It’s a Dog’s Life

 It’s a Dog’s Life

One page short story

By: Leo N. Ardo

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“She’s kinda cute. I’ve made eye contact. Bonus, she smells like bacon. I am so excited. Maybe they will let me run around for a while before they put me back in this cage.”

Arff-Arff.

“Two people are pointing at me. Have I got something in my fur? Let me check. … I am so dizzy … Got to stop doing that.”

“They are going to take me out of this cage. I will get to run around for a while.”

Arff, arff, bark.

“I’ve seen this before. Where? He is giving my breeder something. This same thing happened to Whitey-with-the-brown-spot. He never returned.”

“I don’t want that thing on my chest. When I get big like you, I am going to make you wear one of these. Where are we going? Blacky-with-the–white-socks, help me. Good advice, I will drag my feet. I can’t wait to get big.”

Arff, arff, Arff, ARFF.

“Why are you taking me away from my brothers and sisters—never mind, I smell food. I better run ahead to point it out. You don’t seem to be too interested. Come on, there is food ahead. I am hungry. Lets put some hustle in your step.”

“Why does he keep saying, Sit? Maybe I am supposed to run to him. Now he is speaking really slow. Okay, here I come.”

“Arff, arff-arff.

“Talk to me. You are so quiet. You smell like food.  Stop! Don’t take him away. There’s no one else to bark to. Good, he is taking that thing off my back. I don’t want to go in there! GRRrrrr. When I get big like you, you won’t push me around so easily.

“Everything keeps moving. It’s better when I lay down. I think I am getting sick. Maybe a nap will help.”

“Finally everything has stopped moving. I can nap in peace. Here comes that thing on my back again. Okay, I’ll finish my nap later. New exciting stuff to check out.”

Arff-sniff-Arff, sniff, Sniff …

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ImageHoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                               Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of several short stories. A new book is in the works—and, rewriting The Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

An Alternative to Detail Story Outlining

An Alternative to Detail Story Outlining

By: Leo N. Ardo

Are you a detail outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?

At a recent writer’s conference, this question was posed at a breakout session. The room was split, about 60:40 (outliner: seat of pants). What followed was more interesting.  As the writing progressed—the outliners drifted away for their meticulous outlines and were winging it. The seat of pants writers lost valuable time as they reviewed earlier text to find continuity details. Many wished they had outlined their story.

The early days of my writing career were influenced by a manufacturing environment typically driven by procedures, forms, and lists. I began looking for similar items in the writing “industry”. The search led to forms that were nothing more than a labeled sheet, to forms with so many small boxes that even coded notes would not fit.

Offered here is a middle of the road, flexible alternative.

Characters drive stories. Magazine articles, how-to books, and blogs recommend that writers have a solid understanding of the lead and secondary characters. Some authors spend weeks defining their story’s characters before they write the first word.

A Character Map (a spin-off of Mind Mapping) is a great way to define characters and their interactions. (See attachment).  It’s simple, does not stifle creativity, and can be fun to create. The two recommended office supplies are 11×17 paper, and colored pens. Draw a center circle and print the story title inside. Draw a line from the circle toward the paper’s edge. Near the circle label the new line with a character’s name. At will, begin writing character notes and connect them to the main “branch”. Sub-branches can be used for different scenes, or to provide more detail about a particular character feature. Feel free to doodle.

A Story Summary is recommended. Add as much detail as you wish that will fit on less than two pages. (See attached). Recommend wider margins for notes as you change the summary—lately, I have found three inches on the right side should be enough.

Before writing the first word of each chapter take time to joy down notes of what to include. This can be as detailed (or not) as you want. Include key information, actions, what character details will be revealed, etc. A blank tablet, pencil, and eraser (for me, this gets more use than the pencil) are the only supplies needed. (The attached is a typed version of my handwritten notes).

This system is not for everyone. But, it does provide:

–       Character details

–       A flexible summary that can act as a guide

–       Freedom to take story in any direction one chapter at a time

–       Reference material

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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                         Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

What I Learned from Jack Bickham’s The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

Book Review by: Leo N. Ardo

 

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The stars have aligned, and you want to become a published fiction writer. Your dream is only 60,000 words away from an editor’s approval. Writing club members, family, and friends “really like your story,” so you dedicate extra time to writing. Your book is complete. Pride oozes from your soul as your manuscript is mailed to publishers. Then the rejection letters begin to appear in the mail. What do you do?

A suggestion is to read The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), by Jack M. Bickham (1930–1997), an accomplished author and journalism professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Jack M. Bickham published seventy-five novels—some under the pseudonym John Miles, Jeff Collins, and Arthur Williams. Two of his books were turned into movies: Apple Dumpling Gang, and Baker’s Hawk. Bickham also wrote seven instructional books about fiction writing.

He was an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma beginning in 1969 and achieved full professor standing in 1979. The University of Oklahoma recognized him with their highest honor for teaching excellence: a David Ross Boyd Professor.

