Earth may have been saved, but the Snaders have a backup plan, a secret weapon stashed away against the day of reckoning.

Who can stop the rise of the deadliest threat the universe has seen?

With Earth secure and Flipper and his family safely holed away in the mountains, it seems that the worst of the Snader-Gude war is over. Allison still needs to be rescued, of course, but the Gudes will handle that on their own. There seems to be nothing more for Flipper to do, even if Josh is frustrated at having to do nothing.

But when Flipper and Josh are kidnapped by aliens—again!—and taken to the mysterious planet Zentron, Flipper finds that the universe needs him once again to foil the ultimate Snader plot to activate their secret weapon.

Aided by the ever-faithful Josh and Anna, Allison’s dog, Flipper will have to do everything in his power to help the hapless Nerds repel the coming Snader incursion and prevent the Snaders from retrieving their most prized asset and gaining the power to turn the tide of the war.

Purchase Zentron

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Earth – Chapter 1

“They’re a lot like us except they’re purple and have webbed feet and live on a planet called Vetrix. Well, most do. A few are secretly here on Earth. They help protect us from evil alien species like the…Hello? Hello?”

Flipper stared at his dead cell phone in disbelief. Had the Snaders sabotaged it? Surely not! He had only been home from Vetrix for a day. How could they have followed him to Earth already?

When he realized the truth it horrified him even more than the thought of attacking Snaders.

His mom marched into his room with her I’ve-made-a-decision-and-don’t-even-question-it eyes. He knew better than to say anything.

“I deactivated your phone. Who were you talking to?”

Flipper hung his head. He wasn’t doing anything wrong; only telling the truth. It wasn’t his fault his parents didn’t believe him.


The next words caught in his mom’s mouth and it took her a moment to get them out. “You talked to the national media?”

“They called me.”

“I don’t care if the President of the United States calls. You are not to tell him you were with aliens.”

She was serious.

He wanted to protest, but he had used every argument with his parents yesterday. They were furious with him because they didn’t believe his story about helping the Gudes save their planet Vetrix.

“How many reporters have you spoken to?”

“A couple.”

It was vague, but Flipper honestly had no idea how many he had spoken to, which was sure to make his mom’s head explode. Thankfully, she didn’t press him further.

“Your father called Principal Collins at his home. He agreed to instruct the teachers not to mention or allow the students to mention aliens in their classes tomorrow. The quicker we can get this all behind us the better. Do you understand?”

Flipper gulped, fighting back a wave of tears and anger. He managed a nod.

His mom left the room; left Flipper alone, frustrated, and confused.


The students of Roswell Middle School stared as Flipper walked by, quietly whispered when he passed, and surely laughed out loud once he was out of sight.

Three days removed from saving the planet Vetrix and he was the laughing stock of Roswell. If this was how his friends were treating him, he couldn’t imagine how the rest of the world was making fun of him.

Well, yes he could.

His parents banned Flipper from watching television, but late last night, well after he was supposed to be asleep, he snuck to his parent’s bedroom door and listened as the news reporter from CNN made fun of the boy from Roswell who disappeared for a week and claimed to visit another planet. He also listened to his mom weep and his dad try to console her.

Flipper wanted the story to go away for his parent’s sake. He hated seeing them upset. But General Jaxxen had said the Snaders might try to attack Earth. Shouldn’t he try to warn everyone? Maybe if he could find just one person to believe him.

“There were over two hundred spaceships in the underground colony.”


Flipper recognized Baxter’s booming voice before he saw him. Baxter was the first sixth grader to go through puberty.

Josh, his back to Flipper, was telling his tale to Baxter, who’s eyes were intensely focused in on Josh. Maybe someone believed!

A crowd quickly gathered as Josh told his story and Baxter hung on every word. Hope sprang alive in Flipper. Maybe the whole crowd believed. They looked like they did. Maybe they could recruit a group of middle schoolers to spread the word of the coming aliens. Or even better, they could come up with a plan to stop the Snaders.

“Then the spaceship chasing us exploded!”

The bell rang.

“I thought he didn’t believe in aliens,” Flipper heard one girl say.

“It should be a movie,” another commented.

“Did you wear your alien costume down there?” a third shouted at Josh.

As the students dispersed to their classes Baxter placed his hand on Josh’s shoulder. “That was a great story! You should be a comedian.”

Baxter noticed Flipper and their eyes met. Baxter pointed his direction. “There’s your partner with more alien comedy material.”

“Quit mocking him!” Flipper had never been confrontational, but after facing Snaders, run-of-the-mill bullies didn’t intimidate him.

“Yeah, leave him alone!” Allison stepped to the other side of Josh.

Baxter waved his arm like he was swatting at a fly. “It’s not fun once he realizes what I’m doing.”

Josh breathed through clenched teeth as Baxter disappeared into a classroom. “I thought he believed me. The whole time I thought he believed me.”

Flipper patted him on the back. “I know, I did too. Let’s get to class.”

Flipper took his seat beside Allison and behind Josh. Mrs. Smith quieted the class and Flipper dreaded her reaction. What happens when she looks at me? Will she say anything? Surely not. Will she laugh? Will her eyes linger? If they do, what will everyone else think?

He knew he should pay more attention to Mrs. Smith’s voice as she reviewed the material the class covered last Friday, but he was fixated on her eyes. Minute after minute passed and they didn’t once land on him. He glanced at the ticking clock on the wall and rushed his eyes back to Mrs. Smith. Twenty minutes into her lecture and she hadn’t once looked at Flipper. In fact, he was almost certain she hadn’t looked at Allison or Josh either.

It was game on now. He unabashedly stared at his teacher, willing her to return the gaze. He knew if she looked at him he would instantly look away. He still didn’t want her to look at him, but he also double-dog dared her to with his eyes.

Just before the bell rang she wrapped up her lecture. “Now, if you will take out your homework from the weekend I will come around and pick it up.”

She started down the far aisle. With her back to him, Flipper gave up and pronounced himself victor, though it was a shallow victory because he would have declared himself victor whether she looked at him or not.

Allison’s eyes were wide with panic. She mouthed to Flipper and Josh. “What are we going to do?”

Flipper shrugged. They didn’t know about the homework because they weren’t here. Surely Mrs. Smith will give them a couple of days to catch up. What was the big deal?

As Mrs. Smith collected each assignment she praised the student. “Well done! Thank you, Baxter. Nice organization, Tessa.”

It was sickening and over the top. She had never been this nice in her entire life — Flipper was sure of it!

“Allison, do you have your homework.”

