Toby’s House, a House Haunted by a Furry Spirit

dogBy Elizabeth Ruth


Toby was one of those small, frenetic dogs with a mop of snow white hair hanging over his eyes.  Cherry thought he was cute—and one of the most frightening creatures she had ever encountered.

The dog lived in the Bryan house, a beautiful house with the look of a small castle. Cherry knew every detail of the façade of the house because she stared at it warily every morning and afternoon as she approached it on her way to and from school; but it was the small dog that was her daily concern.

Toby—she knew his name because she had heard Mrs. Bryan call him one afternoon as he chased her down the sidewalk—was Cherry’s twice-a-day nightmare. She was terrified of the little dog; but he lived along the road her mother deemed safest for her to take to school. Cherry could not take the alternative route where there was no sidewalk unless her older sister or brother agreed to walk with her.

So every morning and afternoon, Cherry fearfully crept past the house, hoping that Toby was inside with the old lady.  Too often, he was not.

Sometimes Cherry would get half-way across the sidewalk fronting the Bryan property before the dog would spot her and rush out, barking furiously as she frantically ran—sideways and backwards–so she wouldn’t have to take her eyes off her furry nemesis.

Eventually, Cherry hit upon something that made her feel a little safer. One day, following a wild thunderstorm, she discovered a number of broken limbs on the sidewalk, most of them being dry wood from some long-dead portion of one of the trees.   Being dry, the limb had broken when it hit the sidewalk. One of the pieces was a sturdy stick a couple of feet long.  Cherry picked it up, at first just to clear the path in front of her; but she had walked only a few more steps when the little white terror burst upon her. Holding the stick aloft, Cherry said loudly, “Go home. Go home.”  The little dog stopped in his tracks and stared at her. Then he resumed barking until Cherry repeated even more frantically, “Go home.  Go home.”  The dog backed off and Cherry resumed walking, keep-ing her eyes on her foe until he finally turned away to resume his nap beneath a thick bush.

Cherry was trembling with fear, but her seven year old mind was working. If she had the stick every time she passed the Bryan house, she would be able to defend herself if the dog tried to bite her. She would be safe.

But she could not take a stick to school. Cherry pondered the problem until she noticed one of the trees alongside the sidewalk had a gnarled root that rose several inches above the ground. She bent down and placed her stick alongside the root in such a way that it was nearly hidden. She then hurried to school feeling more cheerful than usual. This afternoon she would have the stick to see her safely past the Bryan house.

That afternoon, Cherry bravely walked past the Bryan house with her stick clutched in her hand.  The dog did not appear. A relieved Cherry found another hiding place a half block past the dog’s home to stash her handy weapon for the following day.

For the next year or two—until Cherry was old enough to walk along the other roadway—the one without a sidewalk—she always kept a weapon hidden along the sidewalk and carried it past the dog’s home. Of course it was not the same weapon for all of that time. Occasionally one of the home owners would clean his yard and un-knowingly toss Cherry’s stick into a fire. Then Cherry would have to find another. When she couldn’t find one for a day or so, she would creep fearfully past the Bryant place, but when she again had a stick in her hand, she would march bravely by, ready to face her arch enemy at any moment.

As Cherry grew up, the Bryan house remained of interest to her.  Eventually, she realized the dog no longer lived at the residence. Still later a black ribboned wreath on the door signaled the death of Mrs. Bryant.

By the time Cherry was in high school, the house—at the hands of some new owner—underwent renovation and a face lift.  Its chipped white paint was scraped off and the house was covered by a coat of fresh grey, a small garage was built and the lawn was landscaped. Cherry, who lived in a frame house with no distinguishing features, was fascinated with the neat little house with tiny turrets and new dormer windows.

The Bryan house was her dream house but by the time she was able to purchase it years later, it seemed to be more of a nightmare.

The exterior paint was once again chipped and discolored. The driveway was riddled with cracks through which blades of grass triumphantly emerged.

The inside was a rabbit warren of tiny rooms, all originally intended for some specific purpose no longer rele-vant to the modern world.  There was the sunroom through which so much sunlight poured in the summer that it was unbearably hot while at the same time, the many windows created unbearably cold drafts during winter weather.

