TOBY & EARL in Clean Sweepers

Earl slightly opened one of his eyes as he thought he heard a light tap on his bedroom window. The comforter was pulled up over his head and face as the bright sun shone between the slats of the blinds. Maybe it was just a stupid bird that saw his imagine in the window again. He thought. It had happened before, birds would land on his window sill and see their imagine in the window and peck at it. He knew it couldn’t be someone knocking on his window since his bedroom was on the second floor. I may have been dreaming it. He thought again. He pulled the comforter on up to cover his whole head. As he slowly closed his eyes he heard it again, a slight but distinct tap on his window. It must be a bird. He thought again. Maybe it’ll go on away was his next thought.

TAP! He heard it good that time and it seemed to be a little louder, so he definitely knew he wasn’t dreaming it. He threw the cover back and walked to the window while talking out loud. “Stupid birds! Just because they want to get up early on Saturday doesn’t mean I do too.” School had just ended for the summer the day before and Earl was looking forward to his first day of the school’s summer break by sleeping in late. He grabbed the string on the blind and snatched it up quickly. He had spooked birds like that before and watched them quickly fly away. But there was no bird. He looked around the outside of his window when suddenly he saw what looked like a small BB come from the direction of the ground and tap his window again. TAP!

He looked down and saw his best friend Toby standing in his yard. When Toby saw Earl look at him he waved his arms up in the air then motioned for Earl to come out.

Earl raised his window up and put his hands on the sill and leaned out the window. “Toby! You do know it’s the first Saturday of the summer vacation don’t you? What do you want?” He asked.

“Hey. Want to make some money? I got a job for us if you want to.” He said.

With a confused look on his face he asked. “Who is going to hire a couple of ten-year olds?”

Toby held his hands out as though he was feeling for raindrops. “Do you want to or not? If you don’t I’ll see if Taylor wants to.”

Taylor Neese lived on the corner of the street. A couple of years older than Toby and Earl, he didn’t hang around them too much, especially at school. He hung out with some of the older kids, he tried to look and be cool. He did do things with them on the street or at their house every once in a while like play ball and even played with cars, trucks and army soldiers when he knew no one from school would be around to see him. For awhile he even played video games with them when one of them got a new gaming system or a new game for their birthday or Christmas. As far as anyone from school knew he was way too cool to do any of those things.

So in the back of his mind Earl knew Toby was only bluffing about getting Taylor to help him.

“Well, wait a minute and let me get dressed and I’ll be right on down.” Earl told him before he pulled the window and blind back down.

Earl walked out the back door and saw Toby as he stood there waiting for him with his red wagon loaded with a shovel, hoe and a couple of yard rakes. “Whatcha’ got them for?” Earl asked.

“That’s for our new business…partner.” Toby told him with a big grin on his face.

“And what business is that?”

“Our yard cleaning business. That’s if you want to be my partner.” As Toby reached and took the wagon by the handle he continued to talk as he started walking toward the sidewalk. “I mean if you don’t want to I can go ask Taylor. I’m sure he would be more than willing to make a bunch of money this summer. I’m expecting to make about a million dollars before going back to school and if you wanted to be my partner then I figure we could split the profits.” He stopped just as he pulled the wagon completely onto the sidewalk, put his index finger and his thumb on his chin while he looked up toward the sky while he figured the numbers in his head. “I figure that would give us about $50,000 dollars apiece.” He looked at Earl again with a grin on his face. “Reckon you could use $50,000 dollars this summer?” He started walking again. “Shoot, we’ll be the richest kids in school. I betcha’ nobody else would make that kind of money over the summer.

“So I guess you got the money part figured out but have you figured out who is going to pay us that kind of money to clean their yards?” Earl asked.

“Well, mama told me that Mr. Robertson wanted someone to help sweep the leaves and junk up from under his magnolia tree in his backyard. She called him and asked him if he still needed some help and he told her to tell me to be over there bright and early Saturday morning. Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins wanted someone to rake the leaves and berries up from their Chinaberry trees in their yard and I heard that the old widow woman on the next street wanted someone to sweep up all the pine straw in her yard. I’ll have to go over to find out for sure though. Daddy said if we did a good job then we could make a lot of money this summer just by letting word get out.”