“In more than twenty years of teaching courses in professional writing at the University of Oklahoma, I think I’ve encountered almost every difficulty an aspiring writer might face. … So, despite the fact that I’ve chosen to write this book from what seems a negative stance, telling you what you shouldn’t do, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking negatively, or backwards, about my writing. … But my message is positive—always.” (From the Forward of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

“Bickham chose the word ‘Forward’ to replace ‘Foreword’ to emphasize two vital points: All good fiction moves forward; all good writers look ahead.” (From the Forward of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

This well written, well organized, and to-the-point book is a great reference for any writer. A sampling of the thirty-eight writing topics includes:

            – Writing vivid compelling characters

            – Getting started

            – Writing to readers

            – Patience

            – Perseverance

            – Using “said”

            – Conflict

            – Avoiding coincidence

            – Clarity for readers

            – Point of view

The chapters cover everything from getting your project started to preparing a manuscript package for an editor, and finishes with encouragement to start writing and keep writing.

Several entertaining chapters deal with character development: “Don’t Use Real People in Your Story”, “Don’t Write About Wimps”, and “Don’t Duck Trouble.”

Bickham offers guidance on who to seek advice from:

“But to ask a club member, relative or friend for criticism is mostly a waste of time for at least two reasons: they won’t be honest; they usually don’t know what they are doing anyway.” (Chapter 30, pg 85).

“A good writing coach is not just a teacher; he is an advisor, handholder, slave driver, critic, friend, psychologist, editor, even inspirational guru.” (Chapter 31, pg 89).

The chapters are one to three pages in length, and concisely describe common writing mistakes, and correct methods. Bickham has filled the 112-pages with valuable information, exercises, and examples. The book is a great addition to any writer’s reference library.

“Where are the problems? Editors rarely take the time to map them out, so Jack Bickham has. In this book, he spotlights the 38 most common fiction writing land minds—writing mistakes that can dynamite story ideas into slush pile rejects.” (From Back Cover of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

I think “minds” is a typo, but it works well—much like the use of “Forward” for “Foreword.” “Minds” emphasizes that good fiction is born from the application of the writer’s craft, quality, knowledge, and understanding.  As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, good fiction is in the skilled mind of the writer—and reader.

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 ImageHoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                                        Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals of: culling terrorists from the company’s employees, maintaining employment, ensuring that products ship to the armed forces, and eliminating the shipments to the enemy.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

 

 

The First Detective/Mystery Story

The First Detective/Mystery Story

By Leo N. Ardo

Before the first words were input for this post the debate over the first mystery book has engaged many critics and scholars. The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), written by Edgar Allan Poe, has been credited by many as the first detective/mystery book, but it was technically a short story. Could the first novel length story have been The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins in 1859; or was it The Notting Hill Mystery, by Charles Felix in 1862? “It’s a mystery,” to quote a line from the movie Shakespeare in Love.

The inescapable fact is The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe defined the standard.

A brilliant detective and a baffling crime, which requires superior intelligence to solve. Helped along by a doting friend or colleague who chronicles the case. The police initially assume a position of skepticism and disdain only to be humbled and amazed as the case is unfurled before them at the end.

R.D. Collins, 2004, Classic Crime Fiction, www.classiccrimefiction.com

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The first detective, C. Auguste Dupin, appears in two other Poe stories: The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842) and The Purloined Letter (1844).

Edgar Allan Poe established the genre. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mastered Poe’s “formula” with Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet (1887), The Sign of Four (1890), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901), The Valley of Fear (1914), and fifty-six other short stories.

Edgar Allan Poe’s life (1809–1849) was short. Many of his literary works were published anonymously or under the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet. His life was also a series of misfortunes:

– His father abandoned the family in 1810.

– His mother died from tuberculosis in 1811.

– His foster family did not formally adopt him.

– While attending the University of Virginia, his fiancé married another man (1826).

– Unable to support himself, he joined the army as Edgar A. Perry (1827).

– He was discharged in 1829 after finding a replacement to finish his enlistment.

– He was admitted to West Point in 1830 and then disowned by his foster father at the demands of his new wife.

– In 1831 he tactically sought a court marital. He was tried, and found guilty, for gross neglect of duty.

– He was unable to get published because the publishing industry was pirating British books rather than paying for American works.

– Virginia Poe, his wife, was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1842.

– Received a total of nine dollars for his popular poem “The Raven” (1845).

– Virginia died in 1847.

– Mystery surrounds his death in 1849.

Source: Wikipedia – Edgar Allan Poe

Sadly, Edgar Allan Poe lived only forty years—the average lifespan for his time.

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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                       Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life we had. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals of culling terrorists from the company’s employees, maintaining employment, ensuring that products ship to the armed forces, and eliminating the shipments to the enemy.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1,000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in, I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: Luck has blessed me with the girl of my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Beth’s Dilemma – The Invitation

Beth’s Dilemma – The Invitation – Part 3 of 2

By: Leo N.Ardo

South of Lexington, Kentucky, one and a half hours to the destination, she is happy it’s not longer. The rain is making the driving difficult and dangerous. Only positive from the long drive is plenty of time to think about the confusing relationship dilemma. If I stay with . . .

Interrupting her thought is a single truck tire rolling at high speed through the median toward her. Reflex jerks the car to the right. The front tires have enough traction to act as anchors while the rear end slides equal with the front. The two side tires skid ten feet before the car begins to roll.

The first rotation breaks the driver’s window. She watches her wallet, snack cooler, and coffee cup pass by her face and settle on the ground. She can see them on the highway for a split second before they are struck by a yellow moving van. Reflex directs her arms overhead, which by now is actually under-head as the car is rolling on its top.

