In the Beginning…

“The farmer looks to his field for sustenance, even when it is a lean harvest. Because he is a farmer, and that is all he has.” ~Theodicus

I wrote my first short story when I was in sixth grade, well, the summer after sixth grade, while everybody else was at the YMCA learning how to swim. I spent that summer in my mom’s office, for the most part. These were the days when kids could do that without repercussions from employers. My sister and I would hang out in the back offices, where no one seemed to have worked for a decade, drawing, playing tag, and occasionally getting into other sorts of mischief.

We also took these classes through the university (where my mom worked). These were for kids who were in middle school, to keep up their skills. I absolutely loved most of them, one of which was a creative writing class. Sure, I had written flashes of fiction prior to that summer, but nothing cohesive, nothing that hung together nicely enough to call it a real story. So I was excited to put it all together. I had an inkling that writing would mean more to me and my future, even back then.

That’s when I found out how hard it was to write, to put words together that made some kind of sense in a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The first day of class our teacher came in and said, “Write a story.” He told us we had the whole 50 minutes to write on anything we wanted. I spent the first 20 coming up with something I thought might be good enough for him. Continue reading “In the Beginning…”

The Pocket Bible Defense

Those pocket Bibles haunted me.

I swear, I hated those pocket Bibles. And you know me. I’m not going to use the “h” word unless I honestly think it’s warranted, which in the case of those pocket Bibles, it most decidedly was. You see, a long time ago I went to Temple University, a rather large campus in North Philadelphia, surrounded by what affectionately used to be called the North Philly ghetto. But the University was expanding at the time, taking over more of the ghetto by the year. In fact, the center of campus was considered probably the safest place in North Philly at the time, and it looked like a true college campus you might find in the middle of nowhere just as easily as in the middle of a major city. And every single Friday, like clockwork, the people in bowties showed up and staked out each and every corner on campus. They came carrying those travel suitcases with wheels, and in each one, packed to the gills, were those damn pocket Bibles.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the Bible itself. Sure, it can be boring in places and indecipherable in others, but it is the best selling book in the world for a reason, and it serves many positive purposes. However, anytime I saw those faceless guys with bowties wheeling those suitcases to the campus corners I cringed. It’s one thing to read the Bible because you want to, and because it means something to you, but why do some people feel the need to beat others over the head with it. I’m good. If I want to read it, I will, and your coming to the middle of my campus and harassing me doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy. K?

Anyway, these pocket Bible thumpers would arrive bright and early so they could catch students on the way to their first period classes. It seemed like no matter how early I arrived they were already there waving those little black Books at me. Sometimes I thought maybe they were just nocturnal and staked out the campus in the middle of the night in order to appear ever-present. They even made me consider dropping my Friday slate of classes just so I could avoid them, but then I thought, “Why should I feel put out by people like this?” I decided to fight back.

Here’s how the exchange went before I figured out my defense:

Bowtie Guy: Have you received the Lord into your heart?

Me: Yup.

Bowtie Guy: Do you know His divine words as closely as your own?

Me: Yup.

Bowtie Guy: Scripture says that he who is boastful will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Me: I knew that.

Bowtie Guy: Take a Bible.

Me: No thanks.

And I would walk on to the next corner, where I would have this EXACT SAME CONVERSATION all over again. Then on to the next corner where it was repeated once more, with feeling. It became necessary for me to leave my classes early on Fridays so I could plan in these excursions in order to reach my next class on time. And sometimes I still would get there late. Something had to give. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I just forge past and not even acknowledge any of these Bowtie Guys? The answer is very simple: because my mother raised me not to ignore people. I was seemingly trapped in the twilight zone of Bowtie Guys, each one faceless, each one saying the same thing, each one pressing me to take a pocket Bible I truly didn’t want nor need. Then I came up with my defense.

It is a very simple defense on the face of it, which I think is the reason it took me eons (okay, about four Fridays) until it finally hit me in the face. Just take a pocket Bible from the first Bowtie Guy I see. Simple as that. After I figured out that essential point the conversation went much more smoothly.

Bowtie Guy: Have you received the Lord into your heart?

Me: Can I just have a Bible?

Bowtie Guy: Bless you. Here you go.

End. Of. Conversation. And here’s the best part! I kept that pocket Bible out all day long so that every time I got to another corner during my day I could just wave it at whatever Bowtie Guy happened to be standing there, and he nodded at me and left me alone. I was then able to get across campus at will, almost as if it weren’t even a Friday anymore. How it took me so long to figure it out was beyond me, but it worked like a charm. Of course I wasn’t able to throw the Bibles out, so I just started keeping a collection of them in a milk crate under my bed. By the time I finished at Temple I had about 30 of those pocket Bibles. I joked that I could put on a bowtie and join those Guys on Temple’s corners and give out Bibles of my own.

Yeah, that wasn’t a very good joke.

Sam

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