“Well who told you that you could make a million dollars in one summer?” Earl asked.

“Daddy did. He said we could get a good name for ourselves sweeping old people’s yards we could make a ton of money. He said we probably could even make a million dollars. And with you helping me then I figure we could work twice as fast and get more yards and make even more money. That’s why I said if we made a million dollars then that would put us making about $50,000 dollars apiece. Don’t you see? Together we’ll have a better chance to make the big bucks.”

Earl didn’t say anything else and walked next to Toby down the street to Mr. Robertson’s house. When they got up the walk to the doorsteps Toby held the handle of the wagon out to Earl. “Here, hold this and I’ll knock on the door and see if he’s here.”

Toby knocked on the door. He knocked again. “He’s supposed to be here.” Toby said. “Mama told me he said to be here bright and early Saturday morning.” He knocked a third time. Toby walked to one of the windows, put both his hands up to cut the glare, and peered inside to see if he could see any movement through the thin-laced curtains. “I bet he done forgot.”

“You don’t reckon he’s in there dead do you?” Earl asked with a concerned look on his face. “He is pretty old you know.”

“Well if he is I ain’t gonna sweep his yard at all!” Toby said as he stepped down on the top step and sat down on the porch. “Cause we can’t get paid by a dead man.” Toby had a mad expression on his face as he blew a breath and put his elbows on his knees and rested his chin in the palm of his hands.

Earl joined him on the doorstep and sat down beside him still holding the handle of the wagon.  They both turned and looked back at the door when they heard the lock from the inside and the door being opened slowly.  Mr. Robertson was a tall slender man with a head full of silver and white hair that he combed straight back.  “Well hello boys. I thought I heard a knock on the door while I was getting dressed.” Mr. Robertson said while he opened the screen door. “Why don’t you two come on in.” He said with a smile.  As the two boys walked in he asked them, “You’re here to clean the yard today aren’t you?”

“Yes sir.” Toby said as they walked into the living room.  Toby and Earl both looked around at all the pictures and whatnots he had on the wall, mantle, shelves and coffee table. “Earl said you might be dead in here but I knew better Mr. Robertson.” He turned and looked up at the elder gentleman. “I figured if you were going to die you would wait until after we got through sweeping your yard anyway.” Toby said with a grin on his face. Earl took his elbow and punched Toby in his side after he revealed the conversation they had on his front porch.

“Well, I’m not dead and I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. But I appreciate your concern. Come on and I’ll show you what I want done.”  Mr. Robertson led the boys through the house out the backdoor to show them where he wanted them to sweep and clean up. “Now I’ll have to go to town after while to run some errands.” He looked down at them. “You boys think you’ll be alright while I’m gone?”

“Yes sir.” They both said in unison.

“Alright then. I’ll let you two get started and I’ll go on and I’ll be back later.”

While Mr. Robertson was gone to town the boys had raked up all the leaves, bagged them and set them on the corner of the street so the city garbage truck could pick them up later. When Mr. Robertson came back he watched them for a few minutes out his kitchen window as they finished up their work. He stepped out the backdoor and ushered them to come inside and get some fresh lemonade he had made.

While the boys sat at the little kitchen table Mr. Robertson asked them, “Well boys you did a fine job how much do I owe you?”

Toby and Earl looked at each other. Toby spoke up and his voice almost trembled as though he was almost afraid to say. “I…I guess…uh…um…three dollars?”  He asked more than told Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Robertson got up from the table and walked over to his cabinet and pulled out a coffee can. He reached into the can and fumbled inside of it for a minute. “Well fellers I don’t reckon I have three dollars all I’ve got are a couple of fives.” He turned around and handed them each a crisp five-dollar bill. “Besides I think you boys deserve it.”

They both said at the same time, as their eyes got wide open. “Thank you, Mr. Robertson.” With that they put their glasses down on the table, got up and proceeded to leave.  As they both began to make their exit out the backdoor Toby turned and told him with a more confident voice. “Now Mr. Robertson if you ever need your yard cleaned again, we’ll be in business for the rest of the summer.”