Another full roll, and the car lands on its wheels. She can feel the rain on her left arm. Someone is talking to me. A warm hand touches her arm. The last words she hears, “Are you okay?”

When the highway patrolman arrives, traffic is backed up for a mile, and the large raindrops are relentless as they pelt his rain slicker. The loose contents and chards of the windows are scattered along the highway. The smaller pieces are washed away with the rain. The coffee cup is flat, the cooler is in about 50 pieces ranging from a fully intact lid to pieces about the size of a quarter, and the wallet is wedged between the rear dual tires of the yellow moving van which is instructed to park up the road about 50 feet so traffic can move in the far left lane.

The ambulance arrives. The paramedics check the driver quickly for life, then broken bones. Carefully, they remove her from the car, strap her to the gurney, slide the gurney in the ambulance, connect the life saving solution bags, then race to the nearest emergency room. She is unconscious.

The patrolman records the license plate number QR8DRAT to later identify the driver. The wallet and registration form are not in the car. The car is winched onto the transport. Two miles from the transport service storage yard the license plate falls onto the transport track bed, vibrates to the back, and falls onto the road.

Ten days earlier . . . Beth removes her car from the Bowling Green Hospital Emergency Entrance into the adjacent parking lot. The 1972 Dodge Dart is in the same mint condition as the day her father gifted it four years ago. The chosen parking space is six stalls from the nearest vehicle at the end of the parking lot.

Three minutes with the rearview mirror to touch-up her make-up and hair before locking the car, and proceeding to the entrance. Walking out the ER door is Sidney Scott; former boyfriend, construction manager for a series of dams in Kenya, and the kernel of her thoughts many times the past two years. Beth could see he still maintained the build needed to keep his Bowling Green wrestling scholarship. Slumping shoulders and gazing at his feet reveals his concentration on troubling news.

“Sidney.” Beth startled him.

Sidney took a few seconds to collect his thoughts, “Beth, how nice to see you, I was about to call. My aunt Jessie is struggling with lung cancer. She wants me to call you. She said you were a good friend. I think she wanted us to see each other.” He added, “What are you doing here?”

“A work associate’s daughter came out of a coma and I brought him to the hospital.”

“The little girl in ICU is the talk of the hospital. Aunt Jessie is in room 223. Stop in if you have time.”

“How long have you been in town?” Inquiring for two reasons: one, for conversation, and two, to find out if she is still a priority.

“Two days ago, the day aunt Jessie was admitted.”

“I’ll drop by later this evening,” she says.

The emergency door opens automatically as Beth approaches. The elevator bank is fifty feet down the hallway. The up-button opens the elevator to her right. Inside, the button panel indicates ICU is on the third floor. On the second floor, two nurses enter talking about the recovery of a little girl from a coma.

At the third floor, Beth takes a few seconds to orient herself while the elevator door closes behind her. To the right is the information desk, and she is about to ask for the room number when Charlie walks out into the hallway. She waves her hand and calls to Charlie.

“Thank you for stopping. It was a brave act when you thought I was a ‘bank robber’,” Charlie continues. “The doctors are giving Erin a check-up. They want to hold her overnight for observation. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? The doc’s will be about half an hour, according to Erin’s ICU nurse.”

“That would be lovely,” Beth replied.

They return to the elevator, take it to the first floor, and walk to the cafeteria.

“We are going to miss you at dinner, and Melissa will miss those General Boelinger burgers on Friday’s,” a doctor says.

“Dinner?” Beth inquires.

“I eat dinner here every night—It’s close to Erin.” Charlie points to the coffee urn, “Coffee is over here.”

They select a table by the window, and like Beth’s Dart, they are five empty tables from the closest people.

“When we go back to Erin’s room I’ll introduce you two.”

“I would like that. What are your plans now that Erin is okay?”

“The doctor wants us to hang around Bowling Green for another day. I want to release Hannah’s ashes as soon as possible for Erin’s well being. They were very close. Erin has already started with her questions: Will mommy wake up too?, How long before mommy wakes up?, and Can we bring mommy here so they can wake her too?” Charlie pauses as he realizes the weight of those questions. He slowly continues, “I need to contact Pawpaw, Hannah’s father. He lives with us. He and Erin are as close as Hannah and Erin were. Pawpaw is a wonderful man. He raised Hannah on his own. He walks Erin to and from daycare, plays cards with her, and helps her with colors, alphabet, counting, etc.” Charlie pauses again, “Another reason to get Erin home quickly is so she can get into a routine with Pawpaw.”

They continue to talk for another twenty minutes.

The doctors, nurses, and two carts leave Erin’s room as Beth and Charlie arrive. Erin is sitting up right. A big smile greets Charlie along with two arms extended for a hug. A big hug, which Charlie needs more than Erin, takes a couple minutes.

Anticipating Erin’s barrage of questions he words Beth’s introduction carefully. “Erin this is Beth. She gave me a ride to the hospital today. I work with her.”

“Did you drive all the way from ‘Sythana’ just to give daddy a ride?” Erin asks.

Beth offers her hand to Erin. “Your dad did not tell you the whole story,” Beth explains as they shake hands

Erin replies, “He does that a lot lately. I am three and a half. I know when he is protectin’ me.”

