More Enjoyable Stories

Last month I featured several stories I enjoyed from new-to-me writers. I would like to introduce to you more new-to-me writers and some of their work. Some of their short stories are listed below along with the website links to the author and the story. I have given you a little taste of the story line. I hope you enjoy these as I did.

First Class – David Rae

Ruth took out her compact mirror and inspected her appearance. She was pretty enough for sure and her make-up was immaculate. Her hat was slightly shabby but decent. She could easily pass for a school teacher or perhaps the wife of a tradesman rather than a pregnant housemaid, who had been curtly dismissed and sent home in disgrace. Continue reading…

David Rae’s Website Homepage – http://davidrae-stories.com/

The Writer – Lorraine Johnston

The key slid into the lock. Richard entered his apartment, carrying his mail and his briefcase. He felt the stress leave his body as he crossed the threshold. He loved his apartment, even though it was much smaller than the house he had shared with his now ex-wife. He had his writing room. That’s all that counted. Continue reading…

Lorraine Johnston’s Website Homepage – http://lorrainejohnston.com/

The Diplomat’s Wife – Selma Writes

Patting and humming, Victoria paced the floor, burping her baby. She rubbed his back gently.

Why does it take longer for you to burp and fall asleep with me than you do when daddy rubs your back? Perhaps he’s a better back rubber than I. Oh, I cannot wait for him to return.

With heavy eyelids, she glanced over at the clock. Five thirty. She stifled a yawn and hummed quietly.

Patting and humming, patting and humming.

It’s not your fault that I’m sleep deprived, it’s not your fault. But these four nights without daddy’s help has turned me into a real zombie. I cannot wait for him to come back to us.

She sighed, caressing her baby’s head gently. His golden curls latched around her fingers. She paced the parquet floor. Continue reading…

Selma Writes’ Website Homepage – https://www.selmawrites.com/

A Letter To My Daughter’s Mother – M.E. Cooper

You don’t know me, but because of you, I am a mom. Because you made the choice to leave her, your newborn baby, where someone was sure to find her, she has had a love filled life.

I can’t begin to know or imagine the thoughts and hardships you faced when you made this decision. I don’t know if you wanted her and couldn’t keep her, or if you just couldn’t handle the prospect of being a mother at that time. I do know the policy of your country made boys more favored than girls. Maybe this is what influenced your decision. But whatever the reason, the question of why you did what you did, is one that will always remain a mystery to me. Continue reading…

M.E. Cooper’s Website Homepage – https://me-cooper.net/

Sharing My Day

This is a blog I started to write last year but did not post it then. I found it again as I was going through some other unfinished posts. I thought it amusing, so I wanted to share.

I don’t usually blog about my day since they are usually so mundane, but it seems like God throws one in there just to liven things up a bit. Like the time I boarded a plane to Denver, and I walked past Dr. James and Shirley Dobson. He is one of my spiritual heroes, and I couldn’t believe I saw him. Then I got to speak to him. That is another story.

Encounter Number One

adults airport architecture blur

I thought things were going well when I arrived at the airport an hour early. A few times I have been late and once I missed my flight. I checked my bag and went to the TSA line. I always take off my shoes before actually getting to the bin line and scoot them along on the floor as I take my laptop out of the case. This time I reached for my shoe to find cat manure on the bottom. Really? I am about to board a plane.

I quickly dismiss myself from the line and make a quick trip to the lawn out in front of the airport. I can only imagine what anyone who saw me was thinking. Don’t know if you have ever been blessed to have this happen. If you have, you know it doesn’t all come off. I did the best I could and then got back in line. I took off my shoes and put them in the bin and went through the metal detector. The detector where I went through gave out a ding. I paused.

“Oh,” said the all too happy TSA agent. “That was a random alarm. We need to check your shoes.” I began to laugh.

“Ok. Just thought I should let you know I had to just wipe cat crap off the bottom. So, I am sorry about that.”

“No worries,” she said. “I won’t touch them with my hands.” She swabbed them when they rode by. Knowing ammonia is a key chemical in some bomb-making; I was a little worried she would discover too much cat ammonia. My shoes passed.

