Sunday, July 26, 2015
When I was living in Massachusetts in the mid 1990s, I was invited to be one of the featured storytellers at the New England Modern Storytelling Festival in Windsor, Maine. One of the venues in which I was going to be participating was called Flash Fiction. We were advised that our stories could be no more than four minutes long and that people in the audience would be expecting to laugh.
This was a dilemma for me. My average story was twenty minutes long, and, at that time, serious stories were my trademark. Two days before I had to leave for the festival, I still did not have a four minute, funny story. I was about to panic, when I remembered a joke that my friend Cathy told me when we were in the third grade. That joke, I realized, would make a great middle for a story. I just had to add a beginning and an end.
This is what I came up with:
Why Fire Trucks Are Red?
By Linda Goodman
My friend Kelly is in the second grade, and last week she came home with an unusual homework assignment. She had to find out why fire trucks are red.
Kelly needed some help, and the first person she asked was her father. “Daddy, can you tell me why fire trucks are red?”
“Well,” he chortled, “ They’re red…..hahaha….THEY’RE RED BECAUSE THEY’RE EMBARRASSED!” He laughed so hard he had to lean on the refrigerator to keep from falling on the floor.
Kelly should have known better than to ask her father. He made a joke out of everything.
So she asked her mother. “Mama, do you know why fire trucks are red?”
Kelly’s mother was the no nonsense type. She turned to Kelly with both hands on her hips and said, “They’re red because somebody painted them that color.”
Kelly knew that her mother’s answer was correct, but she did not think that it was the answer her teacher was looking for.
Finally, Kelly asked the smartest person she knew: her grandmother. “Grandmama, can you tell me why fire trucks are red?”
“Well sure I can,” her grandmother assured her. “That’s right easy, actually. It’s like this: One plus one is two, and two plus two is four. Four times three is twelve…. That’s right isn’t it?”
“Yes, Grandmama, it is,” Kelly told her.
Her grandmother nodded and said, “I thought so,” before continuing, “Now twelve inches is a foot, and last week I went to the hardware store and bought myself a foot ruler…. now let me see…. Queen Mary was a ruler…. and so was Queen Elizabeth. And Queen Elizabeth was also the name of a ship….a ship that sailed the seven seas. And what is in the seven seas? FISH! And every single one of those fish have fins…. The fins, now, they got uppity and went off to fight the Russians…. and the Russians are also called Reds. And fire trucks are always rushin’. AND THAT’S WHY FIRE TRUCKS ARE RED!
Kelly liked her grandmother’s answer best, and that’s the one that she turned in to her teacher the next day. And guess what! She got an A!
I told that story on the Flash Fiction stage, and it was a huge hit. The audience howled, and I felt great getting laughter for a change. Now I have numerous former jokes turned story in my storytelling arsenal. It’s a good trick to have up your sleeve. By the way - it's in the delivery.
Monday, June 29, 2015
By Linda Goodman
©Linda Goodman 1988
The small black child looked up at me, eyes wide with fear.
“I’ve lost my mommy,” she said with quivering voice.
“Can you help me find her?”
My face burned as I felt around me the hostility of those who awaited my reaction.
“No, child, find her for yourself.”
My voice was cold.
(“Please go away, I begged silently”)
“Is she the cook’s child?” someone whispered.
“Can we send her to the kitchen?”
“Aw, go play in the street ‘til you Mama comes,” said a suave man in a three piece suit.
“The little uns just grow up to be big uns,” he said in an aside.
The room exploded with laughter.
I laughed, too.
For though my conscience tore my heart in two,
I could not summon the courage needed to banish the shame I felt.
Man’s inhumanity to man runs rampant
God help us.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
In honor of Father's Day, I have invited my good friend Bob Wilson to be a guest blogger. I know his beautiful story about his father will move you as much as it did me.
By Robert Wilson
By Robert Wilson
©Robert Wilson, 6/2015
My father was a man of principle. He didn’t smoke, or drink alcohol (although he could swear with the best). He also was unwavering in his belief that a man should be honest in all his dealings and keep his word, no matter what. My dad loved farming, and he was an excellent farmer. He also had a deep love for draft horses, keeping a matched team of Belgian geldings and a Percheron mare long after the area farmers had started using tractors exclusively. At my mother’s urging, dad bought a grocery store and a house in town, but he kept the farm and spent as much time there as possible. One day, when we were cleaning out a fence row next to the road, a realtor drove up. He told dad that he had a client looking for a farm to buy. Although he didn’t know dad, his prospect knew of the farm and he was interested in making an offer. The realtor asked dad how much he wanted for the farm. Dad told him that he wasn’t interested in selling.