Beth adds, “We girls know these things don’t we?”

Erin, looking at her dad with all the confidence she can muster, “Yes.”

Charlie wanting to talk to the doctors says, “I will leave you two girls to talk for a couple minutes.”

Erin waves to dad, and says to Beth, “He just wants to talk to the doctors. He’s a good dad. He cares for me.”

Beth begins to fix Erin’s hair and talk about the accident, Erin being “asleep” for four months, and Charlie working at the warehouse.

Charlie returns to the room as Beth says, “The pickup ran out of gas and I gave your dad a ride to the hospital.” Beth suggested to Charlie, “Why don’t I take you and a few gallons of gas back to your pickup.”

At the gas station, Charlie has to purchase a three-gallon red plastic container for gas at $12.00. The same can is $2.85 at the discount store. Beth took me to the hospital. Now she is helping me get gas. I can’t take advantage of her kindness. He reluctantly pays $12.00 for the container plus $13.75 for the gas.

Beth watches Charlie pour three gallons of gas into the classic pickup. Her thoughts are how fast and furious they met today: she knew Charlie – by name only – for four months, then a bank robber for two days, and today he introduces Erin. It might be a big intrusion to have dinner with them in Erin’s room. Beth says, “Charlie, I know . . .”

Charlie interrupted, “Beth, I can’t thank you enough for all your help today: driving me to the hospital, talking with Erin, and helping me find gas. Erin was struggling with Hannah’s death before the coma. I want to be alone with her so she can talk about Hannah.”

Her “intrusion” version did not bother her, but Charlie’s “so she can talk” explanation hurt. Erin and I became good friends almost instantly.

A couple accelerator pumps, three turns of the starter, and the engine comes to life. They exchange waves from inside their vehicles. Beth enters traffic first, turns right at the corner, and wipes a tear from her eye. Charlie enters traffic and returns to the hospital.

Charlie and Erin have dinner together for the first time in four months, in the hospital room. Charlie stays the night.

Erin is released the next morning—The perfect beginning to an enjoyable day touring Bowling Green. She calls Pawpaw and talks for twenty minutes. Charlie’s admiration grows as he imagines Pawpaw’s portion of the conversation.

Later in the week, Beth and Doris are having lunch together. Doris playing the role of an amateur psychologist—asking the probing questions while Beth analyzes the situation.

“How are you doing?” Doris asks.

“Okay, I guess.” Beth pauses for a few seconds then adds, “Sidney’s back in town. We have had a couple dates. It has been fun.”

“Like or love?” Doris asks as a good friend who is also curious about the answer.

“Unsure, leaning toward like,” Beth replies as she shrugs, then continues to answer the next question before Doris asks. “Charlie sent a letter before they left Taos. Describing the ceremony in Taos and that Erin has been quiet since releasing the ashes. He is planning a birthday party hoping to cheer her up. His focus is Erin’s depression. He thanked me again for taking him to the hospital. That’s about it.”

“Well, all the questions are to find out if you’re going to stick around. I want to offer you a promotion to Customer Service Supervisor,” Doris informs.

“Oh my, this is exciting! Tell me more,” Beth says oozing with joy.

Cynthiana, Kentucky. Two days later. Pawpaw asks Charlie, “She’s still not talking to you?”

“I am the bearer of bad news. My answers to the mommy questions do not satisfy her,” Charlie answered. “I think she understands Hannah is gone and can’t be put back in the urn, and blaming me for not trying to wake Hannah.”

“I imagine you answered several versions of that question.”

“Yes. Actually, she was good until Hannah’s ashes were gone. It was a difficult decision, but I hope it is better for Erin long-term. Oh, I forgot to mention, I received a call from day care about Erin’s melancholy behavior. The day care manager told me Erin stares out the window about half the day, and her drawings and doodles are the same theme—a dad plus mom plus child.”

“You did the right thing. It will be good for her to get closure. It’s tough on kids, but she will bounce back quickly,” Pawpaw adds.

“So… Erin’s birthday is next Saturday. What do I need to do?” Charlie inquires.

“Most of the planning is complete. The invitations have been mailed. You need to decide what entertainment you want.”

Saturday afternoon 1:30 p.m., Charlie is nervous. He is placing a lot of hope on this birthday party. And, in thirty minutes he will be responsible for fourteen kids for ninety minutes. He is trying not to think about it too much as he hangs the last “Happy Birthday Erin!” banner.

At 1:50 moms begin dropping off their children. At 1:55, Pawpaw and Erin return from their walk to the grocery store. Eight friends are kicking a balloon like a soccer ball, while the soccer ball sits under the banner.

As Erin approaches the house she looks to Pawpaw. He says, “It’s still early. Be patient. Be sure you thank your dad. And, be surprised.”

She runs to Charlie, who lifts her for a hug. “Thank you dad.” A minute later she is playing with her friends.

Mr. Science arrives at 2:30. His show is thirty minutes and ends with Erin assisting in making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Charlie is busy cleaning up, setting up, and watching Erin have fun. Occasionally, she watches the street. Charlie thought she must be watching for Hannah—the ultimate birthday gift.

At 4:30 they are still entertaining two kids. Their mom arrives at 4:40. Charlie and Pawpaw finish cleaning up at 5:30. Erin smiles as she naps on the sofa.