As I gathered my things, I thought this has got to be a start to a very interesting trip. I had seen this general scenario played out before. I smiled as I made my way, shoes, and belongings in hand, to my seat to get readjusted. After a few minutes, we were allowed to board. I am not sure how, but I had lost my Silver Medallion status, and I was in Zone 2 even though I was scheduled to sit in A5 toward the front of the plane.

Encounter Number Two

white hat in woman s face

When I boarded, I noticed a small Asian man in my seat and next to him, in the aisle seat a small Asian woman. I had been through this scenario before. They could not get a seat together so one of them got in my seat and would hope I was an understanding passenger that would trade with them. I danced with them.

“You are in my seat,” I said waiting for the reply. He didn’t speak up. She did. In broken English with an Asian accent.

“You sit there. Okay. Okay. You sit there.” Hmm. She didn’t ask; she told me to sit there. In the in the interest of not causing an international scene, I relented and sat down next to a gentleman who took up his seat and part of mine. No, this not okay I thought in an Asian accent; me cannot move. Has your brain operated strangely before you had time to stop it? Yeah, that happened. I repented. The flight was uneventful except for the fact the Asian lady spoke in her native tongue to her companion, which was kind of cool. Except I don’t think she took a breath the entire flight and I don’t think he got in much more than fifty words in the interchange.

Encounter Number Three

appetizer close up cucumber cuisine

With less than forty-five minutes before my next flight and my stomach growling at me, I stopped at my usual eatery and got a Greek salad, complete with Taziki sauce. Midway through the salad, my phones start annoying me to charge them. I finished my salad and dutifully sought out a changing station near my gate. I found a charging station several spots down. Plugged them up and sat in the nearest chair which also happened to be in front of the trash cans. Hey, it was near the walkway, so I began to watch the people around; wondering where they were going and what their story was. A nicely dressed lady walked by, and I heard her say “You shot what?” Of course, it is not hunting season, so that kind of piqued my curiosity. A pretty blonde in high heels walked by, and I smiled as I watched every male eye, young and old follow her.

Five minutes into the charging and people watching a gentleman came by me and threw his gum into the recycle container instead of the garbage can. It caught my eye since I have done this several times myself when I could not get past people to get to the trash can. I looked at his face and instantly realized that I knew him, but I couldn’t place where from where I knew him. He walked away and went into to a newsstand store across from me when it hit me: that was Sammy Kershaw. Those who know anything about Country music from the 90’s knows who he is. He was on top of his game then. Not only was I amazed that I saw him, but I was also amazed I recognized him. Some things you just never seem to forget.

Encounter Number Four

Well, I thought, I have met Dr. Dobson, saw Buzz Aldrin the astronaut and now was within two feet of Sammy Kershaw. Too bad I took so long to recognize him. I could have had a great conversation with him I bet. In the middle of my thoughts, the gate agent requested us to board our plane. I was on a little earlier than some this time and got to my seat before anyone else did. I sat down and buckled up. A young lady sat down in the seat next to me and shoved a purple overnight bag under the seat in front of her. Let’s call her Sherry. Sherry had room in the overhead bin but elected to put it under the seat instead.

selective focus photography of white dog

We began to converse in which I learned the purple tote was a pet carrier with a little dog in it. It wasn’t uncommon for people to carry their pets on flights. They have to pay extra unless they are a service animal, which I found out “Pumpkin” the dog was. She looked like a cross between a poodle and a terrier. Pumpkin, I was told had to be sedated for the flight from Texas to Atlanta and it seemed the medication was wearing off which was evident by the clawing and chewing on the cloth carrier. Sherry asked if I thought it would be okay for her to hold Pumpkin until the plane took off. I shrugged.

Pumpkin, the comfort dog, was a little agitated even though she had that partially sedated look in her eyes. When we began our push back from the gate, Pumpkin was returned to her cage. She came back out when we got to cruising altitude.

Pumpkin and I became friends, which I think endeared me to her owner. I say this because she started to give me her life history and the history of Pumpkin and her other two dogs. All seemed well until Pumpkin started to growl at the flight attendant as she passed. Perhaps the sedative was wearing off faster, which defeated the purpose of being a comfort dog because Sherry was also becoming unsettled. It was quite interesting to watch the interaction. Pumpkin thought it would be okay to growl even louder at the flight attendants as they got closer, which seemed to upset Sherry even more.