A smile and wave from Mr. Robertson the boys left and went home.

The following Monday Toby had talked to Mrs. Jenkins who lived down the other end of the street about raking and cleaning her yard.  They had several Chinaberry trees in their backyard and it always made a huge mess with the stems, leaves and berries and it seemed that the small flowers would bloom and fall off all in the same day.

By the time they got through Mr. Jenkins had already got off work and made it home. He stepped out of his car at the same time Toby and Earl had put the last garbage bag of leaves on the curb. He walked around back with the boys to observe their work. “You boys did a fine job! I think you both deserve something extra special.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet and handed them five dollars apiece.

“Thank you Mr. Jenkins!” They exclaimed excitedly. They ran around to the backyard and grabbed their wagon and tools and came running back around front heading home.

“Wow Toby! You were right! We done made ten dollars in two days! We shore will make about a million before the summer’s over!” Earl said.

“I told you! Didn’t I? We are going to be rich before school starts back.” He blows a breath and thought for a moment. “You know what Earl? I think I’m going to buy me one of them suped-up golf carts. That way we can just ride to school together and we wouldn’t even have to take the bus.”

“Yea! We both could get one and that way we could take turns driving each other to school every day.”

Thursday afternoon the boys got the job to rake Mr. Langston’s yard but he was very feeble and had been sick so he didn’t have much money to pay them so Toby and Earl agreed to rake his yard for three dollars each. To which he gladly accepted.

Friday they got to rake the churchyard. Reverend Clemmons came out the church door as they got through and brought them both a bottle of water and sat down on the front steps with them as they drank their water. “I’m very proud of both of you boys. You know, idle hands are the devil’s workshop and I’m glad to see that you both are not keeping your hands idle.”

“No sirree.” Toby said as he took a big gulp of water. “You won’t see our hands idle. Daddy caught my hands idle one time and he got all over me for it.”

The Reverend laughed out loud. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out several one-dollar bills.  He handed both the boys two dollars apiece, patted them both on the shoulders and told them he’d see them in church on Sunday.

As they walked back home Earl asked.  “Toby. What is a idle hand?”

“It’s the same as dirty hands. You know like when you play in the dirt or mud and don’t wash before you eat.” Toby said confidently.  “Daddy got on to me and told me not to be doing that…Yep…Idle hands.”

Saturday they got up real early and went to the next street to old widow Bailey’s home to see if she needed all the pine straw raked up in her yard. Toby and Earl knew it would be a big job and it would take all day so they were counting on it to be a big paying job. 

As they pulled the wagon up to the bottom step Toby walked up to the door and rung the doorbell.  Mrs. Bailey was an old, frail widow woman who wasn’t much taller than the boys themselves.

“Mrs. Bailey. We were wondering if you needed your yard raked.”

“Why yes sir. I sure do.” She stepped out onto the porch and looked at the pine straw that had blanketed the yard from several of years of neglect. She smiled at them and told them. “Why I’ll give both you boys fifty cents apiece if you rake my yard and get all this pine straw up.” She turned to walk back into the house before turning around again. “Now let me know when you get through and I’ll pay you.” She turned and walked back into the house.

Earl stepped up on the porch next to Toby. “Toby.” Earl said in a solemn voice. “I just don’t think this is working out like we planned. It seems like to me that every time we rake a yard we are making less money not more.  If we keep going like this then by next week we’ll be paying them to just do their yard work. We haven’t made but fifteen dollars apiece. I could be wrong but I think that’s a long way from $50,000 dollars or even a million. I just don’t think I want to do all this hard work for just fifty cents.”

Toby looked at Earl. “I don’t think I do either. I know what we’ll do.”

Toby turned around and rung the doorbell again. When Mrs. Bailey came to the door he told her. “Mrs. Bailey. We’ve got to go eat breakfast but as soon as we get around to it we’ll be back.”

“Why you boys didn’t eat breakfast before you came over?” She asked.