The kitchen suffered from mixed identity with its roots in the early 1900s and evidence of a mid-century cosmetic re-do.  There was a butler’s pantry, a formal dining room and an entrance foyer that opened onto the grand central hall.

In spite of the grandeur of these accouterments, the house had very little living space. Two upstairs bedrooms were all it boasted, and the only bathroom was on the ground floor.  All the closets were tiny.

There were some good points to the house, however. It was in the “old neighborhood,” the place Cherry had dreamed of returning to for the past thirty years; and of course, having been, in its day, an elegant house, it retained a certain panache.

So after viewing the house several times, Cherry crossed her fingers and purchased it, plans bubbling in her head about changes and renovations she would make. She didn’t have a lot of money, but as a woman who had taken care of herself her entire life, she was handy; and she felt sure she could handle most of the work herself.

The problem was, from the moment she moved into the house Cherry could not seem to sleep under its old tiled roof.

Each night she woke repeatedly, believing a dog had just barked some-where nearby, perhaps as close as the foot of her bed. As Cherry did not have a dog the sound of a dog barking in her bedroom was understandably unnerving. She could only surmise that her long ago fear of the dog which had once lived in the house was causing nightmares. And of course, this seemed so silly she dared not take anyone into her confidence.

When several ladies in her church congregation noted that she appeared tired and urged her to slow down with the heavy work she was doing on the house, Cherry allowed them to believe she was indeed overtired because of hard work.  The fact that she thrived on work and appeared haggard because of lack of sleep might be entirely too difficult to explain.

Each night, Cherry told herself that the barking dog was only her imagination and that tonight she would be sensible and sleep the night through. Sometimes it seemed to work and she would be jubilant the next morning when she awoke well-rested.  Some nights it didn’t work at all and she slept no more than an hour or two at a stretch before the dreaded barking startled her from sleep.

Sometimes, the barking seemed to fade as Cherry wakened.  Other times she could have sworn that she actually heard barking after she was certain she was awake.  A couple of times she crossed the room and labored until the stubborn old window rasped open.  She then looked out over the neigh-borhood for the canine night owl which must be living somewhere near.  Each time she neither saw nor heard a dog, but when she returned to her restless sleep she was once again wakened by barking.

After one particularly sleepless night, Cherry looked in the bathroom mirror as she got ready for a day’s work. A haggard face looked back at her. Cherry, who prided herself on not looking her age, looked old.

That day, instead of going straight to work on her current  project, removing old carpet strips and nails to prepare her dining room floor for machine sanding, Cherry took a  cup of coffee onto the patio off  of her kitchen and sat down to contemplate her dilemma. Was a dog really barking SOMEWHERE or was it only in her head? Was she insane…? And more importantly, was she ever going to get enough sleep in this cursed house?

After Cherry finished her coffee she decided not to spend the day working. Instead she changed into some more presentable slacks and a crisp white blouse and walked across the lawn to where old lady Martin still lived in the house she had owned for the last fifty years. Cherry didn’t know any of her other neighbors, although she had seen some young couples getting in and out of cars in nearby driveways. She hoped Mrs. Martin knew them and would know if any of them harbored a dog that spent its nights barking at the moon.

Once through the amenities, Cherry launched into her agenda.  “There’s a dog somewhere around here that wakes me up every night.  Do you have any idea who it belongs to?” she asked.

Mrs. Martin looked surprised.  “Well no,” she answered.  “I haven’t heard any dogs.  The only thing I’ve heard is some hammering that starts pretty early some mornings.”

Cherry hastened to apologize and to promise fervently not to disturb her elderly neighbor again.

After she left Mrs. Martin’s, Cherry walked down the sidewalk in front of her home, turning at the corner to walk as far as the alley and then strolling along the alley until she reached her own back yard.  As she walked, she kept her eyes peeled on the back and side yards of each house she passed. If any of her neighbors had a dog, it must be one they kept inside the house. There were no visible dog houses or fenced areas to be found.