Flipper wanted to shout. Mrs. Smith knew Allison didn’t have the assignment done. She hadn’t even known about it until now.

Mrs. Smith waited, her foot tapping, as Allison tried to hold it together. Finally, she managed, “No, Ma’am.”

“You realize this is worth ten percent of your semester grade.”

It wasn’t a question and Mrs. Smith was no longer looking at Allison but at Flipper.

“I expect you to have it turned in by the end of the day, no exceptions.”

Flipper wanted to look away but was too afraid.

“But it’s unfair,” Josh protested.

Whew! Mrs. Smith took her eyes off of him!

“It is not unfair. You have unexcused absences for a solid week.”

The bell rang but no one made a move to leave. Flipper wanted to run but his legs wouldn’t move.

“But we were looking for Flipper,” Josh continued.

“I’ll hear none of it.” Mrs. Smith spun on her heels.

Mrs. Smith had just chastised Allison and Josh both. Flipper had to say something; he needed to take the blame.

“It’s my fault. Allison and Josh were just looking for me. If I wouldn’t have left with the alien then they wouldn’t have missed school. Punish me, not them.”

The class roared. He knew as the words left his mouth they didn’t sound quite right. Something had happened between his brain and his mouth that scrambled what he meant to say.

“You are not to speak of aliens in my classroom. Is that clear?”

By now the next class began arriving. Still the students from his class remained and the classroom was nearly full. Flipper blushed at the thought of everyone watching him.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Good.” Mrs. Smith seemed oblivious to the crowd. “Was there any part of your last statement that wasn’t true?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Why don’t you be completely honest then? Tell us the truth.”

Flipper bit his tongue. He couldn’t make her happy without lying and he couldn’t lie and betray Allison and Josh and Jake and Alya and Chezlor and Fox and Nicole and General Jaxxen and Dr. Needles and Brianna.

“Go on.”

Mrs. Smith crossed her arms. “Well…?”

“I didn’t exactly go with an alien,” he mumbled.

“I’m sorry.” Mrs. Smith looked around and motioned to the other students. “We didn’t hear you.”

Other classes had apparently gotten word of the exchange and were scrunching in to get a view of the confrontation. All remained silent, staring at Flipper and awaiting his confession.

“I said I didn’t go with an alien.” His voice was clear and he made sure those in the hall that couldn’t see him heard what he had to say. “I was asleep and the alien took me. Kidnapped me. I woke up on a planet called Vetrix and helped them fight off the Snaders. I had to — it was my only way back home.” It was the truth and if they didn’t like it, so be it.


Flipper peered nervously across the desk. “Can I stand?”

“If you like.”

Associate Pastor Owen Rodgers had a kind smile and relaxed demeanor. Flipper liked Pastor Rodgers, but he had never been alone with him.

He paced slowly as he moved his thumb and middle finger back and forth causing Owen’s name plate to flip up and down in his hands. He recounted the recent events, including being kidnapped twice, saving Vetrix from the Snader attack, and the pressure he felt because no one believed his story. Of course, Owen didn’t believe Flipper either, but he smiled, was non-judgmental, and didn’t interrupt except to ask clarifying questions.

In fact, when Flipper had finished, Owen didn’t chastise him for lying, or laugh at him, or excommunicate him, or anything like that.

“You know, Flipper, rejection is a normal part of life. Do you know the story of Moses? The burning bush, the ten commandments, the parting of the Red Sea?”

“Sure.” Flipper knew these lessons well from Sunday School, but he wasn’t sure what they had to do with aliens.

“When Moses first tried to lead his people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt they didn’t want to go. After some time, the Israelites agreed to leave, but Pharaoh refused to let them go. Moses was rejected by two nations of people.”

Flipper saw the connection. Just like Moses was rejected by his country, Israel, Flipper was being rejected by the United States, his country. “So you believe me about the aliens?”

Pastor Rodgers chuckled. “No. But I believe that you believe it.”

Flipper stared at Owen with a scrunched forehead. “Huh?”

Owen leaned back and put his hands behind his head. “Let me put it this way. Why did your dad bring you to visit with me?”

“Dad says that if you’re in trouble the best person to talk to is the pastor.”

Boy, was Flipper in trouble! The national news and radio talk shows were making fun of the trio of kids from Roswell, New Mexico, who pulled a hoax, disappeared for a week, then claimed it was all because of aliens. To his parents chagrin, Flipper continued to insist his story was true, as did Allison and Josh. Their parents were furious, but also concerned, because they didn’t know where the kids had been all week. Finally, Flipper had argued with a teacher about the aliens and now had detention through his third year of college.

“I’m guessing your parents have lectured you over and over about telling the truth?”

Boy had they!

“I don’t think you need another lecture on being honest.”

Flipper agreed.

“As I listened to you tell your story the emotion I picked up on the strongest related to your feelings of rejection. It has to be a terrible burden to have so many people not believe you, make fun of you, condemn you, reject you. You must feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

Wow, he nailed it! Flipper felt like Pastor Rodgers had reached his finger inside his body and scraped a raw sore and caused it to start bleeding again. The pain was unbearable and he had to sit.

“I want you to know that you’re not alone. Most of the prophets in the Old Testament were made fun of by friends and family. Many lived lonely lives. Even God’s own son, Jesus, was rejected. His disciples abandoned him when He needed them the most. Rejection is a natural part of life and it’s important to be able to handle it.”

The pastor had hit on something deep and painful. Flipper was a hero on Vetrix. On Earth, he was a joke.

“It’s important to know that God is always with us. He was with the prophets in their loneliness. God comforted Jesus when he cried in the garden moments before he was arrested and crucified. And God is with you now.”

Jesus cried too? He wished Jesus had two good friends like Allison and Josh. He knew what Jesus did to prove He was right; He came back from the dead. Flipper needed a different idea. How did Moses and the prophets convince others?

“Flipper, do you mind if I pray for you?”

This gave him an idea. “Yeah. Pray that the whole world will learn the truth that aliens exist.”

Pastor Rodgers smiled. “Okay, Flipper. Okay.”

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January, 2019 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

Field Trip to the UFO Museum

            Allison bounced up and down on the bus seat.

            “It has a lid.”

            “That doesn’t mean it can’t spill.”

            “You two have been bickering all morning,” Flipper complained from the seat across the aisle.

            They were on a field trip to the UFO Museum. Allison had lived in Roswell, New Mexico — home of the supposed 1947 alien crash — all of her life, yet had never been to the museum.

            In fact, she hadn’t realized how much she wanted to go until her teacher announced the trip two weeks ago on the first day of sixth grade.