Then it happened. The attendant got a little too close with her cart for Pumpkin. Pumpkin started to bark, and Sherry panicked. She peck-type kissed Pumpkin on her mouth in an attempt to keep her quiet, all the while telling her that it was “okay” and “mommy” wanted her to stop. I was waiting for Pumpkin to bite Sherry on the lips. Realizing the tactic wasn’t working, Sherry put Pumpkin back in the carrier and slid her under the seat with an apology and promise to get her out as soon as she could. I think Sherry needed sedating now. She sat there in stunned silence the rest of the flight.

I put in my earbuds and turned on my music. I have to admit. You can’t make this stuff up, and people can really be entertaining.

The Game – Guest Post by D.L. Strand

Every once in a while you come across a piece of writing that strikes a chord within you. When I read this short story, I immediately loved it. It touched, what I believe, every writer who has been at this craft for any length of time feels. I asked if I could share this story. You can find other writing from D.L. Strand here.

The Game

The old man sat at his desk, scanning the fresh-typed words. His Olympia Manual waited patiently. Silently. Eager to record any thoughts he felt like sharing.

The words wouldn’t flow as they once did. There was a time when the hammers struck sparks and the words exploded off the page for those who read them.

He pursued the revelation. The constant eureka. He didn’t know how the process worked. It just worked. Of course, some days were better than others.

Especially now.

This was the tragedy of age. He knew he wasn’t as fast as he once was. Not as sharp. The audience was smaller, many of them moved on, one way or another.

His fingers, like his back, grown bent and stiff with age, moved slow and ponderous on the keyboard. Still, like a well-worn hammer, they pounded out the words as they came.

Still, every morning he sat down at his well-worn chair – the one that leaned slightly to the right – and hunted.

There are those who think inspiration a gift. He knew better. He knew Inspiration as a fickle mistress, to be wooed, seduced, pampered. The more you romanced her, the more she’d flirt with you.

She never came on strong. Not at first. She’d lightly tease the fuzzy edges of his dreams. Stroke the embers of his imagination. Eventually, he’d lose himself in the seduction. The fire. Unaware of the world around him. Typing furiously. Images scorching the page. Fingers struggling to keep up with the drama playing out in his head.

Sometimes he chased her all day, it was true. Never catching a glimpse. But later, after he’d left his desk and put his labors behind him, she would tempt some half-formed dream out of his thoughts. It could be during the news, a movie, while drifting off to sleep, or in the shower.

It seemed, that sometimes, running water drew her to him. Obviously, it wasn’t his body. Not anymore. Not ever. He had after all, the frame of a writer, built through years of sitting – stooped over his typewriter – drinking black coffee, eating donuts or whatever his wife put in front of him. Some days, he was unaware that he had eaten at all. But the evidence was there. The empty cup, the smeared plate.

It wasn’t that life didn’t attract him. He loved his wife. He loved the mornings spent together over eggs and coffee. And he loved the children they’d raised together.

He knew that it hadn’t been easy. Artists are a selfish lot, after all. Everything takes a backseat to the muse.

He was committed to his muse. And why not? Had they not shared 1000 stories? Created people? Worlds? Gods? Had she not given him a life richer than any he’d hoped for, had he worked for a company or gotten a job?

Job! It should be a four letter word. Who cared if he ate. Art drove him. He could go days without eating, but never a day without his art. No, never that.

So he sat in the place where he knew, one day he would die, surrounded by his volumes of his work, and those his peers. His awards. A fan’s standout letter claiming his words changed her life. A  framed note from an old teacher insisting he had no talent. In many ways, that letter gave him more pleasure than any of the awards or acclamations.

Today, he sensed a slight difference in the air. In the pressure on his face. In his lungs. Was it the weather? The season? No, he thought to himself. Nothing so mundane as that.

He searched for the cause. Not with his eyes or nose, but with his fingers. His mind. He knew that the change was not external. And yet…

He asked his muse, what was the change? If he could gain the truth of it, he could express it.