The realtor was persistent. At least once a week he would catch dad at the grocery store or at the farm and badger him to set a price on the farm. One day, out of frustration, dad set a price that he thought was higher than anyone would pay for the farm. The realtor’s client accepted the price dad set. Dad felt that he had no choice but to sell him the farm. Mother was thrilled, but dad’s spirit never recovered.
Several years later, dad visited me in Indianapolis to go to the Indiana State Fair. In Indiana, we had county fairs that were bigger than the state fairs in many eastern states. We were going to the state fair to see the horses and dairy cattle and go to the Grand Circuit Harness Races. Dad didn’t bet on races, but he loved to see the trotters and pacers compete. That day, as a bonus, the Budweiser Clydesdales were going to appear in an eight-horse hitch.
Before we took our seats in the grandstand, we walked through the horse barns, and we noticed that the 10 Clydesdales (8 for the hitch plus 2 alternates) were housed under a separate tent. There was a sign with the horse’s name over each stall. Dad would read the name of a horse, say it out loud, then carefully examine the horse from every angle, say the name again, and then move on to the next horse and go through the same routine.
Before the first race, the eight-horse hitch came trotting down the main stretch in front of the stands. Dad named every horse and it’s position in the hitch, and then turned to me, beaming, and named the two horses that weren’t in the hitch. Dad was animated and happy the rest of the day. That was the first time I had seen my dad happy in years, and it was the last. Every time I read Name of Horses, by Donald Hall, I think of my father.
Note from Linda Goodman: To read Name of Horses, by Donald Hall, go to http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/name-of-horses/. I have never ridden a horse, but the poem made me love them. It brought tears to my eyes.
Robert (Bob) Wilson was an Indiana farm boy with an adventurious spirit. After high school, he sought travel and experiences. Bob toured the U.S. as a professional actor, he was an instructor and the first writer/director for the Army Air Defense School’s Educational TV Network. After the Army, he became a specialist in designing and implementing large scale IT systems, eventually retiring as the Principle Systems Analyst for Advanced Technology Systems. Now retired, Bob has returned to his first love, the theatre, working with community theatres in the Northern Neck of Virginia.Contact Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
I wrote the poem Aaron after reading Edwin Arlington Robinson's Richard Cory, when I was a senior in high school. It was selected to be read as part of the Norfolk, Virginia "Turn On" in 1970, and it received a very nice review in the Virginian Pilot/Ledger Star newspaper. I have included it as one of Boojie's poems in my book Boojie's People, which will be released this summer.
(c) Linda Goodman 1970
was a cruel man. His mother told me so.
was quiet, but his ways were rough (This, for fact, I know).
had a brother, Timmy, who was full of charm and looks.
was his mother’s pride and joy, and was always reading books.
Aaron was mean and Aaron was crude and he never stopped to think.
did as he pleased, and he said what he meant, and he drank what he wanted to
even today, I remember so well the night that his poor mother died.
lips formed the words, “I love Timmy,” but Aaron was the one who cried.
why he did that peculiar thing, I suppose I’ll never know.
Aaron was a cruel man. His mother told me so.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
This is part 2 of my story The Empty Tomb. Part 1 is too long to publish as a blog. Part 2 picks up just as the darkness that followed Jesus' crucifixion has lifted. The speaker is Mary Magdalene.
The Empty Tomb - Part 2
copyright Linda Goodman 1995
After what seemed like hours, the light returned. I turned to leave, when I saw Joseph of Arimathea approaching. Because Joseph was a secret follower of Jesus, I pretended not to recognize him. He approached the cross and carefully began to take Jesus down, prying the nails slowly so as not to further tear His flesh. Mary, the mother of Joseph, came up to me and whispered in my ear, “He got permission from Pilate to take the body. He is going to bury our Lord in his own tomb.”
Joseph wrapped Jesus body in a linen sheet and carried it away. Mary and I followed him from a distance until we came to a garden, out of the sight of the soldiers. There Joseph stopped and waited for us to walk alongside him. His face was soaked with tears as he tried to make sense of all that had happened. “I cannot believe that Jehovah let him die like this. Why did he have to suffer the death of a common criminal?” he asked us. We had no answers.