            Unfortunately, her cousin Flipper and their best friend Josh didn’t want to go. She wasn’t about to let them keep her from enjoying the experience.

            When they arrived, all the kids set their drinks on an empty table, away from the  main area. There were dozens of displays with pictures and articles. Allison made a beeline to the closest display. She wanted to read them all! Before she started her teachers called everyone together and introduced the tour guide for the morning.

            “Welcome to the Roswell UFO Museum. We are open from nine to five, seven days a week. I’m going to walk you through the museum and tell you about the crash of 1947. Please feel free to ask any questions along the way. Follow me to the first exhibit.”

            “This is crazy,” Josh complained.

            “And boring,” Flipper added.

            Allison scolded them. “Shh! This is interesting.”

            “Disney princess fairy tales are more interesting…and realistic.” Josh gave a wry smile.

            “You have no taste,” Allison spat.

            Flipper stepped between them. “You two are getting on my nerves.”

            For thirty minutes the tour guide led them through the museum, explaining the events that occurred on July 2, 1947, and talked about other UFO sightings. Allison hung on every word. She loved space and hoped there were really aliens out there somewhere.

            When the tour ended they took a ten-minute bathroom break. Allison, Josh, and Flipper got their drinks. Josh sucked on his straw and spit it all over his arm. Allison and Flipper laughed.

            “Why did you do that?” Flipper asked.

            “This is awful!” Josh lifted his lid and exposed a ketchup packet on the end of his straw.

            Allison laughed, thinking that justice was done. Josh had been a pain all morning and had it coming.

            Josh glared at her. “Why did you do that?”

            She gasped. “I didn’t do it!”

            “Right!” Josh said with thick sarcasm.

            “Josh, clean that up immediately,” their teacher, Mrs. Smith, ordered.

            “I’ll get you back,” Josh muttered to Allison.


            Josh and his family had moved to Roswell three years ago. He still wasn’t used to all of the alien displays around town. A flying saucer on the front of the Wal-Mart building? He thought it looked ridiculous.

            He didn’t understand why it was such a big deal, but a big deal it must be. Here he was with twenty-one of his classmates suffering through the UFO Museum. Josh was bored, irritated with Allison, and couldn’t get the taste of ketchup from his mouth. He had no use for this field trip.

            The longer their tour guide droned on and on about aliens the more Josh had become determined to prove the alien crash false. He didn’t think anything could redeem the trip — until the alien showed up.

            The tour guide wore an alien costume; Josh loved costumes and found himself listening intently as the tour guide/alien explained what it was like to come from another planet to Earth. As an alien, the tour guide even had a sense of humor.

            “I want one,” Josh declared to Allison and Flipper when the alien departed.

            “Want what?” Flipper asked.

            “The alien costume.”

            “I should have known you would like that.”

            “I thought you didn’t like aliens,” Allison said snidely.

            “I didn’t say I did,” Josh mimicked her tone.

            Allison lifted the straw to her lips and stopped. She removed the lid and peered inside. After a close examination she decided it was safe and tipped her cup and drank.

            Not only did Josh and Flipper laugh, but so did several other students around them. Allison stopped drinking and watched the laughing kids suspiciously. The laughter ceased but everyone continued to stare her direction. When Allison lifted the drink toward her mouth again the laughter returned.

            She glared at Josh and he shrugged his shoulders, smiling mischievously. One of their classmates pointed to her cup. Allison cautiously tilted the cup. Written across the bottom in large, black letters was the word DUNCE.

            “Josh! I swear!”

            “Allison! Josh! Come here!” Mrs. Smith barked.

            They glared at each other but obeyed. Mrs. Smith marched them out the back door. “I want you two to wait outside while the rest of the class has snacks. Whatever is going on between you two, work it out. The bickering ends now.” She stormed back into the museum.

            Josh noticed a metal door leading underground and took a seat on it, his chin in his hands. “I love cookies.” He said dejectedly.

            Allison sat beside him. “They’re playing a game where you have to answer questions about the museum and it’s history. I know I would have won.”

            Josh chuckled. “Who could beat you?”

            “Josh, I’m sorry I laughed at you..”

            “But you’re not sorry you put ketchup in my soda?” Josh’s gaze remained forward.

            “I didn’t do it,” Allison insisted. “Beside, you humiliated me by writing on the bottom of my cup.”

            “I didn’t do it.” Josh sighed.

            Josh’s eyes grew wide. He spun toward Allison and their eyes met. At the same time they shouted, “Flipper!”


            Flipper sighed contentedly. He didn’t have to listen to Josh and Allison bicker any longer. With no one looking he tossed the extra ketchup packet in the trash and replaced the sharpie in the pencil holder beside the cash register.

            Flipper shoved a cookie into his mouth — his third — and smiled.


If you enjoyed your time with Flipper, Allison, and Josh, please check out their other adventures in Before Vetrix, or their real encounter with aliens in the book Vetrix. Read the first chapter of Vetrix for free here.

Please enjoy some more stories from my friends!

Scary Monsters and Other Friends, by Lisa Stapp
Morning Has Broken, by Katharina Gerlach
Good Honest Work, by Chris Wight
Bad For Business, by Gina Fabio
The Last Friday, by Raven O’Fiernan
Lost And Found, by Angela Wooldridge
Bia Trevi’s Worldly Eats, by Barbara Lund
Hunting Bob, Vanessa Wells
Don’t Drink The Water, by Juneta Key
Duty, Elizabeth McCleary
The Footnote, Karen Lynn
The Monster Under The Bed, by Nic Steven
Field Trip to the UFO Museum, by Bill Bush

Posted in Blog Hop, Flipper, Stories | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

Vetrix – Chapter 1

Flipper was a normal twelve-year-old kid, or so he thought. Little did he know that a war several million light years away between the Gudes and the Snaders was about to change his destiny. Then again, the Gudes and Snaders didn’t realize Flipper was about to change theirs either.


“It’s Friday and Halloween.” Allison, who was dressed up as Athena, lamented. She wore a long flowing toga and a crown on her head. She loved reading about the Greek gods, and her favorite author was Rick Riordan. Allison had even named her dog Anna, after Annabeth in the Percy Jackson books. She continued, “I don’t think teachers should be allowed to assign major projects when they know everyone’s going to be squirrelly. I mean, the school encouraged us to dress up and they still expect us to be able to concentrate in class?”