He sensed a stirring at his back. A bony hand on his shoulder. It was The Call. The one he’d dreaded. No Muse reached out for him today. No, it was her cousin, come to steal his breath.

He felt the icy breath on his ear. “Your efforts are done. Cease your toils.”

He typed on as if his fingers could flee for him.

‘I won’t leave with another story in me.’ He pressed on, struggling to remain, to complete just one more tale. To share another small slice of his soul with a hungry world.

“Come. She’s no longer yours. Moved on to younger fingers – agile minds. Her faithless eyes gaze elsewhere.”

Bitter sweat racing down his neck, he hunkered down, and continued his pursuit. His fingers floundered here and there.

“Stop this folly. Let someone else have their turn. Step back. Stand up. Release your pain and be free.”

He leaned in all the harder. His brow furrowed – squeezing words out of his mind. It dripped slowly, like juice from a spent orange.

“Come.” Another bony hand grasped his shoulder. An ache clutched his chest.

“NO!” He shrugged off the clasping hands. Not while I have breath in my lungs. Life in my fingers. They flailed for the formless. The story. The song. Just one touch to scratch another tale out of the scaly mind that once gushed forth prose and song like a fountain of shimmering water.

The Presence leaned in. Weight bore down on his shoulders. The final kiss to end his tale.

His fingers began to falter, to stumble, to slow.

‘Wait!’ He thought. “What was death, but the ultimate inspiration?”

He inhaled deep and righted himself. Ripped out the spent page, replaced it, and began the race anew.

He recognized The Shade for what it was. Just an outfit. A costume.

His Muse loved him. Loved the chase. She tried one final time. “Have an end.” She whispered.

He smiled. “No.” He whispered back “Let’s dance.”

She smiled and kissed his head. Her man. Her writer. He’d just needed a little push after all.

The shot fired. The game was on.

D.L. Strands Websites:

http://dlstrand.com/

The Storyteller’s Pub

 

Memories Make the Best Gifts

The cool, crisp December breeze hinted of a cold winter around the corner, but it would never slow down high adrenaline children like us. With Christmas less than two weeks away, there was plenty to do during this break from school. My itinerary was full.

Halfway through the third grade, all I had on my mind was snowball fights, building igloos, and riding toboggans and trash can lids down our neighbors’ snow-covered hill. Though we never seemed to have enough snow to finish that igloo (it melted too quick), we always had enough for the fights and the sliding.

Today was a special day. Today we were going to find our Christmas tree. By we, I mean, my Mom, my nine-year-old, older brother Billy, my four-year-old, younger sister Shirleen, me, and Nicki, our Husky. This was our annual tradition.

“Tracy, hurry up!” Mom said.

“I’m coming. I can’t get my boot on. I think I have too many socks on,” I replied from within the house. Sitting on the floor, tugging on my boot, I was losing the struggle to get dressed.

“Then take one off!” She turned to Billy who was standing near her in the front yard. “See if you can help your brother. I don’t want Nicki taking off with the sled with your sister on it.”

“Ok, Mom.”

Billy ran into the house to help me or so was the pretense.

“What are you doing you, big baby? We’re waiting outside. Can’t you do anything right? Give me your foot?”

Billy took my foot and pulled off my half applied boot. He rolled his eyes when he saw I had four socks on that foot alone.

“Why do you have so many socks?”

“I didn’t want to get cold.”

“Take two of them off. Then put your boot on.”

“Will you help me?”

“For Pete’s sake. Do I have to do everything for you? You’re in the third grade.”

I poked out my bottom lip and fought back the tears.

“Give me your foot.” Billy peeled off two socks and shoved the boot onto my foot.

“Ouch! That hurt! You scrunched my toe!”

“C’mon. Mom’s waiting. Better put that lip in before you trip over it.”

I sniffed. Billy pulled me toward the door. I pulled back against him.

“Just stop. Okay? Listen, today we get to ride the sled with Nicki pulling it. Remember how we did that last year? How we went into the woods and got our Christmas tree? Remember how fun it was?”

“Boys?” Mom’s voice came, muffled through the door.

“Coming!” Billy shouted. He turned to me. “C’mon. I’m sorry. Okay? Let’s have fun. I’ll let you ride first with Shirleen.”