The neighborhood was nearly silent except for the sound of bees buzzing about in the garden at the end of the block. Apparently all the people in the houses roundabout were at work.  She doubted any of them kept a dog locked up all day while they were away from home. So where was the barking dog that awakened her night after night?

From a minor irritation, the sound had become a major headache.  She desperately needed rest and it cer-tainly didn’t help that she had begun to doubt her own sanity.

The next day an exhausted Cherry went back to work on the dining room floor.  When she thought of the barking dog, she reminded herself, “What can’t be cured, must be endured.”

Eventually, although still sleep-less, Cherry more or less grew used to the annoyance. When the barking woke her from her exhausted sleep, she would sit half way up in her bed and say, “Shut up, Toby.” Then she would fall back against her bed, press the spare pillow over her head and try to go back to sleep.

One day Cherry found herself at the local library browsing the contents of a shelf on the occult. A title caught her eye, “Animal Spirits,” the bold letters read.  She took the book off the shelf.

According to the book, most animal spirits were attached to living people or spirits of their former owners.  If the ghost of the human to which they were attached was exorcised from the home, the animal spirit would also leave. Cherry was bemused. Would she have to have an exorcism to rid her house of  dear old Mrs. Bryan and her beloved pet  in order to get a good night sleep?  She was so tired that the idea did not seem entirely ludicrous.

And then she began to remodel her kitchen. It contained an antique cook stove with a tall black pipe disappearing into the wall. It had apparently been left there or placed there for nostalgic value long after such things had ceased being used for cooking. She wouldn’t dare to light a fire in it’s depths as she feared the chimney might be clogged and a fire might ensue. Besides, two of the round burner plates were missing. She hoped to find them but if she didn’t she would have to look into replacing them.

She decided she should start some-where else. If she couldn’t replace those stove lid things, she might have to get rid of the stove. Spending time cleaning and polishing it right now might not be of much use.

She didn’t plan to use the thing, but it looked interesting so if she found the lids she would probably keep it.  If so, she thought, she would probably remove the stove pipe piece by piece and give it a thorough cleaning. If leaves had fallen from her large over-hanging trees into the chimney, they would provide a nesting place for rodents. Not a pleasant thought at all.

After deciding to put off the stove cleaning pending locating the stove lids, she turned her attention to the wall beside it. It was covered in painted-over antique fabric, puckered and cracked. She assumed it was oilcloth. Along the base a water pipe sneaked from the butler’s pantry where the water heater was located around to the kitchen sink—apparently placed to be seen as little as possible without going to the effort of installing it under the floor.

On the upper part of the wall, she found a curious copper pipe with a deep green patina. It curved out at the bot-tom and ended abruptly. What could it be for? Had something been disconnected?

Because she had to start somewhere, Cherry began by ripping and scraping the oilcloth off the wall.  If she was lucky there would be plaster worth repairing.  If not….well she’d face that after she knew for sure.

The glued-on oilcloth was stubborn.  She worked on it a long time before breaking for lunch.  In the afternoon she switched to taking doors off cabinets in order to sand and repaint them. After they were all down, she sent out for pizza for her supper and after eating, she decided to spend a little more time on the oilcloth.  Surely she could complete the small area of wall before bedtime.

At 10:00 she was sure she’d be done with the tedious chore within the hour and decided to keep working.  After all, even if she went to bed, she wouldn’t actually sleep!

At about 10:30, when Cherry was crouching near the baseboard scraping away persistent strands of the old cloth, she was nearly startled out of her wits by the sound of a dog barking right beside her left ear.  She jumped up and whirled around, sustaining a blow to her head against the cast iron stove.

The pain brought tears to her eyes and the threatened blackout forced her to lean against the stove for support.  And the barking came again. It seemed to come out of the holes where the stove plates belonged. Cherry ripped open the door to the firebox and peered inside, feeling foolish when of course there was nothing there.