Flipper sat next to Allison in Social Studies thumbing through his notecards before the bell rang. He was dressed as a Nerd. His short-sleeve, button-up shirt was partially untucked and he had a pocket protector and pens in the front pocket. His jeans were pulled up way too high. Flipper wondered how anyone actually wore them like that all the time. He had tape around the middle of his glasses and his normally straight, blond hair was black, greasy, and combed with a center parting. He had come to school with a sign on his back that said Kick Me, but a teacher made him take it off when everyone kept doing just that.
“Allison, you’re in sixth grade now. It’s time to grow up. Try to be more like your older, more mature cousin.” Flipper patted his chest as if Allison didn’t know who he was talking about. “Calm, cool and collected.”

She rolled her eyes. “Good grief! You’re eleven months older than me.”

“Yes, but a person matures a lot in eleven months. You’ll see.”

Allison chuckled. Flipper could always make her laugh, even when she was stressing at school. She changed the subject. “Do you have your presentation ready?”

“Yes, but I can hardly think about it. I’m too excited about going to Carlsbad Caverns tomorrow.”

They lived in Roswell, New Mexico, only an hour and a half away from Carlsbad, yet Flipper had never been there. He recently did a report on bats for school so his parents had promised they would take him to see the caverns. People sat outside the caves every evening to watch as the bats flew out, just over their heads. Flipper couldn’t think of anything that sounded more exciting.

“Too excited?” Allison asked sarcastically. “What happened to calm, cool and collected?”

Flipper gave an uneasy smile.

“Hey, guys!” Josh said, coming into the classroom. Josh loved to dress up which made Halloween his favorite time of year. He was wearing an alien costume that had over-sized feet. His seat was right in front of Allison. Josh was tall for a sixth grader and his bulky costume made it difficult for him to slide into his seat, which was connected to the desk.
Allison and Flipper both giggled. They knew Josh didn’t mind them laughing at him. He liked to be silly and make people laugh. Josh was thirteen but still in the sixth grade. His dad was in the military and when he was in the first grade they moved three times. He had to repeat first grade, which meant he was older than most of the students. He was also bigger, which gave him an advantage when playing sports.

“Okay, class,” Mrs. Smith said, standing up from her desk. “It’s time for our presentations. Josh, you’re up first.”

Getting up turned out to be harder than sitting down. Everyone in the class laughed at Josh’s struggle to stand. Flipper was sure Josh was smiling, though no one could see it underneath the papier mâché alien head he wore.

Eventually, Josh made it to the front of the class and gave his report in a muffled voice. “My report is on the Roswell Incident. On the evening of July second, nineteen forty-seven, several people said they saw a disc-shaped object flying through the air. This was during a thunderstorm. The next day a local rancher outside of Roswell, New Mexico, claimed to have found a piece of what he said looked like an exploded aircraft. On July eighth, the Roswell Daily Record reported that the Air Force base in Roswell had captured a flying saucer. Although the Air Force claims that the flying saucer was simply an experimental weather balloon for a top secret project, many people today believe the United States military found a UFO spacecraft, captured the aliens, and covered up the truth.

“Now, every year, Roswell celebrates a UFO Festival during the first week in July. People from all over the world come to visit the museums, talk about aliens, and tour the crash site. My parents told me about the festival in nineteen ninety-seven, which was the fiftieth anniversary of the crash. Hotel rooms were sold out as far away as Albuquerque and Lubbock, Texas. Several celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, were here. The theater at the mall had a pre-release showing of Men In Black and Will Smith was there signing autographs.

“I don’t believe the crash was a UFO with aliens. That doesn’t make any sense to me. It was storming and people wouldn’t have been able to tell what they really saw. Besides, there is no real evidence to prove it was aliens. But, I think the city of Roswell is smart to promote the festival and for businesses like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart to put aliens on their buildings. It helps them make a lot of money. The end.”

Some of the kids clapped quietly.

“Thank you, Josh,” Mrs. Smith said.

“Good job!” Allison and Flipper both told Josh, patting him on the shoulder as he sat down.


As Allison walked between Flipper and Josh after school, her waist-length bright red hair bouncing behind her, she looked at Josh, who was still wearing his alien head. “You know, Josh, I believe the crash in nineteen forty-seven really was an alien spaceship.”

Although it was still a couple of hours away from sun set, the dark clouds gave the afternoon a dusk sort of feeling.

“Really?” Josh said with surprise.

“Yeah. There is so much we don’t know, both in outer space and here on earth. My parents told me the government keeps a lot of secrets from us. Who knows, maybe there are aliens living here in Roswell.” She shrugged her shoulders.

“I think Principal Hermann is an alien,” Flipper’s serious tone made it hard to tell when he was joking. “Have you seen the way she walks around all hunched-back? And she never smiles. If I was an alien from another planet, I wouldn’t ever smile.”

Josh shook his head. “My dad’s been all over with the Air Force. He told me there was no way the military could be hiding aliens without him knowing.”

“Maybe some people are good at keeping secrets,” Allison said, dismissing Josh’s argument. “What do you think, Flipper?”

He pushed his glasses up. “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem very likely. I mean, to keep a secret like that for this long. I think someone would have said something. But maybe, if…” Flipper stopped speaking as Allison stiffened and tightly grabbed his arm. Josh kept walking; with the alien head still on he didn’t notice they had stopped.

Allison was staring across the street. Flipper followed her gaze. She seemed to be looking at the empty lot. In the back corner stood an evergreen — the kind that looked like a large Christmas tree — looking a bit out of place in the barren field. He saw sparse patches of tall weeds, lots of dirt, and a tumbleweed blowing across in the light, steady wind. He didn’t see anything worth looking at, let alone to be frightened by.

He looked back at Allison. Her eyes were glued to the lot and the vein in her neck was bulging. He could tell she was scared but didn’t know why. He suddenly felt cold and uncomfortable.

“Are you okay, Allison?” His voice betrayed his nervousness.

Other than her quick breaths and heaving chest, she didn’t move or speak. Flipper’s arm was throbbing from Allison’s tight grip, but he did his best to ignore it. He felt desperate to help his cousin. “What is it? I don’t see anything.”

“I-I-I… I don’t know,” she finally stuttered. She blinked rapidly like she was coming out of a trance. Her eyes remained directed across the street and her speech was labored. “I didn’t see anything either, but I could feel something. It was like a strong presence, like someone was across the street watching us.”

Flipper looked again. “I still don’t see anything.”

Allison took a deep breath and relaxed. She let go of his arm, looking down as she did so. “I’m so sorry, Flipper!” He was bleeding where her nail-bitten, jagged fingernails had dug into his skin.

