to get the first three numbers from the pickup as it raced away: 752. The getaway vehicle is a restored black or dark blue early 1960s Chevy pickup. Thompson said there was a child standing in the passenger seat. Bowling Green Police are asking for your help in locating the suspect and getaway vehicle.

The newspaper photo with the clipping shows two paramedics lifting a gurney into the back of the ambulance. In the background are two gas pumps and a six-shop strip mall. Three shops are visible: Mary’s Maternal Wear with the trademark mother-and-triplets painted above the marquee; BG Clock Werks whose digital clock displays 10:22, 09.06.12; Hamilton’s Hunting Accessories with someone watching the scene through binoculars.

Doris, Charlie’s supervisor and the team’s manager, informs the group, “That’s my hubby, Jack, the paramedic with his back to the camera.”

Beth’s thoughts start to organize while thinking about the bank robbery, the child in the passenger seat, the dark early sixties pickup, the cache of $100 bills, and the fact that Charlie’s first day on-the-job was early September. Her thoughts logically sequence, and Beth blurts out, “Oh my God, Charlie is the bank robber. He has that little girl stashed away somewhere. That’s why he leaves work so promptly; he has to take care of the little girl. This is bank money,” she says pointing at the secret bill pocket.

The rest of their luncheon is filled with robbery talk: Charlie hiding-out at work, poor little girl, another Dillinger in the making, wonder where she is, and does he still have that gun? Several associates ask Beth what she is going to do—after all, she is the one that found the wallet.

Beth returns late from lunch to check the license plate of Charlie’s dark vintage pickup. From a distance the first three characters look like 752, but as she approaches the pickup, the rear plate actually reads 1SZ. The bank manager must have misread the plates too.

Beth is certain Charlie is the bank robber, and she is in a dangerous predicament.

If she returns the wallet to Charlie, he will know she is familiar with its contents. His reaction is unpredictable because no one knows him. Will my personal safety be in danger? She wonders.

Will anonymously leaving the wallet on his workstation force him to disappear with the little girl? The girl needs a better guardian. The police investigation will eventually arrive at the warehouse. She will be interrogated and then charged with aiding a criminal, or withholding evidence.

Mailing the wallet to work will take several days. Will Charlie have to rob again for money?

If she returns it to the mall’s lost-and-found, how does she explain, without lying, why she kept it for five hours? Could Charlie discover she had the wallet before it arrived at lost-and-found? She begins to worry they might pass each other going to or leaving the mall. Will the $100 bills be safe at lost-and-found?

If only she had taken the wallet to lost-and-found. Now, too many people know. What will Charlie do when he finds out she knows? Is there really safety in numbers? Are the others in danger also? What am I going to do?


Beth’s Dilemma is continued in part 2 – The Message. Click here to link to Beth’s Dilemma – The Message.

Find out what happens to Beth, . . .  and the wallet


ImageLeo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website

Like us at

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

What Do Grocery Bags, Motorcycles, Cathedrals, and Feedback Have in Common?

The world is covered with wonderful vacation destinations. When asked, “What was your favorite vacation?” —the answer changes depending on the wind. Two that stand out are China and Italy—countries that have little in common, but each has a wealth of outstanding attractions. The depth of their unique cultures is revealed in the architecture, art, customs, traditions, and people. Today, Italy gets the vote.

ImageItaly has many famous locations and attractions: Milan, The Last Supper, Venice, Florence, David, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rome, Coliseum, Sistine Chapel, Raphael, Pantheon, Saint Peters Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, to name a few. (left: The Transfiguration by Raphael)

Enjoying an attraction is a simple matter of being there. Letting it become part of your soul requires reflecting on the age, construction methods, brush strokes, patient determination to build over several decades, or the technology available at the time.

Every travel adventure has surprises that can diminish the experience. Being aware of these surprises can enhance the trip and provide entertaining stories told over the years. Here are a few surprises that can be encountered in Italy:

Within an hour of landing, we witness a traditional Italian argument. The first nine taxis waiting are sub-compacts. Taxi number ten is a minivan. There are four of us with eight total pieces of luggage and four carry-ons. We target the minivan, stow the bags, show the driver our destination, and pull away from the curb. As we drive by, nine taxi drivers provide feedback while oscillating their hands about ear level.

Driving in Italy is not for the faint of heart. The taxi crossed four lanes to take the off-ramp. Expected feedback voiced by car horns—not a single beep. And, I recommend looking out the side windows—watching the driver can be hazardous to your psyche. They are wildly safe.