But the barking began again and with her head near the firebox, it seemed to be all around her.  She backed away wondering if the old cast iron stove as well as her bedroom was haunted.  Then she raised her head as she ruefully rubbed the knot on her left temple, and she saw the curved copper pipe once more and was seized by inspiration. She raced through the dining room, down the hall and up the stairs.  In her bedroom along the wall near the foot of her bed, she found what she was seeking—the other end of the pipe. She now knew what it was–although she had no idea what it was called. It was one of those communication conduits that houses used to have between the bedroom and kitchen.  Through that tube, the lady of the house could summon a servant to come up with her breakfast.

“So that’s where the sound came from,” Cherry marveled.  It came out of the stove holes and straight up the pipe right to the foot of my bed.  But of course that didn’t explain how the barking got into the stove. Cherry raced down the stairs and out the front door. Where was that chimney?

She ran as far back in her yard as she could get to look at her roof.  If the moon had not been full she would not have been able to see the black pipe rising above the one story roof of the kitchen end of the house.  Why didn’t she notice before that the main chimney—the one shared by two fire places in the house was nowhere near the kitchen?  The cook stove had its own “chimney.”

But how did that explain the bark-ing dog in the stove? There was certainly no dog on the roof! She reached again to touch the tender bump on her temple just as she heard faint barking above her head. Whirling around, she saw nothing but blackness. The houses behind her were shielded by a steep hill that rose above the valley where the old part of town had been built. High up on the hill, mostly surrounded by trees, there was a development of expensive new homes.

Again Cherry heard the faint barking overhead and slightly to the south.  “This is weird,” she said aloud and heard her last word echo back at her, “weird, weird…..” And all of a sudden she understood.  The dog was up the hill and who knew how far away. When it barked, the sound heard so faintly at ground level must be much louder at roof height, especially when it bounced off the wall of the larger house to her north.   The sound must travel down the pipe into the stove and out of the stove where the stove lids were missing right into the speaking tube that ended in her bedroom. And she had been ready to look for an exorcist!

The first thing Cherry did back inside was place a board across the holes in her cook stove, securing it with a heavy brick formerly used as a doorstop. Then she laughed all the way up the stairs, and was still smiling broadly half an hour later when she was ready for bed and snuggled in for a restful night of sleep.                                        End

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A Visit from a Whirl-Away Five-Year-Old

I go to pick her up for a visit. She goes out the door of her house ahead of me and skips away for about twenty feet; then stops to return to me to demand my car keys so she can use the remote to unlock the car door.

She reaches the car and opens the door by herself and climbs into her booster seat; then, although it is a great stretch of her diminutive arms, she insists on belting herself in.

I make sure the door is shut before going around to get in the driver’s seat and start the car. Before I can back out of the drive, her window is open. She waves out the window and call out, “Bye Dad,” although he has turned back to the house and doesn’t hear her.

She argues about virtually everything on the way home. “Nun-huh” seems to be her favorite word.

“Please roll your window up. The wind makes too much noise.”


We reach “Grandma’s House” and she rushes in to cheerfully tell her grandpa she’s there. As always, he teases her.

“What are you doing at my house?   Who said you could come here?” She giggles and spins around.                                                                                                                 

Soon she is down the hall jumping on my bed. I put a stop to that, telling her she might get hurt.  She says, “Nun-huh.”

Next she wants to play “Hide and go Seek”. She hides so well I get frantic before I find her.

After I have also hidden and been found, she decides we should play “makeover”.  I am chosen to be the model. From my bathroom counter she gets lipstick and then blush and finally eye shadow. When she has finished, I have large green streaks across my forehead and cheeks like fire. She pronounces me beautiful.

Although she protests, I wash my face then follow her to the den where she climbs in front of the computer and asks to go on line. I open up the browser, after which she competently types in an address by the “hunt and peck” method.  She goes to a game site where she plays a game for at least 20 seconds before telling me she is hungry.

Off to the kitchen where we find some chips and fix her a sippy cup of the beverage of her choice.

She sits there a minute and a half munching and sipping before grabbing a handful of the chips and heading to the living room where she gets the remote and turns on the TV to cartoons; but she doesn’t watch because she has another idea. She wants to make crafts. To my relief, she settles for painting with water colors.

I set up a small table and chair for her and give her a large apron to protect her clothes.