Mary and I watched as Joseph placed Jesus body in a tomb carved out of solid rock. He rolled a huge stone in front of the opening, and then the three of us knelt in prayer, asking God for understanding.....asking Him to heal our broken hearts. Then we left to prepare for the Sabbath.
The Sabbath did not bring me any comfort. Like Joseph of Arimathea, I could not believe that God had let our savior die. Why? I asked myself over and over. This is cruel. Who will we follow now? We will disband. There will be chaos! How can this be?
Then a small voice, so soft that at first I thought I had imagined it, spoke to me from my heart. “All will be well," it said. “Trust in the Lord.” And suddenly I felt the peace that passes understanding come over me. For the first time in days, I slept.
The next morning, the first day of the week, before sunrise, Joanna, Martha, and I went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. Though He had died a criminal’s death, we wanted Him to have a proper burial, and so we had brought spices and perfumes with which to bathe His body.
To our horror, we saw that the stone had been rolled away during the night. Joanna looked inside and screamed, “He’s gone! His body has been stolen!”
All that I could think to do was run. I ran so fast I felt as though my heart would pound its way outside my chest, but I did not stop until I had reached the upper room. Peter and John were inside, looking lost and weary from lack of sleep.
“They have taken Him!” I cried. “They have taken Jesus from the tomb, and we do not know where they have put him!” Then I fell to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. All I had wanted to do was to see that He had a proper burial. Now Jehovah was denying Him even that.
Peter and John did not tarry to comfort me. They cried out in anger before running from the room. I knew they were going to the tomb to see if I told the truth. Even though they knew me to be an honest woman, they could not believe that God would allow their Lord’s body to be defiled so. Perhaps they thought my grief was playing tricks upon my mind. Slowly I picked myself up off the floor and, forcing one foot in front of the other, I trudged back to the garden.
By the time I reached the tomb, the others had gone. Still sobbing, I forced myself to look inside. Suddenly, a blinding light enveloped me. I felt a power surging through my body, a tingling sensation from my head down to my toes. Confused and frightened, I struggled to see from what source this strangeness emanated. “Who is there!” I demanded.
In what seemed like a dream, I saw two figures dressed in robes as white as snow. They were sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet. “Why are you crying?” they asked in one voice that sounded like the beautiful, pure strains of a heavenly harp.
“They have taken my Lord away,” I replied, shuddering. “I do not know where they have put him.”
They sat there staring at me as if I were insane. Unable to bear gazing upon their brilliant essence any longer, I turned to leave, thinking all was lost. That is when I saw the man who had been standing behind me. He spoke to me in a calm, unemotional voice, asking, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for.”
At first, I thought that he must be the gardener. I pulled myself up to my full height and held myself proud. Who was he to question me? I would show him who he was dealing with.
“If you have taken Him away, tell me where you have put him,” I demanded. “I will go and get him and bring him back where he belongs.”
And then the man smiled at me....a soft smile that told of kindness and compassion, knowledge and understanding. Who is this man? I wondered. I know that smile. Why is it so strangely comforting? I looked into His pale blue eyes and saw that they were filled with tears. “Mary,” He whispered.
“My Lord!” I cried, as I realized that this was indeed Jesus himself. But how could this be? I had seen him die! I had seen his stiff and lifeless body placed inside the tomb. But then, in the twinkling of an eye, I realized that none of this mattered. My savior was alive!
I threw myself at his feet and wrapped my arms around his legs. “Do not hold on to me, Mary,” He said gently. “I have not yet ascended to my Father.”
I released him, and he smiled at me...the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. “Go and tell the others,” He said. I did not hesitate to do as He bid.
You know the rest. Jesus appeared to many in His resurrected body before going up into heaven. Many have said that it was all a hoax -- that His followers had stolen His body to make it appear that He had been resurrected. I feel sorry for those who believe that. The do not know what it means to have a hope that cannot be destroyed. They do not know the peace that comes from sweet surrender. They do not know the joyous victory of love that was accomplished that day.