On Sunday mornings Pawpaw cooks breakfast. Charlie wanders into the kitchen, and pours a coffee. “I think the party was a big hit. I talked with Erin after the party and her mood was good.”

Pawpaw added, “I noticed a change walking back from the grocery store yesterday. The only thing that would have improved the party was the arrival of Beth.”

“Beth? Is that who Erin was watching for yesterday?” Charlie asked.

“Yes, I helped Erin write the card inviting her to the birthday party.” Pawpaw adds, “Erin heard us planning the party. I promised to keep her invitation a secret. She wanted to surprise you. I have talked a few times with Beth after she received the invitation—nice gal. I was expecting her. She said she would be here.”

Charlie is outside picking-up the Sunday newspaper as a Highway Patrol Car stops by the curb.

The patrolman opens the passenger’s window and says, “Are you Paul Potter?”

“Paul is my father-in-law,” Charlie replies.

“Then you would be Charlie?”

“Yes.”

“These birthday invitations were the only way we had of identifying this Beth. They were pinched between the visor and the roof. Sargent Foley misread the license plate, the registration wasn’t in the car, and there was no wallet. She is in a coma at Lexington’s Saint Benedict’s Hospital. Can you come and identify her?”

“Yes. We will be there in about two hours,” Charlie responded.

“See you there,” The officer handed an envelope to Charlie, and then drove off. The hand written birthday invitation from Erin is decorated with hand-drawn hearts, balloons, and flowers. It reads: Beth, I miss you. Daddy miss you. Can you come to my birthday party? Thank you, Erin.

With the invitation is a letter from Pawpaw to Beth:

Beth,

I am writing this letter to invite you to Erin’s birthday party next Saturday the 18th at 2:00 p.m. The invitation is Erin’s own handwriting. I helped a little, but she insisted on inviting you.

I am Hannah’s father living with Charlie and Erin. Both talk about you every day. I am an old man, but I can still read my son-in-law. He, and Erin, would enjoy your company at the party.

Sincerely:

Paul Potter

(584)-555-3967

Charlie wakes Erin and tells her about Beth’s accident and the visit from the patrolman. While explaining the situation to Pawpaw, Erin begins honking the pickup horn.

At the hospital, they are directed to room 232. Erin runs out of the elevator when it stops at the second floor. She peeks in every room until she finds Beth. Erin looks to the nurse who nods okay and gestures toward the room. Her small hand reaches between the bed’s safety rail and touches Beth’s arm. Charlie and Pawpaw enter the room as Erin says, “Beth, you are going to be okay. I know because I am.”

Charlie left the room to talk with the doctor and the patrolman. He had heard it all when Erin was in a coma: uncertain when she will wake-up, has been out since she hit her head, the longer she ‘sleeps’ decreases her odds of waking, and most people wake-up in less than five days.

Charlie signs some papers for the patrolman that identifies Jane Doe as Beth Wilton. About twenty minutes pass before he returns to the room. He hears their voices as he approaches Beth’s room. He smiles when he hears the third voice. As he enters the room, Beth looks up and says, “We have to stop meeting like this … ”

* * * * *

Note: It’s true; this is part 3 of 2. The original short story was written in two parts. Part three is the follow-up to the original requested by several readers.

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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 www.LeonardoStories.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Batteries

Batteries

By: Leo N. Ardo

It’s 5:00 a.m. on any morning, and Janice’s body is stiff and her mind is tired from a fitful night’s sleep. She has been lying in bed awake for about sixty-five minutes attempting to muster enough energy to leave the warm bed to take her four medications. Experience has taught her she has about fifteen more minutes or the whole day will be unpleasant.

A leg is poked out past the sheet. From the knee to the heel is placed alongside the mattress and used as a lever to pull the bottom half of her body to the side of the bed. A push with the right shoulder and arm brings her body upright, where she sits for a couple minutes to be sure her balance is steady.

Luckily the journey to the kitchen is uneventful. A couple balance checks, but she manages to avoid any falls. Several month’s ago she kept the medications by the bed, but there is a delay in their effectiveness–Especially, the first dosage. The temptation to return to bed waiting on the medications to ramp-up is too high for Janice. Her day is more productive if she struggles through the thirty-minute ramp-up period.

The two small pills are swallowed at the same time. Her throat muscles, affected by her condition easily push multiple small pills. The two larger pills are swallowed one at a time because occasionally one gets stuck in her throat. When this happens there is a mad dash to drink more water, tilt the head, and swallow hard hoping to dislodge the pill. It happens a hundred times a year, but her confidence is shaken by the degenerative nature of her disease. She can never count on predictable performance, and once went seven days without a stuck pill, but on the eighth day it blocks her airway and panic set in before the fourth heavy wash dislodges it.

To help her understand, Janice has created an image of batteries that fuel little pumps feeding lubricant to her muscles and joints, and electrifying fans blowing away the fog. Depending on the time since the last prescription, she has somewhere between three and a half to four and a half hours before the batteries must be recharged.

The clock has started on the short, useful life of the medication. Hunger pains and gurgling noises are presenting themselves, but one of the med’s requires a two hour protein-less period—An hour before and an hour after. Experimenting has validated she can have the non-protein portion of her breakfast now, and the protein in thirty minutes. She will read while the drugs pass to the small intestines where they are broken down into the chemicals that allow her to look normal, and suppress her symptoms. Later today she will have to deal with the side effects of the drugs. For now, she brews a cup of herbal tea.