Miraculously she covers a page with paint before getting off the chair and ripping off the apron to demonstrate a frenetic dance routine while singing off key. After I applaud her performance, she remembers the electronic keyboard under by bed. We pull it out and plug it in. She is still pounding away, accompanied by the most disturbing of the machine’s automatic staccato rhythms, when her mother comes for her.

After trying and failing to coax a goodbye hug out of her, I say, “That’s okay.  I love you.” She waves goodbye as she trots off down the sidewalk toward the car.

I picked her up at 4:45.  It is now 6:20.  I collapse on the sofa.

Elizabeth Ruth

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A Mother’s Tears

This story is true although the names and relationships have been changed.

The baby’s name is Paul and his little fingers, wrapped around one of mine, are chubby and dimpled.  He is named for my brother.  When I gaze at Baby Paul’s little fingers, another image comes to mind.  It is of a woman crying.  The woman was my mother and she has been dead so many years now that I would have to stop and figure out exactly how many years it has been; but those tears—they are still alive in my heart.  I can see those tears so clearly, dripping gently against the fingers of another little boy so many years ago.  That little boy, four years old, was in her arms.  I, three years older, was standing alongside the rocker feeling very sorry about my little brother and about my mother’s tears.

Paul and a cousin a few years older had been playing outside together a few days before. Every few minutes, my mother would go to the door and holler for Paul. The cousin, Abel, was a venturesome boy and mother would not trust him to keep Paul in the yard, although he had promised to do so.

When Paul came running on his little short legs, Mother would say, “Stay you near the house Paul,” with her little twist of an accent because for her, English was a second language.

The boys were playing mostly in the orchard at the back of the yard. There Abel spotted a low hanging branch that was almost parallel to the ground.  Rushing off to the washhouse, he returned with a length of rope and swung it over the branch. Then with Paul’s little back for a stool, Abel climbed to the first fork in the tree, then up a little more and onto the branch.  There he tied each end of the rope in knots around the limb.  The boys were very proud and excited about the swing they had just created; but of course, sitting on that rope was not very comfortable.

We need a board, said Abel.  Off they went in different directions until Paul ran back to the orchard, hollering, “I found one.  I found one.”  The neighbor was a carpenter. From his refuse pile, Paul had rescued the perfect board.

When Abel reached the swing, Paul was trying to fit the board onto the rope, but of course it kept sliding off.  “I’ll be right back, Paul,” he said.  “I know how to make a swing.”  And in all of his seven-year old wisdom, Abel did have an idea how that was done.

He returned with an axe from the woodshed and proceeded to chop at the board to put in the notches he could see in his mind’s eye.  The board jumped away.  He tried again.  The board jumped again. “Here, Paul,” he said, “You hold it.”  And Paul did.

And that’s how Paul came to lose one of those beautiful little chubby fingers.  One was sliced endwise from nail to upper knuckle.  Medical knowledge was not what it is today.  The doctor could do nothing but amputate the finger of the terrified little boy.

My mother blamed herself and shed many, many tears over her baby’s precious little hand; and now, as I look at another baby Paul’s little dimpled fingers, my heart grieves anew for Mother and for the little boys who learned an awful lesson that day.

I say a small prayer for my great-grandson.  “Lord, keep him safe and let him grow up unscathed.”  Then I raise his chubby fingers to my lips and kiss them.


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They took an interest in me…

There were a lot of people that took an interest in me when I was a child, and although they couldn’t completely dispel the ignorance of the world that was inherent in my situation, they did give me a few glimpses of what was beyond our front door.

We lived in a four room house. (At one time there were seven of us.) Mom was often sick and Dad didn’t make much money. We had little in the way of worldly goods and we seldom went anywhere special except at those times that some generous adult stepped in to brighten our horizons.

One of my favorite memories of my early years was when I was a second grader. My teacher, also my best friend’s aunt, took the two of us to a neighboring city for a day. She didn’t drive, so the trip was accomplished by bus. We two little girls rode the city bus downtown where we met the aunt and boarded the bus for the city. In the evening, after our day in the city, this was reversed.