“No ma’am.” Toby said.

As they stepped off the porch Earl asked Toby. “Toby. Why didn’t you just tell her we couldn’t do it for that little bit of money? You didn’t have to lie to her.”

“I didn’t lie to her. All I had this morning was a Pop Tart. Now do you call that a breakfast? I think we should get our money and go to town and to the arcade.” Toby smiled at Earl. “What’d you say pal.”

Earl smiled back. “Sounds good to me.”

With that they both left and went home and decided that their yard cleaning business wasn’t making enough money for them to continue.

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The Christmas Party

It was the first time I was invited to a Christmas party given by co-workers. I think because of the unwaveringness in my faith it may have been the reason anyone was reluctant to invite me in times past. Not to mention the fact that I over-heard the company manager talking to some others as to what time to be there. “To be where?” I asked inquisitively as I walked through the door.

“Ah, um, some of us in the company are having a Christmas party this Friday night. Hey, why don’t you come to it? But I must warn you there will be drinking going on. But we will have punch and other things to drink too, and there’ll be plenty to eat.” I could tell the uneasiness in his speech that he was really nervous about even mentioning it to me or of my knowing it. So I knew I needed to break the ice and let him, and the others know, that it will be okay. Just because I don’t drink, doesn’t mean I still can’t go and have a good time with them.

“I think that will be great! That’ll be okay if everyone else drinks, besides, I’m sure some of you alcoholics will need a designated driver anyway, right?” I laughed and made light of the situation to make them feel more comfortable. It’s not that I wanted to fit in and be ‘like’ them. I did want them to know that I’m not completely uptight and straight-laced as some may believe or think, even though I still would want to hold to my Christian values. I would rather go to the party and help my co-workers get home safe than not go and something dreadful happen to any of them.

The night of the party I arrive at the door. I could hear outside the door that some of my co-workers were already enjoying the evening. ‘Man’ I thought to myself, ‘some of them already had too much eggnog it sounds like.’ I ring the doorbell and almost instantly the company manager opens the door.

“Hey, Dave! Well you did make it. Come on in! Hey, now we’ve got snacks over there on that table” As he pointed to a table in the corner that held a wide variety of culinary delights along with a big bowl of red punch and cups. “There’s punch over there too, but now if you prefer a good stiff drink I can get you one of those as well.” He laughed making light of my presence.

“Thanks, but no thanks, I’ll just stick to the punch, like I said before, it looks like I’ll be driving some of you home tonight anyway.” We both laughed as he poured me a cup of punch and I mixed and mingled among the crowd of co-workers. Conversations turn to everything from football to gardening to the latest craze of foods and fashion.

Finally someone turns the music up and some of them drunken idiots try to do the tango. Only to be making complete fools of themselves. I go over to the punch bowl and pour myself another cup of punch. I make a comment to one co-worker, “That’s some great tasting punch. I need to find out who made it and get the recipe for my wife.” My co-worker just smiled at me and nodded his head in approval as he walked out to where everybody was dancing and started swinging his hips in drunkenness as well.

I take a big gulp of the punch emptying the contents of the cup in one upheaval and pour myself another cup. “Look at those idiots, I know I’m going to have to drive some of these home tonight. I’m so glad I came. It would break my heart if anything happened to any of them. I need to get out there and show them how to dance. Dog-gone I need a bigger cup for my punch. Everybody else is drinking beer, whisky and wine anyway. I think I’m the only one drinking the punch. But it sure is good.”

I go to the manager and asked him if they had any bigger cups or glasses and he pointed me in the direction of the kitchen. The music and everyone is so loud now I have to holler at him for him to hear me. “I’ll be the only sober one left here when we leave tonight. Hey, let me know when you need me to take someone home. I’ll be happy to help. Now wet me find me a bigger grass.” I find the kitchen and get me a bigger glass and go back to the punch bowl and pour myself several dippers of punch. As one of my female co-workers come over to the table to get a bite to eat I make small talk with her.

“Hey Dave! You want me to fill your glass up with punch?” She asked with a smile.

