Stories

Stories are powerful. The stories we live affect all of those around us. Fiction allows us to experiment with emotions and relationships. It allows us to see ourselves in other stories. Hopefully, this also challenges us to ensure the story we are living is the kind of story we enjoy. A story of love. A story of life lived.

 

Heart Lessons

Jacob took inventory of the items on the counter as he slipped on his jacket. He checked his jacket pocket to make sure his knit hat was there. These February days looked warm from inside, but that assessment would change with a few minutes in the cool wind. He grabbed the picnic basket, the box of chocolates, the card and the flowers from the counter and headed out the door. The trip was short and familiar – one he had made numerous times each week for the past four years. As he parked the vehicle his attention was taken by the rows of grey stones adorned with flowers. Once he arrived at the grave, he sat everything down and began his ritual of pulling any weeds or long stems of grass from around the headstone. Once that was complete, he removed the blanket from the picnic basket and spread it out on the ground. “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.” The words seemed empty. “I brought you flowers. Not roses, like our first year, but those snap dragons that I later learned were your favorite.” He laid the flowers at the base of the headstone. “I wonder how many years I gave you roses before I finally figured that out?” A blast of wind sent a chill through his body, causing him to put on the hat from his pocket. He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. His eyes traced the letters on the headstone. “I still miss you like crazy.” Tears formed across the bottom of his eyes. “Special days like this...

Closing Time

“Hi, Larry. What’ll it be?” Jon wiped the counter and placed a napkin in front of him. “Anything – as long as it has rum in it. I’ve got a day full of meetings I need to wipe from my memory banks.” “Where’s Tony?” Chuck craned his neck and looked around the room. “He could give you a run down of the options. The guy’s a virtual encyclopedia of cocktails.” “True.” Larry nodded towards the corner booth. “Who’s the new guy?” Jon added a plastic stirrer to the drink and placed it on the counter. “I don’t know. He came in about an hour ago. He keeps alternating between reading the newspaper and typing on his laptop. He’s on his fourth gin and tonic, though.” “Maybe we should go over and greet him – give him the good ol’ Friday’s welcome.” “Nah. We shouldn’t interrupt while he’s typing. We’ll catch him when he takes a break. He can’t hold in four drinks forever.” “Good point, Ganny.” “So, Jon, you really closing this thing down tonight?” “Yep. It’s time to move on.” “Move on? But I like this place.” “Look around. Everybody is spending all their time at the newer places.” “Bah! I don’t like those new places – people go there to dance. I just want a place to drink.” “Besides, it’s so loud in those places. You can hardly think, much less talk. And the beer here is better than anywhere else.” “Don’t worry. We’ll still be selling at the weekend festivals. You can get your fix then.” Jon placed a full glass next to the almost empty...

Zephyr

Hi, My name is Xiomara. I’ll never forget hearing Miss Alice’s voice that night. I was shocked to see her and embarrassed that I was there. You see, at first I liked being called Eddie’s girlfriend. He was nice to me and I felt protected. But later I would see what he was really like. He viewed me as his property. I didn’t know what to do. The one time I tried to break up with him, he slapped me and threatened to kill me. I was so scared. That was not the life I wanted. I wanted to go to college this past fall. I had good grades and even a scholarship in literature, but I was afraid of what Eddie would do. He has friends all over; I would worry about mom. I should have talked to her about it, but I was embarrassed. That’s why I was there that night – because I was supposed to be. And when Miss Alice spotted me, she came straight towards us. “What is she doing here!” I think it’s the first time I ever heard her yell. When Blake knocked her down, I moved towards her and yelled for them to stop. That is when Eddie hit me. He was leaning over me, yelling, when she came up and kicked him. “Run!” she said. I didn’t know what to do, but when Eddie turned towards her I ran. I ran all the way home, crying, and my mom took me straight to the police station. I had no idea what happened to Alice after I left. I should have...

Young At Heart

I met Alice at the diner. For a while I would eat dinner there at least once a week just so I didn’t have to cook. The more we chatted, the more we realized we had in common. We both had our only child – sons – when we were in our mid thirties and we both raised them as single moms. Alice was several years younger than me – my son is off to college now. But I was surprised at how close we were in age, because she seemed so much younger. She seemed more energetic. I always wished I had half of her energy. I guess it’s true what they say about being young at heart keeping you young. We quickly became friends outside of the diner. She introduced me to spin class. I’m not sure I’m thankful for that – ugh – but I am thankful that I had someone to exercise with, to talk with, and to laugh with. Emily Dickinson said, “We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” That’s how I saw Alice – newer every day.   (This is part 25 of 26 of the story What Happened to Alice. To see the full listing click here.)  ...

Xenial

I like to use the word xenial to describe Alice. My name is Louis Harrington and I am a University Professor of English at Portman University. I first met Alice through my work with the Immigration Support League where I serve as a member of the board of directors. Alice was a volunteer with our organization and was always willing to open her home to anyone that might be new to the area. And that, to me, is the essence of the word xenial. Informally, the word is often used to describe someone who is hospitable – especially to foreigners. The Greeks originally used the word to describe someone who was to host a guest from another city. In either case, the word describes Alice as well as possible. You heard Miss Ortez speak earlier of how Alice helped them when they first arrived. There were several others over the years as well. All had different situations and needs, but Alice was willing to help in whatever capacity we asked. It is truly rare in this day and age to find someone so willing to open their home to foreigners. I certainly wish there were more Alices in this world.   (This is part 24 of 26 of the story What Happened to Alice. To see the full listing click here.)  ...