While in the city that day, I remember seeing a beautiful display of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer books. I longed for the book. Of course, I couldn’t buy it—I probably only had a little pocket change in my little handbag that I was permitted to spend myself; but that day we did ride an elevator and an escalator and were taken to see a Disney movie after eating in a restaurant—it was a truly memorable day.

Another time my aunt, a dry old woman who went out about as seldom as our family did, took me to the movie for some biblical epic. Perhaps the movie was “The Robe.” I no longer can remember; but I do remember it was a unique experience to see a movie that was so long it had an intermission—and on such a wide screen.

Other times, relatives enlisted me as company for cousins attending a carnival or a drive-in movie. I was invited to a neighbor’s home to watch some musical program on television back when TVs were not situated in every living room.

Had it not been for all those kind people allowing me to participate in their lives, I would have grown up completely ignorant of the world outside our little house and rural school.

An interesting thing is that most of the time when I went on delightful outings by the kindness of others, my mother would scrape together the money to give me for whatever activity was planned; but often my benefactor would not allow me to pay. If the money I was given was not spent for the purpose intended, I always returned home with it and gave it back to Mother.

Today, most children enjoy a variety of experiences. They have a rich environment through television programming even if they seldom leave home. In our time it was different. It was only through the kindness of others that I was able to share in experiences I would otherwise never have had. At the time, I didn’t know enough to be grateful for the favors I was given, but I am grateful now.

Elizabeth Ruth

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A Lesson on Forgiving

My niece, Darcy, is an incredibly sweet child, always eager to please.  She is three years old and she absolutely adores her slightly older cousin.

Recently the two were playing together and had gone into a bedroom together.  Suddenly, Darcy came down the hall in a state of indignation, saying, “Jo-Jo slapped my face.” She had a slightly reddened place on her very pale cheek.

Jo-Jo followed her saying, “I didn’t do anything.  Darcy banged me with her head and I know she did it on purpose.”

Now I love both little girls, but I knew Darcy did not do it on purpose.  Bouncing around in her excitement, she had banged her head into Jo-Jo’s nose.  The sudden pain made Jo-Jo fly off the handle and I knew she had slapped her without thinking.

We had a little talk about it and she finally allowed that she had put up her hand and it had hit Darcy’s cheek. I asked her to apologize to Darcy because her hand had hit her cheek.  She refused, saying, “No.  I didn’t do anything.”

Whereupon Darcy said, “Jo-Jo, I’m sorry my cheek hit your hand.”  Now that is forgiveness.  I’ve never seen anybody forgive any better.

In case you’re worried, we didn’t make a big issue of it right then, but a few days later we had a little talk with Jo-Jo about controlling those sudden flashes of temper; but between you and me, I’ve suffered from the same problem all of my life; and it’s far easier to identify with Jo-Jo’s feistiness than with the amazing kindness of little Darcy. Jo-Jo will have a hard way to go in life, but little Darcy will sail through with the grace of an angel.

Aunt Martha

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The Bicycle Daddy Made for Me

I didn’t know bikes sold in stores in shiny red and blue;
My bike was made of junk yard parts my daddy sorted through.
My brother and my sisters all had bikes that Daddy also made;
And learning to ride my own bike was something that I craved.
My Daddy promised me a bike when I reached six years old;
As that birthday loomed ahead, my begging grew more bold.
Finally he went to the basement to build a bike for me,
Using all those rusted parts he picked up nearly free.
The bike he built was very large for a little girl like me;
So I had to learn while standing up, but how hard could that be?
With staunch determination, I tried and took a fall,
And wished with all my little heart that bike was not so tall;
But in time I learned to stand and ride which made my daddy proud
Of how I took those many falls and never cried out loud.
My bike was balanced perfectly and I could ride, “no hands”
After I grew tall enough to sit instead of stand.
The bike was never shiny and it really wasn’t “new”
But it taught a little girl to have fun while “making do”.

                                     ( A completely true poetic story)

by Betty Killebrew

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The Gift

Sharon was rich and lived in a large house. Beth was from a poor family and lived in a little house that had thin walls and bare pine floors. Sharon and Beth went to the same school, were in the same class and one day entered the same contest for reading books and writing reports.  At the end of the contest, both girls had completed the exact same number of reports and both girls had done reports of very high quality. The contest was declared a tie and the two girls were asked to draw straws—short straw to win.