The slow nature of her disease distorts her perception of normal being. Occasionally something reminds her that everyday her condition worsens. Today it is a shaking cup of tea. Four drops escape the cup and land on her pajama pants. Her left hand is required to steady the cup.

Twenty minutes pass, the drugs kick in: the mind fog is clearing, the muscle stiffness is subsiding, her focus is returning, and the shaking is disappearing. Today will be a good day.

A soothing hot shower signals the end of the day’s easy part.

The meds are arching through their life cycle. Today, a three-hour period of “normalcy” will take place four times. For Janice, it is three hours which she is physically, mentally, and emotionally at her best, if she is careful; and yet, she will experience the most misunderstanding of her condition by family, close friends, co-workers, and the general public.

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Stress is her enemy. Any physical, mental, or emotional stress produces the same effect of draining her batteries. The body’s defense for stress is adrenaline. Janice knows from her research that adrenaline is made from three amino acids plus dopamine, which makes up half the chemical cocktail.

When the batteries discharge early, the muscles stiffen and mental fog develops. She looks normal, but inside, her body and mind are battling against the lack of key chemicals. She sees herself as an expired carton of milk—Looks like all the others, but inside it is very different.

A feared side effect of taking too much medication requires her to stay on a strict medication schedule. From now until twenty minutes after the next dose, her desperate body is draining the batteries too fast as it consumes the temporary reserves of medication. She knows by the early warning signals of a soft voice and word search that she has about forty minutes of battery left.

She hates this part of any day. Everyone sees her as: normal, a knowledgeable resource for solving problems, someone with mental clarity, having endless capacity, and a multitasking octopod. They have come to rely on Janice’s experience, expertise, and skill. However, Janice is working harder each day to continually meet these expectations (an activity that creates stress, thus draining the batteries faster).

A number of symptoms begin to take-over as the batteries near exhaustion. The voice in her head continues at the same volume, but the spoken voice fades frustrating listeners to ask for repeats, which drains the batteries faster. The key words are clearly written on the inside of her forehead, but they will not leave their sanctuary. Words simply won’t surface creating a strange pause in her speech. Her handwriting becomes very tiny, but completely legible, with a magnifying glass. She has difficulty following, or participating in, multilayered discussions. Her ability to multitask is impaired. Short-term memory tasks are easily misplaced by another thought while in pursuit of the now lost original task.

Janice survives to the next prescription appointment. Twenty minutes later she is “normal” again.

On the way home, Janice almost rear-ends a small SUV with a dog in the back. Luckily, her reaction time was good enough to avoid the collision. But, now she needs to pull into a parking lot and wait through the ten-minute shake down that follows an adrenaline rush. It is the sudden consumption of dopamine that creates the shakes.

* * * * *

This short story is dedicated to a dear friend with Parkinson’s Disease, who wishes to remain anonymous. Thank you for taking time to help us understand.

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Author Pix - Leo N Ardo - medium

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 www.LeonardoStories.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Comedy of Repairs – The Wedding Essay (Part 2 of 2)

A Comedy of Repairs The Wedding Essay   (Part 2 of 2)

By: Leo N. Ardo

“I’ll be right there. Have Max dress for chores. This is an opportunity to teach a good lesson,” Sawyer said, attempting to hide the frustration with his boy. Cora knew by Sawyer’s tenor that it was best to let him use this teaching moment. Besides, she had a bride to dress.

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On the drive home, Sawyer recalled the ring story. After the proposal, his father had made weekly payments for five months to purchase the ring through layaway. The county justice of the peace married them a week later. The ring never left her hand until Jill announced her engagement.

Max and Cora met Sawyer at the door. Cora provided the abridged version of the incident: Max was told to get the ring out of the cleaner and dry it off but, instead, put the wet ring on his thumb, and it slipped off into the heater vent. “Just take care of this. I have to fix Jill’s hair and make-up,” she lectured while walking away.

Sawyer and Max used a mirror and flashlight to look inside the heater tube. They did not find the ring. Jill shot Max a look of disgust as they went downstairs. Sawyer and Max searched the basement floor under the homemade vent reducer. Sawyer handled the flashlight while Max looked under the washer, dryer, hot water heater, and utility sink. No ring.

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Sawyer told Max they had to look farther into the vent tubing. Carefully, they would take the tube apart to keep the ring from falling into the furnace. Sawyer stood on the sewer pipe to inspect the vent tube before disassembly. He was about to step off the pipe when the top collapsed.

Max pinched his nose and said, “Ewww.” He was instructed to get a piece of cardboard and roll of duct tape from the garage.

Sawyer climbed the stairs and began telling the girls the bathroom was off limits the rest of today. His announcement was greeted by a few stares. Stares he knew were a substitute for a single word: “Men!”

He went to Ike and Silvia’s next door to ask if the girls could borrow their bathroom for an hour. Sawyer returned to inform the girls that Ike and Silvia made their bathroom available. Jill’s maid of honor and a bridesmaid headed for the door. For a few seconds, they imitated the Chip and Dale chipmunk cartoons with their “no, after you” routine. Cora and Sawyer exchanged smiles.