I rubbed my eye.

“Fine. Okay.” I said.

Billy pulled the jacket hood over my head and tied the drawstring.  He opened the door to let me through. I had so many layers of clothes on, I waddled out into the yard. Mom smiled at me, looked past me to Billy who shrugged his shoulders.

“Okay. Who’s riding first? You both have gotten so big, Nicki can’t pull all of you.”

“Billy said I could,” I said.

“Okay. Get on the sled behind your sister and hold onto her for me. I don’t want her falling off. Billy, thank you for letting your brother ride first.”

Billy smiled.

I hopped up onto the homemade, wooden sled, sat and grabbed my sister. Nicki licked my hand, and Shirleen squealed with delight.

adorable animal breed canine

Nicki, our blue-eyed, Siberian, fluffy, husky dog was our best friend. If mom had asked him to pull all three of us, he would have until he fell exhausted. He was attached to the sled with a rigged rope harness. Crude, but effective enough to pull the sled, given enough snow.

“Billy,” Mom said, “Would you like to lead Nicki?”

“Sure, Mom.” Billy picked up the rope and pulled on it. Nicki needed no more urging. The sled lunged forward. Shirleen and I lunged backward and almost rolled off the sled. Mom grabbed my arm and sat us upright. I think she anticipated this happening, because she was quick with the one-handed recovery, while she held the handsaw in the other.

Our movement was slow, but it was meant to be. Mom wanted us to enjoy the time and the beauty of our surroundings. Even through my eight-year-old eyes, I could see the beauty God displayed in those Cascade Mountains. The green firs and pines laden with snow, dotted the landscape as we searched for the right tree. In the distance, Mount Rainier covered in white, sported a cloud halo and seemed to smile its approval on our endeavor. A green carpet of evergreens lined its base.

Something caught my eye as I looked around in amazement at this winter wonderland. It scampered toward the wood line.

“Look! A rabbit!” I said. Nicki stopped and perked up at my exclamation. The little creature was in no hurry as he lopped along and disappeared into the brush.

“Easy, Nicki.” Mom said. “Not today buddy.” He wagged his tail in acknowledgment.

treesBilly tugged on the rope, and we plodded forward again, the snow crunched under the sled and his boots. We stopped a short distance away from a grove of Douglas firs of various sizes. The blue-green needles sparkled in the sunlight as the afternoon warmth had melted some of their frosty adornment.

“How about one of these?” Mom asked.

“Wow,” I said. “Which one should we get?”

“Billy, why don’t you and your brother see if you can find us one?”

Mom picked up Shirleen and stood her in the snow to play. She waddled up to Nicki to pet him. He licked her face in welcome. She pushed him away with her mittened hands.

“No!” she said in her tiny voice. “Bad dog. No.” Nicki licked her again. She stumbled and fell backward, landing face up in the snow. She, like us, had so many layers of clothes on that she couldn’t right herself. Mom pulled her back to her feet, and she headed for Nicki again.

“Okay. C’com let’s see what we can find.” Billy said to me, and we took off into the grove. The air was thick with the smell of the trees.

 

“Don’t go too far.” Came Mom’s voice.

“There’s so many, and they all look cool,” Billy shouted back.

“Can you find one near the edge that we can get?” Mom asked.

“Yeah, I think we can. C’mom, Tracy, let’s show mom the first one we looked at.”

We plodded out of the grove and stopped at a tree we passed on our way in. Mom led Nicki and the sled, while she carried Shirleen. She plopped Shirleen down and picked up the saw.

“Billy, you and Tracy think you can cut it down?”

Our eyes got wide. This was an honor. It would be our first time to cut down the Christmas tree.

“Sure!” We answered proudly. Mom handed Billy the saw and showed him where on the trunk to make the cut. With the first pass across the bark, I breathed in deeply the smell of the fresh cut wood. Billy cut at the tree until the saw became sticky with the sap. The fragrance of fir strengthened. I traded out with him. We took turns sawing between stripping off layers of clothes.

An eternity later, the tree swayed from the cutting. Mom held onto it and tilted it back so we could finish the cut. With the next to last cut, the tree fell over. Billy separated the last of the bark from the stump with a swipe from the saw.