An ecstatic Beth won the prize, a music box of bright blue plastic. When the music played, a tiny screen showed a series of different pictures as the wheel revolved. Beth placed her prize next to the front door of her small house so if there was ever a fire she would be able to rescue it on her way out.

Sharon was very disturbed that she had not won the drawing. After all, she had written just as many good book reports as Beth.  She went home and complained loudly to her parents.  The next day her parents came to school and complained loudly.  Before you know it, the contest judges decided to buy another music box for Sharon.

Sharon was pleased to have gotten her own way, but after playing the music box she was not impressed.  She shoved it on a shelf in her closet with many other forgotten toys.

While it was Beth who worried about fire, it was Sharon who suffered that catastrophe.  Early that winter, a fire caused by a careless maid destroyed Sharon’s home.   The family escaped but all their possessions were destroyed.

When Beth heard about the fire, she was dismayed. At school, it was said that all of Sharon’s many toys had burned except for the pony cart that was in the barn. All her clothes had burned.  Many of the little children were not too kind about Sharon’s hardship.  One little girl even said, “It serves her right for being so hoity-toity all the time.”

Beth, however, was sad for Sharon. On the way home after school, she thought and thought.   She was home only a minute before she rushed back out the door carrying a small bag.  She raced to a large brick house—the home of Sharon’s grandmother where Sharon was now staying.  When the maid brought Sharon to the parlor where Beth was waiting, Beth opened the bag and pulled out her cherished music box.  “I’m sorry about your fire,” she said.  “I want you to have this in place of the one you lost.”

“Thank you,” said Sharon.  “I’m sorry I can’t visit now.  Grandma is taking me shopping to get new clothes.”

A few minutes later, the maid closed the door behind Beth as Sharon raced upstairs to the bedroom she had been given in her grandmother’s home the moment she was born. As she pulled out a warm coat to wear on her shopping trip, she took a moment to shove the music box to the back of a shelf.  “It’s a stupid toy,” she thought.  “No wonder Beth gave it to me.”

Sharon went off shopping with Grandma with no understanding of the great gift she had been given while Beth went home to her little house, watched and guarded all the way by a thousand angels.

B. Killebrew

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A Happy Day

As an adult, there have been times when I have said to myself, “This is such a wonderful moment.  I don’t ever want to forget it.”  At those times, I take a mental snapshot of that moment and commit myself to remembering it.  As I write this, several of those moments come to mind; but one of my happiest memories is of at day in my life that happened when I was too young to be introspective. I simply remember it because of the total happiness I felt.

In the greater scheme of things, that day was not that special.  It was our second grade class picnic day.  I recall that we wore play clothes.  That would mean pants for little girls when in those days we were required to wear dresses on regular school days.  We each took a sack lunch and we were taken by bus to a local park where we played. On the way home, I got off the bus at a corner a block from my home and a few blocks before the bus reached the school. Nobody was home when I got there, so I decided to clean up the living room to surprise my mommy.  Those are the unremarkable details of that memorable day.

So why do I remember that day so much better and more fondly than the many other days of my childhood? When I think about it now as an adult, I can be introspective about it and understand some reasons why it was so special to me.

First, on that day I overcame fear and truly enjoyed playing at the park.  Before the day was out, I was confident about climbing to the heights of the sliding board and soaring down and about swinging high on the huge swings—two things I had always been timid about before. Because of my new confidence and my ability to do what the other children were doing, I had acceptance from them. When my teacher told the bus driver to let me off near my home I experienced the respect of her knowing I was self-reliant enough to go home alone. When I got home, I made myself useful by cleaning the living room and consequently received something all children covet, my mother’s praise.

Those were the simple elements that made me happy on that bright day sixty years ago.  I believe those are pretty much the same things that make me happy today.