Max returned to the basement with the supplies. Sawyer shaped the cardboard over the hole in the pipe. He instructed Max to hold it in place while he secured it with duct tape. Sawyer pulled off a long strip of tape and wrapped it around the pipe and cardboard. He told Max, “Grandpa installed this sewer pipe before I married your mother in this house. It was a dirt basement back then. Grandma had insisted they have indoor plumbing because she was embarrassed to have our guests go to the outhouse.”

Max was struggling with the odor and asked, “Dad, can you tell me the sewer story later?”

Sawyer pulled another strip of tape and wrapped it around the pipe. While Max was still holding the cardboard, Sawyer talked to him about: being responsible, the right time to play, the right time to be dependable, consequences for letting people down, and he needed to start being aware of the differences.

“Daaad!”

Sawyer pulled several tape strips and secured the cardboard. When he was satisfied the wedding and reception was safe from any distasteful odor, a mini scaffold was constructed over the patch.

Max provided the tools as requested while Sawyer disassembled the vent tube. There it was, one foot past the homemade reducer. The dust that had collected while sliding down the vent was blown off, and the ring was handed to Max to wipe off with his shirt. Max slid the ring into his pants pocket. The vent was reassembled.

After Max dressed for his ring bearer responsibilities, Sawyer and Max went to Buffalo Hills. Before they went inside Sawyer asked, “Are you being responsible?” Max retrieved the ring from the inside jacket pocket and said, “I am keeping it close to my heart for luck.”

Sawyer offered Max a cup of coffee so he could be one of the guys. Bill brought over a half cup of coffee for Max. Max checked the surrounding cups and said, “I thought guys only drank black coffee.” Everyone laughed. Thomas asked Bill if he would bring another cup of black coffee to everyone. Thomas offered a toast, “To jitters.” “To jitters” was repeated as the new cups were raised in the air.

At 10:40 the guys returned to the house for the wedding. The minister arrived at 10:55. Cora and Sawyer wheeled Grandma Gina in her adjustable bed into the dining room turned wedding chapel. The family took their positions in the “chapel,” and Cora closed the new pocket doors. The loud click started the cassette tape of wedding music. The minister cleared his throat. As the pocket doors were opened they fell off the rail and were stuck. While Sawyer tried to repair the doors, the right door swung on the outside roller and the sharp corner cut through the re-routed electrical wire. The chandelier went dark.

Cora was holding back her tears. Sawyer heard the familiar sniffling. He was about to break out in laughter but decided it would increase the number of sniffling girls, one of which might be Jill. In his best I-am-in-charge voice he instructed the minister to begin. The minister started, “Let us pray.” Sawyer’s body jiggled as he attempted to control the giggling. Jill and Thomas were also trying to control their giggling.

Thomas placed Grandma’s ring on Jill’s finger as she said I do. Grandma Gina cried.

When the minster said, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” the right pocket door fell off the rail. Several laughs could be heard in the “chapel.”

The afternoon was filled with food, conversation, gifts, invited guests coming and going, wishes, and dishes. Amy and Max washed and dried dishes until the dirty saucers and cups stopped coming.

Jill and Thomas left the reception about 4:00 p.m. to begin their life together.

Max asked if he could move into Jill’s room now. Sawyer told him he could move when Jill had removed her stuff.

At 9:00 Amy and Max were sound asleep on the sofa. Cora and Sawyer carried them to bed. Cora found a handwritten story titled “The Wedding Assay” on Amy’s desk and took it to read to Sawyer.

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My sister got marred today and it were a disaster. My bubdling brother dropped the wedding ring in the vent. My dad had to use the sewer pipe as a stool to reach the heater vent tube. It broke so we could not use the toilet. The new pocket door broke. When it broke it burned out the new dining room shandalear. My sister said “I Do” behind the broken door. My grandma broke her back and she cried when the preacher said I pronouns you man and wife. Mom cried. She does not like Tomass because he is not a doctor or a attormoney. We had lunch. I washed hundreds of plates. They ate cake. I washed hundreds of saucers. Jill and Tomass lived happliy ever after. I put lotion on my hands.

The end

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Part One: Comedy of Repairs – The Assignment

Part Two: Comedy of Repairs – The Wedding Essay

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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 www.LeonardoStories.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Comedy of Repairs – The Assignment (Part 1 of 2)

Comedy of Repairs The Assignment

By: Leo N. Ardo

shutterstock_50162182small Fifty feet from the traffic light it changed to green. Gina Rollins transferred her right foot from the brake to the accelerator. Thirty-two days from her 90th birthday, the date she promised to stop driving. Passing the last cross traffic lane, the high-speed blur caught her eye, but it was too late. The force coming from the right side rammed the car into oncoming traffic. The driver’s door popped open, and she continued to fly after the car stopped; because the seat belts had not been clicked for the past seventy-three years.

Gina thought about that morning in 1939. Snow filled her shoes as she escaped from her new mother and brutal father in upper Wisconsin. At the Ashland bus depot, sixteen-year-old Ginetta Boltreau bought her ticket under a new name, Gina Boltan, to begin a new, untraceable life. While hoping the delayed bus would leave town before her father began searching, she met Harknas Rollins, who had Americanized his last name at immigration from Rolinanetti. Harknas was twenty-three. It was love-in-four-days as they talked on their journey to Durango, Colorado.