I looked and noticed my glass was empty. Perplexed I told her “It must have a hole in it, because I just filled it up. Yea, you can fill it up for me.” As she pours me more punch she commented on how great the party was. “Yea, I tink its great too. I tink shum of dem is already getting a little inebriated dough. But I’m goin’ to drive ‘em home if need be.” She just laughed and walked on and joined another group of her female co-workers in one of the corners.

“Man, look at all those idiots trying to dansh. I’m grad I’m stickin’ to drinkin’ the punsh. I wouldn’t want to be sheen as a drunken idiot like them. Let me git out dare and show dem how to dansh.” I stepped out there in the middle getting my move on. I knew they could take a few lessons from me. Everyone stepped back forming a circle around me, moving to the beat of the rhythm of the music and clapping, cheering me on.

I heard someone say, “You go Dave! Show us how it’s done!” They’re really laughing it up and having a good time. I’m sure after all this I’m probably going to be booked up all next year giving dancing lessons.

“Whew, itsh hot in here. Wet me git another drink of punsh. And I’ll be right back.” I go and fill my glass full of punch one more time when I heard someone asked who wanted to do the Limbo. “Uh oh! I bet nobody can beat me at the Wimbo. Wait till I get my punsh.” Another big gulp of punch, I put the glass down and shout to them, “Make way! I’m goin’ to show you how itsh done! I’ll bet any of you I’ll be the wast one standin’ when all dish is done.”

As the line got started I didn’t waste any time showing how low I can go. But apparently I must have bumped my head on the coffee table or something while doing it because I woke up the next morning in my own bed with a terrible headache. I’m glad to know everyone got home safely. I can’t wait for next year’s Christmas party and I hope they bring some more of that great tasting punch.

I know I had a good time because everyone told me I did.

(A fictional story)

How I Met My Love Poem

On a warm sunny, summer day a long time ago,
I met my true love down a dusty dirt road;
I knew she was the one I wanted for all my life,
I knew I would one day want her to be my wife;

I couldn’t wait to see her the very next day,
Or the day after that she couldn’t keep me away;
I would sit with her on the swing or in the yard,
I would sit with her under a tree or on the hood of the car;

I wanted to do something special for her on Valentine,
I wanted to tell her I love her to let her know she was mine;
So I sat down with paper and pen in hand,
I didn’t know where to start or where to begin;

I just began to write just what I felt,
My feelings for her just made my heart melt;
I wrote and wrote and the words came with ease,
When I read it to her I knew she was pleased;

She held me close in her lap as I read,
Like a mother holding her babe before retiring to bed;
She wiped her mouth and gave me a kiss with a grin,
She smiled at me and said, “Read it again.”

Knowing she was sent to me from God up above,
These are the words I gave to my one true love;

I love the way you chew yore tobacco,
I love the way you comb yore hair;
I love the way you carry yore wallet,
In your pocket back there;
I love the way you put yore work boots on yer feet,
Honey, I guess yore more man than I’ll ever be.”

Winning Lottery Ticket

Every week several of my co-workers would go and get lottery tickets. Since our state didn’t carry any lottery they would pool their money together and someone would go on the weekend and buy tickets for everyone.  I don’t care much for the lottery and only on occasion have bought a few lottery tickets, especially when the lottery in one of the adjoining states would get high into the millions of dollars and everybody was casting in their ballot for a chance to be the “Big Winner”. 

I wouldn’t always mock my co-workers about spending their hard earned money on lottery tickets, but every once in a while I just couldn’t help myself.  And of course they would pick on me sometime too, teasing me about not buying any lottery tickets.  I would make light of the situation and tell them, “I would buy a lottery ticket, but it would be my luck I would hit that thing.” Then I would go on jokingly saying, “Because I don’t have any good luck.” Of course they would remind me that I could just give that ‘unlucky’ ticket to them.

One day my manager decided to buy a bunch of the little scratch-off tickets for all the employees.  For no apparent reason he would just go out and get a bunch of tickets and pass them out to everyone, it was just a nice gesture of good faith for being good employees and working hard.  It didn’t cost anyone anything except our manager and he enjoyed seeing some of his employees hit a little scratch-off for a few dollars or a free ticket.  There was even a time or two when one of the employees hit a scratch-off for a few hundred dollars.