“Holy cow, Allison!” Josh walked back toward them. He removed one of his alien gloves and gave it to Flipper. “Here, use this to wipe the blood.”

“I don’t want to mess up your costume.” Flipper tried to hand the glove back to Josh.

Josh waved his hand in refusal and said enthusiastically, “Putting blood on it will make it that much cooler.”

Flipper hesitated, then held the glove over the cuts. “Thanks.”

“What was that all about?” Josh asked, concerned.

“Allison thought she saw something,” Flipper said with skepticism.

“Actually, I thought I kind of sensed something,” Allison tried to explain again. “I had a strong feeling that someone was watching us — the most intense feeling I’ve ever had.” She glanced back at the now obviously empty lot. “I don’t know. I guess it sounds crazy. Maybe it is crazy.”

“Maybe it was an alien,” Josh said, raising his hands and walking towards her — more like a zombie than an alien.

“Stop it,” she said, playfully pushing him away. Allison laughed as they began walking again. “But maybe it was an alien and only I can sense it because only I believe.”

“Sports teams send scouts to watch players they might want to recruit,” Josh said with rising enthusiasm. “Maybe you’re being recruited.”

Flipper laughed so hard he had to stop walking. “Does that mean she’s an alien?”

Josh laughed with Flipper while Allison stood with her hands on her hips, visibly irritated.

“Remember, if I’m an alien, you’re an alien. We’re related.”

Flipper stopped laughing. Josh laughed even harder.


“Flipper, is that you?”

Flipper, Josh and Allison had just come into the house after trick-or-treating later that evening. “Yes, Mom.”

Flipper’s mom hurried into the room. She was full of life and loved the holidays, but this was the first year she had let Flipper go trick-or-treating by himself. She had given them very specific instructions about where they could go, what they could do, and when they had to be back. They each carried a cell phone. But still, his mom worried. “How did it go?”

“It was okay,” Flipper said without enthusiasm.

“Yeah, I think we are outgrowing the whole trick-or-treating thing,” Allison said, slumping onto the couch.

“But not the candy,” Josh said, dumping his sack onto the floor, eager to go through it.

“I’m just glad you’re home safely,” Flipper’s mom said. “And not too much candy. I agreed that Josh and Allison could spend the night since they are going to Carlsbad Caverns with us tomorrow, but you promised you wouldn’t stay up late.”

“Yes, Mom.” Flipper and Allison dumped their sacks on the floor and began eating and trading candy.

Two hours later Flipper, Josh and Allison were in their sleeping bags on the living room floor. Although they were only a few feet apart they could barely see each other. The burnt out streetlight left only the dim moonlight shining through the large front window to see by.

Flipper was giddy about their trip the next day and talked about it non-stop until Josh fell asleep and began to mumble about playing basketball and being stuck in quicksand.

Flipper went quiet and then looked at Allison. “Do you really believe there might be people on other planets? Or were you only teasing Josh?”

“I don’t know. It’s hard to look up at the sky and not think there are more people out there somewhere.” Allison paused before deciding to continue. “But mostly I sense there are others out there. Sometimes I sense they are close — in Roswell. I haven’t really talked about it because it sounds crazy. I know we were joking about it earlier, but sometimes I do wonder if I’m not from another planet.”

Flipper laughed. “That would explain a lot.”

Allison laughed too. “Yeah, I pretty much walked into that one.”

Flipper smiled at her. “Good night, Allison.”

“Good night, Flipper.”


Allison’s dreams that night were intense, and she didn’t feel like she was dreaming. She felt like she had gone back in time — was reliving the previous day — but there was something quite different about this repeated experience, like a long déjà vu.

She was back in Social Studies class and Josh was giving his presentation on the Roswell Incident. Everything looked the same as it had that morning, but this time she was overwhelmed by the same strange sensation she had felt when walking home. She felt like she was in the presence of someone important; kind of like when she met the mayor at a dinner she went to with her parents. Except this felt like she was in the presence of someone much more important than a mayor.

Allison turned and looked behind her. In what had been an empty seat in the back row that morning sat someone she had never seen before. He was older than the students and had a slightly amused expression. His hair was rumpled and his skin was… She blinked, hoping her eyes would clear. His skin was… Allison gaped at him until he noticed her stare and looked her way. She jerked her head back to Josh, droning on about the Roswell Incident.

She felt the presence ease, so she looked back. The man was gone, but she couldn’t get his image out of her mind.

His skin had been purple. Brightly, unapologetically purple.

Instantly, she was with Flipper and Josh, walking home from school. She froze sensing the same overwhelming presence as earlier. But this time, when she looked across the street at the lot, she saw the purple man from the classroom standing, watching them.

This time, she locked eyes with him for several moments. The purple man tilted his head, looking at her, puzzled. The look of confusion on his face mirrored what Allison felt. She looked at Flipper and saw her hand clamped on his arm. She looked back across the street but the man was gone.

Allison tossed and turned as her dream intensified.

She began having flashbacks to their evening of trick-or-treating. Everywhere they went, the purple man was there, watching, following. The sense of his presence intensified with each sighting. Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer and started running towards him. She didn’t know who he was or what he wanted, but she couldn’t stand the feeling any longer. She was scared and angry. She screamed, “Just leave me alone!”

Allison startled awake and sat straight up, sweating, breathing heavily. She was awake, but the intense presence she had felt in her dream was still with her. In fact, it was even stronger. She jumped to her feet and turned around. The purple man was standing in the room with them, holding Flipper in his arms. Flipper was still asleep.

“What are you doing?” Allison demanded.

“We are trying to protect you. Blake… Flipper… has been chosen to save us all.”

And with those words the man and Flipper vanished.

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October, 2018 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!


The Life of a Pumpkin

Three months ago I was a seed. For eighty-two days I’ve grown, but at a slower rate than the rest of the crop. As the summer heat migrated south, fall’s coolness brought excitement to the pumpkin patch. Rumors spread among the pumpkins that people would soon come to select their favorites to take home and decorate – to become part of the family. This was ‘the season of the pumpkin,’ it was said.

Of course the biggest pumpkins bragged about how they would be taken first. Lester was the largest among us, and why wouldn’t he go first? He was huge, with a spotless outer coat. I was only half his size, and I had spots. Who was going to want a scrawny, flawed pumpkin?

I knew the destiny of flawed and unwanted pumpkins. Once the weather turned from cool to cold, whatever pumpkins were left in the field would remain, rejected and alone, until they rotted away. This would surely be my lot.