Cafes and ristorante bills include a charge for napkins and use of utensils. It’s always there. Sometimes it is itemized; other times it is in the meal price.

Expect to pay for grocery bags.

Cathedrals and churches have dress codes. How the rules are enforced varies. Uncovered shoulders and legs are the focus of security. Some locations have vending machines with paper shirts and skirts. Others recycle cloth shawls and wrap-around dresses.

A few of the cathedrals have peddlers. For donations, they tie string around the wrist or putImage corn in your palm to attract the pigeons for photographs. They are aggressive and grab a hand, or wrist, before the first “no” is spoken. A frustrated young lady tired of saying “no, go away” finally solved the problem when she slapped the peddler.

Be specific when saying, “Let’s meet back at the church.” There are hundreds of churches within a few square kilometers.

Some hotels have a key fob that slides into a receptacle. The fob turns on the room electricity. Which means, batteries cannot recharge, and the air conditioning/heating is off if the fob is missing from the receptacle.

Have a readable address for your destination that can be handed to cab drivers.

In Italy it’s a major crime to sell or be-in-possession-of illegal goods (knock-offs, items sold without vending permit, etc.). Be very careful about buying anything from a street vendor that displays his wares for a speedy getaway.

Keep some small change available. There are clerks that avoid counting change over 20 euros. There will be feedback for holding up a line.

ImageThe Romans’ preferred mode of transportation is a motorcycle. Drivers are businessmen in three-piece suits, women in business attire, shop owners, people in formal evening wear, students, construction workers, you get the idea. They go very fast. Be careful crossing a street.

For the big attractions, buy tickets on-line to go right to the entrance, and avoid the long, slow ticket lines.

The last item is don’t try to see everything. Make choices and take your time enjoying the quality of the art, sculpture, meals, culture, and people. Let Italy give you something to bring home.


ImageLeo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website

Like us at

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Writing Contest Lists

Writing Contest List

ImageHere is a list of lists for writing contests. It is not a complete listing, but more than 600 individual writing contests are contained in the fifteen sites.

There are contests for poetry, fiction, non-fiction, creative writing, short stories, and many genres.

Various browsers may require cutting and pasting the address. On a few sites, a “Contests” or “Competitions” button needs to be clicked. Some require signing-up for membership.

The last website has helpful articles for preparing, avoiding scams, and entering writing contests.

Feel free to copy this listing, add more contests, and share.

The following site has articles on how to prepare for writing contests.

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ImageLeo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Visit our website

Like us at

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Quality Remains King

Quality Remains King

ImageThe Greatest Generation (circa WWII) brought America to new heights with its industrial might. We were unstoppable, proud of our accomplishments, and professed the quality of American products—none of that cheap made-in-Japan stuff for us. We were in love with our ever-expanding cars and automotive services, drive-in restaurants, drive-in theaters, drive-through banks, full service gas stations, parking structures, and weekend scrubbing and maintenance.


Things began to change. Growing up in America during the sixties was a challenging time for one’s psyche. It felt as if the world was coming to an end. There were riots, daily Vietnam death statistics on the evening news, assassinations, hippies, and stingray bicycles. The first clue that drive-in theaters were headed for extinction came when the movie script, soundtrack, and cinematography quality began to decline.

We survived the crazy seventies, confusing eighties, challenging nineties, and Y2K. There were tidal waves of fads: leisure suits, eight track tapes, Tang, Hi-Fi, penny loafers, Space Invaders, the Macarena, and their knock-offs.

What survived all the forces of consumerism? What did we demand of our manufacturers? What were laid-off assembly line employees worried about?


What I know from thirty-five years of operations management is that quality is robust. Luckily, the customer defines quality—not some fad or cheap knock-off. It is the common ingredient of every purchase that keeps consumers consuming. Without quality consumers might buy once, but probably not twice

Like a heavy weight fighter, every market niche has had to fight with a low value contender out to make a few bucks. In the end, the product still standing has the best value of price and quality.

ImageAs a new author, I am riding the tidal wave of authors who are writing, e-book converting, self-publishing, and self-promoting. I know that only well-crafted books are making the bestseller lists, authors with talent are writing a next book, and readers are defining entertainment.

As in the past, present, and probably future, new authors have one, maybe two shots at success if our stories are not well presented. Our characters must be interesting, the prose must be clear, the presentation must be thoughtful, the suspense must be paced, and so on. Regardless of price, availability, print on demand, speed to market, and social media marketing, readers will only purchase once if they are not sufficiently satisfied.

Story + Craft = Success!


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Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website or

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!