The boss would always say, “If any of you hit it over a thousand dollars, now I want you to split it with me. Okay?”  Of course everyone would say okay but no one has been that fortunate.  I have always wondered if anybody did hit it big on a scratch-off ticket would they really be willing to share it with him, since he was the one that originally bought the tickets to start with. 

I saw the boss coming around to each one’s cubicle fanning the tickets out like a deck of cards and telling them to pick one.  The boss then stepped to my cubicle “Pick one Tad! Since you don’t play the lottery anyway, you’ll probably be the one hitting the big one.”

“Yea, right. I don’t think I would be that lucky.” I laughed at him while drawing a ticket from his hand.

“You are going to share it with me if you do hit it aren’t you?” He reminded me getting ready to go to the next cubicle.

“I sure will chief.” I took my ticket and laid it on my desk. I notice one or two of my co-workers looking over their cubicle talking and laughing asking each other what did they get on their ticket. Apparently no one hit anything. Usually you would hear a whooping or hollering from someone who may have won something.

It’s like going fishing and someone catching the ‘Big One’.  They’re the ones who make the most noise so anyone else fishing wouldn’t even get a bite. 

Several of my co-workers asked me what did I get on my lottery ticket.  I told them I hadn’t scratched it off yet but I will. Finally after several people asked me I finally reached over and grabbed the little scratch off, read the instructions: get three prize amounts of the same value and win that prize.  So I took a quarter out of my desk drawer and slowly and gently scratched the gray metallic covering over the prize amount revealing it’s true value.

I looked up over my cubicle at everyone else to make sure no one was staring over my shoulder as I scratched my ticket. ‘Wow! There’s a one hundred thousand dollar prize.’ I scratched the next one. “Ah, man. Five dollars.” I whispered to myself.  I scratched the next one ‘Wow, another one hundred thousand dollar one. All I need is one more hundred thousand dollars and I’ll be the big winner.’  I took a deep breath thought within myself what are the probabilities of little ole’ me hitting the big scratch-off?

Another one scratched, ‘A free ticket.’ I gently blew the metallic shreds from the scratch off in my garbage can, took another deep breath and slowly scratched the next spot on my scratch off. As it slowly began to come in view I knew if I was going to win anything it was going to be a free ticket.

I had a fifty/fifty chance. My ticket had already revealed two, one hundred thousand dollar numbers and two, free tickets and a five dollar number.  I blew the dust off one more time for good measure.  Put my quarter to the last unrevealed prize, but before I did I looked up over my cubicle one more time to make sure no one was looking over at me.  I slowly began to gently rub off the last one. This was my last chance to be a winner of any kind.  The dollar sign came into view. There was a one. A zero. Another zero. And another. I began to rub a little harder, bearing down almost as hard as I could.  The last number had finally revealed itself to me. 

I couldn’t believe what was staring back at me. My heart began to pound faster as I began to get nervous, the revelation of seeing what was before me.  I held it out and looked at it. I took my glasses off and rubbed my eyes only to put them back on to realize a wish, a fantasy was not only within my grasp but also within the palm of my hands.  I had just won one hundred thousand dollars on a little scratch off ticket. Of all people in this office, of all the tickets the boss held in his hand. Of all the tickets that I had picked out of his hand and mine was the big winner. If we were all fishing it would be me finally catching the ‘Big One’.  I had a winner. I was shocked and stunned to silence.  I still couldn’t believe it. 

Should I tell anyone? Would someone try and attack me to take my ticket?  Would they hound me for ‘owing them something’?  I began to feel sweat beading upon my forehead. My hands were beginning to feel sweaty.  I could feel sweat begin to pour even out from under my arms.  I leaned up in my chair and peered out with my eyes just above my cubicle at everyone else busily working.  I picked up my phone and quietly dialed my wife’s cell phone. “Hi. This is Linda, sorry I missed your call but if you’ll leave your name and number I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks.”