Finally the day arrived. The first people showed and took two, large, beautiful specimens, neither of which was Lester. He went the next day and they had to use a wheel barrel to haul him off. Within a few days the crowds increased and soon pumpkins left by the dozens every day. Weeks passed and to my delight I continued to grow. I finally reached a size I was proud of. But my spots had also grown.

The story was that people only came for a short period of time. I had begun to accept I would never leave the pumpkin patch when the unthinkable happened.

A boy with a green-hooded sweatshirt picked me up. “Greg, over here! This one’s perfect!”

Greg wore a yellow, short-sleeved shirt, which was the only thing that distinguished him from the other boy. “He’s all spotted. It’s the ugliest pumpkin I’ve ever seen, Paul.”

Paul wasn’t deterred. “Think how spooky that’ll make him. We’ll decorate him and he’ll be the scariest pumpkin ever.”

Scariest? That sounded amazing! Take that Lester! He might be the biggest but I was going to be the scariest.

Greg and Paul took me home and for three days I sat by myself on the front porch. I wondered about their grand plan. I felt abandoned and my excitement waned. Did they forget about me?

I learned one thing useful during this time. Paul had a mole on his upper lip. That’s how I could tell them apart.

Finally, as the sun stood straight above, Greg hauled me inside to decorate me. I was so excited I thought pumpkin seeds sprouted inside me. I would soon be scary! This was gong to make all of those hot, agonizing days of growing to maturity worth it.

Paul began to draw. He lightly glided his gray stick across my ticklish shell. At first it felt good but soon turned into sheer torture. His slow, meticulous strokes seemed to never end.

Suddenly a sharp pain stabbed me at the top. Greg circled my stem then ripped it from my body. I had been wrong; the tickling was not the worst experience possible. They were just getting started.

Paul and Greg took turns ripping out my insides, a fistful at a time. There was no gentleness or love to their actions. They ripped like they didn’t care; oblivious to the pain they inflicted.

Once my insides were empty and my inner core smooth, Greg started in on me again with the knife. He cut jagged lines then holes, each excruciating stab and pull ripped away at my shell. I wanted to scream, and even though they had created a mouth for me I couldn’t protest.

It ended like it started – abruptly. They replaced my top and returned me to the front porch. Greg gave Paul a high-five – apparently I was as ugly and horrifying as they had planned.

I sat the rest of the day trying to take pride that I was part of a family and not alone in a field rotting away. In all of the excitement at the pumpkin patch, no one mentioned the grueling transformation process. I was relieved to have it behind me.

When darkness came Paul and Greg returned. They removed my top and placed a small, waxy candle inside. ‘I wonder what that’s for?’ I asked myself. Greg pressed a button on a red stick and a flame of fire jumped out. His lit the candle and replaced the lid.

It was a chilly evening and at first the fire inside me was warm and inviting. After a while the comfort of the fire turned to agonizing torment.

Later they brought out other decorations to put around me. Two skeletons, a fake black cat, a hand that sprang from a chest when someone got near, and a large, hairy spider that glowed an eerie red. Another high-five between the brothers brought me no satisfaction. I wanted relief from the fire.

Finally, Paul lifted my top and blew out the candle. The night brought cold and frost and at times I wished I had a fire inside to warm me. I remembered how painful it had been and was thankful the fire was out.

Every night for a week the two boys lit the candle and let me suffer for several hours. At last the big night came they kept talking about – Halloween. I wanted to be as excited about it as they were, but every other time I had gotten excited about something I ended up disappointed. Their eager anticipation created anxiety for me.

Halloween was like any other day and I was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. The sun began to set and Paul and Greg came out to light my candle. That’s when I realized the seriousness of the Halloween celebration that people observed.

Paul wore an oblong, black hat with pointed ends, a patch over one eye, a white baggy shirt and baggy pants. His left hand was gone and in it’s place was a hook. Greg had a bandage wrapped around his head with blood oozing through. He wore a neck brace, a cast on his right arm and another on his left leg, which was propped straight out as he sat in a wheelchair.

I instantly felt ashamed at my anger toward them. Paul had cut off his hand and poked out his eye. Greg had broken his leg and arm and did something severe to his head – it was still bleeding. My suffering was minor compared to what they must have experienced. They were as committed to this holiday as they insisted I be. Suddenly I felt proud that I was such an integral part of their ritual.

Paul pushed Greg as they left to go forth and celebrate the holiday. For the next several hours all sorts of strange little people came by the house – most of them screaming in fright as the hand jumped from the chest. Many times I heard people say, “Oh, look how scary that pumpkin is!” I beamed with pride.

Many others were as committed to this holiday as Paul and Greg. I saw cuts, bruises, blood, extra appendages, transformed faces. Some had even turn into animals, monsters, and aliens. After seeing the way the children gave of their bodies to this holiday I wondered if any of these adult would sacrifice their children at the end of the night.

Hours later Greg and Paul returned with two large sacks. They were really excited about the candy, so I assumed they returned with more than their mom had given away.

The visitors slowed to a trickle then stopped altogether. It had been an exciting but exhausting night. I hoped I would get my candle extinguished soon, although I wasn’t going to complain after seeing how everyone else was willing to suffer for the occasion.

As surprising as everything about the evening had been, the biggest surprise came at the end. Paul exited the front door and picked me up. His patch was gone and his eye looked fine, so I concluded he hadn’t poked it out. Then I realized he had two hands. Where was the hook? Did he re-grow his hand? If so, maybe I could re-grow my insides. Hope sprouted where my insides had once resided.

Then another shock. Greg joined us without his wheelchair. How had his leg healed so quickly? And his arm! He carried a long stick with an arm that had been in a cast a few minutes ago. They had healed quickly. Maybe I would heal too!

Greg unwrapped the bandage from his head and other than a few small red spots it looked fine. I began to put the pieces together – they had only pretended to be hurt. But why? To mock my suffering? What a twisted sense of humor! Had all of the other children pretended too? My anger raged at this complex and cruel hoax.

When Paul blew out and removed the candle relief flooded me and I thought my days of suffering were behind me. Paul carried me to the street. Even after all of the suffering it felt good to be a part of the family, the tradition, the celebration.

Paul tossed me into the air and for the first time I felt free. Greg swung the bat and connected with full force. My shell caved and I soared through the air full of despair. My saviors from the pumpkin patch had finalized their abuse. They returned to the house, leaving me beaten and bruised in the street. Was this any worse than lying in the pumpkin field, alone, never to experience the joy of being selected? I doubted it. For months I had believed Halloween was the most exciting event, that I had been grown to be a part of the festivities. I wondered if all the other pumpkins had similar experiences as me. I supposed so.