I never tire of telling my story. I share it with all who will listen. And when my journey on earth has ended, I know that I will once again sit at His feet and kiss His wounded hands, rejoicing in His presence for life everlasting. I testify before you now that that my Savior lives, just as surely as you and I have breath in our bodies. You know that what I speak is true because I, Mary Magdalene, once among the worst of sinners, was there......at the EMPTY TOMB.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Copyright Linda Goodman 2015
A cold, drizzling rain made me decide that I did not want to park in the outer Siberia section of the Chester, Virginia Walmart parking lot on that September day in 1999. Normally I chose the exercise of the walk across the long, deep parking lot to the store, but on this day, I just wanted to keep dry. I began looking for a closer space.
As divine providence (or perhaps luck?) would have it, there was a parking space available beside a van just a few spaces from the store’s front door. In my mind, that parking spot had my name on it. I turned my front wheels to the right to enter the space, but someone else came flying down the parking aisle and skidded into the space before I could get my car into it.
The lady in the other car rolled down her window and yelled, “I saw it first!”
“That’s okay,” I responded. “I’m not emotional about it.” I turned back to outer Siberia, burdened with the promise of a bad hair day looming before me.
Since I was not wearing a coat, the walk to the store was chilly. I needed to shop for only a few things, so I made quick work of it. As I was checking out, I could smell something burning. The front of the store was filled with smoke.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Is there a fire.”
“Yeah, but it’s outside. You’re okay in here,” the clerk assured me.
“Do you know what happened?” I wanted more information.
“Well, see, this van out in the parking lot caught fire,” the clerk replied. “The police and the fire department are out there taking care of it.”
“Are the cars around it okay?” I wondered.
“The fire spread to one of the cars next to it,” the clerk told me. “Guess somebody’s having a bad day.”
As I pushed my grocery cart outdoors, I saw the black hole left by the van. I also saw a black hole in the spot to the van’s right, the space where I had tried to park! I asked one of the policemen if he knew what had happened. He told me that the driver of the van had gone for a ride in his all terrain vehicle and, afterwards, had put the ATV into the back of the van without letting the ATV cool down first.
“How about the driver of the car?” I asked him. “Is she okay?”
“Well, she wasn’t in the car when it happened,” he said solemnly. “So she should be okay. That might change when she actually sees her car.”
I continued my march to outer Siberia. It was good exercise, and I still had a car.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
This story was written by my brother Lee, who now lives in Barboursville, WVA. Lee is retired from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and is also a writer and poet. The caricature at the left was done by one of his former co-workers.
© Lee Wright, 16 Jan, 2002
“Hey Ted,” said Mike as he came into the office. Hearing the Oldie station in the background. Mike knew that Ted was somewhere in the office.
“Hey Michael,” came the answer from Ted’s area. ”Is it 4 PM yet?”
“Almost,” replied Mike, smiling.
That was a running gag around the office. The office contained five employees: Mike, Glynn, Ted, Carolyn, and Steve. Carolyn was the Editor of the Service to the Fleet, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard newspaper. Steve was the supervisor who ran the little “madhouse” of an office. Actually, you could say that Steve was the Head Nut.
“Hey Mike! Hey Ted!” said Glynn as he made his daily appearance.
“Hey guys,” said Carolyn as she followed Glynn inside.
“Hey Carolyn!” came three replies.
“Anyone seen Steve?” asked Carolyn as she pulled off her coat and hung it up.
“We’re home alone, at least for half a day.” replied Ted, “Steve left a message on the answering machine saying that he’d be in around lunch.”
“Did anyone notice that the traffic was backed up more than usual?” asked Carolyn.
“I did,” replied Glynn, “But it wasn’t as bad as last week.”
“I know,” answered Ted, “Last week was a bite.”
“I wonder why it was backed up today?” asked Carolyn, “I thought they had that problem straightened out last week.”
“Guess you can’t expect every day to be perfect.” said Mike, turning towards his computer. Soon you could hear the keyboard clicking as Mike began his work on a story for the paper.
Ted looked over at Glynn and saw that he was checking the Virginian-Pilot for the latest news. The Virginian-Pilot was the local newspaper. Ted got up from his desk and went into the back room. He returned carrying a cup of hot coffee. The back room served as a catchall for storage. Also in the back room were four televisions to keep up with any breaking news. The four TVs were hooked up to four VCRs to tape any of that breaking news.
Ted sat down for a few minutes, got up, and wandered into Carolyn’s cubicle. He watched her as she was getting the shipyard paper ready for distribution. He probably figured that Carolyn needed a break because he interrupted her typing.
“Do I look ok?”
“What?” Carolyn asked, looking up.