Harknas, the gentle giant, asked Gina to marry. He was so kind, respectful, and handsome she said yes. Like other mining families, improving their living conditions required frugal money management and many do-it-yourself projects. Their original, small, three-room home had a separate outhouse. Over time, rooms were added: bedrooms for the kids, full bathroom with indoor plumbing, and the family dining area. Gina felt lucky to still be living at home with her son’s family. Sawyer and Cora moved in after Harknas died from pneumonia at age 87.

Suddenly, she found it difficult to maintain a stream of thoughts—they were short and random. How did I get here? Where is this room? How long? Why so fuzzy? Where am I? Is that Amy? My back is numb. Maybe it’s Jill. Why won’t my arms move? Why is Jill the only one here?

Jill noticed the slight movement of Gina’s body in the hospital bed. “Grandma, it’s Jill. Please be still. You have been in a car accident. Your back is broken. The doctor said you will be okay. We are moving the wedding date so you can be there. I am here to help you.”

Three days later, Cora, the daughter-in-law, was the family aid.

“Cora, please go ahead with the wedding. I cannot be the reason to delay their lives. I want great grandchildren. The wedding could be in the hospital chapel. Or, you were married in our home. Maybe the doctor will allow me to go home. Please consider it. You are always a practical thinker. You know I am right.”

Later that evening, Jill arrived to replace Cora. They discussed the wedding date and relocating it to their home, if the doctor approved Grandma’s release. Gina kept her eyes closed and listened to their conversation. Now she had to work on the doctor. She smiled.

Sawyer and Cora had three children: Jill, twenty-years old, was marrying Thomas, the dragline operator, this Saturday. Maximilian, eight years old, was the quiet twin. He did his homework and played with his action figures. Much to Sawyer’s dismay, his son played with dolls and needed a daily reminder to do his chores. Amy, the social twin, talked about anything at anytime with anyone.  She scrambled her words more than most eight-year-olds, and the only thing that quieted her was feeling hopeless.

Three weeks to the wedding. A Saturday, Sunday afternoon, and two evenings were used to re-route the wiring from the fuse box, around the future pocket doors, to the dining room outlets and chandelier. The second week Sawyer installed the new chandelier that required bracing installation to handle the additional weight. Sawyer was not satisfied with the location of the wiring next to the future right door. I think this wiring should have been over to the right more. I am running out of time. I can’t finish if I move the wire again. The doors need to be installed, and I have to prepare the wall then paint. This is going to be close.

* * * * *

Thursday before the wedding, Amy attempted to sneak in the house and went right to her room. Cora knew something was wrong. Amy was the child that talked about everything.

Cora knocked gently, slightly opened the door, and asked, “May I come in?”

Being upset, Amy replied with a staccato, “Yes.”

“How was school today?” Cora asked, using her best mom voice.

“Oh, it was okay until we got this assay assignment. Here, look at this assessment sheet,” she said with less emphasis. Cora’s best mom voice was performing its magic.

Cora organized the key points as she read the assignment sheet: essay, 200 words, double-spaced, any subject matter, due Monday.

“This will be easy,” Cora encouraged.

Amy quickly retorted, “Nothing ever happens here! How can I write about nothing?”

“Amy, you are such a lucky girl. Your sister is getting married this weekend in her home so Grandma Gina can attend.”

Amy thought a few moments. I can just write what I see. A smile replaced her frown as she said, “Thanks, Mom.”

* * * * *

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A neighbor advised Sawyer that pocket door installation was difficult. With that advice, Sawyer hand picked the straightest wood studs with the fewest knots. Aligning, hanging, and testing the doors took two evenings. Hanging the sheetrock, another evening. Taping and sanding required two more evenings. Prep and masking took four hours, then another hour to paint.

The masking tape was removed the following morning, and Sawyer smiled with pride. He had finally replaced those two cumbersome sun-bleached doors with space efficient pocket doors.

The wedding was in four hours.

Maximilian was preoccupied with his new action figure. Sawyer was losing his patience, having requested twice that Max dress for the wedding. Cora instructed Sawyer and the other men to leave so the ladies could get ready for the wedding. She would help Max with the tuxedo.

Sawyer rounded up the men for a trip to the Buffalo Hills Coffee Shop. They met Thomas “Digger” Louden, the groom; Dan, his best man; and Art, a groomsman. Continually rubbing the back of his neck revealed Thomas’s groom jitters. Additionally, he had ordered ten coffees, then opened one sugar and one creamer packet into each cup. This was a black coffee family. The men understood Thomas’s condition and drank without comment. A couple toasts were offered to Thomas using the “contaminated” coffee.

Bill Buffalo answered his phone, and then carried it to Sawyer.

“Hello,” Sawyer said.

“Max dropped the wedding ring in the heater vent. Amy said she heard it tumble down the vent,” Cora explained. Sawyer could hear the stress in her voice.

Sawyer checked his watch—two hours until the wedding.

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End of Part One of Two

What else can go wrong? Read part two  “Comedy of Repairs – The Wedding Essay”

Part One: Comedy of Repairs – The Assignment

Part Two: Comedy of Repairs – The Wedding Essay

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Author Pix - Leo N Ardo - medium 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 www.LeonardoStories.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

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.”

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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

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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.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

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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.

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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.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!