I was disillusioned and even though I wished it all would end I didn’t give up hope. Was this really how I would go out – rotting in a street, alone?

A light came from a distance and slowly grew in size and intensity. Maybe this was someone coming to rescue me. Dare I hope? It was Halloween after all – a night of magic and fantasy! I wanted to believe. I tried to believe. My faith grew and by the time the light arrived I knew this was my chance to be renewed, reborn. What was the next step in the evening’s celebration?



Please enjoy some more stories from my friends!

Why Should I?, by Gina Fabio
Reaper, by Juneta Key
Snow White Tabloid Style, by Fannie Suto
Starving Artist, by Samantha Bryant
The Halloween Dance, by Barbara Lund
The Ghost In My Yard, by Elizabeth McCleary
Her Majesty, by Katharina Gerlach
Chris Bridges Posting Storytime Blog Hop. Give her shout out and say Hello!
Black Moon, by Lauren M. Catherine
Poe’s Heart, by J. Q. Rose
Hanks A Lot, by Joe Bouchard
In The Gray Lake, by Karen Lynn
The Right Honorable Brotherhood of Spirits, Poltergeists and Ghosts, by Vanessa Wells


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Dear NFL

Dear NFL,

Ours has been a simple relationship that flourished in spite of any differences we may have had. I didn’t care about your political or religious views and you didn’t care about mine.

I’ve respected your consistency in avoiding controversial issues.

For example, you stopped the Dallas Cowboys from wearing decals in honor of five local police officers who had been murdered. You vowed to fine players who wanted to wear specially-designed cleats in honor of the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. You fined Robert Griffin III $10,000 twice for wearing Adidas apparel — once on the field during pregame and once during a post-game news conference. Those fines led the injured quarterback to turn his Know Jesus Know Peace t-shirt inside out for a news conference to avoid another fine.

I may not have agreed with every decision you made, but I respected your stance to remain neutral and avoid the appearance of choosing sides.

I don’t know what happened, but you’ve changed. Instead of restricting political protest, you allowed a player to kneel during the national anthem, even though your rules stated they should stand out of respect. Then you allowed whole teams to remain in their locker rooms and not participate in the national anthem.

Does this mean players are allowed personal expression during the national anthem but not during pre-game or post-game activities? And does it mean you would have allowed the Cowboys to kneel during the national anthem to recognize the murdered police officers? Or allowed players to kneel in order to bring attention to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Can players kneel to bring awareness to Jesus?

You decided a political issue was more important than the game, in spite of how it might make me feel. I don’t know how else to interpret your decision.

It is your choice. You have the right to make the decision. But you’re not the same NFL I loved. I don’t feel like I know you any more.

Why would you do this? Millions of Americans have a deep-seeded love for the flag, the national anthem, and the pre-game ceremony. Kneeling during that ceremony insulted them. You might as well have disrespected their moms, as deeply as they are hurt. Not a smart way to begin a conversation or develop sympathy for your cause. I thought you were smarter than that.

I should thank you, really. For many years I didn’t think I could live without you. When you were around nothing else mattered, and I thought about you often between our times together. We have lots of good memories.

But it’s over. Last year I followed closely the decisions you made and was gravely disappointed. So much so that I needed a break. That’s when I discovered something fascinating. I could live without you. In fact, now I’m thriving and happy without you. I’m sorry if that hurts, but it’s the truth.

So thank you. Thank you for showing me who you really are so I can move on with my life.

I’m not avoiding or boycotting or trying to punish you. I’ve just lost interest.

So this is goodbye. I’ll see you around. And don’t try to insult me by saying you’ve changed. Show me you’ve changed, don’t tell. Then, well, maybe we’ll see…

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My First Kill

I killed my first snake today.

I’ve seen a few snakes in my life but I’ve never been close enough for long enough to kill one.

But today was different. Today, that angry, vicious seed of Satan didn’t give me a choice.

I killed in self-defense.

I have no remorse, and I would gladly do it again, though I hope it never comes to that. I’ll see this one in my nightmares.

Look, even though snakes are the spawn of Satan (any good theologian will confirm it) I don’t go around wishing them ill will. That only happens when I see one.

This snake, which I’ll call Sneaky from now on, obviously had evil intentional as it DID NOT make its presence known until it arrive at the perfect kill distance.

I had been mowing for half an hour, so Sneaky had time to position himself for the perfect strike. Sneaky had calculated that with the element of surprise it could take me down. But Sneaky had not done its homework because it didn’t realize how quick I am. Nor had it planned against my powerful fear of snakes.

And don’t give me this garbage of how snakes are more afraid of me than I am of them. Sneaky was anything but fearful, as proven by its well-planned attack. But even if Sneaky felt fear, it could not have surpassed mine without falling into a self-induced coma.

It’s true, I may have been a bigger physical specimen than Sneaky, but at nearly eighteen inches long, this was no toy to be played with. Sneaky was easily the most frightening creature I have ever encountered.

While I performed my neighborly responsibility of beautifying my lawn, Sneaky darted in front of my mower like a blur. Fortunately, my instincts took control before my conscious mind had time to register the threat. Otherwise, I might not be around to finish raising my children.

I shoved the mower forward and caught just enough of Sneaky to stop it in its tracks. If I hadn’t used my amazing quickness to catch its tale with the mower blade, no telling what unfathomable evil move Sneaky would have performed next. Fortunately for my sake, and frankly the community of Halstead at large, I stopped Sneaky dead in its tracks. I was probably the first in its planned killing spree.

I’ve seen plenty of horror movies and I knew once I had put a stop to Sneaky that my job was not complete. I pushed the mower forward, while stepping back in case Sneaky revived to slide out the back of the mower and attack. I left the mower on top of Sneaky for at least thirty seconds. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. I left the mower on top of Sneaky for a good minute, to make sure it would never terrorize Halstead again.

I didn’t kill Sneaky for the fame, or for revenge. Sneaky forced my hand. That being said, I’m proud of my accomplishment, even though I may now be suffering from PTSD. In spite of the recurring nightmares and long-term disability I now face, I would do it all over again for my children and my community.

I expect the mayor will call any day to offer congratulations, and probably a medal and small ceremony. I suppose I’ll accept, if for no other reason than to send a warning to all other snakes in the area.

It’s the least I can do.

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July, 2018 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!


Black and White

Jeremy neared his cousin Vinny’s house in an all-out sprint. Almost there!