“Awww. Dog-gone it.” I got her voice mail.  If only she would have her phone turned on sometime. So I whispered into the phone, “Linda, this is David. Call me as soon as you get this message. It is very, very important! Better yet just call my cell phone.”

I couldn’t believe I just won a hundred thousand dollars on a scratch off ticket my boss gave me.  I put my head in my hands and took deep breaths. “David, you alright?” I heard the voice from behind me.

I quickly reached down and covered the ticket up with my left hand while I spun around. “Uh, umm. Yea. I’m alright.” Pointing at my computer screen, “I um, I uh, just had a little problem with my program I’m working on. Yea, I’m okay. Thanks for asking.”

“Oh, okay. If there’s anything I can help you with just give me a holler.”  My co-worker kind of peered, cutting his eyes around my cubicle with a half grin on his face.

I thanked him again. ‘Whew, that was a close one.’  I thought. I better put this ticket in my wallet before anyone sees it.  I’ll be the talk of the office.  But what can I do about my boss. He was the one that gave me the ticket to start with.  I did promise I would share it with him. ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll just collect my winnings then ask him and his wife out to dinner and give him his share if he’ll promise to keep it between us and not tell anyone at the office.’

It was the perfect plan for collecting my winnings and sharing it like I promised.  My cell phone rings. I picked it up and looked at the caller ID.  Great! It’s Linda. “Hey honey.  I know you are busy but listen to me.  I can’t explain right now but I will need you to take off from work tomorrow.  It is very, very important. I’ll explain it when we get home this afternoon.” Before I hung up I reminded her once again. “And honey…I love you.” I hear  ‘I love you too’ on the other end before hanging up. My mind is still reeling from the thought that in just about twenty-four hours I will be one hundred thousand dollars richer or at least fifty thousand.  It would pay off all my debts and maybe have a little money for a rainy day.

I told the boss that I needed to take the next day off.  I had some business to take care of. He laughed and made a joke asking me if I had won the lottery with my scratch off ticket while he put my name down to be off the next day.

After I get home I decided to take my wonderful wife out to dinner instead of eating in. I had the ticket tucked away, hidden in my wallet.  I wouldn’t even show it to her when she asked if she could see it. I wanted it to be safe from anyone’s view. After we ate dinner I explained everything to her of why I wanted her to take the next day off and all about the winning ticket.  The next day we will be making the hundred-mile trip to the lottery headquarters to collect on my winning scratch off ticket.

The next day my wife and I got up early and ate a good breakfast.  We got dressed like we were going to Sunday meeting.  We made it to the lottery headquarters even before they opened up.  When I saw a lady going to the door unlocking it my wife and I made a beeline for the front door. There was no one else in the parking lot so we wouldn’t have to wait. 

I go to the receptionist sitting behind the desk as we exchanged smiles. “Yes sir, what can I do for you today sir?” 

I told her I had a winning scratch off ticket and wanted to redeem it.  I then got the ticket out of my wallet and slowly handed it to her almost reluctant to let it go.  She looked at the ticket then she cut her eyes up to me without moving her head and then looked at the ticket again. The beautiful, charming smile is now gone with a look of perplexity almost confusion on her face. She looked back at me again and held the ticket out and said, “This is a joke right?”  

“What do you mean?” Now confused myself I asked.

She looked at the ticket again and informed me. “This here ticket is a novelty lottery ticket. It’s not a real ticket at all.  It’s a joke.”

My wife and I were standing there with our jaws dropped in astonishment. I take a gulp not even daring to look at my wife. After a moment of silence I was finally able to speak. “You mean…uh…I can’t redeem that ticket here or nowhere else? You mean to tell me it’s” I couldn’t seem to make the words out so she finished my sentence for me.

“Yes sir, it is fake. A joke. Not real. Someone played a prank on you.  If you had looked at the fine print on the bottom of the back of the ticket you would have seen it was. See there.” She pointed to the back of the ticket at the bottom.  Sure enough there it was in small black and white letters. ‘NOVELTY TRADING COMPANY’

My wife didn’t speak to me on our way back home.  As a matter of fact she didn’t speak to me the rest of the day. She didn’t have too. I knew what she was thinking.  If I had just shown her the ticket she has a little better eyesight than I do. 