Waitress

My name is Mike and I’ve known Alice for a long time now. You have all touched on various aspects of Alice that made her special. She wore so many hats – mom, friend, mentor, co-worker. And while I am thankful to call Alice a friend, I will always remember her as the prototype waitress. A lot of people don’t realize how challenging that job can be. Karla and Evan touched on this a little bit, but Alice was the model for how the job was done. Being quick and efficient while also spending time with the customer is not an easy balance to strike. People often come into the diner wanting a respite just as much as they want food. Alice knew that and it showed in her work. If you want proof of the impact Alice made, just look at how our customers have responded. We started collecting donations this week to establish a college fund for Christopher. In only two days, we have already collected several thousand dollars. People love her. She worked her way into all of our hearts and she will be missed by many.   (This is part 23 of 26 of the story What Happened to Alice. To see the full listing click here.)...

Violent

I knew Alice from attending meetings with her. We didn’t always get along because, well, she would tell me I wasn’t taking my recovery seriously. That would usually make me mad. Of course, I guess the fact that I was down there that night when all this happened showed she was right. Alice had always been so positive and spoke so kindly to everyone in the meetings. Even when she challenged me about my commitment, she did it in a nice way – like she was worried about me. But that night I saw a side of her that I didn’t know existed. She was aggressive… violent. I was sitting on a bench on the other side of the street. At first I didn’t recognize her when I saw Monica stop and turn around. But as they started walking away, I recognized her. They had only gone a few steps in the other direction, when I saw Alice glance back at Eddie and his guys. She did kind of a double take and then turned and walked straight towards them, pointing at something. Eddie’s main guy, Blake, stepped in front of her, but she was still walking forward until he shoved her to the ground. Everyone was surprised when she popped right back up and punched him in the nose. Then she went straight for Eddie. It looked like she kicked him between the legs because he doubled over for a moment. It got real ugly and chaotic after that. And I can’t for the life of me figure out what made her do that.   (This is part 22...

Unflinching

Good day. My name is Wu. I and my wife own the convenience store on seventh street. I did not know this Alice, but I come down here because she was brave. That boy that did this, he is always trouble. When I see him, I begin to watch closely. When I saw them hit this lady, I immediately call the police. I thought they would run away, but she kept standing back up and shouting at them. She was pointing and they would hit her again. But this lady, this Alice, she was unflinching. I wanted to go help, but I stayed on the phone urging them to come quick. I didn’t know this lady, but I know what that boy is like and I wanted to say how brave she was. People need to stand up to these… bad guys. I’m sorry for your loss.   (This is part 21 of 26 of the story What Happened to Alice. To see the full listing click here.)  ...

Tough

My name is Tony and I’m a friend of Monica’s. I didn’t know Miss Alice, but I was there the night she died. I feel responsible too, because I’m the one that talked Monica into going to get some… stuff. I felt bad immediately. When she turned Monica around, I hesitated. Miss Alice looked at me and said, “What kind of friend would destroy someone’s life with that mess?” That really made me think. I mean… she’s right. Not only am I messing up my own life, but I’m dragging my friends along with me. Friends like Monica, who have worked hard to get straight. I’m a pretty lousy friend. But Miss Alice… she was tough. I didn’t see how everything started. I guess I was kind of lost in thought at what she had said. I had started walking along with her and Monica. I don’t even know why she went back, but when I turned around I saw Miss Alice getting up off the ground and… and she wasn’t running away. She was running at the guys who had knocked her down. I’ve never known anyone like that.   (This is part 20 of 26 of the story What Happened to Alice. To see the full listing click here.)...

Sponsor

Hi. My name is Monica. And… I’ve been sitting out there trying to talk myself out of doing this. I don’t like talking in front of crowds… but I love Miss Alice. She was my sponsor. She always made sure I went to my meetings and she checked in with me almost every day. She even took me to my meetings a few times when I was planning to skip. I have been clean for five months this time. I – I – I am the reason Miss Alice was there. I’m so sorry. I… If I had only gone to my meeting… But the craving was so strong… I mean… I had no idea she would come find me. I don’t even know how she knew where I’d be. I can’t believe this is all happening. I remember how shocked I was when I heard her voice that night. “Monica, You don’t need this.” The fact that she spoke so softly – instead of yelling at me – caught my attention. Her voice was so kind and loving. I immediately knew she was right. “You deserve better than what that stuff can offer you,” she said. Then she took my arm and turned me around… we started walking away. I don’t know what I will do without Miss Alice. But there are two things I wanted to do for her… two very hard things. One was to speak here – to say how much she had done for me – to say how much I love her. The other… I know I’ve got to stay clean.   (This is part 19...

And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.

Donald Miller

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

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