He came to an abrupt stop when he saw a black and white ahead in the distance. He quickly turned and ran the other way, and turned right at his first opportunity. Glancing behind as he turned, he believed he had escaped detection.

Another black and white appeared and he immediately made a left. He had only been a few blocks from Vinny’s house but now was going in the wrong direction. The kicker was that he should have been safely inside fifteen minutes ago. He had gotten lost and by the time he found his way back on the right path the black and white had cut him off mere blocks from safety.

Originally, the plan had been to return to the house in ten minutes, maybe less. Now he approached half an hour of continuous running. Jeremy wasn’t in shape for this.

He ran for another block then stopped, exhausted. He couldn’t keep running in the wrong direction or he would never make it to safety. He glanced back and saw another black and white. He couldn’t tell if this was the same one he saw earlier or if this was a different one. It didn’t matter – he couldn’t afford to be spotted. He took off at full speed again.

If he had remembered to bring his cell phone he could have called his cousin for help. Stupid oversight! Surely Vinny had started to worry by now, but would he come looking for Jeremy? He couldn’t depend on it. He had to assume he was on his own.

Another black and white appeared up ahead, but this time when Jeremy turned he was running towards his cousin’s house. He ran clear for a few minutes and finally caught view of the safe house just two blocks ahead.

Adrenaline kicked in and he picked up speed. Al…most…there.

Yikes!  Jeremy suddenly stopped, narrowly avoiding a collision with the black and white that darted in front of him.

Should he remain frozen or take off the other direction? He cautiously turned, but before he could make a break for it another black and white sandwiched him in. His options were diminishing.

Jeremy took a step to the left; another black and white. He feared the worse.

He turned to dart to the right, but slipped and fell. Jeremy jumped to his feet but his clumsiness had cost him.

Before he could escape, the three black and whites raised their tails and squirted.


Summer Siren, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Birch Tree, by Juneta Key
The Zoning Zone, by Vanessa Wells
Secrets, by Elizabeth Winfield
Team Building Exercise, by Samantha Bryant
Another Time, by J. Q. Rose
Suds and Scales, by Eileen Mueller
Beginning Again, by Karen Lynn
Under The Bridge, by Katharina Gerlach

Posted in Blog Hop, Stories | 15 Comments

Old Friends / New Love

I graduated high school in a class of forty-four students from Yates Center High School. Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Yates Center hosts their version of Old Settlers. One of the things I enjoy most about Yates Center Days is meeting someone I haven’t seen in thirty years. Honestly, it happens every year.

It happened several times this year. Two of the people I saw, Tim and Suzy, have a fascinating story.

They were both in my graduating class of 1985. Suzy and I sat next to each other in French class our sophomore year. Tim and I played football together and both ran track in junior high.

Suzy moved to the Kansas City area after our sophomore year. Tim moved to California after our junior year. Neither graduated from Yates Center High School.

I hadn’t seen either one since they left high school. That is, until Yates Center Days, 2018.

They each got married, had children, and then subsequently divorced. Three years ago they reconnected on Facebook. Tim had been around the world, but lived in California. Suzy was still in Kansas City.

After some time of correspondence, Suzy had to make a trip for work to Texas. Tim traveled a lot with his job and happened to be in Oklahoma at the time, so they met in person for the first time in nearly thirty years. Afterwards, they decided to meet again, at Yates Center Days, 2015, for our thirty-year reunion.

They met, didn’t recognize anyone else in the class, so they skipped the float in the parade and the reunion that afternoon.

Tim and Suzy started dating, Tim moved to Kansas City to work for his brother, and a year ago they got married.

As I visited with them over Memorial Day weekend, they joked that they were slow, that it took them thirty years to get it right. Those two are as smitten with each other as any two lovebirds I’ve known.

It would have been fun to see either one of them, but to see them together and happy was a real treat.

They almost, almost, gave me hope that true love can be found at any stage in life.

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The Teacher Who Impacted Me Most

This morning as I sat on the track, stretching after a rough session of sprints, thoughts of yesterday’s graduation ceremony came to mind. Specifically, I thought about the verbal tribute paid to the teachers by both the administration and the students.

Many teachers touched my life, and most of them in ways I’ll never realized. I grew up in a town where teachers weren’t only teachers, but also neighbors, fellow worshipers, and friends. And my mom taught English and Special Ed. I knew teachers.

But as I sat on the track and wondered which teacher changed my life the most, the choice became obvious. It had to be the one responsible for my being at the track early on a Sunday morning.

Mr. Herndon taught Government and coached football in Yates Center for one year, my senior year of high school. I think that year, 1984-85, was his first as a teacher. I don’t believe he remained in teaching for long. He didn’t win teacher of the year and I didn’t like him. In fact, I don’t know any student that did. At the end of the year the Board elected not to renew his contract.

I can look back thirty years later and understand what he tried to do, even though it didn’t work. He and I butted heads many, many times.

So how does such a candidate rank at the top of my list?

I was a fast runner as a kid, and did well in track through junior high. I didn’t enjoy running, so after one year of track in high school I decided golf sounded more appealing.

As part of our conditioning, Mr. Herndon made our football team run laps around the practice field until we could complete a mile without stopping. It was unorthodox training for a football team, and one few of us appreciated. But I recognized the benefits.

I attended Neosho County Community College on a baseball scholarship, and as part of my training I decided to run daily before classes. I only ran a mile or two at a time, but something strange occurred. I began to like it.

After two years at NCCC I transferred to Tabor College. My runs increased to three to five miles. And, when it was too cold outside I would run stairs in the administration building. For fun.

There are few things I enjoy doing more than running. I’ve prayed, brainstormed dozens of story ideas, and written poetry, all while running. I never listen to music. I like to think or let my mind wander.

Running is the greatest therapy I know. It has helped me survive some dark periods. During one of the darkest of my life, I trained and ran my first half marathon. At the end of the race I returned to my car and wept.

Completing a half marathon gave me the confidence and focus to pass the CPA exam. A few years later, both accomplishments gave me the ability to write my first novel. I now have five books published. These accumulated successes have given me the drive (and I hope, strength) to turn writing into a career.

My son is also a runner, and a good one. In fact, he’s much better than I’ve ever been, and he’s just getting started. Would he be a runner if I wasn’t? I don’t know.

It may be a stretch, or it may not, but I trace it all back to Mr. Herndon. I’ve tried to find him on Facebook. I would love the opportunity to tell him my story, but I don’t know his first name, so this will probably be the closest I get to thanking him.

Oh behalf of Mr. Herndon, thank you to every teacher reading this. You may never know how you’ve changed a student’s life.

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