Betty Killebrew

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The Tulips

 Of course, this story is not true; but yet it tells the truth, because our life on earth is a mere blink in ageless eternity; and Jesus has made us a promise of a place where time has no meaning and love forever endures.
One day in the early fall, a little girl was helping her widowed mother plant bulbs in the soil. While it didn’t seem there could be any life in the seemingly dead objects, the little girl’s mother told her about the many different colors of tulips that would arise from the bulbs in the spring.

The little girl said, “I am sorry I will not see that.”

Her mother thought the little girl did not understand how seasons change, so she told her all about the cycle of plant life.  The little girl smiled.  

Later that year, at Thanksgiving time, the little girl took her turn giving thanks.  “I am thankful my mother will see all the beautiful tulips in the spring,” she said.  Her mother did not notice that her daughter had not said she also would see the tulips. 

At Christmas time the little girl suggested to her mother that she spend less on Christmas gifts that year.  “I would be so happy if you spent what you usually spend for me to give gifts to poor children,” she said.   

Her mother did as her daughter asked. 

One day shortly after Christmas the little girl sat down with a fat pencil and began to write on her lined paper. When she had finished, she folded the paper and placed it in her Bible.  

 The next day the little girl did not feel well.  She did not go to school. All day she stayed in her little bed. She told her mother she felt very tired.  

Her mother thought if her daughter was not better the next day, she would take her to the doctor; but by the next morning the angels had come for the little girl. 

Of course the mother was extremely sad, sadder than she had ever been. She was very sad for a very long time.   

Then one day the mother was sitting on the edge of her daughter’s wee bed weeping.  Her eyes fell on the child’s Bible on the bedside table. The corner of a piece of paper could be seen extending from between the pages. 

The mother opened the Bible and unfolded the paper.  In her daughter’s childish scrawl a message was written.  “Jesus told me to tell you to look at the tulips.”   

When her mother read this she went to the window.  Outside she saw an array of beautiful colors spread across the plot where she had worked beside her daughter in the fall.  The tulips had bloomed.  

In the center of the patch was a group of tulips in a bright yellow hue—a hue unlike that of all the other tulips. There were two straight lines of the yellow tulips. amidst all the other random colors.  They crossed each other. 

Looking at His cross of tulips, the mother knew that Jesus was telling her that her daughter was in heaven with Him.  After that, although she missed her little girl all of her remaining life, she was never quite so sad again because she knew without doubt she would see her once more in heaven where little girls who pass away far too young bloom with as much vitality as a seemingly dead tulip bulb blooms in the spring.

Elizabeth Ruth

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My grandmother, Laura Jane Payton, was born in 1868. Sadly, she died in 1910, at the age of forty-two.

She died giving birth to her twelfth child. Ten were still living when she died. My mother was only five when her mother died. The family survived the tragedy and the children went on to lead happy, productive lives. But, the longing for a Mother and the emptiness left in the wake of her death never subsided. This was vividly impressed on my mind when I heard them talk in the summer of 1990.

Mother was 85 and Aunt Helen was 83. It was a hot, humid day and the sisters were sitting on the porch. A storm was on its way, but for now the air was dry and still. The sisters looked so old and frail as they sat and reminisced. They were bent and their hands were gnarled. Hair that had once shone like copper, now framed their faces like puffs of cotton. Faces that were once fresh and smooth were now seamed in wrinkles.

For a while they were quiet. Then Annabel spoke. “Do you remember Mommy?”

“Barely” was Helen’s soft reply. “I think I remember when she died. Papa cried. I couldn’t understand why Papa cried. And, I couldn’t understand why Mommy was laying in the parlor.”

“I remember Mommy.” said Annabel. “Her eyesight was so bad. She always had me thread her needles. She called me her ‘eyes’. I always stood by the side of the sewing machine and watched her sew.”

For a while neither sister spoke. They were quiet, alone in their thoughts.

“Mommy was so good to me,” whispered Annabel. I remember she hugged me and she said she loved me. I miss Mommy.”

“I do too,” Helen whispered in soft reply.

Tears moistened the cheeks of these two old women. Then the storm broke and the rain streamed off the porch. It seemed the heavens were crying too for the children that missed their Mommy.

L. Lehman

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