The next day I went to work not mentioning a word about my trip to the lottery headquarters. All my co-workers did seem a little happier and cheerful for some reason.  One of them asked me did I go anywhere on my day off.  I just told them my wife and I went somewhere together out of town. He had a big grin on his face like he was about to burst out with laughter.  As a matter of fact I don’t know what they were up to because several looked at me and started laughing. I wondered if they had done something to my desk or chair again while I was out but I didn’t see or find anything wrong or out of place.

But I pondered in my mind should I tell the boss that all those lottery tickets he gave out were not any good. But I didn’t want him to be embarrassed in front of everybody so I kept my mouth shut and besides I think it makes him feel good to pass out all those tickets.

(just for the record, this is fictional so it never really happened. Tad.)

The Shootout

David sat crouched behind the stone gray wall of the porch. The porch stretched all the way across the front of the old big brown house and the only opening was the concrete steps in the middle.  It was the perfect place for hiding and for good protection.  The only other protection he had was his six-shooters on each hip.  In the distance he heard the faint noise of the train whistle.  He knew it would only be a matter of time before it all broke out.  The only thing he didn’t know was how many of them there was. 

The sound was getting closer.  He could hear the loud roar of the engines as they crept along the tracks.  The biggest advantage David had was the fact that they weren’t aware of him being there.  He had drawn the pistol from his right holster, opened it and double-checked to make sure it was loaded. Then he double-checked the other pistol on his left hip.  “Yep. Loaded and ready.” He whispered to himself as he put them both back in the holsters.

The train was getting closer. He pushed his big brim cowboy hat up just a little and peered over the stone wall to see the bright headlight on the train come into view.  The noise of the train horn was almost deafening as it slowly made its way through the crossing up ahead, another advantage David had. The train had to slow down coming through the small town so he was certain he would have an easy shot.  He didn’t want the sun’s glare in his eyes and he didn’t want to lose his hat so he pulled the drawstring up tight to his chin as though he was locking his hat in place. There was a road between the old house and train track but David wasn’t concerned about distance.  He knew the six-shooters would reach its target. He shot a lot farther than that just the day before so he knew the trusty irons wouldn’t let him down.

The time had come. David could actually see the engineer with his elbow on the window.  “Wait for it. Wait for it.” He kept repeating to himself.  Finally the perfect time had hit. Just as the first engine was almost parallel to the edge of the yard David jumped up drawing both pistols in one sweeping motion and began firing.  Instantly smoke began to rise from those small cannons in his hands as they popped and cracked as fast as he could pull the triggers.  First from the left hand then the right hand, back and forth one shot after the other with a constant spray of gunfire in the direction of the train.

The loud noise from the train engine muffled out the noise of the guns popping but then the engineer spotted him.  He ducked down and David knew he was reaching for something.  Suddenly he came back up with what he was sure was a shotgun or rifle. David didn’t know what he had he just knew it was long and black.  He took careful aim but David didn’t stop firing as smoke filled the porch.  David felt the hit, dead center of his chest.  He had to get as many shots back as he could before he fell. He wasn’t going to quit. Suddenly the engineer reached for his chest. A perfect hit. David saw him fall back as he holstered his six-shooters one more time before he grabbed on the stone wall with one hand while grabbing his chest with the other. He fell over the wall into the yard. 

David lay there as the train slowly made its way past the house.  He still didn’t know how many there was.  He only saw one.  So before the engines got completely out of sight he quickly rose up, pointed his index finger in the direction of the train and counted.  “One, two, three. Yep. There are three of them…three engines pulling that train.”

David got up, dusted himself off, re-adjusted his hat as he shouted and waved at the engineer “I’ll get you tomorrow!” The engineer leaned out the window and waved back smiling from ear to ear. As he went out of sight David took another roll of caps out of his pocket and reloaded his guns for the next gunfight.

And that my friend… is a true story.

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