“Tracy, watch your sister so Billy and I can tie the tree to the sled.”

I chased Shirleen through the snow, as she played a game of tag with Nicki. Mom and Billy lashed the treasured tree to the sled. Once secured, Mom grabbed a giggling Shirleen on one of her passes by Nicki and plopped her down next to the tree. She instructed her to hang on.

Billy took the rope and led Nicki and his cargo toward home. I triumphantly carried the saw as I pulled up the end of the parade. We were triumphant in our mission.

Mom led us in Christmas carols as we proceeded. Good thing. It kept my mind off my wobbly legs and rubbery arms. It’s tough work for a third grader to cut down his first tree. I am sure we were a sight as we marched victoriously into our yard.

Mom untied Nicki from the sled and removed his makeshift harness. He shook his coat with the freedom. He ran around the house and shot back to us. He didn’t seem too tired. We went in the back door and shed our boots, mittens, and layers of clothes and headed for the kitchen.

We all sat at the kitchen table and recounted our glorious adventure over hot cocoa while Mom stoked the fire in our Franklin wood stove in the living room. We laughed. We giggled and sang more Christmas carols. Mom rejoined us and joined in the merriment.

When we finished our cocoa, Mom and Billy attached a stand to the tree and brought it in the house while I watched Shirleen. They stood it up in the living room in front of the picture window. As I warmed myself at the Franklin stove, I breathed in the fresh fragrance of Douglas fir. I thought of what a fine looking tree we had obtained. I also noticed, past the tree, out the window, in the distance, haloed Mount Rainier smiled in agreement.

Even today, when I happen to smell the wonderful fragrance of fir, I think back to delightful memories of Christmas and thank the Lord for them. I also thank him for my Mom, who has shown me over the years that memories make the best gifts

I Wonder

It was a hot, humid day in early July. July 2nd, to be exact, 1862, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The intense summer sun reminded me of my boyhood days in Alabama. For a moment, I longed to be home, sitting on the porch or skipping rocks down at the creek.

I was crouched down between two large rocks when Tom slid next to me. He looked up the hill that lay before us. His sandy hair stuck out from under his cap like straw from a scarecrow. He turned and fixed his pale blue eyes on me. In his slow Southern drawl, he spoke.

“Jeb? What’s wrong with you? You haven’t fired a shot.”

I bowed my head.

Tom shook me.

“Jeb!” He growled in a hushed whisper. “What’s goin’ on?”

He shook me again.

I cleared my throat.

“I can’t – I just can’t.”

Tom looked around like he was looking to see who might be watching or listening.

“Can’t what?” He grabbed me by my arm. His voice cracked. “Jeb, don’t go squirrely on me. Ya, hear me.”

His whiskey and tobacco laden breath made me shudder. I blinked and looked into his wild eyes as they searched mine.

“Tom. I don’t know what’s goin’ on. You know me. I ain’t never had a moment’s hesitation to pull the trigger, but I just can’t.”

Tom looked down at my shaking hands, and then searched my face again.

“Whatcha mean, Jeb? Whatcha mean?” He let me go and then looked up the hill. He squinted, and then looked at me again.

“You mean – up there? Isn’t that a Yank officer up on that hill? Standing there, plain as day?”

“Yeah.”

He half-smiled.

“Since when can’t you shoot a Yank? You getting soft on us?”

I didn’t answer.

His smile faded. He got in my face again.

“Jeb, you the best we got. Ain’t no one a better shot in the 15th Alabama than you, and ain’t no one been more willin’ to take down a Yank.”

He spit. Tobacco juice spittled down his chin. He wiped it with his sleeve.

“I know, Tom, but not this one. There’s somethin’ – different about this one. I can’t. When I first saw him, I thought it a mighty good thing to put him out of the way. Tom, I had him, perfectly certain, several times and I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I just couldn’t. I tried, but I can’t.”

Tom shook me – hard.

“Jeb! You gotta understand. We need to take that hill. We done hit it twice and was pushed back. Many of us done fell. You gotta kill as many Yanks from a distance as you can. One less Yank means one less of us that dies. If you kill an officer – if you cut the head off the snake, the body dies. You’ve got do it. It’s your duty.”