“Do I look ok?”
“Depends on what you mean by “ok,” came a reply from Glynn’s cubicle.
Ted ignored the remark and carried on. “I don’t feel all that well. I feel kinda out of sorts and light-headed. You know kinda twilight zoney, like I don’t belong here.”
“You’ve been in the Twilight Zone ever since I’ve known you.” came a
voice from Mike’s cubicle.
Ted ignored that one also.
“Maybe you should sit down and finish your coffee.” said Carolyn, “You’ll feel better shortly.”
“Maybe you’re right, but I felt strange when I came through the door this morning. I just have this odd feeling.” Ted turned away and went back to his cubicle.
Ted was sitting by his computer, still having those odd feelings. He could hear Carolyn banging away on her keyboard, preparing the paper for distribution.
The rest of the morning was uneventful. At 11 AM Ted got up and went into the back room to watch one of the court shows. Carolyn, Glynn, and Mike, went to Roger Brown’s, one of their favorite placers to eat.
Around 12:15 Mike, Carolyn, and Glynn returned from lunch.,
“Hey Ted,” all three said in the direction of the back room. They could hear the TV still going. There was no answer.
“Ted usually tapes Judge Mathis and The People’s Court. Maybe he’s watching People’s Court and didn’t hear us.” said Mike, “His hearing isn’t that good any more.”
“I’ll go back there and get his attention.” said Carolyn. She walked away, but came back soon after. “Hmm,” she sighed, “he wasn’t back there.”
“Probably in the “library.” said Glynn. The “library” was Ted’s word for the restroom. He usually took whatever book he was reading at the with him when he went in there.
Everyone returned to their cubicles. Within a few minutes Steve came in. He wasn’t his usual self. His head was down and he seemed dazed. Steve walked slowly into his office.
“What wrong with Steve?” asked Glynn.
“What’s up, Glynn?” asked Carolyn, “What do you mean, what’s wrong with Steve?” A large partition that surrounded Carolyn’s cubicle prevented her from seeing anyone entering the office.
Before anyone could answer, Steve came out of his office. A few minutes passed before he could speak.
“I’ve got something to tell all of you,” Steve said slowly.
“Shouldn’t we wait until Ted gets here?” asked Mike.
“What do you mean, wait for Ted?” Steve seemed confused. “Where is he?”
“As far as we know, he’s in the restroom.” replied Glynn, “Why?”
“He can’t be in the restroom,” said Steve, “I just came out of there and I was the only one in there… Now, I want you all to sit down. I have some bad news to tell you.”
Mike, Glynn, and Carolyn pulled their chairs out of their cubicles and looked at Steve.
“What’s wrong?” they asked in unison.
“Was th… uh hum,” Steve cleared his throat, “Was the traffic backed up this morning?”
“Yes it was, why? What’s wrong Steve?” asked Carolyn. Now everyone was concerned about Steve.
“Do you know wh..what caused the backup?” Steve was having a hard time talking.
“Just the usual stuff,” replied Mike. “Steve, I think we should wait until Ted
gets here so you won’t have to repeat whatever it is.”
If looks could kill, Mike would’ve been dead right there. Steve continued. “This morning…..on their way to work together, Ted and his wife Marlene, were involved in a very bad car accident.”
“Oh My God!” exclaimed Carolyn, “How’s Marlene? Ted didn’t mention anything about an accident this morning.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Steve gruffly. “Marlene was badly injured and she’s in the hospital. They’re not sure if she’ll make it. Ted was killed instantly.”
Carolyn felt faint. Mike and Glynn couldn’t believe their ears.
“It….it can’t be! Ted was here this morning.” said Mike.
Steve was helping Carolyn to a chair and Glynn was putting some smelling salts under her nose.
“What are you talking about Mike? What’s wrong with Carolyn?”
“Steve,” replied Mike, “Ted was here this morning. We all saw and talked to him.”
“That’s impossible!” exclaimed Steve, “I told you that he was killed instantly.”
“Steve, Mike, Carolyn, come here.” said Glynn, “I’ve got something to show you.”
All four gathered at Ted’s cubicle. On Ted’s computer screen there was a small note, “This workstation is in use and has been locked. The workstation can only be unlocked by Teddy L. Wright.” Glynn then pointed towards Ted’s desk. There, underneath his desk, was Ted’s book bag. And on his desk was his latest book, waiting to be read.