“I can’t. Don’t you understand? I tried. I did. Every time I take aim at him, my hands shake, and something comes over me. I’m ashamed. I can’t pull the trigger.”

“You should be ashamed that you can’t kill a Yank! He ain’t nothin’ but a flea on nanny’s dog’s hind end.”

He spit.

“No! I’m ashamed to pull the trigger. I can’t explain it. I go to pull the trigger, and I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed to shoot him. He’s in plain sight. I’ve dropped deer further away than this without hesitation. But I’m ashamed to pull the trigger on this Yank.”

“Why? What is he? Something special? I heard Col. Oates talking to his brother earlier. He thinks that’s the 20th Maine up there. If that is true, then that could be Chamberlain, and he needs to be dropped like a Christmas turkey.”

“It is Chamberlain, and that is the 20th.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know. I can tell by the way he conducts his self with his men. I can also see his rank.”

“Listen to me, Jeb. We gotta take that hill. If we take that hill, then this could be our chance to end this God-forsaken war. We’ll be able to see the whole valley below, and we can rout the Yanks. We’ll split them in half and turn their own guns on them and then Lee can march into Washington and force Lincoln to stop this war. Jeb, are you hearing me? We gotta get up on top of Little Round Top.”

The steely look on Tom’s face faded. I could tell that he was convinced I couldn’t go through with shooting this Yankee officer. He shook me one more time and pushed me back against the boulder. He looked back up the hill, spit, looked at me, and then walked away, back to the remaining regiment.

I don’t know how long I sat there. It seemed like days. Ashamed that I was ashamed.

Before the sun went down that day, we were ordered up the hill one more time. As a sharpshooter, I maintained my position and supported my regiment. They fought valiantly, as they assaulted the hill with volley after volley. Men fell like swatted flies.

I took out several Yanks as they stood up to return fire. I felt redeemed. I had no problem now in the heat of battle to defend our cause and my fellow soldiers. I caught sight of Tom as he led his men over a little knoll right into a clod of Yanks. One had Tom dead to rights, but I made sure he didn’t fire.

Tom turned toward me. Our eyes locked. He nodded his thanks. I returned it.

I quickly reloaded my rifle to prepare for another shot. When I looked up, Tom was gone and so were his men. I’m not sure what happened next. I dropped one more Yank, and then they came over the breastworks with fixed bayonets. They were a wave of blue, yelling at the top of their lungs. Bugles blared the charge, and their flags flowed in the wind. They must have gotten reinforcements.

Our own buglers sounded retreat, and we fled. We weren’t taking Little Round Top, not today, not ever. It wasn’t meant to be. I grabbed my gear and headed out of there like the devil himself was after me. I heard later that Tom had fallen on that knoll. I stopped one Yank from killing him, but I couldn’t stop them all.

I’m still not sure why I could not shoot Col. Chamberlain. I heard that even one of our officers tried to shoot him during that bayonet attack and failed. He had a better chance than I. How could the officer’s revolver misfire just at the time it was aimed at Chamberlain’s head?

Chamberlain was hailed as a war hero. He even became governor of Maine. I wrote him a letter telling him how I had him in my sights twice, but could not pull the trigger. I recounted to him how each time some peculiar notion shut me right down, so I gave up his life to him. I also told him that I was glad of it and hoped he was as well.

I learned that he wrote me back, and invited me to visit him in Maine to see if I had made a good choice. I never received the letter, nor did I answer him. How could I? It was revealed to us that at that critical moment, on that critical mountain, he and his men had insufficient ammunition to defend another attempt by our forces. If we had pressed the moment, and taken that hill, Tom’s words may very well have rung true.

Looking back now, I gotta wonder. If I could have brought myself to drop Col. Chamberlain that day, on that hill, would have things been different? Would we have taken that hill? Would Tom have died as he did with my secret? Would we have split the Yanks, and taken Washington, like Tom said? Would Lee have ordered Pickett’s Charge the very next day in an all-out, last-ditch effort to win this battle and maybe the war? Would have fewer men, on both sides, have died?

I wonder if God Almighty had his hand on me to shame me not to kill Chamberlain because there was a higher power and purpose at work. I wonder.